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Middle East Digest - March 2, 2010

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Washington, DC
March 2, 2010


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 March 2, 2010

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QUESTION: P.J., on a different subject, the leader of a global Muslim organization today issued a very rare fatwa condemning terrorism in all its forms. And the reason that’s important is because it’s in Britain, and obviously, there’s been some radicalization of young British Muslims, and the would-be Detroit bomber was one of those people a few years ago. I’m wondering whether this has any significance to the U.S. Government, given that that specific scholar actually has had some – has worked with different parts of the U.S. Government on awareness of Muslim issues in this country as well as others.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think Britain has had a very significant, detailed, extensive counter-radicalization strategy over the last few years. It has done extensive outreach with Muslim communities within Britain. Other countries have emulated that, including the United States. These issues are – at the heart of this, it’s about a very small group of people that have tried to hijack a religion. And we certainly value the debate that is currently underway within Muslim- majority communities around the world about the nature of their religion, the implication and definition of the word jihad, and to kind of take back the good name of Islam.

So I think we welcome these kinds of developments, whether in Britain or elsewhere around the world, as being very important steps in having the Muslims themselves make their own judgment about the vision that al-Qaida and bin Laden have propagated. And anyone who comes forward and rejects that vision, we welcome those steps.

QUESTION: P.J., are you saying that somebody from the Administration is going to reach the Muslim community here in the U.S.? Because many Muslims are also misled here – like you say, a small number. So --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that’s – here at the State Department, Farah Pandith is our coordinator, with the express task of reaching out to Muslim communities around the world, and including Muslim communities here in the United States. And Rashad Hussain has a similar role within the OIC. So this is – we have sought this in terms of our own dialogue with Muslim communities around the world. It was the vision that the President laid out last year in his important address in Cairo. And there are very affirmative steps that we have taken, but certainly other nations are taking to have a much broader dialogue with Muslims throughout the world. And we think these are very positive steps, and this is one of the cornerstones that will help us ultimately minimize and then defeat these radical movements.

QUESTION: There is a press report in the Israeli press that the U.S. presented kind of a draft of the Iran resolution to the countries of the Security Council.

MR. CROWLEY: I think I would just simply say that we continue our ongoing consultations within the P-5+1 on the nature of sanctions that we might at some point put before the Security Council. We have no particular timetable for that. Obviously, the Secretary has indicated we hope to move as rapidly as possible, but also we want to make sure at the end of this process there is effective sanctions that we think will apply the kind of pressure on the Iranian Government and its components that we want to achieve.

QUESTION: The UN just announced that there will be a meeting of the Quartet in Moscow on March 19th. So can you tell us more about what the American expectations would be at this meeting, and whether the Secretary will attend?

MR. CROWLEY: As you know, this came up during a conversation she had last week with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I think we are receptive to having the Quartet get together. I’ll defer only because there are four components; I’m not sure we’ve heard from the EU yet. But that – if everyone is agreeable, the Secretary will be there.

QUESTION: Can you address – there’s still a question about what you expect out of a Quartet meeting. Why is it necessary now or helpful now? I note this is happening a couple of weeks, I think, before the Arab League summit in Tripoli. Is this related? I mean, why now? The Russians have been trying to get a Quartet meeting in Moscow for years, as I recall, so what do you hope to get out of this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, our – we have a shared goal of comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And we think we are at a point in time where there’s some reason to believe that the parties are getting closer to the kind of discussions that we think will lead to resolving the complex issues that they face. And in any negotiation that might take place, we will need strong regional support and we will need strong international support.

And the UN, EU, Russia have been supportive of this process. We think that the timing is very useful in terms of comparing notes on where we are, the various discussions that have occurred in – among each of these players, and to have a common understanding of the way forward.

QUESTION: And – sorry, what --

QUESTION: Can you expand on the reason to believe that they’re closer? What in the world would give you that reason? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: We continue our intensive discussions with the parties, and we are in a better place, we think, than we were late last year. And we hope to see the parties engage in discussions soon.

QUESTION: P.J., a question on human rights. During the human rights week in Washington, so much happened at Freedom House and Carnegie and so forth. But the most discussion that was there that as far as UN Security Council is concerned, most of the members over there, they elect (inaudible) those who do not believe in human rights and they do not want their citizens to practice. So what is the future as far as the UN Security Council is concerned?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me shift gears. There – also this week, obviously, we have the reconvening of the Human Rights Council. Under Secretary Maria Otero is there and gave an intervention yesterday. It’s one of the reasons we sought to join the Human Rights Council so that we could promote a genuine debate within the Human Rights Council, obviously, which influences the rest of the UN system. And we think that the kinds of issues that have been tackled within the Human Rights Council over the past few months redeem that judgment that we want to be inside that room, part of that debate, and moving countries towards greater support for and respect for human rights.

QUESTION: Yeah, but what I’m saying is, let’s say as far as human rights in Iran is concerned, they have influence on countries who need their oil, and that’s why those countries then support those who do not really care for human rights. So how do you – like Russia and China and all – though they need their oil and that’s why they might support Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm. I mean, we happen to believe that the Declaration of Universal Rights has meaning. It is not something that’s just words on a piece of paper. It is something that all countries have a responsibility to live by and serve as a guide. And we welcome this debate. I think that’s one of the reasons why we feel confident about where we are with respect to Iran.

I think people can see what has occurred in Iran on the ground over the past nine months and they understand the changing nature of the government in Iran, that it is less and less divinely inspired and more and more representing a police state. And so – but we welcome this debate, and we will, as we have, challenge those countries where we believe their performance is inadequate. And we will, obviously – or as the Secretary has said, we’re willing to turn a – look ourselves in the mirror and find where – in some cases, where we have fallen short as well.

Thank you.

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