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Middle East Digest - October 14, 2009

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Washington, DC
October 14, 2009


The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.

From the Daily Press Briefing of October 14, 2009

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12:51 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: On Pakistan, the foreign minister is here. So have the State Department – anyone from the State Department met the foreign minister, and what – have you been able to address their concerns about Kerry-Lugar bill?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure that anyone from the State Department has met with the foreign minister today. Richard Holbrooke, our special representative, met with him yesterday. I think the foreign minister has been back up on the Hill today and may have participated in a press availability with the respective chairmen of the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees.

I mean, obviously from our standpoint, as we’ve said all along, this bill is a reflection of the long-term commitment that the United States is making to Pakistan. We appreciate the friendship of the Pakistani people. We understand that there have been questions raised in the debate that’s going on there. And I think the leaders on the Hill have sought to reassure Foreign Minister Qureshi that there’s nothing in this bill that impinges upon Pakistani sovereignty, and that the kinds of reporting that is required in the legislation goes to the issue of financial accountability, which is something that we put in legislation involving assistance to any foreign country.

QUESTION: With the Pakistani army expressing serious concern about some of the portion of the bill, and also the opposition parties, do you think it would have an impact on your fight in the war against terrorism in the region for that reason?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think so. I think quite the contrary. To the extent that you see a vibrance in the political processes in Pakistan, the continued emergence and strengthening of civilian institutions within Pakistan, this is something that we, the United States, have long supported. And obviously, we recognize that there are questions that have been raised during the foreign minister’s trip this week, as well as his trip over the past couple of weeks. We’ve sought to answer those questions regarding the kind of assistance. And what’s most important is the assistance that is being provided to Pakistan, we believe, has been identified by Pakistan as the kinds of things that it needs. These are priorities that are important to the Pakistani people, and we’ll continue to work with the government as we go from the authorization process now to the appropriations process.

QUESTION: I’ve got one on Afghanistan. There’s just been a lot of talk lately about whether President Karzai is a reliable partner or not. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how that factors in into the decisions you’re making in Afghanistan. I mean, is there any choice you have but to deal with him if he’s deemed the kind of victor in the election? Does it matter whether he’s reliable or not? I mean, you’re kind of stuck with him, aren’t you?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, you’re leaping ahead to the end of the week where we expect to see election results. I think the electoral bodies – our understanding is they are in the final stages of determining the results of this first round of voting and whether there will be a clear victor or whether there will be a need for a runoff. President Karzai is the sitting president, but whether – what the results are, we’ll have to wait for the process to finish.

QUESTION: But how much do the results – I mean, how much do the results factor into what you decide to do? I mean, you’re going to have to work with any Afghan government, aren’t you?

MR. CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean, we have supported the emergence of an Afghan government going back to the Bonn process in 2001. To see a national government emerge, supported by stronger regional governments is, in fact, we think, a vital aspect to not only advancement in Afghanistan, but achievement of our central objectives, which is to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again emerge as a safe haven from which extremists can attack the United States or our friends and allies around the world.


MR. CROWLEY: But to your central point, the emergence of an effective Afghan government is very important, one that is both seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people, and one that, more significantly, addresses the needs of the Afghan people. And whoever emerges as the victor will have to, obviously, attack the issue of corruption, perceptions that do exist within the minds of Afghan people about the performance of that government. And that will be something, as the Secretary has said, and the President has said, we are going to push that new government hard once it’s in place.

QUESTION: Right, I understand that. But my question is: Does the victor – does the actual person who emerges victorious in this election process – does that factor in into how many additional, if any, resources you would put into the country? And if so, why?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think – it’s not for us to determine who the victor will be. That’s up to the electoral process. And we will work with that new government, whoever the leader is. But it is important that that government be more effective than it has been in the past. It has to perform better. It has to see – it has to strengthen its institutions. Obviously, a critical aspect of our strategy going forward is to continue to work to see the emergence of an effective national police and effective military force, so that ultimately the security solutions are Afghan solutions not American solutions. We want to see the emergence of a stronger economy, one that is less dependent on illegal narcotics, and see the emergence of a more legitimate economy. So these are things that we are prepared to work with the new Afghan government to achieve.

But what’s --

QUESTION: Regardless of who it is?

MR. CROWLEY: But what’s most – I mean, what is important here is that that government has to be seen as legitimate. And so that’s – we have supported the electoral process.

QUESTION: You’re not going to put additional resources into the country until there is a government that’s seen as legitimate?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we would – we will wait to see what the results are on Saturday. We would hope that the Afghan people can support the results, whatever they are, whether there is a first ballot victory, the need for a runoff. We still think that if a runoff is required, it can be done before the onset of significant weather in Afghanistan. But obviously, time is short. But let’s wait till the end of the week, see what the results are, see what they speak to, and see what the reaction of the Afghan people will be.

QUESTION: The meeting coming up, the technical talks in Vienna about the low-enriched uranium – who is the U.S. sending, and how far do you expect to get in those meetings? What’s the sort of agenda and hopes for an outcome?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s – we haven’t decided. Those arrangements are still being worked as to what the representation will be.

QUESTION: You don’t know who’s going?

MR. CROWLEY: We haven’t decided yet.

QUESTION: Isn’t it coming up?

MR. CROWLEY: Huh? On the 19th.


MR. CROWLEY: These are technical talks, really, to work through the practical issues of how to ship the fuel out of Iran, and then provide the fuel that – for this research reactor. So – but we haven’t decided yet. Those specific arrangements are still being worked.

QUESTION: But your understanding is that the Iranians are going forward with this, you know, a hundred percent. That you’re – it’s actually just about implementing it right now, or is that sort of talks about in theory how it would work?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’d defer to my colleague Robert, who was in Geneva. I mean, there are – this is a confidence-building measure. There is the research reactor. It’s running out of fuel. And we think there’s a mechanism that can be put in place so that we can see that the shipment out of some of the existing Iranian stocks and then fuel for this particular reactor provided. I mean, it really is about working through the technical aspects of this. And – but we are – we believe that the meeting will go forward on October 19, and we’re working through the appropriate representation.

QUESTION: Well, speaking of that, I’m confused, and I’m willing to say that I’m the one that’s confused. I thought this meeting coming up was in Vienna and had only the Iranians, French, and Russians being represented. And --

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re prepared to --

QUESTION: -- everybody, all the P-5+1?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll be part of it.


MR. CROWLEY: I mean, in terms of who will be specifically engaged in the arrangement, that could be the case. But in terms of being able to participate in the meeting and work through some of the technical issues involved, we plan to be there.

QUESTION: Well, the Iranians agreed to meet again before the end of the month, I think, outside of these technical talks at the political directors level; isn’t that right?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that a particular date is --


MR. CROWLEY: -- has been set yet. But it is our expectation --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: -- we have – the international inspectors will be in Iran on October 25th to look at the newly disclosed site, and that it is our hope that there would be a meeting soon after that, perhaps by the end of the month, to follow up on the meeting in Geneva.

QUESTION: South Korea just concluded a deal with Iran, $1.8 billion to explore the South Pars oil and gas field, which this far exceeds the U.S. sanctions that caps that level of investment in Iran’s – in Iran’s oil – energy sector to, I believe, 20 million. Is South Korea an ally of the U.S., do you think this deal is appropriate?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know the particulars of that particular deal. When we were at the UN in a variety of meetings, we did express to many countries our concern about business arrangements and the impact that that would have at a particularly critical time.

QUESTION: Israel’s ambassador to the UN said just a little while ago that they will not return to any peace talks with the Palestinians, as long as the Palestinians are pursuing their claim at the UN to prosecute or to somehow penalize Israel on allegations of war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Do you have anything on that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you also heard from the Deputy UN ambassador – U.S. Ambassador to the UN Ambassador Wolff, who a short time ago framed this in terms of a choice between statehood and conflict. I think we’ve – we regret the fact that the course that was laid out recently in the Human Rights Council is not the one being followed. As Ambassador Wolff said, while we have concerns about the balance in the report, at the same time we take the issues in the report very seriously. It is, as we’ve talked about, a very lengththy report, a very complex report, one that lends – should lend itself to a deliberate process, a chance for careful consideration of what’s in the report, a chance for the Israelis and Palestinians to investigate what’s in the report and take appropriate action.

We thought that the resolution in the HRC recently that laid out a process of deliberation leading to a further consideration of the report in March – the fact that some have brought this today to the Security Council during a meeting that was regularly scheduled regarding Middle East issues, and now we have a special session tomorrow in Geneva. We think that special sessions should be reserved for particular issues that are urgent at this particular time. And we, unfortunately, think that the steps that are being taken today and later this week mitigate against the kind of deliberative process that we think is appropriate.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:11 p.m.)

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