Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 12, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, Hillary wants to break with Barack, Hillary doesn't want to talk Iraq, and much more.

Let's drop back to Saturday when US President Barack Obama spoke on the White House lawn and took questions:

Q Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. -- is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.
And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances. And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops. So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice -- which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.
So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were -- a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq. 

So he campaigned for re-election on removing troops from Iraq and now he says basically, "That wasn't me."  Or, more likely, "That's not on me."

It's worth noting and we'd explore it and fact check it at length at another time but there's too much to cover including Hillary.

We will note this:

Having said all that, if in fact the Iraqi government behaved the way it did over the last five, six years, where it failed to pass legislation that would reincorporate Sunnis and give them a sense of ownership; if it had targeted certain Sunni leaders and jailed them; if it had alienated some of the Sunni tribes that we had brought back in during the so-called Awakening that helped us turn the tide in 2006 -- if they had done all those things and we had had troops there, the country wouldn’t be holding together either. The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable. And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job. And probably, we would end up having to go up again in terms of the number of grounds troops to make sure that those forces were not vulnerable.

That qualifies as truth.  Nouri has caused the problems and done so over many, many years.  It's a reality many need to face. In those remarks, some note the frustration Barack had with Nouri al-Maliki but few are noting the reality in the remarks.  I'm especially surprised that Barack's usual supporters are not running with those remarks.  They go a long way towards explaining how the crises emerged in the first place.

By the way, I'm being accused of being a Barack groupie due to yesterday's snapshot.  Six years of calling him out, mocking him, etc and I give him a few words of praise -- praise that he earned -- and I'm a Barack groupie?

I'm more sympathetic to those who feel I was 'happy talking' yesterday.

I'm sure I was.  Nouri has destroyed Iraq.

In addition to the many things we noted yesterday, I also feel he ordered the assassination of journalist Hadi al-Mahdi.

I believe this was a huge moment for Iraq.

Dan Friedman and Corky Siemaszko (New York Daily News) refer to Nouri as "Iraq's power-hungry prime minister."  That's a rather nice way of putting it.

I think Nouri set a tone with his violence and his violent language.  The videos of the Sunni suspects being burned alive by Iraqi military officers reflected to me not some 'evil' in the heart of a segment of Iraqis but the clear influence of years and years of Nouri demonizing Sunnis and other groups in Iraq.

So, yes, I was upbeat and thrilled for the Iraqi people.

I will gladly confess to being  upbeat.

Let's move on.  Hillary Clinton is many things -- former First Lady, former US Senator, former Secretary of State, etc.  What she was when she sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg for a piece in The Atlantic?

Deeply stupid.

Deeply, deeply stupid.

We're not the Gaza snapshot, we're not covering that aspect here.  Others can grab it.

We focus on Iraq and sometimes on campaigns.

Hillary, a tip, as an elderly woman -- and putting blond coloring in your gray hair doesn't make you any less elderly -- you really shouldn't be calling yourself "old fashioned." Though it does make clear that a woman can be anything -- even an old coot -- it really doesn't help your own self image.

Outside of that, we're focusing on Iraq.

In a never-ending, mind numbing interview Hillary mentions Iraq.

For example, here:

We have our hands full in Syria and Iraq, just to name two places, maybe increasingly in Lebanon, and who knows what’s going to happen with us and Hamas.

Speaking of Egypt:

I think we’ve learned about the limits of our power to spread freedom and democracy. That’s one of the big lessons out of Iraq. But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power, our influence, and our values appropriately deployed and explained.

Then she insists:

I don’t think it was stupid for the United States to do everything we could to remove Qaddafi because that came from the bottom up. That was people asking us to help. It was stupid to do what we did in Iraq and to have no plan about what to do after we did it. That was really stupid. I don’t think you can quickly jump to conclusions about what falls into the stupid and non-stupid categories. That’s what I’m arguing.

And that's it.

She's a deeply stupid woman.

Iraq has been a major issue for weeks now and Hillary's gabbing in a foreign policy interview.

Someone so out of touch maybe shouldn't be slamming Barack?

I have no problem with criticism of any US president or, in Bully Boy Bush's case, Oval Office Occupant -- whether they're still in office or have left.  I have a problem with stupid criticism.

If Hillary had just stuck her tongue out at US President Barack Obama, she would have shown more wisdom.

Her attempt to link events in Syria and Iraq is stupid and we'll go into that shortly.

But Hillary gabs where she wants you to look.  With her, it's the topics she doesn't bring up that tell the story because she knows her own failings.

Where was her leadership on Iraq?

In 2008, she called Nouri a "thug" and noted he was a threat to the Iraqi people.  In 2010, when Nouri al-Maliki lost the elections to Iraqiya, where was Hillary?

Where was she?

When did she lead -- from behind, beneath, above, below, upside down . . . ?

She didn't.

She avoids Iraq for that reason.

While not leading, she did resist.  Specifically, she resisted a court order to re-evaluate the status of the MEK.  During her husband Bill's presidency, this group of Iranian dissidents were placed on a terrorist list.

As Secretary of State, she was ordered to re-evaluate that.

She resisted.

The court had to remind her of her duty.

Then, when she did act, she 'ruled' not based on potential threat but based on whether the group in Iraq would move from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyah.

I don't believe the Ashraf community can be labeled terrorists.

But I also don't believe you look at a group -- most of whose members are outside of Iraq -- and make the determination of terrorist or not by how quickly dissidents in Iraq move from one camp to another.

I could go into more detail but I just think, unless she's going to be serving up some personal confessions, now really isn't the time for Hillary to try to cast herself as the foreign policy expert and Barack as the great dunce.

The response from a functioning press should be, "Well, how did you contribute to the process?" And they should follow up with, "You appear comfortable providing oversight over Barack -- at least in retrospect.  But in real time, you went four years running the State Dept and did so without any real oversight.  John Kerry promised to get a real IG -- not 'acting Inspector General -- in place, promised to Congress and he did so within 5 months of being confirmed as Secretary of State.  But you went four years without independent oversight from an IG.  What does that say about your beliefs in checks and balances?"

Within the scope of the interview, Hillary seems to be linking Iraq and Syria.  She seems to be making the argument -- she needs to learn to speak clearly -- that Barack's failures include his not putting troops on the ground in Iraq.

As Ava and I noted Sunday, Martha Raddatz tried to link the two on ABC's This Week.

 RADDATZ (voice-over): The Islamic militant group ISIS in Syria and Iraq is so extreme that traditional al Qaeda has disavowed it. And now, from Vice News, video from inside the militants' stranglehold -- surreal scenes from the Syrian city of Raqqah -- families enjoying the coolness of the Euphrates. But even here, there is always something more sinister, even with the children.


RADDATZ: And what happens in Syria affects Iraq, and vice-versa. The treasures from the march on Baghdad are proudly paraded through Raqqah, along with new recruits from around the world.


RADDATZ: Here, the group is known simply as IS, or Islamic State. At a nighttime gathering, recruiting continues -- "Beautiful virgins are calling. Enroll me as a martyr, this man sings." A call and response to excite the crowd. 

If Eleanor Rigby were around today, she'd be pondering: All the stupid people, where do they all come from?

Let's pretend for a moment that the group of -- wait.

Let's stop.  We have to start the pretending by insisting IS in both countries is everyone resisting with violence.  From there, let's pretend that the two groups are clones of one another.

For Martha to be correct, these two identical groups would have to have the same reaction in the two lands.

They don't.

IS -- however you define it -- is more embraced in Iraq.

IS was not attracted to Iraq because it's Syria's neighbor.

They share a border.

Syria also shares a border with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

The success in Iraq is based on events in Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki's persecution of Sunnis created outrage and this was followed by

Yesterday Haider al-Abadi was named Iraq's prime minister-designate which means he has 30 days to form a government (Cabinet) and, if successful in that, he becomes prime minister of Iraq.  Of al-Abadi, Larry Kaplow and Alice Fordham (NPR via Idea Stream) report:

Abadi is a genial electrical engineer in his early 60s who often served as an intermediary for diplomats and Western journalists in Baghdad. He was comfortable in the role, having been educated in England and serving as the British representative of the Dawa party, a Shiite Islamist group, when it was in exile during the era of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Abadi's prominence in Dawa gives him credibility with the country's Shiite majority. Dawa was formed in the 1950s among Shiite intellectuals following the direction of a respected cleric.
The party fought Saddam, who authorized the executions of thousands of its members.
And while Maliki was working in low-level education bureaucracies in Iraq and on underground activities from Iran and Syria, Abadi was a Dawa spokesman in Britain, where he earned a doctorate and received a broad view of the world.

Along with a prime minister-designate, Iraq now has an outgoing prime minister.

For now, we're going out with this from today's State Dept press briefing by Marie Harf:

QUESTION: So I see the President spoke today with the Canadian prime minister on Iraq. It made me wonder what kind of regional dialogues the United States is having with other partners in the Mideast on how other states in the Mideast can assist militarily or with humanitarian aid to what’s happening.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re having a number of conversations, and to be fair, those conversations have been ongoing. Obviously, one I’d note is the Brits, as you know, who have now also provided – began providing humanitarian aid. We’ve also talked to a number of partners about financial contributions and would note generous financial contributions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, the EU, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and others already in response. So obviously, we are talking to many of our partners on the humanitarian side and the financial side particularly about how we can all bring more resources to bear here.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering, aside from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, if there are other partners in the Mideast. Particularly, has anybody expressed any willingness to assist militarily with the Government of Iraq or even the Kurds, or what kind of – if not boots on the ground, personnel on the ground, people on the ground?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team here and see if those discussions have been happening. We’ve had discussions with Iraq’s neighbors over the past several weeks and months, I’d say, particularly on the refugee issue and on the foreign fighter issue as well. So these are conversations we’ve had for a while. I can check and see, Lara – and it’s a good question – if there are updates on the military or security assistance piece.

QUESTION: Thank you. Were you aware of the report in Der Spiegel today that apparently some Iranian planes have landed in the Kurdish region with arms and ammunition?

MS. HARF: I am and I’ve seen them, and we can’t confirm them one way or the other at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. And did you get any update from my question yesterday on when was the last time somebody from the U.S. Government spoke with Prime Minister Maliki?

MS. HARF: I believe it was yesterday. We’re not going to outline all the details of who talks to who, but I believe we did have contact with him yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. And can you – you can’t give us any readout on what the --

MS. HARF: I --

QUESTION: -- nature of the conversation was or --

MS. HARF: I don’t have more of a readout for you on that.



MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we follow up on one thing on Maliki, please?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I had asked if you had – if the U.S. Government had played any role whatsoever in the selection of Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi, and you very clearly said no. Have you seen today’s Daily Beast story which claims – which cites U.S. officials as saying that they had pushed for Maliki for days, weeks? And it suggests maybe – suggests that an effort to oust Maliki had been underway since June. Is there any truth to that report?

MS. HARF: There is not. As I have said multiple times from this podium, this is up for the Iraqis to decide. Of course, we’ve had conversations with them as they’ve gone through this process, but quite frankly, for a number of years, not just in this Iraqi election but in the last one, there were a number of rumors and conspiracy theories about the U.S. role. I would squarely put this report in that category. As I said yesterday, this was a decision for the Iraqis and solely for the Iraqis to decide.

QUESTION: And are you getting the impression that you are getting more cooperation from your allies in the Gulf vis-a-vis Iraq now that an alternative to Prime Minister Maliki has been settled on?

MS. HARF: Well, cooperation in what way? Because certainly on the refugee and humanitarian side, they have, quite frankly, for a while been very concerned about the humanitarian situation and the possibility of refugees and foreign fighters as well. So I don’t think that’s a new concern. I do think that there are a number of partners in the region who want Iraq’s government to govern more inclusively. And so I certainly think that’s a part of it, but I don’t think the two are necessarily linked.

QUESTION: I ask because Secretary Kerry made clear that the U.S. Government could do a number of things with the new government and I therefore wonder if that sentiment is echoed among Iraq’s neighbors and any other close U.S. allies.

MS. HARF: Well, you’d have to ask them. I do think that broadly speaking, all of us are partners. We certainly know that the only way to fight ISIL going forward here is that it requires an inclusive Iraqi Government to be formed quickly. And as that happens, as the Secretary said, we certainly are looking at ways we can do even more to help.

QUESTION: And one more. Are you getting any greater cooperation from allies such as Kuwait, which the Treasury Department recently – I mean, they essentially said that the Kuwaiti Government needed to do more to try to crack down on financing of ISIL, and it identified, I think, three Kuwaiti citizens who were designated for having done so. Are you getting any more cooperation from them on that?

MS. HARF: I know it’s something we work with them and other governments on that there are private citizens in some of these countries who have been providing monetary support. We’re certainly very worried about it. And I think quite frankly, countries like Kuwait are increasingly realizing this is – could also be a threat to them. So it’s an ongoing conversation. I don’t have anything to update, but I’m happy to see if there is anything else to say.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Maliki very --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, and then we’ll go to you, Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly. Given that you said that you’re not aware of any more U.S. Government contacts with him in the last --

MS. HARF: Since yesterday.

QUESTION: -- since yesterday, is there a concern --

MS. HARF: There may have been, though.


MS. HARF: It’s constant communication on the ground in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Right. Is there a concern given his decision to move troops into the green zone over the weekend that he may try yet again to resist what the U.S. considers the orderly transition according to the Iraqi constitution?

MS. HARF: Well, I --

QUESTION: And how worried is the U.S. about this?

MS. HARF: I would note that today Prime Minister Maliki said in remarks that the security forces should not get involved in this matter and should focus on defending the country. Again, we’ll see what happens going forward, but there’s a process that’s been playing out. We never thought it would be without complication. We never thought it would be easy. These things often aren’t. But there is a process that has hit the benchmarks. It’s continued to move forward. And we’ll listen to what he said today and go from here.

QUESTION: And then very quickly, the status of those U.S. diplomats who had to be moved from Erbil temporarily, are they still --

MS. HARF: And some were moved in. As I said yesterday, we’re adjusting staffing, so if we move some people out, we might move other people in. We moved in a DART team over the weekend, a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the humanitarian situation. So a lot of it is really about readjusting is a more appropriate term.

QUESTION: But for the people who had been moved out, is --

MS. HARF: I don’t believe they’ve moved back yet.


MS. HARF: Yeah. Some of them are working out of Amman, where we have a contingent of people working on Iraq. Some are working out of Basra.


MS. HARF: I believe some also may be working out of Baghdad. But we’re basically shuffling people around where we have a need and what makes the most sense security-wise.

QUESTION: And perhaps you answered this yesterday, but what is the practical impact not so much on U.S. citizens, but on Iraqis who might need to do business in Erbil with the consulate there?

MS. HARF: The consulate is open, functioning. We believe it’s important to do so. That’s part of the reason the President ordered the military action we’ve seen to protect Erbil.

QUESTION: Can I ask just very quickly, are you aware of reports of a bomb that may have gone off in the last hour or so near Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi’s house?

MS. HARF: I am not. I’m sorry.


MS. HARF: I will check as soon as I get off of the podium.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: His house in Baghdad?


MS. HARF: I’ll check.

QUESTION: Iran has endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate. How do you view this statement from Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, we encourage any country to encourage the Iraqis to form an inclusive government as soon as possible to govern inclusively. That’s been our position all along, and so, obviously, we would welcome any statements to that effect.

QUESTION: And have you been in discussion with the Iranians regarding the situation in Iraq?

MS. HARF: We have not. We have not.

QUESTION: And last week during the meeting between the U.S. delegation and the Iranians, have you discussed Iran?

MS. HARF: Have we discussed Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, sorry.

MS. HARF: To my knowledge it was not raised in the way that it had been raised previously on the sidelines of the P5+1 round. It may have been brought up in casual conversation, but it was not discussed in a substantive way.

QUESTION: And a follow-up question on Roz’s question, too, regarding al-Maliki. To what extent you are confident that he will leave power after the formation of the new government?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process in place, and that’s what will happen at the end of it. That’s what should happen at the end of it. Look, we’re not going to entertain hypotheticals at this point. The Iraqis have hit the benchmarks as part of this process. Again, we knew it wouldn’t be entirely smooth. We never thought it would be. But that’s what we’re working towards right now. So let’s hope that happens. We’ll continue to have conversations with all of the Iraqis about making sure that happens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the – on the Iran angle. You mentioned that you couldn’t comment on the Der Spiegel --

MS. HARF: I just couldn’t confirm it. I just don’t know if --

QUESTION: Couldn’t confirm it, the Der Spiegel report?

MS. HARF: We can’t confirm it one way or the other.

QUESTION: Sure. But the issue of Iranian arms – does the U.S. have a position on that?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Should Iran have the right to small arms --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a question of a right. There are some sanctionable – there are potential sanctions that could be involved with the export or import of Iran – arms in or out of Iran. There are specific sanctions in place. Without being able to confirm whether or not it’s happening and the specifics, I can’t say whether or not this would be, but there’s a likely chance it could be if this is true. We just have to look at it.

QUESTION: So, in general, the U.S. would be opposed to Iranian arms flowing into Iraq.

MS. HARF: In general, we believe we should --

QUESTION: Even if it’s for the same side.

MS. HARF: -- continue to implement sanctions that are on the books.

QUESTION: One on Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Let’s stay on Iraq. If people – and then we’ll go to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can you just outline specific steps that Prime Minister-designate Abadi can take to be inclusive? We’re hearing the mantra “inclusive governing” often, but I was wondering if there are certain specific steps that could be outlined.

MS. HARF: Well, first of all in terms of specific steps, he now has 30 days under the constitution’s – it’s constitutionally mandated – to put a – to complete a process to put a new government in place. So as part of this process, that will be presenting a cabinet to the Iraqi parliament for approval that represents the aspirations of the Iraqi people. I’m not going to outline what that should look like. That’s for him and his government to decide. But there are things he can do that would demonstrate inclusiveness. Things you can say, things you can do, as part of this formation process. And then going forward, if he does form a government, which we expect and hope that he will, there are ways you can do that.
One of the things we’ve been quite heartened by is the really unprecedented way the Iraqi security forces have been working with the Kurdish forces for example, in a way we never saw them do before. So continuing some of that and encouraging some of that, from the top on down, is really important. So those are some.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So the government has --

MS. HARF: Thirty days.

QUESTION: -- so as you said, he has 30 days. But if he isn’t able to do that, then the Iraqis are back to square --

MS. HARF: Well, there’s --

QUESTION: I’m just worried -- I’m just wondering if you’re concerned that Prime Minister al-Maliki will take this time to try and prevent him from starting a coalition and not kind of let the process play out.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re going to watch the process play out. It’s played out on – as it should so far. So while I understand people want to jump 28 days from now and guess about all the bad things that might happen, the process has played out. Let’s watch and see what Prime Minister Maliki says – and does, more importantly. We’re having conversations with him and all the other Iraqi leaders about how this can move forward, Elise.

QUESTION: Well, it’s not really 28 – it’s not really 28 days. It’s what happens during the next 28 days.

MS. HARF: Exactly.

QUESTION: You don’t have the luxury, really, of waiting 30 days and --

MS. HARF: It’s not about us not having the luxury. It’s about the Iraqis.

QUESTION: Well, the Iraqis.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Right. So I mean, starting from today --

MS. HARF: So, we’ll wait – we’ll see what happens, Elise. But let’s not assume the worst here.

QUESTION: Aren’t you kind of assuming the worst, that he’ll do that?

MS. HARF: No. I’m not. I don’t think we are, Elise. I think that today you saw Prime Minister Maliki say that security forces should not get involved in this matter. Again, we think that’s a good sign. But we will be watching and we will be in direct conversations if – as we have been with Prime Minister Maliki. And took, if we see signs that anything like that is happening, we would, obviously, be very concerned and immediately express those concerns.
But I think the other point, though, is it’s not about what the U.S. is or isn’t concerned about. The Iraqi people themselves, including the Shia bloc, has nominated someone else with a lot of support from Prime Minister Maliki’s own party. So this is about the Iraqi people standing up and saying this is the government we want.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS. HARF: It’s not about what we want. It’s about what they want.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. HARF: And so the support for the new prime minister-designate, I think, has been fairly clear.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s not stopping Prime Minister Maliki from mounting legal challenges to – I don’t believe he’s dropped that legal challenge.

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – look, there’s always going to be some differences that people have about how these things should play out. But we would reject any effort, legally or otherwise, to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process. I think I said this on Sunday night and repeating it today: There’s a constitutional process. It is happening, and that is what we support. And we will keep supporting that as the Iraqis go through this process.

QUESTION: But, I mean, you know that in 2010 he did launch a legal challenge. He mounted a legal challenge --

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

QUESTION: -- and he was able to maintain another term.

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history. I think we need to watch what happens day by day here. We need to see what’s happening on the ground. We need to make clear our position, which is that we would reject any efforts to achieve outcomes through judicial – through coercion or manipulation of judicial processes. And we’ll keep working with them, but they have a process in place. It’s moving forward, and let’s see how that plays out.

QUESTION: Who is the main interlocutor right now with Prime Minister al-Maliki?

MS. HARF: Well, we engage with him and other Iraqi leaders at a number of levels. We’re not going to outline specifically, necessarily, all the time what that engagement looks like. But people on the ground in Baghdad certainly have had conversations with him, as have people in Washington.

QUESTION: Well, has Secretary Kerry or Vice President Biden or, specifically, someone at a senior level reached out to Prime Minister Maliki?

MS. HARF: There are senior people who have --

QUESTION: Who – can you --

MS. HARF: We’re not going to outline --

QUESTION: Why can’t you say --

MS. HARF: Because we --

QUESTION: I mean, you put out press releases of calls --

MS. HARF: I can tell you the Secretary hasn’t, and I can tell you – to my knowledge; let me check with the White House – I don’t believe the Vice President has, either. But people have been in contact with him.

QUESTION: Does this mean that the fact that someone at a very senior – I’m not saying that the ambassador’s not of a senior level, but does the fact that the Secretary or the Vice President or the President is not speaking to Prime Minister al-Maliki meant to send a signal that the Administration is done dealing with him?

MS. HARF: Well no, not that we’re done dealing with him and not that we’re not speaking with him. It’s just that we haven’t. He’s the prime minister still, legally, until a new government is officially formed. So we will continue talking to him and working with him, but what we’re focused on is the way forward and how we can help the Iraqis, as they form this new government, fight ISIL. That’s what we’re focused on every day.