Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
June 10, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing
IRAQ / SYRIA / REGION
ISIL / Impact of the Situation in Syria / Anbar Province / DAS McGurk's Meetings
Statement on ISIL Assault on Mosul / Iraqi Leadership
U.S. Assistance to Iraqi Security Forces / Consultations with the Iraqi Government
Violence and Extremism, Syria / Counterterrorism Cooperation with Iraq
Sexual Assault Video / President al-Sisi's Message on Sexual Harassment
Judicial System / Ambassador Thorne and Counselor Shannon's Meetings with Egyptian Officials
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Israeli Elections / Two-State Solution
U.S.-Iran Bilateral Consultations / P5+1 Talks
Sanctions Regime / Joint Plan of Action / July 20th Timeline / Saudi Arabia / Turkey
Casualties in Afghanistan / DOD and ISAF Statements
UKRAINE / RUSSIA
Safety of Ukrainian Citizens / Internally Displaced Persons
Armed Separatists / Russian-Ukrainian Border
EU-Ukraine-Russia Oil Negotiations
LIBYA / BENGHAZI
Former Secretary Clinton's Book
CENTRAL AMERICA / MEXICO
Social and Political Conditions
Repatriation Policies / Irregular Immigration
IRAQ / TURKEY
Oil Sales and Exports
U.S. Support to the Opposition
Russian Propaganda Machine / Social Media
1:36 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: Hi. Welcome back.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Good to be back. I have nothing at the top. So Lara, why don't we start with you?
QUESTION: Okay. I'd like to start with the statement you just put out on Iraq on the attacks in Mosul, and I'll start with a question that I asked yesterday. And that was: Do you believe that ISIL is – obviously we're seeing it gain ground in Iraq. Do you believe that this is something that's going to be sustained for a long time? Does this indicate more than just isolated instances of this extremist group's strength?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we have seen ISIL continue to gain strength over time from the situation in Syria. And as you all know, that has been an issue that we have been concerned about for months now and we've talked about, I think, in this briefing room. And we've seen from the situation in Syria and the overflow of the impact of that that there have been a transfer – an impact on the transfer and its recruits of sophisticated munitions and resources to the fight in Iraq. And that has, of course, been of great concern to us.
What should be clear and especially given this and the impact of Syria on – of the events in Syria on what's happening in Iraq, that the threat that ISIL is presenting is not just a threat to Iraq or the stability of Iraq, but it is a threat to the region. And this growing menace exemplifies the importance of Iraqis from all communities working together to confront this common enemy and to isolate those militant groups from the broader population.
So as you know, over the past couple of days, and certainly even before that, the Iraqi security forces have been able to enter a stalemate with ISIL on the situation in Anbar. But the attacks over the last couple of days have shown that there is an ongoing threat, one we remain concerned about. Our DAS McGurk has been on the ground since this weekend. He is continuing to consult with a range of officials on the ground, and that we expect will continue.
QUESTION: The reports out of Mosul today indicate that the Iraqi security forces, most of which I believe are Shia, have fled the city and many parts of Nineveh province. So I'm wondering if (a) you can confirm that and (b) if you – what that says about the ability of the Shia-led government to operate and to protect people in the Sunni areas.
Also – sorry – there are also --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: How long do you think this can be sustained? We've seen ISIL in control of Fallujah for months now. Is this something that can really be sustained in one of Iraq's largest cities, i.e. Mosul?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, first let me say we've seen – on your first question – these reports. I mentioned DAS McGurk is on the ground. We're consulting with the Government of Iraq on what occurred on the ground to gain more information. We do understand that the Nineveh operations command is still operating and coordinating a response to this aggression.
There's no question, Lara, that the Iraqi security forces face a severe challenge by the threat posed by ISIL, but we have seen in recent days that they are actively engaged in this ongoing effort. We continue to encourage them to stay at it. And we would note that also thousands of Iraqi security forces have lost their lives fighting this effort as well.
In terms of how long it's sustainable, obviously we are concerned. We remain concerned about the situation on the ground. We have been encouraging all sides, as was indicated in the statement that we put out just before I came out here. We're tracking the events closely. We, as I talked about a little bit earlier, remain concerned about the strength that ISIL is continuing to gain on the ground. And we believe that this growing threat just exemplifies the need for all Iraqis to stand together and face this threat.
QUESTION: But you said that the Iraqi security forces are actively engaged, and yet they're fleeing one of Iraq's major cities.
MS. PSAKI: Well again --
QUESTION: And so – but let me just ask.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: That seems to raise a question for all sorts of people about the extent that Shia forces have bought into protecting Sunni-dominated areas. And I think it speaks to one of the larger points that this building has tried to make about needing a unified government in Iraq and making sure that the new government after the April elections are really stepping up to show Iraqis that this is a government for all Iraqis and not just for certain sects. And so I'm wondering: Does this have any kind of larger implication – signals about unity of the Iraqi Government? And can the current leadership really be relied upon to deliver unity after eight years of not so much?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear first. We don't know all the circumstances of the events on the ground. We're seeking more information on that. There's no question that coordination and a unified front is a prominent part of the message we are sending both publicly and in our conversations with officials on the ground. It was in our statement; it is certainly a message that DAS McGurk is conveying on the ground as well.
We've seen even, as I think just this morning I believe or in the last 24 hours, that the Speaker of Iraq's parliament, Nujaifi, came out and called on the international community to support Iraq in its efforts to counter ISIL's offensive. I know you're asking me about the military, but the point I'm trying to make here is that there's no question that unity and all sides and officials in Iraq working together is the only way that they can be successful here.
And on your second question, there is also no question that all Iraqi leaders need to do more to address unresolved issues to better meet the needs of the Iraqi people. We continue to work with a broad spectrum of Iraqi leaders, and we continue to urge them to secure support from all Iraqi communities and across the board to present a common political and unified vision as they address these challenges.
QUESTION: Do you believe that Prime Minister al-Maliki should remain as prime minister as – I mean, it's a relevant time to be asking since the government is in their kind of building process right now.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we never – we don't take positions on issues around future leadership or current leadership. I will say that he's obviously been elected previously. They're still finalizing the results. When I said that there's more that officials can do on the ground, that certainly includes Prime Minister Maliki.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Jen, can I ask if you have any readouts of the conversations that DAS McGurk has been having today in – he's in Baghdad today, is that right? He was in Iraqi Kurdistan, but he's in Baghdad today?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that's correct, Jo.
QUESTION: Who has he met with and what is the substance of their consultations?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any other details to read out. It's really a summary of what I've just mentioned to you in terms of the importance of presenting a unified front. We're communicating with all sides. I'm happy to check and see at the end of today if there's more we can provide as a readout.
QUESTION: I mean, given this is a message that you've been making for many months now about the need for unity, can you point to any encouraging signs from Prime Minister Maliki or from any other leaders that there has been progress made in trying to reach some kind of unified approach?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to give a grade. What I will say is that there's no question that this is – that unity and a unified approach, I should say, is the path that will be needed moving forward to address their security needs, to address a range of needs that they have in Iraq if this is an issue we think there's more that can be done on. And that's why we're expressing that publicly and one of the reasons that DAS McGurk is on the ground. So we're continuing to work with the Iraqis on it. Obviously, there are security challenges. There's a serious deterioration in the security situation on the ground. The situation remains in flux, but we'll continue to work with them during this challenging time.
QUESTION: And was DAS McGurk actually bringing any more promises of any more aid from the United States, for instance, with him?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to preview for you on that front. I can give you a quick overview just to make sure everybody's aware of all of the pieces that we have provided.
I think you all are aware of the shipments that we have provided that include the delivery of 300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms fire, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, flares, sniper rifles, M-16s and M-4 rifles to the Iraqi security forces. We also delivered additional Bell IA-407 helicopters late last year. Ten ScanEagle surveillance platforms are on schedule for delivery this summer. We've moved the Apache lease case forward and we're now awaiting the Iraqi signature and funding for the deal.
We also recently notified Congress of an additional sale of $1 billion in arms, including up to 200 Humvees, that is now in the 30-day review period. And certainly, we remain in a discussion with the Government of Iraq about their needs during this time.
QUESTION: When – sorry, when was the notification? Sorry, Said. When was the notification?
MS. PSAKI: The notification of the $1 billion in arms? I don't have a specific day. I'm happy to check for you, Jo, if that's helpful.
QUESTION: I think that they also – the Iraqis received the first F-16, I think, last week. I'm not so sure, so if you could check on that.
But given that Mosul is a Sunni city, in fact, the whole (inaudible) --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- are you not alarmed that this may have been now – the fight is clearly polarized along sectarian lines and the Shiite threat?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I --
QUESTION: Are you not concerned?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, that one of the reasons that we put out the statement we did --
MS. PSAKI: -- and why DAS McGurk is on the ground is because we believe that all parties in Iraq need to have a unified front given the challenging security situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. But I can assure you that national unity in Iraq has been elusive, and by and large some people believe because it was neglected by the U.S. occupation early on. But that's another story.
I want to ask you – you mention a great deal of armaments and so on. Why is the United States not, let's say, intervening with drones, targeting these obviously present – or they have location, they have headquarters and so on. ISIL – I'm talking about ISIL. So why are they not doing what they're doing in Pakistan or what they're doing in Yemen. Is the situation not urgent enough in Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would hardly say that, and I'd actually refute the nature of your question. We're considering ways – continuing to consider ways to enhance initiatives and our efforts to support the Iraqis. I think I outlined a broad range of assistance we're providing, and we never discuss operational details from the podium.
QUESTION: But I'm asking a specific question, because obviously the Iraqis' firepower, be it airborne or on the ground, is not sufficient to deal with the actual ISIL. Why is the United States not intervening the way it has or is in places like Yemen, in places like Pakistan and places like Afghanistan with drone strikes? Why is it not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, every circumstance is different, every country is different. As I just noted, we don't outline operational details in any of the countries you mentioned. We provide a range of assistance to the Iraqi security forces. We remain in close touch with the government and we will continue those discussions.
QUESTION: Does what happened today, the fact that the Iraqi army fled – or elements of the Iraqi army, the Shia elements of the Iraqi army fled Mosul conjure up images, let's say, of 2003 when the whole Iraqi army was dissolved and you had to begin from scratch?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in answer to Lara's earlier question, I noted that we're consulting with the Government of Iraq to find out more details on what occurred on the ground. I would note that Iraqi security forces remain engaged across the board, that many have lost their lives countering violent extremism. We're on the ground. We've provided a range of assistance including what I just outlined because we're so concerned and engaged in these issues.
QUESTION: And my last question: Maliki just announced national mobilization. Will you help him do this? Will the United States of America, let's say, have emergency training camps or supplies, or perhaps, I don't know, command and control help in doing so?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't have all the details of what he may have just announced. It may have come out as I was preparing to come down here. Obviously we remain in close touch with a range of officials within the government, including the prime minister, and that will continue.
QUESTION: Yeah, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Iraq?
QUESTION: Yes. Iraq. Some news reports have said that ISIL has took over some helicopters in Nineveh. Can you confirm these reports?
MS. PSAKI: I'm sorry, can you say it again? That they had --
QUESTION: They donated or they took two or three helicopters in Nineveh. ISIL.
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any ground updates for you to provide from here.
QUESTION: If true, will this have any implication on the flow of the American arms to the Iraqi military or to the Iraqi army?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I can't confirm the details of the report about the helicopters you mentioned. Obviously the situation is – there's a serious deterioration of the security on the ground. One of the reasons that, again, DAS McGurk is on the ground and why we've been so engaged in providing the assistance we are is because of our concern about the security situation. And I think that speaks to our involvement and engagement here.
QUESTION: And I have two more. The flight of the Iraqi army from Mosul and other areas – do you think that this consists a setback for all the help that the United States provided to the Iraqi Government in the past 10 years?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Michel, I think, one, as I made clear a few minutes ago, there's more that a range of Iraqi leaders can do. We continue to send that message to them both publicly and privately. In terms of those specific reports, we continue to consult with the Government of Iraq on those details. There are a range of Iraqi security forces that remain engaged, and we continue to work with them to address the security situation on the ground.
QUESTION: My last question on Iraq: You said that Syria is the main source of ammunitions and human resources for ISIL. Will this have any implication on your strategy towards Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, one of the issues that we talk about quite frequently, and the President did in his speech just last week, was our concern about the overflow of violence and extremism into neighboring countries and efforts that we will continue to undertake to address – to work with countries on counterterrorism efforts. We have had separately from that speech, but broadly speaking, a great deal of cooperation with Iraq. We have done a second round – we're actually preparing to do a second round of CT training later this summer with the Iraqis. And we're – again, as I mentioned – continuing to consider other ways to enhance our initiatives in consultation with the Iraqi Government.
QUESTION: If true that they captured the – a helicopter, which is a high-tech U.S. equipment, should the United States go after this helicopter, perhaps destroy it to make sure that enemies should not have control over such equipment?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to speculate on that, Said. I don't have the details on what's happening on the ground to that level of detail.
QUESTION: But it does raise questions about what happens if some of the help that the U.S. is giving to the Iraqis do fall into the enemy hands, as has been the concern in Syria, no?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, for different reasons. But I'm not going to speculate on it because I don't have the details about the report you mentioned.
QUESTION: Okay. And then could you also unpack a little bit – in your statement you noted that ISIL is gaining strength from the situation in Syria; it's transferring recruits, sophisticated munitions, and resources to the fight in Iraq. Can you give us a little more information on where some of these resources are coming from? I mean, obviously --
MS. PSAKI: Where in Syria they're coming from?
QUESTION: No, like how the fighters in Syria are obtaining these organically.
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any other details I can share on that. I can see if there's more I can outline.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. More on Iraq, or should we move on to a new topic? Okay. New topic? Jo.
QUESTION: Egypt, perhaps?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.
QUESTION: That's the next on my list of long things here. I wondered if you'd heard or seen a video of a woman who was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square during the inauguration of the new president at the weekend and whether you had any reaction to it, and again, what this shows about the sort of level of the safety for the environment of people in Egypt at the moment.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. We have seen the horrific video which shocked and appalled us as much as it did the Egyptian people. The prevalence of sexual assaults against Egyptian women is a cause of great concern not just to the Egyptian people but to the United States and the international community. We note President al-Sisi's message on sexual harassment that came out today, but we urge the government to make good on its promise to do whatever it takes to combat sexual harassment and implement the new law that punishes convicted harassers. We also urge all serious efforts to end sexual violence in Egypt – which is, of course, different – and to ensure that there is no impunity for attacks against women.
QUESTION: Syria to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, can we finish Egypt just in case?
QUESTION: Sorry, in Egypt. In Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: One more on --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- Egypt. Fifteen, I think, or thirteen Syrian opposition members or members from the Syrian opposition imprisoned today in Egypt because they were demonstrating against President Assad. Do you have anything on this?
MS. PSAKI: In Egypt they were arrested?
MS. PSAKI: I haven't seen the specifics of that, Michel. Obviously, as you know, we have concerns about what's happening with the judicial system in Egypt. We make those concerns known. I will note also that Ambassador David Thorne and Counselor Tom Shannon will be having meetings with senior Egyptian officials that start today and will resume tomorrow. This visit will bring – will build upon Ambassador Thorne and Counselor Shannon's last visit to Cairo in April, as well as their earlier visits to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. The continuing – this continuing engagement is indicative of the importance we place on U.S.-Egypt relations. And obviously as a part of their discussions, they will make known or make clear – again, as we do on many occasions – the additional steps that the Egyptian Government must take in order to proceed on a path to a political transition.
QUESTION: Has there been any telephone conversations between the Secretary of State and President Sisi since his election?
MS. PSAKI: No, there have not.
QUESTION: There have not. Or anyone, like, maybe --
MS. PSAKI: I will --
QUESTION: -- a foreign minister?
MS. PSAKI: -- tell you his appropriate counterpart, of course, is the foreign minister. He is planning to speak with his – with Foreign Minister Fahmy very soon. I think they're working to schedule that call.
QUESTION: Okay. I know this is probably a question that should be addressed to the White House, but do we have any idea when the President is going to speak with Sisi?
MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to them for details on that, Said.
Any more on Egypt?
QUESTION: Peace process.
MS. PSAKI: Peace process, sure.
QUESTION: A ministerial – or a delegation from Arab foreign ministers will be coming to Washington soon to discuss the peace process and the settlements with Secretary Kerry. Do you have anything on this?
MS. PSAKI: I don't. I'm happy to check and see if there's anything to report to all of you on the schedule.
QUESTION: But can you confirm that there was a meeting of the follow-up committee they call the Arab League Follow Up Committee?
MS. PSAKI: I would have you – I would suggest you confirm that with them and what their schedule is. They have quarterly meetings, I believe, so – but again --
QUESTION: You can't confirm that the ministers (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I think Michel was asking about their visit to Washington as a whole. I don't have any details on a meeting coming up with the Secretary. It may just be that we plan things out a week – week by week, as you all know.
QUESTION: Was there – on the peace process. Do you have any comment on the new Israeli president?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we congratulate Mr. Rivlin on his election as the next president of Israel. We look forward to working with him after he takes office in July.
QUESTION: But you're not concerned that he holds some really hardline positions, especially on settlements?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to comment on his personal opinions. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear that the Government of Israel supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As you know, we strongly believe that the two-state solution remains the only viable alternative. You know our view on settlements as well.
QUESTION: Does it not compromise your negotiations, though, and your diplomacy if you have a president who does not believe in the Palestinian state?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Jo, we have been negotiating. In the past, the negotiations have occurred between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. And obviously they're on hold at this point and I don't have any prediction of their resumption.
QUESTION: Is that why you're – is that your way of saying that the president's views really are not germane because he doesn't have decision-making or policy power in the government?
MS. PSAKI: That's not at all what I was saying. We'll let him take office in July and we'll see what happens from there.
QUESTION: Iran, maybe?
MS. PSAKI: Iran, sure.
QUESTION: Could you update us on how the talks are going in Geneva? Are they still continuing? Have they finished? And could you give us a readout on how you felt the tone was and whether anything was achieved?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as Marie noted, they met yesterday for over five hours. They reconvened this morning at 9 a.m. and expected to meet all day. A range of topics were discussed as expected. We probably won't be giving a lot of substantive readout of the discussions. Obviously, we'd like to keep them private, as – because we think that is the right approach. As you all know, next week the P5+1 will be reconvening for the rest – next round of negotiations, and these discussions were certainly just complementary of that.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: The Iranian side --
QUESTION: Sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry. The Iranian side yesterday characterized yesterday's talks as – no, this morning's talks as positive. Is that something that you would concur with?
MS. PSAKI: I think they must have just concluded. I haven't had a chance to talk to the team that's been on the ground about how they would characterize it, so let me see if we have a more specific readout from the team on the ground.
QUESTION: And President Rouhani, who's in Ankara today for a conference, said that his country would do its best to secure a nuclear deal. That's not very affirmative. I mean, doing your best doesn't mean you're necessarily going to get there. How do you react to his comments?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think as we've noted many times in the past, there are different audiences that a range of officials, including the Iranians, are speaking to. And our focus is on the core issues being negotiated behind the scenes, and there are – all the issues are on the table. We have never said this would be easy. We continue to believe that. But we'll let the negotiations in the next round continue next week, and we'll see where we are.
QUESTION: So have you made enough progress in the last two days to be confident about going into the next round of the P5+1 talks in Vienna next week?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this – these consultations are just an important opportunity to exchange views in advance of the next negotiations, negotiating session in Vienna. But again, I'm not going to predict what they will mean. That's where the negotiations will be taking place between the P5+1. This is just – as there have been throughout the course of the last more than six months, even before that – a range of bilateral meetings – a range of meetings that have taken place on the side of events or conferences. The Secretary has participated in some of them as well, and this is a natural part of that complementary process.
QUESTION: But do you think that what --
QUESTION: When you said made a range – when you say you discussed a range of topics, are you narrowing that to the nuclear issue, or did these talks in any way bleed into other issues of mutual interest between you and Iran? Syria --
MS. PSAKI: I meant a range of topics on the nuclear issue, so thank you for --
QUESTION: Okay. So this is solely about kind of – more of bilateral talks related to the nuclear issue.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: And they say stay – like I know that was the intent, but they stay that way. There's not – you're not bleeding into --
MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding. That was always the plan --
MS. PSAKI: -- and there certainly is plenty to talk about.
Go ahead, Lara.
QUESTION: Kind of following up on Jo: Do you think that there was enough progress or goodwill made in these consultations this week to push the ball forward in next week's talks, beyond where we were in the last round? I mean, do you think that this – based on what you've seen, understanding that you didn't see the recent Iranian comments right before you came down --
MS. PSAKI: I did see the Iranian comments, but I just hadn't had a chance to talk to our team about their evaluation of it, so --
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, is the U.S. confident that we'll be able to make some progress in the next round, or --
MS. PSAKI: Well again, this is a long process and one where we've been working closely with the P5+1 partners throughout. I haven't – we haven't given a step-by-step evaluation of where things stand at every moment of every bilateral meeting because we don't think that's particularly productive, and I don't think that we'll do that here either.
QUESTION: Let me ask it this way.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: If these consultations had not been positive, would it even be worth the U.S. while to hold the P5+1 talks next week?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the P5+1 talks were going to continue. This was an opportunity to have a discussion in a complementary manner to those talks, but that's where the core of the negotiations take place.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, considering that this is really a watershed event, these bilateral talks – I mean, the first time in 35 years the Americans and the Iranians meet one-on-one since the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would remind you that Secretary Kerry has met with Foreign Minister --
QUESTION: I --
MS. PSAKI: Let me just continue – Foreign Minister Zarif in Munich as well as in Geneva, and we met with the Iranians bilaterally a number of times on the margins of the P5+1 negotiation.
QUESTION: So this is not a unique event?
MS. PSAKI: I would not call it a "watershed event," as you mentioned.
QUESTION: Okay, so --
QUESTION: But it is just to --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: It is unique in the sense that like, yes, these are related to the nuclear issues, which is more of a multilateral process. But most of the times that you've met with the Iranians have been on the sidelines of other talks where the Iranians were there. This wasn't like a scheduled bilateral event between the U.S. and Iran, regardless of the topic. I mean, while it's not a watershed event given that you have over the years had many talks – recently with Secretary Kerry in particular, those contacts have been increasing – it is quite significant that you and Iran are holding direct bilateral talks that are not --
MS. PSAKI: I was just trying to give a context --
QUESTION: No, I understand, but --
MS. PSAKI: -- to the fact that we've had many bilateral meetings.
QUESTION: Right, right. But would you – I mean, you would say that it is significant that the U.S. and Iran are scheduling their own bilateral talks which could kind of – I don't want to say "set a precedent," but could be an indicator that this could continue?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn't – again, I'm not going to make a prediction of what it means from here. That's not knowable yet at this point. Obviously, the negotiations will continue next week. We believe we need to engage in active diplomacy. This is an example of that, and we need to talk to Iran just like our P5+1 partners do as well. That's been the case throughout this process.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Jen, you talked about context. I mean, considering the context that Iran has a sort of robust diplomacy in the region, it is reaching out, it's talking to the Turks and so on. It is exporting more than ever oil to China, India, and so on. It has increased its level of supply to – by something like 10 percent or 15 percent in one month alone. Do you think that the era of sanctions and Iran sort of being isolated is over?
MS. PSAKI: I would dispute many of your numbers or --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, the numbers speak for themselves.
MS. PSAKI: -- the riff you just had there, Said, with all due respect, in that the sanctions regime has very much, despite the skepticism initially from some critics, has very much stayed intact. And we have even put additional sanctions in place over the last several months. There was an agreement as part of the JPOA, of course, that we abided by, that the IAEA and others have confirmed that Iranians have abided by.
But clearly, reaching a comprehensive agreement is the step that we're working towards at this point, and there's a range of issues that need to be discussed in that context.
QUESTION: At the end of – or by July 20th, I guess, the end of the six-month period and so on, what do you expect after that?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: What do you expect to happen in terms of the negotiations with Iran or where these talks are headed?
MS. PSAKI: Our focus remains on the July 20th timeline.
MS. PSAKI: Iran or a new topic?
QUESTION: Yeah, Iran.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: It looks like the French are pessimistic regarding the talks, and the French foreign minister has said Iran talks are hitting a wall and July deadline is in doubt. Do you share this pessimism?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just said our focus remains on the July 20th timeline. I will say I've seen those remarks. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, we feel our efforts should be directed towards the negotiations that are happening behind the scenes on the tough issues and not on public demands. We all want this to be a strong comprehensive agreement. We all believe that no deal is better than a bad deal, and we're approaching these negotiations with that in mind.
QUESTION: Would you agree to an extension, though, if you felt it was necessary to get a deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to speculate on that. You know what's allowed for in the JPOA, but our focus remains on the July 20th timeline.
QUESTION: And can I just ask: Where are we with the transfers? Under the JPA, there was a set timetable of when things were going to be transferred, and – I'm sorry, I should have this in my head --
MS. PSAKI: No, it's okay.
QUESTION: -- would you just remind us when the last one's being made? Is it this month or is July?
MS. PSAKI: I'd have to check on that, Jo. It's a good question. Obviously, you know it comes from the Treasury Department. We typically confirm after it occurs.
MS. PSAKI: They've been occurring on schedule, but we can check and see what the last one was that we can confirm.
QUESTION: And whether that's the last one of the six payments or whether --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.
QUESTION: -- there's another one to go in July. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Sure. Understand. Understood.
QUESTION: Are you assuring the Saudis, your allies the Saudis, that any thaw in the tensions between the United States and Iran is not at their expense? That their relationship will continue as is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that we've been in close consultations with the Saudis, as well as a range of our friends and partners around the world. I would remind you that what we're discussing here is their nuclear program. Everyone shares a concern about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. We have other concerns outside of this that remain, that we also share with the Saudis.
MS. PSAKI: Iran? Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just following up, President Rouhani was in Turkey yesterday, and Turkey and Iran signed 10 MOUs yesterday. So was wondering if you see these MOUs – first of all, they are coordinated with the White House or Treasury or State Department?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a close dialogue with Turkey on a range of issues, including Iran. We share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I would refer you to them for more information, and I'm sure you're in touch with them. I would, though, remind you that Turkey has publicly committed to abide by all of its – all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and that remains our understanding.
QUESTION: So is it – today – yesterday, they stated, the leaders of the countries, that they want to double the value of bilateral trade to $30 billion by next year. Do you see these goals within the line of the sanction regime?
MS. PSAKI: Well again, I think our policy is well known on Iran, and that is that we have made clear to a range of countries and the private sector that it's best to avoid activity that may be sanctionable or under U.S. or international sanctions. I'm not going to speculate on what may happen or not happen depending on where we are with the negotiations.
QUESTION: During the visit, these two countries again find this partnership is strategic and they created this new council. It is the Iran-Turkey Strategic High Cooperation Council is a milestone. How do you view this strategic partnership between these two countries?
MS. PSAKI: I really don't know that I have any more to add than I've just stated.
QUESTION: And the late – the last question: Has the United States received any clarification on the reported 87 billion euros in Iran sanction-busting from the Turkish businesses? These have been discussed in Turkish press for a number of months now. I was wondering if you have any view on those.
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any other details or update to share with all of you.
Go ahead, Lucas.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Going back to Secretary Kerry's interview with Elise here from CNN --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- over the weekend, Secretary Kerry – great interview. Secretary Kerry declared that our combat role in Afghanistan is over. And I was wondering: In light of the friendly fire incident – five U.S. service members were killed – if that wasn't combat, what was it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I think I would refer you to the statements that the Department of Defense as well as ISAF put out as it related to this. Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause, as you know, and DOD has put out in their statements, so I'd refer you to them for more details.
QUESTION: But weren't – those soldiers were engaged in combat, were they not?
MS. PSAKI: Again, Lucas, I would point you to them for any other details. And I think it's important to note here contextually, even broadly speaking, that what the Secretary was referring to was the planned wind-down that the President outlined last week. And you're familiar with where we stand with our presence in Iraq – I mean in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: New topic, unless somebody else --
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Afghanistan? Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I've got Ukraine, so --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay, go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I wondered if you had any reaction to the announcement today by the new President Poroshenko to set up humanitarian corridors in the east, and whether you felt that's – think this is going to be helpful in bringing an end to the fighting in that part of the country.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you heard President Poroshenko say, I believe, in his announcement, their goal here is to explore options to remove civilians from harm's way as it continues to maintain the safety of its citizens as its top priority. And we are encouraging them with this or any other related effort to work closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other international organizations to plan for any internally displaced persons and how to address that. But certainly, we support their effort to protect their citizens.
QUESTION: Do you believe this is a prelude to an even tougher response by the Ukrainian armed forces against the separatists?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you've seen even overnight, armed separatists are increasingly – or have increasingly attacked Ukrainian security personnel. I shouldn't say "increasingly." I should say there's still ongoing attacks against Ukrainian security personnel overnight in Luhansk and Kramatorsk. And we have long felt – and this is a message the Secretary conveyed to President Poroshenko last week – that the Ukrainians, Ukrainian Government, has every right to take steps to promote calm and stability on the ground.
Now, as you know, we – there have been discussions between the parties, between President Poroshenko and President Putin, and that was encouraging. But there's more that the Russians need to do, more they need to – more actions they need to take to follow up their commitments. And in the meantime, the Ukrainians have a responsibility to maintain law and order in their own country.
QUESTION: So this could be a prelude to a further intensification of the Ukrainian Government's efforts to defend its country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly don't want to predict that, and that's not our hope, and I don't think that's their hope. But again, they are dealing with a range of armed separatists on the ground who are posing a threat to the safety and security of their own people, and they have every right to maintain law and order on the ground.
QUESTION: And when you were saying that you were urging them to work with the UNHCR, do you have any figures on the number of people they might be thinking of moving?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have that. Obviously this announcement was just made today. I'd refer you to them for any more specifics on that.
QUESTION: What kind of actions should the Russians take? I mean, you said they should take more action to ensure the stability of Ukraine. Like what?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say – I would say, Said, that in addition to engaging directly with the Ukrainians, which has only just begun, and there's more that needs to be – do – to happen. President Putin made – stated, I think, over the last couple of days that he will take actions to secure the border between Russia and Ukraine more effectively to prevent the flow of armed fighters and weapons. And we haven't seen steps taken to that – to address that. That's an incredibly important component of what's happening on the ground and one that has raised a great deal of concern.
QUESTION: But you also like to see some diplomatic gestures such as --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I mentioned --
QUESTION: -- recognizing and raising --
MS. PSAKI: I mentioned direct engagement. That was the first thing I stated.
More on Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: I understand there's not an agreement yet on – or there's been a failure to come to agreement between Russia and Kyiv on the oil loans --
MS. PSAKI: Oil. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and the prices. So I'm wondering, what's your understanding of how much longer these discussions are going to continue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand they're ongoing. I can't make a prediction, obviously. We're not a party of the discussions. It's the EU, Ukraine, and Russia. And we support these talks and believe that they're the appropriate forum to negotiate price and supply issues. But again, I can't make a prediction. I know there have been some updates from the relevant parties on the ground, but obviously we encourage a conclusion would be a positive step, of course.
QUESTION: Right. I mean, they keep pushing this deadline for the threat for the loans to be called in down the road, and so I'm just kind of wondering if this is just going to continue for some period of time, or whether we should expect for the hard and fast deadline to take place.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I wish I could make a prediction for you. Obviously, all parties have a stake here; certainly the Ukrainians have a stake in providing the necessary resources to their people. Three-fourths of Russia's gas exports go to Europe, so Russia depends on gas exports to its western and European neighbors as well. So again, I can't make a prediction of what the outcome will be. We're not a party to the negotiations as much as we support them.
More on Ukraine or --
QUESTION: I had a question on Secretary – former Secretary Clinton's new book.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Does – did former Secretary Clinton have to have that book fact-checked or cleared by State Department representatives?
MS. PSAKI: I don't believe so.
QUESTION: In the book, she says that there were Marines stationed at the Embassy in Tripoli on the evening of September 11, 2012, the night of the Benghazi attacks. And I was wondering if you could just clarify for the record: Were there Marines in Tripoli that evening?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything. I think Secretary Clinton's chapter on Benghazi, as well as the entire book, give a pretty extensive overview of her experience here, and I would point you to the details included there.
QUESTION: Okay. Because on June 26th, 2013, General Carter Ham said there was not a Marine security detachment in Tripoli, so I just wanted to know what the State Department's official line on that was.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I'd point you to Secretary Clinton's book. And if there are more details to share, we're happy to share them, and I'm sure you especially enjoyed the lengthy ABC interview last night, Lucas.
QUESTION: Is there a U.S. embassy anywhere in the world without a Marine detachment?
MS. PSAKI: Are there some in the world?
QUESTION: Are there any embassies, U.S. embassies in the world? I haven't seen any.
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: I mean, every embassy anywhere in the world has --
MS. PSAKI: I'm not – I'm just not going to outline --
QUESTION: -- a Marine detachment.
MS. PSAKI: -- numbers or specifics for obvious reasons.
QUESTION: But they may not have had it at the consulate in Benghazi, but they may --
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your speculation. I don't think I have much more to share on this particular issue.
Do we have more? I think – Scott, were you raising your hand?
MS. PSAKI: No? Okay.
QUESTION: North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: We were wondering if – is there an update on Jeffrey Edward Fowle? Are negotiations going on to get him back? Is there a timeline?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any update. I believe my colleague, Marie, may have spoken to this, to the extent we can, a couple of days ago. I don't have any other update at this point.
QUESTION: No --
QUESTION: On Colombia.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry. What – can you let – go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Did you want to continue?
QUESTION: So no update on, like, what his – like, where he was, whether or not there are negotiations, nothing in – on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any other update for you.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: You don't --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just on – so you still don't have a privacy waiver?
MS. PSAKI: Not to my knowledge, no.
QUESTION: This – okay. Because his lawyer is out there talking about him being an adventurer who likes new cultures and seems to suggest that he was caught up in something. He likes to travel, loves to – the adventure of experiencing different cultures and seeing new places, and you still can't talk to us about him? You have no privacy --
MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding. I will check and see if anything has changed. And as you know, sometimes it is complicated with all of these legal requirements.
QUESTION: I'm sorry if you went over this yesterday and I missed it, but did – has the Swiss been able to --
QUESTION: The Swedish.
QUESTION: -- the Swedish, sorry – been able to provide consular visit to him?
MS. PSAKI: I don't believe we have a Privacy Act waiver in this case, so I don't think there's more details I can discuss. But I'm happy to check and see if there's more.
QUESTION: At least if you can check if the North Koreans are engaging with the Swedish on this particular matter --
MS. PSAKI: I will.
QUESTION: -- considering that they put it out through their KCNA.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I understand. And obviously, as you know, reporting and what we can and can't say --
MS. PSAKI: -- can be challenging at times, but I will check and see if there's more on this case.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Yes, on Colombia. The government and the ELN, one of the insurgent groups, announced the beginning of peace talks today. I'm wondering if you have anything on that.
MS. PSAKI: I don't from here. As you know, we have been closely monitoring this issue over a great deal of time. I will see if there's more, given they were just announced, that we would like to convey from this end.
QUESTION: Staying in Latin America. Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Are you aware of reports that up to eight members of the Cuban National Ballet have defected to the U.S. after performing in Puerto Rico?
MS. PSAKI: I was not, Jo, but I'm happy to look into that in detail.
QUESTION: Could you take the question and see if there's some details that we can get? We're not exactly sure how many of them have come, but it could be as many as eight dancers who have decided to defect to the United States.
MS. PSAKI: I'm not entirely sure we'd have purview over that, but I will check and see what we have to convey on it or the appropriate person you should talk to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: And in the same region, do you have a taken answer to my taken question yesterday about the children – unaccompanied children on the U.S. border?
MS. PSAKI: I have some on it, so let me see if I can help address your question here. And can you remind me again what your specific question was?
QUESTION: Yeah. It was how many children are showing up, starting from when; what countries are they largely from, and what threats are they trying to flee, if any; the circumstances.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is an issue we certainly did follow up on when you raised this question yesterday. As you know, the State Department, while we're engaged in this issue, there are a range of other agencies in the United States Government that are more closely engaged and have a more – a closer role, I should say – specifically the Department of Homeland Security. It's really under their purview. I will say what our role has been here is engagement with the governments of Central American countries and Mexico to address the social and political conditions surrounding the flow of people to the United States. I know there have been a range of numbers – that's why you asked the question – that were put out. And part of that relates to the circumstances in some of these countries that, in our role as diplomats, we work with the countries to try to address.
Now, of course, we engage through the interagency in a discussion about what we can do more on, but in terms of specific numbers and how it's being handled, a great deal of that is under DHS.
QUESTION: And if I covered DHS, I would ask them the question, but --
MS. PSAKI: I understand completely.
QUESTION: -- we are not getting any kind of clarity from DHS.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So I know this is a priority for the Administration and it seems --
MS. PSAKI: It certainly is.
QUESTION: -- a little odd that the Administration would not talk in specifics about --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: -- something that's a priority. So even if you have a range, I would appreciate some kind of --
MS. PSAKI: It is not an issue of that at all. It is certainly a priority, but as you know, we try to stay within our purview here when we can, even as we work on issues together across the interagency. I think if you reach out to them, they may have more information. I have not myself seen specific numbers in terms of the question you were asking. They may exist. I don't have them here with me.
QUESTION: I assure you DHS has been asked about this --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and we are not getting that information. So if you could maybe pass on a message through the interagency that --
MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to.
QUESTION: -- some kind of specificity would be not only appreciated, but would give credence to this priority.
QUESTION: All your – your only role is to address the larger conditions that have led to this flow? You're not – this building is not the kind of main diplomatic conduit with these other governments in terms of their citizens?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just said that we work with them to address the social and political conditions.
QUESTION: No, I understand. But that's more of a like --
MS. PSAKI: And I didn't say that was our only role at all, so --
QUESTION: So are you dealing with these countries in a diplomatic way in terms of repatriation or consular services or any of that type of stuff? I mean, or – because they're already here in the United States, are these other agencies in the U.S. Government the ones dealing with those governments on those issues?
MS. PSAKI: Well, where applicable, we are, but – and again, I mean, the role of engaging with these governments – the Central American countries and Mexico – is actually a pretty significant role in terms of what we're working with them to address. There are a range of efforts, including last April. We convened the first meeting of the binational Repatriation Strategy and Policy Executive Coordination Team, also known as RESPECT, with the goal of finding better ways to align U.S. repatriation policies with the Mexican Government's ability to dedicate resources to its returned citizens. This has been an ongoing issue that we have had a great range of discussions with relevant governments about.
QUESTION: I completely understand that, but I'm thinking that's, like, more of a kind of larger macro issue in terms of the scope of the problem and dealing with it on a longer term. I'm talking about the kind of immediate --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we do engage with U.S. missions and partner governments in the region, as well as their embassies in the United States to actively stress the dangers of irregular immigration, through media engagements, public events, outreach in at-risk communities. Again, this is a broad, governmental effort; it's not one that just sits in the State Department.
QUESTION: Well, what I'm trying to get at is, okay, you have this like influx and it's – are you the country – is the State Department the one that is coordinating with these governments in terms of providing any types of consular services, to make sure that those countries are getting consular services or anything to their citizens? I mean, is there – I'm just wondering like on a day-to-day kind of --
MS. PSAKI: On a day-to-day, DHS, FEMA, a range of those agencies are the ones that typically deal with the individuals that come across the border.
QUESTION: But with the governments of those nationals.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we work with the governments, as I mentioned. And part of the discussion, including addressing the long-term challenges, is what's happening right now, certainly. But in terms of the day-to-day management, that's really under DHS and FEMA and others.
QUESTION: And can I just clarify one thing?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: What happens to the children? I believe they're brought across the border and they're kept in – wherever – shelters for the time being. There was a suggestion yesterday that they're not deported, that you don't deport minors. But I wondered if that was actually correct or what happened to them.
MS. PSAKI: I don't. This is a very good question, and I understand why you're asking it. Again, this is not just dealt with through the State Department – a lot of it is dealt with with DHS in the lead. I don't have an answer that I can provide at this point, but it's one that we're continuing to look on more – look for more helpful information on.
QUESTION: It's been suggested, for example, that I believe we do deport children back to Mexico if they're Mexican children. But I'm not positive on that. So, I mean as you can tell, there's a lot of interest and a lot of questions --
MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand that. I just want to --
QUESTION: -- and we're not getting the answers.
MS. PSAKI: I understand. I just want to make sure we provide the accurate information and obviously speak to what applies to us here in the State Department and what is applicable under our purview.
QUESTION: I believe it was Representative King that said that some of these children are so young that it's not their fault, but that some of the children are old enough that it's certainly is their fault. Do you agree with that assessment?
MS. PSAKI: I think I'm not going to entertain that, but I will say, Elise, that the fact that we are concerned about what is happening here, that we have been engaged with the governments, that we have been undergoing a long-term effort that's been in place and underway, I should say, long before these new reports, speaks to how concerned we are about the reports of an increase in minors crossing over the border.
QUESTION: And you can't say that you don't think it's the children's fault?
MS. PSAKI: I think it's clear where our position stands on, as a U.S. Government.
QUESTION: One more on Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes. This Kurdish – Iraq-Kurdish oil tankers – today, second one left Turkish port, and the other one is, I think – I don't know whether it already sold. Do you have any comment on those tankers?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position, obviously, here has been clear and longstanding in that we don't support the export or sale of oil, absent the appropriate approval of the Federal Iraqi Government. And as you know, this exposes those who are undergoing this effort to potentially serious legal risks. I've seen those reports. Again, we have the same concerns we've had with previous reports of another – of the other ship.
QUESTION: So these two tankers right now in the international seas, as far as we know, are you coordinating with other countries not to buy this oil tankers, or are you doing anything to prevent this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position – as we've stated our position many, many times, I think it's pretty clear to the international community and the private sector, and obviously they'll make their own decisions.
QUESTION: And one on Syria, if I may. Today, former Ambassador Ford wrote a piece on New York Times, and one of the points he was making that the U.S. should give far greater material support and training to Free Syrian Army. Are you considering this option any time soon?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me say that we've been providing political, financial, and other support to the opposition for some time. As you know, we expanded the scale and scope of our aid and assistance last year, and we are continuing to increase our assistance to the opposition, including vetted members of the armed opposition. And the President spoke to this during his speech just last week.
I would also note that in the Secretary's interview with CNN just a couple of days ago, and on other occasions in this briefing room and others, we've indicated a support for the Levin language in the NDAA, which would provide the authority to the Department of Defense to train and arm. And so I would point you to that. We continue to work with Congress on that, but I think the Administration has been clear about our commitment to increasing our support.
QUESTION: So we cannot imagine the ambassador already knows all these efforts. What he wants is far greater support, something that dramatically different than U.S. already has been doing. And my question is that: Do you have any reconsideration to change dramatically?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Ambassador Ford, who I was – had the pleasure of working with for a year while he was here and while I was here, and he's an incredible diplomat and gave an incredible decades of service to this and many other issues. But there is a difference between being a private citizen and being within the government, and a great deal has changed. Conversations have changed. Efforts have increased since he left the government.
QUESTION: Well, it does seem as if Ambassador Ford – Secretary Clinton makes clear in her – former Secretary Clinton makes clear in her book, and I think it's been pretty widely reported and in fact acknowledged, that Secretary Kerry was an early proponent of arming the rebels to change President Assad's calculus. And it does seem as if like two years later, the Administration has finally come around to that point of view. And it seems as if like a lot of bloodshed could've been maybe prevented, and the situation that you now find yourself on the ground in Syria could maybe not be as grave had the Administration come around to this point of view two years ago.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we've continued to increase the support and the kind of support we're providing long before the President's speech just a week ago. So obviously I can't outline the details of that, but this has been an ongoing discussion within the Administration. We're continuing to increase our support. As you know, there have been a range of factors that have impacted the situation on the ground that have contributed to decision-making, whether that's the influx of foreign fighters or the assistance of Iran and Hezbollah; whether that is our efforts to pursue a diplomatic path or efforts to increase the unity and the strength of the opposition. Those are all factors that were taken into account in our decision-making.
QUESTION: You mentioned the vetting of the opposition. How do you vet the opposition? I mean, these rebels are known to switch alliances all the time. Some of them may end up with ISIL, for instance. How do you vet them to ensure that they are actually – whatever aid you give stays with the vetted opposition?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you, Said, I'm not going to outline that for you here, but this is one of the most important factors that we have – the Secretary has weighed in with his international counterparts on, that we have made a priority as it relates to international assistance, because we believe that the assistance should go through and needs to go through the moderate opposition. And the number of times we've talked about that and raised that as an issue on the agenda speaks to our commitment to doing that in the best way possible.
QUESTION: So you agree that sending any arms may in fact exacerbate violence instead of stemming violence?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you know where we stand, that we don't feel that there is a military solution here. But again, I just outlined – I just reminded you that we have increased our assistance over time. We have been supportive of the language in the Levin Amendment – the Levin language in the NDAA, and we will see where we go from here.
QUESTION: But in your statement about ISIL and the attacks in Mosul, you said that they're – ISIL gained from the situation in Syria. So is there any regret here looking back that if things had been different in Syria, you wouldn't have this problem in Iraq and potentially getting bigger throughout the Middle East?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, Lucas, that there are a range of factors that have contributed to where we are in Syria today, and they include the ones I just outlined: the influx of foreign fighters, the engagement of Iran and others, the need to strengthen the opposition. We are where we are now. We're taking steps to increase our assistance. We're – the moderate opposition had a great trip to Washington, and we'll go from here.
QUESTION: But no regrets looking back?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to entertain or bat that around, Lucas.
Go ahead, Lara.
QUESTION: Well, I just had – I just wanted to kick off or kick the end of the briefing with a news of the weird question, unless anybody else has something that they wanted to ask.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, all right.
QUESTION: Okay. So just a quick look at Twitter feeds over the last week – looks like in defending U.S. policy from criticism, you yourself have come under criticism in some interesting language and ways. I'm just wondering if you have any indication if these – this criticism, these tweets are from official sources, or just freaks out there, I guess.
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Well, I appreciate the question, believe it or not. I will say I'm in good company, because I'm just one of many American officials – especially women, I will say – targeted by the Russian propaganda machine. They do seem to have a bit of a tendency to focus on the outfits I'm wearing and the colors I'm wearing, and they've superimposed my head in photos. And so you'll have to ask them whether that's how great powers should make their case on the world stage. I think it's pretty clear – a pretty clear sign that they don't have the truth on their side.
And I know, and many people know, that there are efforts by the Kremlin and the machine, the propaganda machine, to discredit a range of officials – including recently myself, as silly as that is – because the United States supports a strong, democratic Ukraine, along with the majority of the international community and the Ukrainian people. So if I get dinged a bit for that, I'm not going to sweat it. I will take it as a badge of honor.
But on the substance, I do have a few points, given some of the criticism that has been out there. First, stating plainly that Russia has had a hand in the unrest in eastern Ukraine is not, quote, "uninformed," as they suggest. It is stating the facts. Second, calling on Russia to pull back troops and engage directly with the Government of Ukraine is not, quote, "confused," as they suggested. It is the position of the United States Government, the G7 countries, and most of the world.
And lastly, some of you – and you just did now – but some of you have emailed me and asked me about some of the photos and other issues that have appeared in social media and asked me what I think. And I think – bottom line is I don't think, and I don't think the Secretary of State or the President of the United States thinks there should be a place in diplomacy for sexism. And what's sad is that when you have a culture as vibrant as the Russian culture that anyone would stand to accept that. So thank you for your question.
QUESTION: Did you return the hat that Mr. Lavrov gave to you?
MS. PSAKI: No, I still have that hat. Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry engaged in a discussion last week, and we remain hopeful about the path forward on the diplomatic effort.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you think, though, that this kind of social diplomacy over social media, though, whether it's very diplomatic or not, is getting a little out of hand? I mean, lately it seems as if the U.S. in particular has been reducing its diplomacy to kind of a hashtag, which certainly doesn't reflect the broad themes and kind of depth of the diplomacy that's going on. But --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: Do you think that there is this kind of culture that's created that you need to make a statement in 140 characters or less, and that tends to get less formal and often quite flippant?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that these attacks – not just on me but on a range of U.S. officials – aren't just on social media. They're on Russia-controlled media. They're on – they're in their newspapers. And so they're in a range of outlets.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. I'll answer your question. I do think that social media provides a mechanism for communicating directly with people around the world, whether that's people in Ukraine who need to know that we support them, whether it's through – whether it's domestically here and what my colleagues at the White House do to engage on the President's agenda. I do think there is a significant difference between sending a message that you're united for Ukraine, as we have done here and we're proud of our campaign to do that, and launching personal, inaccurate attacks, which is something that the Russia propaganda machine has done.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not justifying their personal attacks in any way, and they're completely inappropriate. But there have been many officials that have launched personal attacks against various Russian officials and made kind of flippant remarks on their Twitter feeds as well. And I mean, would you maybe suggest that you and the Russians call a truce on something like this?
MS. PSAKI: I don't think we're equated in this case. That's my view.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)
DPB # 102
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