Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Qs and As w StateDept Spox on Syria, ISIS, 55.000 torture photos, US

Telephone - Conference Call Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
1:15 p.m. EST
Briefer: Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson

How does US Adm feel about overseeing the 2nd Nazi Camps in Syria

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)  Thank you for your time.  I have two quick questions on Syria.  One is that you already talk about – a little bit – about the recent report came up yesterday on Syria, this 55,000 photos.  One of the three lawyers who written the report, his name is Sir Desmond da Silva – he is also the chief prosecutor of the special court – he likened those images to those of Holocaust survivors and the Nazi death camps after the World War II. 

My question is – this is my first question:  Obviously, the U.S. is a superpower, and how do you feel as the U.S. Government who overseeing these unspeakable massacres over three years during your Administration?

MS. HARF:  Well, if I understand the crux of your question, and please follow up if I don’t, we have been committed to ensuring that Bashar al-Assad, who is the one responsible for these horrific images, cannot go on leading his country.  That is exactly why we are so engaged in the Geneva II process.  It’s complicated.  It’s difficult.  If it were easy, it would have been done months or years ago.  And one of the things that makes this even more challenging and even more imperative is the – it appears there’s no level low enough, right, for Assad, in terms of how he treats his own people. 

So again, these show systematic violations of Syrians’ human rights; terrible, awful conditions in the prisons; but this is exactly why we are committed to doing everything to ending this bloodshed.  Now we – this isn’t for the United States to impose.  This is a process led by the UN that we are a key part of, but certainly not the ones driving the process, to help get a political transition in place here.  And that’s exactly what they’re going to be focused on over the next few days in Montreux and Geneva.

QUESTION:  I understand.  Just to follow up on this question, you are stating that you committed to stop these massacres, but obviously, it has been going on three years.  And I understand that you are saying that the UN is the driver of this process.  But is the U.S. Government – how do you feel that you have basically witnessed this massacre happen and oversee – basically oversaw this --

MS. HARF:  We – I would take issue on “oversaw.”  That’s – look, the people responsible for this are the Assad regime who are perpetrating it.  I’d make a few points.  We supported the opposition in its fight against the regime.  That’s certainly one way we have worked to help bring about an end to this violence.  When we’ve seen horrific uses of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, we, through our diplomatic efforts, negotiated an agreement to ultimately destroy all of the chemical weapons in Syria, which we’re doing right now, so they can’t be used against their own people. 

But let’s be clear here about the best way to end the bloodshed.  It’s not through a military solution.  It’s not through the U.S. imposing a military solution or putting boots on the ground or anything like that.  It’s through a negotiated political transition.  There have been other ways as well.  Obviously, we can’t stop these horrific acts from happening, but we’ve called on the regime, we’ve called on the Russian Government to press the regime to allow humanitarian access, to help with the suffering of the Syrian people.

It’s not enough, certainly.  That’s why we need a political transition.  But we are trying to make inroads where we can to help the Syrian people.  You saw the Secretary at the Kuwait donors conference just last week announcing more money for humanitarian access, talking to the Russians about possibly pushing the regime to allow humanitarian access.  Those are the kind of things we’re focused on right now.

How does the Spoxperson think US will be remembered when it comes to Syria:

QUESTION:  Before moving my second question, just one last follow-up:  How do you think the U.S. Administration is going to be remembered with its policies regarding Syria in the future, even if it’s not finished yet?

MS. HARF:  Well, it’s certainly not finished yet.  I think that we’re focused right now – I mean, look, for the first time since this conflict began, tomorrow, the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition will be sitting down at the table together.  That’s not an end in and of itself, but it’s a step that we hope can be taken forward in helping to get a political transition in place here. 

Again, this isn’t a U.S. Government issue to solve, per se.  It is a horrible tragedy that we are doing everything that we think is appropriate and that we can to support the Syrian opposition and the Syrian people, to help end their suffering through humanitarian access, to bring the parties together to negotiate a political solution here, which is the only solution that we see.  There’s not a military solution.  So obviously, it’s complicated and it’s complex and it’s difficult, but we’re very committed to continuing to work to try and resolve the issue because it’s so important, absolutely.

Again: How will the US adm be remembered when it comes to Syria?

QUESTION:  So how do you think your government’s efforts will be remembered when it comes to Syria, let’s say, a couple years later or 10 years later?

MS. HARF:  Well, I think, Ilhan – and then I think we’ll probably move on from this – I’ll leave history up to the historians who decide to write it in a few years.  What we’re focused on right now is the work that our folks are doing on the ground – working with the opposition, working with our international partners to try and bring some end to the bloodshed in Syria.

What does the US adm think about Assad-ISIS reported collusion via gas deals etc.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My second question is:  Yesterday, and it has been a month, reports are coming out that the Assad regime has not bombed ISIS headquarters, whether in Raqqah or whether in Aleppo, and also, the al-Qaida factions – and again, reports from credible sources are coming out that Assad and the – especially ISIS and some other al-Qaida factions have been partnering on some oil interactions.  And so the question is whether you believe these point of views that Assad intentionally help some of the ISIS and al-Qaida factions to grow in the opposition areas.

MS. HARF:  Well, I could check on specifics.  What we’ve said is that the groups that we consider to be terrorist groups, whether it’s ISIS or al-Nusrah, they have been able to flourish in Syria because of the Assad regime’s actions – that the security situation on the ground, a number of other things, has allowed these terrorists to really flourish, take hold not just in Syria but other places throughout the region.  So obviously, that’s why we are absolutely concerned about the terrorist threat in Syria.  That’s certainly part of what we’re concerned about.

QUESTION:  I understand, but I think the point is here that so far, many people told that it is unintentionally these al-Qaida fighters and groups grow in Syria.  But these reports, especially within the last month coming out, argue that Assad regime intentionally let the al-Qaida and ISIS groups to grow so that it can present itself as fighting with the terrorist organizations.

MS. HARF:  Well, again, I’m happy to check and see if there’s more specifics on this, but I would counter the notion that the Assad regime is responsible for fighting against terrorists; in fact, it’s the atmosphere they’ve created in their own country that’s led to the rise of these terrorists.  So I think that’s probably the extent of our comment on that.

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