State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, June 23, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 23, 2014.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Update on Secretary’s Travel
    • Secretary’s Statement on Syria Chemical Weapons
    • Sudan Appeals Court Decision on Meriam Ibrahim Apostasy Case
    • Verdict on Al Jazeera Journalists / Secretary Call to Officials
    • U.S.-Egypt Relations / FMF Funding Update / Apache Helicopter Delivery
    • Counterterrorism in Sinai / Secretary’s Helicopter Remarks / Shared U.S.-Egypt Strategic Interests
  • IRAQ
    • Secretary Kerry’s Meetings with Officials
    • Role of Military Advisers / Diplomatic Status of Military Advisers / Security Plan for Peshmerga Army
    • U.S.-Poland Relations
  • IRAQ
    • History of ISIL Threat
    • U.S.-Poland Cooperation on Ukraine and Regional Security
    • U.S.-Bangladesh Dialogue
    • Chemical Weapons Update
    • Cease-fire Claims / Movement of Military Equipment



1:51 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. It’s a busy Monday. Just a few quick updates at the top. I’m sure you’ve seen the plethora of statements from the Secretary today, as well as his press avail. As you know, in terms of a travel update, he’s in Baghdad today meeting with a variety of Iraqi leaders, underscoring our support for the Iraqis as they’re going through this very difficult period, having a variety of conversations with a variety of people. So we’ve had that out today.

One more thing at the top, or two quick things. The Secretary released a statement on the remaining removal of chemical weapons from Syria. All of the declared chemical weapons now are out of Syria. Obviously there’s still a process that we need to continue here, but that was the other statement.

And then finally one more quick item at the top. And we will be releasing a statement on this as well, but we welcome the decision by the Sudanese appeals court today to release Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag from a Sudanese jail. Ms. Ibrahim was sentenced on May 15th to be flogged for adultery and to be hanged to death for apostasy because of her religious conversion to Christianity. As you know, the case has drawn the attention of the world, has been a deep concern to the United States Government and to many Americans.

We also at this point continue to urge Sudan to repeal its laws that are inconsistent with its 2005 interim constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These actions would help demonstrate to the Sudanese people that their government intends to respect their fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. And as you know, this is a case we raised quite frequently with the government there and welcome today’s news.


QUESTION: I’m sure we’ll get back to the Sudan situation in a minute, but I want to start with the one thing that you didn’t mention, which is in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And the Secretary had some words about that.

MS. HARF: Yes, we also —

QUESTION: The White House —

MS. HARF: — did release his statement on that as well.

QUESTION: The White House also has some – I’m curious, though. Did the Secretary, in fact, raise these cases yesterday in – raise this – the case yesterday while he was in Egypt? And if he did, what did he say and how did the Egyptians respond?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. I think the Secretary made very clear today our feelings on the case. As you know, this is a judicial process. But in his statement, he called on the Egyptian Government to review the political sentences and verdicts pronounced and consider all available remedies, including, of course, pardons. As he said today, immediately upon hearing about the sentences, he called the foreign minister of Egypt to express our deep concerns. Yesterday, the topic of course came up in the context of our concerns about human rights, rule of law, these kind of sentences and convictions of course. We know there’s a judicial process here, but that’s all put in place in the context of our larger concerns about human rights, and the Secretary made that very clear in his call today.

QUESTION: Right. But the human rights – the most recent Human Rights Report says that Egyptian – your human rights – the State Department’s Human Rights Report says that Egyptian courts are susceptible to government influence. And I’m just wondering if the Secretary made clear his concerns about this case yesterday in his discussions.

MS. HARF: We’ve made clear for months our concerns about this case.

QUESTION: Right, right. But I mean – but most recently, before the —

MS. HARF: And I’ll double check on the conversations yesterday.

QUESTION: — before the – right. But before the most – before the verdict, the most recent communication with the Egyptians about this case was yesterday, right, with the Secretary?

MS. HARF: I will double check on that to see what the conversations looked like.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m just wondering. I mean, it seems like if he did raise the case and express concerns about it, and given the fact that you guys do not believe that the Egyptian judiciary is free and independent of government influence, how is this anything other than just a slap in the face to you guys, particularly after you’ve given them – you went ahead and released additional assistance?

MS. HARF: Well, let me double check again on the level of detail of conversations yesterday. I know the issue was broadly broached in terms of human rights and convictions, but let me check on that from yesterday.

QUESTION: All right. Yeah.


MS. HARF: But setting that aside – hold on, let me finish. Setting that aside, I think you saw from the Secretary’s statement today very strong language about how this process lacked fundamental norms of due process, is a deeply disturbing setback to Egypt’s transition. So I think he made very clear that injustices like this can’t stand if Egypt has any chance of moving forward.


MS. HARF: That being said, we do have a strategic partnership with Egypt that we think is important, but we will be very clear when we have deep concerns about what they’ve done.

QUESTION: So does that mean that there is no consequence for this?

MS. HARF: Look, I think the Secretary made very clear our concerns about it, and we are constantly reevaluating our policy towards Egypt based on what they do. Look, and what we’ve said is we need to see steps taken moving forward and that as decisions are made by this government, we will evaluate them based on those decisions.

QUESTION: So there’s no – but there isn’t anything in the short term that you’re aware of that you’re going to do to express your displeasure, other than the statements that the Secretary made at the —

MS. HARF: Look, we’re constantly reevaluating our policy, but to my knowledge, there’s nothing specific that’s being done today. But again, this all plays into the broader context of the space that we’ve seen, quite frankly, the shrinking space in Egypt for freedom of expression, for freedom of the press, which we’ve been very concerned about.

QUESTION: What is the status of the transfer of the 10 Apache helicopters that were supposed to go to the Egyptian military? Related to that, what is the overall status of the release of the $575 million in FMF funding?

MS. HARF: The 572 I think is what you’re referring to. So that was recently obligated, as folks know. It was the result of continuing consultations with Congress. Those consultations are ongoing. Obviously it wasn’t timed to coincide with anything other than our consultations with Congress. No updates on the Apaches. We’re still working with the Hill. As you know, money’s obligated, but obviously we have to keep working with Congress to get things moving, so I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: Would it be —

QUESTION: On the journalists, please.

QUESTION: Would it be too – wouldn’t it be reasonable to consider perhaps slowing down the process of transferring the delivery of the Apaches or of actually making the funds available to the Egyptians for their military operations to show the U.S.’s displeasure with the verdict?

MS. HARF: I think we were very clear about our displeasure with the verdict today. And as I said, we continually look at our policy towards Egypt and what our assistance will look like. There are many competing factors here. You heard the Secretary speak about them yesterday in his press avail. So we’re – again, we’re constantly evaluating this, and we will make our displeasure known, as we did today.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. trust Egypt in light of these meetings which the Secretary had on Sunday? And he was rather voluble, to use a word, about his conversations with both President Sisi and with Foreign Minister Shoukry on Sunday. Does the U.S. feel that it can trust this new government?

MS. HARF: Look, it’s not about trust, Roz. It’s not about trust in any relationship. It’s about actions and what we see happening. And I think the Secretary made very clear in his statement today our concern – our deep concerns and how we view these sentences and these convictions. I think that came through crystal-clear today in his statement. Certainly, again, I think for him coming on the heels of his visit there, this was, I think, particularly tough news to take today. And we’ll continue to make our displeasure known.

QUESTION: And one more —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Wait. She’s been waiting.

QUESTION: — and one more —

MS. HARF: One more on this.

QUESTION: Yeah. And then I’ll yield to Lena.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Would it be fair to say that the Egyptian Government is damaging its own credibility, not just with the American Government but with the international community, because President Sisi has promised a new start?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that, again, going back to what the Secretary said, these kind of sentences, these kind of convictions, fly in the face of everything that President Sisi told him yesterday that he wanted to govern – the way in which he wanted to govern. The Secretary said that today. I think that it’s hard for people around the world to look at these sentences and these convictions and see that there’s anything just about them, see that there’s anything about them that is the kind of Egypt President al-Sisi has talked about going forward. So again, it’s about action, it’s not about words.

The Secretary had good meetings yesterday. These are important meetings. These are important discussions. We have a broad relationship with Egypt. But again, they’ve said they want – that they aspire to see their country advance in a certain way. Okay, we need to see actions back up those words. And again, we’ve called on the Egyptian Government to review the sentences, to look at potential avenues, including pardons, in this case.


QUESTION: These journalists were brought into the court for more than 12 times. Each time they go there, their trial gets postponed. Only hours after Secretary Kerry meets with Sisi and the foreign minister – although you’ve said you’ve always expressed concern regarding the freedom of press and what’s happening in Egypt, this verdict came only hours after the Secretary left the country. What do you make of this, the timing? It’s —

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about the timing. As you know, there is a judicial process here. And as Matt mentioned, we have had concerns about the judicial process being politicized in the past. Certainly we’ve expressed that. I don’t want to jump to conclusions about timing. Again, I think the Secretary made very clear that he had conversation yesterday with senior Egyptian leaders who talked about the kind of Egypt they want to build. Okay, this latest action, regardless of the timing or the reason, flies in the face of that. And it needs to not happen in the future, and we need – they need to take steps to remedy it.

QUESTION: Why are you still considering increasing aid to Egypt? Or – we understand that the aid that has been provided throughout the last year is the military aid that’s necessary to guarantee the Camp David deal. And —

MS. HARF: Well, let’s talk about – when we talk about counterterrorism —

QUESTION: You’re talking about an act in Congress to increase the aid to Egypt —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — and approve that budget while you’re just expressing concerns about all these major issues happening there.

MS. HARF: Again, we have shared interests when it comes to counterterrorism, particular in the Sinai. A lot of what we’ve provided in terms of assistance is for the counterterrorism fight in the Sinai, which also benefits the people of Egypt. Let’s be clear about that.

Also assistance that doesn’t go to the government, that benefits democracy programs in Egypt, that benefits average Egyptians trying to make their voices heard. So we have a broad, strategic relationship with Egypt. We will make very clear when they have done things that we disagree with. And I think all you have to do is look at the last year – almost year now – since July 4th and look at how our policy evolves in response to what the Egyptian Government itself has done. We’ve been very clear that we’re willing to take steps in response to what they do.

QUESTION: Let me clarify again – just again on the Apache question. You say that the delivery is still being reviewed, it’s still in process. Can you specify exactly what the status of those helicopters is?

MS. HARF: I believe at this point in the process it’s been obligated, but we’re working with the Hill in terms of releasing funds and timing and all of that. I can check and see if there’s more specifics, though, Roz.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iraq?

QUESTION: On Egypt, please.

QUESTION: Can I – no, I want to follow up on Egypt. Is it fair to say that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is of such strategic importance to the United States – both because of the peace treaty with Israel, privileged access for the U.S. military to the Suez Canal, and of course, Egypt’s status as the most populous Arab nation – that it really doesn’t ultimately matter in terms of consequences what Egypt does on human rights, that the United States will continue to maintain the relationship for those three fairly significant strategic regions – reasons?

MS. HARF: I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive. I do not think that (a) we will maintain a relationship with Egypt. Even when we suspended our assistance, because of what happened last July, we maintained a relationship. It’s really the nature of that relationship and the character of it and what it looks like. And that does change in response to the actions the government does or doesn’t take. And that does include human rights.

QUESTION: And do you think it likely that the U.S. Government will suspend additional aid deliveries or reduce amounts of aid given to Egypt in response to this particular instance, or in response to the broader pattern of human rights abuses since July 4th?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to guess, Arshad. I know – we again, we constantly look at our policy. I have no updates on that front or nothing to predict in terms of what we may or may not do.

QUESTION: So the Secretary said when he was there yesterday that he was hopeful that the helicopters would arrive very soon. That suggests that the Administration believes that it is a good idea and that you’re – for them to have the helicopters —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — and that you are trying, working —

MS. HARF: With Congress.

QUESTION: — with Congress – encouraging Congress to allow them to be transferred.

MS. HARF: Yes. That’s my – it’s my understanding our position on that has not changed.

QUESTION: Okay. So even after something as egregious as this and in the pattern – in fitting with the pattern that you say is horrible, you are still lobbying Congress to ramp up assistance to the Egyptian Government. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Matt – well, take a step back, though.

QUESTION: But that’s correct, isn’t it?

MS. HARF: Our relationship – well, no. Let me —


MS. HARF: Well, let me put it into context. Our relationship with Egypt is a complicated one and it’s a broad one. And quite frankly, this is an egregious step. You saw the Secretary make a comment on it today. We’ve also seen egregious steps over the past few months, right, with the hundreds of people sentenced to death, in absentia most of them, without even having trials. There is a pattern here. We are working with the Egyptians to try and break it not that there’s a new government in place, but again these things aren’t mutually exclusive.

We can on the one hand express our displeasure, express our concern about human rights, and also say but there is, at times, a shared interest to provide some assistance. It’s not black and white.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, I mean, I understand where you’re – what you’re saying. I don’t – I’m not sure it makes —

MS. HARF: You just don’t agree with it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I – I’m not sure – I just don’t think it makes any sense. This is a government that has been doing everything wrong in terms of one of your – allegedly, one of your top, highest priorities, which is the protection of human rights —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — and instead of punishing them or taking some step to show your displeasure other than just saying angry words, you’re actually trying to get them more assistance.

MS. HARF: Well, we do believe —

QUESTION: I mean, you’re trying to reward them.

MS. HARF: No, this isn’t about a reward. This is about the fact that we have shared strategic interests, that the assistance we provide to them – all of that is done in service of those shared strategic interests. It’s all where the United States national security interests lie.

QUESTION: So national security —

MS. HARF: So they’re a competing national security interest. Human rights is one of them, counterterrorism – there are all these competing interests, and what we do in Egypt and everywhere else is balance those interests.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, why isn’t it then fair for someone to take a look at this and say, “Well, in the battle of competing national security interests, human rights loses?”

MS. HARF: Because I think that’s a very simplistic and black-and-white reading of the situation.

QUESTION: Well, but that’s what it is.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: That’s the – I mean that’s —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) be accurate.

MS. HARF: Again, I would fundamentally disagree with it. This is a complicated relationship, Matt. To be fair, over the past year we have changed our relationship with Egypt at times to a large extent, as you saw after July 4th.


MS. HARF: So I think we’ve been very clear that we’re willing to take steps. But you have to look at it from the broader perspective, what serves U.S. national security interests. And we do believe at this time the – our interests are served by maintaining an assistance relationship with Egypt while also pressing on human rights, while making clear that if they don’t take certain steps we will take further action.

QUESTION: Okay, but it’s not as if since July 4th the bar graph has gone flat or down. If – you’re – the U.S. assistance to Egypt after the initial penalties, since July 4th, has gone up.

MS. HARF: And we have. We suspended assistance for quite a bit. And it’s – I’m not sure – let me double-check on that —

QUESTION: But as they —

MS. HARF: — but it’s my understanding this was all pre-obligated.

QUESTION: Right, right. Right.

MS. HARF: This wasn’t we decided to do new things.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — the assistance is going up to Egypt as they —

MS. HARF: Well, no. It’s been steady, as we had —

QUESTION: It’s flat-lined?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s – again, there’s no new assistance, right. It’s just issues that we – or assistance that we have put on hold to look at after what happened last July 4th, and then moving forward with assistance as we deemed it in our security interests to do so.

QUESTION: Right. I guess I just don’t understand what the – I mean, there seems to be no consequence at all here. I mean —

MS. HARF: Again, this is a broad relationship, Matt, and there are a variety of levers we have in terms of tools we can use to push the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: Okay, what – sorry, so – and now – and one of those would be aid, right?

MS. HARF: One of them, but it’s not the only one.

QUESTION: Okay, well —

MS. HARF: And I think you saw the Secretary very strongly come out and say – and I don’t have any predictions for what might happen next. There’s a process in place, we’ve called on the Egyptian Government to review these sentences, we’ve called them to do things like considering pardons.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have any more —

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that they’re at least willing to consider those steps?

MS. HARF: I’m quite frankly – am not sure. We would encourage them to, obviously.

QUESTION: What was the Secretary’s understanding of the legal process once he finished his meeting with President Sisi? Did President Sisi spell out for him this is —

MS. HARF: In terms of this case?

QUESTION: In terms of this case and of —

MS. HARF: Let me check and —

QUESTION: — yeah.

MS. HARF: — see if this case specifically came up in their meeting.


MS. HARF: I’m not sure that it did.

QUESTION: — because —

MS. HARF: I’m happy – obviously, the broader issue came up of convictions and sentences and detentions.

QUESTION: And I’m asking because I’m wondering —

QUESTION: It didn’t come up in —

MS. HARF: I said I’m not sure. I’m going to check, Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, because I —

QUESTION: Okay, no, no. I thought you had told Matt that it did come up earlier.

MS. HARF: I said I know the issue generally came up yesterday, but let me check what meetings. He had a number of meetings and I just need to check.

QUESTION: I’m asking in the context of the Secretary’s statement and his comments at the press avail suggesting look at all venues available to you —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — including pardons. And I’m wondering, did it come out of that conversation? Was that briefing that the Secretary might have had just about the judicial process?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check, guys, about what more happened on the ground, what meetings it came up in specifically, if any. I know again the broad issue came up, but I just want to get some facts from the team that’s been on the ground. As you know, they’ve been working on Iraq today as well, so let me just see what I can get you.

Let’s just do one more on this.

QUESTION: One more on Egypt. Okay, well, actually it’s about Al Azouli prison. It seems like the Egyptian Government has this hidden prison where they torture the disappeared individuals. They are hundreds of them. There were – there was – they’re being subjected to torture. It’s a military jail called Al Azouli. Do you have anything on this?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have anything.

QUESTION: Iraq, please?

MS. HARF: Yes, let’s move on. Yes.

QUESTION: If we start with John Kerry’s visit to Baghdad.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: If you can just confirm if he is going to Kurdistan as well to meet the Kurdish leaders?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional updates in terms of his travel. He did meet with Iraqi leaders today from across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Maliki, Speaker Nujaifi, and Foreign Minister Zebari. If we have updates in the future I’m happy to pass them on.

QUESTION: So I just got back from Iraq yesterday. I went to Kurdistan, I went to Mosul –near Mosul. Like one thing that most really people if you talk to, whether they’re Kurds or – if they don’t understand what the United States is doing now. For example – okay, if you can tell me what John – Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to achieve —

MS. HARF: Yep, so —

QUESTION: — from meeting with Nouri Maliki.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. So – yep. In all of these meetings, he stressed the need for Iraqi leaders to understand the urgency of the situation and that the responsibility is on their shoulders to act in a unified way. He emphasized that defending Iraq against ISIL in large part depends on their ability to form a government and to do it quickly. So that was one of the key takeaways that came from his meetings. You also saw the President, as we talked about last week, announcing some additional assistance as well.

QUESTION: Specifically, like, he stated with – in his meeting with Egyptian foreign minister yesterday that Iraq needs a leader that represents all Iraq’s communities.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean you believe or the United States Government believes Maliki does not represent all the communities?

MS. HARF: That’s not what he’s saying. He also said, I believe, that we don’t pick sides, we don’t pick a leader; it’s up for the Iraqi people to do that. As you know, there is a process for government formation now —

QUESTION: But he also said that – he notes that —

MS. HARF: So any leader needs to represent all Iraqis.

QUESTION: But he also said that he notes that the Kurds are dissatisfied, the Sunnis are dissatisfied, and some of the Shias are also dissatisfied.

MS. HARF: That’s right.

QUESTION: That means that he wants Maliki replaced.

MS. HARF: That’s not what he said at all. I think you’re putting words in the Secretary’s mouth. What we have said is that Iraq needs a leader – all of its leaders, quite frankly – that represent all Iraqis, and that it’s up for the process to play itself out here, as you know. And all of the parties, I think, have committed to the timetable to start government formation, I think, I on the first when the Council of Representatives convenes. And the process will play itself out, but we don’t support any one person.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But do you think Maliki – like, I mean, it seems to many people that the only way to solve this problem, if it can be solved, is to replace Maliki, because nobody wants him —

MS. HARF: Again —

QUESTION: — the Sunnis, the Kurds —

MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear. Whoever the leader is, they need to represent all parties. I know that you’re trying to push on this and I know there’s a lot of commentary out there about this, but we’ve been very clear that we will work with the leadership of Iraq, and all of Iraq’s leaders need to govern in an inclusive way.

QUESTION: Just a couple more questions.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What about the, like, 300 military advisors and experts you have sent to Iraq? What is their job? What are they trying to achieve?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple things. First, they’re going to be advisors working with the Iraqis to help shore up their ability to fight ISIL. We’re also going to be enhancing our intelligence sharing, including through joint operation centers to fuse information. We’re going to continue to supply a steady stream of sophisticated munitions, and the advisors really be working with some of Iraq’s best units to help them fight ISIL. Our support, I think, will be intense and sustained. And again, none of this will work if Iraq’s leaders don’t step up to the plate and realize this is a key moment to govern in a different way going forward.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yeah.


QUESTION: Last one.

QUESTION: Sorry, sorry.

MS. HARF: Wait, let’s go to Matt.

QUESTION: Last one.

QUESTION: Wait. Just one more –

MS. HARF: One more, and then I’m going to Matt.

QUESTION: — because I want to really be clear about this. Like, everybody knows that the United States military had been training Iraq for years with a lot – a much larger number of U.S. forces.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Like, really, nobody expects that with 300 people training for —

MS. HARF: It’s a very different time.

QUESTION: — like, I mean, yeah. But what can they achieve?

MS. HARF: It’s a very different time.


MS. HARF: A very different threat.

QUESTION: What couldn’t they achieve then, why can they achieve it now —

MS. HARF: Well, again —

QUESTION: — from training Iraqi —

MS. HARF: — a lot happened after the United States left Iraq. And as the President spoke to, I think now two weeks ago, maybe a week and a half ago, so much of what we’ve seen in terms of the lack of cohesion in the Iraqi armed forces has been because its leaders have failed to govern in an inclusive way and have really fomented sectarian divisions instead of doing the opposite. So these 300 advisors will be providing assistance, serving in an advisory role to some —

QUESTION: But will it be different from the kind of —

MS. HARF: — to some of Iraq’s best units.

QUESTION: Will it be any different from the kind of, like, assistance? Will it be any better in any way, if you can concretely speaking about it?

MS. HARF: It’s a very different time. For more specifics on that, I’m happy to have my colleagues at the Defense Department help you out.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — last week, there were a bunch of questions posed to Jen about the immunity issue.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding, and I can’t remember if this was said at the Pentagon or at the White House earlier, but that immunity for the 300, who are not there yet, correct —

MS. HARF: Correct, that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: — is going – is covered in a diplomatic note? Is that —

MS. HARF: Yep. So I have a little bit on this. Let me give you what I have, and then I am sure there will be follow-ups.

So obviously, the President has made clear that we need to address the status of any military personnel sent into Iraq. We can confirm that Iraq has provided acceptable assurances on the issue of protections for these personnel via the exchange of diplomatic note. Specifically, Iraq has committed itself to providing protections for our personnel equivalent to those provided to personnel who were in country before the crisis. And we believe these protections are adequate to the short-term assessment and advisory mission that our troops will be performing there.

QUESTION: Okay. Is this something – do you know when that arrived?

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: Was it —

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Was it like last week or just over the weekend?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: I mean, what – in other words, was this an issue – was this something that the Secretary would have been raising today?

MS. HARF: The Secretary was really focused on —


MS. HARF: — the political steps forward and CT.


QUESTION: Do you know how long it lasts?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Does that mean that there – this is it? You guys are satisfied with this and you’re not going to seek anything more in the way of legal immunities?

MS. HARF: We believe that these protections are adequate to what these 300 advisors will be doing.


QUESTION: Does this mean that any of those advisors could fall under the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts, or are they all kept outside of the Iraqi judicial system?

MS. HARF: So the – without going into every specific in the dip note, the protections are akin to those extended to diplomatic personnel. Our troops will have the legal protections they need to perform their mission. And again, they would, were something to arise, face due process for violations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Who provided these protections?

MS. HARF: The Iraqi Government —

QUESTION: Yeah, but the prime minister —

MS. HARF: — through a dip note.

QUESTION: The prime minister, the government, the foreign minister?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure who signs diplomatic notes. I’m happy to see if there are more details. It’s an official exchange of communications between our two governments, though.

QUESTION: A question on Kurdistan, please.

MS. HARF: Can we – is there anything else on this? Okay, yeah.

QUESTION: One more on this.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: But does it need a parliamental decision, or a vote on this issue?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, the parliament I think won’t be convening until the 1st. We are working with the Iraqis to determine whether, when a new COR is seated, its approval will be necessary. For now we do believe we have the assurances we need, though.

QUESTION: Just a quick — on this. That means essentially that these 300 advisors, even though they don’t have any diplomatic role – they’re military advisors – are essentially covered under the Vienna Conventions?

MS. HARF: Again —

QUESTION: Is that —

MS. HARF: Well, they’re covered under the assurances given to us in a diplomatic note between our two governments.

QUESTION: Right. But you said “akin to.”

MS. HARF: I said they’re akin to what diplomatic – I’m not going to go into all of the specifics in the diplomatic note that we exchanged, but again, akin to those.

QUESTION: Well – okay.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Maybe we can talk about the – maybe we can get someone from the legal office to – I’m just – I’m a little confused as to how —

MS. HARF: I don’t need someone to explain to me what it says. There’s just not a lot more we can share.

QUESTION: No, to explain to me.

MS. HARF: Yeah. There’s just not going to be a lot more we can share about this. We are confident in the assurances we’ve been given that our folks will have the legal protections they need.

QUESTION: But did you think that those – the assurances that they’ve given now could not have been extended in 2011?

MS. HARF: Well again, the situation now is different in character and kind than it was in 2011. This is a much smaller number of advisors, a clear Iraqi request for us, and appropriate assurances from the government. So it’s just a very different situation. And again, the diplomatic note is what’s covering this.

QUESTION: Okay. And did you guys specifically ask for this, or did they offer it?

MS. HARF: We certainly asked – well, I don’t know where it originated, but we certainly needed assurances that our folks would have protections.

QUESTION: Why not make the nature of the assurances public? What is the – why not do that?

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: What is the harm in that?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure there’s – I don’t know if there’s harm in it. Again, this is a private diplomatic communication between our Government and the Government of Iraq. We and the United States military believe that these are – assurances are enough for our folks to be there. I’m happy to see if there’s more details we can share. Again, I think this is just coming about fairly recently in terms of timing.

QUESTION: Sure. Again, if you could ask the question of it – whether it could be made public so that people could actually see it and understand what it is, and —

MS. HARF: I’ll see if there’s more we can share.

QUESTION: — therefore get the reassurance that one might get from actually looking at a document.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I don’t give that reassurance standing up here, Arshad?


QUESTION: I didn’t say that.

MS. HARF: Going to you.

QUESTION: I know the U.S. has recently stepped up its —

MS. HARF: And then I’m going back there.

QUESTION: — its military assistance to Iraq. You just delivered the first F-16 jets and a lot of Hellfire missiles, rocket-firing helicopters. But you just – you’ve sent all of these to the Iraqi army, Iraqi Government.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, in Iraq there are two armies: the Peshmerga, which protects Kurdistan, and the Iraqi army. And the Peshmerga has increasingly come under attacks from ISIS recently. And I talked to the commanders there on the ground; they were telling me that they feel that they might be outgunned by the ISIS fighters because they have reportedly gotten their hands on American weaponry from Mosul and other parts of Iraq they belonged – that had belonged to the Iraqi army.

So is there any plan that you might consider also arming the Peshmerga —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — to protect Kurdistan? Because there is no Iraqi soldier, there is no Iraqi police in Kurdistan.

MS. HARF: Well, let me make a few points here. We do support the steps that have been taken between the federal government and the Kurdish Regional Government to cooperate on a security plan that will enhance both the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga’s ability to hold positions and to confront ISIL. So they are actually working together on a common security plan here. We support —

QUESTION: They don’t work together in Kurdistan.

MS. HARF: Can I finish before you follow up?


MS. HARF: Thanks.

We support the federal Government of Iraq. That’s who we have a relationship with; that’s who we give assistance to. But again, we’ve encouraged the Kurds – particularly the Peshmerga – to work with the Iraqi army to fight this threat together.

QUESTION: But Peshmerga is, as you know, recognized by the Iraqi constitution as a regional guard, regional whatever – army. And can’t you work through that Iraqi constitution, respecting that constitution? Can’t you also provide them with arms?

MS. HARF: Again, we provide assistance to the Government of Iraq and have been encouraged that the government is working with the Peshmerga to fight this threat together, and we think that’s appropriate.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Poland.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: If I had to guess.

QUESTION: Marie, one of the weekly magazines in Poland published audio tapes with conversations of high-ranking government officials, and on one of the tapes a person identified as Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is saying the Polish-American alliance isn’t worth anything, is even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland. So is this true? What’s your comment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t comment on alleged tapes. I can’t confirm their authenticity or background. I’m just not in a position to verify that. But more broadly, the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship. You saw recently the Secretary certainly has been there, has been meeting, including with the foreign minister. And this is a relationship based on shared values. It remains strong. It’s a key part of our alliances in that part of the world. And the crisis in Ukraine, I think, has made that even more the case, where we’re confronting a shared threat together. So I can’t comment on the authenticity of the tapes, but I know that the Secretary and the foreign minister have a very good relationship and we’ll continue to have one with Poland.

QUESTION: Are you still willing to work with Mr. Sikorski —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — after comments like this?

MS. HARF: Again, I can’t verify the authenticity of these comments – excuse me. But absolutely, we have a very strong relationship with the foreign minister.

QUESTION: In addition to the Secretary’s visit, I believe the President —

MS. HARF: President, yes, yes, yes.

QUESTION: — was actually there not so long ago.

MS. HARF: At the same time.

QUESTION: Yeah, indeed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The question, though, is: Have – are you aware of hearing – of people hearing this kind of sentiment in conversations with Polish officials?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. As I said, I mean, quite frankly, we have a very strong relationship with Poland, had a really good visit there with the President, as you mentioned, and the Secretary.

QUESTION: Regardless of whether it was Mr. Sikorski saying this on the tape or not, you would disagree with the comments whoever was —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — whoever was speaking?

MS. HARF: Whoever said those comments.

QUESTION: Whoever said it was wrong, right? Can I ask you —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — why?

MS. HARF: Because we have a very strong relationship that’s based on shared values. Again, I mentioned Ukraine. All you have to do is look at the crisis in Ukraine and how we’re consulting and working with all of our allies, including Poland, to confront this threat together. So I think that just underscores how important NATO is, how important all of our partners are there.

QUESTION: So you would – better go to someone else because I can’t —

MS. HARF: Okay, Lucas.

QUESTION: — I can’t frame this question correctly.

QUESTION: Going back to ISIS for a second. Earlier today in Baghdad, Secretary Kerry said that ISIL can’t be tolerated in the region. And I was wondering why he didn’t feel that way three years ago.

MS. HARF: I don’t know what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: If he’s saying that now ISIL cannot be tolerated in the region now that ISIL has gone into Iraq, why didn’t he feel the same way when they were operating freely in Syria?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure what you’re basing your comment that he didn’t feel that way on. Do you have anything specific to ask about?

QUESTION: Well, he’s saying that this is essentially al-Qaida in Iraq, and did he not think that there was al-Qaida in Syria as well?

MS. HARF: Look, the Secretary and everybody has been very clear about the threat that’s being posed by terrorists that has mostly started in Syria and have now bled over into Iraq. And the Administration has been very clear about the threat posed by ISIL for years – for months and years. It was a key topic of conversation with Prime Minister Maliki when he was here last November. So I think any notion that the Secretary or anyone else here did not understand the threat is just false.

I would say, though, we have seen the threat evolve. And what you’ve seen over the past few months is really ISIL gaining strength, ISIL gaining territory, which is why it’s so imperative to get more assistance to Iraq.

QUESTION: Is there any regrets supporting Prime Minister Maliki these past few years?

MS. HARF: Again, we work with the elected leader of Iraq. And we’ve been very clear that we will work with him, but we’ve also been clear when we have concerns about how he’s governed. So again, it’s a relationship that we have had for some time now, and it’s up to the Iraqis to pick their next leader.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary voice some of these concerns a few years ago when —

MS. HARF: I think it’s safe to say that many members of this Administration – and of course the Secretary was in the Senate then – have voiced these concerns and have had concerns about how the Government of Iraq is governing. Yes.

QUESTION: So, wait, can I go back to my Poland question?

MS. HARF: Oh, yeah. And then I’m going to you next. Yes.

QUESTION: Unless they want to stay on Iraq.

MS. HARF: No, no, no, no. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, it’s just that you say that Ukraine is the – is why —

MS. HARF: Just one example.

QUESTION: — one – is one example of this, but —

MS. HARF: Afghanistan is another.

QUESTION: But using Ukraine as an example would seem to be problematic because the Russians have actually annexed Crimea. They take —

MS. HARF: But you asked what our relationship was based on, and I said shared values —

QUESTION: No, I know.

MS. HARF: — and shared interests —


MS. HARF: — and finding a better path forward for Ukraine where Russia is not able to do the kind of things we see them do is a shared challenge we are confronting together.

QUESTION: Well, right. But my question wasn’t about what the relationship with Poland is based on. It is why —

MS. HARF: That’s exactly what you asked.

QUESTION: No, it’s not. I was asking why the person, whoever said these things, is wrong. And the person who said these things said that the relationship between Poland and the U.S. is worthless and that it, in fact, can hurt, because it creates a false sense of security. I didn’t ask about whether there were shared values. I don’t think —

MS. HARF: Well, but that’s why he’s wrong about the first part, whoever this was on this tape, that it’s useless —


MS. HARF: — because we have shared interests, and we are working to confront them together.

QUESTION: But shared interests doesn’t – that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s – that the relationship is worth anything, does it? I mean, that’s the reason that there is a relationship. It doesn’t add value to it. So —

MS. HARF: Well, I think you’ve also seen the President and the Secretary talk quite a bit about reassurance of our allies since the situation in Ukraine, and we’ve taken steps to shore them up. So that’s – when we talk about security of countries like Poland, we’ve taken concrete steps to say we will stand by our allies in the face of Russian aggression in this region. So that would seem to be worth something.

QUESTION: Well, right. Except that – well, yeah. But what you have done in response to what you claim is – what you say is Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — is sanctions, which may or may not be having the – they certainly don’t – they haven’t —

MS. HARF: I think most economists would disagree with that notion. I think they’ve been pretty clear they are having an effect —

QUESTION: Well, I’m —

MS. HARF: — on the Russian economy, at least.

QUESTION: Yeah. But they haven’t had any effect on who runs Crimea.

MS. HARF: Well, look —

QUESTION: Russia hasn’t said, “Okay. Uncle. Enough. We’re going to pull out of Crimea,” because of them.

MS. HARF: Again, Russia has a decision to make. They can continue running their economy into the ground and hurting their own people, or they can take steps to uphold their obligations under international law.

QUESTION: But that’s not my question, Marie. Marie, I’m trying to figure out why it is that the Poles should take heart from policy – from Ukraine being an example of the great value of a relationship with the United States and NATO, when the United States and NATO haven’t done anything, at least effectively, to get the Russians out of Crimea.

MS. HARF: I think we’ve done – taken a number of steps to reassure allies like Poland, including deploying detachments of U.S. planners to augment their capabilities, to reassure them of their security in the face of Russian aggression. I think we’ve taken a number of concrete steps in Poland and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Isn’t one big difference between Poland and Ukraine —

QUESTION: Well, it’s a NATO ally, yes. But —

QUESTION: — is that Poland is a member of NATO and Ukraine is not?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, but no —

MS. HARF: But we are confronting Russian aggression in Ukraine in part by reassuring our NATO allies and taking concrete steps to show them we will stand by them.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know, just is anyone from the Embassy or this building trying to follow up to find out if, in fact, Mr. Sikorski said this stuff?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Syria?

MS. HARF: Just a little bit. I’m – yes, yes. We’ll do one here, and then we’ll do a couple on Syria.

QUESTION: Well, thank you, Marie. This is Arshad, the other Arshad —

MS. HARF: The other Arshad.

QUESTION: Both of them. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: — with a question on Bangladesh. Recently the UN chief called for a dialogue between the two contending major parties, BNP and the Awami League. And this has been a matter of concern, because things are going downhill as far as law and order situation is concerned. And the minority issue came up. So under the backdrop of this, and since assistant secretary of state last visit was in November, and since then she never paid a visit, so what is the current position of the United States on this situation? Are they still sticking for a dialogue?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Our position hasn’t changed. I think the assistant secretary that you mentioned most recently spoke about this April 30th in a hearing up on the Hill, where she talked about the fact that Bangladesh continues to be an important partner to the United States, that we are encouraging dialogue between the parties, that we have consistently said this is the path forward here, and nothing about that has changed.

QUESTION: So is there any fresh election, specifically the dialogue would lead to a fresh election?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything I think more to say on what we think should come of the dialogue. Obviously it’s up to all the parties to decide together.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, Syria.

QUESTION: Regarding the Secretary’s statement on the removal of the last of the chemical materials —

MS. HARF: Yes. Eight percent, the last 8 percent. Yes.

QUESTION: The last declared.

MS. HARF: Declared. Yeah.

QUESTION: The last declared.

MS. HARF: And we made clear that point in the statement.

QUESTION: So what happens next? Is the priority trying to destroy the production facilities? Is the focus on trying to get back to some sort of peace talks, if that’s even feasible? Is it about simply trying to figure out another way or stopping the civil war? What’s the priority for this Administration?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a number of priorities. One of them is destroying the chemicals that are now out of the country and that are on the ships. So obviously that’s a process that will be done in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. So that’s what comes next in terms of those chemicals.

As you mentioned, yes, there are other things we still have to do, including destroying the – some of the production facilities. And again, everything is out of those facilities; it’s just about destroying them. And also to continue to make sure that there are no other chemical weapons out there. So in terms of CW, that’s sort of where we are right now. But again, this is a milestone, and I think a lot of people doubted whether we would ever get here, so I think it’s significant to note.

Look, in terms of the diplomatic side, we are where we have been in that we believe there is no military solution, that we need the parties to get back to the table, but the Assad regime has shown itself wholly unwilling to do so. We’re not just going to have talks to have talks. So we will continue to support the opposition, to ramp up our support, as you heard the President talk about recently, and evaluate what happens next.

QUESTION: Are you providing military support to the Syrian opposition?

MS. HARF: We’ve said we provide a wide range of support to both the Free Syrian Army and to the political side of the house as well, and that support will continue.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said that the U.S. is providing military support.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details on what he said, but we are providing a wide range of support.

QUESTION: Yeah. But why don’t you confirm it?

MS. HARF: I don’t – he can confirm it for us. I don’t have anything to add to what he said.

QUESTION: One more. Do you think it is possible that Syria has any chemical weapons or chemical weapon precursors that it did not – that it failed to declare?

MS. HARF: I think it’s certainly possible. I think you saw that in the Secretary’s statement today.

QUESTION: What, if anything, are you doing to try to neutralize the – or to prevent Syria from using those weapons, if they exist?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we don’t know that they exist. And the OPCW has the lead on reviewing and verifying the accuracy of its declaration. So we’ll continue supporting them, whether that’s with intelligence or information. We will continue supporting them in that regard. But I think we’ve made very clear that there are consequences to use, and I think if you just look at the last however many months we’ve been working on getting these weapons out of the country, that that is a significant milestone that we were able to get what they’ve declared out of the country.

QUESTION: What consequence did Syria suffer for its having used chemical weapons?

MS. HARF: That they have lost their entire declared stockpile of them.

QUESTION: Right. They voluntarily chose to give those up.

MS. HARF: Under great international pressure brought on by the threat of American military strikes.

QUESTION: So your view is that their choice to give them up is a consequence?

MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely, I do. Yes. Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah, a lot. I’m kind of confused by that last answer, though, because I mean, this is a —

MS. HARF: The Syrians had to forfeit a stockpile of weapons that, quite frankly, I think they had shown themselves absolutely willing and able to use.


MS. HARF: But under great international pressure, including the threat of American air power, they had to be brought to the table to surrender them. So yes, I do think that getting rid of those chemical weapons is a good thing.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I don’t think anyone could argue that it’s not a good thing.

MS. HARF: I’m sure there are people willing to make that argument out there.

QUESTION: You think?

MS. HARF: You know.


MS. HARF: The arguments people make, the depths to which they will go, Matt —


MS. HARF: — never ceases to amaze me.

QUESTION: All right. Assad is no closer to leaving power now than he was before August – before the chemical weapons were used, right?

MS. HARF: But that was never going to be the goal of any military action at the time, regardless.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, can we go to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Can I make one analogy here, though? Your suggestion that suffering – that Syria voluntarily, albeit under pressure, choosing to give up its chemical weapons is a consequence that it suffered as a result of the use of chemical weapons is kind of like saying somebody takes a gun, shoots and kills somebody, and then under pressure gives up their gun. But the point is it’s, yeah, they’ve given up their gun, but is that a punishment for —

MS. HARF: And that gun can never be used ever again to harm anyone else.

QUESTION: Yeah. But nobody’s arguing that. So you think it is a consequence?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I actually – yes, I think that the Syrians gave up a weapon that they liked having in their arsenal and clearly showed themselves willing to use. It doesn’t mean that don’t have really other terrible weapons in their arsenal as well.

QUESTION: Can I go to —

MS. HARF: I have time just for a couple more —

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: — and then I have to run. Sorry.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yes, let’s do a few on Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the President and President Putin spoke today, according to the White House and according to the Kremlin. I want to ask you about that call, unless you want to say more than what the White House already said about it.

MS. HARF: I think I’ll punt to the White House.

QUESTION: Okay. You’ve seen that the Russian – the separatists, the rebels in the east, have said that they will respect or that they plan to respect the ceasefire. I presume you think this is —

MS. HARF: We’ve seen those claims. But again, actions have to back up the words.

QUESTION: Okay. Have —

QUESTION: Will four days make a difference?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Will four days make a difference?

MS. HARF: Look, we would support any side taking steps to work towards a cease-fire. Obviously, we need to see those steps taken to support the words that we’ve now seen from President Putin and others.

QUESTION: But not – I’m not talking about what President Putin – I mean, President Putin has come out and said that he supports the ceasefire as well —

MS. HARF: Yes. No, I was responding to your question.

QUESTION: — but he’s also said that – okay, so you’re – I’m talking about the separatists.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. As I said, there are words out there people have spoken about supporting the cease-fire —

QUESTION: Right. Okay.

MS. HARF: — but we haven’t seen actions taken to back that up yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you seen any – in terms of actions, what have you seen? Has it gotten worse?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Has it gotten —

MS. HARF: It has, in some respects. We have seen evidence of continued Russian military support to the separatists, and a new ongoing build-up of Russian forces on the border.

QUESTION: Okay. On Friday, there was discussion in here and in a conference call with a senior official about Russian tanks moving or having left – they were being prepared at a site —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — in southwest Russia and then there were indications that some of them might have left that site. Is that still the case?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So —

QUESTION: Do you – have they – are you aware that they have gone into Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Right. And as we said, I think, last week on June 13th, Russia sent tanks from a deployment site in southwest Russia into eastern Ukraine. And we have information that additional tanks have been prepared for departure from the same site. On June 20th the OSCE reported eyewitness accounts seeing a military convoy of unknown origin driving through Luhansk city. This convoy included tanks and armored personnel carriers. We also have ground photos from the destroyed BM-21 multiple rocket launchers in Luhansk, that the launcher originally belonged to a Russian motorized rifle brigade. So there’s a host of information that tanks, rocket launchers are crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine.

QUESTION: And all of this is post-Friday?

MS. HARF: I can check on the timing.

QUESTION: There was one thing – yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I had basically the same question, which was the briefer on the call couldn’t confirm that any of the tanks that the U.S. Government has information had left —

MS. HARF: Have crossed?

QUESTION: — had actually crossed.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see what the status of that is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And is it still your understanding that reports in Russia of enormous amounts of refugee flows are incorrect?

MS. HARF: Incorrect. Yes.


MS. HARF: Still our understanding. Sorry for the fire drill today, guys. That’s it. See you all —

QUESTION: Fire drill? Is there a fire drill?

MS. HARF: It was a quick fire drill.

QUESTION: Is there?

MS. HARF: No, I said I did a quick briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:38 p.m.)



Summer and Fall at Prairie State College