SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We had three meetings. Why don’t you give toplines, and I’ll just interrupt whenever I have something useful to say?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It was a great series of meetings. We’ve got a lot in common with Morocco. We have a shared regional, I think, threat perception. We have excellent mil-to-mil cooperation and counterterrorism cooperation. We are helping them with issues of concern to them and they want to make progress on things we can help them with, like improving their business environment. They want American companies. They have a number of American companies that are doing business there. It’s just a good-news story – the relationship.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Are you trying to get through or listen?

QUESTION: Just listen.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Oh, okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And when I talk about threat perception, I’m talking about their view of Iran. As you know, they – last year in, what, 2017, they extradited Tabaja to us, the Lebanese Hizballah supporter, from Moroccan territory, extradited to the United States. There are a series of these things that Morocco has done. So they’re a great partner, and they hammered that home today.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It struck me – even in the foreign minister meeting – that this is one of the few meetings where we don’t bring up Iran first, that they were the first ones to bring up their concern about the financing of terrorism, the presence – or the influence of Hizballah and of Iran in the region, and they were certainly quite hawkish.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. No, they’re a great partner. It’s one of these visits where it’s an all-around good-news story.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I think why don’t you talk a little bit too – I think there’s some really interesting points of cooperation that might not be so obvious, like on Venezuela, for example. Want to go —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. No, it’s amazing. I mean, so Morocco is a state that recognizes the Guaido government and is encouraging other states in Africa to recognize Guaido. They recognize the sort of pernicious, damaging ideology of Maduro and are helping promote that cause on the continent. So it’s great.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Questions, anybody?

QUESTION: Just on Iran, what was – what was coming from the Secretary in terms of what Morocco could do better to support America’s goals in the region on Iran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Listen, Morocco has its own interests in this regard, right? Iran is a regionally destabilizing force and has done activities that have proved destabilizing or attempted to be destabilizing in Morocco. So Morocco has excluded Iran – Iranian diplomats, for example, in the past, right? They are a partner. They support what we’re doing vis-a-vis the maximum pressure campaign.

QUESTION: Is there anything specific that was asked of Morocco?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not going to – I’m not going to get into specific asks.

QUESTION: Well, was there any discussion of normalizing ties with Israel?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t have a comment about – on that either, but to tell you the truth, that – it wasn’t a topic of discussion. I woke up today. I read the Times of Israel just like you guys did. And it struck me as just another Israeli leak to the press of their own issue. But it was coincident with our trip, but it wasn’t on our agenda.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think the one thing that we didn’t bring up that was discussed was, of course, throughout the trip – the Secretary spoke to this at the press conference – was Chinese influence, 5G, Huawei, and that was a point of discussion as well.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, we did talk about that with the Moroccans.

QUESTION: And were they open to excluding Huawei, or —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics either, but they recognized, I think, the challenges posed by Chinese involvement.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Certainly. I think we met with their intelligence folks, who certainly understood that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m curious about the counterterrorism mission that the State Department is starting to launch in the Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa. I think Morocco just bought dozens of tanks and other —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, they got – I think they got EDA, Excess Defense Articles, from the United States.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, they’ve got all this military hardware and recent purchases. I’m wondering what they’re going to do with that. And is that something that’s directed more towards Iran on the continent, or is that something that is directed more toward other actors?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Look, Iran – so Morocco is a great partner. Not only do they deploy a huge number of peacekeepers throughout the region, they also are active in sort of counterterrorism initiatives all along their borders. They recognize —

QUESTION: Like who are their adversaries on their borders?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: ISIS, al-Qaida. They have in the past though claimed certainly that Hizballah had a role in training Polisario – and Iran. But they are very concerned with developments to their – to the south, in the Sahel, in terms of an increasing number of terrorists and states with weak governance. So I mean, you could see it – and so, I mean, the headlines today, you saw an explosion in Burkina Faso, for example. Did you see that today?

QUESTION: No, I didn’t.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Go look at. I haven’t looked at the news in like a day, but – don’t quote me on that. I can pull up my Google.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: You read all of their Twitter accounts, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.

QUESTION: I know you said you didn’t want to get into specifics of what was asked of Morocco. But did the Moroccans – were they seeking specific things from the U.S. in terms of either additional EDA or FMS or (inaudible) support?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, you know that – I mean, they are one of the largest FMF – FMS, right, purchasers of U.S. military goods and materiel. It’s a very productive relationship on that front.

We also have a very productive Millennial Challenge Corporation, $450 million that we’ve provided through that mechanism to Morocco, doing things like location training and helping the business environment, et cetera, women’s advancement in the kingdom. So – right, we talked about all these issues, about all the good things that the United States has helped Morocco do, that we are, in fact, at the end of the day, a force for good in Morocco, too.

QUESTION: Are they looking to go beyond – I mean, I understand that those are existing elements of the relationship and partnership.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And they’re ongoing.

QUESTION: Sure.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, it’s kicked off sort of phase two of the broad —

QUESTION: But can I —

QUESTION: But you mentioned that they raised – sorry – that they raised Iran first in the meetings, for instance. Are they looking for additional supports beyond that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not going to get into asks.

QUESTION: Well, can I just clarify one thing? Do we expect Morocco to take a larger role in counterterror missions in the continent, in the Sahel, and Sub-Sahara at a time when (a) they are getting more military hardware, and (b) American forces, CT forces, SOF forces are starting to pull out of (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I’m not going to comment on that. What I’d say is that they are a robust partner. We do more military exercises, trainings with Morocco – dozens if not a hundred a year, I think, of trainings and joint exercises with the United States. They’re the largest ones in the continent. It’s called the African Lion I believe, so a huge number of bilateral training exercises.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I think it was important – the Secretary always stresses the importance of showing up, and it was important for him to make a trip here, to come here, to see them, to speak with them. And that’s something – I mean, it’s why he’s been to Latin America, I think seven times at this point, why he goes to places like Micronesia. He wants to go to places that are not just in crisis. He wants to go to places where we have a strong relationship and then strengthen that relationship.

QUESTION: Can you – [Senior State Department Official One], can you tell us how the consideration of sending 14,000 more troops to the Middle East fits into the broader strategy?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I could have sworn that the – that the Secretary of Defense denied that today.

QUESTION: There was testimony today that —

QUESTION: And back out with something today.

QUESTION: It was testified to.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: What did they say in testimony?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I just read this – I read it on Twitter.

QUESTION: Yeah. There was —

QUESTION: So are you saying that’s not under consideration?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m saying that the Secretary of Defense, I believe, said that wasn’t under consideration.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We’ll double-check. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – I mean, can you tell us a little bit about the Bibi meeting? Did you discuss the possibility of Israel annexing the Jordan Valley? And what’s the U.S. stance on that idea?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Secretary had a four-eyes meeting with Bibi.

QUESTION: So what is the U.S. stance toward the idea of Israel annexing the Jordan Valley?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not going to comment on that.

QUESTION: At what point in the trip did you get the biggest pushback on the settlement move? Was it NATO or —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: On the move to say that settlements were no longer inconsistent with international law, where was the biggest —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I wasn’t involved in NATO meetings.

QUESTION: Was there anywhere else along the trip where you had any pushback on that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: What was the question about NATO?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: About the settlements —

QUESTION: Whether there was any pushback anywhere along this trip, whether it was NATO —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Not in the – so we weren’t in the NATO meetings, so we can’t read that out. And the trips that – and the meetings that I’ve been in, no, it wasn’t brought up at all.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, no. I’m just trying to think what meeting I – if I wasn’t in – I was in both meetings in Lisbon, it wasn’t brought up. Between the two of us, we were in all the non-NATO meetings, and it wasn’t brought up.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. I mean, I’ve commented before, not all of our allies agree with us on everything that we do.

QUESTION: So in the Bibi meeting, did the additional troops come up and is Netanyahu pushing for additional troops in the region to counter Iran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I wasn’t in the Bibi meeting.

QUESTION: Oh, you weren’t?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, it was a one-on-one. Do we have anything else on Morocco?

QUESTION: I mean, on Iran, yes. I’m wondering if you can confirm that the Princeton scholar who’s been detained has been released.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I just saw that on Twitter.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I can’t confirm it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Anybody, final – no?

QUESTION: On Morocco, they want to draw in more American business; what specific industries are they looking to draw in more business with?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So they have a free trade agreement, and it’s a great opportunity for both them and us as an (inaudible) into Africa. So we have meetings set up; we’re going to pursue it.

QUESTION: Did you guys talk about Western Sahara at all? Is that any closer to resolution?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Any closer to resolution? Say —

QUESTION: Are there things cooking? What’s —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, I mean, we’re about to get, as you know, a new representative from the UN. But – so there’s no advancement at all on that from the trip.

QUESTION: I have a different question that has to do with Iran and Iraq. I understand there was quite a robust backgrounder a couple days ago on Iraq by a senior State Department official, but that was before —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That was me, right?***

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That was you, yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I was really trying there. I was really, really trying there. So that was before we knew about this intelligence that Iran has moved missiles into Iraq.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, actually, I was – I gave a backgrounder to you guys two months ago or more, if you go look at it, where I said very clearly on background Iran is storing ballistic missiles in Iraq. I’ve said it a number of times in background briefings in the bullpen. So this is not news; this should not be any news to you. You guys were there, right?

QUESTION: Okay, I don’t know. I don’t remember it, but —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: (Inaudible) in the transcript there.

QUESTION: But my question is about the relationship that this raises with Iraq. Given that the United States is also an Iraqi strategic partner, and that it’s got a caretaker government (inaudible), how is it that – what is the strategy for trying to deal with the situation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the strategy is that the United States Government supports the sovereignty of Iraq, and Iran clearly has no regard for the sovereignty of Iraq. They’re storing —

QUESTION: But Iraq is letting it happen.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Iraq has taken some measures, but is limited in what it can do.

QUESTION: Okay. Can the United States help Iraq expand those limits?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re hoping to get a – we’re getting a government that is capable of exerting more sovereignty, Iraqi sovereignty in Iraq.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Let’s go (inaudible). (Laughter.) I’m kidding.

QUESTION: Just on a related thing, in this —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, but this is last one.

QUESTION: Yeah —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, but look it up though, because you guys, like —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The briefing – the transcript should be on the website.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: All I’m trying to say is that I said this months ago.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: If not, you can find it —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And then I took a trip to Iraq and I talked to the Iraqis about it.

QUESTION: But on the same point —

QUESTION: Maybe you should just go on the record, and then we would have a —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, you can say – you’ve said it before (inaudible).

But I had it on background before. I put it on background like two months ago, before I traveled to Iraq.

QUESTION: But is there any sense that the unpredictability in Iraq makes things more dangerous, means that Iran could assert itself more into those kinds of things? Is that a —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, listen – as I think the Secretary has said, it is incredibly problematic that right now, as Iraq is in the process of trying to sort out a new government and a way ahead, that Qasem Soleimani is there in all these meetings, meddling, essentially; that Iran is – is trying to tilt the balance of – or the impact, the trajectory of these key sort of Iraqi matters. And then —

QUESTION: So what can the U.S. do to counter Iran?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We are holding accountable Iraqi – Iranian-backed militias that are killing protesters. We’re supporting the protesters’ legitimate grievances, and we are talking to Iraqi officials about what we think – well, we are supporting the Iraqi Government, whatever government that will come out. We have a policy of not meddling in government formation.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. This is good, but I think we’ve read out Morocco, you’ll have a… you’re good for now.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future