Victoria Nuland
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 15, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • IRAN
    • Bill in Congress
  • PAKISTAN
    • Support Cooperation on Civilian Side and Security Side
    • Investigation Ongoing
  • IRAQ
    • Operations
  • EGYPT
    • Blogger
  • RUSSIA
    • Elections
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Impact of Possible Government Shutdown
    • Bradley Manning Trial/WikiLeaks
  • ISRAEL
    • Secretary's Meeting with Defense Minister
  • MIDDLE EAST
    • Arab League
  • DPRK
    • Ambassador Robert King's Discussions in Beijing
  • TURKEY
    • Support Freedom of Religion
  • SUDAN
    • No U.S. Licenses Have Been Issued to Allow Lobbying by Government of Sudan


TRANSCRIPT:

12:49 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: You have nothing to say at the top?

MS. NULAND: I have nothing to say at the top.

QUESTION: The day that the Iraq war ends and the State Department takes over everything in Iraq, and you don’t have anything to say?

MS. NULAND: Well, Secretary Panetta said a lot, the President said a lot, and you know where we are. We are ready for our responsibilities.

QUESTION: All right. Have you made up your mind on the bill, on the sanctions, Iran sanctions?

MS. NULAND: On the Iran bill?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Well, here’s what I can say to you. First, let me just say that we did engage quite vigorously with the Congress when this legislation was being crafted. Now, as we wait for the final passage of the bill, we are at the stage of looking hard at how one might implement this in a way that ensures that the goals that the Administration and the Congress share, which are to maximize the pressure on the Government of Iran, are implemented in a manner that affects Iran but also protects the legitimate interests of America’s friends and allies around the world. So we are looking hard at the implementing aspects of this, and it’s the subject of a robust conversation here.

QUESTION: And when you said that – what – can you explain what you mean by the implementing aspects?

MS. NULAND: Well, this legislation requires – and again, it’s not – it’s just a bill at this stage; it hasn’t been finally passed – it requires certain obligations of the Administration in order to comply. So those, obviously, have to be interpreted, they have to be explained, they have to be managed, and we’re in the process of looking at – hard at how we will do it.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but I’m just wondering the implementing aspects – I mean, does that mean you’re looking at what exactly would trigger this, how exactly a waiver could be applied if it were to be applied? What – are those the kinds of things that are being looked at?

MS. NULAND: I think the full spectrum of how one will implement this legislation in a manner that maximizes the pressure on Iran while causing minimum disruption for friends and allies of the U.S. are the subject of our (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. How – can you say how serious a concern this is, or that your friends and allies – how – what their concerns are and how serious they are, as they have expressed them to you?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re – again, this is still a bill. It’s not a piece of legislation yet. We will have some time in the legislation to work through how the Administration proposes to implement this. So we have a number of friends and allies around the world who are interested in the results of that work. So we have obviously pledged to work with them as we work it through ourselves, but we’ve got to do some work here first.

QUESTION: And my last one on this – when you say that you’re looking into the implementing aspects, does that mean that there is a view that not all of it could – that not all of it is required to be implemented, or that there’s a way to only implement some parts of it and not others?

MS. NULAND: No, of course not. We want to implement the will of the Congress. We want to – we share the intent, which is to increase the pressure on Iran. But as you know, with these kinds of complex pieces of legislation, there are various provisions that allow for interpretation, and those have to be worked through, including with the Congress.

QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: Toria, on Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Yes. New topic, Ros.

QUESTION: Pakistan.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

QUESTION: You want to stay on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah. Stay on the bill.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the sanctions topic? I got a --

MS. NULAND: Go ahead. Let’s stay there, then.

QUESTION: Couple of questions.

First question is: Isn’t it true that the legislation does allow the Administration considerable leeway in application of the sanctions? And secondly, I’d also like to know where the conversations stand between the Administration and South Korea and Japan, who would like waivers from the sanctions.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said, we have to look hard at this as it moves from the bill stage to the law stage, and we have to look at the authorities that it gives the Administration and the President and the Secretary with regard to implementation, and we have to figure out how we’re going to implement it. And then we have to explain that to a whole host of folk, including our friends and allies around the world. So we’re just at the beginning of looking at this. And again, it’s not even a law yet. So those conversations will have to happen, but they haven’t happened yet.

QUESTION: But regarding the portion in the bill concerning Pakistan, you spoke the other day on that as well. But after it passed the House yesterday, there is – there are still reports that it seeks to freeze $700 million in military aid to Pakistan. So if you could sort of just comment, what is the exact situation? Because the Embassy in Islamabad has issued a contradiction saying that this is not the case.

MS. NULAND: Well, we spoke to this at length yesterday. From what we’ve seen, from what our Embassy has seen, there has been some misunderstanding of this in the Pakistani press. What this piece of legislation requires is that the Administration make certain certifications as to how our general relationship with Pakistan is going in certain categories in order to release the money, but this is not about cutting funding or freezing funding. We’re working on setting the funding levels with the Congress. It is about imposing on the Administration certain certification requirements before we would release the money that the Congress would give. This is very similar to procedures that we have on other kinds of money for countries around the world. These are certification requirements.

In addition, I would say that they usually include some kind of waiver authorities for the Secretary. And I’d also like to say that this in no way impinges on Pakistani sovereignty. We’ve seen some strange assertions in the Pakistani press, which are inaccurate.

QUESTION: So that means that it does not require any certification or report from Pakistan? And do you think it will not have any bearing on the aid that will be given to Pakistan in the next year?

MS. NULAND: These are certifications that the U.S. Administration has to make to the Congress about how our relationship with Pakistan is going. These are not responsibilities of the Government of Pakistan.

QUESTION: Also on Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we stay (inaudible) just on that – this issue? It is the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense who makes the certification?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think the question goes to – there are some issues in each of the bills. There are some with regard to the civilian funding and there are some with regard to the Defense Department funding.

QUESTION: But the point is if the certifications aren’t made, the money doesn’t go.

MS. NULAND: Well, if we can’t certify that we’re making progress, then we have to work with the Congress on what portion of the money would or wouldn’t go.

QUESTION: But aren’t similar reporting requirements already in place for the coalition support fund that is given to Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: These are similar to some of the reporting requirements we already have. The categories change a little bit. Frankly, if you need a detailed briefing on this, we’ll have to get it for you separately. I am not a super-wonk on what’s changed here –

QUESTION: Just in general on the Pakistani reaction to this, which it would appear that at least some in Pakistan don’t really want this money. Why are we trying to force it down their throats if they think that they would be better off without it? If this is some horrible infringement – or they think it is – on their sovereignty, why do we give it to them?

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly I can speak only, at this point, to the civilian money that’s run by the State Department. All of these programs that we have asked the Congress to support, have asked the American people to support, are negotiated and done in cooperation with the Government of Pakistan, or with NGOs, or other groups in Pakistan who have asked for our assistance. If and when we get to a stage where government-to-government programs are no longer wanted or desired, then obviously we can give the money back to the American people. But these are all against programs that we either do government-to-government or we do with NGOs that very much welcome and have asked for this money.

QUESTION: Well, isn’t it frustrating, if not galling, to see this kind of a reaction from a country that’s on the receiving end of billions of dollars in U.S. aid?

MS. NULAND: Let me just say that our budgeting process in the U.S. Congress is pretty complicated, even for Americans to understand. And this is not the first time that we’ve had recipients of money around the world have difficulty understanding exactly what the Congress has asked for.

QUESTION: It seems to be a particular problem with Pakistan, because the same thing happened with the Lugar – whatever it was called – the Kerry-Lugar-Berman money. It seems that they willfully misunderstand this in order to rile themselves up. Some could take that, and some on the Hill have seen this as being ungrateful. Does this building agree?

MS. NULAND: Given the size of these programs, it’s natural that there are going to be lots of reporting requirements to the Congress. This is a lot of money that the American taxpayer is putting into our shared relationship with Pakistan. So that makes each of these bills quite complicated. And so it is incumbent on us to explain it, and we have done that in the past, and we’re continuing to try to do that in this case.

QUESTION: And – is the Administration confident that aid will continue to flow into Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: That we will continue to be able to --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: -- support our cooperation with Pakistan on both the security side and the civilian side?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: We are.

QUESTION: You mentioned certification requirement. So far, this certification requirement from State to Congress, what exactly you are expecting from Islamabad?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I have said that these are reporting requirements that the U.S. Administration has to make to the Congress reporting on how different aspects of our cooperation with Pakistan are going. These are not obligations of the Government of Pakistan.

Ros.

QUESTION: And just a quick one. And with Pakistan blocking the NATO supplies, do you think that you will be able to certify these requirements?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think you’re mixing apples and oranges here. There are certain --

QUESTION: I’m talking about cooperation with Pakistan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah, again, I don’t have a crystal ball for where we’re going to be in aspects of the relationship when it comes time for either DOD or the State Department to make the reporting requirements and certifications that we need. But as you know, we are very committed to this cooperation across the civilian and security sectors because we think that working together on these issues is the best way to keep the American people safe, the Pakistani people safe, and also support regional peace and stability, including in Afghanistan.

Ros.

QUESTION: During the --

QUESTION: This goes back to the November 26th bombing, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. This morning the acting ambassador and the military attaché for the Pakistani Embassy held an off-camera briefing, essentially trying to get ahead of the CENTCOM report on that attack, which killed the soldiers. And essentially, their points were this: (1) Similar NATO attacks on Pakistani border outposts have happened three times, the Pakistanis cooperated, and yet these sorts of incidents continue to happen, which is why they’re not cooperating. And they’re also suggesting that based on their reconstruction of the timeline of the approximately two hours of that attack, that NATO was well aware after about 40 minutes that these were friendlies, not enemies, and yet this whole process continued. And the question from the Pakistanis is: Why should we trust the United States? Why should we trust NATO? Why have we cooperated?

So my question to you is: What reassurances can the U.S., can NATO, can ISAF give to the Pakistanis that the investigation is going to be a fair one, that the proper amount of compensation – and I use that term very loosely – will be given to the Pakistani people? They're still very upset that they bent over backwards – their words, not mine – and yet they don’t feel that anything is going to change coming out of this.

MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, first of all, let me say that I'm not going to get ahead of the CENTCOM investigation. It is still ongoing. When this tragic incident happened, you know that every senior American called every senior Pakistani, from the President to the Secretary on down, to express our condolences and to pledge a full, transparent investigation. So we are doing that investigation now.

We invited the Pakistanis to participate with us in the investigation. And frankly, that would have been the best way for them to have eyes on and to ensure the credibility of what we were up to. The Government of Pakistan declined to participate. We are obviously – we obviously remain open to that kind of participation.

But we also are very firmly committed to understanding what happened here because – you were right – we have had, in the past, similar difficulties coordinating and communicating on the border. And we've got to get to the bottom of what happened, we've got to learn lessons, because, frankly, we need to continue to cooperate here. We can't either of us – Pakistan, the United States, or Afghanistan, frankly – allow these areas to remain safe havens for terrorists or for Taliban. So we've got to work this out, and that's what we're committed to doing.

But I'm not going to prejudge this report until it is out and until we've had a chance to talk to the Pakistanis about it, work with them on it, and learn lessons from it, and improve procedures as a result of it.

QUESTION: It would seem as if they are, in essence, raising the standard for what would comprise NATO/ISAF – the word escapes me, but basically to show true remorse for what happened. It seems as if the Pakistanis are raising the standard that it's not enough to have taken part in yet another investigation because, in their view, it didn't matter; they still lost 24 of their soldiers, including two officers. Is the U.S., is NATO prepared to say, "We will hold people accountable. We will punish people for something that never should have happened"?

MS. NULAND: Again, Ros, you're asking me to get ahead of an investigation report, which has not been released. But the idea is to investigate this fully, investigate it transparently, investigate it credibly, and then work with Afghanistan, Pakistan, ISAF to ensure that we learn the lessons and take it from there. So I don’t want to prejudge either what's in the report or what the recommendations will be for improving the situation in any of the ways that you discussed until the report is out.

QUESTION: But the question is that will any heads roll, or will somebody will be held accountable in case the report finds – comes to that conclusion?

MS. NULAND: You're asking me to prejudge things that we won't know whether they're appropriate until the report has come out. Thanks.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have an accurate sense of just how profound the anger is on the Pakistani side?

MS. NULAND: We have been in constant and intense dialogue with our Pakistani counterparts. We understand the concern. Frankly, there is plenty of concern on the American side as well.

Said.

QUESTION: Yes. On Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Could you tell us operationally how the end – the declaration – the official declaration of the end of the war will impact U.S. operations? You have a very large embassy, but you also have consulate, one of them in Basra very near in kilometers away from the Iranian border and so on. So what kind of logistics are implemented in place, first, to conduct activities with the public in Basra, and second, to protect it from a possible Iranian targeting?

MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for that, Said. As the President and Secretary and Secretary Panetta have made clear, as our troops withdraw, nonetheless, our intensive engagement with Iraq continues. It continues in the full range of political programs, economic, security support, et cetera. We are going to have a very large embassy there on the scale of some of our largest embassies around the world in places like Egypt, India, Mexico, Pakistan, and we will have security as well for our 2,000-ish diplomatic personnel provided by contract security, both at our Embassy in Baghdad, at our (inaudible) in Kirkuk – sorry, in Erbil and in Basra and our mission in Kirkuk. So we are – we've been working on this for some time. We are ready, and we are eager to take our relationship with Iraq to that next sovereign stage of partnership.

QUESTION: Okay. Just to follow up, the United Nations and other organizations have depended, by and large, on U.S. support on military assets – let's say helicopters and other assets to move about and so on. So how will – and it was all done through the Embassy. Will there be also some sort of – will you facilitate their movement as you have done in the past, perhaps, by whatever means available?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you're referring to an earlier time in our Iraq engagement. Increasingly, the international organizations have --

QUESTION: Well, until recently. I mean, until very recently.

MS. NULAND: Increasingly, the international organizations have also been moving to contract security. They've been moving to contract transportation support, and we have encouraged that, and we work with them on appropriate ways to do that and ensure safety and security.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: You mentioned several other embassies that you said were on the scale of this. Is that actually correct? I mean, I don’t think --

MS. NULAND: In terms of those personnel who are under ambassadorial chief of mission authority, separate and apart from the security personnel, obviously --

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, exactly.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, so – I mean, isn’t the vast majority of the people who are there security people?

MS. NULAND: Right. When I spoke of this Embassy staff being comparable to some of these missions – very large missions we have in other places, I'm talking about the diplomats, the security trainers, the AID workers, the folks who support business exchange from the Commerce Department, et cetera, who are under chief of mission authority.

QUESTION: The –

MS. NULAND: That's about 2,000. That’s about the size that we have in other places. On top of that, obviously, in Iraq, because of the security situation, we’re going to have this contract security presence.

QUESTION: But don’t those contract security people come under chief of mission?

MS. NULAND: They do not. They do not.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Victoria, just a quick --

QUESTION: I had a question about -- from the podium a couple of times the total number has been mentioned as 16,000. So you’re now talking about 2,000 U.S. Government employees there. Are we to presume that the remaining 14,000 are all security?

MS. NULAND: I think your number is a little high, Andy. And the numbers are moving around as we continue to evaluate what we need. But it’ll be quite large on the security side, and it’s around what we’re talking about.

QUESTION: So if these security contractors don’t come under chief of mission authority, who do they report to?

MS. NULAND: Well, they report – they are on contract to the Embassy.

QUESTION: But doesn’t that --

MS. NULAND: But they don’t have the diplomatic protections that are – that those staff who are direct employees of the U.S. Government have.

QUESTION: Well, why – okay. On the immunity I understand that, but I mean, if the ambassador or the – I don't know – number two, says, “Hey, I want you to go over there,” can the guy say, “No, I’m not going to do that because you’re not my boss?”

MS. NULAND: They are providing a contracted service --

QUESTION: Yeah. But, I mean, they --

MS. NULAND: -- to the Embassy.

QUESTION: But they have to do what the Embassy people tell them to do, right?

MS. NULAND: They have to fulfill the contract that they’ve signed up for, but they are not direct employees of the Embassy.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Victoria, just – sorry – one last one on this one. On the visa status of those security contract – or the contractor, has that all – are all those visas been issued? Is this all set that they’re ready to go?

MS. NULAND: We talked about this. I think it was Monday or Tuesday. As you know, the Iraqis have now said that all these people need to have visas. That’s appropriate for a sovereign country. We are moving apace to make sure that those visas can be issued on time, and we’re quite confident that it’ll be smooth.

QUESTION: Can I just go through the numbers real quick? Because I think in October you guys put out a whole fact sheet with some of – or I think it was a TQ you guys put out on some of the numbers that you were going to have.

MS. NULAND: Why don’t we – if we want to get into numbers, let’s do some of that offline.

QUESTION: Well, can I just ask you real quick, at the time you guys said that by the end of the year you would have 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 general life contractors. Are those numbers, more or less, what you’re still looking at, or have those gone up since then?

MS. NULAND: With regard to the end of the year numbers, I’ll have to take it and get back to you.

Please, Said.

QUESTION: I have a question regarding Tariq Aziz.

MS. NULAND: Say again?

QUESTION: I have a question regarding Tariq Aziz, who is in custody. Tariq Aziz was a very high official during the Saddam era. He’s known to the Americans. He negotiated with Secretary Baker in Geneva. A spokesman said that they will execute him come January 1 or 2. He was in U.S. custody and he was turned over to the Iraqis. Has there been any appeal on – he’s a very sick man, he’s a very old man. There’s been appeals by the Pope and others. He’s probably the only high-level Christian Iraqi who’s in custody and facing execution. Has there been any kind of effort on part of the United States to sort of spare him?

MS. NULAND: Our view is that this is a matter for the internal justice system of the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: But when he turned himself – he turned himself directly to the Americans, and as it seems at the time, he was promised that he will not be executed; in fact, probably his departure would be facilitated.

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that, Said, but I can say that from our perspective this is a matter of – for the internal justice authorities of Iraq, and as you know, we have said to the Iraqis what we say around the world, that we want to see the highest international justice standards upheld there to be satisfied.

QUESTION: Okay. But under the circumstance, wouldn’t it be a good idea for Iraq to show goodwill and spare his life, considering that he’s a very old and sick man?

MS. NULAND: Said, I don't have anything further to say on that one.

QUESTION: On Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Please, Samir.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just one more on Iraq.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Does the lack of an opening statement from you or any kind of statement from the Secretary, at least so far today, about this – about the end of the war – is that a reflection of the unpopularity of the war within this building?

MS. NULAND: I would not read too much in that. We have Secretary Panetta --

QUESTION: You just forgot about it?

MS. NULAND: No. We have Secretary Panetta in Iraq today speaking on behalf of the Administration. As we take over the leading role in Iraq, they’ll be plenty of opportunities for the Secretary and other Department principals to speak about Iraq. I don't think anybody in the Administration has been shy about speaking about Iraq at all this week.

Please, Samir.

QUESTION: The military court in Egypt ordered the blogger – his name is Maikel Nabil -- yesterday for two years in jail. Do you have any reaction towards this kind of violations of human rights?

MS. NULAND: We do, Samir. We are very concerned about reports that the military court has, again, sentenced Maikel Nabil Sanad to prison for criticizing the Egyptian armed forces. You know our view that civilians ought to be tried in civilian courts. We continue to urge the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to reconsider this verdict, and we call on the government to protect the universal rights of all Egyptian citizens, including the right to free expression.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Putin had his annual call-in session today, and he had some choice criticism for the United States. Do you chalk this up to him trying to divert attention here, or do you take it seriously when he accuses the U.S. of wanting vassals, not allies?

MS. NULAND: Well, you’d have to speak to Prime Minister Putin about his motives for some of the comments that he made.

QUESTION: Do you have any --

MS. NULAND: I think from our perspective, as we’ve said earlier on, we were gratified by some of the commitments made, including by President Medvedev, to investigate concerns about the election. We were also gratified to see that peaceful protest was allowed to go forward peacefully, and we call on Russia to continue to support the rule of law.

QUESTION: So you dismiss his accusation that the U.S. had direct involvement in execution Qadhafi? That’s what he said.

MS. NULAND: We absolutely reject that.

QUESTION: Did – so you don’t take issue with his use of the word “vassals”? You don’t think maybe “serfs” would have been a more appropriate – (laughter) --

MS. NULAND: Well, it’s possible it was a mistranslation, right? Yeah.

Elise.

QUESTION: Can I talk about the impact of the State Department’s services on a potential government shutdown. I don't know if you have those – what would happen readily available, but I was wondering about government services like visa processing, passport application processing, also workers in the field. Do you have any kind of capsulation of what would be affected if there was a government shutdown?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we always do when we’re in this kind of a season, we are in the process of preparing policies in the event that we need them, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget. We are not, at this stage, obviously, where we’re prepared to announce anything, but we’re obviously – we will if we need to, and we always are looking at these kinds of issues, emergency services for U.S. citizens, emergency visas, that kind of thing.

QUESTION: So you can’t say – I mean, isn’t there a potential government shutdown kind of soon?

MS. NULAND: Again, we’re working on it, but it’s not useful to the negotiations to be putting out plans preemptively. So we’re working on it, we will be ready if we need to be, but we’re not prepared to announce (inaudible) today.

QUESTION: Really? I would think that if you said, oh, I’m sorry, we’re going to have to shut down all passport issuance and, sorry, the special issuance office for members of Congress is going to be closed, that that might actually have a beneficial impact on the negotiations. No?

MS. NULAND: Suffice to say these negotiations are being led by OMB, not by this building, so we will wait and see what they come up with.

Andy.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton met the Israeli defense minister yesterday afternoon.

MS. NULAND: She did.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any readout on that meeting.

MS. NULAND: I think I spoke yesterday about what you could expect --

QUESTION: Monday.

MS. NULAND: -- from that meeting.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: And it went pretty much according to the script.

QUESTION: What does that mean? Could you just --

QUESTION: Yeah, if you could just go over it again.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Especially the bit about the green light for Israel to attack Iran. (Laughter.) That’s the part that --

MS. NULAND: Well, we talked in particular – I don’t know that I still have it here today, but we talked in particular about our strong support for Israeli security, the work we do there to enhance and support Israel, et cetera, and the full range of bilateral and regional issues that we work on together.

Samir.

QUESTION: I saw a Turkish delegation were leaving the building yesterday. Are you having any specific talks with Turkey about Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, we always talk to Turkey about Syria. Every time the Secretary meets with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Syria comes up and we have an intense discussion, as we did in Brussels last week. I don’t know who that delegation was. I don’t think it was for the Secretary, but if you’d like to know, we can check with our European bureau.

Please.

QUESTION: To a – an inclusive interview to AFP, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he will soon send a delegation to Damascus to initiate a mediation between the Syrian authorities and the opposition. Are you aware of this, and what’s your position?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously seen the comments by Prime Minister Maliki. Our understanding is that this would be in support of the Arab League’s efforts to get the Asad regime to meet its commitments to support the Arab League plan, to have the violence end, to have security forces pulled back to barracks, to open a dialogue, et cetera, to allow human rights monitors in, to allow free press back in. So obviously, we support efforts by the Arab League to get compliance there, because we support those same goals.

QUESTION: Does this imply that there is still room to salvage the Asad regime?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know where we are on the Asad regime. We think that it’s high time for him to go. We think he has missed his opportunity to save his country.

QUESTION: But are you concerned that there may be a concentration of alliances between Iran, Iraq, and Syria at this stage, with this new sort of energized Iraqi diplomacy?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think the President spoke to that, and Prime Minister Maliki spoke to that, on Monday. So I certainly can’t improve on what was said there.

QUESTION: Yeah, but they say that we don’t want Iranian influence and we reject that and so on but, in fact, there is a great deal of coordination. Just for one, I mean, Iran is becoming the major supplier of electricity for Iraq, so it is quid pro quo as far as they are concerned.

MS. NULAND: Again, this was spoken to on Monday, and our view is that Iraq will act in its own national interest. Iraq has been supportive of the assertions of the plan of the Arab League, and it – to the degree that it can get any of those measures implemented, it’ll help the Syrian people, obviously.

In the back? Thanks.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: On North Korea, Ambassador King today met with his DPRK counterparts in Beijing. Do you have a readout of that meeting?

MS. NULAND: Those meetings are continuing tomorrow, so I think we’ll wait until they’ve completed the round before we have anything to announce. But I think you heard them say in Beijing today the same thing that we said yesterday, that these are focused on the monitoring aspects of any decision that we might take with regard to nutritional assistance.

QUESTION: Originally, it just started out as a – one day of meetings. So does this mean that it was a good meeting, therefore they’ve extended it to two (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: I really have no adjectives at my disposal. I haven’t talked to Ambassador King. Let’s let him finish, and then we’ll see where we go.

QUESTION: And also --

QUESTION: Do you anticipate that there will be an announcement or a decision made tomorrow, or just --

MS. NULAND: No. There’ll be no decision made tomorrow. He has to come back and report, and we have to look at what he has to say, absolutely.

QUESTION: And also, for Ambassador Davies, he’s concluded his trips to Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing. Do you have a readout of his meetings in each of those three countries?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we’ve spoken to those meetings as they’ve gone through. He had his last meeting today with Communist Party senior officials. He’s on a plane now coming home, so he needs to also come home and report. But you know that these were primarily designed as introductory meetings for him so that he could meet his counterparts in these three important partner and allied countries in the Six-Party Talks and concert views on where we go next.

QUESTION: In any of his meetings, do you know if there was a decision to move forward and do something together with the (inaudible).

MS. NULAND: Again, the U.S. Government won’t make a decision on what to do next until he comes home and reports. So I would – it was more of a consultation.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ms. Nuland, Congress passed Resolution 306, which calls the Turkish Government to return churches to Christian minorities because most of the churches that are situated in Turkey do not really belong to Christian people. And actually, the resolution calls the Administration to communicate with Turkish counterparts with this regard. So can you please comment on this? And are you endorsing the content of this resolution?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that the United States has long been an advocate of freedom of religion in Turkey, as we are in countries around the world. We have an ongoing and very robust dialogue with Turkey on these issues, including when the Secretary was in Istanbul and during her trip over the summer. At that time, in August, we welcomed the decree that the Turkish Government made authorizing the return of confiscated properties to Turkey’s 162 non-Muslim foundations, and we continue to urge that that be fully implemented as the best way to take freedom of religion forward in Turkey.

Please.

QUESTION: Some Sudan activist groups and at least one congressman, Frank Wolf, locally, are very upset over a decision by the Administration to allow Sudan to engage a lawyer to represent its interests on things like sanctions. They suggest it’s improper, that it’s maybe even immoral because of the government’s record. What do you have to say to that sort of thing?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think there has been a little bit of misunderstanding here as well. First of all, let me just make clear that no U.S. licenses have been issued to allow lobbying by the Government of Syria.

QUESTION: Sudan.

MS. NULAND: Government of Sudan, sorry. Start it again. No U.S. licenses have been issued to allow lobbying by the Government of Sudan. The State Department has a firm policy of recommending to the Treasury Department, which has to issue these OFAC licenses, the denial of all license applications that seek to lobby on behalf of the Government of Sudan.

That said, I’m going to send you to Treasury with regard to what precisely they did approve with regard to this individual. But it was not for the allowance – allowing of lobbying on behalf of the government.

QUESTION: Can I ask you why that is? Why do you have a policy of recommending denial? I mean, weren’t – wasn’t Sudan, Khartoum, supposed to reap some kind of benefit from allowing the secession of the South? I mean, wasn’t there any plus in there for them?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, these are the kinds of issues that are in the roadmap that we agreed to, and as our two briefers discussed, I think it was Tuesday when we had Raj Shah here and we had Princeton Lyman, we have serious concerns about the continuing violence along the border and about Government of Sudan policy there. And until we can get some peace there, it’s going to be difficult for us to move forward with our half of the roadmap when they’re not moving forward with their half.

Please.

QUESTION: The Secretary yesterday accused the government of Khartoum of raiding and bombardment and across the border raids, and so on. Do you have any information on that?

MS. NULAND: Well again, I would refer you to the comments that Princeton Lyman made on the record, I think it was Tuesday. I think he was pretty full and clear with regard to our concerns in Blue Nile and Kordofan and Abyei, and (inaudible), and in Darfur. So --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Okay?

QUESTION: Could you go back to Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Must we? We still have more?

QUESTION: Yeah. Are you not concerned about these conflicting reports about Pakistan’s president, because – what is happening there? Like, there are conflicting reports that he’s coming back, he’s not coming back, he’s healthy, he’s not healthy.

MS. NULAND: Well again, we’ve spoken to this all week long. Our information is that he had a health issue and that he will be going back when he is ready and when his doctors think he is ready. So I really would refer you to him and to his spokespeople.

QUESTION: And have you increased your diplomatic effort to open the supply lines? Because media reports are coming that there is a rationing of food for U.S. soldiers starting in Afghanistan.

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to that particular report, but I think you probably saw the press conference that General Allen gave earlier in the week, I think it was on Tuesday, in which he made clear that he’s continuing to talk extensively with Pakistani counterparts, including with General Kayani, on these issues and others.

Matt.

QUESTION: Bradley Manning’s trial begins tomorrow. I’m wondering if you have any thought – this building has any thoughts on that? Or, more broadly, just on the impact – the negative impact, how bad the impact was from the WikiLeaks disclosures.

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the trial, it’s now a law enforcement matter, so I’m obviously not going to comment on it when the issue’s in the courts. With regard to the impact of WikiLeaks, we were quite clear at the time, and we remain clear, that it was very – a very bad thing.

QUESTION: Can I ask, following that – at the time you – this building voiced some serious concerns about the effect it might have on sources and methods and, in particular, a number of human rights activists around the world who’ve spoken to embassy officials. Can you speak to the overall impact now, several months later, that you’ve seen from the disclosure of these documents?

MS. NULAND: Well, beyond saying, Kirit, that you know that we stood up a cell in this building to work with individuals who were concerned about their security and we’ve made good progress in trying to help some of these individuals, I think I won’t go into a broad, aggregate effort to, sort of, quantify this. But we were concerned and we have taken measures to try to help those who have been concerned about government --

QUESTION: And do you think those measures have been effective?

MS. NULAND: In a number of cases, we’ve been able to be quite effective.

QUESTION: And have there been any cases in which you feel that somebody’s still at risk?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think it won’t help the people involved for me to go any deeper on this issue.

QUESTION: Okay. And my last question will be just the diplomatic impact, just following on Matt’s question, if you could speak to that at all. I mean, that was a subject at the Secretary’s meetings for months after the initial release --

MS. NULAND: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- I mean, have – are you guys still reeling from that, or is that kind of patched up for the most part?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Secretary spent a good amount of time – I would argue months – working with and reassuring governments around the world and rebuilding trust. And her personal involvement in that, along with the President’s, was absolutely key to getting ourselves back to strong positions with some of our interlocutors around the world.

QUESTION: And you do feel that you’ve reached that point? In other words, where things have patched up?

MS. NULAND: Well, look, I’m not in a position to qualify/quantify, but I would say that we have not had continued representations about WikiLeaks over the past six, seven months. So --

QUESTION: But there have been some kind of tactical changes, I mean, right – of some diplomats not being able to take notes in certain meetings, or like meetings being restricted? I mean there have been practical effects since then, wouldn’t you say?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously taken steps both on the strategic level and --

QUESTION: Well, and host governments also have on you, haven’t they?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think that you can necessarily make a direct link. I mean, in diplomatic conversations, sometimes it’s appropriate to have small meetings, and sometimes it’s appropriate to have bigger delegation meetings. Obviously, individual governments have made their own policy decisions, but more importantly, this building and this government, broadly, has taken steps to address some of the issues that allowed the WikiLeaks thing to happen in the first place.

QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about when you say “It was a very bad thing”? Because it sounds as though from one of your answers to Kirit is that this has pretty much blown over now. And in the light of that, I wonder how difficult it’s going to be for the Administration to make the case that this was, in fact, as damaging as you claim it was – or as you claimed it was at the time.

MS. NULAND: Again, this is now a legal case. The case will be made by the lawyers, and I’m not going to get in the middle of it.

QUESTION: No, I understand. But can you be a little bit – I mean, “It was a very bad thing,” is not particularly enlightening.

MS. NULAND: Matt, we spoke extensively at the time about the damage to America’s reputation, about the damage to individual – individuals who had been open and honest with us, about the risks with regard to trust that are essential for diplomacy. And as I said, the Secretary, the President had to spend many months reassuring governments afterwards. I can’t quantify the residual impact standing here today. But what’s most important is that this case is now in the U.S. courts --

QUESTION: No. It’s in the military courts.

MS. NULAND: -- and that he will face justice. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. I have one more. It’s not on this. Did or is the Secretary going to meet with the Director General of UNESCO?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have that, but let me get back to you on that one.

QUESTION: Anything on the meeting with the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday?

QUESTION: Already answered that.

MS. NULAND: I think I answered that about 15 minutes ago. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

DPB # 194

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 15, 2011]