Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 16, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Statement by Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates on New START Treaty
    • Secretary Clinton Returning to U.S./Meetings with President Abbas in Ramallah and King Abdullah in Amman
    • Readout of Secretary Clinton Conversation with Swiss Foreign Minister
    • Secretary Clinton to Announce Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
    • Transfer of Two Detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Germany
    • President Exports Council Discuss the National Export Initiative (NEI) /Under Secretary Hormats Leads Department's Efforts on NEI
    • U.S. Salutes Mexico on 200 Years of Independence
    • Secretary Clinton to Call the Leadership of Oman/Call to Express Gratitude For Assistance in Release of Sarah Shourd/Ongoing Efforts to Seek Release of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer /Information on Robert Levinson/Access to Reza Taghavi/Oman as an Interlocutor
    • Military Cooperation/Consultation Process with Congress
    • Plan Colombia/Release of Funds/Human Rights
    • President Carter Op-Ed/Ambassador Bosworth Consultations Complete in Beijing Returning to U.S./ North Korea Must Demonstrate Willing to Take Steps in Accord with Obligations Already Made/Cheonan Incident
  • IRAQ
    • Compensation for Victims Claims
  • IRAN
    • Significant Evidence that Iran is Going Beyond Civil Nuclear Program
    • Sanctions Are Having an Impact


1:32 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. You will see from Secretary Clinton and, I believe, from Secretary Gates as well this afternoon statements congratulating the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on its strong bipartisan vote to approve the new START treaty. And it reflects both the decades-long tradition of bipartisan support for arms control accords, but it also demonstrates that after extensive consultations with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the senators feel very strongly that this is in the national interest.

The Secretary is on her way back to the United States, having completed another day of discussions with leaders, both with President Abbas in Ramallah, but also King Abdullah in Amman. Also, before she departed the region, she had the opportunity to talk to Swiss Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey, and in that conversation, she expressed the strong gratitude of the American people for the ongoing Swiss efforts not only that led to the release of Sarah Shourd, but the ongoing Swiss efforts to seek the release of Josh Fattal and Sarah – and Shane Bauer as well. They also talked about other subjects including ongoing efforts to – with respect to tensions between Turkey and Armenia. And I think there will be a call the Secretary will make to the leadership of Oman, perhaps today, more likely tomorrow.

You saw a release highlighting that Secretary Clinton next week will formally announce the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new private-public initiative to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean, efficient household cooking solutions. And I think – Mark, it’s noon tomorrow?

MR. TONER: Noon.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We’ll -- you’ll have more perspective on this and other activities the Secretary will have next week in New York. We’ll have a briefing by Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer.

I also think the Government of Germany announced today – and I think the Defense Department, if they haven’t done already, will very shortly confirm the transfer of two detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Germany. Since the beginning of this Administration, we have transferred 66 detainees to 26 different destinations, including the transfer of 40 detainees to third countries. And with this action today, 174 detainees remain at Guantanamo.

Also today, the President’s Export Council met to discuss the Administration’s progress on the National Export Initiative. This is a top priority for Secretary Clinton. It plays a central role in advancing the Department’s goal of using international economic policy to support American jobs. The Secretary has tapped Robert Hormats, our Under Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, to lead the Department’s efforts on the NEI. Secretary Hormats has engaged our staff in Washington and embassies abroad to ensure diplomacy is working for American businesses. Since the NEI was announced in January, the State Department has worked with the Commerce Department and other agencies to support $11 billion in U.S. export content, compared with $3.2 billion in the same period in 2009.

And finally, before taking your questions today, we salute Mexico as it celebrates 200 years of independence. Viva Mexico.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah. Why is the Secretary going to call the leadership of Oman?

MR. CROWLEY: To also thank the Omanis for its efforts –

QUESTION: For paying the –

MR. CROWLEY: -- for releasing –

QUESTION: -- $500,000 bail?

MR. CROWLEY: -- for helping to arrange the release of –

QUESTION: What exactly is she going to thank them for?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s wait for the call and I’ll give you a readout.

QUESTION: Well, but surely she knows what she’s going to be thanking them for.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have one of our citizens released. We continue to seek the release of Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal. We seek information on Robert Levinson. We seek access to Reza Taghavi. But also, as the Secretary said in various interviews today, we also seek the opportunity to engage Iran seriously on a variety of issues. But her call to Sultan Qaboos will be to express our gratitude for Oman’s efforts not only in the context of Sarah Shourd, but its ongoing efforts to seek the release of our other two hikers.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the Omanis’ most recent effort was confined only to Sarah Shourd? Or was it – were they actually trying to get all three of them out and they succeeded in getting one?

MR. CROWLEY: The Omani effort, just as the Swiss effort, has been directed at getting all three hikers out. That remains our focus now that we have Sarah released. We seek the same decision by Iranian authorities with respect to Josh and Shane.

QUESTION: And have you heard President Ahmadinejad’s most recent comments on this subject, that the other two are going to have to stand trial?

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t seen his full transcript, but as we’ve said, we understand that there has been a legal process with respect to Sarah Shourd and it was Iranian authorities that made the decision to release her. The facts regarding Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are identical. So if the Iranian judicial system has reached judgment with respect to Sarah Shourd, we believe very strongly that it could reach the same judgment with respect to Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer.

QUESTION: Is it your hope that the Omanis are going to serve as a sort of a communication channel on issues other than imprisoned Americans as well? Is that – are they now becoming a kind of effective backdoor into Tehran?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we believe that Iran very clearly understands what we want to see happen. As the Secretary, I think, said today in at least one interview, we have a two-track strategy. We are applying sanctions on Iran and we believe that those sanctions are having an effect. At the same time, we remain open to serious dialogue with Iran – not only the United States, but also others within the international community.

And we, through our public statements, make that clear to Iran, and we do engage other countries who, in turn, have diplomatic relations with Iran and they are conveying the same message. And certainly, Oman, being one of those countries that has a relationship with the United States, a relationship with Iran, is an effective interlocutor. But there are others.

QUESTION: Congresswoman Ileana Lehtinen of the Foreign Relation – or International Relations Committee of the Congress has been discussing with the deputy foreign minister of Israel the – what seems to be the military sales to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and is expressing kind of objection or reservations about – the usual reservations that we hear from the Israeli friends in the Congress toward any sales to any Arab country. But Saudi Arabia supposedly is trying to push $60 billion of American military ware. Of course, this will help a lot the American jobs, thousands of American jobs.

Is the United States State Department going to still play that smoothing role to make these people understand that Israel will never be threatened by any kind of military sales, as Israel is a superpower in that region?

MR. CROWLEY: A lot in that question. On the specifics of our military cooperation with Saudi Arabia, we do work closely with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to make sure that our allies and friends have the capabilities that they need to – for their own security. Certainly, Saudi Arabia and other countries have very justifiable concerns about the emergence of Iran as a less than constructive actor in the region.

On any specific proposal that might be under discussion, I have indicated before that we go through a consultation process with the Congress before making any announcements, so I’ll reserve announcements on anything particular, but – other than to say that we provide military resources, security assistance to a range of allies from Israel to Saudi Arabia. It is in our national interest to do so to maintain both security and stability in the region.

QUESTION: On the same --

QUESTION: On Iran, were you able to get anything on this alleged donation from Iran, $25 million, to the Turkish military?

MR. CROWLEY: We checked around, and nobody has any information on that.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Mr. Steinberg yesterday met with Mr. Ayalon. Do you have a readout on that?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not. We’ll see. I mean, we do meet with officials from the Israeli Government from time to time. But I wouldn’t say that we have – we are in close consultation with Israel on a variety of subjects, from regional security to Middle East peace. So I’m sure the meeting was in that context. I’m not sure there’s much more to say about it.

QUESTION: Because Congresswoman Ileana said – she issued a press release today and said she discussed with him concerns regarding the sale of airplanes to Saudi Arabia and security assistance to the Lebanese army.

QUESTION: That question was just asked.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but I’ll tell you what. Samir, since you mentioned that, I will say that we have completed our review of assistance to Lebanon and we are in the process of consultations with members of Congress regarding our findings. We’ll have more to say with that when the consultations are done.

QUESTION: My question – I meant to see if this – the issue of assistance to the Lebanese army was discussed with Mr. Ayalon. That’s what I meant.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. That’s a good question. But I – as I said, we indicated that we were reviewing our programs with Lebanon. We have completed that review and we are now briefing Congress on our findings.

QUESTION: P.J., Plan Colombia – there was an additional release of $30 million, I believe, that just took place. And I’m just trying to – we’re trying to assess what prompted the release, what specifics were – led to the monies, and what kind of improvement has the United States seen, so to – basically to --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are certain statutory requirements that we have to meet regarding our assistance to the Colombian armed forces. We believe that the Colombian Government has made steady progress in improving the human rights situation in the country and has met specific certification require – certification criteria for the release of those funds.

We applaud President Santos for his commitment to human rights. We applaud the steps that he’s taken to make tangible changes in Colombia’s human rights situation. But at the same time, we will continue to engage with the Colombian Government to achieve further progress.

QUESTION: How would – can you put some meat on that, what you can define as human rights progress? I mean, what specifics?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll give you some examples: significantly improving relations with Colombia’s high court, overhaul of the judicial system in consultation with the high courts, a new prosecutor general, and then to a 13-month gap in permanent leadership in that institution, establishing a roundtable on labor issues with organized labor, meeting with NGOs and promising increase in regular dialogue with Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups, increasing to – the condemnation of threats of violence against human rights defenders and increased attention to human rights abuses and their prevention, then legislation on land reform and restoring land to victims of forced displacement. There’s now a victims law that has provided real resources to cover victims of violence by state security forces. So it’s a fairly lengthy list.

QUESTION: P.J., former President Carter has an op-ed in The New York Times today where he’s talking about that he sees a new opportunity with North Korea, that the North Koreans showed real signs of eagerness to restart the talks, and that he thought – and this was a message that he conveyed – he apparently seems to think they’re sincere – to the Secretary and to this building when he returned. He also said the Chinese are viewing Kim’s decision to – or offer of restarting family reunions and freeing the South Korean fishing crew as sort of signs of a new openness and perhaps a step towards some of the demonstration you’ve been looking for.

How much weight does this building give President Carter’s views on this matter? Do you think that there is a real opportunity here, and do those two things begin to qualify as signs of a new attitude in Pyongyang?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, certainly, President Carter had his opportunity to present his views on his trip directly to Secretary Clinton. I think in the op-ed he also indicated he conveyed his findings to Chinese officials as well. But as Steve Bosworth – he and his team have completed their consultations in Beijing, they’re on their way back here to the United States. But before he left, he made clear that while we remain open to dialogue either on a bilateral basis or a bilateral basis leading to a multilateral basis, the onus is on North Korea. It has to demonstrate that it’s willing to take steps in accord with the obligations and commitments that it has already made.

So we will continue to consult and we’ll continue to watch to see what concrete steps North Korea takes. So if there’s an eagerness on behalf of North Korea, that can be backed up by affirmative actions that demonstrate a seriousness of purpose. And I think as both Steve Bosworth has said and also Kurt Campbell has stressed, among the things that we will be watching for is affirmative steps by North Korea to improve its relations with South Korea.

QUESTION: Speaking about President Carter’s op-ed, did you find it unusual at all that he didn’t mention the Cheonan incident in it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it to President Carter.

QUESTION: Well, the reason that I ask this is because it was a major part of Bosworth and Sung Kim’s theme, as it was almost the over – it was the overwhelming focus of the testimony this morning by Assistant Secretary Campbell and the people from DOD.


QUESTION: Do you not find it unusual that --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’ll let --

QUESTION: Do you think that the president – former President Carter is unaware of this incident?


QUESTION: Or is he choosing to gloss over it?

MR. CROWLEY: No, I know for a fact he is very much aware of the Cheonan because we did --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, given the fact that --

MR. CROWLEY: – we did provide a perspective to him on – before he left.

QUESTION: Given the fact that he didn’t mention it, do you take what he said seriously?

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: Or what he’s written seriously?

MR. CROWLEY: Of course. For someone of President Clinton – President Carter’s stature as a former president, as a Nobel laureate, of course, his views have – carry weight. But by the same token, the sinking of the Cheonan is a fact. It was a provocative act.


MR. CROWLEY: And we are looking to see not just the aspirations of North Korea but the actions of North Korea, and we’ll be guided by North Korea’s actions.

QUESTION: So do you think that his omission of this fact from this piece in which he says that he thinks that the North Koreans are eager to get back to talks is a rather glaring omission and --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to characterize --


MR. CROWLEY: I read President Carter’s op-ed --

QUESTION: Were you surprised that it was not mentioned in there?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I read it with interest, as I’m sure others in the building – we respect his --

QUESTION: Were you waiting for a sentence about the ship sinking?

MR. CROWLEY: We respect his views. But by the same token, as President Carter said in his op-ed, he’s offering his views as a private citizen, and in his interactions with North Korea, he made clear that he was not representing the official policy of the United States Government. We do, in fact – we are focused on the Cheonan, but these consultations that Steve Bosworth and Sung Kim and others have had this week are, in fact, to try to identify a path forward from the Cheonan. But there are things that we will be focused on as to actions that North Korea must take to demonstrate that it is willing to behave more constructively in terms of its interactions with South Korea and others in the region.

QUESTION: From President Carter’s briefing to the Secretary – does the Secretary understand that the – that President Carter discussed the Cheonan incident with the North Koreans while he was in Pyongyang?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to characterize the discussion that the Secretary had with --

QUESTION: Well, it goes to – you say that you hold his opinions in high regard, and yet he is – he has omitted the main – the biggest hindrance that’s come up in the last several months to a resumption of direct talks. He has completely ignored it. So I --

MR. CROWLEY: By the same token, I mean, we are very mindful of what has happened. But in fact, what Steve Bosworth and Sung Kim and others – we are focused on the way forward in light of the Cheonan. The current situation should not stay in limbo forever. We are willing to engage. We are willing to do so on a bilateral basis, on a multilateral basis. We want to get back into negotiations with North Korea. But the onus is on North Korea. There are steps that they have to take first.

QUESTION: Is it responsible to move ahead unless there’s been some kind of movement from the North on this incident?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we said, among – we’re not going – we don’t have a detailed list you must do this, this, this, this, and this. But among the steps that we are looking for from North Korea to demonstrate that it is willing to be a constructive actor in this process, in light of the Cheonan, is that it should take affirmative steps to improve its relations with South Korea, thereby significantly reduce the tensions in the region that North Korea is itself responsible for. So we’ll be guided by North Korea’s actions, not just its aspirations. And based on what North Korea does, we will respond accordingly.

QUESTION: So President Carter mentioned the return of the South Korean ship – the ship that was – the fishermen and their willingness to resume these family meetings. Is that enough? Are those positive actions?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it is --

QUESTION: Or do they need to address the Cheonan too?

MR. CROWLEY: It is fair to say that North Korea is making gestures and – that demonstrate that it has an interest in getting back to the Six-Party process. We share that interest. By the same token, there are things that North Korea has to do. And there – as Steve Bosworth said again today in Beijing, we want to see North Korea take affirmative actions associated with its – with the 2005 communiqué. We want to – so we have the ability to verify that, in fact, they have taken specific steps that demonstrate their commitment to denuclearization. So as North Korea takes these actions, we will assess and – but part of the process of what Steve has been going through with his team over the past few days is these consultations to understand what the path forward is, share ideas among our partners in the Six-Party process, so that we’re prepared to respond should North Korea take a different path.

QUESTION: The South Korean defense minister said today the North is proposing working-level military talks; that’s a new thing. Is that enough? Or is the nuclear component, is that a requirement that they have to do something on the nuclear side specifically to demonstrate their –

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I wouldn’t say there’s one thing. There’s a – there are specific things that North Korea can do associated with its prior commitments, but we will be looking for sustained action by North Korea. And based on that performance, we’ll judge whether they are serious about not only just coming back to talks, but through those talks to make real progress towards denuclearization of the North – of the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: New subject? Iraq, the $400 million settlement which is now pending in the Iraqi parliament. Any reaction to – for the people – victims who have sued the Saddam Hussein regime?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have signed an agreement with Iraq on compensation for victims’ claims and the agreement is working its way through the Iraqi political process.

QUESTION: Do you see – is that – because there was some irking in the Iraqi populace over the situation saying, “Hey, why should we have to cut this check for the occupiers,” so to speak. I mean, that’s being reported in the region. Is there a sense that that might – that as this settlement works its way through the Iraqi parliament, that might have some adverse effect on the strengthening of – you talk about the Iraqi parliament trying to be stable and trying to move forward and all those things? Is that sort of a fly in the ointment that might muck things up?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t call it a fly in the ointment. You’re right; the current government is not directly responsible for the actions that occurred during the regime of Saddam Hussein. By the same token, Iraqi leaders have accepted that they have to resolve issues, some of them with the United States, but others with neighbors such as Kuwait. And as the Iraqi Government demonstrates a political commitment – and we appreciate that commitment to work beyond these issues – it opens up the opportunity, say in the context of Kuwait, for stronger bilateral relations going forward. These are the steps that we believe that Iraq is taking and must take so that it can enjoy the same kind of relationship with its neighbors as we hope it will.

QUESTION: Iran’s foreign minister yesterday said Iran’s atomic case in IAEA is the most clear and straightforward cases amongst the others, also said that the U.S. and allies and the IAEA concern over its atomic activities is baseless and seeking credibility. And also Ahmadinejad said that sanctions have got no effects on his country whatsoever. Do you see anything positive coming next week if Iran delegation gets the visa to come to U.S.?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can’t predict whether anything positive will come out of next week. It depends on the approach that President Ahmadinejad takes when he arrives at the UN next week. I believe it was just over a year ago where President Obama, in a discussion with President Medvedev, revealed the existence of the secret facility in Qom, which proved that, in fact, our concerns are factually based.

So for Iran to dismiss that the claims are false – in truth, we have significant evidence that Iran is doing things that go beyond any plausible civilian nuclear program. It’s one of the reasons why we have steadfastly offered to engage Iran directly so that, to the extent that we have questions and to the extent that Iran has answers, we can resolve these issues. It is Iran that has failed to come forward and cooperate fully with the IAEA or answer the questions that the international community has about the true nature of its nuclear program. As Secretary Clinton said in one interview today, “This should not be hard.”

On the issue of sanctions, we believe they are having an effect. I believe the Secretary today mentioned that Mr. Rafsanjani, among others, have indicated publicly that we should – that they should – Iran should take sanctions seriously. The fact is that they are having an impact. Iran is one of the most, if not the most, sanctioned country on earth. It is isolated from the international community. It has very few friends around the world.

If Iran wants to have a different relationship with the international community, including the United States, answering the questions that the international community has about its nuclear program would be a very important step.


QUESTION: One other subject. Pakistan drones? Its drone activity seems to have gone up quite a bit in September. Is this seen by the U.S. Government as a way – sort of a way to push the diplomatic efforts forward in terms of negotiating the different parts of the Taliban in the area?

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t do drones at the Department of State.

QUESTION: At all? (Laughter.) I know you don’t do drones, but do you have a comment on the diplomatic part of it?

MR. CROWLEY: We do have an air force here at the Department of State, but it doesn’t include drones. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)

DPB #152