Carson defends China-Syria comments as White House rejects claims

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 13, 2015 12:51 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Friday stood by his contention that China is involved in the Syrian conflict, vowing to release evidence soon even as the White House dismissed his claims.

At the Republican televised debate on Tuesday, the retired neurosurgeon was asked about the crisis in Syria and U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to send special forces to the country, which is mired in a nearly five-year-long civil war as well as battles with Islamic State militants.

"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," responded Carson, who is at the front of the pack of candidates seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The White House has dismissed his comments, saying there was no such evidence and questioning the candidate's information.

"He doesn't know much about it," Obama told ABC in an interview that aired on Friday.

Carson has advocated destroying Islamic State by retaking land the group has seized in Iraq and saying that could be done "fairly easily."

Obama rejected the sweeping claim as ill-informed.

"Over the last several years, I've had access to all the best military minds in the country and all the best foreign policy minds in the country," Obama told ABC. "And if they don't think it's easy, then it's probably not easy."

Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, said she did not know what Carson was referring to in his remarks.

"I have not seen any evidence of Chinese military involvement in Syria," she said at a daily news briefing Thursday.

Carson said his campaign would released some material by the end of the weekend.

"I have several sources that I've gotten material from. I'm surprised my sources are better than theirs," he told reporters on Friday at Bob Jones University in South Carolina.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by James Dalgleish)