Daily Press Briefing, September 20, 2012
Daily Press Briefing
September 20, 2012
Index for Today's Briefing
Secretary's Meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister
Global Business Conference / Infrastructure Markets
Deputy Secretary of State Burns Meetings in Libya
Protestors in Islamabad / Status of Embassy and Consulates
Status of Select U.S. Consulates
Security Cooperation with Pakistani Government
Public Service Announcement
Secretary's Briefing to the Congress
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
Palestinian and Israeli Support
Public Service Announcement
National Democratic Institute and the International Republic Institute Programming
Over-flight Requests for Iranian Aircraft to Syria / Inspections
11:45 a.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. Afternoon, everybody. I have a couple of things at the top. Apologies for being early today and for just gaggling. We have a busy day, as you know, moving forward, so we wanted to get out early. And the Secretary, as you know, has a press conference with the Indonesian Foreign Minister at 1:00, so we needed to get clear for her.
First, as some of you have already noted, today the Secretary is hosting the second conference in our Global Business Conference series. This event, like all the other conferences in our economic statecraft series, is about leveraging the expertise and the resources of the State Department to help American business connect with opportunities overseas.
Today’s conference was about infrastructure markets. Global construction spending is now growing by some 50 percent to nearly 9 trillion expected by 2020. And we want to see American businesses get more of that business. So to help with that, we’ve brought delegations from four countries who are experiencing building booms, if you will – Colombia, India, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates – to network with some 90 U.S. businesses here at the State Department. The companies that are here today represent a variety of sectors in the infrastructure business, including construction, IT, water and sanitation, energy, and financial services.
Second, as many of you know – and we are hoping that we can livestream the event for you in a short while – Deputy Secretary of State Burns is in Tripoli today, where he will participate in a memorial service organized by Libyan officials for our four fallen Americans, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.
In addition, Deputy Secretary Burns had meetings today with Libyan President Magariaf, Prime Minister al-Keeb, the new Prime Minister-Elect Abushagur, and with Foreign Minister Khayal. The event this evening is going to be hosted by President Magariaf with more than 200 Libyan officials and representatives of the diplomatic corps and civil society in attendance.
In his meetings with Libyan officials today, the Deputy Secretary reiterated the strong messages the Secretary has already given, that responsible leaders need to do everything they can to restore security, to reject violence, and to hold accountable those responsible for last week’s brutal attacks on our diplomats. He also urged Libyan officials to build the kind of security institutions that are going to ensure the safety of the Libyan people, diplomats serving there, and foster a democratic environment, economic progress, that protects the freedoms and the rights of all Libyans.
We take this opportunity to reiterate our appreciation to the Libyan Government for its support following last week’s tragic events. We will honor the legacy of Ambassador Stevens and our other fallen comrades by continuing to support the transition to democracy in Libya. We will not allow our partnership with Libya to be weakened by extremists.
Ambassador – Deputy Secretary Burns is expected to speak at the memorial service, and as I said, our hope is that we’ll be able to livestream it for when it begins very shortly.
Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can you bring – I presume people will want to come back to Libya, but I don’t expect you’re going to have a lot more to say, so can I – I want to just start with Pakistan. And can you give us an update on the situation there at the Embassy?
MS. NULAND: So, as you likely saw on the news, there were large protests in Islamabad today involving some tens of thousands of people. There was some limited violence, but the protestors have been now pushed back away from the diplomatic enclave. And we are, obviously, continuing to monitor the situation closely. Cooperation with the Pakistanis on security has been good, and we will continue to work closely with Pakistani authorities to ensure the safety of our facilities and personnel.
Our consulates today in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar were closed. Embassy Islamabad was open. All of our missions in Pakistan will be closed tomorrow, because the Pakistanis have declared a national holiday, as you know.
QUESTION: How close did they get to the Embassy? Did anyone – did any Embassy staff who was on the compound actually see them? Because, having been there, it’s not exactly an easy place to get to.
MS. NULAND: My understanding – and I don’t have full information – is that the Pakistani services did a good job keeping them pushed back from the diplomatic enclave, that they didn’t get very close.
QUESTION: So – I mean, because the Embassy is well within that enclave.
MS. NULAND: It is.
QUESTION: It’s not like even on it. So did anyone actually see a protestor or hear --
MS. NULAND: I don’t know. I didn’t poll them all as to whether they could see a --
QUESTION: Well, I know that there’s been reporting from the Embassy and that would – if they were at the gate and shaking the gates or something like that, it would have been reported. So I mean --
MS. NULAND: My sense is that they didn’t get close to the enclave.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
QUESTION: Do you know if any other embassies are going to be closed tomorrow?
QUESTION: They didn’t get close to the enclave or to the Embassy?
MS. NULAND: To the entire diplomatic enclave, that they were held well back. But I don’t have that --
QUESTION: You said they were pushed back from the enclave earlier.
MS. NULAND: That’s the information that I have. I don’t think that the mission was in jeopardy today.
QUESTION: Are any other embassies going to be closed tomorrow? I hear that – we’re reporting out of Jakarta that the Jakarta one will be closed.
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re making decisions on mission posture on a daily basis. Embassies are evaluating and mission staffs are evaluating their posture on a daily basis, so I can report to you after decisions have been made, but I can’t report to you before they’ve been made.
In terms of other posture today, Embassy Tunis, Tripoli, Sana’a were again closed today. Cairo was open. Consulate General Alexandria closed, Beirut open, Casablanca also open, Khartoum closed. (Inaudible)
QUESTION: What about tomorrow? (Inaudible) Friday.
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: For Friday?
MS. NULAND: As I said, I don’t have a report for you prospectively on Friday.
QUESTION: That’s prayer day.
MS. NULAND: As you know, many of our missions in that part of the world are normally closed anyway on Fridays. They work a Sunday to Thursday week, as is the case in the host country in general. So – but whether we’re going to make any specific provisions to close ones that would otherwise be open, I’ll have that for you tomorrow.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. (Inaudible)
MS. NULAND: No, no, no, no, no. I – please.
QUESTION: Just going back to Pakistan?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Police in Pakistan defer to – ensure the security for the U.S. missions, but military was called in at the end. What my question is that one, you have issued a warning to Pakistan – is it a general warning because of the situation what’s going on the protest because of the film, or there was some kind of specific warning to diplomats of the U.S. missions?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that, in addition to the general Travel Warning that we have had in place for some time with regard to Pakistan, that our mission Pakistan was one of the missions that issued a specific set of warnings, first in connection with September 11th but then after the events in Benghazi and Cairo. I think we’ve reported that some 75 to 80 missions around the world have issued some 120 updates to security posture.
QUESTION: And finally, since the Foreign Minister of Pakistan is here in town, and she must have been updating the State Department, and second, what Pakistani press is saying that since the U.S. missions in Pakistan, authorities knew the protests were going on in Peshawar, in Karachi, in other places, why there were not adequate or good security in Islamabad at the Embassy?
MS. NULAND: Well, I want to say that we’ve had good security cooperation with the Pakistani Government, as evidenced by the fact that we haven’t – whereas we’ve seen some violence, we haven’t seen damage.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please, Wendell?
QUESTION: Is the State Department paying for the ads condemning “Innocence of Muslims” running on Pakistani TV now?
MS. NULAND: Let me just put this in context. As you know, our public diplomacy efforts include, obviously, our efforts here in Washington, but we also have public diplomacy sections in all of our embassies and most of our smaller missions overseas. So we ask all of our public diplomacy teams in circumstances like this to identify and use the most effective means of communicating within the unique environment in which they work.
In the case of Pakistan, it is common and traditional to have to buy airtime on Pakistani TV for public service announcements. So in that environment, it was their recommendation that we buy some airtime to make sure that the Pakistani people would heard the President’s messages and the Secretary’s messages, so we did purchase some time, is my understanding, on Pakistani TV stations, all of the stations.
This was a short message; it includes the U.S. seal to make it clear that it’s official, and it also includes a notice that the ads were paid. As you know, after the video came out, there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including Pakistan, as to whether this represented the views of the U.S. Government. So in order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis – some 90 million, as I understand it in this case with these spots – it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it.
I can read the messages that went out, if that’s helpful.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. So --
QUESTION: These were English, Toria, or these were in --
MS. NULAND: No, these were in Urdu. And I would simply say that as you know, we translate and push statements by senior U.S. officials into the press to the extent that we can in countries around the world in their native languages. We work in 10 to 12 different languages, Urdu being one of them.
So this particular message said – had President Obama, and he is – he says, “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation of respect – that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” And then you have – Secretary Clinton comes on, saying, “Let me state very clearly that the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. The – America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.” So those were clips from statements they had both made within the last week.
QUESTION: Is it possible to see the produced videos?
MS. NULAND: We can take care of that for you, Roz.
QUESTION: What’s the size of the buy? Is there precedent for this going on in other countries as well?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is we have done in this in a select group of other countries at other times when you’re working in a media environment where this kind of purchase of public service announcements is the norm for getting your message out. But in Pakistan, we do it quite regularly, as I understand it, including – we did a little bit of research when the question first came. We know we did it in 2005 in the context of the earthquake. We don’t – weren’t able to find, before I came out here, exactly what the message was at that time.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
QUESTION: Just one clarification. You said that it noted – that it adds that they were paid. Does it add that the messages were paid for by the U.S. Government?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. I can get that for you.
QUESTION: Can we get copies of these?
MS. NULAND: If you’d like, get with our folks afterwards, and we can push the actual link to you.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m sort of not understanding the format. So these are clips of the President and the Secretary in other settings speaking in English, correct?
MS. NULAND: These are, as I understand it – and I haven’t seen them myself because this came up about an hour before we came out, but this is a single thirty second public service announcement that comes up with video of, first, the President making the statement I read, and then the Secretary making the statement that I read. They are speaking in English, but I don’t know whether it’s dubbed over into Urdu or whether it is --
MS. NULAND: -- subtitled in Urdu. And it – the U.S. seal appears, and also a clear statement that these were paid public service announcements.
QUESTION: And did they record these statements before the PSA, or is this taken from speeches that they made?
MS. NULAND: It’s taken from speeches. There was no special recording. And we do this all over the world to try to – embassies take what principals say, what we say here, they clip them into video and they encourage local media to use them when they want to see what U.S. officials are saying. As you know, we also have this global platform that foreign media can pull from to get clips of things that have already been said.
QUESTION: And are we doing this in other countries in the context of “The Innocence of Muslims” film, other countries than Pakistan right now?
MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that, but we have done this kind of thing in countries where this is the media environment before. I will check for you, Wendell, whether any country other than Pakistan, in this case, had the tradition where you needed to buy time in order to have your message heard.
QUESTION: Toria, can I ask about that?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because you talk about an environment where you need to buy time to get your message out. Does that – I mean, these were news events, if these were the public statements --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- that the Secretary and the President had made. Those were very widely disseminated. I’m sure that they were on every wire service, TV agency, including several represented in this room. Is it your belief that – or was it the Embassy’s conclusion that Pakistani TV channels just were not giving any air time to either the President’s statements or the Secretary’s statements, and therefore the only way for you to get those to Pakistanis was to pay for it and buy the time and broadcast them yourselves?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the whole decision tree there, because obviously this is our decisions that we authorize our communicators in embassies to make, but I think the sense was that this particular aspect of the President and the Secretary’s message needed to be heard by more Pakistanis than had heard it, and that this was an effective way to get that message out.
QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of the size of the buy?
MS. NULAND: My understanding of the spend was somewhere around $70 million and about seven stations – something like that.
QUESTION: $70 million dollars?
MS. NULAND: $70,000 dollars. I’m so sorry. Let’s correct the record -- $70,000. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I was going to say, My God, I’m going into the Pakistani TV business. (Laughter.) That’s how much they’re charging for --
MS. NULAND: Those are some gold-plated advertising. Yeah, I just want to --
QUESTION: Is this the Pakistani Superbowl? Is this (inaudible)? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: $70,000. Okay, let’s just make this a clean bite: $70,000.
QUESTION: Did you spend – was there any --
MS. NULAND: And very much within keeping of the budget that we have out there.
QUESTION: How many channels you said --
MS. NULAND: About seven.
QUESTION: Was it specific shows that you wanted this aired during, do you know?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have that level of detail.
QUESTION: So you say that this is the most effective way to get that message out, right?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: How effective do you think it was, given the fact that you had tens of thousands of protesters trying to get in – trying to storm the diplomatic compound?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we’re going to have to evaluate this over time. But --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, when did they begin running?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the answer to that, Matt. We’ll get more for you.
QUESTION: Do you – I mean, did they – okay. Well, it would be interesting to know. I mean, do you have any evidence at all that these ads were effective in getting the message out, considering the virulence and size of the crowds that were still protesting, presumably after these ads started running?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are going to have to measure the metrics of effectiveness across this region on our public diplomacy, and I don’t know that we’re going to be able to do it on the timeline that you’re looking for. But that’s something that we’ll have to look at is what means did we use to make sure that publics around the world understood where the U.S. Government stands, and were those effective, and that kind of thing. But I don’t have metrics for you at the moment.
QUESTION: Madam, public and those protesters are asking U.S. apology as far as this video is concerned before the violence is down.
MS. NULAND: Again, the Secretary, other principals of this government, have made absolutely clear that the U.S. Government had nothing to do with this.
QUESTION: Can we move to the Secretary’s meeting on the Hill this afternoon?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is she briefing alone or with others, and is she – basically, what’s she doing there?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m sure that if you ask her about that when you see her in a little bit, she may give you a preview. But as you know, and as we said earlier this week, she thought it was important to give all members – House and Senate – a chance to hear directly from her how we evaluate what happened, what we have been doing since it happened, and about what it means for policy going forward.
She will be there with the Director of National Intelligence Clapper. She’ll be there with Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. She’ll also be up there with Sandy Winnefeld from the Joint Chiefs, and she’ll have both a House session and a Senate session.
QUESTION: Is this a --
QUESTION: Can we go back to Libya?
MS. NULAND: Can we just let Anne finish, and then we’ll --
QUESTION: So – I mean, don’t members in general know what happened and how we evaluate it? Does she have a new message, or is this sort of a rundown of facts as you know it?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is a classified briefing, which a number of members have been asking for. We’ve obviously been in touch with the Congress; we’ve been in touch with relevant committees, our own committees. Intel’s been in touch with their committees; Defense has been in touch with their committees. But this is a chance for members to hear from her and to ask her the questions that they have.
QUESTION: Is this because --
MS. NULAND: You know that she takes her responsibilities to keep Congress briefed and to have that personal relationship with members extremely seriously. So this was a good opportunity for that.
QUESTION: Because of the classified setting, does that mean that sort of blanket FBI omerta on for public information doesn’t apply? Can she tell them things that you guys or the FBI can’t tell us?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that, because I haven’t seen the briefs because they’re going to be classified.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the deaths. There’s some reporting now that apparently Stevens was telling at least one person in the months before last week that he thought he was on an al-Qaida hit list. Is there any truth to that, and how does that rumor – if it is indeed a rumor – how does that inform what is being done to protect diplomatic personnel worldwide?
MS. NULAND: Well, Roz, I don’t have any information to that effect. Certainly, if there were information in intelligence channels with regard to our assessment of those kinds of things, we wouldn’t be talking about them here.
QUESTION: Well, except for the fact that you said that there was no – the threat stream was not – there wasn’t anything significant.
MS. NULAND: I’ve talked – we’ve talked about this --
QUESTION: So I think the question goes that. That still stands, right?
MS. NULAND: We don’t have anything new with regard to that. And as you know, we also had a NCTC brief, open session yesterday, and I would refer you to that in terms of the intelligence community’s latest assessment.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: If Mahmoud Abbas, the PA President, next week, when he addresses the journalists simply urges them to recognize Palestine as a nonmember state, but not request a vote – not demand a vote for that, would that be acceptable from your point of view? Or would it still be perceived as complicating these processes?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into hypothetical situations in New York that haven’t happened yet. Our position in general on this whole range of issues hasn’t changed, and we have been absolutely clear with Palestinian leaders about that.
QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick --
MS. NULAND: Let’s let Said finish his.
QUESTION: All right. Just a quick follow-up on yesterday’s issue with the finances. The World Bank report also – which paints a bad picture and you said it’s going to be a departure point in your discussion next week – it also alludes to the fact that Israeli restrictions on not opening Area C has exacerbated Palestinian economic woes. Would you work towards urging or convincing the Israelis to open Area C for commerce and Palestinian economic activities?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into the details about our conversations between Palestinians and Israelis to try to improve the environment, but we are well aware of the various issues affecting support for the Palestinian people, and we continue to work on them. I’m expecting, as I said yesterday, that one of the messages that the Secretary will be sending in her various bilateral meetings is that we want to see more support from more countries and more of the money pledged actually ending up in Palestinian hands.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: What do you want to do? Do you want to stay here and then go back to --
QUESTION: No, let’s go back to Pakistan.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Oh no, Israel is fine.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: No, it’s a totally different tangent.
MS. NULAND: Okay, let’s stick with Matt.
QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure that the video, the ad that was out, was produced entirely by the Embassy out there. It wasn’t done – there wasn’t anything done here?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is they took existing clips and produced it themselves.
QUESTION: But they did it themselves.
MS. NULAND: I think so.
QUESTION: All right. Okay, and then just the other thing on this. The Embassy has also put out and is kind of flacking a collection of YouTube clips – are you aware of this? – of average or allegedly average men in the street, men/women in the street in the U.S., condemning this video. Who did that?
MS. NULAND: Who put together the YouTube clips?
MS. NULAND: We’ve had a number of our missions overseas come forward since we started – since the public statements from the government have come out saying okay, okay, we believe that people here have heard the President’s message, they’ve heard the Secretary’s message that the government had nothing to do with this, but they still think that the American people harbor this negative view of Islam or whatever, and we need – we’d like support, we’d like more video of some of these Americans and particularly religious leaders who are standing up and saying this isn’t us, this isn’t who we are, who are supporting the statements of the President and the Secretary.
So they’ve reached back to us and we have helped them assemble video of some of the Americans that we’ve seen stand up and say we’re a nation of tolerance, we’re a nation of faith – all faiths, and that this doesn’t represent what we stand for.
QUESTION: Was that produced by State Department staff or is that --
MS. NULAND: Yes. I mean – well, the YouTube clips are out there. The packaging is something that we help embassies with.
QUESTION: But the clips that are included, are they clips that you solicited?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, these are --
QUESTION: Or these are just --
QUESTION: Or news clips that are copyrighted?
MS. NULAND: Would you guys like to work this out before I answer the question?
QUESTION: No, I’m just going to shut up. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That question was a very interesting question. Were these clips that were solicited by the U.S. State Department – did you go to Imam Bill and say, “Hey man, will you say something about this?”
MS. NULAND: I think the White House has spoken to – the government as a whole has spoken to the fact that as we are encouraging leaders – government, religious, community leaders – around the world to speak out in support of tolerance, against violence, against insult of any religion, we have also been reaching out to American leaders, as we always do in these kinds of situations, to speak out. And we have been – and many of them have been doing that. Many of them have wanted to make sure that people overseas also hear them doing it. So we regularly – this is not a new thing – we regularly collect strong statements. But we didn’t produce the YouTube videos, if that’s what you’re asking. We simply collated them.
QUESTION: The question that I have and I think that Matt had is: Did you – beyond just general requests for people to speak out – did you actually solicit such comments from individuals, or did you just --
MS. NULAND: The government as a whole has. That’s not generally a State Department function, but the government as a whole has been reaching out --
QUESTION: From individuals?
MS. NULAND: From communities, from leaders who are moderates. We always do that. We did it in the previous administration. It’s something that has been calming around the world to see Americans speaking out for tolerance.
QUESTION: And you did so for the purpose of being able to then collect or harvest these videos that you would then further disseminate?
MS. NULAND: We do it first and foremost so that the American people hear voices not just of the government but of leaders that they trust in their religious communities, in their local communities, also making the point that religious tolerance is one of our basic values, but at the same time violence can’t be tolerated. So there’s a message for Americans, but it is also useful for ensuring that people around the world understand that there is a broad sentiment in this country in communities all across the nation supporting the kinds of statements that the President and Secretary made.
QUESTION: And one other thing. Can you please specifically check on the question of – and I realize this will be answered if you’re able to give us in a timely manner the actual video that was disseminated in Pakistan through these PSAs – but can you specifically check whether it just said that this was paid for by somebody or if it said that it was paid for by the United States Government?
MS. NULAND: We’ll certainly check that for you.
QUESTION: Who does the production here, who does the filming? Who puts it together? Who distributes it?
MS. NULAND: As I said, in this context, this one that Matt referred to, it’s a collection of YouTube clips that have been chosen by staff of our International Engagement Bureau under Under Secretary Sonenshine as representative of American community leaders speaking out. So we didn’t film them ourselves. We just collected them and we pushed them out to posts who asked for them.
QUESTION: But in all these cases it’s clips of people speaking in different situations?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: It’s not a situation of you bringing them into a studio --
MS. NULAND: We’re not bringing them into a studio in this case. We can do that, but we haven’t done that in this case.
QUESTION: Did you get their permission to do it – to use the clips?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that. I assume that if it’s up on YouTube it’s already public information. All we’re doing is linking to a YouTube video.
QUESTION: Does it have a State Department kind of --
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: -- tag on it?
QUESTION: Toria, when you say that the government as a whole has solicited these sorts of comments, where is that headquartered? I mean, you described a State Department effort to collect some things --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- and put it out to embassies. But what does “the government as a whole” mean?
MS. NULAND: Well, there are offices of community engagement in the White House. I would refer you to them in terms of what their involvement has been. We, in the State Department, have also been collecting statements made by foreign leaders that are supportive of tolerance, of nonviolence, et cetera. So when I say whole of government, we are all looking at what we see both in the United States and around the world.
QUESTION: Madam, is it correct to say that Saudi Arabia is doing better than other Muslim countries? And you have any idea, any reason?
MS. NULAND: With regard to what, Goyal?
QUESTION: As far as violence is concerned in various Muslim countries.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I don’t think it’s useful for me to be giving grades.
Dima, let me guess. It’s on Russia? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can we move on to that?
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: Can we move on to that, please? Nobody --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Are we finished with this part of the world, guys?
One more from Guy.
QUESTION: This region of (inaudible) --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- Libya is kind of specific. Has Secretary of State Clinton yet moved to form what’s known as an accountability review board to examine whether security was adequate when the attack occurred in Libya? The State Department’s Office of Inspector General told me yesterday that federal law requires that she form such a board within 60 days.
MS. NULAND: I’m expecting that she’s going to speak to this issue herself later today, so I will not preempt that.
QUESTION: Presumably after she meets with Congress or --
MS. NULAND: She’s going to speak to it later today. Stay tuned.
QUESTION: Before we leave this part of the world, can I just ask you about reporting out there? That’s – a former Guantanamo detainee – detainees – is believed to have been behind the attack in Benghazi.
MS. NULAND: I saw that report. Frankly, I don’t have anything for you on it one way or the other. The intelligence community, I expect, will speak to it.
Are we done with this part of the world? Yes? Margaret in the back.
QUESTION: House Oversight Committee sent a letter today asking for results of this probe by October 4th. That would be ahead of the legally required reporting date. Is there a response to this letter?
MS. NULAND: It’s a letter that was just sent today?
QUESTION: This morning.
MS. NULAND: Okay. I think we will obviously respond to it in due time, but I haven’t seen the letter.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Promised me first.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Let’s go to --
QUESTION: Go ahead, then. Sorry.
MS. NULAND: -- Dima and come back to Syria. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I will try to be quick. There is at least one news report in the Russian media which claims that the U.S. Government asked the Russians to extend the USAID mission in Moscow until May as opposed to October the 1st, which the Russian Government has – had asked you to comply with. Is there any truth to this press report?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into all of the back-and-forth, but we have committed to the Russian Government that there’ll be no new contracting, no new programming, as of October 1st. But we have also asked for some time to wind down the mission, to conclude the programs that we have underway. As you can imagine, this doesn’t just affect the American staff. There’s a huge amount of Russian staff involved, so we have to unwind things there.
Let me just take this opportunity while I’m here – I was asked the question yesterday as to whether President Putin’s party, United Russia, has ever availed itself of the programming that the United States offers through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. Our understanding is that United Russia has participated in some of IRI and NDI’s programs over the years. And as I said to you, IRI and NDI offer these programs to any party in Russia that wants to take advantage of it.
So – and let me also say that recently, the programming that NDI and IRI had been offering in Russia had not been associated with traditional political training projects. They’ve now, in recent years, focused much more of their effort on the things that parties are asking for, specifically youth leadership training, civil society, women’s political participation, advocacy on issues like healthcare, and with civil society activists in the regions who are looking for help in pushing out their messages.
QUESTION: What kinds of – what programs did United Russia participate in?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have the details. I’m seeking more information. But you asked me to confirm whether they have been in and I can do that.
QUESTION: Crowd suppression techniques, that kind of thing? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: As you know, we do not offer programs of that kind.
QUESTION: Can I ask you to clarify --
QUESTION: Well, it would be – can – I mean, it’s a great --
MS. NULAND: I am seeking --
QUESTION: It’s a great little bit of information, but it’s almost entirely useless if you don’t know exactly what the programs were that --
MS. NULAND: I am --
QUESTION: -- United Russia were involved in.
MS. NULAND: I am working to get more information for you.
QUESTION: Did you have a response to Dima’s question that – his question was whether you had asked until May, and you said, well, we asked for some time to wind things up. How much time did you ask for?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re in a conversation with the Russian Government about how much time we think it’s going to take us to wind things down. I don’t want to get into the details of that because it’s an ongoing conversation.
QUESTION: And was it in the form of the letter from the Secretary of State Clinton to the Foreign Minister Lavrov, this request?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly, she did send a letter expressing regret that these programs were going to end, underscoring and reminding the Russian Government of the various programs we’ve done over the years and the value to the Russian people, and making clear that we would, as I said, cease new contracting, but that we needed a little time.
QUESTION: Did she make those points to Foreign Minister Lavrov in person when he told her?
MS. NULAND: As I said, we had some preliminary indication. I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth that they had in Vladivostok.
QUESTION: Well, U.S. officials in Moscow said the other day that Lavrov had told the Secretary in Vladivostok --
QUESTION: On September the 8th.
QUESTION: Yes, Saturday, September the 8th, I know well for good reason because Sunday was – being the 9th – that he told her that this decision was going to be made. Is that incorrect? Were these officials wrong?
MS. NULAND: I made clear to you that the issue did come up in Vladivostok.
QUESTION: Right. So did she – yes, between Lavrov and the Secretary. You said – you didn’t make that clear. Can you make that --
MS. NULAND: I’ll simply say that she foreshadowed some of the issues that were in the letter in her response.
QUESTION: A quick question on Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Brahimi next week will suggest an initiative to diffuse the crisis in Syria that excludes the call for Mr. Assad to step down, and they call for the inclusion of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia in the process. Would you support that?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, you are speculating something that Mr. Brahimi is going to bring forward.
QUESTION: I’m not – would you --
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve said here that the Secretary looks forward to hearing his report when he is prepared to make it to the Security Council, and we’ll take it from there. But I’m not going to predict either what he’s going to bring us or how we’ll react.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please, Samir.
QUESTION: Yes. Senator Kerry yesterday threatened to restrict U.S. aid to the Government of Iraq if they continue to allow Iran to use the airspace of Iraq to send supplies of weapons to Syria. What do you want – and the Iraqis denied today that they are allowing Iran this. So can you tell us something about this issue, please?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been very clear about our ongoing conversation with the Government of Iraq and our view that they either need to deny over-flight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria or to require that such flights land in Iraqi territory for inspection. As they know, as you know, Iran is under international obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1747 not to export arms or related material, including to Syria, and all UN members are obligated to prohibit the procurement of such items. It’s also the case that all countries, including Iraq, are obligated under UNSCR 1929 to seize and dispose of prohibited items found in inspections, and UNSCR 1929 also calls on all countries to inspect cargo to and from Iran. So we are continuing to work with the Iraqis on this and to encourage maximum vigilance.
QUESTION: Sorry. Does that apply to just flights going from Tehran to Damascus, or from anywhere in Iran to Damascus or anywhere to Syria? It doesn’t apply to flights leaving Iran and going to perhaps third – to other countries that then might turn around and go fly to Damascus?
MS. NULAND: Well, UNSC 1929 and 1747 are with regard to Iranian exports. So if Iran is exporting to Syria, that’s one issue. If they’re –
QUESTION: No, no, I understand. This is having to do with what you’ve asked the Iraqis. Say that there is an Iranian plane that’s flying from Tehran to Malta – I’m making it up – somewhere else, somewhere in the Mediterranean. Are you telling the Iraqis that you want them to make – force that, have that – make that plane, if it’s using Iraqi airspace, that the Iraqis should make that plane land, and they should inspect it because it might then fly from Malta or wherever it’s going to Damascus? Or is it only flights that go from point A, Tehran or wherever in Iran, to point B, Damascus or wherever in Syria?
MS. NULAND: We’re asking the Iraqis to be vigilant with regard to any abuse of their airspace by Iran regardless of where it starts and where it’s finished that could be in violation of these UN Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: So you want them to take – to make every plane, every Iranian plane flight that uses its airspace to land so it can be inspected?
MS. NULAND: We’ve suggested that they can either deny over-flight, or they can request inspection if they want to be maximally vigilant.
QUESTION: But not just planes going directly to Syria, every plane?
MS. NULAND: This goes to the question of planes from Iran that could be abusing Iraqi airspace.
QUESTION: Okay. But what about other countries around there – Azerbaijan or countries where – that Iranian –
MS. NULAND: We have clear concerns about Iran arming Syria. We also have UN Security Council resolutions that expressly commit countries to support the arms embargo from Iran to other countries. So it’s a particular situation with regard to Iran.
QUESTION: On this matter, please.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: But you’ve been protesting all along about this issue. Yesterday, Senator Kerry warned Iraq. Are you going to further pressure Iraq and warn about the aid to Maliki government?
MS. NULAND: Well, Senator Kerry has obviously made his own statements. We do not support linking U.S. assistance to Iraq to the issue of the Iranian over-flights precisely because our assistance is in part directed towards robust security assistance, including helping the Iraqis build their capability to defend their airspace. So there’s a chicken/egg thing here.
QUESTION: But the Iraqis categorically deny that their airspace has been used to transfer arms from Tehran to Damascus. You don’t accept their claim, and they are one of your best allies, and a lot of money and blood are spent in Iraq?
MS. NULAND: You know our view that Iran will stop at nothing to try to help prop up the Assad regime, so we are asking for vigilance and giving advice about how that can be best applied.
QUESTION: Sorry. Just a quick – you disagree – the Administration does not share – does not support Senator Kerry in this idea?
MS. NULAND: I think I just said that we don’t support linking the assistance because the assistance goes to help strengthening the very systems that we want to see work better in this case.
QUESTION: Okay. So would you say that’s another strike in the Senator’s campaign to become the next Secretary of State?
MS. NULAND: I’m certainly not talking about campaigns of any kind.
Jo, and then I’ve got to go, because we have to go upstairs for the Indonesians.
QUESTION: Staying in Iran.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: There’s reporting out of Israel that U.S. officials have been in touch with Israel saying that any Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities or alleged nuclear facilities could lead to a breaking of the peace accords with Egypt and Jordan. Could you talk to that, please?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any information about that one way or the other. I think we’ve been absolutely clear here – the President’s been clear, the Secretary’s been clear, Ambassador Rice has been clear – that we have a very robust diplomatic conversation with the Israelis on the full range of Iran issues, but I’m not going to have it here in public.
All right? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:29 p.m.)
 The Bureau of International Information Programs
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|