Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 28, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton in New York / Meetings with Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta, Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Namhong / Return in Washington Today / Dinner with Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen / Return to New York for UNGA Wrap up
  • IRAN
    • Obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty / Iran Needs to Answer Questions / Address Concerns of International Community / Iran has Certain Rights and Responsibilities / Thursday's Meeting in Geneva / A Normal Relationship with Region, the U.S. and the International Community / Peaceful Nuclear Program / Drawing a Page from the North Korea Playbook / No Preconditions for the Geneva Meeting / Possible Additional Pressure and Sanctions / Secretary Gates Comments / Reporting Requirements as Part of IAEA / Concerns about Specific Facilities / Opening Their Facilities for Inspections / Require an Extended Process / Dual Track Approach / P 5+1 Process / President Sarkozy Comments
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad Visit to Washington
    • Support for OAS Officials Going to Tegucigalpa / One Turned Away / De Facto Regime Need to Move to a More Constructive Direction / San Jose Accords / OAS Meeting
    • Concern about Issue of Civil and Human Rights / Viable Electoral Process
    • Swiss Arrest of Roman Polanski / French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner Letter to Secretary Clinton / Legal Process / California to Make a Formal Extradition Request / Role of Department to Review Request and Make Certain it is Sufficient under the Terms
    • George Mitchell Meeting with Palestinian and Israeli Delegations in Washington / Working out Particular Arrangements
    • Alleged Terror Plot in Texas by Jordanian / Contact with Jordanian Officials and U.S. Law Enforcement Authorities
    • Civilians in Afghanistan / Protecting the Population / Shifting Military Operations
    • Resettlement of Detainees / Uzbek Nationals Resettled to Facility in Ireland / Grateful to Countries Willing to Accept Detainees


1:04 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Just a couple of things before answering further questions. The Secretary obviously continues her schedule in New York today. She has had meetings this morning with the Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta, Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and shortly will be meeting with the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Namhong.

And then she’ll come down to – here to the State Department later this afternoon, where she will host this evening a dinner for Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, but then will have some meetings here in Washington tomorrow and then go back to the UN before UNGA wraps up.

With that, your questions. Bob.

QUESTION: P.J., on Iran and the meeting on Thursday, what – aside from the question about sanctions, which I – as I understand, is not immediately the subject of discussion at that meeting, what about the incentives that might be offered to Iran to change its behavior?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of incentive. I think it’s a matter of obligation. Iran has obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. It has failed to answer the questions that have been presented in a variety of fora, including at the IAEA. So it’s really – the key here is not the incentives that we would provide to Iran; the key is that Iran has to come forward, answer the questions, and address the concerns of the international community.

If it does that, if it satisfies these concerns, as Secretary Clinton said many times, including yesterday on the Sunday shows, we acknowledge that under the NPT, Iran has certain rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. It’s time for Iran to meet its responsibilities. Obviously, this is a central concern – not the only one, but a central concern of the United States and the international community.

Should Iran come to the meeting on Thursday and prepared to engage seriously, prepared to address those concerns, you could envision over time that there would be benefits that accrue to Iran from that. But first and foremost, this is about the responsibilities that Iran has.

QUESTION: So there are no incentives, per se? You’re saying they could just have their normal rights under that – in the NPT, but under NPT --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, to – I mean, to the extent that the Iranian people want to see a more normal relationship with other countries in the region, the United States, and the international community, that opportunity is available to Iran.

But part of the process of getting to whatever benefits might accrue from a normal relationship, Iran has to meet its responsibilities. And obviously, on Thursday, we’ll be looking to see, does Iran come to the meeting prepared to engage seriously? Are they prepared to open up their program to effective inspection? As Secretary Clinton said yesterday, it’s not a matter of just having them assert that the program is for peaceful purposes; they now have to prove it.

QUESTION: Is it at all possible that it is for peaceful purposes, and is there any evidence out there that shows it could be?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if you have a peaceful program, why are you hiding it? If you have a peaceful program, why are you burrowing it underground? As we’ve outlined last week in front of the IAEA, Iran, as a member of the NPT, had the obligation to report that facility to the IAEA and failed to do so till recently.

QUESTION: What about Israel? If they – they haven’t had to go through these IAEA inspections at all.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it to Israel to explain its own obligations.


QUESTION: How much – how hopeful are you that Iran will respond positively to the offer of engagement on Thursday, when just yesterday, they tested those missiles? And even though they say that it was a long-planned test, it certainly sends a rather defiant message to the international community.

MR. CROWLEY: It’s not for me to give Iran advice. I mean, they perhaps are drawing a page from the North Korea playbook that hasn’t worked out terribly well for North Korea. And in fact, if you use that corollary, because of the provocative actions of North Korea earlier this year, you find the international community completely solid in its opposition to what Iran has done, and facing the most significant sanctions ever against North Korea.

So I think it’s time for Iran to come clean. It has taken actions that are in violation of its obligations, and it’s time for North Korea to come to the table, engage seriously, enter into a process by which our – the concerns of the international community can be addressed. And we’ll find out what it’s prepared to do on Thursday.


QUESTION: P.J., can you give us some detail of how this is going to unfold? Do you know who the Iranian – who will be leading the Iranian delegation? They meet in Geneva. You know, what’s the program? How does it --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think – obviously, I think those arrangements were being done by Javier Solana, and I’d probably defer to him to explain how this is going to work.

QUESTION: But give a little bit of detail, because, you know, before, there have been meetings where they didn’t show up with the highest-level representation. Are you sure that --

MR. CROWLEY: And you’re right. I mean, this is an opportunity. We’ve set up the meeting based on the response that Iran gave earlier this month, and we’ll see what happens on Thursday. We don’t go into this with any preconditions, but we also don’t go into this with any preconceived notions. Iran has prevaricated in the past. It could do so again. That’s why we’re having the meeting.


QUESTION: And do you see this as a one-shot deal? In other words, if they stick to their position that they’ll talk to the IAEA about their program, but not to others, not to you, is that --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if it is a one-shot deal, then Iran is going to face additional pressure and probably additional sanctions from the international community.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton yesterday described how the Administration is looking for broadening and deepening sanctions. Can you give us any idea of the outlines of what that might entail?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think Secretary Gates – I mean, let’s have the meeting first. I mean, I understand this – it’s like the media equivalent of “Are we there yet?”

Let’s have the meeting, and then from this meeting we’ll learn whether Iran is prepared to engage seriously, whether they’re willing to enter into a process, whether they’re willing to open up their programs for meaningful international inspections so that we – and provide information affirmatively, which is their obligation under the NPT, so that then, in fact, we can learn things, address the concerns that we have, answer the questions that were raised, and then there will be potentially positive actions that could accrue from that.

By the same token, if they continue to deflect their obligations, if they continue to fail to answer the questions, then, obviously, there will be implications and consequences to that as well. So I think we have to get to this first meeting. We hope that it will be the start of a process by which we could address the concerns that the international community has. This is an opportunity for Iran, but, obviously, it has failed to take advantage of opportunities like this in the past.

QUESTION: Beyond, though, addressing the obligations, as you said, it seems like the key task for the United States and its allies is to somehow convince Iran that its security would be improved without nuclear weapons, without the pursuit of possible nuclear weapons or that capability --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean --

QUESTION: -- rather than the opposite, that they would actually be better off without these weapons?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure. I first and foremost would bat the ball back in Iran’s court. Iran has affirmative obligations under the NPT. It has affirmative obligations, reporting requirements, as part of the IAEA. And it has steadfastly failed to live up to those obligations for a lengthy period of time. So first and foremost, if Iran wants the respect of the international community, it has to behave as a member in good standing of the international community and meet its obligations.

Now, that said, clearly, in its broader calculus, certainly we believe that Iran’s interests lie in a more integrated relationship with the region, a more normal relationship with the international community, including the United States. Should Iran be willing to enter into substantive dialogue on the nuclear issue – which is a core concern of ours, but on broader issues – then I think we can have the opportunity to have that kind of extensive conversation with Iran. But we’ll see what happens on Thursday.

QUESTION: Can I follow up with a non-Iran question?

QUESTION: I have an Iran question. Iran – I’ll do Iran – Iran. (Laughter.) Shayla Bezdrob with Fox News.

MR. CROWLEY: Iran for $200.

QUESTION: The Secretary of State said yesterday that Iran must present convincing evidence at this Geneva meeting. What is the – what does the U.S. accept as convincing evidence?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure that I have a particular formula in mind. Clearly --

QUESTION: What would convince the United States?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have concerns about specific facilities. We have concerns about specific programs. We have concerns about specific individuals. The real question is what can – Iran has to come forward with compelling information, open up their facilities to meaningful inspection, carry on an extended conversation and affirmatively address the concerns that we have. I can – in a different context, someone said we’ll know it when we see it.

I mean, and really at this point, we have major concerns. Iran says certain things, but they have – it has yet to provide the information, the perspective that gives us confidence that what they’re saying is actually true. So this is about Iran coming forward once and for all, putting everything on the table, and letting the international community understand what the intentions of its programs are, how to explain activities that we have seen, including those that we have unearthed and announced most recently.

And so this will require an extended process. It’s what the President has said, in that here, we’re in the middle of the stocktaking phase. At some point towards the end of the year, we’ll be able to calculate how much progress have we even made, and we’ll draw some conclusions from that. But it is really for Iran to come forward and show us that it’s willing to sit down, in an extended conversation, over a period of time, and provide the kind of prospective information and access that we have long demanded.

QUESTION: But that – P.J., on that timeline you just made reference to, does that mean that the U.S. would not be interested in actually moving ahead with additional sanctions until the end of the year?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have a dual-track approach. We have sanctions now, and based on the progress that we see, as Secretary Clinton said, we’ll see this meeting on Thursday, we’ll continue to talk to our partners in the P-5+1 process about the implications of these meetings. So – but our dual-track approach has both engagement as a – as one foundational piece, and pressure and sanctions as another.

QUESTION: What do you define by additional sanctions beyond that process?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, as we’ve indicated, we’re prepared to take additional steps. We’ll see what Iran is willing to do on – for its part.

QUESTION: But not until the end of the year?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s get to the end of the week, then we’ll see.


QUESTION: But specifically on that, President Sarkozy is being very specific that by – if there’s no answer by the end of the year or some movement, that they should move toward sanctions. I mean, he’s being very specific.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and the President said the same – something very similar, which is, by the end of the year, we’ll be able to judge what is – what Iran is or is not willing to do, and we’ll draw some implications from that.

QUESTION: Different topic?

QUESTION: Other whole different topic, too.


MR. CROWLEY: Iran, going once, going twice, sold. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I guess that’s – on Fayssal Mekdad, deputy foreign minister of Syria visit to Washington, can you tell us more about this visit regarding the schedule, meetings, agenda?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And of course, expectations.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, obviously, we have been renewing our dialogue with Syria, but beyond that, I’ve got no information yet.

QUESTION: Have you invited him to come or --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. If we have, I’m not aware of it, but that may be true. I’m just not in the loop.

QUESTION: On Honduras --

MR. CROWLEY: So if we have some information, I’ll provide it.

QUESTION: On Honduras – Honduras, do you have anything new on Honduras, this OAS delegation that tried to go into Honduras and were sent back at the airport?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, we strongly supported the four OAS officials going to Tegucigalpa to engage authorities there. And we obviously – it’s regrettable that three of them were turned away. I think it’s time for the de facto regime to put down the shovel. With every action, they keep on making the hole deeper. It’s time for the de facto regime to move in a more constructive direction. So far, they have failed to do so.

QUESTION: There is some speculation that they are considering closing the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Have you anything on this?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, as we’ve said over the last several days, going back to last week when the Secretary had her meeting with President Arias, it’s time for the two sides to engage in a meaningful dialogue, for both sides to sign on to the San Jose Accords, and that continues to be our position.


QUESTION: So I’d like to ask a question about the filmmaker Roman Polanski. The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner sent a letter to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue. I was just wondering if you can enlighten us about what he may have been asking for, and if you can tell us a little bit more about the --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if he sent the letter, I’ll defer to the minister to describe its contents.

QUESTION: But what sort of – what is happening in terms of discussions about the possible extradition of Mr. Polanski to the U.S.?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, for the most part, I’ll defer to the – to California authorities and to the Department of Justice regarding this legal process. I mean, there will be a period of time, I think two months, for the state of California to make a formal extradition request. The role of the Department of State will simply be to review that request to make sure it meets the sufficiency in terms of our extradition treaty with Switzerland.

QUESTION: So just a clarification – I actually had that same question, but a little bit different – there is no formal extradition request at this stage?

MR. CROWLEY: I think there is a preliminary request that was made by the state of California, and I believe that the action taken was based on that – I mean, there’s a legal terminology for it. But I think for now, there’ll be a more detailed, a formal extradition request. We will review that to make sure that it is sufficient under the terms of the extradition treaty that we have with Switzerland.

QUESTION: Mideast peace talks. I think we were told that they were due to resume at some point this week. I was wondering if you had any details on when, where, and who?

MR. CROWLEY: Still being worked out. I would think – I think George Mitchell will be meeting with both Palestinian and Israeli delegations here in Washington later this week. We’re still working out the particular arrangements. George last week, even after the trilateral, had extensive meetings with not only Israeli and Palestinian officials, but also others from various countries in the region, a very lengthy list actually.


QUESTION: Another – different subject. Jordan’s government apparently is asking the U.S. for information on that terror plot – alleged terror plot – in Texas involving a Jordanian citizen. Can you confirm that they actually have contacted the United States to --

MR. CROWLEY: They have, and we have helped the Jordanians establish contact with the appropriate U.S. law enforcement authorities.

QUESTION: Thank you. Actually going back to Honduras again – this just to clarify. Do you still support the San Jose agreement? It’s still alive, the San Jose agreement? And the second one is --


QUESTION: Yeah. The issue of Honduras will remain at the OAS or it will move to the United Nations? How do you see – what is your position on it?

MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing to forecast in terms of action by the United Nations at this point. I think the OAS is meeting today on this subject in light of activities in recent days. And we continue to support intervention through the OAS, which is why we supported this mission that the de facto regime initially indicated it supported, and then turned back three of the four officials when they arrived in country.

We certainly continue to support the San Jose process as the best mechanism to resolve the situation in Honduras, and we continue to encourage both sides to sign it and then act on it – based on it.

QUESTION: There is no plan B for Honduras in case of --

MR. CROWLEY: I think President Arias last week mentioned that there was no plan B. We still continue to support plan A.

QUESTION: The U.S. representative to the OAS said earlier today that Zelaya’s going back to Honduras had been irresponsible. Can you elaborate on that?

MR. CROWLEY: I recall last week, President Arias saying, well, you know, he’s back. I mean – and that’s our position. He’s there. And to the extent he’s there and there’s the opportunity for dialogue, we certainly hope that both sides will take advantage of that opportunity. And we hope they will do so.

QUESTION: P.J., one more on Afghanistan. From our Pentagon people, they are interested in your assessment of how – or the State Department’s assessment of how the situation for civilians in Afghanistan has deteriorated. They’re pointing to comments by McChrystal on 60 Minutes talking about the breadth of violence being much worse than they anticipated, and also --

MR. CROWLEY: Against the Afghan civilians or against --

QUESTION: Against, yeah. Safety and security for them. And also, Lindsey Graham saying that civilians can’t operate right now. So --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just going to clarify. Are we talking about the Afghan citizenry?

QUESTION: Afghan citizenry.

MR. CROWLEY: Or are we talking about, say, civilians, whether they be U.S. civilians or --

QUESTION: No, Afghan citizens. How bad it has gotten for civilians in Afghanistan.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, at the heart of the shift in our strategy is an emphasis on protecting the population, and that is a cornerstone of what General McChrystal is trying to do. He has shifted the nature of military operations, put some tactics off – pulled some tactics off the table because, ultimately, the only way that you defeat an insurgency is through – by sustaining and growing popular support. So that is at the heart of it.

I’m not in a position to judge to what extent – obviously, it is a dire circumstance. We now see more frequent attacks, and those attacks, while they might be targeting the forces of a particular country, necessarily also affect the Afghan people. But I think that’s one of the reasons why you also see, despite everything else, significant Afghan support for the efforts of NATO, the international community, the United States, to try to improve the security and to do the other elements of our strategy in terms of governance and the economy and so forth.

Afghanistan is not a country that hasn’t always welcomed people from outside. It is a remarkable aspect that eight years – coming up on eight years in, there is still very significant Afghan popular support, because I think they definitely recognize what the international community is trying to do for them, and I think they continue to reject the vision that the Taliban offers or other extremists offer in terms of moving Afghanistan towards a dark past. So – and that is the heart of our strategy is what can we do to help the Afghan people. It’s why we continue to put significant emphasis on the – on an electoral result that the Afghan people will see as legitimate. And it’s why we continue to increase not only the pace of military activity, but also increase the pace of civilian activity to see if we can’t help improve the average daily lives of Afghan people. If we are successful there, then we have every reason to believe that we’ll be successful in our strategy.

QUESTION: Different topic?


QUESTION: Talk to us a little bit about response and talks and any commitments that you may have gotten from our European and other friends in the international community about taking in Guantanamo detainees as the camp in Guantanamo is expected to close at some point in the near future. Have you gotten any commitments from our European friends and anybody else?

MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Dan Fried continues his efforts to resettle Guantanamo refugees[1] in various places around the world. We continue to get outstanding cooperation, and we’re very grateful for the cooperation and support various countries have provided us. I think on Saturday you had two Uzbek nationals were transferred to a facility in Ireland, for example. So that effort continues. But – and we are very grateful and continue to get very significant support around the world.

QUESTION: What countries have made a commitment?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a list here. I think if a country has agreed to take detainees, I think that, first and foremost, it’s to that country can choose to announce those transfers. But we continue to have extensive conversations with a variety of countries, and we’re very grateful to those who have been willing to accept these detainees.

QUESTION: Any firm commitments at this point?

MR. CROWLEY: We have commitments, and we are continuing to work with those countries. And when transfers are made, we’re happy to talk about them.

QUESTION: Going back a minute to Honduras, in the weekend there were two things that happened in Honduras. One was that the Honduras Government give 10 days to the Brazilian Government to clarify the situation of Zelaya or, if not, they’re not going to consider that house like a diplomatic official residence. And the second thing, they established 45 days of non-action, like in Spanish called (inaudible) is like there are no movements, no people out to participate in the streets, all the movements are managed by the government. So in all this, we are having an electoral process that is going to be – that has no sense because it’s no participation during 45 days and we are 60 days ahead of this election. So you are saying there is no plan B.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, but --

QUESTION: And in 10 days they’re going to go maybe inside that house where Zelaya is there. So what instructions are you giving to the United Nations, to your ambassador or the Security Council maybe, to participate in a better way? There have to be a plan B.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we are concerned about the issue of civil rights and human rights in Honduras. It is having a significant impact on the Honduran people. But it’s also the reason why we have said clearly to the de facto regime that because of the environment on the ground, we will not recognize an electoral result as free and fair under the current circumstances. So, in fact, I think the de facto regime was thinking if we just get to late November, get to an election, it will resolve everything. It will not.

So you’re quite right; in order to have a viable electoral process, you have to have freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly. And to the extent that the de facto regime takes that away from the Honduran people, it further will exacerbate the situation, which is why we continue to call on the de facto regime to recognize the San Jose Accords, which, in fact, then calls for appropriate international support for an electoral process, including the introduction of election monitors, so that you can have a process that the Honduran people can believe in. It is one of the reasons why we have met with several of the presidential candidates so that we can further make clear to the de facto regime that under the present circumstances we will not recognize the result.

QUESTION: The delegation of the American Organization of States flew there and they didn’t allow them to get in. Do you think that the U.S. may send the delegation, or there is any contact in these weeks or --

MR. CROWLEY: I think that whatever activities we take for the present time will be done through the OAS.

QUESTION: Can I just return to an earlier point? You mentioned about Iran – the missile launches. There are a series of missile launches, apparently long-range missile launches. Do you think that this is helpful in the --


QUESTION: Well, particularly with a couple days coming ahead toward these talks --


QUESTION: -- how concerned is the U.S. about this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we did address this earlier in the briefing. It’s not helpful at all. It’s – to the extent that Iran wants to continue to act more like a police state or a military state than a constructive player in the region, it just will further isolate Iran and it will – you’ll continue to see greater – a greater international consensus for additional steps, including sanctions, against Iran. So this kind of provocative behavior did not work for North Korea, and it’s unlikely to work for Iran.

QUESTION: I want to ask my question about Israel again. I just want to know why – if they’re not going through these inspections, why is the U.S. not concerned about this?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – I’m not sure I --

QUESTION: With Israel with the nuclear inspections, the IAEA inspections. If they haven’t accepted them, why isn’t the U.S. concerned about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think that – I’ll defer to Israel again, but I don’t think that Israel is a member of the NPT.

Thank you. Paul.

QUESTION: One quick one. Are there plans for Israeli and Palestinian contacts at these meetings this week in Washington with George Mitchell, or is it all going to be U.S.-Israeli?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn't forecast them, but I wouldn't – I think right now, I think we’re meeting separately. If that changes, let you know.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:33 p.m.)
[1] detainees