Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pres Obama and Pres-Elect (PM) Erdogan phone readout

Office of the Press Secretary
August 12, 2014

Readout of the President's Call with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

The President spoke today with Prime Minister Erdogan to congratulate him on his election as the 12th President of the Republic of Turkey and wish him well as he begins his term later this month.  The President praised the Prime Minister’s speech on Sunday and noted that as Turkey’s first directly elected President, the Prime Minister has an historic opportunity to further move Turkey forward.  The President and Prime Minister agreed on the importance of close cooperation on Syria and Iraq and the terrorist threat emanating from the region.  They also discussed ceasefire efforts in Gaza.  The President welcomed Turkey’s humanitarian aid to vulnerable Syrians and Iraqis, and both agreed on the need to ensure cooperation and such assistance continue.  They also expressed hope that a new Iraqi government will bring all communities together.

Monday, August 11, 2014

US State Dpt Spox Marie Harf can't characterize Turkish elex "free, fair, transparent"

Daily Press Briefing Index
Monday, August 11, 2014
2:09 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson

Red questions were asked by me, rest of questions by other colleagues:

Turkey, Elections, Erdoğan, 

QUESTION:  Turkey?

MS. HARF:  Turkey. 

QUESTION:  Yesterday there were elections, and today kind of – they declared the results, and it looks like Prime Minister Erdogan is going to be the president.  Do you have any reaction?

MS. HARF:  We do.  We congratulate the people of Turkey and President-elect Erdogan on this first direct popular election of a president.  Also congratulate the two other candidates who fought a hard-fought race.  Look forward to working with Prime Minister Erdogan in his new role as president and with whoever succeeds him as prime minister.  Obviously, we are a friend and ally of Turkey and look forward to continuing our close relationship.

QUESTION:  How did you find the conditions of the elections?

MS. HARF:  Well, the OSCE monitoring mission put out a report – preliminary conclusions reached today noted the candidates were generally able to freely campaign, that freedoms of association and assembly were respected.  Also noted that the use of official position by the prime minister as well as biased media coverage gave him a distinct advantage over the other candidates.  I think the OSCE is going to release its full – or final report in the coming weeks.

QUESTION:  So under circumstances, is – in light of this initial report, would you be able to characterize the elections as free, fair, and transparent at this point?
MS. HARF:  I don’t think I have any more analysis to do of it for you at this point.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

QUESTION:  Can I just pursue that?  Do you --

MS. HARF:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Does the United States agree with that characterization that --

MS. HARF:  Again, it’s just a preliminary report.  We’re still looking at it.

QUESTION:  -- that he had an advantage as the incumbent as it relates to --

MS. HARF:  I don’t have further analysis to do.  We’re still looking at it.

QUESTION:  Has the U.S. been in touch with him since the election?

MS. HARF:  I don’t know.  I can check.  Actually, let me see.  I might have one thing on this.  Expect the President to speak with him in the coming days.

QUESTION:  Now, there is a lot of charges that the Erdogan election, on and of itself, is really a manifestation of creeping dictatorship.  Are you concerned about that?

MS. HARF:  I don’t have any more analysis to do of the Turkish elections for you.

Syria, ISIS; Secretary Clinton's Criticism

QUESTION:  Yesterday, I believe, Secretary Clinton gave an interview.  And she stated that because the U.S. Government did not help moderate Syrian opposition, ISIS became much more powerful and spread.  What would be your response to that?

MS. HARF:  Well, I would note a few points.  The first is that the U.S. has increased the scope and scale of our assistance to the moderate Syrian opposition, including announcements made last year and a request the President made of Congress this year to fund and authorize a train and equip program for the moderate Syrian opposition.  That’s something we think is important, and we’ve continued to increase our efforts in that area.

Also, the Assad regime played a key role in ISIL’s rise.  They allowed for a security situation where ISIL could grow in strength.  The Syrian regime fostered the growth of terrorist networks; they facilitated the flow of al-Qaida foreign fighters; they – during the Iraq conflict specifically, the regime certainly has been aware and encouraged violent extremists’ transit through Syria to enter Iraq.  So the regime has had a long history of helping these kind of terrorists foment unrest in Iraq.  So that’s not something new or, certainly, unfortunately, confined to this conflict.

QUESTION:  So just today, again, the former State Department Syria official Fred Hoff wrote a paper.  And he was saying, basically, your half a billion aid to the moderate rebels would arrive as early as 2015, which is – he says, quote, about nothing that means nothing.

MS. HARF:  He’s entitled to his opinion.  We think that we have provided assistance to the moderate opposition in an increasing scope and scale.  Again, that’s why we announced a train and equip mission just several months ago and want that to get there as soon as possible.  It does require congressional action, though, and we’ve seen how willing – Congress has been willing to act on a whole host of things.  But certainly, we think they should act quickly on this.

QUESTION:  Are you disappointed in what the former Secretary Clinton said?

MS. HARF:  Am I disappointed?

QUESTION:  Are you disappointed that she was actually quite critical of your foreign policy?

MS. HARF:  I think Secretary Clinton served in this Administration for a very long time and worked on very tough issues with many people in this building.  And look, she is the – would be the first to say there are no easy answers.

QUESTION:  All right.  Okay.

MS. HARF:  She’s looked at these issues closer than many people, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her in the coming days, weeks, months.  And so, obviously, we’ll have those conversations when she does.

QUESTION:  But she made an assertion that, basically, your policy is ad hoc – I mean, you don’t have a strategy.

MS. HARF:  Well, I don’t think she used those terms.

QUESTION:  It’s pick and choose – I mean, she didn’t use those words.  But you mentioned –

MS. HARF:  Right.  Those weren’t her – those weren’t her words, though.


MS. HARF:  And look, she played a key role in our strategy when she was at the State Department.  So she was deeply engaged in these issues from this building when she was Secretary of State.  She, more than anyone, knows how complicated and complex they are and that there are no easy answers.

QUESTION:  And she also says --

QUESTION:  But was it a decisive role?

MS. HARF:  I’m sorry?

QUESTION:  She played a role, but was it a decisive --

MS. HARF:  She played – I would say Secretary Clinton played a very formidable role in our foreign policy, yes.

QUESTION:  And don’t you think that these recent remarks of her is a very serious allegation about your Administration policy for the last three years?

MS. HARF:  Well, it’s all of our – I mean, she’s been a key part of that policy, to be clear.  And look, it’s healthy and good to have discussions and debates about such important issues.  We certainly believe that here internally, inside the Administration.  That would absolutely apply to these comments as well.  So look, no one has all the knowledge on this or all the analysis on this, and that’s why it’s important to have this conversation.

We believe that our policy we’re pursuing is one intended to increase our assistance, to increase support to the moderate opposition, even given a very challenging operating environment.  So, again, this is an ongoing conversation we have, certainly, inside the Administration today.

QUESTION:  Is her statement related to the upcoming presidential elections, do you think?

MS. HARF:  I think you can ask former Secretary Clinton’s staff what her intentions are.

QUESTION:  Well, she said that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy doctrine was, quote, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”  What do you have to say to that?  I mean --

MS. HARF:  Okay.  I don’t think I have much more analysis to do on that.  Look, I think we’ve made a few principles clear since the President came into office and Secretary Clinton was here, whether it was rebuilding alliances, whether it was investing in international multilateral organizations – so when you look at a conflict like Ukraine or Iran, we have coalitions behind us, backing us up – building international coalitions to fight shared threats – I think you’ve seen us do that across the board – but also not hesitate to act unilaterally when we believe our national security interests are challenged.  So there’s a number of principles I think that underpin our foreign policy and national security since we’ve been here.  We believe very strongly in them, and again, don’t have much more analysis to do than that, I think.

QUESTION:  Are there any regular communications between the current Secretary of State and the former Secretary of State?

MS. HARF:  I know they speak.  I can check and see how regular it is, but I know that Secretary Kerry very much valued Secretary Clinton’s advice and counsel not only when he’s been here but before, when he was still in the Senate.  I don’t have much more than that.

QUESTION:  Just one more on this.  You have been elaborating that you have been increasing your help to the moderate.

MS. HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  On the other hand, just last May, Syrian moderate opposition officially asked from White House and the Pentagon, in May, increasing the weapons and the (inaudible) to fight ISIS.

MS. HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  And they’ve got nothing.

MS. HARF:  And the President submitted a request to Congress to train and equip the Syrian opposition.  So we’re waiting on --

QUESTION:  And it will arrive some time in 2015, right?

MS. HARF:  Waiting on Congress to act.


QUESTION:  In the meantime, ISIS and the regime are in Syria --

MS. HARF:  No.  In the meantime, we are continuing to support the moderate opposition, but on this one piece of it we’re waiting on Congress to act.

Yes, Lara.

QUESTION:  And everybody knows that --

MS. HARF:  We’re going to move on, though.  We’re going to move on.

No, Lara, go ahead.

QUESTION:  That’s okay.  Do you have one more question?

QUESTION:  Yes, I have one more.  And while – I mean, you are giving a picture here and you are defending your U.S. policy, but rest of the world can see that the Syrian moderate opposition is being kicked out from Syria by the al-Qaida, ISIS, and the regime.

MS. HARF:  Well, a few things you said there just aren’t accurate.  First of all, the Syrian opposition is alive and well in Syria.  They face a very challenging environment.  They have fighting on two fronts – against terrorists like Nusrah and ISIS, and also against the regime. 

Also, when you use the term “the rest of the world,” I don’t have any idea what that means.  We have consistently worked with our international partners on Syria, whether it’s to provide humanitarian access, whether it’s to provide humanitarian support, whether it’s to get the chemical weapons out of Syria, which are now being destroyed somewhere else. 

So look, we’re working with our international partners on this.  But again, there is no easy solution here.  It is a very challenging situation.  We have put in place a policy that we believe has increased the support to the opposition throughout time, helping them grow, but in the absence of a political solution here – which we believe is the only ultimate solution – we’re in a very tough place right now.  So we will keep supporting the moderate opposition, keep trying to get humanitarian access in, and keep pushing for a political solution.  But none of those things are easy and no one should say otherwise, I don’t think.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up.  A second ago you said Assad played a key role in allowing the rise of ISIS.  Would you say the same for al-Maliki?

MS. HARF:  No, I would not.


QUESTION:  Why not?

MS. HARF:  Because I wouldn’t.  Because it’s completely different.  ISIS started really gaining strength in Syria when Assad a, facilitated their rise, helped facilitate their movement into Iraq, and gave them a security environment in which they could operate.  Prime Minister Maliki has been fighting a very serious battle against them in his own country.  Yes, he could’ve governed more inclusively, but that’s very different than allowing a terrorist group to flourish and indeed supporting them.

QUESTION:  Marie, you’re saying he facilitated their movement from Syria to Iraq.  I mean, did he provide them with a truck and transportations, and things like this?

MS. HARF:  I don’t have more specifics for you than that, Said.

QUESTION:  So you don’t think that the Syrian regime was actually fighting ISIL in Syria?

MS. HARF:  Look, I know that they supported their rise and they helped facilitate them into Iraq.  I know that.

QUESTION:  Can we go to Argentina?

QUESTION:  And one more.  What do you think Iran’s role in terms of ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Syria?

MS. HARF:  Well, we know that Iran has supported the Syrian regime in Syria.  So that’s been the crux of our concern there.

QUESTION:  And the U.S. Treasury Department issued statement in February saying directly that operatives in Tehran are facilitating fighters and funds into al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Syria.

MS. HARF:  Okay.  I can check with Treasury.  I can check on the specifics, if those were private citizens or something else.  I’ll check.

QUESTION:  Because the – under the knowledge of the Tehran regime, that’s what --

MS. HARF:  Okay.  Well, I’ll check with my Treasury colleagues.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Başkan Obama Pazar Günü Golf Oynadı, Erdoğan'a telefon açamadı

Başkan Obama, pazar günü öğleden sonra 1.05'de Martha's Vineyard'daki Farm Neck Golf Club'a gelerek, golf oynamaya başladı.
Başkan Obama, akşam 6.30'a kadar arkadaşları ile golf oynadı. 
Beyaz Saray'dan seçimlerle ilgili ilk ve tek yorum ise 4.48'de Caitlin Hayden tarafından yapıldı. ABD saatiyle 3 pm gibi, Türkiye'deki cumhurbaşkanlığı seçimleri sonuçlanmıştı. 
Beyaz Saray'dan gelen açıklamada, Başkan Obama'nın 'önümüzdeki günlerde' Başbakan Erdoğan'a telefon açacağı ifade ediliyordu. 
Beyaz Saray bu açıklamayı yaparken Obama golf oynuyordu.

Pazar günü Obama'nın programını anlatan 2 email Beyaz Saray'dan Washington muhabirlerine gönderildi:

Second White House Pool Report
Sent: Sunday, August 10, 2014 06:31 PM
Subject: Travel pool report #2 -- golf over
The motorcade left Farm Neck Golf Club at 6:30. The pool has not yet seen the president today.

First White House Pool Report
Sent: Sunday, August 10, 2014 01:45 PM
Subject: Travel pool report #1 

Greetings from Martha's Vineyard, where the sun is shining and the president is golfing. 

The first full day of POTUS' vacation started slowly for your pool. POTUS got out and about at a leisurely Sunday pace and so did we. 

The first full day of POTUS' vacation started slowly for your pool. POTUS got out and about at a leisurely Sunday pace and so did we. 

The pool joined up with the motorcade in Chilmark at 1:05 and arrived at the Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs at 1:35. The drive across the island was an uneventful ride past wooded hills, cedar-shingled homes and a farm stand. A woman on a scooter honked enthusiastically as we rode by. One man, a beach towel hanging around his neck, thrust his fist in the air.

The pool is holding in the vans. Golf partners, per the White House:

Cyrus Walker
Ahmad Rashad
Robert Wolf

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Israeli official: Erdogan's remarks "sick"

Ilhan Tanir

For the first time an Israeli official responded Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's attacks on Israel.
PM Erdogan, first accused Israel for committing genocide. Later on, he evoked Hitler and stated, several times that what the Israeli government does to the Palestinian people exceed what Hitler did to them (Jews) in barbarity.

Speaking at a political re-election rally in the Turkish city of Ordu, Turkey’s prime minister said that Israel has “surpassed what Hitler did to them” and declared the country a “terrorist state.”
“[Israelis] have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,” said Erdoğan. He accused Israel of rejecting ceasefires that Hamas has proposed and “spitting death, spitting blood.”
When asked about PM Erdogan’s rhetoric, comparing Israel to Hitler, and accusing it as committing a genocide, an Israeli official in Washington, on Friday morning, said:
“Outrage! I see it with an outrage. I hear the word genocide. There must be some limits, for a person who calls himself as a leader of a state.. a leader of great people and civilization. But for a leader to accuse Israel with Nazism?
900K people killed in Ruanda, that’s a genocide. What happened in Darfur is a genocide.

Now we deal with Nazists: Nazi Germany was killing 10 thousand Jew a day, exterminating them everyday in 1944. And now the leader of Turkey accuses my country as worse than Nazis? How sick is that? How sick is that? And where is the outrage of the world when you make these kind of statements? This is unacceptable for a responsible leader in the international diplomacy. Totally unacceptable. There have to be some limits. And apparently with him (Erdogan), there is no limits, at least none rhetorically."

Monday, July 21, 2014

US Spox responds Erdogan: Daily Press Briefing on Turkey

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 21, 2014

Spox is Responding to Erdogan's Remarks on Israel

QUESTION: On Friday we talked about – Jen was asked about comments made by the Turkish prime minister --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- which were – she described as offensive.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if --
MS. HARF: I would agree.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if Prime Minister Erdogan, from the Administration’s point of view, is just no longer a viable interlocutor as it relates to Israel or as it relates to larger things.
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly believe that comments like these undercut Turkey’s ability to effectively influence the situation. I completely agree with what Jen said about how offensive and awful these comments were, and that they quite frankly hurt Turkey’s international standing. We will continue working with Turkey on a number of issues, but comments like these really have no place in this discussion.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: But when you say that you’re – in response to Roz you say that you’re looking for everyone who has some influence with Hamas, and I think that --
MS. HARF: Well, they should certainly use it. You can use your influence --
QUESTION: Okay. So they haven’t --
MS. HARF: -- with Hamas without saying horribly offensive things.
QUESTION: I just want to – fair enough.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- saying that the Turks had forfeited their --
MS. HARF: No, not at all.
QUESTION: -- good position.
MS. HARF: Not at all. But --
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MS. HARF: You can, yes.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Erdogan actually gave interview just yesterday responding to your Administration. He said that if America is still saying that Israel is using – it has right to self-defense, then it should be critical of itself; it’s America who is offensive.
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any response to that. His comments were offensive in their own right, period, full stop. There’s no excuse for them.
QUESTION: I have --
MS. HARF: There’s no justification for them at all.
QUESTION: I have one more question. Prime minister again ask your Administration and it is that – what is it to you, America, what you got to do with Hitler when some Americans say – this is quote, still – some Americans say, why Mr. Prime Minister make such comparison with Hitler? What is it to you?
MS. HARF: Why do we care when foreign leaders make horribly anti-Israeli comments and offensive comments?
MS. HARF: I think it matters to everyone. I think that there’s no place in international dialogue for those kinds of comments, period. And that we stand up and are very clear in saying that when people do say those kind of things – and again, it only hurts Turkey’s standing in the world, only hurt’s their ability to influence events when they say things like that.

Turkey-US Relations

QUESTION: I have one more on Turkey.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Actually, two. According to Israeli press, during the phone conversation between the Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry, Prime Minister Netanyahu complained about Turkish prime minister rhetoric over Gaza.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know the answer to that for you, and I probably wouldn’t discuss it even if I did, given we don’t discuss private conversations. But I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Do you still – this is my final question.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you still think the U.S. and Turkey relations are a model partnership?
MS. HARF: You ask this once a week, and I think I always have the same answer for you. Turkey’s a NATO ally. They’re a close partner on a number of issues. We also make very clear when there are things we do not agree with.
QUESTION: So my question is --
MS. HARF: You said that with the last one.
QUESTION: But you didn’t answer. President Obama --
MS. HARF: I think I just answered it.
QUESTION: President Obama described this relationship as model partnership. My question is: Would you still describe the same partnership --
MS. HARF: Turkey is a very close NATO ally. We work together on a number of issues. When we have disagreements, we make those clear as well.

Turkish Diplomat Hostages - Mosul
QUESTION: Can I go back to Mosul for a second?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is there any update about the hostages, Turkish diplomats?
MS. HARF: I have no update on that.
QUESTION: So no update means that you are talking to Turkish authorities, but --
MS. HARF: So no update on that. I don’t have any information on that for you at the moment.

New Iraqi President, Speaker

QUESTION: And on Iraq, I think they are now trying to elect new president.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any --
MS. HARF: So we did congratulate the Iraqis on the election of their parliamentary speaker and deputies. We know that the new speaker has scheduled the next session for this Wednesday to discuss nominees for the presidency. The next step is to nominate and vote on a president, and then of course a prime minister after that, which we’ve said should happen as soon as possible. Once a president is elected, they have up to 15 days to nominate a prime minister. So obviously, we think this should happen as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Do you have any candidate to endorse in --
MS. HARF: I have repeatedly said we do not support any one candidate or any one party. We need an inclusive government as soon as possible.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan

Office of the Vice President
June 13, 2014

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan

The Vice President spoke today with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to follow up on their June 11 conversation.  The Vice President and Prime Minister discussed the danger to regional and international security posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).  They agreed on the urgent need to unite Iraqis and their leaders against this common threat and discussed the political and security challenges.  The Vice President reiterated U.S. support for Turkey’s efforts to bring about the safe return of its citizens.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan

Office of the Vice President
June 11, 2014

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan

The Vice President spoke today with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan regarding the security situation around Mosul, Iraq, where elements of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have taken over significant portions of the city, seized the Turkish consulate, and taken Turkish personnel -- including the Consul General and family members -- hostage. The Vice President underscored the United States condemns the actions taken by ISIL, calls for the safe and immediate return of the Turkish personnel and family members, and supports efforts by Iraqi national and Kurdish security forces to work together to combat the ISIL threat. The Vice President told Prime Minister Erdogan that the United States is prepared to support Turkey’s efforts to bring about the safe return of its citizens and will stay in close touch with the Turkish and Iraqi governments regarding a resolution to the security situation. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Qs & As w/State Dept Spox Turkey, Iran, Iraq, KRG, Syria

Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
1:36 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Jen Psaki, Spokesperson


MS. PSAKI:  Iran?  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  Just following up, President Rouhani was in Turkey yesterday, and Turkey and Iran signed 10 MOUs yesterday.  So was wondering if you see these MOUs – first of all, they are coordinated with the White House or Treasury or State Department?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we have a close dialogue with Turkey on a range of issues, including Iran.  We share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  I would refer you to them for more information, and I’m sure you’re in touch with them.  I would, though, remind you that Turkey has publicly committed to abide by all of its – all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and that remains our understanding.

QUESTION:  So is it – today – yesterday, they stated, the leaders of the countries, that they want to double the value of bilateral trade to $30 billion by next year.  Do you see these goals within the line of the sanction regime?

MS. PSAKI:  Well again, I think our policy is well known on Iran, and that is that we have made clear to a range of countries and the private sector that it’s best to avoid activity that may be sanctionable or under U.S. or international sanctions.  I’m not going to speculate on what may happen or not happen depending on where we are with the negotiations.

QUESTION:  During the visit, these two countries again find this partnership is strategic and they created this new council.  It is the Iran-Turkey Strategic High Cooperation Council is a milestone.  How do you view this strategic partnership between these two countries?

MS. PSAKI:  I really don’t know that I have any more to add than I’ve just stated.

QUESTION:  And the late – the last question:  Has the United States received any clarification on the reported 87 billion euros in Iran sanction-busting from the Turkish businesses?  These have been discussed in Turkish press for a number of months now.  I was wondering if you have any view on those.

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any other details or update to share with all of you.

QUESTION:  One more on Turkey?

MS. PSAKI:  Turkey?  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  Yes.  This Kurdish – Iraq-Kurdish oil tankers – today, second one left Turkish port, and the other one is, I think – I don’t know whether it already sold.  Do you have any comment on those tankers?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, our position, obviously, here has been clear and longstanding in that we don’t support the export or sale of oil, absent the appropriate approval of the Federal Iraqi Government.  And as you know, this exposes those who are undergoing this effort to potentially serious legal risks.  I’ve seen those reports.  Again, we have the same concerns we’ve had with previous reports of another – of the other ship.

QUESTION:  So these two tankers right now in the international seas, as far as we know, are you coordinating with other countries not to buy this oil tankers, or are you doing anything to prevent this?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, our position – as we’ve stated our position many, many times, I think it’s pretty clear to the international community and the private sector, and obviously they’ll make their own decisions. 


QUESTION:  And one on Syria, if I may.  Today, former Ambassador Ford wrote a piece on New York Times, and one of the points he was making that the U.S. should give far greater material support and training to Free Syrian Army.  Are you considering this option any time soon?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me say that we’ve been providing political, financial, and other support to the opposition for some time.  As you know, we expanded the scale and scope of our aid and assistance last year, and we are continuing to increase our assistance to the opposition, including vetted members of the armed opposition.  And the President spoke to this during his speech just last week. 

I would also note that in the Secretary’s interview with CNN just a couple of days ago, and on other occasions in this briefing room and others, we’ve indicated a support for the Levin language in the NDAA, which would provide the authority to the Department of Defense to train and arm.  And so I would point you to that.  We continue to work with Congress on that, but I think the Administration has been clear about our commitment to increasing our support.

QUESTION:  So we cannot imagine the ambassador already knows all these efforts.  What he wants is far greater support, something that dramatically different than U.S. already has been doing.  And my question is that:  Do you have any reconsideration to change dramatically?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, Ambassador Ford, who I was – had the pleasure of working with for a year while he was here and while I was here, and he’s an incredible diplomat and gave an incredible decades of service to this and many other issues.  But there is a difference between being a private citizen and being within the government, and a great deal has changed.  Conversations have changed.  Efforts have increased since he left the government.

QUESTION:  Well, it does seem as if Ambassador Ford – Secretary Clinton makes clear in her – former Secretary Clinton makes clear in her book, and I think it’s been pretty widely reported and in fact acknowledged, that Secretary Kerry was an early proponent of arming the rebels to change President Assad’s calculus.  And it does seem as if like two years later, the Administration has finally come around to that point of view.  And it seems as if like a lot of bloodshed could’ve been maybe prevented, and the situation that you now find yourself on the ground in Syria could maybe not be as grave had the Administration come around to this point of view two years ago.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’ve continued to increase the support and the kind of support we’re providing long before the President’s speech just a week ago.  So obviously I can’t outline the details of that, but this has been an ongoing discussion within the Administration.  We’re continuing to increase our support.  As you know, there have been a range of factors that have impacted the situation on the ground that have contributed to decision-making, whether that’s the influx of foreign fighters or the assistance of Iran and Hezbollah; whether that is our efforts to pursue a diplomatic path or efforts to increase the unity and the strength of the opposition.  Those are all factors that were taken into account in our decision-making.

QUESTION:  You mentioned the vetting of the opposition.  How do you vet the opposition?  I mean, these rebels are known to switch alliances all the time.  Some of them may end up with ISIL, for instance.  How do you vet them to ensure that they are actually – whatever aid you give stays with the vetted opposition?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I can assure you, Said, I’m not going to outline that for you here, but this is one of the most important factors that we have – the Secretary has weighed in with his international counterparts on, that we have made a priority as it relates to international assistance, because we believe that the assistance should go through and needs to go through the moderate opposition.  And the number of times we’ve talked about that and raised that as an issue on the agenda speaks to our commitment to doing that in the best way possible.

QUESTION:  So you agree that sending any arms may in fact exacerbate violence instead of stemming violence?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, you know where we stand, that we don’t feel that there is a military solution here.  But again, I just outlined – I just reminded you that we have increased our assistance over time.  We have been supportive of the language in the Levin Amendment – the Levin language in the NDAA, and we will see where we go from here.

QUESTION:  But in your statement about ISIL and the attacks in Mosul, you said that they’re – ISIL gained from the situation in Syria.  So is there any regret here looking back that if things had been different in Syria, you wouldn’t have this problem in Iraq and potentially getting bigger throughout the Middle East?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say, Lucas, that there are a range of factors that have contributed to where we are in Syria today, and they include the ones I just outlined:  the influx of foreign fighters, the engagement of Iran and others, the need to strengthen the opposition.  We are where we are now.  We’re taking steps to increase our assistance.  We’re – the moderate opposition had a great trip to Washington, and we’ll go from here.

QUESTION:  But no regrets looking back?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to entertain or bat that around, Lucas.