Friday, September 21, 2012

Nuland tries to smackdown Kerry

In yesterday's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland shot down an idea that the press tied to Senator John Kerry.

QUESTION: Yes. Senator Kerry yesterday threatened to restrict U.S. aid to the Government of Iraq if they continue to allow Iran to use the airspace of Iraq to send supplies of weapons to Syria. What do you want – and the Iraqis denied today that they are allowing Iran this. So can you tell us something about this issue, please?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been very clear about our ongoing conversation with the Government of Iraq and our view that they either need to deny over-flight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria or to require that such flights land in Iraqi territory for inspection. As they know, as you know, Iran is under international obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1747 not to export arms or related material, including to Syria, and all UN members are obligated to prohibit the procurement of such items. It’s also the case that all countries, including Iraq, are obligated under UNSCR 1929 to seize and dispose of prohibited items found in inspections, and UNSCR 1929 also calls on all countries to inspect cargo to and from Iran. So we are continuing to work with the Iraqis on this and to encourage maximum vigilance.

QUESTION: Sorry. Does that apply to just flights going from Tehran to Damascus, or from anywhere in Iran to Damascus or anywhere to Syria? It doesn’t apply to flights leaving Iran and going to perhaps third – to other countries that then might turn around and go fly to Damascus?

MS. NULAND: Well, UNSC 1929 and 1747 are with regard to Iranian exports. So if Iran is exporting to Syria, that’s one issue. If they’re –

QUESTION: No, no, I understand. This is having to do with what you’ve asked the Iraqis. Say that there is an Iranian plane that’s flying from Tehran to Malta – I’m making it up – somewhere else, somewhere in the Mediterranean. Are you telling the Iraqis that you want them to make – force that, have that – make that plane, if it’s using Iraqi airspace, that the Iraqis should make that plane land, and they should inspect it because it might then fly from Malta or wherever it’s going to Damascus? Or is it only flights that go from point A, Tehran or wherever in Iran, to point B, Damascus or wherever in Syria?

MS. NULAND: We’re asking the Iraqis to be vigilant with regard to any abuse of their airspace by Iran regardless of where it starts and where it’s finished that could be in violation of these UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: So you want them to take – to make every plane, every Iranian plane flight that uses its airspace to land so it can be inspected?

MS. NULAND: We’ve suggested that they can either deny over-flight, or they can request inspection if they want to be maximally vigilant.

QUESTION: But not just planes going directly to Syria, every plane?

MS. NULAND: This goes to the question of planes from Iran that could be abusing Iraqi airspace.

QUESTION: Okay. But what about other countries around there – Azerbaijan or countries where – that Iranian –

MS. NULAND: We have clear concerns about Iran arming Syria. We also have UN Security Council resolutions that expressly commit countries to support the arms embargo from Iran to other countries. So it’s a particular situation with regard to Iran.

QUESTION: On this matter, please.


QUESTION: But you’ve been protesting all along about this issue. Yesterday, Senator Kerry warned Iraq. Are you going to further pressure Iraq and warn about the aid to Maliki government?

MS. NULAND: Well, Senator Kerry has obviously made his own statements. We do not support linking U.S. assistance to Iraq to the issue of the Iranian over-flights precisely because our assistance is in part directed towards robust security assistance, including helping the Iraqis build their capability to defend their airspace. So there’s a chicken/egg thing here.

QUESTION: But the Iraqis categorically deny that their airspace has been used to transfer arms from Tehran to Damascus. You don’t accept their claim, and they are one of your best allies, and a lot of money and blood are spent in Iraq?

MS. NULAND: You know our view that Iran will stop at nothing to try to help prop up the Assad regime, so we are asking for vigilance and giving advice about how that can be best applied.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just a quick – you disagree – the Administration does not share – does not support Senator Kerry in this idea?

MS. NULAND: I think I just said that we don’t support linking the assistance because the assistance goes to help strengthening the very systems that we want to see work better in this case.

QUESTION: Okay. So would you say that’s another strike in the Senator’s campaign to become the next Secretary of State?

MS. NULAND: I’m certainly not talking about campaigns of any kind.

It's hard to tell what's the bigger embarrassment these days, the State Dept itself or Victoria Nuland.  But as many in the State Dept point out, Nuland's most likely gone in January.  They can't imagine the neocon being kept in place by John Kerry or another Barack appointee if Barack wins re-election and they can't imagine a Mitt Romney administration keeping her on.  She's been a total embarrassment. So we can all take joy in the fact that, in a few months, Victoria Nuland's pro-war ass may finally be sent packing.  In the Bush administration, she worked for Dick Cheney.  Why the hell Democrats allowed this War Hawk to be in Barack's administration is one of the many questions that The Nation, The Progressive and other party organs work very hard never to ask, let alone try to answer.

On Nuland's idiotic remarks.  It doesn't really matter what the State Dept wants and the press had it wrong.  It's Senator John Kerry's idea, yes, but it was widely embraced.

See that's what happens when the crap-ass US media can't do their damn job.  They put how many people following Barack and Romney around?  And then they don't have anyone to cover Congressional hearings -- or anything else.

John Kerry made that proposal on Wednesday, it's in that day's snapshot:

Chair John Kerry:  Can you share with me an answer to the issue I raised about the Iranians using American airspace in order to support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad?  What are we doing, what have you been doing -- if anything, to try to limit that use?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: I have personally engaged on this repeatedly at the highest levels of Iraqi government.  My colleagues in Baghdad have engaged on this.  We're continuing to engage on it.  And every single visitor representing the US government from the Senate, recently three visitors, to administration officials has raised it with the Iraqis and made very clear that we find this unnaceptable and we find it unhelpful and detrimental to the region and to Iraq and, of course -- first and foremost, to the Syrian people.  It's something that needs to stop and we are pressing and will continue to press until it does stop.
Chair John Kerry: Well, I mean, it may stop when it's too late.  If so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact -- uh,  that sort of alarms me a little bit and seems to send a signal to me: Maybe -- Maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response?  I mean it just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country and they're working against our insterest so overtly -- agains their own interests too -- I might add.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft:  Senator, Senator, I share your concerns 100%.  I'll continue to engage.  And, with your permission, I will make very clear to the Iraqis what you've said to me today -- and that is you find it alarming and that it may put our assistance and our cooperation on issues at stake.
Chair John Kerry:  Well I think that it would be very hard.  I mean, around here, I think right now there's a lot of anxiety about places that seem to be trying to have it both ways.  So I wish you would relay that obviously and I think that members of the Committee would -- would want to do so. 

John Kerry is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator Bob Casey agreed with him.  Senator Richard Lugar agreed with him.  Senator Bob Corker actually spoke with him about this topic before the hearing started.  No one on the Committee disagreed with John Kerry.  It's not just him.  It's the entire Committee.  Within the Senate?  There's enough support for this action right now.  Instead of dismissing it so rudely, as Nuland did, if the State Dept really didn't want it to happen, Nuland should have spoken a little more diplomatically. 

This goes to an issue Barack doesn't understand himself because he was barely in the Senate.  But while Barack (and guru Samantha Power) loves Nouri, the Congress doesn't.

In fact, if any news outlet had done their damn job, that would have been in reports on Wednesday and Thursday.  But what reports?  What outlets filed?  I know CNN did because I was asked to link.  (This has been a crazy week.  As noted yesterday, I've steered any time that could be spared to the issue of Kim Rivera. I'll try to work in the link today.)  But where were the reports?

And where in the whatever few reports there was did a journalist try to convey how disliked Nouri al-Maliki is by the Committee?

Bob Casey, Marco Rubio, John Kerry, Richard Lugar, on and on it went with everyone noting the reports of Nouri moving towards more authoritarian and sectarian 'leadership.'  That's not surprising.  This is the Committee that condemned Nouri repeatedly.  Barack was on this Committee but never made it to a hearing unless it was packed the press.  I know because we covered the hearings.  The press can't do their damn job -- and that's a criticism of the editors and producers who are making the assignments -- but we did it.  And Barack was never present.  He didn't just refuse to hold hearings in his subcommittee (which covered Afghanistan), he refused to attend hearings unless the press corps was there -- TV cameras guaranteeing network exposure.

So Barack really doesn't grasp the sentiment towards Nouri.  He could speak to Joe Biden.  Biden was among the ones making very clear that America couldn't trust Nouri -- back when Biden was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Barack could talk to Hillary who, of course, spoke out against Nouri just like Joe did.

The press -- especially the New York Times but not just them -- gives you this idea that Nouri being a dictator is a strange idea that only a few critics think.  The reality is Democrats have been saying so in Congress since 2006.  That includes the current Secretary of State, Vice President, Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense as well as many others. Congressional Republicans began expressing their concerns publicly starting especially in the middle of 2007.  That would include the current Secretary of the Army.

But you don't know that because you're not told that.  Instead you get Tim Arango with a piece about how someone -- Ayad Allawi? -- has just said Nouri's moving towards a dictatorship and it's treated as though this criticism is a little unwarranted and a little out of the mainstream.  That's a bold faced lie.

And if Barack had spent anytime as senator doing his job, he'd be aware of that and wouldn't have listened to Samantha Power's unwise counsel that Nouri needed to be backed (in 2010) because he would provide stability.  A dictatorship does provide stability, is that what the White House wanted?

(Samantha offered the advice.  Strongly.  That doesn't let Barack off the hook.  He's responsible for what he chooses to do.)

There is a complete disconnect between what goes on in Congress and what is being reported.  I'm not talking about some secret conspiracy or anything like that.  I'm saying members of Congress are very vocal about where they stand and most of the time the press has no idea because the outlets don't feel coverage is needed unless a David Petraeus or some other big name goes to testify.   Then and only then will most outlets make the effort to send someone (and that someone usually has two other potential things to cover so he or she is there for opening statements, the first bit of questioning and then has to move on to look into another potential story).  People rightly complain about the lack of investigative reporting but it's equally true that our media is failing us in coverage of Congressional hearings.  We do not know what's discussed or where representatives stand for the most part.  The only US outlet that attempts to do serious Congressional coverage is the Associated Press.  (On veterans issues, you can also count on Stars and Stripes, and Air Force/Navy/Military Times.)

Wednesday's hearing demonstrated that the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy lied to Congress in June (we covered that in yesterday's snapshot) and if we had a press that functioned, that would be a widely reported story.  Instead, those at the State Dept press briefing yesterday don't even know about it.

But someone should and they should be asking why Kennedy lied that the US had land-lease agreement for all those facilities built at great tax payer expense in Iraq?  He should be asked about the facility -- in addition to the police training center in Baghdad that is the reason the June hearing was called -- Robert S. Beecroft told Congress was just transferred and about the facility Beecroft said was about to be transferred.

See, that's the job of the press.  To provide oversight and to press for answers so you have an informed citizenry.  Tax payer money was spent -- millions -- based on what the current administration felt they would be using in Baghdad and they failed to secure land-lease agreements.  These facilities are now being turned over for free to the Iraqi government.  After all the US tax dollars spent.  And the reason they're being turned over for free is the administration did not do their job.  That's why the facility in Kirkuk is being handed over.  They have wasted US dollars via their neglect and apparent incompetence.  This should be a front page story.

But for it to be reported, reporters would have to know what took place.  And editors and producers are more concerned these days that their reporters Tweet, and Facebook and do everything but what they should be doing.  In addition, they're more interested in spreading them over several different beats than they are interested in giving the time and space to nail down a story.

Today we need to cover, in the snapshot, a hearing that I attended yesterday.  We also need to make room for a sub-theme in this entry because it goes to the problem with the State Dept and Iraq. Hopefully, they'll be room for both.

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