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Military

Daily Press Briefing

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 24, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing

UKRAINE
DEPARTMENT
TURKEY/ISIL
SYRIA/ISIL
TURKEY/ISIL
IRAQ
NORTH KOREA
CHINA
IRAN
CUBA
IRAN
RUSSIA
JAPAN

 

TRANSCRIPT:

2:04 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Welcome, everybody, to the State Department on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Happy Friday and Happy Weekend.

I don't want to forget I have a brief topper, as we say. The United States intends to continue training Ukrainian security forces this fall in western Ukraine. And this is going to be small-unit training conducted by U.S. Army Europe for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense personnel to help strengthen Ukraine's internal defense capabilities. It is similar, quite frankly, to our ongoing training of the National Guard, which we announced, I think, last March.

This training is part of our long-running defense cooperation with Ukraine and is taking place at the invitation of the Ukraine Government. And this additional program brings our total security assistance committed to Ukraine since 2014 to over 244 million. That's it.

QUESTION: Two forty-four?

MR TONER: Two forty-four million, that's correct.

QUESTION: And I'm sorry --

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: It's the military, not the National Guard?

MR TONER: That's – this is – yes, Ministry of Defense personnel. But, yeah, what's --

QUESTION: Is this a Pentagon program?

MR TONER: -- what's been going on – that's correct.

QUESTION: I thought you guys didn't want to speak for the Pentagon.

MR TONER: Well, the Pentagon is not briefing today.

QUESTION: Oh, okay --

MR TONER: So, on behalf of my colleagues over there, I thought it would be –

QUESTION: So is there a particular geographic location within Ukraine that this is going to be happening?

MR TONER: Yeah, it's – as with the training that's just concluding with the National Guard, it's going to be in western Ukraine, near Poland, near the Poland border.

QUESTION: So it's not going to be in the east --

MR TONER: No, not at all.

QUESTION: -- where the trouble is.

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Anyone else have any?

QUESTION: Would that be contemplated --

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: -- doing any training? Why not?

MR TONER: Look, this is part of – and I think we talked about this at the National Guard training as well. We've been providing this kind of assistance training program to Ukraine, I think, over the last 20 years. This is not unique to the – obviously, the very current situation there happening in eastern Ukraine. But this is part of our ongoing partnership with the Ukrainian defense.

QUESTION: All right, let's go to the other --

MR TONER: I'm sorry. Yeah, go ahead. I'm sorry, I apologize. One more question. Apologies.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ukraine for a minute?

MR TONER: Yeah, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Overall, is there a shift in the U.S. strategy in Ukraine? And I am referring to reports that the U.S. is moving toward giving the country more sophisticated, longer-range radar to counter equipment that Russian-backed separatists have been using. I know some of that is sort of a Pentagon question, but since as you mentioned they are not briefing today, can you comment?

MR TONER: So --

QUESTION: And would this also constitute a step toward giving Ukraine lethal aid?

MR TONER: Well, your first question, I don't have anything to announce in terms of any types of new equipment or new weaponry. We obviously – our focus is on, as you mentioned, non-lethal aid. And there is no plans to change that.

QUESTION: Can we go to the story that has been driving last night and this morning?

MR TONER: Certainly. Which one is that, Matt?

QUESTION: I don't know. Which one do you think? I think it's assistance to Vanuatu.

The IGs and the Clinton emails. First of all, can you explain to us what your understanding is of the situation with the referral or non-referral, or whatever it was, to the Department of Justice?

MR TONER: Well, so speaking to that, there is not a lot I can say about that, because that falls under the State Inspector General. And the Secretary actually spoke to this to some extent on the Today Show this morning in the interview. And he --

QUESTION: Well, to some extent.

MR TONER: To some extent.

QUESTION: To no extent. He said he didn't know what was going on --

MR TONER: Well, what he said was the OIG, or the Office of the Inspector General, is an independent entity. So we don't know – so we don't have any kind of purview over them or any kind of authority over them. That's how their structure is – works.

And so what we've been doing on our part – and this has been discussed many times from the podium – is we've been working extremely hard, we've got 55,000 pages of email to go through, and we've been diligently working on them to publish them. But obviously, there is a team at work on this, and they have been processing them for publication. We've done several tranches so far, and the one coming up next week. And we've been processing them for public release, but that process has been consistent with FOIA criteria and also consistent with the court order.

So I'd have to refer you to the OIG. What I can speak more broadly about the process is that in March the Secretary wrote to the State Department Inspector General, and he asked him for recommendations on department practices on document retention and – as well as our FOIA process. And the inspector general's assistance, obviously, was welcome as part of efforts to improve our policies with respect to the preservation of records in this digital environment that we live in today.

So, obviously, Secretary Kerry is committed to seeing this process – that process through, appreciates the efforts of the inspector general. And as part of that, he's going to get updated on the findings and recommendations to date from the inspector general next week.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but what do you --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: What's your understanding of what actually was referred, if anything, to the Justice Department? Are you saying you can't speak to that because it was the IG --

MR TONER: I can't. I was an IG referral, and the Department of Justice would have to speak to the --

QUESTION: But wasn't, in fact, the State Department – did the State Department IG sign off on this referral of whatever kind it was? Because we're being told, or I'm being told, that it wasn't, that you didn't, that it was the ICIG.

MR TONER: The ICIG, right. That's correct.

QUESTION: That is correct.

MR TONER: That's my understanding as well.

QUESTION: So the State Department did not refer anything or join in a referral to Justice?

MR TONER: My understanding is that it was the ICIG. But if that's wrong, I'll correct that.

QUESTION: All right. And --

QUESTION: No, not the – just the ICIG?

QUESTION: Yes. That's what you're saying, right?

MR TONER: That's my understanding.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I have one?

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to ask specifically – I mean, what the IG is saying – both IGs really – is that several of the emails that they've gone through so far contain classified information that wasn't marked classified.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: That was – and the implication here is that the State Department is not properly handling material and marking material that should be classified. So I mean, I understand this is a wider probe about Secretary's Clinton's use of emails, but it's also kind of pointing the finger at you that you are not marking or considering sensitive material as classified when it should be.

MR TONER: So we've seen those reports. Again, I have to refer you to the OIG specifically about what specific emails they're referring to. We don't know that. We don't have access to that. We don't know they picked the four. As I said, we've been very clear about our role. We got 55,000 pages of emails that we're going through. There's a team at work on this. It's being processed in a manner consistent with FOIA criteria, and with an eye towards upgrading those portions that we deem should be upgraded to classified.

But in terms of – I can say and highlight that there was a July 14, 2015 letter that was released today by our inspector general, and that – I would refer you to that in terms of how we looked at these emails that I believe speaks to the four out of five emails that they're referring to.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, they --

MR TONER: But we don't know specifically.

QUESTION: I mean, both IGs were pretty critical about not only your handling of classified information at the time, but also about how this review process is not having enough of a careful scrub to see whether the information is classified. So basically, the concern here is that you're going to release information that could be classified because it's not marked as such.

MR TONER: Right. Again, the department's Freedom of Information Act review process is very similar to what's used by other federal agencies. It is done in a manner that also allows outside reviewers to review those emails and identify emails that might contain, for example, IC equities. All this is done in a process that's very similar to other federal agencies. We do look at these with an eye towards what needs to be or what might need to be upgraded as classified as we go through these, and you've seen this in some of the emails that we've published that have redacted portions in them.

QUESTION: Mark?

MR TONER: Yeah, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: The IC says you've already published an email that wasn't properly redacted and that contains classified information as part of the first Clinton document dump. Do you dispute that?

MR TONER: Well, again, we're in contact with the IC, working with them and other federal agencies, to try to review and see what specifically they're --

QUESTION: But do you dispute that you've released a classified email already?

MR TONER: Well, again, I would just refer you to the July 14th letter that – where we talked about some of these emails that were in question and why we felt certain portions need to be redacted, but not the entire things needed to be classified.

QUESTION: Can you dispute the idea that Secretary Clinton used her private email account on now more than one occasion to send or deal with classified information? Do you maintain that she did not use that email account for classified information, to handle classified information?

MR TONER: Again, I would refer you to Secretary Clinton to comment about that, but from --

QUESTION: But you have the emails, so that's why I'm asking you.

MR TONER: We have the emails. What we're looking at and as we go through them is what needs to be redacted according to what we now know and looking at these again, what equities, what sources, again, need to be protected. And that's what we're doing – redacting, frankly, on a line-by-line, in many cases, basis. But – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: But just to the heart of the matter, she said she didn't use that email account for classified information. It now appears that that's not true. Do you dispute that?

MR TONER: Well, again, it's unclear to us whether – you're saying that that's not true. Again, we haven't agreed – or seen, rather, the emails that have been – that the OIG, the ICIG has deemed should be classified. So again, at this point we don't know what they're referring to. We have gone through these emails. We've classified what we deemed should be upgraded. And again, I'm stressing upgraded --

QUESTION: Right. But so you don't --

MR TONER: -- not at the source.

QUESTION: So you don't believe anything that she sent at the time was classified? Because again, the intelligence community believes that emails she sent were classified at the time she sent them and are still classified today.

MR TONER: And again, that's a question really for her and her people to answer. We don't believe that in the sense of we've received these, she's handed us over these 55,000 pages, and we're going through them and upgrading them. Again, but we're not – to our knowledge, none of them needed to be classified at the time and we're passing through --

QUESTION: Your position has been, especially with the first tranche, that nothing that was classified at the time of the original correspondence – that nothing was released that was actually classified at the time of the initial correspondence. Is that still correct?

MR TONER: That's correct.

QUESTION: So you do dispute the IC – the intel community's inspector general when it says that one of the emails that you posted on the website contained classified information?

MR TONER: Again, I'd refer you to the July 14th letter where we talk about --

QUESTION: Well, that's what the July 14th letter says.

MR TONER: Right, exactly, that lays out --

QUESTION: And it also says --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: And you also disagree that these four emails, four of the 40 that they looked at, had information in them that was classified at the time they were sent? That's – is that correct?

MR TONER: I'm sorry, one more time your question. I apologize, I was --

QUESTION: The four out of 40 emails --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- that they looked at, that they say have classified information, you – this building would argue that whether or not that information is classified now or should be now, it was not classified at the time it was sent?

MR TONER: No, it was – again, my understanding is that it was – it would have been upgraded, or some portions of it.

QUESTION: Yes, at the time it was sent it was not classified?

MR TONER: Not at the time it was sent, right. That's my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay, so I think that answers your question, yeah?

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, no it does – well, but it's --

QUESTION: But Mark – but Mark, I mean, what do you --

MR TONER: Please, go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: How do you respond to the intelligence community's – how do you respond to the intelligence community's accusation that some of this information should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via secure network? I mean, I think it --

MR TONER: This is the intelligence community as --

QUESTION: They're making a larger – it seems like they're making a larger criticism of the way --

MR TONER: But they passed --

QUESTION: -- the State Department handles classified material.

MR TONER: They've – look, they've passed this on to the DOJ. I would refer you to them for comment.

Please.

QUESTION: Change?

QUESTION: They also --

MR TONER: Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, they also say that the – and you guys have said repeatedly that this is a multiagency effort and that all agencies are involved when we're going through this stuff.

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: And they're essentially saying, according to what's been released today, the intelligence community is saying, well, we weren't brought in on this process properly. And now you've made adjustments and that they're now in the room, in the State Department, looking over shoulders as these things are being read. Did you indeed have to make a change in the way you review these emails to bring the intelligence community in?

MR TONER: Again, my understanding of the process is that they're reviewed internally and then those emails or those portions that might have equities beyond the department are then shared with those other entities.

QUESTION: Can you explain --

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: -- how this is – if it is – if this is anything more than a fight between two bureaucracies about what should and shouldn't be classified and what should and should not be redacted from a FOIA review process?

MR TONER: I'm sorry. Can I explain --

QUESTION: Is it anything more than that?

MR TONER: Well, again, I can't speak to why the IG is doing what they're doing. That's --

QUESTION: Which IG?

MR TONER: The ICIG or, frankly --

QUESTION: Okay, so there's --

MR TONER: -- our own OIG.

QUESTION: -- a dispute. So you acknowledge that there is a dispute between the State Department and DNI, essentially, over what is classified or what should be classified?

MR TONER: I'm not going to speak to that. All I'm going to say is that we have made a determination on the emails that we've released and redacted on what should be updated – upgraded --

QUESTION: So you disagree.

MR TONER: -- and then redacted accordingly.

QUESTION: Because they say that one of them had – they say that one of them had – one of them had classified information. You don't think that's true. So there is a dispute between the two agencies here. Is that not --

MR TONER: I'm just not going to --

QUESTION: -- correct or no?

QUESTION: But Mark --

MR TONER: That's for them to explain.

Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean these are pretty serious accusations that they're leveling at you, that they're criticizing your understanding of what it means for something to be classified, that you should have classified it at the time. I mean this is a pretty – it's a pretty weighty charge that they're leveling at you.

MR TONER: Well, look, I mean this is all – again, I would refer you to the Department of Justice over what they're actually – what they want to be addressed.

QUESTION: They're saying that you compromised classified material; that's what they're saying.

MR TONER: But we have had a very rigorous process internally and, frankly, sharing with other agencies when their equities are involved and clearing these emails and redacting them as necessary. That's all I can really say about it.

QUESTION: No, but I'm saying about, like, before that, like, even before these emails were sent or archives or anything, the information that was contained in them should have been classified in the first place. I mean do you think that they have too high of a level of what should be classified?

MR TONER: I'm just not going to address that. That's for them to speak to.

Please.

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: No, hold on.

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So it's pretty clear from the documents that the State IG put out today –

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- pretty clear from the State Department's responses to the IG that you do not – that the State Department does not agree with all the recommendations that they made or agree that all of the problems that were identified by both State and the DNI Inspector General. And I'm not sure I understand why it is that you can't say that you don't think that there is a problem here and that DNI does.

MR TONER: Again, I'm not – it's not for me to assess. This is between different inspector generals to sort out and to make whatever recommendations that they want to make looking at the situation. All I can say is on our part we've had a process in place. We feel it's a solid one that's in accordance with all the other federal agencies.

QUESTION: Okay. You feel that it's a solid process, despite what the ICIG had said, yes?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And you can't ultimately defend former Secretary Clinton in saying that she didn't send classified information on that email address.

MR TONER: That is what she has said to us when she handed over the --

QUESTION: But you can't corroborate that.

MR TONER: -- 55,000-some pages.

QUESTION: That's the bottom line.

MR TONER: That's how we – and then we have taken that information and looked at it and analyzed it and updated it – upgraded as necessary.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) --

MR TONER: Yeah, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- hold on a second.

MR TONER: Yeah. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: In the first batch, the first tranche that was released, not the Bengazi-related –

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Or actually it was the Bengazi-related stuff.

MR TONER: Yeah, that's right, (inaudible).

QUESTION: There was one redaction in there because something had been retroactively classified; is that not correct?

MR TONER: I'd have to look back at that.

QUESTION: Well, it is correct. There was. (Laughter.) So I – the question that you can't – of course, you can't because you haven't gone through them all yet. If and when you find stuff that you agree that is or should be now classified, you're redacting it, correct?

MR TONER: Correct. Yeah.

Yeah, go ahead. Turkey.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: There have been a lot of reports regarding the stance of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. First of all, is there any way you can tell us whether there was a pact agreement signed between Turkey and U.S. on the Incirlik base or broader sense regarding the anti-ISIL coalition?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, thanks for bringing this up. There was actually I think – I believe the Turkish Government also put out a statement not long ago on this very issue. We've talked a lot about our ongoing consultations with Turkey on ways that we can jointly counter ISIL's efforts in the region and respond to the threat that ISIL poses. Turkey is obviously a strategic NATO ally, a strong partner in the coalition to defeat ISIL, and that was only underscored – frankly, the threat of ISIL was only underscored this week by the horrific attacks in Turkey this past week and underscored, frankly, the importance of strengthening our mutual efforts to defeat ISIL and bolster Turkey's security in the region. So from that, we've decided to deepen that cooperation, and that includes a train and equip program, intelligence sharing, and operational coordination. So as part of that, I can say that Turkey has granted clearance for the deployment of manned and unmanned aircraft from the U.S. and other coalition members participating in air operations against ISIL. And to answer your question – specific question, that includes Incirlik Air Base.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. regret that it took the apparent incursion of ISIL fighters into Turkish territory as well as this week's attack at Suruc for the Turks to finally fully join the coalition fight against ISIL in Syria?

MR TONER: I wouldn't necessarily specifically – although horrific and terrible, I wouldn't tie this to that specific event – that attack. This has been long – our ongoing consultations that have been carried out since last year. Turkey's a critical partner, strong ally. They've already been doing a lot, as we've talked about a lot from here, in terms of refugee support from – refugees coming from Syria, in terms of train and equip of Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL, and also in limiting the flow of foreign fighters into Syria.

So they've taken steps. This is additional steps. We're looking to cooperate, obviously, more where we can with Turkey and with other coalition members to really add pressure on ISIL in the region.

Please.

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: So much of --

MR TONER: Yeah, sorry.

QUESTION: So much of what the Turks had resisted on was on the very reason why there should be closer cooperation. The Turks had been saying for pretty much the past year that they felt that the efforts in dealing with what's going on in Syria needed to include dealing with the government of Bashar al-Assad, not just dealing with the threat from ISIL. What was it that the U.S. said to the Turks that made them change their mind?

MR TONER: Again, I think it's – and recognizing some of the points you just raised about Turkey's concerns, this has been an ongoing dialogue that we've had for many, many months now on how best to address ISIL in the region and defeat and dismantle it. We have a shared interest in defeating and destroying ISIL. We obviously understand Turkey's broader security concerns, and that includes something we obviously also support, which is a political transition in Syria. So I don't want to speak to – there was some lightning bolt of revelation here. We have been talking about deeper cooperation with Turkey for some time.

QUESTION: But clearly, there had to have been something that persuaded the Turks to back away from their insistence that there be a more robust engagement against Assad as part of this fight. I mean, this is something which the Pentagon has said that it did not see would be advisable in any way to try to expand this fight, to complicate the fight – that the mission needed to be focused just on ISIL.

So I guess to put it bluntly, did the U.S. offer new weapons systems, did the U.S. offer new training, did the U.S. offer money to Ankara in order to, one, gain access to Incirlik, but two, to actually get Turkey willing and, as we have seen today, able to put its fighter jets in the air and start striking targets?

MR TONER: Right. Again, I think this is the result of or the product of sustained dialogue – of shoe-leather diplomacy, if you will. Recently – and we spoke about it from the podium – there was an interagency delegation, I think, just about a few weeks or a month or so ago led by Special Presidential Envoy General Allen --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: -- that met with senior Turkish defense and political leaders. That was the most recent engagement. But we've been engaged with Turkey on these issues all along. We've been continually assessing ISIL on the ground and how we can look at augmenting our strategy on defeating ISIL. So I think this is – I don't want to, again, speak to what we may be offering or that there was some – as I said, some kind of revelatory moment where Turkey agreed to broader cooperation. This is part of a sustained effort. We're looking for deeper cooperation with Turkey and with the members of the coalition, and this is another step in that process.

QUESTION: Well, this is my final --

MR TONER: Sorry, I want to get to Dave, please.

QUESTION: Well, this is my final question on this.

MR TONER: Okay. Sorry, Dave.

QUESTION: Okay. It begs the question, Mark, because this fight against ISIL has now been going on for almost a year – we're coming up on August – and the start of the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and then September inside Syria. The Turks have been resistant for pretty much almost all of this period up until the last 24 hours when we started hearing that there was some kind of deal afoot. The U.S. has been giving hundreds of millions of dollars to help it and other countries in the region deal with refugees. The U.S. has been willing to provide training assistance to the Turkish military not just because they're partners but because they're both NATO members. What changed that made the Turkish Government decide to relent and allow U.S. fighter jets, as well as unmanned surveillance aircraft to fly out of Incirlik, that couldn't have been done six months ago, nine months ago?

MR TONER: I mean, the honest answer is that's a question for the Government of Turkey to answer, but – or speak to. All I can say is that this has been the product of continuous negotiations, talks, consultations, dialogue for the past six months and even before to look at ways we can broaden, strengthen, deepen our cooperation with Turkey. Turkey's a strong ally, a vital partner in this fight, and they have stepped up in many ways, as I said, including assisting with refugees coming over the border. But there's a recognition that its borders – security is threatened by ISIL and we continue to look – we see ISIL as a common enemy and there's no disagreement on that, so we're looking at ways that we can strengthen that cooperation.

Please, (inaudible).

QUESTION: In terms of what the agreement on access to bases will entail, could you explain a little bit --

MR TONER: I don't have a tremendous amount of detail. I frankly would – I mean, other than using, as I said, I mean, what I just talked about – the deployment of manned, unmanned aircraft from Incirlik, rather; looking at how we can deepen the train and equip program, operational coordination and intelligence sharing, but I don't have much detail or depth beyond that.

QUESTION: Is there any talk or possibility of some sort of buffer zone? I understand the Turks have been interested in a no-fly zone.

MR TONER: Right, right, right. That's been a point of discussion for some time. I would just say on that, we continue to have discussions with Turkey, evaluate options for the best way to counter ISIL along its border. We've spoken from this podium and elsewhere about some of the logistical challenges that would be inherent in a buffer zone, but we obviously take threats to Turkey's border seriously. They are a NATO ally. So we're looking at options.

Please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Turkish reports, which is credible reports, saying that one of the articles or understandings of the pact is that it's going to be 90 kilometers no-fly zone or buffer zone kind of thing, and the Incirlik is going to help imposing the no-fly zone. Isn't that correct?

MR TONER: Again --

QUESTION: North Syria.

MR TONER: -- I don't have anything to announce in terms of a buffer or no-fly zone.

QUESTION: Is there any kind of limit --

MR TONER: Yeah. Sorry.

QUESTION: -- imposed on the Incirlik base, such as is there a region that the fighter jets can bomb or not? Is there --

MR TONER: I don't have any of those kind of operational details. I would refer you to the DOD.

QUESTION: Is it fair to describe what's happening as a no-fly zone?

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: So --

MR TONER: I wouldn't – I just wouldn't term it that. And again, I don't have – I would refer you to the DOD for how to characterize it.

Please.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Follow-up on the same thing. I believe Turkey has the concern other – the main – Turkish main concern was Assad and secondly was the YPG and maybe third was ISIS for them. A lot of analysts say that, no my assessment. But has this agreement had any – sort of any limitation or any restriction that this Incirlik base should not be used to help YPG or your support for YPG and the other forces on the ground in Syria that you call them your partners will be continued still after this agreement?

MR TONER: I'm sorry, one more time, the last part of your question. Does this arrangement or deal or whatever you want to call it involve specifically --

QUESTION: Specifically like any restriction on certain regions. For example, not bombing areas that YPG are fighting.

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: So at least that's the concern, that Turkey --

MR TONER: Right. This is, again, as I explained at the top, part of our counter-ISIL efforts, so that would include anywhere where ISIL is embedded.

QUESTION: Do you think this agreement will help change the dynamics in Syria?

MR TONER: I mean, I think we're always hopeful in terms of changing the dynamics in Syria, which is, as we've said countless times, really become a horrific battlefield with tens and hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk or killed already. We want to see a political transition take place that doesn't include Assad. We want to see moderate Syrian opposition come together and a political process emerge that brings about a political solution and a more democratic Syria. And along with that effort, we need to see ISIL destroyed and degraded within Syria and also within Iraq. This is all part of those continuous efforts, and I think in that respect we hope that it brings about greater progress, certainly.

QUESTION: One more on --

MR TONER: Yeah, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Two major Syrian opposition parties reach an agreement today on a roadmap to – for a post-Assad transition.

MR TONER: That's right.

QUESTION: Are you aware of that? Do you have a reaction?

MR TONER: Yeah, I do. I – so you're right, today's agreement – it's between two major Syrian opposition groups, the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the National Coordination Committee. And we would applaud this; it shows that Syrian opposition parties can unite around a common vision toward a democratic transition in Syria. That's obviously positive and consistent with the Geneva communique, and we're going to continue to support these – this moderate opposition that we've talked about so much as they seek to end the fighting in Syria and bring about a peaceful democratic transition.

Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: One more follow-up on this one.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is this Incirlik base going to be used to target ISIS wherever they are or just in Syria? I mean, in Iraq?

MR TONER: I actually don't know. I would you refer you to the DOD about where – what specific – all I know is it's counter-ISIL, but I can't speak specifically to the --

QUESTION: I mean, because you fight ISIS in Syria and also in Iraq. So it's --

MR TONER: I understand that. That's why I'm saying to you I can't speak to what – specifically what areas these missions will address.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: One final one.

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is that your understanding also – Turkish air forces will be joining coalition forces to strike inside Syria and ISIS targets?

MR TONER: That's a question for the Turkish military – defense ministry.

Please.

QUESTION: Turkey conducted four rounds of airstrikes against ISIS positions for the first time last night. Do you have any comment --

MR TONER: You answered his question, I think. (Laughter.) Do I have any comment?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: I mean, again, I spoke to this – the fact that we're now cooperating more deeply about bringing the fight against ISIL using Incirlik as a base. Obviously, that has many operational benefits that we welcome.

QUESTION: So you are not aware of this foreign ministry statement that Turkey will be part of the coalition strikes from now on? This is also another --

MR TONER: I am aware of the statement. I just don't want to speak on behalf of the Turkish Government.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: A couple days ago, I think Martin Dempsey was in Baghdad, and then today – yesterday Ashton Carter was also there in Baghdad and he visited Erbil. I'm not going to ask you about what meetings they have done, but there were also meetings between the U.S. diplomats and the Iraqi officials in Erbil in the Kurdistan region and also in Baghdad. So there were, like, reports that these meetings conducted because there are disagreement among Erbil and Baghdad, and also Baghdad with the Sunnis, over the several operations, and U.S. is concerned about this disagreement. Do you have anything to share with us, especially the province of – Anbar province and then Mosul?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, I can speak to the fact that, as you noted, Secretary of Defense Carter was – has been in Iraq for the past couple days, where he's met with Iraqi political, military leaders, as well as Anbari tribal leaders. He was in Baghdad yesterday and Erbil, as you stated, today to discuss progress and challenges that remain in the counter-ISIL fight. And I'd refer to Department of Defense for details of his meetings. Specifically, you were asking about --

QUESTION: The disagreement they – between the Sunnis over the operations in Anbar, and also the Mosul operation, which the Peshmerga – in the beginning they said that they will be part of it, but we have heard different kind of statements that they haven't got enough weapons. And then the U.S. is now involved in the talks with – between Erbil and Baghdad and also the tribes.

MR TONER: Yeah. I don't have anything about talks we may or may not be having. I mean, obviously, we consult all the time with the Iraqi ministry of defense and military as well as the government, obviously. This is Iraqis' fight – Iraq's fight, rather, and it – the Iraqi Security Forces, as we've talked about, are working in conjunction with the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces, and those include both Sunni and Shia. And that's all under the command and control of the Iraqi military and government, and that's what – that would be right and proper and fitting, and that's what we would support. We believe that the Iraqi military has command and control over the entire operations.

QUESTION: According to your assessment – because General John Allen and also Brett McGurk, they are the people – State Department people and also they are on the ground – these forces, are they ready for the operations that you are willing to be conducted anytime soon in Anbar and also in Mosul?

MR TONER: I think in terms of Anbar province, as you mentioned, those operations continue. I don't really have any battlefield assessments to offer. Obviously, we've been working very hard to train and equip some of these forces, continue to do so with the idea that – especially some of the local forces can really take the fight much more effectively to ISIL, but again, under the command and control of the Iraqi military. But I don't have any kind of update or assessment to give you today.

Please.

QUESTION: Yeah, Mark.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. On sanctions against North Korea --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- do you have information about any country has any violation on sanctions against North Korea? Do you have any particular --

MR TONER: Any – I missed the word – any what on sanctions?

QUESTION: Any countries have violations, this --

MR TONER: Oh, violations on sanctions? I don't. I don't have any updates or any information on that.

QUESTION: Because it is reported that a company in Singapore had violations these sanctions.

MR TONER: I'm not aware of those reports, so I can look into it, but I don't --

QUESTION: You cannot confirm this?

MR TONER: Yeah, I don't have any --

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MR TONER: I'll try to, yeah. I'll try to look into it.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MR TONER: Please. Anybody else? Oh, sure, go ahead. You've been – yeah.

QUESTION: There are some reports about the FBI looking into tens if not more cases of Chinese espionage on corporate entities here in the U.S. Can you – just broadly, how concerned are you that China seems to have ramped up its level of corporate espionage?

MR TONER: I actually can't speak to those reports. I'd refer you to the FBI. We talk to China about many different issues, including stronger economic ties and trade, and the need for transparency, both for businesses operating in China and certainly Chinese companies operating here. But I don't have anything specifically to address the allegations of corporate espionage. I just don't.

Please.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Senator Rubio said that U.S. companies are taking a major risk by doing business in Iran because of the potential for the sanctions to snap back. What is your – do you agree with that sentiment? And have you been in close contact with business or industry leaders? What are their thoughts on that? Have you warned them or have you encouraged them to pursue opportunities in Iran?

MR TONER: I'm not aware that we've done much outreach to U.S. businesses or companies interested in doing business with Iraq. I think we still have a long way to go for Iraq to --

QUESTION: Iran.

MR TONER: Did I say Iraq? I apologize. Thank you, Matt. Sorry, with businesses regarding Iran. Obviously, we have a long way to go, really, even for Iran to meet the – its obligations with the JPOA, and at that point, where even the first tranche of sanctions might be – or sanctions relief might take place. So I think we're still a ways from that.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran for a second?

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: This morning, the Secretary was up in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations --

MR TONER: Yeah, right.

QUESTION: -- and I missed this part of it, but I've seen since – or I seem to have missed part of it because I didn't hear it, but there have been some reports that he said – at one point during his discussion, he said that if Congress goes ahead and rejects this deal, the world will blame Israel for it. And I'm wondering, one, are you aware that he said such a thing? And secondly, if he did say it, what exactly does that mean?

MR TONER: I'm sorry, one more time, the – in what setting was that? I apologize.

QUESTION: At the Council on Foreign Relations this morning --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- there are reports – and like I said, I didn't see this; I was watching most of it but I didn't see this – but he apparently, according to these reports, he said if the deal fails, if Congress rejects the deal, the world will blame Israel for it.

Can you – did he say that, one? And secondly, if he did say it, what exactly does that mean?

MR TONER: I honestly – I also missed that. We're obviously going to publish the transcript. I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the transcript.

MR TONER: No, I said that. I – there's going to be a transcript released, so I don't want to parse the Secretary's words without having seen them.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: I apologize.

QUESTION: And then just on another subject, real briefly, Cuba.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: There were some calls, or at least one call – very vociferous call in Congress for the street – the part of 16th Street where the Cuban – the now Cuban Embassy is located to be renamed after a Cuban dissident. Does – the State Department has weighed in on similar kinds of things before. Do you guys have a position on whether --

MR TONER: I'm aware of their request, but I'm not sure where we're at in terms of whether we've got a position on it or have – actively pursuing it or whatever. I think we're looking at it and considering the request.

QUESTION: Because I can recall several instances in the past --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- when there have been similar --

MR TONER: I don't – yeah.

QUESTION: -- proposals like that, not just --

MR TONER: I'll check into it.

QUESTION: -- in Washington, but also for U.S. embassies abroad --

MR TONER: Yeah, I'll check into it. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible). Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, please, Pam.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Iran?

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: In – also, Kerry at the Council on Foreign Relations this morning mentioned that Zarif had a weekend visit with officials in the United Arab Emirates.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: How much prior knowledge did the U.S. have about this meeting? And secondly, is the State Department aware of or anticipating other such visits between Zarif and Gulf officials?

MR TONER: Well, again, I can't speak to whether – how much prior knowledge of these meetings we had. I mean, Iran is able to conduct its own foreign policy as it deems fit or foreign relations, I guess, with other regional countries, neighbors, without necessarily informing us. Unclear to me what – about what the visit was about. So I don't really have any comment to it.

QUESTION: Can I just stay on Iran for one --

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: -- second? This has to do with one of the Americans who is imprisoned there. The Secretary mentioned again this morning that he raised that at every opportunity he could --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- these cases.

MR TONER: All of them, yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know, specifically in relation to the Amir Hekmati case, if the State Department has made a request with the Iranians for him to get medical tests, TB tests, that kind of thing?

MR TONER: You know what, I'd have to look into that. I'd have to ask specifically about that. I'll take the question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: The Secretary said that he will be meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Qatar, in Doha.

MR TONER: I don't have anything specific to announce in terms of --

QUESTION: He said --

MR TONER: I'm aware of what he said. I was – I'm aware of that.

QUESTION: I'm trying to see if he is --

MR TONER: But I don't have specifics on it, I guess, but – beyond the fact that he does meet regularly with Foreign Minister Lavrov. They talk about a wide range of issues. Obviously --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) coincidence --

MR TONER: -- Iran, Syria. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that they are together in Qatar after Iran deal. He said he's going to talk with him about Syria.

MR TONER: Again, I'm not up to speed on Foreign Secretary Lavrov's travel plans. I do know that they are going to be in Doha at the same time and – but I don't have anything specific to announce about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Topic is about Futenma relocation plan. Japanese Government offered a conference to the Okinawa prefecture yesterday.

MR TONER: Sorry, what are we – in Japan, we're talking about what specifically? I apologize.

QUESTION: The --

MR TONER: My hearing is going. (Laughter.) Old age.

QUESTION: Futenma relocation plan about --

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: The Japanese Government offered conference to Okinawa Prefecture yesterday because our Japanese Government wanted to start to landfill to constructing new U.S. military base in Henoko. And the ex-Okinawa governor Nakaima, who applauded the landfill, he set a condition to the – before start landfill and then construction --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- and that the Japanese Government have to hold a conference with the Okinawa. So how you think that the Japanese Government is – will be start to landfill for --

MR TONER: How would the Japanese Government be --

QUESTION: I mean start to the landfill – yeah, in --

MR TONER: Start to – yeah. I think this is something we've addressed previously, and I know our policy hasn't changed in terms of those discussions and working with the Japanese Government and especially the Okinawan Government. I don't have anything new to say about that.

Is that it, guys?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Thanks.

QUESTION: Have a good weekend.

MR TONER: Yeah, you, too.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:49 p.m.)

DPB # 128



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