The Cable

White House to Ben Carson: No, The Chinese Are Not in Syria

The White House disputes Ben Carson's claim that China is in Syria.

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During the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who’s running neck-and-neck with businessman Donald Trump, made a curious claim. Chinese forces, he said, were in Syria and involved in the civil war there. A day later, Armstrong Williams, a Carson adviser, backed his candidate up. And on Thursday, the White House entered the fray.

“I have not seen any evidence of Chinese military involvement in Syria,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, in response to a follow-up question, then doubled-down on Rice’s assertion, saying, “It’s worth stepping back and noting China makes it a practice to not get extended into military conflicts in the Middle East. Their policy over many years and decades has been to not be overextended in military exercises.”  

Carson’s claim on Chinese involvement in Syria is the latest eye-opening remark from a man already facing questions about whether he has the foreign policy knowledge necessary to be commander-in-chief. Here’s what he said in response to a question from Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo Tuesday night about whether he supports President Barack Obama’s decision to send roughly 50 U.S. special operations forces to Syria.

Carson suggested he did, then said, “We also must recognize that it’s a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.”

On Wednesday, as controversy over Carson’s statement grew, Armstrong stood up for his boss. He told MSNBC, “From our own intelligence and what Dr. Carson’s been told by people who are on the ground who are involved in that region of the world, it has been told to him many times over and over, that the Chinese are there.” He then said reports offering evidence of Chinese involvement in Syria would come in the “next few days.”

Carson could be basing his claims on reports in the right-wing media. On Oct. 8, the Christian site WND ran a story under the headline, “Chinese Navy Looms As Russia Strikes Syrian Rebels.” Chinese officials subsequently denied their involvement and said it has no intention of getting involved in Syria.  

Photo Credit: Scott Olsen/Getty Images

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