Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 3, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Shutdown Effects on Department / Diplomacy
  • VENEZUELA
    • Current Staffing at U.S. Embassy in Venezuela
  • DEPARTMENT
    • FMF/IMET/PKO Funding for FY14
  • IRAQ
    • Special Immigrant Visas
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Shutdown / Embassy Security
    • Furloughs
  • CHILD SOLDIERS PREVENTION ACT
    • Rwanda / No Waiver Granted / FMF and IMET Funding Withheld
    • No Waivers Granted to Rwanda, Burma, C.A.R., Sudan, and Syria
  • SYRIA
    • Delivery of U.S. Humanitarian Aid Inside Syria
  • IRAN
    • October P5+1
    • Civilian Aviation Agency Seeking to Resume Flights to U.S.
    • Under Secretary Sherman at SFRC
    • Sanctions / U.S. Expectations for Iran / Continue to Work with Allies and Partners in Region
  • PALESTINIANS
    • U.S. Aid to Palestinians / Shutdown
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Negotiations taking Place Regularly
  • RUSSIA
    • Greenpeace / U.S. Citizens Charged with Piracy
  • IRAN
    • Looking for Specific Steps that Address Core Issues
  • BAHRAIN
    • Close Partners in Region /
    • Ongoing Dialogue / Arrest of Opposition Leaders / Concern about Recent Decrees
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Presidential Travel to Asia / Secretary Kerry's Trip
  • SYRIA / TURKEY
    • Border Crossings / Reports of Fighting
  • KEYSTONE
    • Work is Ongoing


TRANSCRIPT:

1:07 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a statement at the top, then I’m happy to open it up for questions.

We talked a lot about the shutdown in this room this week. The President has said that the shutdown was preventable. We’ve been clear that Congress can end it, and that they should. I know some – we’ve talked a lot about one metric or another to judge the shutdown’s impact on the State Department. As you know, funding – single-year, multiyear – varies across agencies. But I think it’s important – we’re a few days into the shutdown now – to talk about the fact that we don’t have to wait for the kind of large-scale furloughs we, thankfully, haven’t had at the State Department to measure what the damage is. So I’m just going to take through a few areas where we’ve seen some damage done, and then I’m happy to open it up for questions. I know this is going to be probably a topic of much interest at the briefing.

So, I think it’s important to remember that no one should mistake the fact that the shutdown is damaging to the State Department today and destructive to our country’s foreign policy today. The costs are growing every day that we continue in a shutdown. We’ve talked about some of this already, but let me just emphasize the following: Right here at home today, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia is closed. What this means for us here at the State Department is that new Diplomatic Security agents may be delayed in obtaining their initial federal criminal justice training. They do this prior to coming to the State Department for specialized training. This means that it delays strengthening embassy security abroad.

New security enhancements and upgrade projects at U.S. facilities around the world that depend on FY 2014 money will be delayed because contracts for new construction, major renovations, and new leases cannot be issued. I want to underscore that these include some of the same enhancements recommended by the Accountability Review Board that followed the Benghazi attack. So I think for a Congress that’s never missed an opportunity to talk about embassy security, this is a result of its inability to do its job.

Also as I talked about yesterday, right now FY 2014 security assistance funding for Israel is not available, and thus could be delayed. We also have no new FY 2014 funding to continue supporting the peacekeeping mission in the Sinai between Egypt and Israel at a time when unrest in the Sinai is growing. So again, for a Congress that talks about its commitment to Israel, here’s the impact of its inability to do its job.

And for all the talk in Congress about keeping up the sanctions pressure on Iran, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control – OFAC, as we refer to it – has furloughed nearly all of its staff. OFAC’s colleagues in the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, are also working with just a skeleton crew. So we think this is unhelpful, a contradictory message to send at a time when everyone is looking to see whether a combination of tough sanctions on the one hand and equally tough diplomacy can push Iran to address the world’s concerns about its nuclear program.

So the longer this goes on, the more tough questions we’re going – or tough decisions we’re going to have to make. Every day that goes by, these decisions get harder.

So with that lengthy introduction, I will take your questions. Deb, go ahead.

QUESTION: When is State exactly expecting to suffer some furloughs? I mean, how has it been able to avoid them up to now? I mean, 70 percent of the civilian intel people across, like, 16 agencies have been furloughed. Seems unusual that State would get a pass on this, so when --

MS. HARF: It’s not about getting a pass. We’re funded with different mechanisms, and we agree that the furloughs that have had to take place in the intelligence community are of great concern for a lot of topics, but of course, including Iran, right, that we talk about a lot.

QUESTION: So, when do you expect you’ll be suffering from --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Right. Well, we don’t have a timeframe. As we’ve said, because of the way we’re funded, we have residual funds left over from FY 2013, and we’re funded under multiyear mechanisms. We are able to continue for a period of time without massive furloughs that we’ve seen other places.

QUESTION: Yeah. Days?

MS. HARF: But that will run out.

QUESTION: Days? Weeks?

MS. HARF: Every day our budget folks are looking at the numbers. We don’t have a specific timeline for you.

QUESTION: But you must know if it’s days or weeks or months.

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a lot that goes into our budget. It’s not just salaries, right? It’s also the fact that we’ve had to curtail much of our spending, travel, moving money around elsewhere to continue to pay employees as well. So we don’t have an estimate for the timing, but every day that goes by, again, these decisions get harder.

QUESTION: Do you expect you’re going to have to shut down some embassies?

MS. HARF: No. We – at this time, no embassies, consulates are closed, and we don’t expect that we will have to. But we’ve said that if we do eventually have to move to a situation where we furlough people, some things could be impacted. We’ve also said that visa services, passport services won’t be impacted.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on something you said --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about OFAC and FinCEN and so on?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As you, I imagine, saw, Secretary Sherman was asked about this --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- talked about it and was asked about it. And one of the questions that she was asked that I’d be interested in hearing a more detailed answer to is: Is it not possible for the Treasury to make determinations about what it thinks is truly essential, and therefore to make its decisions about what workers to treat as excepted or not excepted?

And could Treasury not choose, for example – OFAC is not a big office; I think it’s 70, 80, 90 lawyers maybe? It’s not that big. Couldn’t they have just chosen to keep that running if it really was deemed to be vital?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s a better question directed to the Treasury Department about how they determine who’s essential and who’s not. Obviously, the government shutdown – we’ve even looked at the intel community. These numbers are very large. These furlough numbers are very large. So I’d let Treasury speak to how they determined that, but we’re operating in a shutdown situation where if agencies don’t have money, people can’t be at work.

QUESTION: And do you think that in essentially criticizing Congress, which you, it seems to me, have just been doing, for not – for allowing the government to shut down and hence potentially delaying all these things, including embassy security --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that it’s going to be easier for you to get funding for embassy security going forward?

MS. HARF: I don’t understand the --

QUESTION: Does it help your cause --

MS. HARF: -- point of your question, sir.

QUESTION: Well, the – does it help your cause with Congress, which ultimately funds all or doesn’t fund all of your activities, to essentially start the briefing by criticizing them for the shutdown?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. The first is all of us in the Administration believe that it’s our obligation to be clear with the American people about how the shutdown is affecting the government that represents them. So this isn’t about trying to point fingers. This isn’t about being unnecessarily negative. It’s about the reality we’re facing. And if we go forward and we continue in a shutdown, we believe we owe it to the American people to know what their government can and cannot do on their behalf because of the situation.

The second point I would make --

QUESTION: You don’t think you’re pointing fingers?

MS. HARF: Well, the second point I would make is that Congress, when they want to, have the ability to come together and actually get things done. So just yesterday, they voted to extend the Iraqi special immigrant visa program that had lapsed at the end of the fiscal year, to keep that program running, to – and it’s a program we’ve talked about a lot in here – but to keep that program running to allow Iraqis who’ve worked with the United States to come to America. So they have the ability to work together. We’ve seen them do it in the past. We work closely with Congress on a whole host of issues. But I think the severity of the situation should not be overlooked, and you heard Under Secretary Sherman talk about this today quite a bit.

Mm-hmm. Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Have you had any feedback from, let’s say, ambassadors or representatives from other countries about how it’s affecting them? Is there any level of concern that’s been raised by them?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question. I haven’t heard anything specifically from our folks overseas except for – are you talking about other people?

QUESTION: I was talking – yeah, like other, let’s say, ambassadors from other countries coming to the State Department and saying, “Why is this so slow,” or, “We can’t do this,” or whatever.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve seen, in general, the notion out there that people around the world kind of don’t understand why we can’t get our house in order here, and they look at the situation and think – the concept of a government shutdown is just one that is perplexing, I think, to a lot of people.

I’ll just give you one example of local press commentary somewhere else in the world that one of my folks showed to me this morning: That the United States, and particularly many in Congress, have urged the government in Sri Lanka to more aggressively pursue reconciliation and accountable government, something we care a lot about. But today, in the Sri Lankan press, they’re watching what’s going on in Washington and said, and I quote, that “our good governance advice should be packaged and returned to sender.”

So that’s the message we’re putting out around the world, that we can – we talk a lot about democracy and good governance and institutions, and we have the best of all of that in the whole world. But right now, we’re not living up to all of those standards, and we’re going to keep working with Congress to figure out a way to get out of the situation we’re in because that’s what’s really in the best interest of all of us.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. I was wondering if you can comment if any policy – U.S. policy towards the Western Hemisphere is going to be affected because of the shutdown. And I have a second part on Venezuela. I know that there is a new chargee d’affaires in Caracas. I was wondering what will be their – his duty is to promote dialogue again, and if so, what will be the talking points with the Venezuelan Government? Thank you.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome. Thank you for the question. Well, look, what we’ve talked about is that our operations around the world – there’s a lot of things we do in all regions of the world, including in the Western Hemisphere. We’ve had to sharply curtail travel of our senior officials and State Department officials, for example. That’s one way it’s been impacted. And every day longer we go, cultural exchange programs and other programs will continue to be impacted. So, clearly, we believe that this hurts our ability to promote our interests, certainly in the Western Hemisphere, but around the world.

In terms of Venezuela, I’m not exactly sure who you’re referring to. We talked yesterday a little bit about the situation with --

QUESTION: The new one?

MS. HARF: -- our charge and their charge, and I don’t know if you’re --

QUESTION: No, there is a new one, a new chargee d’affaires in – the U.S. one. The U.S. named a new one in Caracas.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: That’s my understanding.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I don’t know, so I was wondering what will be there --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- his new duty is to promote dialogue? And if so, what will be the talking points?

MS. HARF: Well, let me check into exactly what our staffing is at our Embassy there. I know we’ve talked a lot about that in the last few days. I’m happy to get back to you on that.

But look, what we’re focused on right now is handling the situation that arose this week with our diplomats there and their diplomats here. I’m not going to do a longer-term analysis of where the bilateral relationship stands at this point. We’ll see what happens going forward.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the shutdown issue?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned that in referring to the – whatever, FY14 --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that there is no money for the peacekeeping forces in Sinai. Do you have any number of that or --

MS. HARF: I don’t have a number for that. Yesterday, we talked about the fact that all FMF, IMETs, and PKO, or Peacekeeping Operations funding for 2014 just isn’t available. So as we hit markers where we’re supposed to be providing this funding, we can’t. I don’t have a specific number for that part of it for you.

QUESTION: The other question is, like, usually, in the last two days, we are – it’s a kind of question which is – I will try to understand the whole issue of – you mentioned different steps are taken and you mentioned whether they are related to the budgets or the people, furloughs.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So – but in order to feel it or to understand it, I think we have to have numbers. I mean, otherwise, it’s like abstract for us.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think it’s abstract for the people in programs that aren’t getting their funding right now.

QUESTION: Yeah, of course.

MS. HARF: We just don’t have specific numbers for you. We’ve, thankfully here, only had to furlough a very small number of people. But I think one of the points of talking about some of these programs at the top of the briefing was to emphasize that this is about a lot more than furloughs. It’s about these programs and the way we promote our interests all around the world, that the – we can try and get dollar numbers for you, but the dollar numbers don’t even tell the whole story, the impact that these programs have.

QUESTION: The other question is related to the mention that the Congress approved the program --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or the funding of the program for the Iraqi visas or those Iraqis who work for U.S.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the same time, I mean, the other budget allocation is not done for the other activities. I mean, how you can explain that? I mean, it’s like you can spend money for that program but you cannot spend other money for some essential activities?

MS. HARF: Well, to be clear, they voted yesterday to extend the program. I’m not sure about where the funding for it exactly lies, what bucket of money that comes out of. We thought it was an important step that they did come together to vote to extend it. But clearly, we believe that all of our programs are important, and we believe that we shouldn’t have to make difficult choices between competing priorities that are very important to our foreign policy. So I was giving, as an example, of a way Congress has been able to work together on an important priority for us.

QUESTION: Today’s Washington Post editorial was referring to the issue of the securities of the – let’s say, the embassies.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And in the same time, the policy – or at least now the policy is to keep the embassies open. How you justify this? Is it a risk to leave it open or not?

MS. HARF: No. So we’re not taking risks with our security at our embassies overseas right now. Clearly, that posture hasn’t changed. We always take security as the highest priority overseas with our embassies and our people. What I had mentioned at the beginning is it will be harder for us to continue to augment that security. So the longer we go on, the longer the shutdown goes on, we can’t get new DS agents up and trained to go overseas and continue augmenting our security, as we’ve talked about for a long time.

But our security posture remains the same, and the reason the embassies and consulates are open is because that’s really the forefront of the diplomatic work we do every day. We process visas. We get American citizens passports. We have American citizen services all over the world. We just saw a few weeks ago, when we had to shut some embassies temporarily because of a terrorist threat, all the questions and the concerns around that. Our goal is always to have them open. That’s why we’re there in a lot of places around the world.

Yes, Deb, and then I’ll go to you, Scott.

QUESTION: Shutdown?

MS. HARF: Shutdown, yeah.

QUESTION: You mentioned a few furloughs, okay. So that begs the question: How many?

MS. HARF: I know. Everyone wants specific numbers. I don’t have a specific number for you.

QUESTION: Why is it so hard to get a number?

MS. HARF: It’s just – I don’t have it. These are complicated things. We’re talking to the offices about what we can get you in terms of numbers. We just don’t have it right now.

QUESTION: You mean fewer than 10 or --

MS. HARF: It’s a small number. I just don’t have the actual number for you.

QUESTION: Fifty or less?

MS. HARF: I’ll see if I can – I will see if I can do something for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m not trying to be too cute by half here; I just don’t have a number.

Scott.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. HARF: We can move on, yes.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the United States sanctioning Rwanda for its recruitment of child soldiers?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Just give me one second.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) other countries under the same act?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. So as many of you know, under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, the Secretary of State is required to identify countries that have governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers. So on October 1st of this year, the President made a determination that we would waive in full or in part these restrictions on certain countries that fall under this act and would not waive them for several others.

So when it comes to Rwanda, there was no waiver granted, so the CSPA restrictions on those countries will apply in full. And what that means, which I know is the next question, is that Rwanda had been slated to receive a small amount of FMF and IMET funding, which will be withheld in 2014, consistent with the CSPA. And all of it, of course, is being withheld right now, if it was supposed to be delivered, because of the shutdown. But going forward, when we’re back up and running, that will be withheld.

There’s a number of countries that fall under this act. I don’t know if, Arshad, you had specific countries you were interested in or --

QUESTION: I – well, two things: One, can you tell us what the – how much the small amount is that it --

MS. HARF: I don’t have that number in front of me.

QUESTION: Can you take that?

MS. HARF: I will.

QUESTION: Because it’s a logical question.

MS. HARF: I’ll see if I can get it for you. Yeah.

QUESTION: And then what are the other countries for which waivers have not been issued?

MS. HARF: Have not been granted?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: To Burma, C.A.R. – the Central African Republic, of course – Rwanda, Sudan, and Syria.

QUESTION: On Rwanda --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is the determination that the Rwandan Government is recruiting child soldiers or that the Rwandan Government is supporting a rebel group, the M23, that is recruiting child soldiers?

MS. HARF: Yes, it’s the latter. Yes, that the Rwandan Government support for the M23, a rebel group which continues to actively recruit and abduct children, threatens peace and stability in the eastern D.R.C., that that’s the reason for the – for not having a waiver, yes.

QUESTION: And on Central African Republic --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is the assessment that this was the previous government that was using child soldiers or the new formerly rebel Seleka government in Bangui?

MS. HARF: It is a good question, and I don’t have the answer. I can take it and get back to you with that. I just don’t have it in front of me.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) about Syria for that – sorry, is – same thing or different?

QUESTION: Well, it is Syria but another aspect.

QUESTION: Well, I was just – on Syria, the – was the United States – even if they’re not given a waiver, was the United States granting any assistance of any sort to the Syrian Government?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. We have a lot of sanctions, actually, on the Syrian Government.

QUESTION: Right. So --

MS. HARF: So I – but you have --

QUESTION: -- they don’t a waiver, but it doesn’t have a practical effect because you won’t give them money anyway.

MS. HARF: Correct, yes, yes. But under the act, you have to evaluate every country --

QUESTION: Got it.

MS. HARF: -- and give them a waiver or not.

QUESTION: And then is – does the same thing also apply for Burma, which I don’t think gets military assistance, or FMF or IMF, IMET?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I don’t think that they do. I will double-check on that for you. Obviously we work with them on other areas.

QUESTION: Great. And if you could check that on Sudan too.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: If you could also check on Sudan.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I can definitely do that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Stay on Syria --

MS. HARF: Just one second, one second, Said. I’ll go there in one second. Yes.

QUESTION: On the grounds for not giving a waiver to Burma --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- what were those grounds?

MS. HARF: So steps are being taken – and I would note them here – to begin to address the child soldiers issue in Burma. In 2012, the Government of Burma signed a child soldiers action plan with the UN, which had been under negotiation for more than five years. So we’ll continue to raise this issue diplomatically with the Burmese Government. Just one example, the U.S. Ambassador to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons raised the issue with high-level interlocutors during our bilateral TIP dialogue in August. So we’re going to keep discussing with them. We’ve made some progress, and we’ll continue to work with them to do so.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: More on this. Yes.

QUESTION: Just Syria --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in general. Since Lavrov and the Secretary talk almost every day --

MS. HARF: I know.

QUESTION: -- have they talked over the last couple of days? Anything new on their attempt to bring Geneva 2 together?

MS. HARF: I don’t believe that they have spoken in the last several days, and nothing new on Geneva 2. Obviously we’re – the Secretary’s on a trip in Asia right now discussing a wide range of economic and security issues, but nothing new on Geneva 2 at this point.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you explain to us how U.S. humanitarian aid is actually disseminated to the Syrians who need it? I mean, I know you have talked about this before, but there seems to be a little bit of confusion, because you don’t deal with the Syrian Government.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So in areas where it is no authority, how do you make sure that humanitarian aid is really getting to the people that need it?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a very tough challenge. We’ve often said – and I know we’ve had some officials on the record talking about the fact that in opposition-controlled areas we work with the SMC and the SOC to get assistance to the folks on the ground. In regime-controlled areas, it’s very difficult. And we’ve seen in a number of areas the regime prevent humanitarian assistance from getting to those people. We’ve seen cutoff of services, cutoff of basic human services like water, to towns they have under siege. So it’s a complicated situation, Said, and there just aren’t easy answers there, but we’ll keep working to address the problem.

QUESTION: So you will not work with the Syrian Government as the authority in power in any particular area where there is some dire need for humanitarian assistance? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Said. I can take it and get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you --

MS. HARF: But clearly we’re committed to doing everything we can to provide humanitarian assistance.

QUESTION: I – yeah, I understand. I’m just trying to --

MS. HARF: I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: -- just to clarify.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But you said also on areas that are under the control of the SMC and the SOC, you work with those areas. What about areas that are under the control of, let’s say, Jabhat al-Nusrah or al-Qaida-affiliated?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re very clear about the fact that we don’t believe al-Nusrah is a legitimate part of the opposition. I can try and get you some more details – and maybe we can talk about it a little bit tomorrow – about how we work to get humanitarian assistance into different areas of the country where different people are in control. It’s a good question, it’s a complicated question, so let me see if I can get you more on that and we can talk about it.

QUESTION: Okay. And if you indulge me just a little longer --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- sorry for being late, by the way.

MS. HARF: Said, I always indulge you as long as you want. I’m confused why you’re not in the middle in your normal seat though.

QUESTION: Okay. Because I came in late. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: You’re mixing it up for me today. I like it.

QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to ask you, there are all kinds of reports about the United States supplying the rebels with arms and some heavy arms. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Anything else?

QUESTION: Iran.

MS. HARF: Iran, yes.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility of Secretary Kerry going to Geneva for the October 15th and 16th P5+1?

MS. HARF: There’s no plans for that at this point. Under Secretary Sherman will be leading our delegation there. Obviously things can change, but he has no plans to at this point. He’s on a very lengthy trip to Asia, as we all know.

QUESTION: Also on Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The head of the civilian aviation agency over there in Tehran says that they’re ready to resume flights to the United States with the permission of the United States. So is there anything that you can tell us on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen the media reports about these comments. What we’re focused on, I think, right now is working towards a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue and trying to see where we can take this diplomatic process. I don’t have anything further for you on these comments, other than that we’ve seen them.

QUESTION: You don’t know what they have to do in order to get --

MS. HARF: I don’t have those details. I’m happy to --

QUESTION: -- permission?

MS. HARF: -- look into it a little more, but I just don’t have those details.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Still on Iran?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah. We’ll come back to – hold on. I’m going to go here, and then I’ll work my way around.

Yes.

QUESTION: Secretary Sherman indicated that there could be the possibility of an easing of sanctions if Iran shows credible --

MS. HARF: Concrete and verifiable --

QUESTION: -- viable actions.

MS. HARF: -- I think were her words, yes.

QUESTION: What has the U.S. been able to determine to this point that even raising that suggestion is worth doing at this point? Or is the U.S. creating expectations that can’t be met ahead of this resumption of talks in Geneva?

MS. HARF: Not at all. She said that we’ve been clear that only concrete and verifiable steps can offer a path to sanctions relief. But what she also said was that we’re going to be clear that we will continue to vigorously implement and enforce the sanctions that are in place as we explore this negotiated resolution.

As we all know, President Rouhani ran on a platform that included a lot of economic issues. The Iranian people need economic relief. But we will not take steps to move away from these sanctions until we see the Iranian Government follow up the words we’ve seen with concrete actions. They can do that soon; they could do that as soon as they wanted. And we’ll obviously be talking about it a lot at the P5+1.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary indicate this possible change in U.S. posture as a kind of public encouragement for Tehran?

MS. HARF: It’s not a change in U.S. posture. It’s – we’ve always said the sanctions – which I would remind everyone the reason – one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, we’re at the negotiating table today is because of these crippling sanctions we’ve put in place on Iran. So these sanctions have worked. But I would say this isn’t a change in policy. The sanctions are a response to Iran failing to live up to its international obligations. If they were to make a decision to do so, it would seem to logically follow that we could start talking about sanctions relief. But one has to come before the other.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And then I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: -- on the statement that was made by the Secretary of State – I want to go revisit an issue that we talked about last Monday --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which is he made it very clear, or he mentioned, in specific, that if they allow inspectors into the Fordow facilities, then chances are that sanctions will be lifted. And Arshad was kind enough to remind us all that there is actually ongoing inspection there.

MS. HARF: At Fordow?

QUESTION: So could you clarify that point for us?

MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary was laying out a laundry list of possible actions the Iranians could take to show that they’re serious about this process. He certainly wasn’t listing an exhaustive list, and he was speaking off of the cuff a little bit about things the Iranians could do. There’s a lot of things they could do to show that they’re willing to take credible steps: opening up every facility – we’ll broaden it to every facility – to IAEA inspectors, to – if this is a peaceful program, there should be nothing to hide – doing additional things as well. We’re not going to outline every step, but I think the Secretary was making the point that the Iranians have and they know what these concrete steps are that they could take.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up: The Revolutionary Guard is issuing a statement that are quite belligerent toward Rouhani. Now, in the event that they may do something that can compromise or jeopardize this opening that we have seen in the last couple weeks, will the United States sort of push – pull back whatever it has offered in terms of diplomacy? Would that, let’s say, put on hold the diplomatic effort on your part?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to guess what could happen in a hypothetical. We’ve said that President Rouhani was elected with a mandate to improve the economic lives of Iranians. He talked a lot about improving freedoms for Iranians in general that we’ve talked about for a long time. So we’re waiting for him to live up to what he said in his campaign, and we do believe that there have been some positive signs coming out of the Iranian Government. But we’re not naive that there are challenges that remain, and we will keep working with our partners in the P5+1, and, indeed, meeting with the Iranians again in Geneva to talk about the path forward.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you believe that there is some sort of a power struggle ongoing in Iran today?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to do analysis about internal Iranian politics from the podium. I leave it up to them there to have those discussions.

Mm-hmm. Jill.

QUESTION: Just a --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- no.

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Iran?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Sherman said that among the things that the United States would expect from the Iranians were things regarding the pace of their uranium enrichment, right?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it correct to interpret that as that you expect them to slow the pace of their uranium enrichment? Surely you don’t expect them to accelerate it or install more centrifuges.

MS. HARF: Well, right. The latter two options there would clearly not be a positive sign in the right direction.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to, I think, further parse what she said, but clearly, yes, steps like that would not be conducive to the process forward.

QUESTION: So it’s got to go the other way, slowing it, right?

MS. HARF: Well, all those discussions are going to be happening in Geneva. These issues are going to be talked about with our partners. But certainly, yes, slowing some of this would be a positive sign.

QUESTION: Okay. And then one other thing: She was explicit in telling the senators that the Administration thinks it would be helpful if they held off on additional sanctions over the next – less than two weeks now. And as I’m sure you noted, Chairman Menendez, in his opening statement, said, some of us are working on new sanctions that would lead to further reductions in purchases of Iranian petroleum. And the Administration is now being criticized by a number of Republicans for suggesting a slowdown in movement towards new sanctions, including Chairman Royce, Senator Kirk. Why is it when you yourselves believe, as you just said, that the only reason the Iranians are at the negotiating table is the sanctions, why is it necessary, or why is it advisable for the Senate to slow its movement on additional sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, I think – a couple points – that right now, today, we have such a crippling set of multilateral and unilateral sanctions in place on the Iranian Government – we’ve all seen the impact that it’s had on the Iranian economy. So right now, we feel like we’re putting a great deal of pressure on them, but we have to do things, broadly speaking, in this moment that we have an opportunity for diplomacy to work-- to make that diplomacy work. And I’m not going to go into every detail about what sanctions we might like and what sanctions we might not think are as useful right now.

But in general, we need to create a climate where diplomacy has the opportunity to work – has the best chance of working. Because, let’s all be clear about how difficult this is; this is not an easy process, it’s very complicated. So we need to set the conditions, and we need to set the stage, and we need to do everything we can to give us the best chance to succeed diplomatically, because that’s everyone’s goal – that we resolve this crisis diplomatically. And so we have to give ourselves a chance to do that.

QUESTION: But if sanctions brought them to the table, why wouldn’t more sanctions make them even more eager to rein in their nuclear program and thereby get relief from the sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll keep talking to Congress about when and if and what those new sanctions might look like. We’re having those discussions right now. I don’t think anyone has ruled out supporting additional sanctions. I think that the Under Secretary was making a comment about the situation we see today and the climate we need to have going into Geneva.

QUESTION: And is it conceivable to you – because this is something that came up in subsequent questioning --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that you might conclude that it would be helpful to ask the Senate to hold off on sanctions even beyond October 15th and 16th because you feel like you’re getting somewhere?

MS. HARF: There’s a lot of outcomes that might happen from the 15th and 16th, a whole host of them, and I wouldn’t want to outline all of them from here. But clearly, we hope to make progress in Geneva. That’s the goal. We’re not naive about how hard it is, but there’s a reason that we’re going to sit down at the table again, and try to take advantage of this diplomatic opening that we have today.

QUESTION: Just one last one on this for me.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know that the dates ever – from when High Representative Ashton announced they’ve always been the 15th and 16th.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you leaving open the possibility that it might go longer?

MS. HARF: I think we certainly always leave open the possibility.

Mm-hmm?

QUESTION: Is it helpful to have Prime Minister Netanyahu making the kinds of negative comments that he made about the new Iranian Government, as he did in that interview on NBC on Tuesday?

MS. HARF: Well, look, we and the Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, all have the same goal here. That’s why we work with the Israelis in the – I would argue, and other people including the Israelis have argued – is the closest security military relationship we’ve ever had. So we take that relationship seriously, we take their security incredibly seriously. So we would never do anything to put their security at risk, certainly. So we’ll continue the conversations with all of our allies and partners in the region about how we’re working on the issue of resolving Iran’s nuclear crisis.

But look, we have the same goal here. We’re on the same page in terms of what need to see at the end of the process: that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: But if I were an Iranian diplomat going into these talks in two weeks’ time, why shouldn’t I be swayed in any way by these very public, internationally-now broadcast comments by the Prime Minister about what he thinks are Iran’s intentions?

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’re going into Geneva with the P5+1, with the Iranians, to sit down at the table and continue the discussions we started at the UN last week. We’ve been very explicit about the fact that we believe it’s important to sit down one on one with the Iranians to see what lies on the other side of this diplomatic door. We’ve been very clear about what our position is, we had a productive meeting last week and the UN, and are hoping to have more productive meetings in Geneva as well.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: Go to the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

MS. HARF: Always.

QUESTION: Okay, very quickly.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Palestinian Authority announced that it’s heading toward the end of the year with $550 million deficit. Now, I know that you guys made some promises with some aid to the Palestinians, but with this government shutdown and defunding and all these things, can you tell us how that is affected?

MS. HARF: I actually don’t know the answer to your question. I’m happy to take it and see how the shutdown might impact some of that. We’ve been very clear that part of – a big part of the Middle East peace process efforts needs to focus on the Palestinian economy, on that part of it, on institution-building as well. So let me take the question and I’ll see what I can get you.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you also update us if there are any, sort of, high-level meetings in the making? Perhaps the United States organizing a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu anytime soon?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates on meetings for you.

QUESTION: Okay. What about the status of the talks? Anything new on the status of the talks?

MS. HARF: Well, the parties have been meeting regularly since final status negotiations resumed on July 29th. It’s safe to assume that these negotiations will be taking place regularly, because that’s what both sides committed to do. But nothing further, specifically.

QUESTION: Have they intensified? That’s what the Secretary said publicly in New York – that the --

MS. HARF: Well, then I won’t disagree with the Secretary.

QUESTION: Well, but have they actually intensified or not?

MS. HARF: Yeah, no. Certainly, they’ve continued. I would definitely agree with his characterization that they’ve intensified, but we’re not going to – as we’ve said a lot – detail every meeting or even most of them from the podium.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: And has the American – sorry, one more for me.

MS. HARF: Yeah, go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Has the American involvement increased – another thing that he said should happen, or they’d agreed would happen?

MS. HARF: Yeah, Ambassador Indyk has been involved in the talks as appropriate. I can get a sense for whether that’s increased or not, but I know we’ve certainly been involved since the beginning.

QUESTION: Could you tells us what --

QUESTION: Since – it’s the last one. Sorry, I know I said last one before, but the Secretary said that there’d been seven rounds so far.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So when he spoke, it had been about seven, eight weeks since July 29th. So that’s about once a week. So given that you guys have now begun talking about numbers of meetings, it would be interesting to know if there have been any additional meetings beyond the seven that he described, and if the United States Government, in the form of Ambassador Indyk or whomever participated in them?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. He said seven rounds of negotiations, so that could be more than one meeting.

QUESTION: Rounds, yes. Okay.

MS. HARF: I would remind everyone.

QUESTION: Very good.

MS. HARF: But in terms of more specifics, I just don’t have them that I’m able to share. If I do – it’s a good question.

QUESTION: Can you ask?

MS. HARF: I can ask.

QUESTION: Because he set a benchmark in a sense there, and I think it’s reasonable for people to want to know if the benchmark he set intensified, and increased American participation has been met or not.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you very quickly on the status of Ambassador Indyk. Is he in town or is he back, or what is he doing? He was here a couple days ago.

MS. HARF: He was. I just saw him a couple days ago.

QUESTION: Yeah. Excellent.

MS. HARF: Let me check on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow up on yesterday --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the Greenpeace question.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There was one American at that point who had been charged.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has the other been charged?

MS. HARF: Yes. We can confirm now that both U.S. citizens on the vessel, Peter Willcox and Dmitri Litvinov, have now been charged with piracy by an organized group. That’s, I think, the official charge. We would, of course, refer you to the crew members’ attorneys for information about the legal proceedings and their next steps. As I said, we’re monitoring the case very closely. We’ll continue to provide all appropriate consular services to both U.S. citizens and their families as well.

QUESTION: So no further --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: I don’t. I can check.

QUESTION: So no further opinion on the charges or --

MS. HARF: No. We’re following the case closely, obviously providing appropriate services. But I would refer you, I think, to their attorneys. I just don’t have a further legal analysis from here.

QUESTION: Can I change to Iran for a second?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In her comment, Secretary Sherman said, we’ll be looking for specific steps by Iran that address core issues --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- including, but not limited to, the pace and scope of its enrichment program, the transparency of its overall nuclear program, and stockpiles of enriched uranium.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it fair to assume, when she’s talking about transparency, that you want more transparency?

MS. HARF: That is absolutely fair to assume.

QUESTION: And then --

MS. HARF: I think that’s probably always fair to assume about transparency everywhere. But I’m sure you’ll find me a case where it’s not. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I don’t assume that there (inaudible) greater transparency. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: No. Yes, that is certainly what we would like to see. Yes.

QUESTION: And then, in terms of the stockpiles of enriched uranium --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is it – does she mean that those should go down? That they should be smaller?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I --

QUESTION: Not bigger, right? I mean --

MS. HARF: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: So they should be smaller. That’s the idea here.

MS. HARF: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: And I’m not going to further --

QUESTION: No. That’s all I wanted.

MS. HARF: -- parse in terms of what should happen with those --

QUESTION: That’s all I wanted.

MS. HARF: Okay. Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) There have been some reports that the Iranian cyber chief was assassinated. Do you know anything about that? Do you have anything on it?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any comment for you on that.

Yes. Said.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Bahrain?

MS. HARF: You can always ask about Bahrain.

QUESTION: Okay. It seems that – it seems be off the radar screen, but the Congressional Research Service submitted a report – lengthy report, study – to Congress --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that draws a very abysmal state of the opposition, lack of individual freedoms and so on, power sharing, and all these things, although, it does talk about how important the strategic alliance is --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the base that you guys keep there. So could you comment on that? Do you have any update for us?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen that CRS report. I’m happy to look into it. I think we’ve talked a lot about Bahrain. Certainly, it’s an important partnership. The Department of Defense, I think, has spoken to this at length as well. Look, we – everywhere around the world – encourage governments to ensure freedoms for their citizens. We’ve, in Bahrain, called on the government and the opposition to remain engaged in a national dialogue, which we think is a very important forum to discuss these issues in Bahrain, but not a further update, I think, at this point, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Since the arrest of the opposition leader --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- have you been in touch with them? Have you talked to them about the release or anything like this?

MS. HARF: We have spoken to the Bahraini Government about this issue; we’ve raised it with them. We’ve been concerned by some of the other things the Government of Bahrain has done recently as well, including decrees that place limits on assembly and regulate political groups’ communications. So we’ve continued this discussion with the Bahraini Government. They’re close partners of ours in the region, and we’ll keep talking about it with them.

QUESTION: Are they responding to you? Are they responding in terms of releasing political prisoners or opposition figures?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on that, and I wouldn’t want to get in, I think, further into the diplomatic discussions. If we do, I can certainly share that with you.

Yes. Jill.

QUESTION: The foreign policy community at this very moment is looking at what they’re calling the dilemma – this is CSIS --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- for the President on whether he should go on his Asia trip.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the State Department weighing in on this, the advisability of doing it or not?

MS. HARF: On whether the President should go?

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: Yes. Well, we said yesterday – just to remind everyone that the Secretary will be picking up the Malaysia and Philippines stops that the President was supposed to do.

But I think the overall goal here, and the White House has spoken to this a little bit – but it’s important that the President, that the Secretary, that we are able to go around the world, promote our values, talk about our interests, and participate in summits and meetings all over the world that do just that. So I would defer you to the White House in terms of the President’s travel, but what we’ve said is we hear a lot from Congress, from other folks, about American exceptionalism, about going out there and being a leader in the world. Well, it’s hard to do that if we don’t have funding to even send people overseas to talk about our interests and our priorities and our policies. Right now, the Secretary is in Asia talking a lot about economic issues – the fastest growing economic region in the world. And if we have to curtail some of that work because we can’t get our own economic house in order, then that’s not a good thing both for domestic policy but also for foreign policy – more importantly to this building, right?

So I would again defer to the White House for discussions about the President’s travel, but needless to say we think these summits are important. We think – and when you just talk about APEC, which is one of the summits I think that will be happening in Bali, that the Secretary will be attending, U.S. trade with the 21 APEC economies supported more than 5 million American jobs in 2012. That’s a lot of American jobs. Congress is very focused on American jobs, so why wouldn’t we be able to be represented at the APEC summit where we’re talking exactly about these issues?

So we’ll keep working on it going forward, but that’s why we’ve been very clear that this shutdown has a real impact on our foreign policy, even if you can’t see it all the time. But it does.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sorry. I came in late, so I apologize if you’ve heard this already.

MS. HARF: It’s okay. I’ll forgive you.

QUESTION: Thanks. (Laughter.) But I was wondering if you have any response to reports of renewed fighting in Syria along the border of Turkey.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything specifically on that. I’m happy to look into it. I know that the situation on the ground has been very fluid. We’ve seen renewed fighting in some parts. I just haven’t seen specifics on that area.

QUESTION: Okay. There are reports that now Islamist opposition forces control most of the border crossings between Syria and Turkey.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that concern you that that might hamper the SOC’s ability to reach out and engage and extend – make their influence more extensive within Syria at all?

MS. HARF: Well, let me check on those reports about the border crossings. I just don’t have the facts in front of me. But we’ve said, broadly speaking, that we’re very concerned about extremist elements, particularly in that region. We’ve talked about it, whether it’s Al-Nusrah, whether it’s ISIS. We’ve talked a lot about that threat and how that’s the reason we work with the SMC as the legitimate representative of the military wing of the opposition.

So I’ll check on that specifically, and if I have anything else, we can talk about it tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: I have kind of an off-the-wall question --

MS. HARF: I like off-the-wall questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- about the pipeline.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Where is the State Department on the environmental statement right now?

MS. HARF: So the work is ongoing. There’s no timeline for when this whole process will be wrapped up, but work continues, as it has for some time. And when we are at the end of that process, I’m sure we will all be talking a lot about it then. But no timeline for you on it.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)

DPB # 162

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 3, 2013]