State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, September 9, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–September 9, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Secretary Kerry Remarks / Russia Reaction / Review of Proposals
    • Discussions with Congress / Dialog with American People
    • Connection to National Security
    • Holding Syrian Regime Accountable
    • Communication with Russian FM Lavrov
    • U.S. Response to Retaliation / Discussions with Regional Partners
    • Briefings with Congress
    • Elections
    • U.S. Reaction to Election
  • DPRK
    • Reaction to Travel by Dennis Rodman
    • Bilateral Relationship
  • MEPP
    • Update on Talks / Secretary Ministerial Meetings in Paris
    • Status of Review



1:14 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I don’t have anything at the top. I’ll go to your questions.

QUESTION: Can you – the Secretary’s comments this morning in London, whether or not they were rhetorical or serious, they seem to have been embraced and endorsed by a growing number of people. And I just heard the White House Deputy National Security Advisor say that —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — he would have to take a hard look at the Russian proposal —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — which is a bit odd since it wasn’t a Russian proposal. It was actually a proposal by Secretary Kerry.

Was this rhetorical or was it serious?

MS. HARF: What Secretary Kerry said, as Jen said, I believe, from the road, was that he was speaking rhetorically about a situation we thought had very low probability of happening. What Ben, I believe, said and what we’re saying is that we will have to take a hard look at the Russian statement, which is what’s happened since then. And so we understand exactly what the Russians are proposing here. I think that’s what we’ve been clear about.

Clearly, we have some serious skepticism. Everything that Assad has done over the past two years and before has been to refuse to put his chemical weapons under international control. He hasn’t declared them; we’ve repeatedly called on him to do so. And he’s ignored prohibitions against them. So I think it’s important to keep in mind the context under which this Russian statement and the Syrian statement is happening, that this is only happening in the context of a threat of U.S. military action.

So again, we’ll take a step back and we’ll look at the Russian statement. We’ll see what details lie behind it. But at this point, of course, we have serious skepticism because of everything Assad has done in the course of the last several years on chemical weapons.

QUESTION: What does it mean, “We’ll take a step back”?

MS. HARF: We’ll take a hard look at it. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, the – taking a step back seems to imply that you might not continue with making your case for —

MS. HARF: Absolutely not. In fact, the opposite, Matt.


MS. HARF: We think this is why it’s even more important that Congress votes to authorize the President to use military action against Syrian regime targets. Because we can be clear that if we don’t give authorization to do so, and if we don’t respond, then Assad will see that as a green light to continue using these chemical weapons.


MS. HARF: So in fact, we would say the opposite. That’s why it’s even more important for Congress to move ahead and authorize this use of military force.

QUESTION: The Secretary’s comments came in response to this question: “Is there anything at this point that his, Assad’s, government could do or offer that would stop an attack?”

And the Secretary replied: “Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and it can’t be done, obviously.” A couple things.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It appears now that the Syrians say that they are willing to do this. But what does he mean, “It’s can’t be done, obviously”? Why is it obvious that this can’t be done?

MS. HARF: Well, I think what the – again, you saw Jen’s comment about this —


MS. HARF: — that he was making a rhetorical statement about a scenario that we find highly unlikely. Now what we’ve said since then on the Russian statement is that everything Assad has done over the past two years has been exactly the opposite of declaring, of being open, of moving towards getting rid of chemical weapons. So we have to – so it’s – the onus is on them. But what we’ve been clear about is we can’t have this be another stalling tactic.

So I’m not going to further parse the Secretary’s words. I think we’ve made very clear that because of all of the deception of the Assad regime about their use of chemical weapons, and other issues, quite frankly, gives us strong skepticism that this could happen. We’ll take a look at what the Russians have said. We’ll take a look at any ideas people would put on the table.

QUESTION: I’m interested why you keep putting this on the Russians because Lavrov —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — did not make this statement until after he found about what the Secretary had said.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. But the Secretary was not making a proposal. The Secretary was making a —

QUESTION: How is that? Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Thank you. The Secretary was making a rhetorical statement and you read the whole quote, which I actually appreciate you doing. Look, he’s not about to do this. That was – that’s what the —

QUESTION: But how do you know that?

MS. HARF: Because everything – look, if the Assad regime came forward and said we will give up all of our chemical weapons, put them under international control, clearly, that would be a good thing. We’ve asked them to do that for years.


MS. HARF: But everything the Assad regime has done over the past two years and before is in direct opposition to that.

QUESTION: Yes. But if the threat of U.S. military action —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — pushes him to do that, are you willing to consider not going ahead with – or is the – I don’t know if the President – is this something that you would see as a – that would lower the temperature, that would take things down a notch so that you potentially wouldn’t have to carry out a military strike?

MS. HARF: We believe that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons must be responded to. We believe that the only way to deter and degrade Assad from doing this again is to have a credible military threat on the table, which is why Congress needs to move quickly to authorize this use of force.


MS. HARF: So we are not – we are actually moving forward with this because it’s even more important that in this scenario we get authorization to do just that.

QUESTION: Understood.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: My last question on this, though.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So your position is that even if they did this, they still need to be punished for what happened on August 21st and before?

MS. HARF: Those weren’t the words that I used. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “punished.”

QUESTION: Well, they – action —

MS. HARF: But I’m not going to go down the hypothetical route. I think where we are today is we’re going to look at what’s on – what people are putting on the table. Whether it’s the Russians, whether it’s the Syrian Foreign Minister, we’re going to look at what’s on the table. Every indication we’ve gotten out of the Assad regime is that they have no intention of declaring or giving up or stopping to use these weapons. So that’s why we believe a military response is appropriate. We’re going to keep working with Congress and our international partners, and more international partners came out today and signed on to the statement on the sidelines of the G-20. That’s what we’re focused on, and we can be sure that if we don’t authorize this action, Assad will see that as a green light to keep doing this, and others may as well.

QUESTION: But you say a military – is a military strike appropriate even in the event that they go ahead and put this stuff under international control and it’s destroyed? Because that’s certainly what the Secretary said in his rhetorical statement, non-offer —

MS. HARF: And a hypothetical statement, quite frankly. We’re not – that’s 15 steps down the road and I’m not going to venture a guess, hypothetically, if the Assad —

QUESTION: Surely, the Secretary doesn’t engage in hypothetical speculation.

MS. HARF: If the Assad regime were to hypothetically – I’m not going to get into what our calculation might be in terms of action that the U.S. would take. What we’re focused on right now —

QUESTION: Or not take.

MS. HARF: What we’re focused on right now is the fact that – look, we don’t want this to be another stalling exercise, and we have serious skepticism about the commitment of the Assad regime to actually get rid of their chemical weapons, given that they have not only kept them, refused to acknowledge them, but used them indiscriminately against their own citizens.

QUESTION: Well, this whole idea of —

QUESTION: But does —

MS. HARF: We’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: — Syrian surrendering its chemical weapons stores —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — seems to be picking up traction on Capitol Hill. Two Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp of South Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are suggesting that perhaps Syria could indeed surrender its stocks and have 45 days to do so along with the U.S. coming up with a comprehensive response to dealing with the Assad regime because of the August 21st attack. Has this building had a chance to look at that draft proposal? Is the Secretary prepared to discuss it with the senators when he goes up to the Hill on Wednesday?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d say a few points. First, I do think it’s important to keep in mind, and I’ll say this again before I get to that question specifically, that we’re only having this discussion in the context of the threat of U.S. military action, so the timing on the Russian side and the Syrian side, I would say, is not coincidental.

Second, obviously the Secretary will continue to have discussions on the Hill. He’s returning today, he’ll be up on the Hill this evening, and he’ll be up there throughout the rest of the week as well. I’m not going to get ahead of where we are in those discussions, but we firmly believe that because of what’s happening now, that this is why it’s even more important that Congress votes to give the President the authority to undertake military action in response.

QUESTION: Is the idea of having this authorization simply to have it as a lever in order to get rid of whatever WMDs that Syria does possess, or is it just a fait accompli that we’re going to see some sort of U.S.-led military strike on Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, the President’s been clear that the United States – it’s in our national security interest and in line with our values and principles to respond to the use of chemical weapons. That’s why we went to Congress to get the authority to do so. That hasn’t changed. We believe that America is strongest when we speak with one voice, when the President and Congress are speaking together. That also hasn’t changed. So clearly, we’ll look at this new development. We’ll take a hard look at it and we’ll do that in the coming days and have discussions about it with our partners around the world and also on the Hill. But what we’re focused on, what the Secretary’s focused on, is working with Congress to get as much support as possible to get this authorized.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: One more – go ahead.

MS. HARF: And then I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: This seems to have —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — it’s moved very fast since the press conference in London —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — where Kerry rhetorically made this suggestion initially. Even Britain has now come out and said that they think it’s a good idea and maybe we should pursue, or the world should pursue this option of Assad handing over. I mean, I hear what you’re saying, that he hasn’t done this in the past two years —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — but do you – firstly, has the depth of reaction from Russia, Syria, and Britain surprised the Administration? And secondly, do you believe that because of this threat – that this threat of military action is actually being taken credibly by the Syrian authorities now?

MS. HARF: Well, what we believe is crystal clear is that this proposal that the Russians and the Syrians have put forward now is only taking place exactly in that context of the threat of military action. And that’s why we believe that it’s even more important for Congress to move quickly to authorize this, because we do think that showing a credible threat and showing that we’ll take action is important. I don’t want to characterize our response to this. Clearly, we don’t want this, as I’ve said, to be another stalling tactic. The Russians for months and years have stood up for the Syrian regime at the UN and in the international community. That’s not new. So we’ll look at what they’ve put on the table, but we’ll determine, I guess, what the best course of action is going forward after taking a look at it.

QUESTION: But surely, if you could get your international supervision over these chemical weapons, that would preferable than having to launch any kind of military strike.

MS. HARF: Well, any effort, as we’ve said for a long time, to put Assad’s chemical weapons under international control would be a positive step. I’m not going to go three steps down the road and say that it would be preferable, or one thing would be preferable to the other. Clearly, we think that would be a positive step for the Syrian people, for the region, and indeed the whole international community. And we’ll keep evaluating, going forward, what our response needs to be to their use on August 21st.

QUESTION: Can you walk us through, if you’re able to —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — because I recognize there’s not been a lot of timeframe to think about this, what the steps would be if you were going to put things under international supervision? Who would be in charge of it? How long do you think it could take? How likely is it to happen?

MS. HARF: Well clearly, those are all outstanding questions and we’re waiting. We’ll look at what the Russians and the Syrians have said, and wait, quite frankly, to see if there are other specifics put on the table.

On the likelihood question, we have serious and deep skepticism that the Syrian regime would actually do this. They’re only talking about it now in the context of potential military action, and indeed, everything they’ve done over the past two years has been the opposite. So we have very deep skepticism about it, and again, don’t want it to be used as a stalling tactic. But we’ll look at any proposal people put on the table, but again, this is why we believe it’s even more important to show that we speak with one voice and that we need to respond.

QUESTION: Have you any notion about how long this could take?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I wouldn’t even want to venture a guess on that. But again, I keep saying the same thing over and over again: we don’t want this to be another stalling tactic by the Russians and the Syrians through the Russians.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I remember distinctly asking this very question, that if Assad had —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — some sort of revelation that it is time to give up his chemical weapons, and the suggestion was, no matter what he does, actually the strike is a fait accompli. So, why not – I mean, why not consider this as part of a, actually, some sort of a victory for the position of the United States and the international community, in having the Syrian regime come clean with its chemical weapons? Why wouldn’t this be sort of perceived as actually a tremendous plus that you have achieved?

MS. HARF: Well they haven’t showed any willingness to do so besides a statement by their Foreign Minister. That’s not evidence, that’s not action, those are more words.

QUESTION: But that is the Foreign Minister and he did it. I mean, he said it in a very high-profile place, meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister. I mean, this is not something that will just casually —

MS. HARF: I mean, President Assad has said very strong statements publically in high-profile forums that have been complete lies as well, so we’ll see what happens now, quite frankly.

QUESTION: Not before. I mean —

MS. HARF: Assad has repeatedly lied about his use of chemical weapons and his – the fact that they have them.

QUESTION: Okay. Would you agree that if actually this happens, that would be a tremendous achievement for the United States of America and the international community, that they actually do that? And that would sort of mitigate any reason or any cause to go to war in essence?

MS. HARF: Well, three points, Said. The first is that I’ve said any effort to put his chemical weapons under international control would be a positive step. So yes, we believe that would be a positive step.

The second is we also believe that Congress should quickly authorize the use of military force in response to his use on August 21st. Indeed, that’s the only reason that we’re even having this discussion.

And the third point I would make is what you just said about going to war. Secretary Kerry was very clear last week that this would be a limited, tailored military action against Syrian regime targets to deter and degrade their ability to use chemical weapons. We’re not talking boots on the ground, we’re not talking Iraq or Afghanistan. Those are very big distinctions.

QUESTION: If the suggestion is really to place these chemical weapons under lock and key and render them completely neutral, wouldn’t you agree that that would actually render them completely neutral, and under international supervision thus would sort of – putting behind or on the back burner any need for a military strike?

MS. HARF: Well I think the over 1,400 people’s families who lost their lives on August 21st wouldn’t want to be put on the back burner just because the Assad regime commits to doing something we don’t have any intention of doing, Said.

QUESTION: Okay, so we go back to the initial point that was made. So you actually want to punish the Syrians no matter what they do because of what happened on the 21st.

MS. HARF: You’re putting a lot of words in my mouth, Said.

QUESTION: I’m just asking you, do you believe that the Syrians need to be punished? I mean —

MS. HARF: I’ve never used the word, “punished.”

QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that they should be held physically accountable, perhaps with cruise missiles for what they have done on the 21st?

MS. HARF: We have said repeatedly, the President has said, that the Syrian regime must be held accountable for its use of chemical weapons. That’s why we went to Congress with an authorization for the use of military force. Again, everybody’s going ten steps down a process here. All we’ve heard today are statements from the Russians and the Syrians, who for the last two years have lied about chemical weapons, have protected the Assad regime when it’s killed its own people. So that’s why today we have serious, deep skepticism about this latest statement.

QUESTION: Okay. Now let me just ask my last question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If this is part of, let’s say, a much grander bargain, so to speak, perhaps a Geneva – a peace settlement where all the combatants can come to the table and agree to this, and in fact you have an international solution, that would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

MS. HARF: I will say it again. Any effort to bring his chemical weapons under international control would be a positive step. We’ve also said that separate and apart from our response to his use of chemical weapons on August 21st is the Geneva process, that we are fully invested in, that we think is the only way to achieve a durable, stable Syria going forward.

QUESTION: And lastly, I’m sorry, I promised that was my last, but to follow up on Roz’s question on the 45 days —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — I mean, the congressmen are saying 45 days – why is that out of the realm of plausibility?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to address that specifically. We’ll keep talking to Congress. The Secretary, I said, is coming back from his trip and going directly to the Hill today. So we’ll keep talking with them about what this looks like. We’ve put an AUMF forward as an Administration and are willing to have discussions about what that should look like as they debate and decide and ultimately vote on it.

QUESTION: Scientists and experts say —

MS. HARF: Your last last question.

QUESTION: The last one, okay. Sorry.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) It’s okay.

QUESTION: I really appreciate your indulgence and my colleagues’.

MS. HARF: Of course.

QUESTION: If scientists and technicians and so on say you actually need an X number of days to do this, would you go along?

MS. HARF: Said, I’m just not going to get down that hypothetical path. I’m really not. If we see any indication that this latest statement has any merit or any basis in reality about what might actually happen, we can have those discussions. At this point all we’ve seen are statements, and everything we’ve seen from the Assad regime points in the opposite direction.

Yes, let me go back to Roz and then I’ll come back up to you, Matt.

QUESTION: You talk a lot about Administration skepticism —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — about the Russians and about the Syrians regarding this. There’s a lot of skepticism among the American people. A new Pew Research Center poll says that 63 percent of Americans are firmly opposed to any use of military action, more specifically air strikes, against Assad’s military assets. Yes, we’ve heard from Ambassador Power on Friday. Yes, we are hearing from National Security Advisor Rice this afternoon.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We’re going to be hearing from the President later today and again tomorrow.

MS. HARF: And tomorrow, mm-hmm. And Secretary Kerry as well.

QUESTION: If – yeah, right, as —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — so when you have three out of five people who will, if you just stop them on the street and say, “Should the U.S. be leading some sort of military effort?” and three out of five say, “Absolutely no way,” doesn’t it make sense to at least consider any sort of diplomatic effort that would take military action out of the equation? It’s one thing to use it as a pressure point; it’s another thing to actually use it in a punitive way, as this Administration has consistently argued for the last three weeks. Why isn’t that something worth pursuing?

MS. HARF: Well, I think a couple points on that. The first is you’re exactly right, we’ve been making our case to the American people. At the same time, we’ve been making it to the international community. And one of the reasons we went to Congress to get authorization, because they’re the representatives of the people. They’re elected by Americans all across the country to represent them in Washington. So we said that it would be stronger and our response would be stronger if we got the support of the people’s representatives. So that’s part of the reason that this congressional piece is so important.

You’re right, Secretary Kerry’s been out. He’ll be out testifying again this week – Ambassador Rice, Ambassador Power, and again the President, as you mentioned as well. So we’re going to keep making our case to the American people. We’re going to keep making it to the Congress. And this is an ongoing debate and dialogue.

I think one thing everybody from the President on down has been clear on is that Americans are tired of war and they’re tired of military conflict. The President is. The Secretary is. We all are. And so that’s why we want to be very clear when we make the case about what this is and what it isn’t. This isn’t open-ended. This isn’t boots on the ground. This is action designed to deter and degrade Assad’s capabilities to use the world’s worst weapons. And that’s the case we’ll keep making over the coming days.

QUESTION: But it’s not that – but it’s not apparent to the American people, all of whom will say yes, going after citizens this way is particularly barbaric. But it seems as if you’re putting up a wall into considering a diplomatic way out of this crisis. And if you’re not, explain to all of us how it is you’re not.

MS. HARF: Well, again, this latest development that I think your question hinges on has just happened in the last few hours. So as I said, we’re going to take a hard look at it. We’re going to talk to the Russians, we’re going to talk to other international partners – the UN and others – about what this scenario might entail. There just aren’t any details to it yet, and that’s why we remain and have – to have deep skepticism.

So again, this latest development is just a few hours old, but we believe that because of this it’s even more important to show to Syria and to the rest of the world that we mean what we say and to move forward with a Congressional vote to authorize as quickly as possible.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — two things.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One is, a little bit earlier, you said we’ll look at any proposal people put on the table.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you want to qualify that? I mean, a serious proposal? Any proposal?

MS. HARF: We’ll look at proposals people put – yeah, I don’t need to qualify that. We will certainly look at proposals. We’re taking a hard look at this one.

QUESTION: Well, surely you wouldn’t – I mean, a proposal that doesn’t have – I don’t know, I just think if you’re saying you’ll look at any proposal that people put on the table, that just opens the door to people – bizarre and —

MS. HARF: I understand your question.

QUESTION: — the bizarre and ridiculous.

MS. HARF: You understand what I’m saying —

QUESTION: Yes, I do.

MS. HARF: — that we will take a look at proposals people put on the table.

QUESTION: All right. The other thing is I still don’t understand why you are so eager to give – to brand this a Russian and Syrian proposal. It is clear —

MS. HARF: Because that’s the facts here.

QUESTION: No. Whether what the Secretary said was rhetorical or not, he put it —

MS. HARF: It was rhetorical and hypothetical.

QUESTION: Whatever. Doesn’t matter. He put it out there, and the Russians seized on it. So I don’t buy —

MS. HARF: But he didn’t put it out there as a proposal.

QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t matter whether he thought it or you say it was a proposal or not. The Russians took it.

MS. HARF: Well, I actually think it does matter who gives it – who gives the statement what they consider it to be.


MS. HARF: I think that actually does matter, and I think that the Russians have repeatedly used stalling tactics over the past two years. And then picking up this ball and turning it into something it was never intended to be is an example, quite frankly, we think, of yet another stalling tactic.

QUESTION: Well, either that or an example of some brilliant diplomacy at work by the Secretary of State. I mean, if the Administration —

MS. HARF: Feel free to write your story that way, Matt.

QUESTION: Unless the Administration is really anxious to conduct a military operation in Syria, no matter how limited or unbelievably small, as the Secretary also said this morning, I would think that you would welcome this and want to take ownership of it, if it can avoid military action, which as you say is – you acknowledge is deeply unpopular and opposed by most of the public. And if it’s true, as you say, that the Administration, that the President and the Secretary, are all tired of war —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — which is what you just said. So I don’t understand —

MS. HARF: Those are two different things.

QUESTION: — why it is that you are insisting that this started with the Russians. It didn’t. It started with the Secretary this morning. And either it was a mistake, because it was – because his rhetorical offer was picked up on it as such, or there is method in this madness if it were. And you may have – I don’t know if stumbled is the right word, but come across a way to avoid doing what you don’t really want to do but feel that you have to.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The first is I think I’ve said that we would welcome any effort to get these weapons under lock and key in the international community. We’ve said that for months. What I am expressing skepticism about is the likelihood that that will actually happen based solely – not on anything we’ve said or done, but based on what the Syrian regime itself has said and done.

QUESTION: Right. But it would be a good thing, you would think, if those weapons were put under lock and key someplace and destroyed, right?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the rhetorical aspect. Is the rhetorical – the word “rhetorical,” does it – meant to sort of denote regret that the Secretary said that?

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: Okay. So do you believe —

MS. HARF: I think it’s a fairly neutral word.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you something, I mean, not meaning to be disrespectful or anything. Could the Secretary have been bluffing and actually the Russians and Syrians called his bluff?

MS. HARF: I’m not even going to venture to answer that question, Said.

QUESTION: But is that a factor into the thinking?

MS. HARF: I’m not even going to venture to answer that question. That’s wild speculation. I’m just not going to go there.

Yes. Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah. Just to sort of take this hypothetical further, would you have concerns about the logistics of actually putting weapons under lock and key if it’s a 45-day timeline? Are you worried about a scenario where you let inspectors in and then he moves them, doesn’t let them go someplace? I mean, would it really be a good thing if they said they would go ahead and do this, or would you still be skeptical?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say it would be a good thing if they said they would do it. I said it would be a good thing if it actually happened.


MS. HARF: And what we’ve said is, look, there’s no detail, there’s no logistics, nobody’s laid anything out on the table. Clearly, we think it would be good if we could get these weapons under international lock and key. But – and you brought up a timeline. We don’t want the Syrian regime to be able to use this as another stalling exercise. They’ve repeatedly done that. They’ve tried to do it at the UN. They’ve tried to do it with inspectors, as you said. And we don’t want them to try and do it here.


MS. HARF: So clearly, we’ll take a hard look at what people have put on the table. We’ll see if this actually has any credibility whatsoever where everything they’ve done in the last two years doesn’t. But if it does, we’ll certainly take a hard look at how we could move forward. But we’re just not there yet.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about the —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — congressional lobbying efforts?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yeah.

QUESTION: So the support right now is not there, and you’ve got a lot of people who are kind of on the record against military action. I’m just curious what kind of gives you hope, if you are hopeful, that people will move.

MS. HARF: Well, a lot of congressional outreach is ongoing. As we know, I think Congress just came back into session today. I know the Secretary was up there last week. I was with him for two very long sessions on the House and Senate side. But we think that the more members of Congress hear the classified intelligence assessment, the more they hear the case for why a military action is in our national interest, that they won’t take a vote against holding the Assad regime accountable. We don’t think members of Congress will take a vote against this authorization that basically would then give a greenlight to Assad, to Hezbollah, to other dictators and terrorists around the world that they can use these weapons.

So we believe the more that Congress learns about the case, talks to Administration officials about it, and again, learns more about why this is in our national interest, that we’ll get to the place we need to be. We just don’t think Congress will allow America’s credibility to be undermined by a no vote.

QUESTION: And that’s one of the things that we hear a lot in public statements from members is that there’s not a clear enough connection to them between use of chemical weapons in Syria and a civil war and U.S. national security. We hear a lot of from the Administration about how this is in U.S. national security interest, but members of Congress push back by saying: Well, it’s not like Assad’s going to fire a chemical weapon at the U.S. What’s the – how do we draw the connection here? So what do you tell them when they —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — push back in that way?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. Secretary Kerry made all of these points last week, but I’m happy to reiterate them again. The first is that Assad’s use of chemical weapons not only hurts his own people but it threatens our friends and allies in the region, like Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon. We’ve already seen awful spillover violence with conventional means and terrorist attacks into some of those countries. The unchecked use of chemical weapons in the middle of such a strategically important area with so many U.S. allies and friends and partners is clearly in our national security interest.

The other big point I would make about our national security interest is that when the United States draws a line and says this is unacceptable behavior, our credibility is on the line to back that statement up with action, and that not only would Assad think we don’t mean what we say if we fail to act, but other countries, other terrorist groups from Tehran to Hezbollah, as we’ve talked about, to North Korea, might think that when the U.S. says something and commits to doing something that it doesn’t mean what it says. And that hurts our credibility and our efforts on a host of issues around the world.

So those are two of the big reasons it’s in our national security interest. There are others as well.

QUESTION: If an independent – an international independent panel of experts can come and say, look, we believe that we need two weeks, three weeks, whatever, a month to do this and have a roadmap to neutralizing these weapons and have them placed under lock and key that is completely secure, would that be acceptable to you? I mean —

MS. HARF: I’m not going to – I’m not going to address hypotheticals and I’m not going to talk – address every single possible outcome that might come from this.

QUESTION: No, but —

MS. HARF: All we can do is wait for a proposal and we can look at the behavior we’ve already seen from the Assad regime. And that’s what gives us such deep skepticism.

QUESTION: Okay. But wouldn’t that —

MS. HARF: And nobody’s putting that proposal on the table but you, Said.

QUESTION: I understand, I understand. I’m saying —

QUESTION: You said you’d look at any proposal.

MS. HARF: I’m looking at Said’s proposal right now.

QUESTION: And you’ve rejected it.

QUESTION: I suggested last week —

QUESTION: — as hypothetical.


QUESTION: In that case, all proposals are hypothetical.

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t that be like standard operating procedure; you would depend on it? I mean, I’m not talking hypothetically. I’m saying in reality, wouldn’t we be depending on – or the international community would depend on a panel of experts that can – and they are totally independent, they’re not forwarding any countries own agenda and so on, and they come and say this is what we need to have a viable roadmap, that would be acceptable, wouldn’t it?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I’m not going to say whether that would be acceptable or not. That is a complete hypothetical. We – none of this is being discussed right now by any of the parties involved. I haven’t heard the Syrians say that. So when the Syrians or the Russians or the UN comes back and says here’s a specific proposal, as they made a statement today, we’ll take a look at it. But we’re not going to go down the road 15 steps when all we’ve heard from the Syrians over the past two years is exactly the opposite.

QUESTION: No, in fact, when and if the Syrians agree to sort of place their weapons under lock and key – their chemical weapons, that – wouldn’t that be like sustaining or regaining the credibility of the United States without having to go to war?

MS. HARF: I just don’t – I don’t see any use in going through this hypothetical exercise. We’ve been clear that in the past few hours there have been some developments that we need to take a hard look at. There’s no point in getting ahead of process that, quite frankly, isn’t even a process and where all we’ve seen from the Syrian regime has been the exact opposite. So we’ll take a look at it and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Two small things.

MS. HARF: Yes, I’ll go to you next. Go ahead, Matt, and then I’ll go back.

QUESTION: I just wanted to –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just to put a fine point on this, you believe that, regardless of what happens to the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, that Assad and his regime still need to be held accountable for August 21st and the previous uses of chemical weapons?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Correct?

MS. HARF: Yes.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So that would suggest that even if this thing works, it goes ahead as planned, that you would still want to reserve the right to conduct military operations?

MS. HARF: And we’re calling on Congress even more strongly now to authorize that use of military force.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just the other small, brief point: You said a little while ago that the Russians and the Syrians, for the past two years, have repeatedly lied —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — about that. Is that an intention – is that trying to get back at Putin for calling the Secretary a liar?

MS. HARF: That was not an intentional return of that comment, no. But what we’ve seen from the Syrians and from Assad himself —

QUESTION: Well, were you trying —

MS. HARF: — is repeatedly lying about their use of chemical weapons.

QUESTION: So you’re not —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — putting the – you’re not saying the Russians have lied?

MS. HARF: The Russians have certainly also protected the Syrians. They’ve refused to accept reality when it comes to the Syrian use of chemical weapons, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s not necessarily lying, right? Right?

MS. HARF: I think I’ve been clear that the Russians are the ones standing in the way of holding the Syrian regime accountable.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if the Secretary has any plans to talk to Foreign Minister Lavrov? Has he spoken to him since his rhetorical non-proposal was made public?

MS. HARF: He spoke with him today.


MS. HARF: Yes.


MS. HARF: After what? After which part?

QUESTION: After the London press conference or after Lavrov came out and said, “Hey, that’s a great idea — ”

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that —

QUESTION: — “and let’s do it”?

MS. HARF: — it was after the press conference, but let me double-check on that, because they’re traveling. I’m just not sure about timing.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then that would suggest that if they talked in between the time that the Secretary made this rhetorical non-proposal and the time that Foreign Minister Lavrov came out and announced to the world that they would push the Russians to accept – I mean, push the Syrians to accept —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the Secretary’s rhetorical non-proposal, that there was some kind of discussion between the two of them about the rhetorical non-proposal. Is that —

MS. HARF: We’ve long discussed chemical weapons with the Russians. Of course that came up today in their conversation as well. I don’t have a —

QUESTION: So it did?

MS. HARF: — further readout for you than that. Of course it did.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary say —

MS. HARF: It would be ridiculous to think that it didn’t.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you know – and I know you weren’t there – was this a conversation on the plane, or was it – I don’t know —

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yes.


MS. HARF: Again, I’m not there. I want to make sure I have all the facts right here. It’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you got —

MS. HARF: And they talk frequently.

QUESTION: Right, but have you gotten a significant readout of it? I mean, did he call him up and say, “Hey, Sergey, I just said this thing in London and maybe you can take the ball and run with it,” or did he say, “I just said something in London that I don’t think I should have said and please don’t do anything with it,” and then Lavrov, of course – well, Lavrov didn’t take that to – what was the – did they discuss the rhetorical non-proposal on the phone call?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to do more of a readout of their phone call than that. Clearly, we will continue talking with the Russians about this issue. And as I’ve said, we’ll take a look at their statement. We’ll take a look at what the Syrians have said. I’m not going to give you more detail on it.

QUESTION: When you talk about —

MS. HARF: Yes – oh, wait, Roz. Let me go back here and then come back to you.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: A question.

MS. HARF: Syria still?

QUESTION: No, we —

MS. HARF: Okay. We got to finish Syria first, and then I’ll go to you next, I promise.


QUESTION: When you talk about any military strike being precise, targeted —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — no U.S. troops on the ground inside Syria —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — I then think of what President Assad said to CBS News in his interview that aired today in which he said the retaliation wouldn’t necessarily come from the government; it would come from other forces, other groups inside Syria, forces he implied over which he has no control. What is the U.S. prepared to do in order to respond to that threat that Bashar al-Assad made in that interview?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve been – for a long time, as we’ve had military contingencies on the table, as we’ve said for a long time even before this incident, part of those contingencies are planning and looking at possible retaliation. I’m not going to go into specifics about what we might do to plan for that. But clearly, it’s a concern, and our military folks over at DOD, I’m sure, can speak a little more about it. But we would take that into consideration before any action’s taken.

QUESTION: But when you consider that where Syria sits is in a very densely populated part —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — of the region, absent any U.S. troops on the ground, how do you essentially protect not just U.S. national security interests, but the national security interests of its – of the people —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — who are living around Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, one of the reasons – I would actually turn that back around on you. One of the reasons we think it’s so important to respond to this use of chemical weapons is because it’s in such a densely populated area with so many of our allies and partners and friends that if we allow this use of chemical weapons to go unchecked that only further threatens our allies and partners in the region if Assad thinks he can have a green light to do this in the future, or indeed other countries or terrorist organizations think so as well. So I would point to that.

I would also point to the fact that, again, the military plans for a lot of contingencies and is doing so right now as we speak, and I’m sure we’ll have this conversation more as Congress authorizes this and we move forward.

QUESTION: Has it already been – my final one on this —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has it been —

QUESTION: Not a hypothetical.

QUESTION: Yeah, has it been discussed with other countries that they should be prepared to ramp up their own security forces, their own armaments, and be prepared for any retaliatory attacks?

MS. HARF: Well, other countries in the region, I think, are already well aware of the destabilizing presence that Syria has in the region, and are acutely attuned to that from their own security posture. Clearly, that’s the decision of each country to make. But we have discussions with all of our partners and friends in the region about all of this, and those discussions are ongoing, yes.

QUESTION: But has the U.S. actually said to these neighboring countries, “You should be ready and we’ll be there to back you up if there are any retaliatory attacks”?

MS. HARF: I don’t have specifics on what those discussions have been like. I just don’t.

QUESTION: Matt, I interrupted you.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that interview, the Assad interview?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He also said to expect everything. I mean, does that – what is your reaction to that?

MS. HARF: My reaction in what way?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you guys – I mean, does that say Hezbollah to you, or what does that say?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that Assad and his regime has shown no limits to their brutality against their own people, whether that’s their use of chemical weapons, whether that’s Hezbollah, whether that’s people coming to Syria and going and perpetrating terrorist attacks throughout the region. I don’t want to venture to guess what Bashar al-Assad means when he says certain things, but clearly we know – we’ve seen – how brutal he can be. I know the videos – there’s a number of videos that have been released now in the aftermath of these attacks. Those videos just underscore what we’re dealing with here and what we’re dealing with when it comes to Assad and why, in fact, this cannot go without a response.

QUESTION: On Capitol Hill, just regarding Capitol Hill, the White House was suggesting that the President might go just with the Senate. Is the feeling also with the Secretary of State that that would be sufficient, just the Senate?

MS. HARF: No, I’m not going to go down that hypothetical. I know I keep using that word too. We believe that the U.S. Congress should and will vote to authorize this. Discussions are ongoing on both sides of the Hill right now with the House and the Senate, and I just don’t have any more further guesses to you in terms of whip count or possible hypotheticals about what might come from that vote.

QUESTION: Okay. But you also said that you think that you’re gaining ground. But in fact —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — what we have seen today, there are people who are backtracking, including the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, who has said: Look, they haven’t made the case. And in fact, he made an even stronger statement. So the numbers, they’re not —

MS. HARF: I think there’s a tendency in Washington to try and do a minute-by-minute whip count vote on these issues. We’ve seen it on other issues as well. Having all been in Washington for a number of years, I’m sure we’re familiar with the political ups and downs that go through every day.

What the Secretary’s focused on and what the Administration is focused on is talking to senators, talking to members of Congress, testifying in these hearings, making the case to them in any way we possibly can that this is why it’s in America’s national security interests. And I would caution everyone – I know it’s tempting – but to avoid the political ups and downs and the horserace that it’s so easy to get sucked into in the daily grind of Washington. Quite frankly, national security and this issue is too important to be brought into that kind of discussion.

Syria, in the back? Yes.

QUESTION: One other thing that Assad said in the Charlie Rose interview was something to the effect of nobody expects – nobody expected the 11th of September, which seemed to be an allusion to potential domestic retaliation if the United States does strike in Syria. So I know you didn’t want to comment on specific things Assad said, but I’m going to ask you anyway, is the United States concerned that he might make good on that sort of veiled threat? Are there – do you view that as simply posturing, or are there actual contingencies? When you talk about those contingencies, are you also talking about domestic contingencies to plan against some sort of domestic retaliation?

MS. HARF: Yeah. I think Bashar al-Assad does a lot of posturing. We’ve seen a lot of that over the past two years. Again, we’re focused on the region. We’re focused on what’s happening in the region, as we talked a little bit about some of our diplomatic posts on Friday and some steps we’ve taken there. Clearly, we’re always concerned about any threats to the homeland. But I don’t want to give too much credibility to what Bashar al-Assad says when he talks about that.

QUESTION: How much more information is the Secretary prepared to give Congress during an open session tomorrow when he goes to the Hill to testify?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve already given an unprecedented amount of information. Again, he’ll be up tonight testifying in a closed – or not testifying, excuse me – in a closed briefing, I think it is the technical term. We declassified an unprecedented amount of information, and in these classified sessions have also had very in-depth discussions about the intelligence case as well.

So the Secretary believes it’s important to put as much information on the table. As members of Congress come back with additional follow-ups and questions, clearly we take every effort to answer those. You saw last week he testified, I think, for four and a half hours one day and four hours the day before. So he wants to have a robust discussion on this, because he thinks it’s important to have that kind of debate on such an important topic.

QUESTION: Does he grant that the standard for convincing members of Congress, and by extension their constituents, is much higher, especially in light of last week’s hearings?

MS. HARF: In what way? In light of last week’s hearings in what way?

QUESTION: Many members of Congress who were watching came out and said that they were increasingly skeptical about whether military action was justified. And they’ve been already coming out today saying we really need to have everything that is out there; we just can’t be told “trust us.”

MS. HARF: Well, I’d note that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he testified at voted to move the authorization for military force forward to the full Senate, so clearly that’s on a positive trajectory. And the exact point of all these discussions, his phone calls, his meetings, and his briefings and his hearings, is to give as much information as possible, to answer all the questions.

But let’s be clear about what we’ve put out there. We’ve put out there a largely declassified intelligence case that we can walk through. We know who did this. We know what happened. We know a lot of details that we’ve now put out publicly, and members are getting even more information in classified briefings. So the intelligence case has been made and will continue to be made. We’ve also made a case – and will continue to – about why this is in our national security interest to do this.

And also, I think an important point, and if you all take a look at National Security Advisor Rice’s comments that she made today, that as Americans, as parents, as people looking at these videos, it underscores for us that this isn’t just about our national security. This is about upholding international norms. This is about saying to the world: You don’t get to get away with this.

And so I think all of those discussions are going to continue. And now that Congress is back, the Secretary and others will be engaged in a lot of outreach with them this week. I think that’s our primary focus.

QUESTION: One more on this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why hasn’t there been a more robust discussion, apart from what Ambassador Power said on Friday, about the idea of responsibility to protect?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, I think Ambassador Power made a very strong case for that. That’s clearly one component of it. There – all of these discussions are ongoing. There’s a lot of different pieces to this. I haven’t – I didn’t get to finish watching National Security Advisor Rice before I came out here, but she alluded to the same kind of issues that are at stake here, right, that we can’t allow these weapons to be used against civilians. And that’s – those are themes that are all inherent in the responsibility to protect. They were themes that were woven throughout Secretary Kerry’s remarks as well.

QUESTION: So can I just – again, I want to just make sure I’m crystal clear on something.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regardless of what happens with this U.S. rhetorical non-proposal that the Russians have picked up on – and I’m not going to buy this idea that it’s a Russian idea, sorry – but regardless of how that goes, you are going to continue to pursue the authorization?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So, in fact —

MS. HARF: We believe it’s even more important that Congress move forward with the authorization, because —


MS. HARF: — this is all happening only in the context of us moving forward with a threat of military action, yes.

QUESTION: Well, no. Okay. But how about with actual military action, not just the threat of?

MS. HARF: With the authorization – I think I answered your question. We are moving fully ahead with the authorization to use military force, yes.

QUESTION: So in other words, when the Secretary responded to that question by saying that sure, there is a way for him to avoid strikes, he wasn’t being entirely accurate because you’re going to go ahead – the President – you’re going to go ahead with the authorization regardless of how the Russians and the Syrians —

MS. HARF: And the Secretary never indicated otherwise. He never indicated that —


MS. HARF: — we would pull back the authorization for the use of military force from Congress.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, you could get the authorization —

MS. HARF: He never said that. In fact, he said the opposite.

QUESTION: Okay. But you could get the authorization —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — and then not act on it. Isn’t that correct?

MS. HARF: I mean, that’s certainly one hypothetical. Yes.

QUESTION: Right, okay. And again —

MS. HARF: But I’m not going to entertain its likelihood.

QUESTION: — I don’t understand this reluctance to take ownership of this. I would think that if it is correct that the President would prefer to avoid taking military action, that something that would allow him to do that would be a good thing. But I guess – anyway, that’s all I have on this.

MS. HARF: Syria? Anything else on Syria? Okay, I’m sorry, I will get to you when we’re done with Syria, I promise, and we’ll be done with Syria soon. Yes.

QUESTION: I have two quick questions. On the Lavrov call, do you know if that was a pre-scheduled call, or was that after —

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. If there are any details about the Lavrov call, we can send them to the bullpen. I really just don’t have a lot. I talked to the traveling party right before I came out here, but they’re on the plane so I had to jump out and come out here. So —

QUESTION: And one more quick question. Also during the press conference today, Secretary Kerry said that we hear and know the regime is issuing more instructions to stop the attack. Any way you can expand on that? Are there any details about intelligence coming in that these attacks are stopped, or what was he alluding to?

MS. HARF: That the chemical weapons attacks are stopped? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Well, the quote is to more instructions – the regime is issuing more instructions to stop the attacks. So he didn’t say the word “chemical,” but I would just hazard to guess that that’s what he was referring to.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’m obviously not going to go into specific intelligence we may or may not have. I think one thing we’ve seen is as the Assad regime feels threatened by our potential use of military action, they may take steps to try to move assets around. Clearly, we have ways of watching all of this. So we will continue working with Congress to try to get this authorization and we’ll continue monitoring the situation in Syria on the ground. But we also at the same time, as we’ve repeatedly said because a couple folks have asked about it, believe we need to move forward with a political solution to the overall crisis as well.

Anything else on Syria? Okay, then we’re going to you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Marie.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: This is Golam Arshad because we have another Arshad here.

MS. HARF: Are you – (laughter).

QUESTION: With the same name. Well, my question on Bangladesh, amidst hopeless political situation now prevailing in Bangladesh, Secretary Kerry very kindly sent a note of hope for a dialogue between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia. The question is: This is a great gesture from the United States for a dialogue; it has been immediately after the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s, so what steps would be in place, what steps would be the next step for a peaceful election on a non-party basis which the opposition demanding would be in place so that will the United States, as a matter of fact, take this dialogue seriously in order to avoid violence, post-election violence? If elections being held on a party basis, there would be violence. There is an immense threat there would be a backlash against the minorities. There would be a spur and a surge with the extremist Islamists. And finally, there would be a constitutional crisis in Bangladesh which may trigger – which may – I use the word very carefully – which may trigger an extra-constitutional means. So the option of having a caretaker government seems to be the only solution for a dialogue.

And my second question is again with the women’s empowerment in Bangladesh, and one of the icons of the world, Professor Muhammad Yunus, is under allegation of torrential corruptions which to many is unacceptable. This will undermine definitely the millions of women in Bangladesh serving Grameen Bank. What is the take of the United States at this? Because he is the man who has made Bangladesh known to the free world. And without any qualms I can say that Professor Muhammad Yunus is not a political target, which may even lead into a situation where he may be sent to jail. A man of free conscience is now waiting to be sent to jail.

Now, Marie, I would really like to make this point to you, and on a very personal note —

MS. HARF: Okay, let’s wrap it up a little bit.

QUESTION: On a very personal note —

MS. HARF: — so other folks can have a chance, too.

QUESTION: On a very personal note, since I am here for the – since ‘93, I must say that – and I must thank you that the way that you have handled – my Matt would be able to bear me out on that – is excellent. Believe you me, I was listening to each word you say in reaction to some of my friends, and I must say you have done a wonderful job.

MS. HARF: Thank you. That’s very nice of you.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: I am afraid my answer to your question won’t live up to that standard that you just laid out, but I very much appreciate it. I don’t have any update for you on the elections. I know we’ve talked about this a little bit in here. Clearly, we would be opposed and condemn any violence that’s associated with elections. We believe this is important for Bangladesh going forward. If I have an update for you, I can get you one on both of those issues. Those are very detailed and good questions. Unfortunately, I just don’t have a lot more to share with you at this point.

QUESTION: Would you take this as a Taken Question?

MS. HARF: I will take it – I will take them both as a Taken Question.

QUESTION: And if you could kindly post this, that would be very helpful —

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: — for the people of Bangladesh.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much.

MS. HARF: And thank you for the question.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

QUESTION: Speaking of – it was an election question, not Bangladesh.

QUESTION: No, I was going to go somewhere else. But you do it.

QUESTION: Close by. Cambodia. They certified the election results. You had wanted a full and independent, transparent investigation of the irregularities, which seems not to have happened, but they certified them anyway. So I’m just wondering if you have any comment on that.

MS. HARF: I do. We, obviously, have commended the Cambodian people for expressing their views in a nonviolent manner. We do still believe that a transparent review of irregularities in the July elections would help efforts to assess and address flaws in the electoral process and give the Cambodian people greater confidence in their electoral system. And we are continuing to urge all parties, as we have, to seize this opportunity to improve their democratic processes going forward.

QUESTION: So you’re not concerned at all that they went ahead and certified the results without doing the investigation?

MS. HARF: We still believe that a transparent review of these irregularities would help these efforts. We still believe that should happen.

QUESTION: Would help what efforts?

MS. HARF: The efforts to assess and address flaws in their electoral process. We’ve talked about that a little bit here.

QUESTION: Okay. So you still have concerns about it?

MS. HARF: You can use —

QUESTION: Your concerns weren’t addressed. I mean, I’m just trying to figure out —

MS. HARF: Well, independent monitors who observed the election cited serious irregularities —


MS. HARF: — in the processes. We’ve talked about that in here a little bit.


MS. HARF: We still have those concerns and hope that there’s a process to address them.

QUESTION: Right. But again, I’m trying to draw you out on whether you think it is a good thing or a bad thing —

MS. HARF: I know what you’re trying to do.

QUESTION: — that the results were certified without – is that in there someplace?

MS. HARF: I’m not going —

QUESTION: You have no position?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to say it’s a good or a bad thing. We still have concerns about some of the irregularities.

QUESTION: All right, okay. But you’re not going to say that’s a good or bad thing, so that can – does that mean —

MS. HARF: I am not going —

QUESTION: — you have no position?

MS. HARF: I am not going to say it’s a good or a bad thing, Matt.

QUESTION: Doesn’t that mean you have no position?

MS. HARF: It means I’m just not going to use your words.

QUESTION: All right, okay, fine. And do you —

MS. HARF: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: I just had one last one. It’s totally different, so go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I stay in Asia and go to North Korea?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Cambodia?

MS. HARF: We can stay on Cambodia.

QUESTION: Do you have a statement on the resignation of the international prosecutor in the Khmer Rouge trials?

MS. HARF: I do not. I will endeavor to get you one.

QUESTION: Could you take it?

MS. HARF: I’ll take that question, yes.

QUESTION: I wanted to go to North Korea.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And Dennis Rodman’s just come back and held a press conference in New York. And he said he’s just tried to open some doors, and I wondered if you had any reaction to his visit and what your comment might be.

MS. HARF: Well, this was a private visit, as we’ve said repeatedly, and I would refer you – this is the first time, I think, I’ve ever done this – to Dennis Rodman regarding any questions about his comments or what they might mean.

QUESTION: But do you not think his opening – he actually gave the world a piece of information which we didn’t have before, which was the name of Kim Jong-un’s baby girl. I mean, he’s obviously got contacts with the North Korean regime, and while the world is focused on Syria right now, there is also a problem with the regime in North Korea. Wouldn’t it be at least advisable to talk to him, to sit down with him, and sort of see what he has to say about it?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re always open to receiving those kinds of briefings, certainly, but I don’t have anything else for you on that.

QUESTION: Are you trying to contact Mr. Rodman?

MS. HARF: I don’t know.


MS. HARF: No, I don’t know.

QUESTION: The first time that he went to North Korea and the Secretary was asked about it, he responded Dennis Rodman is a great – was a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he is a great basketball player. (Laughter.) So are you actually —

MS. HARF: I’ll let the Secretary’s humor —

QUESTION: Are you changing —

MS. HARF: — speak for itself.

QUESTION: Are you changing – well, I’m not asking —


QUESTION: Are you – does it mean that you’re —

MS. HARF: No, he —

QUESTION: — that you or someone else — that this building would be interested in hearing the intelligence that Dennis Rodman has collected from North Korea? Is that —

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) This was a private visit.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. HARF: We’re certainly —

QUESTION: I understand. But you said you were willing to – so – and —

MS. HARF: I mean —

QUESTION: — the Secretary seemed to dismiss it before, so —

MS. HARF: I don’t think the Secretary was referring to the same question. I just don’t have anything else on Dennis Rodman. Let’s move on.

QUESTION: Is it of any —

MS. HARF: Let’s just move on.

QUESTION: Is it of any concern that Dennis Rodman seems to have more information about Kim Jong-un than the U.S. Government does?

MS. HARF: I think that would be a gross assumption that you cannot back up with any facts, Matt.

QUESTION: So do you know —

MS. HARF: You have no idea everything the U.S. Government knows about North Korea.

QUESTION: No. You’re right.

MS. HARF: And you also don’t have any idea what Dennis Rodman does, unless you talk to him frequently.

QUESTION: No, but he seemed to know something more than what you had known.

MS. HARF: Again —

QUESTION: I wanted to ask – my other question –

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — was not about this. My other question was about Brazil and whether or not the Administration is concerned that the relationship with Brazil, once cordial, seems to be going down the toilet.

MS. HARF: Is that a technical term?

QUESTION: I believe so.

MS. HARF: Brazil and the United States obviously are partners, close global partners, as the recent trip of Secretary Kerry to Brazil demonstrated. We agree that our broader relationship remains vital and that we need to move forward on a host of issues – economic, diplomatic, others as well. So we’ll address any concerns, as we have said repeatedly, in diplomatic channels about reports of intelligence activities. But we obviously believe this is an important partnership and we’ll continue working with them.

QUESTION: Marie, can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you can share with us as a result of the meeting?

MS. HARF: Do you have specific questions, or are you just fishing for information?

QUESTION: Well, I want to hear from you about – because there is a blackout. I want to hear from you what is going on, what was the meeting all about, what have they arrived at? Did the Secretary of State take the Palestinian President to the woodshed, because they were leaking information?

MS. HARF: Well, as many of you know, the Secretary met with Mr. Abbas on Sunday in London. I think we talked about this a little bit. They discussed the ongoing negotiations, how to ensure their success. They also reviewed Secretary Kerry’s meeting with the delegation of foreign ministers from the Arab League Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee, which had happened earlier that day in Paris. The Secretary also briefed President Abbas on the ongoing efforts to secure support for the Palestinian economy.

He reiterated many of the issues we’ve talked about for months in terms of the peace process. As you all, I think, probably have seen, that the Secretary of State also hosted a meeting in Paris with a ministerial delegation assigned by the Arab League’s Peace Initiative Committee. It included ministers of foreign affairs and permanent representatives from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Arab League’s Secretary General. There, he also provided an update on the ongoing permanent status negotiations and reiterated our commitment to pursuing these negotiations.

QUESTION: Do we know anything about the next meeting between Palestinians and —

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to announce for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, the Secretary of State urged the Europeans to hold back on their decision to boycott products from the Israeli settlements. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: He addressed this, I believe, publicly already.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. HARF: I would echo his comments that he asked the European community if they would consider a suspension of their directives on this issue. I don’t have anything further to add to what he’s already said.

QUESTION: Why did he ask that? What is – does this have any kind of diplomatic value at the present time?

MS. HARF: Well, what he said when he was asked that is he’s asking them to suspend or delay its implementation while these talks are taking place, obviously to prove that their input is of value to this initiative, but I don’t have anything further to add than he already said publicly.

QUESTION: And he has not received any promises from the Europeans that they will do that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on any response.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you find if actually – if there was a – if you did get a response from the Europeans?

MS. HARF: I can find – mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And as I – as I understand it, the boycott would – well, tell – explain to me what he wants the Europeans specifically to do, or what he asked them specifically.

MS. HARF: What I have here is that he asked the European community if they would consider the suspension of their directives.


MS. HARF: So not asking them to change the policy, but to suspend its implementation.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Keystone?

MS. HARF: Sorry?

QUESTION: On Keystone?

MS. HARF: Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Some recent Canadian news reports suggest that Prime Minister Harper is willing to make important concessions on oil and gas emission regulations, including coordinating with the U.S. on those regulations. What can Canada offer to the U.S. to ensure an approval of the Keystone pipeline?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’re not going to speculate on approval or disapproval of this. Our purpose here, as we said, is to conduct a rigorous and objective review. That review’s ongoing, but I’m just not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: Can you state when it might come out?

MS. HARF: No timeline, as we’ve repeatedly said.

QUESTION: Still? I mean, it’s —

MS. HARF: There’s still no timeline.

QUESTION: You’ve had the public discussion.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s been posted, everything’s —

MS. HARF: There’s a process in place. We think it’s important to do a thorough, rigorous review of this. It’s an important topic, and that just takes time, so no timeline to announce.

QUESTION: Can I go to Mali?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that possible? I saw the statement that you put out on Friday afternoon saying that the government’s going to start resuming – the U.S. Government’s going —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — to start resuming development aid in the light of the political developments that have happened post the elections.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you – I wanted to clarify about military aid, which has also been suspended. Or is it all part of the same package?

MS. HARF: Let me take that question. I don’t know the answer. I can endeavor to get more information for you.


MS. HARF: I just don’t know what the answer is.

Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: About the elections this time in Azerbaijan. So there are reports that American diplomatic delegation wasn’t allowed to visit Azerbaijan recently, and the news reports say that this is presumably related somehow to the presidential elections coming in Azerbaijan in October. The American diplomatic delegation was led by Thomas Melia from this building, and can you comment on this or confirm this news?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen those reports and I believe that I have an answer for you. I just don’t have it in front of me. So let me take the question and I can get you a response after the briefing.

QUESTION: And the follow-up would be —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — Human Rights Watch made a statement about the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I think about 40 opposition activists have been detained, and they say that the pressure against independent journalists and human rights activists have been increased. Do you follow the situation from this building?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I’ll take that as part of the question. I know there’s an answer to this floating around, and I will get it for you after the briefing. My apologies for not having it in front of me.

QUESTION: Sorry, Marie.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just going back to Mali, at the time, there was also quite a lot of U.S. involvement in neighboring countries to try and train up an ECOWAS force and everything. My question would be: Is that still in place? Or have you now withdrawn all those trainers as well?

MS. HARF: I’ll take that as part of the question with a response.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:16 p.m.)