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Military

Daily Press Briefing

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 8, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing

SECRETARY'S TRAVEL
IRAN
AFGHANISTAN
IRAQ
CUBA
VENEZUELA
CUBA
YEMEN/REGION
KENYA
YEMEN
RUSSIA
PAKISTAN
NORTH KOREA
UGANDA

 

TRANSCRIPT:

2:43 p.m. EDT

MS HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. Thank you for your patience.

QUESTION: Is this Wednesday's briefing or Thursday's briefing?

MS HARF: Really? I briefed in the dark yesterday, Matt, and you're giving me grief?

QUESTION: Well --

MS HARF: Really? I briefed on Friday after we got here at 6:00. Really?

QUESTION: It's true.

MS HARF: Were you here on Friday?

QUESTION: No, no, I was not.

MS HARF: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: I was not. I was asleep.

MS HARF: Uh-huh. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have one item at the top, then I will be happy to answer all of your questions.

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Lubeck, Germany from April 14th to 15th to attend the 2015 G7 Foreign Ministers' meeting. During the meeting, the ministers will discuss key global, political, and security issues. While in Lubeck, Secretary Kerry will hold a series of bilateral meetings. That's it.

QUESTION: That's all?

MS HARF: Get us started.

QUESTION: Okay. So I want to go back to something we talked about briefly yesterday before the lights went out, because I'm still confused about it.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: This is --

MS HARF: I don't want you to be confused.

QUESTION: Right, and I watched the White House briefing --

MS HARF: Great.

QUESTION: -- and it didn't really come up there, at least that I saw, so I want to ask you again.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So yesterday, when you were asked about the President's comments in the NPR interview about the 13, 14 years, you said he was --

MS HARF: Yep, that he was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal.

QUESTION: Right, but the reason I'm confused is because he was asked a question about aren't you concerned about stockpiles of enriched uranium under the deal, if a deal --

MS HARF: I'm conveying to you what he was conveying in the interview.

QUESTION: No, I – right, I understand, but – so the question was: Aren't you worried about enriched uranium stockpiles even if there is a deal?

MS HARF: Okay, fine.

QUESTION: And what the President – what it sounds like the President said afterwards was no, not worried about that because it will be either taken out of the country or diluted or some combination of both, but what you should really worry about is the R&D with the advanced centrifuges, because after this year, whatever it is – 13, 14, or 15 – the limitations on them will be gone, and so --

MS HARF: Well, just a couple points. First, I'm happy to repeat again what we said yesterday. I've talked to my colleagues at the White House. They have made very clear on the record, as have I, that he was referring to a scenario in which there is no deal. That is what the truth is here. If he could have said it more clearly, that's a different issue, and I know what the discussions are like inside the room about those years and about R&D, and obviously that doesn't match up to that. So he was talking about a scenario in which there is no deal. I know you all wish he had been clearer when he said that, and I'm sorry if it's not clear from the transcript. That is what he was talking about, though.

QUESTION: But why would he even mention 13, 14, or 15 if he was talking about a scenario where there is no --

MS HARF: You'll have to ask the White House, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS HARF: I can't parse this much further for you. I'm sort of --

QUESTION: Well, I'm not the only one who is confused about this.

MS HARF: -- done all I can on this. Well, I'm happy for you guys --

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu has put out a statement, right – probably unsurprising to you – but he put out a statement that says Israel shares the view that upon the expiry of the nuclear agreement with Iran, their breakout time to achieve nuclear weapons will be zero. So is he --

MS HARF: Well, that's just factually inaccurate. I don't know what --

QUESTION: Is he --

MS HARF: First of all, this deal doesn't expire. There are pieces of this deal, important transparency measures, that go forever. So the notion that this deal expires and on the next day they're at zero is just factually inaccurate because parts of it never expire. As we know, we pushed them under this deal to a year of breakout time. So I don't know how he's – on what technical basis he is making that assertion. There isn't one.

QUESTION: Well, I think he's basing it on what the President himself said in the interview.

MS HARF: But the President was referring – as we've said publicly, Matt – I cannot be more clear about this – he was referring to a scenario in which there is no deal. It may not be clear in the transcript. I'm telling you what my colleagues at the White House have told me he was referring to.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, but the --

MS HARF: Do you think that he was referring to something different and we're just all saying something else?

QUESTION: I don't --

MS HARF: I admit that it could have been clearer in the transcript, but I am conveying to you what he was attempting to convey.

QUESTION: Well, do you think that Prime Minister Netanyahu knows better than to – or is he just trolling the President? I mean, what – I don't get it. I mean, if he's confused --

MS HARF: I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear his opposition to these negotiations and to this agreement --

QUESTION: Right.

MS HARF: -- sometimes with not all of the facts about what's in it before they've – because they haven't been negotiated yet. He's making assumptions about things, he's making assertions about things that aren't based on the science that our technical experts feel very confident in.

QUESTION: Okay. So you're saying that even after 13, 14, 15 years, the breakout time will remain at least a year indefinitely?

MS HARF: I haven't said that, Matt. As I --

QUESTION: Well, I'm asking --

MS HARF: I know, but we've gone over this every day. And I'm happy to do this every day, but I think let's try not to.

QUESTION: Well, what --

MS HARF: So – okay, let me back up. So as I said, we don't know what the exact calculation for breakout time would be after a decade because some of that still has to be negotiated. Some of the pieces of the equation about – that feed into what gets you to a breakout time have to be negotiated. So we can't say with certainty at this point, but the notion that it would be zero in any of those years is factually inaccurate.

QUESTION: Well, okay, but he says – and I understand you're saying he's talking about a hypothetical in case there's no deal, but he – almost down to zero, not zero. But then he goes on --

MS HARF: Okay, but he was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal.

QUESTION: Well, but then he says, essentially, we are purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year. That's --

MS HARF: Exactly. So then he goes on to say with this agreement, this is what we are getting.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS HARF: Right, in opposition to a scenario where there's no agreement and we have almost zero breakout time.

QUESTION: No, but --

MS HARF: See? The two are in opposition to each other.

QUESTION: So the second paragraph in the --

MS HARF: I'm not going to go line by line of his interview with you, Matt. You can talk to the White House. We've been clear what he was referring to, and I've been clear that the breakout time will not be zero in those years, so I'm not sure what else we can say on this to convince you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Do you have any context about what happened in Jalalabad today with the shooting --

MS HARF: Is there nothing else on Iran? Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah, I have more on (inaudible).

MS HARF: Don't look so downtrodden there.

QUESTION: But we can go to Jalalabad first.

MS HARF: No, no, no. Let's do one topic at a time per our usual practice.

QUESTION: Does anyone else have Iran?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: For years, the U.S. has cited Iran as the main reason for a missile defense system in Europe. Does the agreement with Iran affect the missile defense plans?

MS HARF: Well, as we've said, we have concerns about Iran's conventional weapons, including ballistic missiles, separate from the nuclear program, obviously. That's not – that doesn't go away. Those concerns don't go away with the nuclear agreement.

QUESTION: So would you say that the U.S. will proceed with missile defense plans regardless of how this deal plays out?

MS HARF: Well, I don't have anything to announce in terms of changes in our missile defense. Obviously, we've said that the reason for missile defense is the Middle East – obviously Iran, but I don't have anything to announce for you today on any changes to that. Again, our concerns about ballistic missiles will remain.

QUESTION: What are the threats right now at the moment? What is the reason for a missile defense plan in Europe?

MS HARF: I think if – I'm happy for you to take a detailed look at all the information out there about Iran's ballistic missile program and its conventional weapons program. This has been well documented. There have been sanctions put on them at the UN level, at the U.S. level over this program. None of this is a secret. It's all out there for you to find.

QUESTION: Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to vote on Tuesday on the measure to impose more sanctions on Iran. Is --

MS HARF: Are they? I'm not sure that's what they're voting on.

QUESTION: Yeah, that's my understanding.

MS HARF: Not the Corker legislation?

QUESTION: Yeah, Corker legislation.

MS HARF: Okay. I think it – well, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is – how robustly is the Administration reaching out to members of Congress, given that they're still on a recess, and try to basically prevent Congress from doing something that the Administration would consider harmful to ongoing negotiations?

MS HARF: Well, very robustly. The President, Secretary Kerry, other senior Administration officials, Ambassador Rice, Under Secretary Sherman have made a number of phone calls – individual phone calls – to key members of Congress to brief them on the details of this agreement. We've done, I think, in the last year something like over 320 engagements with Congress. I think over half of those have come since the beginning of this year. I can check on those exact numbers for you, but we've done a lot of outreach.

Under Secretary Sherman has also – we have offered a briefing tomorrow here, I think at the State Department, for any members who are interested. Secretary Kerry will be going up and speaking to folks next week as well. So it's really – we're talking to folks at a variety of levels – staff members, Senate, House, Democrats, Republicans – about what's in this agreement.

And as the President has said, we are looking for ways to talk to Congress about what role they might play here. Obviously, it has to preserve presidential prerogative, and anything would have to allow us to implement the agreement. If you can imagine a scenario where we can't implement the agreement, why would Iran start implementing the nuclear steps? And I think Congress would say they want Iran to be able to start implementing the nuclear steps.

QUESTION: How worried is the --

MS HARF: So that conversation's ongoing.

QUESTION: How worried is the Administration that members of Congress will be able to find a bipartisan way of putting curbs on this deal with Iran?

MS HARF: Well, we're in conversations with them. And as we've said since the beginning, Congress has played a key role in getting us to this point, certainly, with passing sanctions. And we want to talk to them and consult with them about this, but their priority should be not making the U.S. negotiators' job harder, not making it tougher for us at the negotiating table by doing things that are harmful to that process and not by taking away presidential prerogative. So I think that's the conversation we're having with them now.

QUESTION: And when you say that the Secretary is going up to the Hill, is he actually testifying in an open session? Is he holding closed-door meetings with members of Congress?

MS HARF: I think we're --

QUESTION: Is he going to the Senate radio/TV gallery and holding a presser? (Laughter.) Like, how's he carrying out this outreach?

MS HARF: Yeah, we're still working out the details. I think there will be opportunities for closed briefings – classified briefings, I should say – of members. I think we're still working out the details given the Secretary's travel schedule, but that's something we're very committed to. As I said, he's had a number of one-on-one conversations, as have many other members of the Administration as well.

So we want to keep talking to Congress about this, and we want to see if there's a way for them to play a role that doesn't take away our ability to implement this or take away the presidential prerogatives that I know Republicans and Democrats think are important.

QUESTION: And then I just wanted to touch on what you just said, presidential prerogatives.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is this the Administration's argument for basically preserving what it sees as its historical role in conducting foreign policy?

MS HARF: Well, that's part of it, and that's sort of a broad generalization. There are some specific pieces of the proposed Corker legislation, I think, that – and I'm not an attorney and I'm not going to go line by line on it – but that threaten that presidential prerogative Republicans and Democrats I think both think is important to maintain.

But just on the implementation piece, I think most members of Congress, if not all, would agree if we get a deal, Iran should start implementing its nuclear commitments right away. Well, if we can't, what incentive does Iran have to? So I think that's just – there are a lot of arguments here. We're talking to Congress at a host of levels and seeing what the path forward might look like here.

QUESTION: So does that mean --

MS HARF: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- that the Corker legislation might be salvageable with some tweaks made to it?

MS HARF: Well, I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals. The President has said if the Corker legislation as written comes to his desk, he will veto it, so – yes. On Iran still?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On that same front, the Corker legislation --

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- our understanding is that you guys are pushing for a couple of amendments to be tweaked or fixed, including removing the idea that the President would have to certify that Iran is a state – is no longer on the state – sponsoring terrorism against the U.S. and either shortening or removing the 60-day provision in terms of Congress weighing in sanctions. So I guess I was wondering, besides those two, what other amendments would you guys like to see to the legislation?

MS HARF: Well, in terms of the state – Iran is on the state sponsor of terrorism list.

QUESTION: I think -- no, it's the certification that Iran is not sponsoring terrorism against the U.S. It's something – some wording along those lines.

MS HARF: I haven't heard that discussed at all in these conversations.

QUESTION: Well, that's built into the Corker legislation --

MS HARF: Right. But in – I mean, that – I haven't heard that discussed.

QUESTION: In a form. Yeah.

MS HARF: Right. In terms of what specific --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: Right. Well, I'm not confirming those are things that we're discussing --

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MS HARF: -- and I'm not going to get into our internal discussions with members of Congress or their staff about what role Congress might play. This is an ongoing process. We have been very clear that we need the room to negotiate and that these next three months are going to be tough and we have a lot of work to do. But we're also, as the President said, open to working with Congress to see what role they can play. I have nothing to predict in terms of what that might look like, in terms of the Corker legislation or amendments. That's just – I'm not going to get into any of that up here.

QUESTION: I do have a quick follow-up.

MS HARF: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Henry Kissinger and George Shultz published a piece in the Wall Street Journal today that raised a lot of questions about the deal. These are diplomatic statesman types. Do you guys have any reaction to that? Do you think they were fair?

MS HARF: Well, the Secretary has spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state since we got this agreement – or since the parameters – excuse me – we got the parameters finalized. And we're having conversations with other senior officials. We are happy to have that conversation about what this agreement is, what it isn't, the work we still have to do, and how we are very confident that this achieves our objectives. And that conversation will certainly continue.

QUESTION: Do you feel like this – having Henry Kissinger and others come out and say this, I mean, isn't it kind of undermining your case a little bit? I mean, would you --

MS HARF: I think that their piece is a little more --

QUESTION: Have you talked to him?

MS HARF: I haven't. I think --

QUESTION: I mean, has the Secretary spoken to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz?

MS HARF: I think their piece was a little more nuanced than that. And we are all for robust debate about what this looks like, and that's why we are being very clear publicly – whether it's the Secretary going out and speaking, having private conversations with former officials, having private conversations with Congress, classified conversations – to make the case for why this does what we say it does. And the we've always said the best way to defend this is to get a good deal, and that's what we're – we've done and what we're working on for the next three months.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz?

MS HARF: I said he's spoken to some of his predecessors here. I'm not probably going to get into more specifics.

QUESTION: Well, why not? Because if he has --

MS HARF: I'm happy to check.

QUESTION: If he has spoken to Kissinger and Shultz, they clearly weren't very persuaded because this is --

MS HARF: I'm happy to check on the full list.

QUESTION: -- their article, their column is far from nuanced, I think.

MS HARF: Really?

MS HARF: It basically says that this is --

MS HARF: You don't think it's nuanced?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I've read it and it's pretty --

MS HARF: I also read it.

QUESTION: Yeah? And you don't think it's pretty damning?

MS HARF: I wouldn't say that it's damning. I think that there are a lot of opinions on this and the Secretary is happy to speak to people to let them know what we've done, and that conversation will continue.

QUESTION: All right. Well, maybe there's invisible ink or something like that or you're reading between the lines.

MS HARF: Is there a question or are you just commenting?

QUESTION: Well, I want to know what you – you just reject it --

MS HARF: I'm not going to go line by line.

QUESTION: -- outright? I mean, they say --

MS HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- that this is a recipe for disaster, basically. You say no, clearly. I mean, you wouldn't be pursuing something you thought was a recipe for disaster. Is that correct?

MS HARF: Correct, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. So one of the things they say is that "absent a linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America's traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony" in the region. Not true?

MS HARF: I would obviously disagree with that. I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that's why we don't want them to get a nuclear weapon. That's what this deal does.

QUESTION: Back when --

MS HARF: And I didn't hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there's a place for that, but I didn't hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently. I know the Secretary values the discussions he has with his predecessors regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics.

QUESTION: Well, I guess one of the criticisms is that there aren't enough big words and big thought – or people argue that there are not enough big words and big thoughts in what the Administration is pursuing, its overall policy, particularly in the Middle East right now, which has been roiled with unrest and uncertainty. And I think that's what the point is they're making. That you reject, it, I understand that. One of the --

MS HARF: Well, in a region already roiled by so much uncertainty and unrest --

QUESTION: Right. You don't want to introduce the bomb. I understand that.

MS HARF: Correct. Think about – well, think about this, Matt. Think about either an Iran with a nuclear weapon. Think about how that would create even more instability. Think about having to utilize other options to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon and the kinds of instability that would lead to.

QUESTION: In the President's first Inaugural Address he had that famous line --

MS HARF: Wow. Someone did some research today.

QUESTION: Well, this is a pretty famous line, I would say.

MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You know the line, we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. Does this fall into that category?

MS HARF: This what? What's this?

QUESTION: The negotiations. The nuclear deal.

MS HARF: I think this is something we talked about a few days ago. As we've said, the President has been very clear that we want better people-to-people ties with the Iranian people. And that's why he sends Nowruz messages to them and does – and does things like that to reach out to the Iranian people. These negotiations are not about having a better relationship with Iran at the government-to-government level. They're not about trusting Iran. They're not about lessening our concern with everything else they're doing in the region. They're about one discrete issue, a very important one, and seeing if we can resolve that.

QUESTION: But as a result of the letters that he's sent and others have – messages, the contacts that have happened between the Secretary and the Iranian foreign minister, the Nowruz messages, these negotiations, which have a benefit for Iran in terms of sanctions relief if they comply, I mean, is Iran unclenching its fist? Does the Administration believe that? Is it doing it slowly, one finger at a time, maybe, starting in the middle? I mean --

MS HARF: I just don't think we're going to do analysis of that based on the nuclear negotiations.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS HARF: Because we're not going to. You may want me to, but I'm not going to.

QUESTION: I don't – so you don't think – you reject the Kissinger-Shultz line that political restraint and the nuclear issue should be linked?

MS HARF: What kind of political restraint do you think they're referring to?

QUESTION: Well, this is what they're talking about. They're – I believe that they're talking about Iran's destabilizing role in places like Syria and places like Lebanon and places like Yemen --

MS HARF: Right. So we have always said that once you start linking the nuclear issue, which is complicated enough on its own, with all these other issues, it's really hard to get anything done. And we need to deal with – I mean, they are right now at breakout time of two to three months. Ideally, yes, would we like them to stop supporting Hizballah? Would we like them to stop supporting the Houthi? Would we like them to release the Americans and have a better human rights record? Of course. They're at two to three months of breakout time today. If we have a chance to increase that by up to six times with a nuclear agreement that doesn't do all those other things we would want them to do, why would we not do that? It just defies logic to make that argument.

QUESTION: Well --

MS HARF: In a perfect world, of course, we would have an agreement that did all of these things. But we are living in the real world --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS HARF: -- and that's the responsibility of the Secretary to negotiate where we can see if we can get this one issue dealt with. That's how important it is.

QUESTION: That would not be the MTV Real World, right? That would be the other --

QUESTION: But along those same lines --

QUESTION: Can I --

MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- you would be kind of entrenching the regime in a sense, right? I mean, if you deal with this particular regime, you risk emboldening them, you risk the idea --

MS HARF: So what's the alternative? Negotiating with someone who's not in power over a nuclear program they don't control? That's a great academic argument. Again, that's not the real world.

QUESTION: I get the --

MS HARF: Do you have another question?

QUESTION: Yeah. It's just that the idea though of the non-sunset, that this is a forever deal --

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that kind of thing. Prime Minister Netanyahu, for whatever reason – and you say he's wrong – but is convinced --

MS HARF: Matt, I don't say he's wrong. He is wrong.

QUESTION: -- convinced that at some point there are going to be restrictions that have been in place for 10 years that are going to start gradually being eased. Is that correct?

MS HARF: Some restrictions are 10 year, some are 15, some are 25, and some are forever.

QUESTION: Okay. So, but after the last restrictions are eased --

MS HARF: Well, there – some are forever.

QUESTION: Right.

MS HARF: So there's no last restrictions. The Additional Protocol is a forever commitment.

QUESTION: If you abide by it.

MS HARF: Correct. And if they don't, we have all the options we have today will still be on the table then. We can take any of the actions then that we could take today, but we will have pushed their breakout time --

QUESTION: All right. So your argument --

MS HARF: We will have cut off pathways. We have gotten rid of 98 percent of their stockpile.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: We will be in a much better place then than we are today.

QUESTION: So there is no sunset?

MS HARF: The Secretary said there is no sunset to this agreement.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: I will repeat that.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary still doing his meeting at 3 o'clock, by the way, for any of us who wanted to go attend that, or has that been delayed a little bit.

MS HARF: No, he is.

QUESTION: It's at 3:00? Okay.

MS HARF: He's running a little late today.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: I don't have his latest schedule in front of me.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: But he doesn't push meetings back till after my press briefings, usually.

QUESTION: Well, I wasn't sure. Yeah. I mean, this is --

MS HARF: I know. I mean, it's a big draw, I admit.

QUESTION: Has he had his meeting with the Jewish American leaders about the Iran deal?

MS HARF: I believe he has. I know it started. I don't know if it's still ongoing.

QUESTION: So you don't have a readout yet on --

MS HARF: I do not.

QUESTION: One thing on Under Secretary Sherman's meeting tomorrow with members of Congress. That's open to anybody?

MS HARF: So we've offered it. Yeah, I don't have a full list of who will be attending. We can give some more detail on that tomorrow.

QUESTION: But it went out to all members of Congress? It's not just like committee leaders --

MS HARF: Actually, wait. I might have something. It may just be leadership and national security committees. I can check. Oh wait, here. So she along with the Treasury, Energy Departments and intelligence community offered to brief members of the Senate and House who sit on national security committees as well as leadership. So --

QUESTION: Okay. But all of our rank and file – someone like Senator Cotton is not going to be invited?

MS HARF: I think he may sit on one of those committees.

QUESTION: He might? Okay.

MS HARF: I think he might. Yes, and also Under Secretary Sherman was meeting today with the ambassadors from the GCC countries here at the State Department, I believe, on Iran and Yemen, and I'm sure other issues may have come up.

QUESTION: Jalalabad? Can we talk about that?

MS HARF: Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Iraq.

MS HARF: Okay, let's do Jalalabad. Yes.

QUESTION: Right. So what happened there today? Can you tell us why – what the meeting was about? What --

MS HARF: Which meeting?

QUESTION: Well, the meeting – I guess an hour after the – some senior U.S. officials were in Jalalabad having a meeting with provincial leaders --

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- there was a shooting. So --

MS HARF: Correct. But I don't know if we have any idea whether it's linked to that meeting.

QUESTION: Well, okay, that's what I'm asking. Do you believe that this was a sort of classic green-on-blue insider attack? Or do you believe – do you have any reason to believe that this attacker may have been targeting U.S. civilian leadership?

MS HARF: A couple points. First, we don't have confirmation that it was, quote, a "green-on-blue" attack. We don't have confirmation of that. We don't know whether the attacker was actually a member of the military or was posing as one. So I think the Defense Department probably can give you more details as that investigation unfolds. We can confirm there was an exchange of gunfire involving service members near the provincial governor's compound in Jalalabad. This took place, as you said, after a senior embassy official had held a meeting with the provincial governor. That was Ambassador Don Yamamoto, who's the U.S. senior civilian representative in Bagram. He was meeting with the provincial governor approximately an hour before the incident took place.

QUESTION: So --

MS HARF: I have seen nothing to indicate they were targeted, though, and I know the investigation is ongoing.

QUESTION: Great.

MS HARF: What else? Iraq, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. Today prime minister – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, he visited Anbar and he was talking about the operations to liberate the entire province, and there was some kind of stories in the Iraqi media, local media, that there are disagreement between the United States and Iraqi Government on the problem of operations either in Mosul or in Anbar. So if you have any comment on that.

MS HARF: I hadn't seen those reports, but I haven't heard of disagreements. As we've always said, these are decisions for the Iraqis to make in terms of what the next offensive should be. As we saw in Tikrit, that will, I think, hinge on a cooperative approach with Iraqi ground forces that are under Iraqi command and control. That's obviously supported by coalition airpower, but the timing and what comes next is really up to the Iraqis to decide.

QUESTION: So the first time, when they have done that – or conducted operations in Tikrit, it was not consulted with – they didn't consult with the U.S. and the coalitions. For the Anbar one, did they ask --

MS HARF: Well, we've consulted with them on an ongoing basis, but these are Iraqi-led operations. That's --

QUESTION: Did they – because that – he was in Anbar and I see the retweet by Ambassador Brett McGurk, that he was also like endorsing his activities, the prime minister's activities in Anbar. So are you talking to them on when the Anbar liberation should be conducted?

MS HARF: Well, we're certainly in close cooperation with them and in conversations with them about the timing of what happens and what comes next, but again, these are Iraqi decisions to make.

QUESTION: You don't have any disagreement on the decision they made to – either on --

MS HARF: These are their decisions to make, and we're happy to keep talking about it.

QUESTION: Any – okay. Anything, do you have anything on prime minister's visit to Erbil? Are you encouraging that or not?

MS HARF: Let me see. I had something. Didn't that happen a couple of days ago?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS HARF: He met with President Barzani. Yes. Well, we welcomed that meeting on Monday, I think, in Erbil between Prime Minister Abadi and the KRG President Barzani. Obviously, we've said many times President Barzani and the people of the Kurdistan region are essential partners in the fight against ISIL. We appreciate the coordination that's taking place between them and welcomed this visit.

QUESTION: One more last one.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Since Prime Minister Abadi is going to visit next week, is going to visit Washington, is there any plan to invite President Barzani also since he refused it last time due to the visa issues?

MS HARF: I don't have more details about that visit. I'm happy to check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And do you know anything – going back to the situation in Tikrit, do you have anything more on reports that there might have been some retaliation attacks between Shia and Sunni?

MS HARF: I had something on this yesterday. Let me see what I have. That we obviously take seriously any of these kinds of reports. We believe the initial reports of widespread looting and burning of homes appear to have been exaggerated, but we do remain concerned by reports that appeared over the weekend and have raised our concerns with the Iraqi Government. I think it was on Monday that Prime Minister Abadi vowed to protect the people who had been under ISIL control from any retribution or rights violations when the lands are retaken by government forces. So this is something that we talk to the Iraqis about quite a bit.

QUESTION: Is there a mechanism for working particularly with the Iraqi military to make certain that they're not engaging in something?

MS HARF: Well, this is something that Prime Minister Abadi has pledged and it's up to them to make sure that it doesn't happen.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Cuba?

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So speaking yesterday at the Washington Foreign Press Center, Assistant Secretary Jacobson said that the State Department is nearing completion of --

MS HARF: Yes, she is correct.

QUESTION: -- its review of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. Do you have any more details about when a decision might be forthcoming?

MS HARF: I do not. I do not. When we have something to announce, we will. I know everyone's on the edge of their seats. I have nothing to guess about.

QUESTION: Tomorrow?

QUESTION: Is there any response to Senator Menendez, who was – came out with a fairly vituperative statement --

MS HARF: Good word.

QUESTION: -- against the State Department? Thank you.

MS HARF: I like that that's going to be in the transcript today. I haven't seen the statement, quite frankly, and I don't want to prejudge the outcome of a review or speak about that publicly until we have something to announce. And I think I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay, just --

MS HARF: But there is a process that – a process that's in place where you – when you undertake a review. There are very clear criteria. So I'm sure that our team used those and we will see what we see.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Cuba for one second?

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And I know you probably addressed this before, but can we just – since it's going to be, it sounds like, in the news in the coming days, can you give us a little bit of context as to why Cuba is considered at this point to be a state sponsor of terrorism?

MS HARF: I don't have in front of me all of the criteria that we used in the last report outlining that. I'm happy to check with our folks and get that to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: But I mean – all right. So, no.

MS HARF: I'm happy to check.

QUESTION: I have a tangential question to that.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Tom Shannon is in Venezuela.

MS HARF: He is. Just give me one second. The Venezuelan Government recently invited the U.S. Government to send a senior official to Caracas to meet with President Maduro in advance of the Summit of the Americas. The Secretary asked Tom Shannon, the Department's counselor, to go to Caracas. He arrived on the 7th, will return on the 9th. The Venezuelan Government has often called for direct dialogue, and we have always made clear that we maintain diplomatic relations and are willing to talk directly. I don't have more of a readout from him on the ground as to what has happened.

QUESTION: The 9th is today or tomorrow? What's – I don't know what today's date is.

MS HARF: What's today's date?

QUESTION: But he's not going to --

MS HARF: Tomorrow.

QUESTION: Tomorrow. So he's not going to go to Panama, to – Shannon is not going to go to --

MS HARF: I don't believe so. It says he'll return to Washington, so I'm assuming he's coming back here. But I can check on the travel.

QUESTION: Okay. I'm just wondering if he's going to go from his meeting with Maduro to see the --

MS HARF: It's a good question. It says here that he's coming back to Washington, but it's a fair question.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Cuba --

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: -- and the SST designation?

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It was my understanding that the review had until sometime in June to be completed. Is there any pressure from the White House on this building to undertake this review and to get it done sooner rather than later?

MS HARF: No. I mean, the Secretary has made very clear, starting in this building, as has the team here who works on Cuba, that this is an – the review is an important part of the policy changes we announced several months ago. We take our responsibility to do this review very seriously and believe – I know the Secretary does, as does Assistant Secretary Jacobson and our whole team, that these things should be done as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Is it incorrect to assume that part of the review is because of the Cubans' insistence that they be removed from the list in order to allow the reopening of the U.S. embassy?

MS HARF: Well, I think we made clear when we announced the policy changes that this was something we felt was important to undertake, and that's why we've done it.

QUESTION: But you're not saying that there's a direct linkage, as the Cubans apparently want there to be?

MS HARF: Well, we announced the – we announced this review when we announced the policy changes. I'll just leave it at that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday you said that you would be checking with Mr. Blinken's team regarding his remarks saying that the U.S. is speeding up arms supplies to (inaudible).

MS HARF: Yes. And I was – this is the first time I think I've ever said this. I was wrong yesterday. It was reported accurately. So there you go, mark that down.

QUESTION: What did you say?

MS HARF: I said I was wrong – I said I thought it was reported inaccurately.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Okay.

MS HARF: And I just said I was wrong yesterday.

QUESTION: Oh, you said you were wrong.

QUESTION: That's the first time you've ever said that from the podium? (Laughter.)

MS HARF: One more than you've ever said in this room.

Okay. So thank you for the question. Yes, we have strong, longstanding military-to-military relationships with partners in the region, including the Saudis and the UAE. We are working to deliver some pre-existing orders for military equipment more quickly, obviously, given the ongoing situation, to the UAE and to the Saudis, and continue to provide logistical and intelligence support, as we've said. I think DOD has more specifics on what that is. I know I think that was your follow-up, probably, but I was able to get more clarity from his team.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Related to Yemen?

MS HARF: Yes, and then I'm going to Pam. Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, you can go to her first, because --

MS HARF: No, go ahead. We're on Yemen anyway, so --

QUESTION: Okay. I just – you may or may not be aware of this, but there are a couple of groups that are – say they're going to file a lawsuit tomorrow --

MS HARF: I'm not aware of this.

QUESTION: -- to try to force the State Department and the Pentagon to organize an evacuation of American citizens.

MS HARF: I wasn't aware of this.

QUESTION: I know that you won't comment on pending legislations, but – I mean --

MS HARF: Litigation.

QUESTION: -- litigation even though it – I guess the suit hasn't even been filed yet, but is this something that a court can order the executive branch to do?

MS HARF: I will ask our lawyers. I don't know.

QUESTION: Can you find that out? Thanks.

MS HARF: I don't know.

Yes.

QUESTION: Kenya?

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I know this came up at the Pentagon briefing today, but if you could weigh in also, it would be great. The country's foreign minister is saying that Kenya needs more assistance from the U.S. and European allies to fight militants. Has there been a formal request, is State aware of a formal request for additional assistance from Kenya? And then secondly, currently, what kinds of U.S. assistance is currently being provided to the country?

MS HARF: I'm not aware of a new request, but I'm happy to check with our team and see if one has come in here. I don't know if the Defense Department spoke to that piece specifically. We continue to provide training, material, and technical support to assist Kenya and other AMISOM troop-contributing countries who are fighting alongside Somalia against al-Shabaab in Somalia. That's certainly part of the assistance we've been giving when it comes to al-Shabaab. And with Kenya we've been in direct and frequent contact with them. We have worked closely with them on security matters, but I'm not aware – I'm not sure if they've asked for more.

QUESTION: I know I've asked this question before, but does this building believe that Kenya has taken full advantage of the assistance provided to it by the Americans?

MS HARF: Well, I think a couple things: First, that the threats – there are frequent threats inside Kenya, many different threat streams that are reported, they – that come in, I know, to the Kenyans. So this is clearly a very difficult challenge for them. I think it's probably no surprise that the security forces need to do better. I mean, I think that's just sort of a factual statement. That's why we're trying to work with them. I think, in part, there have – al-Shabaab has suffered some leadership losses over the last three months, and I think these kinds of sort of high-casualty, in some ways low-resource or lower-resource attacks are a way they've tried to respond to some of those leadership losses, and to sort of reassert themselves, and they certainly know the operating environment in Kenya very well. So we are working very closely with the Kenyans; they are resourced-constrained. Part of, I think, what needs to happen is to really – they have these resources that they try to match to shifting threats, and that is a challenge, right, and so we're helping them do that going forward, but it is a tough challenge.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS HARF: What else? Yes. Go ahead on Russia, and then I'll go to you. Yes.

QUESTION: On Yemen.

MS HARF: Oh, on Yemen still?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS HARF: Okay. Let's finish Yemen, and then we'll go to Russia.

QUESTION: I'm sorry if this was said. One of my colleagues pointed out to me that the Saudi ambassador said last week that the Houthis should be designated as a terrorist group. Do we --

MS HARF: They are not designated under U.S. law as a terrorist group.

QUESTION: Right. Should they be, is the question.

MS HARF: Well, I'm not sure I'm going to analytically weigh in on whether they should be or not. That's an interesting question that I'm just not going to probably take a stance on. They are not. We have said they are an incredibly destabilizing force. They undertook unilateral armed aggression against the Government of Yemen, but there's a process for doing this and I just don't have much analysis to do on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: Yes, go to Russia.

QUESTION: For many years – for years, the U.S. has maintained that the missile defense system is not against Russia.

MS HARF: That's true.

QUESTION: Would you say the same now in light of tensions --

MS HARF: Correct, absolutely. We have been crystal-clear about that, yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the State Department has approved an approximately $1 billion of arms, including Hellfire missiles and helicopters, to Pakistan. Can you confirm?

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And then what is the status of this arms sale and proposed --

MS HARF: So the State Department did approve a possible foreign military sale to Pakistan for helicopters and associated equipment, parts, and support for an estimated cost of about $952 million. This proposed sale of helicopters and weapons systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism operations inside the country.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What does it mean when you say it's "possible"? What is the status of this proposal now?

MS HARF: Yeah. So I believe that we are required to submit this notification, which – to Congress 30 days in advance of when this actually will happen. So it's my understanding that at the conclusion of the 30 days, we would then move towards finalizing.

QUESTION: Has it been submitted to the Congress or not?

MS HARF: I believe that it has, but let me double-check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: This sale --

QUESTION: On Pakistan --

QUESTION: -- came up in a vague sort of way in Senator Paul's White House presidential speech.

MS HARF: Oh, really? I missed that.

QUESTION: We shouldn't be borrowing from China to give to Pakistan --

MS HARF: Interesting.

QUESTION: -- and – relations with countries that burn the American flag. Any response in terms of the defense of military support to Pakistan? It's obviously been problematic.

MS HARF: Well, I didn't see those comments. One of the nice things about this job is I don't have to pay too much attention to American politics at the moment. But in general, we have a very close counterterrorism relationship with Pakistan for a very – for very good reasons. There's still a serious threat in Pakistan from terrorists who have either attacked the United States or American soldiers in Afghanistan, who have tried to plot and plan against the West, including the U.S. Obviously, the remnants of core al-Qaida are in the – mainly in the tribal areas of Pakistan. So the Pakistanis have a serious problem still, and that's why we're trying to help them. This is in our national security interest to do so.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I think it was – the request was made by Pakistan. When was this request? Do you have --

MS HARF: I don't have more details. I'm happy to get those for you. I'm sorry, I don't have those in front of me.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Along the same lines, so there's this possible weapons deal or whatever with Pakistan.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today the Iranian foreign minister is in – or was in Pakistan talking to them about – apparently about Yemen. The Saudis apparently want Pakistan to send ground troops to Yemen.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you guys confident that Pakistan is going to use America's aid and support for the purposes in which you want it to use, as opposed to these other things – Yemen or aiming this stuff against India? I mean, how is this relationship going --

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- especially since in the past it has not been the most constructive at times?

MS HARF: Well, I would say when it comes to these capabilities, they are for internal counterterrorism uses inside Pakistan – so to be very clear about that, going after terrorists inside their own country. So this is what it's designed to do. And we obviously have many ways of monitoring how weapons we sell to any country are used in terms of end use and how we monitor that. That's obviously something we care very deeply about.

QUESTION: Do you trust the Pakistanis?

MS HARF: This isn't about trust. This is about being able to see where our weapons go, see what they're used for, and that's something we are confident we are able to do.

QUESTION: What if they use – what if, for example, you find out that Pakistan is using the arms by the U.S. in Yemen, for example?

MS HARF: I think that's a bit of a not realistic hypothetical here. I don't think that would be very cost effective.

QUESTION: Possibly if they get the resources from the U.S., that means they can devote other resources they might have had to sending soldiers or whatever to Yemen. So I mean, it is --

MS HARF: I'm not sure there is a factual basis to back up these questions. I understand why they're interesting, but if you think there's actually a realistic chance that would happen, I'm happy to entertain those questions with my team.

QUESTION: Do you get – do you guys support Pakistan sending ground troops to Yemen?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS HARF: I understand that.

I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Do you guys support --

MS HARF: But I think the Pakistanis want these because they have a problem in their own country that they need to work on. So --

QUESTION: But do you support them sending ground troops to Yemen?

MS HARF: Every country can make their own decisions about how they – if and how they participate in the Saudi-led coalition. We have said that we are supporting them logistically, as I said, with munitions and other arms as well. Every country can make their own decisions about that. That's not for us to decide.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said it isn't about trust, but Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally and there is an element of trust that goes into that, is there not?

MS HARF: Absolutely. But we don't just base these things on trust. There are ways in our weapons sales with other countries that we have of monitoring their end use and where they end up. That's why these things are built into these kinds of deals.

QUESTION: I have one more, unrelated.

MS HARF: Yes, okay.

QUESTION: Are – North Korea says that it has deported an American woman.

MS HARF: I saw that. We can't – we've seen the reports. We can't confirm that yet. We're trying to.

QUESTION: Well, do you – I wasn't aware, but I've been preoccupied with Iran and not really paying attention.

MS HARF: As have I.

QUESTION: Exactly. But did you – were you aware that this woman had been – was in custody?

MS HARF: We had seen those reports and we're also working – we've been working to confirm them since – I think since some of these reports started coming out, and for privacy don't have much more to share.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you know, did the Swedes get to see her? Is this recent?

MS HARF: For privacy reasons I don't have much more to share, or anything else to share.

QUESTION: So you can't confirm that she's been deported; you can't even confirm that she was detained?

MS HARF: Correct. We don't know – we can't confirm any of the details that have been reported.

QUESTION: Anything.

QUESTION: Can I stay on North Korea?

MS HARF: You can, yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command Gortney said in a briefing U.S. Government assessment is that North Korea has the ability to put the nuclear weapon on KN-08 and shoot it at the U.S. homeland. And then today, South Korean Government said they contacted the U.S. Government to have the clarification on his statement, and then they said the U.S. Government said his remark is not the U.S. Government's position. Do you --

MS HARF: Did you check with DOD on that, given it was a Defense official? I don't actually know the facts here. I hadn't seen his comments. I'm happy to check with my colleagues at the Defense Department, but they're probably better able to speak to one of their official's statements.

QUESTION: But no comment on --

MS HARF: I hadn't even seen the comment, so I don't even know what the answer is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: But check with DOD.

Yes, Abigail.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Cuba for a second?

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I apologize if you've already addressed this, but would it be – will we know when Kerry has made his recommendation to the President or – when it comes to the state sponsor of terror?

MS HARF: There're – these are all parts of the internal process. We're just not going to get into when different pieces happen. When we have something to announce, we will do so.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Just a house --

MS HARF: Yes. Okay, go ahead, yes.

QUESTION: It's just a housekeeping --

MS HARF: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: On Kerry. You – I'm sorry. You said the Secretary is going next week to the Hill on Iran, or --

MS HARF: So – yes, I said he will be. We don't – I don't have more details to share. We're trying to work out his travel schedule. We're going to Germany for the G7.

QUESTION: But it is next week. It's not --

MS HARF: That's what the – no, it's not this week. We go to Panama tomorrow morning and aren't back till late on Friday night, so not much more time.

Yes, Abigail, and then we'll go around the room. Yes.

QUESTION: Back to the hacking thing that was discussed yesterday and the reports that are saying that hackers, Russian or otherwise, may have come through the State Department portal in order to access the White House. Do you have any comment on that, or if there was any --

MS HARF: We don't. As people know, this is referring to the same incident we talked about months ago, but we don't have more comment on those reports.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) as to that incident months ago, some of the reports are that the hackers haven't left. So it may have happened months ago, but traces of the attack are still present. Can you deny that?

MS HARF: As I said, we don't have much more comment on this than we've already said.

QUESTION: Because you can dismiss it as old news, but if they're still --

MS HARF: I wasn't dismissing it. I was just being clear there wasn't something new. I think some people were confused about that yesterday.

QUESTION: But if they're still in there, then it's --

MS HARF: Technical term.

QUESTION: Yeah, well --

MS HARF: "In there."

QUESTION: -- look it up.

MS HARF: I just don't have much more comment on this for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any information – apparently the U.S. helped Uganda in the arrest of this former detainee from Guantanamo who was arrested for assassinating a prosecutor.

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you just elaborate or give us more details on what specifically the U.S. role was in assisting the Ugandans?

MS HARF: Yeah. So we can confirm that U.S. Government personnel supported a Ugandan operation that successfully apprehended several individuals suspected of being involved in the assassination of the senior principal state attorney. This support was provided at the request of Ugandan authorities. We're not, I think, going to get into the details of the nature of that support; can confirm that one of those detained in the operation was a former Guantanamo detainee who was released in 2006.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:27 p.m.)

DPB #58

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