Monday, November 28, 2011

Ny Qs&As with VP Biden's senior officials, November 28


Conference Call:

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, presenters, for information and detailed account of the trip.  My question, first question, is to National Security Advisor Mr. Tony Blinken.  You, sir, I believe, mentioned that one of the items on the agenda is assistance against PKK, which you described as a common enemy.  Turkey has been seeking to get [reapers] from you and as we understand there are some problems with the U.S. Congress.  My question is, do you have any news that you will be [relaying] to the Turkish counterparts on this? 

And the second question, on the Entrepreneurship Summit in Istanbul.  Again, you had mentioned that one of the forefront issues is going to be regarding the Arab Spring, and I believe there will be attendance from these countries.  What specifically -- I mean, how you are thinking to drive, in this summit -- channel this new countries on the path to democracy?  Is there any specific mechanism?  Are you planning to put -- to help more in these countries?

And my final question is on Iran.  There was a threat by the air commander -- Air Force commander of the Irani Air Forces over the weekend, saying that in case of an attack by U.S. or Israel on Iran the first target will be the newly installed NATO radar system in Turkey.  What is your response to that kind of threat?  Thank you.

MR. BLINKEN:  Thanks very much.  Let me take the first and third questions and have Rashad speak to the summit.

First, on the PKK question.  As I indicated, we stand, in the United States, strongly with our NATO ally, Turkey, in its fight against the PKK.  That’s why we sent the U.S. government team to Turkey last October, just after that terrible PKK attack on Turkish soldiers, to discuss additional assistance to the Turkish government in its fight against terrorism. 

And there are a number of things that we’re doing that are assisting Turkey in this fight.  And first I should say we’re going to continue to provide a full range of meaningful and effective support for our ally, Turkey, against PKK terrorism, from national defense to diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence cooperation.  This is something that has to be multifaceted to deal with the problem.

We’ll be providing three SuperCobra attack helicopters to Turkey.  We transferred four Predator UAVs from Iraq to Incirlik at the air base in Turkey.  We -- obviously all U.S. operations in Incirlik occur under agreements with the government of Turkey.  We’re also supporting continued cooperation between Iraq and Turkey in combating the PKK, which is a common enemy of Turkey, Iraq and the United States. 

     We established as you may know with us, Turkey and Iraq a three-way security dialogue to address cross-border terror threats, and we’re working to strengthen that.

     And one of the other things we’re doing is we’re working with Europe to clamp down on illegal PKK fundraising and money laundering.  So in all of these areas, we are working very closely with Turkey.  And this is something as I indicated that the Vice President will talk about when he is in Turkey.

     In terms of the question on Iran, and then I’ll turn it to Rashad on the summit.  A few things I think are worth saying.  I think making threatening statements doesn't serve anyone’s purpose, least of all the Iranians.  The fact of the matter is that the world is deeply concerned with Iran’s activities in a number of areas starting with their nuclear program.  We’ve seen that most recently in the very strong resolutions that were adopted by a wide margin at the IAEA following its report on Iran’s nuclear program, and also at the U.N. General Assembly on the Iranian assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington. 

     Turkey shares our goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.  And of course, Turkey has a long history of -- ties to Iran as well as a long common border.  But Turkish leaders told us repeatedly that they strongly support international efforts to encourage Iran to engage with the P5-plus-1 toward a diplomatic resolution of the concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

     And of course, we think it’s very important that Turkey, a NATO ally, agreed to host the radar which is a NATO program -- very important to the defense of all NATO countries against the growing missile threat that is emerging in the world, and we’re very pleased that Turkey is standing up as a NATO ally to do that.

     Rashad, did you want to say something about the summit?

     MR. HUSSAIN:  Sure.  We are expecting participants from a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa including Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen and others.  And we continue to believe that economic and social entrepreneurship are powerful forces for creating opportunity and sparking innovation, also for lifting people out of poverty and helping transform societies.

We’ve seen certainly throughout the Arab Spring that entrepreneurs have been at the forefront of pushing the envelope when it comes to change within societies, and the summit will allow entrepreneurs from all over the world to come together and share their experiences and discuss what they’ve been doing, some of the ways that they’ve been able to overcome obstacles that they face to expand their networks.

     We also will continue to promote in this summit and beyond trade, investment, regional integration as we support political and economic reforms in the Middle East and North Africa, and we’ll also be continuing to assist in combating corruption and aiding those efforts.

     The Vice President will speak a little bit more about this and get into a little bit more detail in some of the specific initiatives that we’ll be implementing with Turkey and with other countries in the region.

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox Mark Toner, November 28, 2011, Press Briefing

[Reds by other reporters]

Irani threat to Turkey
QUESTION:  Over the weekend, air force commander of Iran made a statement, and he said that in case of a attack by U.S. or Israel on Iran the first target will be the new NATO installation in southeast of Turkey.  Would you be able to comment on this threat? 

MR. TONER:  No.  I’m not going to comment on the comments of an Iraqi air force general speculating about –

QUESTION:  Iranian general.

MR. TONER:  Rather Iranian general speculating about a possible attack. 


QUESTION:  But from the podium – I think from the podium a couple of weeks ago, you were predicting that the Turks and the Russians would also decide to take stronger action.  So --

MR. TONER:  Well, the Turks have – at least in terms of their public statements, have already been playing – and in fact – and also, in welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees over their border – let’s not forget that – they’ve already been playing a very outspoken and public role in condemning Asad and then helping address the humanitarian concerns by the Syrians who fled Asad.  So they’re doing quite a bit.


Humanitarian Corridor/USS nuclear aircraft off Syria

QUESTION:  What about the humanitarian corridor that the French suggested last week?  Did you find out about it?

MR. TONER:  We haven’t gotten any more details about it, and we certainly would want to get more details before we could comment on the feasibility of it.  I mean, we certainly support, as I just said in the case of Turkey, efforts to address the humanitarian concerns of these Syrians who are under duress, but I don’t have any comment until we can see the actual details.

QUESTION:  Mark, now that the Arab League took these decisions and so on, why does it remain out of the question to go back to the Security Council and try that route again?

MR. TONER:  Well, again, we’ve tried that once before.  We think that it’s just – it’s a matter of it being an effective venue and an effective process, so I think we just – we’ve never ruled out Security Council action, but we’re not going to try it until we’re convinced that it’s going to be fruitful.

QUESTION:  You stated that you’re (inaudible) to see details about the humanitarian corridor.  Are you awaiting these details from French, or what’s that exactly?  Which country from which place you are expecting these details to come from?

MR. TONER:  I think it was Foreign Minister Juppe who originally suggested it, so --

QUESTION:  I have one more.  Over the weekend, there were some news reports that nuclear aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush has reportedly anchored off Syria.  Would you be able to confirm if it’s --

MR. TONER:  I can’t confirm that.  I would refer you to the Pentagon.


Egypt Emergency Law/SCAF/El Baradai
QUESTION:  So during the last conversations you had just before Thanksgiving with Egypt, did – it went beyond just the first part of the elections timeline and also spoke about the emergency law, the eventual handover of civilian power.  Are you confident – and of course, restraint of security forces, when dealing with peaceful protestors – are you comfortable now with where the SCAF is on those issues?  They obviously haven’t taken any measures with regards to the emergency law, and we’re still talking about the July timeline, in theory, for the handover to civilian power.  But are you comfortable, especially after today, and this first part, that these things are going to be realized?

MR. TONER:  Well, again, it’s not about us being comfortable.  But we have seen the SCAF make an effort to address some of the concerns that were being expressed by the people in Tahrir Square.  There is an interim government named of – I’m sorry, a new PM, rather.  Interim PM – prime minister – named, who has asked – who’s been asked to head this interim government.  They did clearly stipulate that he would serve until June 30th, when Egypt’s military council has announced it’ll turn over executive authority to an elected president.  All these are the elements of a democratic transition that we think is positive. 

QUESTION:  So it’s your assessment that they are now, again, on the right path toward a democratic transition?

MR. TONER:  Again, it’s – there are going to be challenges ahead.  It’s important that the Egyptian people feel that there is a credible process in place that is leading to a democratic elected government – democratically elected government.

QUESTION:  Do you have any information why the SCAF did not lift the emergency law, even though it clearly promised it was going to do (inaudible) elections?

MR. TONER:  I do not.  I do not, and we would continue to call on them to be lifted. 

QUESTION:  Also, one of the demands of the Tahrir in recent week was Mohammad El-Baradei as a prime minister.  SCAF so far denied for this cause.  Do you have any assessment on the candidacy of –

MR. TONER:  Now as I said, the former Egyptian prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri has been chosen to head the interim government.  I think as the – as we said over the weekend, what’s important is that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority.  I think that’s our bottom line.


Islamists MEast/Democracy
QUESTION:  Mark, are you worried about minorities in the region if the Islamists won the elections?

MR. TONER:  Again, you’re --

QUESTION:  Talking about Egypt.

MR. TONER:  You’re talking about Egypt.  These parties, as we’ve said – I feel like I’m repeating myself a little bit, here – it’s – what’s really important is that – is not necessarily their political stripes, if you will, but how – their commitment to real and true democratic (inaudible).  That’s how we’re going to judge them.


Secularism/Arab Spring
QUESTION:  Does the Administration see the continuation of a degree of secularism in the political systems of these countries as in U.S. national interests?

MR. TONER:  We see the establishment of a democratic process that leads to long-term democratic governance in our national security interests in the region.

QUESTION:  But does the issue of secularism --

MR. TONER:  And there are cases – again, I feel like a broken record.  I keep pointing you back to her speech at NDI, where she talked about Turkey being one example of countries that can successfully marry Islam with democratic governance. 

QUESTION:  Right.  But does the question of maintaining a degree of secularism – and Turkey has a long tradition of secular foundation as well – maintaining a level of secularism in countries that you’ve long partnered – is that, along with the democratic advances, part of U.S. national interests?  Or is the secular religious orientation of the political sphere not of any importance?

MR. TONER:  We believe that our interests are best served by democratic governance


Bahrain BICI Report
QUESTION:  Just follow-up on Bahrain.  After the release of the report, there were protests over the weekend in Bahrain, including today.  Would it be fair to say that its – how the Bahraini Government treatment with these resuming protests would be a good indication? 

MR. TONER:  Oh, of course we’re going to look at those – I mean, we’re not going to give them a pass on future behavior as well.  It’s important that they allow peaceful demonstrators to peacefully demonstrate. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox Mark Toner, November 23, 2011, Press Briefing

Yemen power transition aggrement
QUESTION:  Can you help us to understand what this event, this historic event, means within the regional context?
MR. TONER:  Well, again, this is a path forward for the Yemeni people.  We’ve said that the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement sets up, as we said, a 90 day period for presidential elections to take place.  Now, the important factor moving forward is the implementation of this agreement.  We want that to happen peacefully and with good cooperation on all sides by all parties.   But we believe that this provides a way for Yemen out of this crisis.  It’s an important beginning, but we’re under no illusions Yemen still faces significant challenges and can’t – cannot achieve security, stability, and unity before there’s a full transfer of power.

Egypt/Tahrir clashes/
QUESTION:  As far as we can see, the protests are going on in Tahrir.  What’s your understanding as of today?  It looks like this continues.  Why do you think?  And do you support the cause? MR. TONER:  Why do?
QUESTION:  Why do you think still the crowd is in Tahrir, even though it looks like there is now some concessions made?
MR. TONER:  Well, again, we spoke yesterday about our concern about the violence that did occur in Egypt, and Toria condemned the excessive force used against protestors.  We call and continue to call on Egyptian security forces to exercise maximum restraint and behave in a disciplined manner that protects the universal rights of these Egyptian citizens to peacefully express themselves. What we’ve said all along here, though, is that we do have parliamentary elections slated to take place on Monday, and we need to – that needs to be where Egyptians express themselves and their desire for a democratic future for their country, through the ballot box.

QUESTION:  And you remain confident that this election will go on on time?
MR. TONER:  We continue to believe that it can go on, yeah.

US-SCAF relations
QUESTION:  Clashes have been still going on four or five days, even today, according to activists and on these social network sites.  I know you began blaming the – or you began telling to Egyptian media reports openly that they should stop.  But is this going to trigger or already triggered any kind of reconsideration on your part in terms of your aid to military – Egyptian military or, in general, in your relations?    
MR. TONER:  Well, again, our focus right now in the immediate – is the immediate situation on the ground in Tahrir Square.  And we believe that the security forces, Egyptian security forces, need to show more restraint, that they did use excessive force against protestors.  We’ve made that very clear in our public – as I’m saying right now – but also in our private conversations with them. 

"Juppe Humanitarian corridor"
QUESTION:  So Foreign Minister Juppe spoke today of the Syrian National Council as being a legitimate interlocutor, which, as you know, is the same old phrase used with the Libya – with the TNC or the NTC or whatever you want to call it in Libya.  They went from being a – kind of just a nebulous group to a legitimate interlocutor to then being the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people.  Is the same thing happening in Syria?  And also, could you address Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments about possibly providing some kind of a humanitarian corridor?
MR. TONER:  Oh, I just said that we – I’ve just seen Foreign Minister Juppe’s comments expressed in the press.  I haven’t seen any details about this humanitarian corridor, so – corridor, so it’s hard for me to react to it.  I think we’ll be reaching out through the French to find out more information.  But what we’ve said all along is that we want to see humanitarian assistance provided, we want to see human rights monitors on the ground, and we want to see the violence end.   In terms of – I’m sorry – his first point about the Syrian National Council, we’ve also said that it’s a – it is a credible interlocutor.  It’s one of several right now.  And we’re in touch, in contact, with all of these groups.  We do think that the Syrian National Council has been a leading force, but it’s, as I said, one of several opposition groups, all of whom are, we believe, taking steps to become more cohesive and more representative of the Syrian people.

Saif al-Qaddafi dealing
QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up. You just said in the Libya question it’s up to Libyan people to deal with Saif al-Qadhafi. Does it mean if the Libyan people think that they should just kill –
MR. TONER: Well, let me just be clear, these individuals need to be held accountable. It needs to be done in a transparent, credible way that’s in accordance with international legal standards. My understanding is that interim government has, in fact, been in touch with the ICC and they’re discussing the future of this case. And then I just would say that these militias need to cooperate with the interim government and respect its authority.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



QUESTION:  Quick follow-up to Egypt question:  So it should be our understanding that the U.S. Government is not reconsidering its aid to Egyptian military who has been basically cracking down on the peaceful protestors in Tahrir?  According to reports, there are 20-30 people got killed and hundreds of injured.  Doesn’t this trigger any kind of reconsideration?

My main question is on Turkey.  We know that the U.S. and Turkey has been closely working on set of issues on – regarding Arab Spring.  Particularly on Iran, going forward, you just released new set of sanctions.  I asked this question yesterday too, but I am hoping get in more detail.  How are you planning to work with Turkey, given past disagreements, especially on 1929, even though Turkey imposes, but Turkey said no.  Are you expecting from Turkey to go forward the other sanctions that EU and U.S. did?  

And also Syria, things are getting harsher in Syria.  What is your expectation in next one to two weeks in terms of Arab League or Turkey?  They still have not taken any steps on the economic sanctions side.  Thank you.

MR. RHODES:  Well, first as a general matter, we’ve been in very close contact with the Turkish Government about each of the issues that you discussed.  The President and Prime Minister Erdogan have developed, I think, a very close partnership and friendship, really, and it has allowed them to have very frequent and candid discussions about these issues.  We, frankly, see Turkey as playing a very important role in support for democratic aspirations in the region, as well as a security ally in the region.  

On each of these countries, just to take them one by one – on Syria, I think we have – we were able to consult with Prime Minister Erdogan in advance of the President making the decision to call for Bashar Asad to leave power, and in advance of the very robust sanctions that we put on the Syrian regime.  And we felt that was important, given Turkey’s role as a neighbor and given Turkey’s relationship with Syria, that we be very transparent about the steps that we’re going to take. 

 We believe that it’s very important for Turkey to play a strong role in applying pressure on the Asad regime.  To that end, what we see happening is a mounting tide of opinion in the region and in the world against Bashar Asad.  And frankly, we see time running out for him, that there’s no way that he’s going to be able to take the types of actions he has against his people and remain in power.  And I think the Arab League showed real leadership in reducing its relations with Syria, and it’s important for the Arab League to continue to follow through in that respect.  

Similarly, Turkey has made very strong statements in recent days about the need for there to be change in Syria, and has indicated a willingness to move towards sanctions.  And again, we believe that that’s going to be critical, because the U.S. and our European allies have essentially thrown the book at the Asad regime.  And that’s had an impact.  That’s cut them off from sources of revenue.  That’s cut their petroleum sector off from sources of revenue.

 That’s isolated their banking sector, and that, we believe, is being felt very much in Damascus.  But insofar as regional partners like Turkey and the Arab League are increasing their own pressure, that can hasten the democratic transition that needs to take place within Syria.  So as a general matter, we believe Turkey is playing a very constructive role, and continue to do so going forward.   With respect to Iran, Turkey obviously differed on the vote on 1929.

They have, however, not impeded but rather have abided by the multilateral sanctions framework that’s been in place since then.  Now, what we have also seen is additional steps have been taken by a range of nations that go above and beyond the basic framework established by 1929.  The U.S., a number of European allies, Asian allies, have dramatically increased the sanctions that we’ve applied on the Iranian Government.  We announced a whole new set of sanctions yesterday that address the petroleum industry, the banking sector, the petro-chemical industry.  

It’s not our expectation that every single country is going to take the same steps that we do.  We’d, of course, like there to be as broad a front against the Iranian Government as possible, so we welcome any nation that wants to take it – that joins us in taking additional punitive actions.  But similarly, we wouldn’t have an expectation that Turkey’s going to do everything that we do.  We do want Turkey to be aware of the – what we believe are the risks of doing business with the Iranian Government.  Given its proliferation activities, its support for terrorism, and the IRGC’s increasing role in the Iranian economy.  So we believe that Turkey needs to be vigilant in understanding that business that is done with Iran could potentially be corrupted by those practices by the Iranian Government.  So that’s the type of dialogue we’re going to have with Turkey and with many other nations.  

With respect to Egypt, it’s obviously a very fluid situation.  I think our focus right now is on sending a very strong signal that we believe this violence is absolutely deplorable, that it has to come to an end, that that’s something we’re going to be saying in public and in private. 

I wouldn’t get into any particular assistance questions at this point.  It’s, again, a very fluid situation.  But we believe the most important thing that the Egyptian military council can do is stop violence against peaceful protesters, to respect the rights of peaceful protesters, and to, again, continue to lay out a clear path to a civilian government that is responsive to the people. 

So that’s the message we’re sending and will continue to do so going forward.  And of course, we’ll be closely monitoring events because they have taken a dramatic turn in recent days.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox V. Nuland, November 21, 2011, Press Briefing

Egypt protests/timetable
QUESTION:  One of the biggest demands of the protestors right now – not only to see elections, but also to see clear timetable for the transition.  Do you share this largest concern of the protestors right now?
MS. NULAND:  We do.  We want to see a clear transition timetable, but again, the plan now is to have these rounds of parliamentary elections to elect a body that can begin then laying out of the rest of the timetable, including for the drafting of the constitution and including for the decisions on head of state and government.  So we have to get started here in order to complete the process.

Tear Gas provider US Companies
QUESTION:  Egyptian military over the weekend, and including today, has been using – heavily using teargas, and according to reports, this teargas had been provided by the U.S. companies.  After seeing this violence on the protestors, are you open to reconsider this aid, military aid, to Egypt?  MS. NULAND:  Again, what we want to see is this democratic process go forward.  We want to see this first round of elections go well.  We want to see the electoral process continue.  And we don’t want to see violence by any side between now and then or going forward.

Syria, UNSC resolution
QUESTION:  Very quickly, going back to Syria.  Are you planning to work at the UN Security Council this week to pass resolution on Asad or on the regime this week?  Are you going to start any – resume any work in New York? 
MS. NULAND:  Well, I think we always leave open the door to continue work at the United Nations and its various constituent bodies as well as in the UNSC.  But I don’t have anything particular to report to you today. 

Monday, November 21
Background conference call on "Iran sanctions" with White House Senior officials
OPERATOR:  We have a question from the line of Ilhan Tanir with Vatan Turkish daily.  Please go ahead.
QUESTION:  Thank you.  I’m not sure who would like to take this question, but I am going to be little more particular.  Apparently, these new measures the U.S. is launching a worldwide diplomatic campaign and you are encouraging other countries to join you.  Particularly Turkey, Iran is a country which provides substantial part of Turkey’s energy needs and we all know Turkey’s disagreements at the UN Security Council last year.  My question is have you been able to talk to Turkish Government for their role in this renewed effort?  How the partnership between the two countries is going to happen at this time?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have been in continuous contact with the Turkish Government as well as other governments in the region and throughout the world about the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1929.  And the Turkish Government has assured us that it’s fully committed to implementing conscientiously Resolution 1929.  We welcome their assurances in that regard. Obviously, Turkey is a kind of so-called frontline state.  It’s located near Iran and has to take special measures, exercise special vigilance in ensuring that it’s implementing Resolution 1929 effectively.  But we have constant discussions with the Turkish Government and we very much appreciate the cooperation we’ve had.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why should we bring Israel back to Turkey’s friendship circle?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The U.S. administration had a very tough week defending its decision to cut UNESCO funding following the Palestinian membership vote.
In the most vital foreign affairs issues, the division within the U.S. legislature and its parting with the administration help the executive power to glue its own winning coalition to pursue America’s core national interests.
The U.S.’ relations with Israel unquestionably present an exception to this principal and lack that type of check within U.S. governing bodies. President Barack Obama tried a tough love attitude toward the Netanyahu government to fill that vacuum in his first two years to no avail. As the elections are a year away, Obama joined the bipartisan Congressional pro-Israel stance of giving Israel more than it asked, consequently sinking his credibility and approval rating among Arabs.
Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, plainly summarized Palestinians’ demands at a gala dinner of the American Task Force for Palestine, a young and strong pro-Palestine lobbying group in Washington. He said Palestinians demand “a viable, sovereign state on 22 percent of the land. All we want is freedom from Israel, not freedom to vote in Israel.”
At a time when the Palestinian Authority makes its case to international bodies and gains the favor of the vast majority of other U.N. member states and international public opinion, the Obama administration appears to conform to the “unwritten” rules of the U.S. re-election campaigning season to keep strong Jewish lobbies happy.

At a time when the Middle East is in great need of a mediator to reduce regional strains, the U.S. finds itself more isolated along with Israel and uses its precious diplomatic capital to chase down tiny U.N. members to expand its small coalition against the heightening pro-Palestinian tide.
Washington’s out of control love affair with Israel nowadays is even more risky given the seriousness of a potential Israeli air attack on Iran. The U.S. State Department refused for an entire week to oppose the idea of such an attack, instead using its response to argue for the need of more pressure on Iran to add to the flames.
Bringing Israel back to friendship circle
However, since its ties with Israel are broken, Turkey, which is considered to be the biggest winner of the Arab Spring so far, appears unable to play any role amid escalation of regional tension. Ankara has been arguing for stability and peace of the region for years, but in this critical juncture, even though it faces potential exposures to repercussions of an Israeli attack ensuring a regional conflict, it is currently secluded from being a factor to make any difference.
According to Congressman Gregory Meeks, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia who visited Turkey twice within the past few weeks, “There are encouraging signs about better relations between Turkey and Israel.” In an interview this week, he said “Officials from both countries told [me] they want to repair ties” following the start of the tragic earthquake dialogue. Turkey’s trade with Israel reached over $2.1 billion so far in 2011, another sign that economic ties have been resilient despite the political fights.
Turkey also rapidly assured Washington on Thursday morning that it will not send any naval ships to accompany flotillas sailing to Gaza, despite a clear promise by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past that it would do so.
On the other hand, Turkey finds itself at odds with Iran much more often than a year ago, and its friendship with Syria all but collapsed, costing Ankara one-and-a-half allies.
Now with the Arab transition, democracy and human rights, values that Turkey, Israel and the U.S. claim to deeply share, need to be defended against Bashar al-Assad with great caution and cooperation.
By bringing Israel back to the friendship circle, Turkey can gain leverage in the peace process, help to build a stronger coalition against al-Assad and may even fill the role of “check” on Israel’s unpredictable behavior.
It is not easy. It requires statesmen to read the quickly changing Middle East landscape and adapt to it to seek the best national interests.

Friday, November 4, 2011



Guest - SAS

2011-11-08 16:28:16

Turkey should not bother to try to mend fences with an occupier like Israel. For Turkey to seek Israel's friendship would send the message that Israel can get away with its brutal treatment of Palestinians. In any case Israel is isolated, not Turkey

Guest - delia ruhe

2011-11-07 09:19:23

Turning an irrational actor into a friend can be just as dangerous as having him as an enemy. Look where it's got the US. As Scott McConnell writes: 'The United States is in the position of a wife whose spouse is acting erratically. A “panicked and unrestrained Israel,

Guest - raoul

2011-11-06 19:08:13

Why should the US taxpayer support UNESCO in its attempt to take a political stand against its own charter? The Palestinians have plenty of 'friends' who can donate our share in perpetuity.

Guest - ManInTheMIddle

2011-11-06 17:12:41

The author's narrow view of Iran-Turkey relations serves to push Israel on Turkey again. Going from "being at odds" with Iran to writing off the converging geopolitical and economic interests of Iran and Turkey is a cheap way of lobbying for Israel.

Guest - moshe the jew

2011-11-06 13:19:47

reasonable and nice

Guest - Turkic Voice

2011-11-06 11:57:22

This is not a cut, it is unfordable for the USA

Guest - Hamid

2011-11-06 10:14:03

"democracy and human rights, values that Israel and the U.S. claim to deeply share". Are you sure about this? Million Iraqi killed by the US and the Gaza war was genocide. Turkey host radar for NATO (read Israel) and expect Iran does nothing. Shame!

Guest - Observer

2011-11-06 07:06:24

To keep strong Jewish lobbies happy? This shows deep ignorance about American politics. Jews have different views on the Palestinian issue. Evangelical Christians are why the majority of Americans support Israel. Cliché conspiracy is bad journalism.

Guest - runner

2011-11-06 06:25:21

Why should we bring Israel back to Turkey’s friendship circle? Because these are the only 2 reasonable democratic countries in this part of the world. They should shoulder eachother instread of fighting.

Guest - AL-HILAL

2011-11-06 00:35:57

We agree with the contributor 100% excepting last 2 paragraphs that seems to us contradictory to the essence of the piece.

Guest - babadog

2011-11-06 00:06:32

Israel has hijacked the USA to such a level that it cannot represent the interests of its own people before putting the interests of Israel above it.The people of the USA need to claim their country back.Meanwhile Turkiye should keep up the embargo.

Guest - Sarastro33

2011-11-05 20:22:52

Please note that the US, despite many friendly ties and tens of billions of aid in cash and weapons, has HOW MUCH MORE influence over the Israeli gov't policies than Turkey? While Israel holds to the far right, the current status is far preferable.

Guest - imilton

2011-11-05 20:02:26

Does anyone know what on earth the second paragraph of the above article means?

Guest - Levent

2011-11-05 19:41:58

Fully agree with Mr. Tanir; repairing ties with Israel strategic move urgently needed.

Guest - ANDY from Canada

2011-11-05 19:33:22

Fayyad neglects to mention that while they want only 22% of the landmass of mandatory Palestine, they also want 7 million Pal refugees absorbed into Israel proper rendering it into yet another Islamic state. No deal.

Guest - Johanna

2011-11-05 18:26:53

"and may even fill the role of “check” on Israel’s unpredictable behavior." Israel's "unpredictable behavior"? Sorry, but under Erdogan, I see only Turkey as unpredictable.

Guest - Murat

2011-11-05 17:16:45

Turkey did not harm any Israeli citizens or even their interests. Israel did the killing, can we just ignore it? They decorated the killers. What friendship? They need to earn it.

Guest - Jason

2011-11-05 16:03:21

You wrote: "Israel's unpredicatble behavior". Nothing is unpredictable about Israel when it comes to the SECURITY of the people of Israel and rightfully so!

Guest - Israeli Atheist

2011-11-05 15:58:44

Turkey can influence Israel a lot as a friend, not as an adversary. If Turkey wants to help the Palestinian it should be a friend of both sides. Israel was never Turkey's enemy, on the contrary.

Guest - Israeli

2011-11-05 15:24:01

Turkey had a good chance in being a major player in the peace process. Erdoğan's behavior and the flotilla fiasco damaged the relation so bad that currently Israel will not trust the Turks as mediators anymore, even if they want to mend the relations

Guest - Nageyec

2011-11-05 13:53:06

Surely, this article summarises more political chess game than I can comment. One thing I can assure for every one is that the middle east political maps are going to be different in few years time. The winners are those who make the right prediction

Guest - steve1

2011-11-05 13:34:08

Turkey, which is considered to be the biggest winner of the Arab Spring so far!!!! Since when and how did you come to this conclusion!

Guest - Yussuf Yakub

2011-11-05 11:19:48 a result of : firstly, the lack of knowledge in the nature of the dividing issues. Secondly; the unneutrality in dealing with the regional issues. Thirdly; involving and sometime imposing their own values regardless the unneeded outcomes....

Guest - Yussuf

2011-11-05 11:01:34

Mr Erdogan and his team have decided to change rules of the match. They have unbelievably succeeded in changing the regional impression about the Turkish position and the possible role in ME. However, they failed to maintain that course as a result

Guest - Yussuf

2011-11-05 10:54:03

For decades, the military rulers in Turkey have build up a very high barrier between Turkey and the normal geographic neighbors preventing own usual citizens from understanding many facts. They took Turkey towards a world which will never accept it.

Guest - Yussuf Yakub

2011-11-05 10:41:55

Undoubtfully ; Israel has strengthened it's ties with Turkey in order to enhance it's position in the Middle East politically and militarly. Turkey did the same for the same reason; actually to be closer to the west and EU. New Facts have emerged!.

Guest - hmp49

2011-11-05 09:25:37

"The U.S. administration had a very tough week defending its decision to cut UNESCO funding following the Palestinian membership vote." False. There was nothing to defend. The U.S, administration was following U.S. law, could not do otherwise.

Guest - devy

2011-11-05 08:26:52

The best favor that Turkey can do Israel is not an artificial friendship but build a genuine relationship based on mutual respect starting again from the base. Bulling a friend is very unproductive so rather lets reconsider the policy again. Shalom

Guest - Allen

2011-11-05 07:44:27

The Palestinians are trying to receive recognition by UN as the Palestinian State, without any peace agreement with Israel. It means “no negotiations for peace with Israel”. That’s why US is against acceptance of Pl. in UN, before peace agreement!

Guest - musa

2011-11-05 04:15:06

So basically the article states, "to reign in a butcher (Assad) we must get in bed with another butcher (Israel). If this is the reality, butchers with nukes scare me most. Odd times we live in.

Guest - Jewison

2011-11-05 03:39:22

This again proves that Turkey needs to act with brains on how to choose her friends in politics. Turkey may loose more than the past, if she keeps alienating Israel.

Guest - joseph

2011-11-05 01:43:14

Its very interesting reading the Turkish media, regarding Israel and the US. Turkey or at least the politicians should understand, that Israel has the right to protect its citizens just like Turkey is doing against the PKK,

Guest - jdenver

2011-11-05 01:36:47

Israel cannot trust Turkey so there can be no friendship as before. Now Turkey has zero problems with no neighbors and that is where it belongs as this is the troubling result of the AKP foreign policy so vociferously pursued. Good luck and good bye!

Syria to test Turkish-American partnership

Friday, October 28, 2011

“I have been coming to the U.S. since 1981,” said Soli Özel, a Turkish academician who was visiting Washington, D.C. this week with the TÜSIAD delegation, “but never witnessed Turkey-U.S. relations to be as touchy-feely as they are now.”

Head of TÜSIAD Ümit Boyner stayed in Washington for a couple of days to engage with U.S. foreign policy officials and business leaders. During a round table discussion with reporters following a conference on Capitol Hill, she said: “The structure of relations between U.S. and Turkey is changing.” She labeled this “normalization.”
TÜSİAD’s visit to Washington and its deepening ties with the United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) are signs of this positive climate. Turkey is one of nine foreign markets considered worthy to expand by USCC. Currently, two business groups are preparing a study to identify barriers that weaken trade.
While both countries increasingly focused on boosting economic ties, political conversations at the highest levels accelerated in light of the Arab transition, said Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, during an interview this week.
A series of events in recent years brought us to this point. Özel said it started with the Turkish rejection of the U.S. request to open a northern front at the beginning of the Iraq War. Since then, Turkey has shown many examples of similar critical rejections. “Turkey is not under Uncle Sam’s shadow anymore,” said Ambassador James Holmes, president of the American-Turkish Council (ATC).
Now at the end of the Iraq War, Washington wants to trust its Turkish ally to counter feared Iranian influence in a post-American Iraq. To prove the U.S. commitment of better relations, the U.S. built up its military and intelligence cooperation with Turkey, sometimes through “unusual” practices of arm transfers for fighting with PKK terrorism.
While Turkey’s mercantilist administration is looking for ways to maximize its trade around the world, the Obama administration from its inception heavily advocated and encouraged for an export-based economy as well. It is not hard to see that the U.S. slowly placed its economic interests in the epicenter of its foreign policy.
Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition of America, a lobbying group which recently purchased office space across from the White House, described the new ties as “more of a partnership, rather than clientele type which it used to be.”
Yet the Arab Spring is the grandest political challenge that forced the two countries to check their policy memos regarding the region. As Gadhafi became a figure in history with a brutal end, both countries now set to deal with the most sensitive episode of the transition: Syria. The dire differences within its opposition, the ruthless regime and regional complications in case of a civil war make it all the more dangerous.
The Arab American Institute’s (AAI) latest polls among 4,000 Arabs in six Arab countries show Turkey’s role in Syria found overwhelmingly positive ratings, while U.S. and Iran’s roles receive crushing disapproval ratings.
“Those who seriously argue for military option, including buffer zone within Syria, should have their heads examined,” said James Zogby, president of AAI, about Sen. McCain’s recent remarks that NATO can be useful now, since the Libyan operation ended. Zogby himself was not very hopeful that the negotiations to the peaceful transition could be accepted by either the regime or the opposition, because the negotiations would ask serious compromises.
Zogby, looking at poll numbers, called for Turkish-Arab League mediation between the parties of Syria, as the two are regional players that still have leverage over Syria.
It is for the U.S. to build up the international pressure with its EU allies, going for full sanctions if necessary. Syria promises to be the toughest test for the much bragged about new Turkish-American partnership’s vibrancy.
Friday, October 28, 2011



Guest - Fahd Harby Madina Saudi Arabia

2011-10-30 12:34:08

toppling the ossifed regime in Syria , it will weaken Iran and make it ameniable to serious talk ,better rule for the IRANIAN PEOPLE as the iranian imperial prentesions subside and more enlightened regime comes out .Turkey stands to lead postively.

Guest - Fahd Harby Madina Saudi Arabia

2011-10-30 12:30:27

The Strategic opportunity for Turkey to change the lande scape is very clear , the intellectual challenge is wether the isalmic prtenses will bar the turkish elite from grabing the chance to alter the region misforuntes .Nothing as clear than .cont.

Guest - Iranoid

2011-10-30 04:26:50

The US-Turkish love fest can be a threat to Iran only if the "military and intelligence cooperation with Turkey" are used as means to keep make the US military attack on Iran viable. Turkey may not be "under uncle Sam" but it shouldn't be a mercenary

Guest - Uri

2011-10-29 09:11:49

Based on NATO radar, Turkey - Syria - Iran triangle relations, May I ask, " Are the Turkey - U.S.A warming up relations sign of cooling down Turkey - Iran relations?

US case for plot allegations will be tested in Ankara

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Senior U.S. politicians and a Saudi Arabian prince already called on Oct. 12 for Iran to be held accountable for an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Despite heavy accusations, the majority of regional experts appeared to be confused about what to believe, while the U.S. senior officials have been calling for increased pressure on Iran.

“To enlist countries against the Iranian threat,” the U.S. administration decided to create special diplomatic teams to send to several capitals, including Ankara, Moscow and Brussels to lay out the case. “Washington has been offering such opportunity to countries and Ankara immediately took us up on that invitation” to see the evidence and be able to ask questions face-to-face, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

U.S. authorities were unwilling to talk about the possibility or content of other messages about Iran that could be conveyed to Ankara. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s most recent remarks about Turkey-Iran relations during an Oct. 12 interview with Reuters is a very good indication how Washington views those relations currently and to which direction it wants to steer.

“For all the difficulties on many fronts, Turkey and Iran have been able to manage their bilateral relations” said one Iran expert in Washington, “the question is if this coming to an end?”

As the U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, only limited numbers of U.S. military trainers will remain there. Competition between Turkey and Iran for wider influence in Iraq is the first source of contention, according to the expert. In addition rumors about the capture by Iran’s forces of Murat Karayılan, leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party’s (PKK) armed militia group, and circumstances surrounding the event remained a mystery.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “secular model” talk for Arab Spring countries and Turkish consent of the NATO missile system are two further significant issues that Tehran has been attacking Ankara on. Turkey’s participation in the NATO missile system made it clear that “U.S. and Turkey are still strategic partners on core issues” said Gen. Jim Jones, former National Security Adviser of President Obama, when asked about Turkey-Iran relations in an interview last week. The final source of dispute is the unfolding events in Syria and how the two neighboring countries took opposite sides over how to treat the Syrian regime. Now the new assassination plot is being added as a last layer. Ankara so far has not made any condemnation over the serious allegations made by the U.S., including Obama himself.

“Washington might have made a decision to drive a wedge between Turkey and Iran following such a breach of international law,” a well positioned Washington source said. Theories about the motives or gains of the alleged plot greatly vary, though nobody has any expectation that this latest episode would lead to a military escalation. “It is virtually impossible to imagine that Obama would resort to a military operation in such a dreadful economic situation,” Dr. Henri Barkey, Turkey expert and professor at the Lehigh University said in an interview.

Not fully satisfied by allegations, Barkey said that Obama, who is a constitutional law professor himself and now has come out publicly to make some serious assertions against the Iranian regime, must have assessed and been satisfied by evidence presented before him. “We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations,” Obama said.

Credibility of the U.S. administration was greatly damaged for its unfounded accusations against Saddam’s regime which led to the Iraq War in 2003. This time it is the prestige of the Obama administration at stake as it presents a case to increase isolation of Tehran. Surely the case of U.S. diplomatic team will undergo a critical authenticity test in Ankara and around the world.

Sunday, October 16, 2011



Guest - sid

2011-10-17 21:40:44

Hahaha..."We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations,” Obama said. Remember Colin Powell at the UN assembly with his proof of WMDs?? And Iran is really not that dumb...

Guest - Ayeggba S.Ayegba

2011-10-17 10:31:35

point of correction.The economic restraint does not restrain a war from escalating if security of a nation is breached.What matter here is the authenticity of the breach to be proved beyond reasonable doubts

Monday, November 07, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox V. Nuland, November 7, 2011, Press Briefing

Rassmussen/Clinton Meeting
QUESTION:  Can I just follow up on your announcement?  The meeting between NATO Secretary General Rasmussen – Syria, I believe, will be one of the discussion topics.  Is there any way you can elaborate agenda of the Secretary?  Will there be any specific subject that will be pressing to the Secretary here?  
MS. NULAND:  Well, the primary focus of dinner is planning for the NATO summit next May in Chicago, which the U.S. will host, and getting ourselves together with the NATO SecGen on the main goals for the summit.  On any issues beyond that, let’s see what comes up at dinner, and if we have anything to read out, we’ll read it out tomorrow.


SNC Ghalioun/Peace Process
QUESTION:  On the Arab League peace plan, it looks like over the weekend SNC Burhan Ghalioun basically rejected the dialogue proposal with the Asad regime.  On the other hand, Asad regime continues the killing.  Do you think this Arab peace plan is still on the table?  Is there any effectiveness can come out of it?
MS. NULAND:  Well, I think you’ve seen the same reports that we’ve seen that the Arab League itself is concerned that the regime is not meeting the conditions that it signed up to and has called for another urgent meeting next Saturday to review the situation.  


QUESTION:  You stated that this vast majority of protesters do not want military intervention.  Is it – does it include also no-fly zone?  Do you think vast majority of protesters still don’t want no-fly zone?  Because according to videos coming out from the – Syria, many activists argue the opposite.  How confident are you that vast majority of Syrians do not want intervention and no-fly zone? MS. NULAND:  Well, our information remains that the vast majority of Syrians, and certainly those in the opposition in Syria, do not want foreign intervention, and they particularly do not want foreign military intervention.   I’d also make the point that what we’re facing here is different than what we faced in Libya, which were long stretches of desert and columns of tanks pulling into cities.  What we have in Syria are government forces entrenched in towns and villages, in stationary positions, with tanks now facing houses and buildings and, as I just said, in Homs, starting to fire on those buildings.  So what a no-fly zone does in a situation like that is not particularly clear.  

QUESTION:  And do you think that economic sanctions are going to solve and stop these tanks from shelling the houses of people? 
 MS. NULAND:  Well, we’re – what we’re saying is that countries that are continuing to trade with this regime, countries that are particularly still giving them weapons, need to think about what they’re feeling here. 

Syrian Oppositions
QUESTION:  One, there’s a new Syrian opposition group that announced itself today in Paris.  It’s called the National Committee to Support the Syrian Revolution, and one of its members is former Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who was in the Syrian Government for about 30 years.  Do you have any comment on this?  Are you beginning to see more of a Syrian opposition start to coalesce, and do you have any comment or have you had any particular contact with this group or this individual?   MS. NULAND:  My understanding is that we have had contact with the group in Paris.  We’ve obviously had contact with the group in Istanbul.  Our message continues to be that the Syrian opposition in Syria, the Syrian opposition in exile, needs to work together and needs to lay out as clearly as it can a roadmap for change that its people can rally around and that can unite the aspirations of these different groups.


Davutoglu Interview w/FT/Buffer zone/NFZ
QUESTION:  Turkish foreign minister today gave an interview to Financial Times and he did not rule out neither buffer zone or no-fly zone.  Last week, NATO General Secretary Rasmussen looked like he did.  Do you think this might be one of the agenda items tonight that will be on the table?
MS. NULAND:  I think you asked me earlier whether Syria would be – would come up in dinner tonight.  I think you just come right back around it.  As I said, the first item on the agenda for dinner is to set an agenda for the Chicago Summit and to work together on a good summit.  The degree to which other issues come up, and they may, we’ll read you out on whatever we can tomorrow.

QUESTION:  You just mentioned that some of the countries have to retain their help to the Syrian regime.  Is there any way that you can elaborate which countries do you think the most responsible supporting and giving more room Asad regime to continue its brutal crackdown?
MS. NULAND:  Well I think we’ve been clear here that we’re looking for as many countries as possible to match the kinds of steps that we’ve taken, the kinds of steps that the EU has taken, and particularly those countries that continue to trade with the regime and that continue to sell it weapons really need to think twice.


Turkey/Iran/US IAEA Report
QUESTION:  Given the disagreements in the past with the Turkish Government, but this time have you talked to Turkish Government in terms of coming out – this coming out report next week or on the economic sanctions side?  Is there anything that you have been talking to Turkish Government on the Iran?  
MS. NULAND:  Well, we regularly talk to the Turkish Government on Iran.  It comes up every time the Secretary meets with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.  We obviously work together in the IAEA, and we’ve obviously been in close touch with Turkey, as we mentioned, after it happened, when the plot was foiled against the Saudi ambassador here.  

QUESTION:  Do you think this time are you on the same page with the Turkish Government in terms of danger – Iran’s nuclear capability?  
MS. NULAND:  Well, I think, again, we’re – we and the Government of Turkey are waiting to see what’s in the director general’s report. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

My Qs and As w/State Dpt. Spox V. Nuland, November 3, 2011, Press Briefing

[Reds by other reporters]

Syria&ALegaue Deal
QUESTION:  One of the same promises in this proposal was given to Turkish prime minister about two months ago – or Turkish foreign minister – and then same promises given to Russian for two weeks.  And every single proposal took two weeks for Asad to come back and kill more people.  So isn’t – how can we sure that this is another just two weeks license to kill for his regime?
MS. NULAND:  Well, he doesn’t have a license to kill from us or from anybody else in the international community for one more minute, and as I said at the very beginning, the reason for our skepticism yesterday and our increasing concern today was because this guy, this regime, has a long history of broken promises.  So you’re not wrong when you say that he’s sold this horse before, and the horse still is not riding. 

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on Andy’s question and the question just now?  I mean, it is a good point that every time these proposals are put forward, whether it’s the Turks or the Russians, it buys this government more time because they are experts at playing that game of saying, “Yes, we’ll look into it; yes, we’re going to do it,” and then they don’t.  And they know that somebody else is going to come and say, “Well, could you please do it?”  And then another proposal comes, and it keeps buying them time.  So as Andy said, are these proposals not actually detrimental to finding a quick resolution to – or a quick end to the bloodbath?  
MS. NULAND:  Kim, I would say that actually the opposite is true, that as the United States says, Asad needs to step aside because he’s clearly made a choice here.  Other countries – like Turkey, like Russia, like the Arab League – have said, “Well, maybe if we use our influence, it’ll have an impact.”  So as they go and make the effort, as the Government of Turkey did, and they have promises made and promises broken, then it changes the dynamic in terms of Turkey’s calculation as to whether you can work with this guy.  The same has been true with the Europeans.  And we will predict that if he doesn’t meet his promises to the Arab League, the Arab League is going to feel that they had promises made, promises broken, and they’re going to have to react.  So from our perspective, what has happened through Asad’s own action is that the community of countries pressuring him, making their voices heard, is growing, and that is the direction that we’ve been calling for for many months.

QUESTION:  But – or do you think that this makes him think that he has legitimacy because people are dealing with him?
MS. NULAND:  I think on the contrary.  They’re dealing with him in saying it’s not just those Europeans, it’s not just those Americans, it’s not even just those Turks; it’s all of us who find the way you are running your country abhorrent and dangerous – dangerous to you, dangerous to the region.  So whatever --

QUESTION:  But still, they’re dealing with him as the legitimate government.  I mean, they’re sending envoys, they’re meeting with him.  
MS. NULAND:  And he is breaking promises to them, which is going to have the effect that we’ve seen other places that have been – that have made the effort and found the effort to have been in vain. 


NATO Rassmussen "No Intervention"
QUESTION:  But at the same time, NATO general secretary says, “NATO has no intention to intervene whatsoever.  I completely rule that out.”  At the time – and Turkey, which you have been praising from this podium for so long for its outspoken language against Asad regime, did not start – begin taking any steps on the economic sanctions.  How and why Asad should be convinced that he should step aside? MS. NULAND:  Again, I think the community of countries that have made the effort to convince him to change course and are being dismissed, lied to, having promises broken to them is growing, and that is losing him friends and increasing the pressure.

QUESTION:  Just one more.   From this podium again, you never rule out any intervention, military intervention.  But NATO general secretary clearly and openly did that.  What’s your comment on that?  Have you been able to check if there was something else was meant to say by the NATO – why this unbalanced approach to this situation?
MS. NULAND:  I think the NATO secretary general was making a version of the same point that we’ve been making here, which is that the Syrian opposition in its vast majority wants this situation settled peacefully, does not want foreign intervention in their country.  And in fact, none of the neighbors or anybody else is calling for that.  So the situation is different.  You know that NATO operates on consensus, NATO operates on the basis of emergent situations, so I think he was speaking of the here and now. 

QUESTION:  I have a real quick follow-up, and it was also addressed yesterday, and I’m – on this – all those reports on the Israeli – supposed Israeli cabinet discussion of possible attack, I know you said yesterday you had no information.  I’m just wondering, was there any attempt made to get any clarity from the Israelis on those reports and whether or not they’re accurate? 
MS. NULAND:  Well, the Israelis themselves have been out publicly in the last 24 hours, making clear that this testing that they did, which was what spurred all of this speculation, was routine, had been planned for more than a year.  So they themselves are trying to put this in perspective, I think. 

QUESTION:  Just a follow-up on this:  But they didn’t reject these news reports and --
MS. NULAND:  Didn’t reject? 
QUESTION:  The Israeli Government did not reject these news reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been – tried to convince about bombing of Iran.  
MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to speculate on press reports about what may or may not be happening inside the Israeli Government.  
QUESTION:  I’m not asking about press reports that the prime minister or the administration did not reject it.  And my question is:  How do you find these kind of statements or the news reports about bombing Iran?  Do you find it helpful for the stability of peaceful region? 
MS. NULAND:  I’m not going to comment on internal documents inside the Israeli Government

Flotilla/Communication w/Turkish&Israeli Governments
QUESTION:  Okay.  Israel; back to the Israel.  This one’s different, though.  Apparently there’s a new – flotilla might be too grand a word for a it, but a couple of boats have left Turkey with international activists aboard saying that they’re headed to Gaza, and the Israeli military says that they are ready and able to stop them from reaching Gaza.   I was wondering:  Have you had any contacts with either Israel, the Turks? 
MS. NULAND:  Well, we’ve seen these reports.  Our view on this flotilla activity has not changed, as you know.  We are in contact with all of the relevant governments, including being in contact with the Turkish Government today.  And we have also renewed – we are renewing our warning to U.S. citizens not to involve themselves in this activity. 

QUESTION:  In the last case, I think that it was – it appeared that the U.S. was successful in persuading Greece to – or to prevent an earlier flotilla attempt from leaving.  Have you made any attempts with Turkey prior to their departure to get them to not allow these boats out of the harbor?  
MS. NULAND:  I don’t know the answer to that, Andy.  My sense of this was that given the way this came together, there was some element of surprise for both the Turkish Government and our own government.  But if that’s not right, we’ll get back to you. 

QUESTION:  Toria, you said you talked to Turkish Government today?  
MS. NULAND:  We did. 

QUESTION:  Can you give us a little more detail with -- 
MS. NULAND:  The concern was some of this press reporting that there were Turkish warships accompanying these – this flotilla, and we were told quite emphatically by the Turkish Government that that was not the case. 

QUESTION:  You said that you’re renewing the warning to the U.S., has that actually happened yet?  Has it happened with -- 
MS. NULAND:  I think we’ve not yet reissued it, but we will later today. 

QUESTION:  This is the same warning that warns that they could be violating U.S. law?  
MS. NULAND:  Correct.  It’ll look a lot like the last warning. 

QUESTION:  Well, I mean, the Turkish Government has said that it would be sending warships on any flotillas that would go.  So did you, at the time, kind of warn them against that, about -- 
MS. NULAND:  Absolutely.  We’ve been clear to them that we think that that would be an extremely bad idea, and they’ve now reassured us that that is not what they are doing in this case. 

QUESTION:  Sorry, just one last one.  Have you had any specific communications with the Israelis on this subject? 
MS. NULAND:  I believe we have in Tel Aviv.  If that’s not right, we’ll get back to you. 

Egypt/Press Freedom&SCAF/Alaa Abdel Fatah

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Alaa Abdel Fatah who is an Egyptian blogger who refused to stand in the military trial because he doesn’t want to set a precedence for civilians, and he’s been sentenced to 15 days in jail. Are you following his case? What the United States is doing for democracy promoting activists in Egypt, and particularly to Alaa Abdel Fatah?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are following his case. As I said Tuesday, I believe, in recent days, a number of cases in Egypt have raised concerns about freedom of expression. In particular, we’re concerned about the arrest of blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah as well as the arrests and detention of other bloggers and activists. We publicly and privately have been urging the Egyptian Government to handle all cases involving civilians in a civilian court, in full transparency, and with due process of law. We also, as you know, believe that Egypt’s emergency law should be lifted immediately. These were points – the more general points about civilian courts, about the emergency law were made by President Obama again when he spoke to General Tantawi on October 24th.

QUESTION: So you have a positive response from the military council?
MS. NULAND: Well, the Egyptian Government is looking into this. I think our views are absolutely clear, and we wanted to particularly cite this case publicly today.