State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, October 7, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 7, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Government Shutdown / Employee Furlough Numbers
    • Secretary Kerry’s Comments / Assad Regime and Legitimacy
    • Engagement by Ambassador Ford / Read-out
    • Chemical Weapons / OPCW / Destruction
    • Geneva 2 / Iran’s Participation
    • P5+1 Talks / Missile Defense / Iran
  • IRAN
    • P5+1
    • Hopeful Signs / Geneva I Communique
    • Ongoing Counterterrorism Operations / Global Reach
    • Continue to Pursue Justice / U.S. Citizens
    • Capture of Anas al Libi/ Lawfully Detained Outside of Libya
    • Strategic Relationship with Government of Libya / Value Relationship
    • 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force
    • Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir
    • Specially Designated Global Terrorist / Mohammed Jamal / Mohammed Jamal Network
    • Ongoing Talks
    • Bilateral Security Agreement / Progress / Talks Continuing
    • Elections
    • Urge Free, Fair, Transparent Elections
    • Ensure Fundamental Freedoms / Troubled by Attack on Journalists
  • IRAN
    • Soccer Match with the U.S.
    • Concerned With Talks Missile Defense System / Conveyed Concerns to Government



1:26 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to the daily briefing. I just want to make one quick announcement at the top, and then happy to open it up to your questions.

I just wanted to point out a group of visitors we have in the back several rows of the briefing room. It’s 14 undergraduate and graduate students and two professors from a university in Santiago, Chile are visiting Washington, DC as part of a semester-long program on economic journalism. I’m sorry if I just embarrassed all of you. (Laughter.) But I wanted to say welcome. We’re very happy to have you here. I hope this is enlightening and interesting. And with that, I will open it up.

Deb, get us started.

QUESTION: Let’s start with the shutdown.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We have some congressional sources who are telling us that the magic number on the furloughs at State is 343, half of them being – 179 – being from OIG, the Office of Inspector General. Can you confirm those numbers for me?

MS. HARF: Well, I can say that we currently have, I would say, hundreds of employees furloughed. Again, as we’ve said, it’s a small number. We talked about that some are from the Office of the Inspector General; some are from another office as we’ve talked about as well. And I would underscore that every day this goes on longer, we risk having that number go up to the thousands. Thankfully, we’re not there yet. But every day this goes on longer we get closer.

QUESTION: So can give us any —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just one quick follow-up.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about any upcoming impacts that might happen, say, later this week or next week if this thing drags on?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a timeline. I think this was where Elise was about to go. I don’t have a timeline for when furloughs might happen. No additional steps to announce at this point. As we’ve said, we’ve sharply curtailed travel, participation in conferences, public participation, and other events. That’s happening – that’s already started happening, was happening last week, but nothing new on top of that to announce at this point.

QUESTION: You were going to get us a list of some of the conferences that you —

MS. HARF: I think our folks are still working on that. I believe there was one that involved counterterrorism. But I’m not – don’t have all the details in front of me. I know they’re still working on that, and hopefully we’ll have that later today.

QUESTION: Do you know where it was?

MS. HARF: I don’t have the details. I think they’re still working on it.

QUESTION: And one of the impacts is already felt on the trade talks that were supposed to happen in —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — Brussels. Does that involve the State Department people as well, or was that purely Treasury?

MS. HARF: I will double-check on that. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I want to ask about the Secretary’s comments on Syria today.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: They were kind of unusually positive towards the Assad regime and I think gave a little bit of credence to fears in the opposition that this cooperation with President Assad only gives him job security and makes him less inclined to feel that he needs to go to Geneva and negotiate his own ouster.

MS. HARF: Well, let me say first that our position on the future of Bashar al-Assad has not changed. Our position on him is the same, that he’s lost all legitimacy to lead Syria, that we’re working towards a Geneva 2 conference that gets us to a place where both sides, by mutual consent, pick the transitional leadership of Syria. It’s clear the opposition won’t allow that.

On the opposition side, right now Ambassador Ford is in Istanbul meeting with the opposition, including members of the SMC, including General Idris. The meeting, I think, lasted for three and half hours this weekend, was a very productive discussion. So we’re continuing to work with the opposition, the SOC and the SMC. But the fact is that our position on Assad hasn’t changed. As we go through this process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, the regime or an eventual transitional government will have the responsibility – some responsibilities, right, for allowing access and assisting in the destruction through allowing access and allowing inspectors. But our position on the fact that he must go has not changed, and this in no way is an indication that he can remain in power.

QUESTION: But when you say that he’s lost all legitimacy to lead Syria and then the Secretary says the Assad regime deserves credit, that, in effect, does give them a bit of legitimacy.

MS. HARF: It doesn’t at all. We’ve said from the beginning of the CW destruction process that the regime, or whoever’s in power, right – eventually a transitional government – will have responsibilities as part of this process. But that does not confer political legitimacy on them to lead their country going forward.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up. But you are not precluding the fact that – you do acknowledge that the Assad regime has been quite forthcoming and quite cooperative in the last couple days in terms of destroying the chemical weapons, correct?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to use those terms. What I will say is the fact that three weeks ago – and the Secretary said this – the Syrian regime didn’t even acknowledge that it had chemical weapons, and now inspectors not only on the ground but yesterday the OPCW announced that destruction had begun, is clearly a step in the right direction. But as the Secretary also said, we’re not going to vouch today for what happens a week or month down the road, and we have to continue to see forward progress in the destruction of these weapons.

QUESTION: Okay, but the credit remains. I mean, he – like the Secretary said, I mean, he gets credit for cooperating, he gets credit for allowing inspectors in, for basically opening the doors for them – you do acknowledge that, correct?

MS. HARF: What we’ve said, Said, is that all sides here have responsibilities under UN Security Council Resolution 2118, under the Geneva framework, under OPCW resolution, all sides have responsibilities here, and everybody is looking to the Syrians, to the UN, to the – to everyone, to live up to those responsibilities.

QUESTION: Okay. I just want —

QUESTION: Well, the Syrians do seem to be meeting those responsibilities.

MS. HARF: We’ve said it’s a step forward. But again, forward progress keeps having to be made in this process.

QUESTION: If you’d just allow me for a second.

MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next, Jill. Yeah.

QUESTION: Just the broader picture.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, here the United States is involved in fighting al-Qaida in Somalia —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — in fighting al-Qaida in Libya. And at the same time, Assad is fighting al-Qaida very bloodily, as a matter of fact, in Syria. Don’t you find like that you are both on the same side in this battle?

MS. HARF: I don’t know in any way how those two are connected, Said.

QUESTION: You don’t – you don’t —

MS. HARF: Do you want to play it out a little more and I can respond?

QUESTION: You don’t believe that Assad is fighting the same kind of elements that are organizing in Somalia and Libya?

MS. HARF: I think Bashar al-Assad has brutally killed over a hundred thousand of his own people. I think that’s completely separate and apart from any legitimate counterterrorism operations or interests we might have elsewhere around the world. That’s just offensive to actually put them in the same sentence.

QUESTION: Just following up —

QUESTION: Marie, isn’t there a —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Marie, isn’t there a dilemma that you have, because I mean, realistically, forgetting about theories and who – there will eventually be a transition government.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right now, you need somebody to assure that those stockpiles are under lock and key —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that nobody’s going to get them, et cetera, and that guy is Assad. So —

MS. HARF: Well, it’s bigger than Assad, right.


MS. HARF: It’s the regime.

QUESTION: The regime. Let’s – well, we use that – but let’s —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — the regime —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — even more so. So if you begin to dismantle that in this crucial time where you want to make sure that the chemical weapons really will not get out to anyone else, isn’t it dangerous to suddenly remove Assad from the picture or even the regime from the picture?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question, and what we’ve said is as we move towards a political transition we actually don’t want to disassemble the political and governmental structures of the entire regime for exactly that reason and others, quite frankly, because we don’t want to have complete political implosion in Syria. We need some political structure going forward for a democratic transitional body, or whatever we’ll call, it to take the lead there in the place of Assad.

So there’s a reason that we think it’s important to keep some of those institutions intact, and it’s important for the Assad regime to maintain control of these weapons and to tell the inspectors where they are, to fully cooperate, so we can, in fact, destroy all of them so they don’t fall into – you’re absolutely right, we don’t want them to fall into unknown hands or terrorist hands, certainly.

QUESTION: Okay. But to – and then to play that out a little bit more —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — if you’re looking for some sort of transitional government you have to get to Geneva 2.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And so far, listen to what Minister Lavrov said today, that the opposition still are incapable of pulling it together in order to – even get it to the – get to the table, he would argue. So what is your reaction to his criticism of the opposition, and is that a concern, because I mean, right now you still have to deal with the regime, whatever it is –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — to make sure that this crucial agreement is carried out.

MS. HARF: Well, absolutely right on the second part. We do have to – the UN and the OPCW, I should say – have to deal with the regime in carrying out the UN Security Council resolution. But in terms of Geneva 2, the topic of participation was discussed between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov. We didn’t expect to resolve that question at this meeting. As we all know, it’s been an ongoing question.

We have seen the opposition take steps to unify. We’ve talked about a lot of them in this room. And I think you see Ambassador Ford, again, having extensive meetings with them in the region right now to help them move forward in this process. So we’ll continue discussing participation. I know we’ve talked about possibly mid-November. Ban Ki-moon said that and we’ve talked about that as a possible timeframe, but we don’t have any timeframe yet. We want to make sure we have the right participants and the right items on the agenda to make progress.

QUESTION: Is it – was this —

QUESTION: Just to follow up —

QUESTION: Was there any progress made with —

MS. HARF: I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: — Ambassador Ford and the opposition? Does he feel yet that they have a cohesive delegation that they could bring to the negotiating table in Geneva?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve said for a long time that they’ve continued to get more cohesive. I mean, we haven’t talked specifically about who will be at Geneva when it comes to people, but we’ve said the SMC and the SOC will be the representative bodies representing the opposition.

I have a little bit of a fuller readout of his meeting. They discussed in detail the situation on the ground and in particular the rising influence of extremist groups and how it could be slowed and ultimately contained. Ambassador Ford also pledged more support to their organization. We’ve talked about this a lot. They also discussed humanitarian aid and all agreed that as a matter of principle neither armed opposition groups nor the regime should block humanitarian aid deliveries. So those discussions are ongoing. He still – he’s still in Istanbul, so we might have —

QUESTION: Senior U.S. officials have told us as early – as recently as last week at the United Nations that – or the week before – that the opposition is battling on two fronts. Not only are they battling the regime, but they’re also battling extremists.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So doesn’t – when he says how – when the Ambassador says – when you say they discussed how the rising influence of extremists can be contained, doesn’t that mean kind of on the battlefield as well, and wouldn’t that include U.S. support for their efforts?

MS. HARF: Well, it covers the wide range of topics when we’re talking about extremist groups. Clearly, this person that spoke to you at the UN is correct in the fact that the opposition is fighting the regime, but we also do have extremist groups, particularly in certain areas – we’ve talked about al-Nusrah, we’ve talked about ISIS – who are not parts of the legitimate opposition and that we’re all dealing with, right, and we’re all trying to contain. I shouldn’t say dealing with. That could be positive.

QUESTION: But now they’re an element on the battlefield that is – while you’re helping the regime in terms of battling the Assad regime, don’t you now – while you’re battling – helping the opposition battle the Assad regime, don’t you also now have to help them battle extremists?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re, I think across the board, helping them get stronger and represent the – as much of the opposition as possible. And that can include a lot of things, including – yeah, I would say broadly speaking we certainly don’t want extremists to be a part of the opposition or to gain in strength and we would support efforts so they couldn’t.

QUESTION: So can you tell us then if they discussed ways of controlling the influence or weakening the extremist opposition? What are some of those ideas? How do you do it?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. Let me see if I can get more detail from the Ambassador, from folks that were in the meeting. If we have some details to share, I’m happy to talk about that tomorrow. I’ll just see if I can get some more details from the folks on the ground.

QUESTION: Same topic.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have Secretary Kerry and Minister Lavrov discussed the participation of Iran in Geneva 2, and what do you have on this?

MS. HARF: They did, as I said, discuss participation. We’ve been clear multiple times about Iran’s destructive role in the Syrian crisis and our expectation that any party that’s included in Geneva 2 must accept and publicly support the Geneva communique. If – and this is an if – Iran were to endorse and embrace the Geneva communique publicly, we would view the possibility of their participation more openly.

QUESTION: And was that discussed during the meeting with Secretary Kerry and the —

MS. HARF: I believe it was. Let me double-check with our folks on the ground. I believe it was, though.

QUESTION: A clarification. You’re talking about Geneva 1 communique.

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: But on this very issue —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the Syrians – or not the Syrians – in fact, a high-level American official is saying that the government here missed an opportunity last year to actually cut a deal on the Geneva 1, but because of the political climate of the time of the election they missed that opportunity. Could you tell us anything about that?

MS. HARF: I think what I would say, and I’m not exactly familiar with the specifics that you’re referring to, Said, but I would say that everyone in this Administration – people who’ve served in it, people who currently serve in it – very much want to get us to a political solution to the crisis in Syria. But it’s really hard. If it were easy, it would have been done months ago. There are a lot of complicated factors at play here, and everyone in this Administration is working towards the same goal. And if we’ve had opportunities in the past that people allege could have gotten us to a different place, I would challenge them to come out and say how, because we’ve been going down every path to try and get to a political transition as quickly as possible. But again, this is – we’ve always been clear that this will take time.


QUESTION: To go back to chemical weapons, do you give any credit to the Syrian regime for its cooperation or not?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I answered that question a little bit, but I’m happy to go back over it again.

QUESTION: But I didn’t understand it very well.

MS. HARF: You – okay, so I’ll try and make it more understandable, that – I don’t want to get into the term “credit.” I’m going to say that everyone has responsibilities here that they have —

QUESTION: Do you stand by the Secretary’s —

MS. HARF: Of course. Of course I do. Absolutely, I stand by everything the Secretary says. But when it comes to the responsibilities of all the parties here, the Syrian regime, who’s in control of these weapons, has responsibilities. So we certainly say this is a step forward, that just yesterday the OPCW was able to start destroying part of its program. But it matters that we keep making progress, and we want to continue on the process. The OPCW and the UN are working very hard on it right now, and we hope to see more progress going forward.

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, one, Said’s question, earlier question, about the Assad regime is battling with al-Qaida, there are reports – for example, today from Time magazine – that actually Assad regime is not bombing the places such as Azaz by the border of Turkey or some of northern Aleppo places that ICIS controls. Do you have any information to confirm that the Assad regime avoids bombing the al-Qaida affiliates —

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I don’t know the answer to that. I can check on it.

QUESTION: And second question, about Kerry praises Assad. Today, Turkish Prime Minister said – it’s quote, “I cannot imagine a human praise Assad after he killed 110,000 people.” My first question is: Do you have any reaction to this statement?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I would characterize what Secretary Kerry said as praising Bashar al-Assad. We have been very clear, from the President to the Secretary to this podium, that what Bashar al-Assad has done is horrific. He has no legitimacy. Nobody is giving him any praise. Where we are today is in a situation that was unimaginable just three weeks ago, where we are undertaking a destruction of Syria’s massive chemical weapons stockpile. It is just a fact that the Assad regime is in control of those weapons. So it is a fact that the OPCW and the UN must work with them, and they have responsibilities to assist in the destruction of these weapons. That’s just a fact. That’s not conferring legitimacy. That’s not giving praise. But we want the process to keep moving forward, and when it does we will say so. That’s what the Secretary was doing in his press avail today.

QUESTION: So, do – but do you understand people who have – who are outraged by this remark when you compare Secretary Kerry comparing Assad to Hitler a month ago and now he praises – says —

MS. HARF: Again, I’m going to take issue with the word “praise,” and I’m going to make it very clear that this Administration, Secretary Kerry – all of our positions on Bashar al-Assad has not in any way changed, period, full stop, from what we’ve been saying for months, if not years, now.

QUESTION: Would you say that the regime is meeting its responsibilities in this whole affair on chemical weapons?

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is that – the past few days and week is what we’ve called a step forward, so that’s a good sign. But as the Secretary said, more things have to happen, and we’re not going to vouch for what’s going to happen tomorrow or a week from now. We need to keep seeing forward progress.

I think another milestone, I should say, that is coming up – and let me get this in front of me – is that on October 27th, Syria’s initial declaration to the OPCW of its chemical weapons holdings and facilities – and this is what’s required under the Chemical Weapons Convention that they recently signed on to – is due to the OPCW. So what we’ve seen so far have been disclosures. This is the first official declaration to the OPCW as part of their responsibilities under the Chemical Weapons Convention. That’s October 27th. We’ll evaluate and assess information as it comes in before then, but certainly then after then as well.


MS. HARF: Next topic, or more on Syria?

QUESTION: Can I change topic?

MS. HARF: Are you still on Syria?

Yeah – or go ahead, Jill. Sorry. I’m not doing a good traffic – good job traffic copping today.

QUESTION: Well, it’s kind of connected, but let’s say Iran, Syria, Russia.

MS. HARF: Okay. And then I’ll come up to you after Iran, Syria, and Russia.

QUESTION: It – I mean, it’s – and missile defense —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — because it’s pretty obvious that the Russians are now using the nascent rapprochement between the United States and Iran to take some hits against missile defense. And I know the Secretary was asked this question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you go into it a little bit more? I mean, is – are we seeing any type of – let’s put it positively – indication for the United States that the threat from Iran might not be as great as the U.S. thought, hence missile defense might not be as important?

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s a little too early to start making those kinds of judgments about the threat from Iran. We’re at the beginning of a diplomatic process here. Some of us will be in Geneva very soon for the next round of the P5+1 talks. We’re just starting this chance at a diplomatic opening that we saw at the UN, and we’re going to see where it goes, because we all would prefer that this be resolved diplomatically.

On missile defense, we’ve been clear with the Russians that we want to continue the dialogue on it, that it’s not – that they should talk to us about it. We want to come to some agreement on what this could look like going forward, and we’ll continue those discussions. This isn’t a threatening move. We’ve said that repeatedly as well. So we’ll continue the missile defense discussions with the Russians and see where this process takes us with the Iranians separate and apart from that.

QUESTION: And how do you respond to Foreign Minister Zarif’s comments over the weekend in which he said that now there’s a whole new administration in Iran on the table —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the P5 should come forward with a whole new set of proposals, suggesting that the ones that were – that remain on the table from Almaty are no longer valid?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said previously, that the P5+1 put on the table at Almaty a fair and balanced proposal. That proposal is still on the table. We have not to this point gotten a substantive response back from the Iranian Government. That’s what we’re still waiting for. So we hope that the new Iranian Government will come to Geneva next week with a credible and a substantive response that shows they’re ready to engage in serious negotiations that will address the international community’s concerns. At this point we have no plans to put on the table a new proposal because indeed there’s one on the table right now that they can, and we expect and hope they will respond to.

QUESTION: But it does sound like he’s trying to change the ballgame a bit.

MS. HARF: Well, I —

QUESTION: To move the goal posts or whatever sporting analogy you want, yeah.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) I’ll avoid sporting analogies, at least for right now. No, what we’ve said is what we said for a long time, that we’ll keep talking about the proposal we have on the table. We’re looking forward to the discussions in Geneva. I don’t want to prejudge what those discussions might look like, but again, no plans at this point to put any new proposal on the table because there’s one on the table right now that they can respond to.

QUESTION: And conversely, then —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — just reading between the lines of what you’re saying is, you haven’t actually received an Iranian offer yet, ahead of Geneva, because that was one of the —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — issues that Cathy Ashton had brought up – that she wanted a – something to be given to you, in advance of actually getting to Geneva so you could study it.

MS. HARF: No, it’s a good question. I think what we said after the P5+1 meeting at the UN is that Foreign Minister Zarif put some ideas on the table. He – we heard him talk in a tone and with more specific, I guess, ideas, than we had heard in the past from previous Iranian administrations, but no substantive proposal or response from them yet to Almaty. Again, they could submit it before we get to Geneva. I know we’ve all talked about that – Cathy Ashton and others have talked about that. So nothing yet, but we’re all looking forward to meeting soon in Geneva.

Yes, Iran? Iran?

QUESTION: Yep. (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Okay, Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to quickly follow up and ask —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — Minister Lavrov mentioned in his comments on the meeting between President Obama and Putin that had been canceled on the 4th. Did they discuss – did Secretary Kerry and Lavrov discuss at all arranging for another summit between the two presidents to take place?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. I will look into it.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know of any communication between the two sides about that topic or —

MS. HARF: I don’t know of any. I just don’t have the facts, so let me check.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Foreign Minister Zarif’s comment that he thought that the President insulted the Iranian people?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those comments, Said.

QUESTION: Well, he’s responding to the President saying that Iran is working to have some sort of a nuclear weapon within a year.

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen those comments. What we’ve said, broadly speaking, is that what we’ve seen from President Rouhani, from Foreign Minister Zarif over the past several weeks, have been hopeful signs and words that we hope will translate into actions. We had a productive meeting at the UN and again are looking forward to going into Geneva to continue work on a possible diplomatic solution to this crisis.

QUESTION: Is it hopeful enough to include them in a Geneva conference on Syria?

MS. HARF: I think I made very clear that if the Iranian Government were to embrace the Geneva 1 communique, that we would view their participation more openly, more favorably, but nothing to announce on participation at this point.


QUESTION: Can I ask about the events over the weekend —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — in Somalia —

MS. HARF: Of course.

QUESTION: — and Libya.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you walk us through what you’re able to give us, and confirm, perhaps, some of the identities of the people involved, and where they might now be and what the fate has been of these – the two people who were targeted?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, let me make just a couple broad points and then I’ll go into some specifics. I think these two operations over the weekend underscore a few things about our ongoing counterterrorism operations. The first is that we have a preference, when possible, to capture terrorists – not just to take lethal action – for a number of reasons, but including because of the intelligence that’s gained by doing so. Second, that the United States doesn’t forget when its citizens are killed, injured, targeted by terrorists, even sometimes when it takes a while – because these are tough targets to find – that we don’t forget, and we will continue to pursue justice and to take terrorists who’ve harmed Americans off the battlefield. And third, that the United States military, our intelligence community, our national security agencies are able to operate globally with a global reach all around the world, to go after terrorists who have either harmed or are targeting the United States right now.

So I think those are some key, sort of, stepping-back points about this. I’m happy to go through some of the details about some of them, or do you want to ask specific questions?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I think —

MS. HARF: Let’s start with Libya, maybe.

QUESTION: Libya, yes

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So the gentleman, or whatever —

MS. HARF: Abu Anas al-Libi.

QUESTION: Abu Anas al-Libi, yes.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes. So where is he right now?

MS. HARF: He’s currently lawfully – being lawfully detained by the United States military in a secure location outside of Libya. I’m not going to give further details on his location.

QUESTION: Well, the – I mean, you’re obviously aware of the report that he’s on a ship and he’s being interrogated.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to confirm any additional details one way or the other on his whereabouts.

QUESTION: You can’t —

MS. HARF: Hold on, Said. I’ll go to you in one second.

QUESTION: And where will he – I mean, once interrogation, assuming, is over —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — is the intention to then transfer him to New York, where he’s been indicted on charges?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s true that he has been indicted in the southern district of New York in connection with his alleged role in al-Qaida’s conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, and to conduct attacks against U.S. interests worldwide, which included al-Qaida plots to attack U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.

So again, that the – he’s been indicted in the southern district. I’m not going to give specific details about where he eventually will be brought, other than to say that we, of course, are interested in seeking justice and he will eventually be subject to that process.

QUESTION: I mean, is there any chance that he could be – end up in Guantanamo, or are you no longer transferring any prisoners —

MS. HARF: No. Our – the Administration’s position on Guantanamo is clear: Our goal is not to add to the population; it’s to reduce it, which we’ve done. And to get — there are no – our policy is not to send any new detainees to Guantanamo.

QUESTION: Could you explain —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — to us what kind of interrogation or questioning laws apply when this person is on a ship, perhaps, in international waters?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into the details about where he is right now or the situation. For any more specifics on the operation, or any of those details, I’d refer you to DOD. But I’m not going to get into any specifics in that regard, Said.

QUESTION: Okay, just a quick follow-up on the —

QUESTION: And he’s in the custody of the U.S. military?

MS. HARF: Correct. Yes, he’s in the custody of the U.S. military.

QUESTION: Okay. Just a quick follow-up: Do you feel that you’ve breached the sovereignty of Libya?

MS. HARF: No, we don’t. And I would say a few points here about our relationship with the Government of Libya, that we consult regularly with the Libyan Government on a range of security and counterterrorism issues, and we’re committed to doing so going forward. Libya’s a partner in fighting shared challenges like the terrorist threat that men like this represent. We obviously aren’t going to get into our specifics of our communications with the Libyan Government, but we value our relationship, we support the aspirations of the Libyan people, and we will continue this strategic partnership that’s based on shared interest and shared goals, certainly of combatting challenges like this one.

QUESTION: The Libyans claim that you have not consulted with them and they have a lot of questions about this. So are they saying this for, let’s say, local – domestic consumption? Or are they telling the truth?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into more specifics about our diplomatic communications with the Libyan Government. I’m just not. I’ll again reiterate that we value them as a shared partner in this fight against terrorists, wherever they may be, but I just don’t have anything further for you on our communications.

QUESTION: Okay. In the event that you did not consult with them beforehand, would that be a breach of their sovereignty that you so much advocate?

MS. HARF: Said, I’m not going to address a hypothetical that I’m not confirming one way or the other.

QUESTION: So is that a hypothetical? Is it a hypothetical that —

MS. HARF: You said “if.” I didn’t confirm whether – I didn’t confirm anything. I’m not going to confirm anything about our communications with the Libyan Government, and I’m not going to answer questions that are based on a premise of whether we did or didn’t. I’m just not.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) say —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — you did not breach the sovereignty, right?

MS. HARF: Yes, I said —

QUESTION: Can you describe that a little bit more?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go any further. I’m just going to say that we regularly consult with them. I’m just not going to get into the discussions we’ve had with them diplomatically. Clearly we value them as a partner in these efforts.

QUESTION: You say – you said that he’s being lawfully interrogated and lawfully held.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you describe under what – which law he’s being held?

MS. HARF: Yes. This was done under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force from 2001, the AUMF from 2001.

QUESTION: But this presumably applies to American soil and American citizens, doesn’t it?

MS. HARF: What? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The law, the Authorization 2001. Would that not just apply – can it not just – I mean, it applies on American soil and to people who are here and American citizens. I don’t understand how it can apply to somebody who is a Libyan who’s being held in international waters. I mean, if the British Government decided to take an American citizen in Libya, then you guys would not like that. I’m just trying to understand how it can apply to somebody who’s neither an American nor was he on American soil.

MS. HARF: Well, the Authorization to Use Military Force – and I’m not an attorney, so let’s caveat what I’m about to say here, and our attorneys upstairs are probably screaming at their televisions – but the Authorization to Use Military Force was about going after terrorists who threatened to harm or who had attacked or who were plotting attacks against the United States of America. So I think that he squarely falls into that category. Again, I’m not going to do further legal analysis because I’m not an attorney. But he, again, has been indicted in the southern district, including in connection with the two embassy bombings which killed hundreds of people, including, of course, many Kenyans and Tanzanians as well, not just Americans.

QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t it be – and excuse me for laboring a point – but —

MS. HARF: No, it’s okay.

QUESTION: — couldn’t you – it seems like he was living fairly openly. And assuming that the Libyan Government were aware of his whereabouts, wouldn’t it have been more pertinent to have asked the Libyan authorities to have arrested him and then turned him over to you?

MS. HARF: I think those are assumptions that I’m not sure are true. I would caution anyone against making assumptions. These are – terrorists like al-Libi are guys who are trying to evade capture. They know that they’ve done bad things, that they’re bad guys, and that they could possibly be captured. So I would caution against some of those assumptions you just made.

QUESTION: But it seems that he was living a normal life with his family, going back-and-forth and so on.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure what evidence you have to support that. I’m not going to go into further details about what life he was living before he was captured, but I would caution against making any assumptions unless you have full knowledge about the situation on the ground, Said.

QUESTION: I don’t claim any full knowledge. Let me ask you this —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that considering that this may be a very – for sure it was a delicate and political operation, is it likely that you have had some help, intelligence help, from the Libyans?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into any further detail about any of the intelligence behind this. I will again say that we value the partnership of the Libyan Government, and going forward, we’ll continue working with them on these shared challenges.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Marie, the Secretary, when he was talking about this, I think, yesterday —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — said that this should send a message that the U.S. is in there, still operating, and will go to any lengths at any time to get people who carry out terrorist attacks.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When we get into the timing of this —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — was there an attempt by the Administration to time this to prove that the United States is not deflected from its mission because of the shutdown?

MS. HARF: I would – without speaking, of course, to operational details – strongly disagree with that characterization. Operations like this are undertaken at the best time for operational reasons, period – for no other considerations than for those. So any – political considerations, quite frankly, don’t and shouldn’t go into the kind of calculation for timing of these kind of operations.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m not saying political; I’m saying the message from the United States Government – which, at this point, we’ve already talked about this; you’ve talked about it – around the world is being affected by the shutdown. It might be perceived by other countries that the U.S. can’t function the way it normally does; the Secretary is filling in for the President, et cetera. So I know he did go out of his way to say let this be a message that —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So all I’m asking is —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — it’s not political; it’s very much like a strategic U.S. mission to —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — prove that it’s out there.

MS. HARF: Well, I think – two points. The first is that the timing of these kind of military operations is only influenced by operational considerations – without speaking too much for the Department of Defense, I will let them speak more about it – but that’s the only consideration taken into play here. But I think the Secretary was absolutely right that terrorists around the world should understand that we have the ability and the will to go after them and find them and take them off the battlefield and bring them to justice if they’ve attacked our citizens or if they’re trying to. I think that should be abundantly clear from what happened this weekend.

I want to go back to Jo’s point just for one second about where he eventually will be brought. I missed this in my book, but in terms of where he’ll eventually be tried, the ultimate decision about whether and where to prosecute a suspected terrorist remains with the departments authorized to carry out such prosecutions, which are DOJ and DOD. Article III courts – I know we’ve talked about that a little in here – have had a long track record of success, but we also fully support the use of military commission system in appropriate cases. So I don’t have anything to announce on eventual trial, but I just wanted to give you a little bit of detail about some of the possibilities.

QUESTION: What about – excuse me – what about the other guy, Abdulkadir Mohamed —

MS. HARF: Do we have anything else on Libya before we move on?

QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah.

MS. HARF: Okay. Then I’ll move on to Somalia, I promise.

QUESTION: To the Somali guy, yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah, we’ll move on to Somalia in one second.

QUESTION: He’s – al-Libi has been called a significant capture by the Administration. Is that consistent with the Administration’s view that al-Qaida is in decline?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that you are grossly overgeneralizing and misrepresenting the Administration’s view on al-Qaida. What we’ve said repeatedly is that al-Qaida core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been severely weakened because of our counterterrorism efforts. We have also said, at the exact same time, that as that core is weakened, we need to remain extra vigilant against al-Qaida in Somalia, in Yemen, in North Africa, wherever they’re plotting and planning around the world, because we know, as we decimate that core group, they try and go other places and strengthen there. So that’s consistently been our assessment for the last several years, and it’s certainly still our assessment today.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up for clarity’s sake.

MS. HARF: On Libya?

QUESTION: On Jo’s question earlier. So is it – when we hear the phrase “lawfully detained” in this case, we should interpret that as being under domestic U.S. law, not international law; is that correct?

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.


QUESTION: So can we talk about the —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — other guy in —

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up question?

MS. HARF: Oh, sorry, yes.

QUESTION: That’s okay. But on – back to AUMF —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — President Obama back in May said that he wanted to revise and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate. So does that not complicate the justification that Secretary Kerry has put forward, as how this was lawfully undertaken —

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not Secretary Kerry’s justification. It’s the Administration – it’s the justification that underpins the operation Administration-wide. This isn’t Secretary Kerry making a legal judgment. It’s an Administration judgment. And no, it doesn’t. I mean, you’re referencing the NDU speech by President Obama which laid out a path forward for our counterterrorism operations. This is certainly consistent with that, with a lot of the principles laid out in that. I know discussions are ongoing about AUMF and where we go from here, but where we are today is where we are, and this was a bad guy who needed to be taken off of the battlefield.

Move on?

QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go to the – so the other person —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yeah.

QUESTION: — whose whereabouts seem to be unknown, and if you can confirm his identity, which we have as Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, who was a Kenyan of – or is a Kenyan of Somali origin?

MS. HARF: So we said that the target was a senior al-Shabaab operative. I think I’ll leave it to the Department of Defense to confirm the target of the operation specifically as they, I think, are probably best positioned to do.

QUESTION: And do you know what happened to him?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details for you on any of that.

QUESTION: Because there seems to be an issue that he – it sounds like he could have been killed, but the operation had to be aborted before he could —

MS. HARF: Again, I would point you to the Department of Defense for any of those details.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Yes. Palestinian-Israeli peace talks?

MS. HARF: Oh, anything else on this? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just terrorism in general, the guy that you named – the blacklists today for the —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — for Muhammed Jamal —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — is there – I mean, I saw the statement that you put out, but there was a report at the back end of December linking him to the Benghazi attack, and I wondered if you could confirm or deny that to us.

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of those reports. I don’t have any additional information for you at this time. Obviously, the Department of Justice is doing the investigation into the Benghazi attacks, and I would refer you there.

I think it’s important to keep in mind who this guy is who was designated today, Muhammed Jamal, and the Muhammed Jamal Network. They were both designated as specially designated – global terrorists today. Mamed Jamal – Muhammed Jamal, excuse me, became a top military commander and head of the operational wing of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was then headed by Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He’s connected to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaida senior leadership, and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He was rearrested by Egyptian authorities in November 2012, and after his arrest, his confiscated computer contained letters to Zawahiri in which Jamal asked for assistance and also described MJN activities, including acquiring weapons, conducting terrorist training, and establishing terrorist groups in the Sinai. This is a group that operates primarily in Egypt, but also in Libya.

QUESTION: But you don’t know, there’s no – you don’t have any direct knowledge of whether his group was included in or part of the Benghazi —

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of those reports and I just don’t have anything to confirm that one way or the other.

QUESTION: And he remains under arrest in Egypt, is it?

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: So he’s been under arrest since 2012?

MS. HARF: He – I have here that he was arrested by the Egyptian authorities in November 2012, yes.

QUESTION: Is there any reason that – about now, the timing of the designation?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. These things, they’re just a process that takes some time. There’s not, to my knowledge, any specific reason. We do these from time to time.

QUESTION: Do you know his nationality?

MS. HARF: I believe he’s Egyptian, but let me double-check on that. Hold on, let’s see.

QUESTION: The release did not say.

MS. HARF: Well, then maybe I don’t have it in this large book. I believe he’s Egyptian just because of his work with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, but let me double-check on that. Most of their members are Egyptian.

QUESTION: Move on to another topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli peace talks?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: First of all, could you update us on the status of the talks?

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

QUESTION: Okay. This weekend, just this past weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Bar Ilan University almost to the day four years after he spoke and gave a very hopeful speech back then about the two-state solution. But yesterday, he said that unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up on the right of return, there will not be peace. Do you concur with his judgment, with his assessment?

MS. HARF: Look, Said, I am not going to get into the specifics of the talks, and I’m not going to parse what Prime Minister Netanyahu said. What the President, our President Obama said at the UN, is that we will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security nor our support for its existence as, in fact, a Jewish state.

So, look, I’m not going to get into the details of the discussions. They continue, they’re ongoing, but I’m not going to go any further than that.

QUESTION: So we’re not talking about the security of Israel because the United States has —

MS. HARF: You asked about Jewish state, so I —

QUESTION: Yeah. So you do expect the Palestinians to recognize —

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that.

QUESTION: — Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get in the specifics of the discussions, what’s on the table, what’s not, what’s – I’m just not going to get into it. You can ask every day, but I’m not going to.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yes, Deb, and then, Scott, I’ll go to you next.


QUESTION: Okay. Do you all have any comment or reaction to what President Karzai said today about the negotiations on the bilateral security agreement? And can you just characterize where we are with that with those negotiations?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t actually seen that interview. I think it was a BBC interview with —

QUESTION: No, it was a press conference, I believe.

MS. HARF: Oh, a press conference?


MS. HARF: Okay. I haven’t seen the full comments, so I’ll take a look at those. But in general, work is ongoing on concluding a BSA agreement with the Afghans. We believe it’s important to conclude this agreement soon for a number of reasons. One is that U.S. and NATO planning needs to move forward. Afghan forces have also made great progress in improving their capabilities. But Afghanistan needs international support in building their forces that can defend the country and protect the population.

So I think it’s clear to us that Afghan leadership is focused on making sure that they have an agreement that addresses the security needs of the Afghan people. That’s what we feel the BSA will actually deliver to Afghanistan – a partnership that’s cemented with this agreement, and I think that this would be clear and significant to the Afghan people. Again, work continues, but I will also say that we’ve made progress. But these kinds of negotiations are complex with any country, as we know, from sort of the technical to the tough security issues, and we always expected there would be sticking points and bumps in the road that needed to be resolved at a high level at some point in the process. So that’s continuing right now.

QUESTION: But not enough to derail it?

MS. HARF: No, no. The talks continue.

QUESTION: And you think it will be —

MS. HARF: The discussions continue.

QUESTION: And it could be done within the timeframe it was supposed to be done, which would be —

MS. HARF: October 30th – we’ve always said that October’s a common goal set out in the SPA, and reaffirmed by both President Karzai and President Obama in January, I believe. So we’re prepared to conclude a reasonable BSA, and we’re working towards that goal. After October, I think it becomes a little bit more difficult – not necessarily impossible, by any means – but Afghans will be focused on their upcoming elections. Yesterday, we saw the lists closed for presidential candidates, which, as we’ve said before, is very critical to Afghan stability, but we need to really be focused on this agreement and get it done soon.

QUESTION: So are you nearly there, do you believe? Do you think they’re nearly there by an end of October deadline?

MS. HARF: I mean, I can certainly say that we’ve made progress and that the talks are continuing. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome, because as we said, these are very tricky issues. But I think it’s clear that the Afghan leadership is focused on this, we are certainly focused on it, and both of our governments committed to moving forward with it, so —

QUESTION: What Karzai said today was that unless they get some agreements over these sovereignty issues, that there’s not going to be a deal.

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve said that there were always going to be sticky issues in the process. It’s a complicated agreement. But we’re committed to working with President Karzai, with the Afghan Government to conclude it as soon as possible.

Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: Elections in Azerbaijan on Wednesday, do you have anything to say about – this weekend, there’s apparently been some arrests and some intimidation of civil society types and independent media.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, you’re right. Elections, I believe, are this Wednesday in Azerbaijan, and we continue to urge a free, fair, and transparent process leading up to and on election day. The United States encourages the peaceful participation of all people in Azerbaijan in the election process, and urges restraint and avoidance of violence or provocations by all before, during, and after election day. We also urge the authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association

Like other friends of Azerbaijan in the international community, we were troubled by an attack on journalists, a group of journalists, I think, on October 4th. And after the election, the United States will be issuing a statement on its assessment of the electoral process. So I think we’ll probably have that sometime later this week.

QUESTION: Is it your assessment that the government is properly guaranteeing those freedoms?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve seen a couple reports on this. I think one came out from the OSCE just recently about some of the issues involved with human rights in this election. I think that report objectively reflected the positive and negative aspects of the campaign period. There have been some of each. So we continue to urge the authorities to make sure going forward that they protect these fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.

QUESTION: Will you have observers on the ground?

MS. HARF: I can find out. I don’t know the answer to that.

Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: On the U.S. Federation – Soccer Federation has invited Iran to a friendly game in advance of the World Cup. Does the State Department have any reaction to that, and whether they would support that?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that, but I guess what I’ll say is we’ve always said we were open to direct negotiations and talks with the Iranians, so where a better place than on the soccer field, right? I hadn’t seen that, but thank you for the question, though.


QUESTION: Just one quick question on Turkey.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Last week you were asked about the new Turkish decision to get the Chinese air defense, and you said that you are talking to Turkey.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you have an update on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we have conveyed our serious concerns about the Turkish Government’s contract discussions with the U.S.-sanctioned company for a missile defense system that will not be interoperable within – with NATO systems or collective defense capabilities. Secretary Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Davutoglu in New York at – on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly regarding our concerns. The Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who I think you’re all very familiar with, also discussed this issue with senior Turkish officials, and our discussions on it will continue.

Anything else? Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:12 p.m.)