Ben Carson is attempting to clarify and back up his claim that China is involved in Syria by releasing documents first obtained by NBC News that show the Chinese are providing weapons and equipment to the war there.
The controversy started earlier in the week at the Republican debate in Milwaukee when Carson suggested that the Chinese are in Syria.
“You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there,” he said.
When asked to clarify what he meant the following day, Carson deflected.
“China has been trying to extend its influence not only throughout the Middle East, but throughout Africa and in several locations,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I would have to refer you to some other people to get you the actual data, but they've shown it to me.”
On Friday Carson and his campaign attempted to explain Carson’s position once again.
“China has had longstanding and well-documented security ties to Syria, and has provided various military weapons and equipment that Syria is using in the current conflict,” Carson’s campaign released in a statement. “Dr. Carson does not believe China is currently fighting in or deploying troops to Syria, and contrary to press reports, he has never made that assertion.”
Carson said he gets his information from “several sources” and suggested that his information is better than the White House’s.
“I'm surprised that my sources are better than theirs,” he said.
At the White House briefing Friday, President Barack Obama’s spokesperson Josh Earnest said he was “speechless” after hearing Carson's statements.
The documents Carson provides includes a PDF of a report titled “Chinese Radars in Syria” by Sean O’Connor who is identified on other websites as an independent military analyst and writes for the blog IMINT & Analysis, which is described as an “open source military analysis, strategic thinking, and imagery interpretation.”
Another document is a word document from a Chinese website but translated into English and shows a picture of a Chinese military jeep in Syria.
Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy said that China is an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad but that the Chinese aren’t really involved in the war there. He noted that Chinese equipment and radars are in Syria, some from before the uprising began in 2011, but is also available on the open market making it difficult to decipher which faction in Syria bought Chinese weapons or hardware.
“The problem here in Carson’s comments is the sequencing,” Tabler said, adding that Russia and Iran are the more dominant factors in Syria.
When talking about Syria, “China usually doesn’t come up,” Tabler said.
Kristen Donnelly also contributed to this report.