Susan Rice’s Sunday trifecta of dissembling

Sir Henry Winton once defined a diplomat as “an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Susan Rice, by contrast, has earned the reputation of a dishonest operative sent to lie on Sunday talk shows for the good of her president.

She undertook that mission in the first instance when she appeared on the Sunday shows to claim that the Benghazi attacks were a spontaneous response to a video. In the next instance, she attempted to cast the deserter Bowe Bergdahl’s military service as honorable and distinguished.

This weekend, from all that appears, Rice was at it again. Interviewed on Meet the Press, Rice responded to a question about Turkey’s obvious lack of cooperation in the fight against ISIS in Syria by saying:

[F]irst of all, the Turks have, this just in the last several days, made a commitment that they will in the first instance allow the United States and our partners to use Turkish bases and territory to train– hold on let me explain this carefully — to train the moderate Syrian opposition forces.

So that is a new commitment that they have now joined Saudi Arabia in giving the go-head for that important contribution. In addition, they have said that their facilities inside of Turkey can be used by the coalition forces, American and otherwise, to engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria.

That’s the new commitment, and one that we very much welcome.

(Emphasis added)

But wait! Turkey insists that no decision has been reached regarding the use of its bases by the U.S. to engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria. According to the office of the Turkish prime minister, Turkey has agreed only to the training of “moderate” Syrian rebels on Turkish soil.

Turkey has been holding out for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria as a condition for assisting the U.S. in taking on ISIS. Notwithstanding Rice’s claims, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated that, although the Incirlik air base is already being used for reconnaissance purposes in Iraq, its use for wider operations still depends on whether Turkey’s demands for a no-fly zone and a safe zone in Syria are met.

Negotiations between the U.S. and Turkey are ongoing. They probably will not be made easier by Rice’s public, and now disputed, claim that Turkey has already agreed to that which is being negotiated.

It’s conceivable that Rice was telling the truth and that Turkish officials are lying. But if Turkey actually agreed that U.S. military operations can be launched from Turkish bases, it has no clear incentive to deny that it agreed (the Turks agree they are negotiating about this, so secrecy is not an issue). It seems implausible, moreover, that Turkey would so easily cave on its demand for a no-fly zone.

Finally, Susan Rice’s Sunday talk show record provides ample basis for disbelieving her disputed claim about what Turkey agreed to.

If, as appears to be the case, Rice misstated what Turkey agreed to, will Rice’s third Sunday talk show misadventure lead to her sacking? Don’t be ridiculous. From Team Obama’s perspective, these aren’t misadventures at all. It is part of her job to lie on Sunday talk shows for the good of her president.

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