Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 4, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Flotilla / U.S. Embassy in Touch with Israelis / In Contact with Israel on Iran / Gaza / U.S. Support for Appropriate Paths for Getting Aid into Gaza
    • U.S. Focus is on Working with the Two Parties to Meet Quartet's Next Stage
    • Palestinian Application, Review Process with Membership Committee
  • IRAN
    • IAEA Director General Amano's Report Expected Next Week / Implementation of Sanctions Already on the Books
  • BAHRAIN
    • U.S. Embassy in Touch with Bahraini Government / U.S. Encourages Full Transparency on Investigation of Case / Urging Restraint / Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry
  • CHINA
    • Support of Nongovernmental Groups / U.S. Has Raised Concerns to Government of China About Tibetan Self-Immolations / Under Secretary Maria Otero
  • BURMA
    • Assistant Secretary Posner, Special Envoy Mitchell Visit to Burma / U.S. View that All Political Prisoners Should be Released
  • INDIA/JAPAN
    • Discussion of a U.S.-India-Japan Trilateral / Deputy Secretary Burns
  • SYRIA
    • Recent Reports of Civilian Deaths / Broken Promises / Arab League / Steps to Increase Political and Economic Pressure on Asad Regime / Time for Asad to Step Aside
  • IRAQ
    • Security Incidents / U.S. Civilian Presence / Robust U.S. Embassy and Security Force
  • TURKEY
    • Possible U.S. Sale of Helicopters / State Department in Constant Consultation on the Hill
  • THAILAND/RUSSIA
    • Viktor Bout / Gratified by Finding of Court


TRANSCRIPT:

12:42 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. Before we start, I just want to do a little shout out to the National War College Class of 2011-2012, which is watching in another room because there were way too many of them to have here.

All right. Let’s go to what’s on your minds this Friday.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the Israelis at all about their stopping of these flotilla boats?

MS. NULAND: We have been in touch with the Israelis through our Embassy, yesterday and I think again today. I think you’ve probably seen the press reporting, which we can confirm, that the Israelis were able to board these two ships without any significant incidents, and they are on their way into port in Israel.

QUESTION: Okay. And you don’t have any problem at all with this, right?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we did not want to see this flotilla happen.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. NULAND: But the Israelis have taken measures that they consider appropriate for their security. They are now escorting these vessels into port in Israel.

QUESTION: Well, I guess the question is: Do you agree that it – that these measures are appropriate for their security?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes. Okay. And then the other thing, just on Israel, there’s this continued talk about possible military action against Iran. It doesn’t seem to be dying down. It seems to – and I’m just wondering, I mean, have you sought an explanation from the Israelis about what’s going on, why there are senior officials talking about this possibility, and why now?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we spoke about this yesterday. And the Israeli Government, as you know, yesterday or the day before, made efforts to clarify that this test that they had was something that was routine, that was – had been planned for some time.

QUESTION: Right, but this isn’t --

MS. NULAND: That said, obviously, we stay in very close touch with the Israelis on Iran issues. You know what we are focused on, which is --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: -- economic pressure.

QUESTION: But the test really isn’t what the – I mean, and that’s just one part of the – of what makes up these reports and this kind of chatter that’s going on. It’s the idea that the prime minister is seeking authorization for some kind of a military strike on Iran. Are you aware, or have you asked the Israelis, if this is the case? And if so, why it is now as opposed to some other – any other time?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have been in contact with the Israelis on Iran. We are in contact regularly. We have raised it in recent days. But this is in the realm of press rumor and speculation in Israel which the Israeli Government is responding to, so I’m going to send you back to them.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean – but it seems to be being fueled by comments by senior Israeli officials, or at least people claiming to be senior Israeli officials. So I’m just wondering if you have raised that part of it and the fact that this does elevate tensions with the Israelis.

MS. NULAND: I think some of this press reporting speaks to retired Israeli officials, et cetera. So again, I don’t want to wade too deeply into Israeli internal issues here and press speculation there. Our track with the Israelis, our conversation with the Israelis, our conversation with all of our international partners with regard to Iran, is about increasing economic pressure, increasing enforcement of existing sanctions, so that Iran will come back into compliance.

QUESTION: All right. And on that, just on – this is my last one. On that, you are expecting – in this IAEA report that is supposed to come out next week, are you expecting – you are – am I correct in assuming that you expect that that report will bolster your arguments to the international community that tougher action needs to be taken on Iran?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said yesterday, we are expecting the IAEA Director General Amano’s report sometime next week, I believe. We do expect that it’s going to represent a very thorough investigation of all of these issues done by the IAEA. We don’t want to get ahead of what might be in that report, but we do expect that it will make clear the concerns that we all have that Iran is not meeting its obligations to the international community.

QUESTION: Can we talk about economic pressure for a moment?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You segued very quickly from economic pressure to enforcement of existing sanctions. When the Secretary was asked about this specific question about three weeks ago, she went directly into enforcement of existing sanctions. Is your intent now simply to find ways to better enforce and implement the existing sanctions, or are you either unilaterally as the United States Government or with likeminded countries actively looking at additional new sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think first of all, as we have been saying for a number of weeks, we want to ensure that all countries around the world are doing the most that they can to implement the sanctions that are already on the books, and to really make sure that all of their officials and all of their industries are complying, and to take action against those who are not complying. Because frankly, if all of the sanctions on the books – the strongest sanctions regime ever put down on Iran by the United Nations – were implemented, that would have even more of an effect. And as you’ve seen, the Iranians have already admitted – have admitted, in fact, in recent days – that the sanctions are pinching.

With regard to what more we could, should, or would do, whether we do it unilaterally, whether we do it with partners, I think where we want to be today is to wait and see what comes out in this Amano report, and then see what further action could, should, would be appropriate.

QUESTION: But you are considering additional steps on some basis, not just better implementation of existing ones?

MS. NULAND: I would say that we are always in the process, both nationally and with our partners, of seeing what more we could be – we could do economically to catch Iran’s attention.

QUESTION: And does that include the possibility of designating more Iranian or non-Iranian entities under the Iran Sanctions Act? As you are aware, I believe the only such Iranian entity was this Swiss firm that is believed to be controlled by the Iranian state-owned enterprises. Are you looking at more designations under that?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, no decisions have been made. When there are decisions made, we’ll obviously announce them.

QUESTION: And then one last one. There was an interesting story in the L.A. Times today that said that the Administration has decided against, for the time being, designating the Iranian Central Bank. As you’ll recall, a senior Administration official raised the possibility of doing this in public in Congressional testimony about a month ago. Is that correct? Has that decision been made not to sanction this Iranian Central Bank for now?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t – if and when we have a decision one way or the other on that issue, we will let you know.

QUESTION: You sure about that?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: You’re sure there’s no decision so far then? Because “if and when” means that if you have a decision now, you should let me know now.

MS. NULAND: If we had a decision I would let you know now, Arshad.

QUESTION: So there is no decision?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, as was said from the White House yesterday, options remain on the table.

QUESTION: But would there be an announcement if you decided not to?

QUESTION: Well, she just committed to make one so there will be.

QUESTION: Right. (Laughter.) So does that mean – that means that --

MS. NULAND: When we have something to announce we will announce it.

QUESTION: That’s not what you said. What you said, “if and when we have” --

QUESTION: If something to announce – can that be a negative as well?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think Arshad is --

QUESTION: I mean, because it seems to me that you could be coming out any day, “Today we have decided not to sanction the Bank of the Vatican.” (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Today we have decided not to sanction either Matt Lee or Arshad Mohammed. Yeah.

QUESTION: But wait. Are you saying that there – if a decision is made, hey, whoa, let’s hold off on this, or let’s not do it now, you’re going to come out and say that? Is that –

QUESTION: She just committed to saying that, man.

QUESTION: But I just want to make sure.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) What I said is that if and when we have new measures to announce, you will hear them announced here.

QUESTION: That’s not what you said. The transcript will reflect –

MS. NULAND: All right. All right.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you. Victoria, just going back to the flotilla, you were saying that they are escorting them to the port of what? Which port? I didn’t hear.

MS. NULAND: I believe it’s Ashdod.

QUESTION: Okay. So it will not be allowed into Gaza?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Will the goods on the flotilla be allowed into Gaza?

MS. NULAND: I think that’s a question to ask of the Israelis.

QUESTION: But is it something that you’ve raised with them? A lot of this material is humanitarian aid and so on.

MS. NULAND: Well, you know our view on this, that if humanitarian aid comes to appropriate, regulated ports, we obviously support it going on to Gaza. I can’t speak to this specific shipment, given the fact of the circumstances that it had to be interdicted, et cetera.

QUESTION: Right. But Gaza being besieged as it is, what would be an appropriate port in this case? Would it go over land, would it go into an Israeli port and then be escorted over land and so on? Is there something that the United States Government would like to see in seeing this aid reach the people that it is intended for?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think this is a decision for the Israeli Government to make. In general, we support the fact that there are two approved and appropriate paths for getting aid into Gaza; one through Israel and one through Egypt, where it then goes over land. In this case, where the ships had to be interdicted at sea, I can’t speak to what the Israeli Government would seek to do.

QUESTION: Okay. If I may go to other issues pertaining to the Palestinians, unless there is something on Iran and the flotilla?

MS. NULAND: No.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I saw a – last night I saw a seasoned Palestinian negotiator, Nabil Shaath. He was in town. And he said he – they have basically given up on any kind of movement over the next 12 months. Do you concur with --

MS. NULAND: Any kind of movement of what kind?

QUESTION: Over the – any kind of viable U.S. engagement to produce the processes intended or the results intended in launching the direct talks and negotiations. So they have given up on that process; they’re going to focus on some internal measures. And then he did not comment on a statement made by a spokesman for Abbas, who is saying that we will have a changed Middle East, the PA will take measures that will result in a changed Middle East. So I wanted your comment on the prospect for negotiations and having these negotiations actually being productive in one way or another.

MS. NULAND: Said, our view hasn’t changed on this from yesterday, from the day before yesterday, from Tuesday, from Monday, where we have been saying that we are still very much focused on working with the parties so that they can meet the next stage in the recommended proposal of the Quartet, namely that they can work on proposals to each other, on land, and on security, and that’s our focus.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you have any kind of benchmark that you’d like to achieve as goals for these would-be negotiations or prospective negotiations and so on? And could you, let’s say, announce those benchmarks?

MS. NULAND: Well, we did announce the benchmarks, along with our Quartet partners, in the September 23rd statement. That was to have this first round of discussions, which we had. It didn’t happen exactly the way we wanted. They were proximity talks rather than face-to-face talks. But now we consider we’re in the next stage of that proposal, which is for the parties to work on their own proposals to each other, which we are prepared to assist in, and then, within the 90 days, to exchange those proposals and move to a direct conversation about them. This is all designed to try to narrow the differences between them and get us closer.

QUESTION: Okay. And one last thing regarding the effort that the United Nations. I spoke to the Palestinian Ambassador the UN just before I came in, and not – they seem to be reconciled to the fact that they don’t have the votes at the UN to actually force a U.S. veto. What – would you like to see it happen that way, that you would not be forced into a veto at the United Nations?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we’ve been all along, that we didn’t want to go down this path. So now that we are going down this path, we need to let it play out. So, as you know, the membership committee is reviewing the application. We expect the membership committee to come forward to the Security Council with its report on or around November 11th and we have to let this process that the Palestinians have set in train now play itself out.

QUESTION: But now you are satisfied that Bosnia and Colombia and so on have indicated, and in fact Britain and France they have indicated that they will abstain in the voting. Would that give you a sense of comfort that you don’t have to cast a veto?

MS. NULAND: Look, I’m not going to get into where this process may or may not go. You know that we’re engaged in intensive diplomacy and intensive consultation with all the members of the Security Council. Would we rather not have to veto this? Of course we would rather not have to veto.

QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to the flotilla, the two ships.

MS. NULAND: Lach. Yeah.

QUESTION: You said you’d been in contact with all the governments involved. So you were in contact with the Canadian Government and the Irish Governments?

MS. NULAND: No. I said we were in contact with the Turkish Government. We were in contact with the Israeli Government. I, frankly, can’t speak to the other two. Is that – if that’s of interest to you, we can --

QUESTION: No. I’m just wondering because you are opposed to these aid shipments, so I was wondering if you --

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: -- expressed that openly to them and what they said back to you.

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve been very clear internationally, publically, privately, that we think this is a dangerous idea. And we’ve obviously – we have a warning still on the books for our own citizens.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.

QUESTION: On Bahrain. Protests today – tear gas used by the riot police against the demonstrators. Are you guys aware of that? And have you been in touch with anyone in the Bahraini Government today?

MS. NULAND: We have been in touch with folks in the Bahraini Government. Our Embassy has been in touch. I can’t speak to the precise incidents that you’re speaking to. I’m – are these – were these in connection with the death of the father of Hussein al-Dehi? Was that – yeah. So as I understand the situation, the father of the deputy head of Al-Wefaq died yesterday, and there have been protests around that. So in that context, obviously our condolences go out to Mr. al-Dehi’s family and to his loved ones.

We understand that, in connection with the circumstances of the father’s death, the family has now filed a criminal complaint with the Bahraini police. And we, the U.S., would encourage full transparency as this case proceeds. And we obviously call on everybody to exercise restraint. It is a fragile time in Bahrain as all sides wait for the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry report, so we’re obviously urging restraint on all sides but particularly transparency with regard to the investigation of this case.

QUESTION: But they haven’t actually been very restrained if they’re – if riot police are shooting tear gas at funeral – people marching in a funeral. So that – they’re not exactly heeding your call for restraint.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we – this is an incident that’s unfolding today. We are urging restraint privately. I am urging restraint publicly here today.

Jill.

QUESTION: Toria, there is a report out there about targeting drones and getting into the subject of more careful targeting to avoid other damage or even just to not, let’s say, annoy the Pakistanis as much. In one of those reports, they mentioned that the State Department now has more of a role in actually setting the targeting. Can you explain if that is correct and give us some details?

MS. NULAND: I am sorry to say, Jill, but as you would have predicted, I’m not going to get into intelligence issues at all from the podium.

QUESTION: Could I bring up another subject? China?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Mitt Romney has been talking about the fact that China, apparently, does get some type of foreign aid from the United States. He’s quite critical of that, thinks that China, with its budget and income and economy, can well afford not to have U.S. aid. Do you know what exactly he’s talking about in terms of money and what kind of assistance that might be?

MS. NULAND: Well, let’s, first of all, draw a hard, red line that we’re not going to get into campaign issues here.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: We’re not going to have a tit for tat with candidates here. We’re not involved in politics; we’re not involved in the campaign. So with regard to what this particular candidate is about, I would refer you to his campaign; I would refer you to the President’s campaign.

That said, with regard to what we fund in China – and I can seek a full breakdown for you if that’s helpful – but I would remind that a good amount of the relatively small amount of money that we spend in China, compared to other countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, et cetera, is directed at supporting nongovernmental groups that are involved in protecting rule of law, protecting human rights, protecting the rights of the Tibetan people within China. We have quite a robust program in that regard. So if it’s interesting to you, Jill, we can get a fuller rundown of the money.

QUESTION: It would be. Yeah. Thank you, very much.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else on this subject? No? Back to Bahrain, Said.

QUESTION: We used to have a terror alert, like going from hot red to orange to green. I want to ask if you have like a similar scale for all these uprisings in the Arab world. And where does Bahrain fall on the sense of urgency in terms of dealing or asking for reforms?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re not keeping a stoplight chart on the Arab Awakening and the Arab Spring, if that’s what you’re asking, Said.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking this is because the feeling in the region is that when it comes to Bahrain, or even to a lesser degree Yemen, there seems to be not as much enthusiasm from the podium of the State Department to really call for an urgent end to this or an urgent change for that and so on. Do you agree with that?

MS. NULAND: I disagree.

QUESTION: Do you agree that Bahrain gets a free pass?

MS. NULAND: I vehemently disagree with that, Said. Each situation is different, as you know, but in all situations we are in support of reform, openness, meeting the needs of the people, and particularly support for the universal human rights of individual citizens.

In the context of Bahrain, as we’ve spoken about this week, as we spoke about very fulsomely when the Bahraini foreign minister was here, we are focused on the Bahrainis own commission – Independent Commission of Inquiry report that is coming out with regard to the incidents that have happened in the past. I just spoke out quite forthrightly about what’s going on there today. And we want to see not only a good and transparent and open accounting for human rights concerns of the past, we want to see implementation of the recommendations of the report so that the systemic changes that need to be made are made in Bahrain.

In the back, Lalit.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) special envoy on Burma was traveling to Burma this week. Is he back? And if yes, do you have a readout on it?

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about the visit of Assistant Secretary Posner and Special Envoy Mitchell. Yeah. They just completed their visit to Burma. They did give a press backgrounder in Burma, which is very full. So we’re in the process of doing the transcribing of that, but we’ll have that out for you in an hour or two.

But just to let you know the sort of general scope of what they did, this was Assistant Secretary Posner for Human Rights and Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma Ambassador Mitchell. They were in Burma for the last three or four days. In Nay Pyi Taw, they saw the foreign minister, the defense Major General Hla Min. They saw the chairman of the parliamentary committee. They saw the minister for labor and social welfare. Ambassador Mitchell also saw commander in chief of the armed forces General Min Aung Hlaing. And Secretary Posner met minister of home affairs Lieutenant General Ko Ko.


They then went on to Rangoon, where they saw Aung San Suu Kyi, and they saw National League for Democracy. They saw civil society groups and the National Human Rights Commission. And as I said, they gave a report to the press on their trip, which we’ll get around to all of you in a couple of hours.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. considering lifting any kind of sanctions on Burma at this point?

MS. NULAND: Well, as Envoy Mitchell has said to you in the past, as he’s said publicly, we are looking to match Burmese action with action. I don’t – no decisions have been made on the question that you ask. They need to come home, they need to report, and we need to see how they evaluate whether Burma is continuing on this path of some reforms that we’ve been able to herald, some release of prisoners, but there’s obviously a lot more to be done.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just two follow-ups on that. Is that the first time that Ambassador Mitchell has met the chief of the armed forces?

MS. NULAND: I believe so. I believe that all of these meetings on the military side are firsts for him.

QUESTION: Okay. And I’m looking forward to reading the transcript, but what was the purpose of Assistant Secretary Posner being there too? Was this to – for example, was it to encourage the authorities to release specific additional political prisoners?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know our view on this, Arshad, is that all political prisoners should be released. There was some lack of transparency, at least in our view, in terms of who has already been released and who remains in custody, so – this is Assistant Secretary Posner’s first trip to Burma, so it was his chance to actually sit down with them, get a better sense of who has been released, talk to them about, first of all, the general principle that they should all be released, but also talk about additional particular cases of concern.

QUESTION: Interesting. So he did raise specific particular cases of concern?

MS. NULAND: That is my understanding. Let’s see what they have in their press report, and then we can – if it’s of interest to you, we can have him brief you all more fully when he’s home.

QUESTION: It’d be interesting particularly to know the names of those whom he mentioned.

QUESTION: Did you get the sense that the lack of transparency had been resolved as a result of this?

MS. NULAND: Again, I have to say that this press avail was about half an hour before I came down. I didn’t get a chance to see how he characterized it, but we’ll have a look at that later this afternoon. And if you all are still interested in hearing from him when he comes back, we’ll arrange that.

QUESTION: When – are they back – when are they coming directly back?

MS. NULAND: I think they’re in transit today.

Please, Dave.

QUESTION: More than 60 Darfur, Sudan activist groups have written an open letter to the President. They’re being very well publicized, and they’re saying that the Administration is not doing enough to protect citizens in Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur. And I’m wondering if you have any response to that, if it’s – if this letter is getting scrutiny in the Administration?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, if it’s a letter to the President, then the White House would have the primary response there. Let us coordinate with our colleagues at the White House; I’m sure that they’ll be speaking to this.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Japan. Secretary Burns spoke this morning about a U.S.-India-Japan trilateral, and I know it was kind of discussed back in June. Do you have an update on the progress of that?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you said, Deputy Secretary Burns spoke about it this morning. It’s something that we have supported for some time, and something that we are working to see happen because we think they have a lot of interests in common and that it would be a good forum for us to discuss a number of issues that we work on together.

QUESTION: But has any date been set yet for that trilateral?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no, but I think we’re continuing to work on a date sometime early next year.

QUESTION: Next year? It was earlier (inaudible) that it would be held in November.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re in November, so --

QUESTION: So no. That has been postponed to next year.

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no. But if I’ve gotten that wrong, we’ll get back to you.

Okay. Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah, Dave.

QUESTION: There’s more killings in Syria today, and I wonder, in light of that, what’s the Administration’s view now in this deal between the Arab League and the government?

MS. NULAND: Well, we – as you have noted, we have reports of killings of at least 12 more civilians dead today, 23 dead yesterday. This comes two days after the Asad regime promised the Arab League to implement the plan that they signed up for. And to date, not a single one of the commitments that it has made to the Arab League have been fulfilled. And as – just to remind, these included stopping all of the violence, releasing all detainees, withdrawing all armed elements from populated areas, and allowing unfettered access to journalists and to Arab League monitors.

So as I said yesterday, we have a long, deep history of broken promises by the Asad regime, and we seem to have that streak unbroken here – or broken again.

QUESTION: You’re not optimistic in any way that they will change in the next couple days?

MS. NULAND: We are not.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that if the Syrians don’t abide by the commitments they made under this deal, that you would expect the Arab countries to call publicly on Asad to step down?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, the Arab League countries will make their own national decisions. We’ve made clear to them that we would like to see them, we would like to see all of the partners that we work with on Syria do as much as they can to match the steps that we have already taken to increase the political and economic pressure on the Asad regime. I would also note that the Syrian National Council, the group of Syrian opposition leaders in exile in Turkey, also appeared on Al Jazeera today or yesterday asking the Arab League to take action in light of the Asad regime’s failure.

QUESTION: You said that they should do as much as they can to match the steps you’ve taken. It does sound like you would like them to call on Asad to step down if the Syrians fail to meet their commitments.

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve certainly made clear, the President’s made clear that he thinks it’s time for Asad to step aside, that we do not think that he is capable or willing of leading this transition that has to happen in Syria.

QUESTION: Toria, the regime is saying that on the issue of the detainees, they will let go political detainees, but they will keep detainees that they consider to be security detainees, or those who carried arms against the regime, which really compose a big chunk of those who are in prison, according to them. Would that be acceptable to you, or would you want to see all prisoners released?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have said we want to see all political prisoners released. This sounds like another half-measure, another stalling tactic, another effort to deflect attention from the real issues in Syria, which are that the Syrian Government is not only not listening to the democratic aspirations of its people; it’s continuing to abuse and brutalize them.

QUESTION: So the government has offered an amnesty to people, giving them 72 hours to turn themselves in. Is this something the U.S. thinks that people should avail themselves of given the track record of the Syrian Government?

MS. NULAND: The Syrian Government’s offered an amnesty? I hadn’t heard that. This would be about the fourth amnesty that they’ve offered since I took this job about five months ago. So we’ll see if it has any more traction than it’s had in the past.

QUESTION: Right, but they’re saying that to get – to take advantage – to get the amnesty, you have to turn yourself in. I mean, is that something you would advise Syrian protestors to do?

MS. NULAND: I wouldn’t advise anybody to turn themselves in to regime authorities at the moment.

Please.

QUESTION: Different topic? Yesterday, a Tibetan nun set herself on fire and died. This is the 11th instance of this – these people setting – self-immolations. I don’t know if all 11 have died. Do you regard the Chinese Government’s rule of Tibet as the fundamental cause for this?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak directly to the cause of this. Obviously, you’d have to speak to the community where this is happening. But obviously, we have consistently and directly raised with the Chinese Government our concerns about Tibetan self-immolations, and we have repeatedly urged the Chinese Government to address its counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the unique religious, cultural, linguistic identity of the Tibetan people. We’ve also repeatedly urged the Chinese Government to allow access to all Tibetan areas of China for journalists, diplomats, and other observers so that we can get accurate information and so that you can get accurate information.

And let me take this opportunity to again call on the Government of China to respect the rights of all of its citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms, and particularly the rights of Tibetans to resolve their underlying grievances with the Government of China.

QUESTION: Can you cite the counterproductive policies that you’re referring to, or any others of them that you’re referring to?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that some of these policies are well known – destruction of religious property, displacement of people, replacement of people in sensitive religious areas, et cetera.

QUESTION: And have you – you said that you have raised and continue to raise directly. How have you done that? Has that been through the Embassy in Beijing? Has that been here in Washington? Has there been anything particularly recent on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, my understanding is since this new spate of self-immolations has begun, we’ve had extensive conversations based in Beijing with our – from our Embassy personnel. But as you know, Assistant Secretary Campbell and others have raised these issues directly and regularly, as has the Secretary, on the larger issue of the rights of Tibetan people within China.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Goyal.

QUESTION: Just as far as Tibetan issue is concerned, they have been demonstrating here, also in India, and there is much concern in Dharamsala in India. What I’m asking you, Madam, is: Are you planning or Secretary any kind of special envoy through the United Nations or U.S., somebody that – for their issues and for their concern with the Chinese?

MS. NULAND: Well, we do have a special envoy for religious freedom who addresses this issue. We have our assistant secretary for human rights who addresses these freedom – these issues. We have Maria Otero, our Under Secretary for Global Affairs, who is designated also as the Secretary’s special representative on Tibetan issues. So these issues are very well represented in this building.

QUESTION: And finally, since this is a concern to India very much next door, also tension is over Dalai Lama and over Tibet with China and India. Are you talking also something with the Indian Government or Indian officials? Or are they talking to you about this issue?

MS. NULAND: Well, we regularly talk about Tibet issues with the Government of India.

Anything else? Said. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. We have seen, marked, this increase of violence in Iraq over the past few weeks ever since the President announced that the United States is pulling out. First of all, what is your comment on that? Because October was a very bloody month, like 300 dead and wounded.

And second, will you be prepared for the eventuality of hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilians sort of coming to the U.S. Embassy to be lifted out once the Americans are – leave because they feel their safety will be compromised after the departure of the American military force?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the second one, Said, you can imagine that I’m not going to get into all kinds of dangerous and doomsday scenarios that may or may not occur. On the first issue with regard to security incidents in Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki himself has made clear once again that he’s not going to tolerate violent activities of militant groups. We do believe that the Iraqi security forces are doing their utmost and continue to get stronger with -- in response to these kinds of incidents. But these are the desperate terrorist acts of desperate people that are trying to stand in the way of a democratic future and an integrated, unified Iraq and the progress that the government has already made. So we are concerned.

QUESTION: And is it the feeling of this Department that you do have enough security on the ground to protect American personnel and interests in Iraq post-31 December?

MS. NULAND: You’re talking about after the U.S. military completes its withdrawal?

QUESTION: Yes. Yes, ma’am.

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know and as we’ve talked about here before, we are working on increasing our civilian presence and increasing our contractor protection corps so that that civilian presence can move around and continue to do its work. This is an ongoing work in progress. It’s also an ongoing discussion that we’re having with the U.S. Congress because we’re going to have to fund this presence. But we are very much planning to have a robust embassy of some 1,700 people and a robust security force for them of some 5,000.

QUESTION: And lastly, could you find out for us how will the United States continue to protect Iraqi skies considering that Iraq has no air force at the present time?

MS. NULAND: This is an issue that the U.S. military is working on with Iraq, so I’m going to send you to DOD on that one.

Okay? Oops, one – Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I’ve got two very brief ones.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: If someone else wants to go first, they can. One is on Turkey, and there seems to be a movement of sorts – whether it’s growing quickly or not, it’s hard for me to tell, but it does seem to be getting some traction on the Hill – to oppose arms sales to Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S., to press them much harder, or to at least question their policies towards Israel, towards other countries in the region. One, are you aware of this? They have, I think, sent letters to the Secretary, and there is proposed legislation. And two, if you are aware of it, what do you make of it?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are in regular consultation. We’re in pretty constant consultation with the Hill on these issues. I think you know that Assistant Secretary of Defense Vershbow and an interagency team recently testified on some of these issues. The Department of Defense has recently notified the Congress – I believe it was on October 28th – about the possible sale of three refurbished Cobra attack helicopters for Turkey, which would be for Turkey’s self defense, to modernize its capabilities for regional security and to enhance its interoperability with us and with NATO allies. We are continuing to make the case to the Congress that we think that this would be an appropriate thing to go forward with, and the Department of Defense has the lead in those consultations, but we’re obviously supportive of them.

QUESTION: Right, but this letter – and this has come out in the last two days, post the Vershbow et al briefing, so it apparently didn’t seem to make any – it didn’t make much of an impression with the Hill. So do – are you aware – have you responded to these concerns that have just been – that have – that are just come out this week?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think that we’ve responded to the letter yet. I’ll let you know if that’s not correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And then my second thing was about Viktor Bout. Yesterday, I asked a colleague of yours if the U.S. had anything to say about that. I was referred to the Justice Department, who – and then referred – was referring people to the Southern District of – prosecutors in the case. I’m wondering why the U.S. doesn’t have a comment on it, why the Administration doesn’t have a comment on this aside from just the judge’s ruling, which is not an Administration comment, since you fought so hard for his extradition from Thailand and it became quite an issue between you and the Thais as well as the Russians. I mean, are you – is the Administration pleased with the verdict?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we went to a lot of trouble to get him here to the United States for trial, because we considered that he was guilty of the crimes we had charged him with. And the U.S. justice system has vindicated that concern. He was found guilty of conspiring to sell arms to groups intent on using them against Americans. So we’re obviously gratified by the finding of the court.

Goyal.

QUESTION: Another subject? One, yesterday Pentagon issued a special report on U.S.-India defense relations, and they have sent the report to Congress, but also they mentioned that there might be another report from the commercial side, from the State Department. So that’s what I’m asking you, because they referred to the State Department for it might be some – another commercial sales to India. Do you have any --

MS. NULAND: Commercial sales to India – I don’t have anything on that, Goyal. If we have anything, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And second, one more, on U.S.-Pakistan relations. Yesterday across the street at the United States – USIP, United States Institute of Peace, there were some experts from Pakistan, including former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Mr. Muhammad Riaz Khan and others. What they said that U.S. policy must change as far as U.S.-Pakistan relations and future is concerned because on one side, Pakistan – U.S. is punishing Pakistan; on other side, they want to negotiate with Pakistan. What they – what he said was also that this policy will not work. That’s why there are anti-U.S. elements or sentiments in Pakistan. So what is your comment? I mean, do you have any comments what they are saying now that drone attacks and Haqqani Network and all that, and he said that Pakistan has suffered more than anybody else. And finally, he said, Madam, that this is a United States war, not Pakistan’s war, they are fighting in Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, Goyal, we’ve spoken extensively over the last two weeks – first, when the Secretary was in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then when we – when the Secretary testified on the Hill, and then in the follow-up conversations since then, about U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, U.S. policy towards Pakistan. So I can go back over all that again. I really don’t think it’s appropriate for us here to be responding to every think tanker’s comment at every conference that happens in Washington. So I would just refer you back to the very fulsome testimony that the Secretary gave a week ago.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam.

MS. NULAND: Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

DPB # 168

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - November 4, 2011]