Friday, August 15, 2014

Marie Harf assesses Erbil and other things



Thursday afternoon at the State Dept, spokesperson Marie Harf (pictured above from last week) moderated a briefing which touched on Iraq at length including the below:

MARIE HARF:  And finally, on Iraq, as you just heard the President say, we said we would break the siege of Mount Sinjar, and indeed have broken the ISIL siege of that mountain, have saved – helped save many innocent lives at the same time. Our assessment team completed its work, found that our food and water had been reaching people trapped there successfully. We successfully struck ISIL targets which allowed people to leave. The Kurdish forces and Yezidis have been working together to lead the evacuation of people from that mountain. A majority of the U.S. military personnel who were part of that assessment team will be departing Iraq in the coming days, as the President said, and of course, there does remain a major humanitarian and security challenges here. We are working with our international partners and the international community to continue fighting both of those threats, but again, at least a little bit of good news coming from Mount Sinjar today.

QUESTION: Thank you. How would the State Department at this point assess the security of Erbil?

MS. HARF: In general?


MS. HARF: Well, you heard the President when he announced last week what – the different steps we would be taking in Iraq. One was to protect the city of Erbil. We believe we have had some progress in pushing ISIL’s advance towards Erbil back. I don't know of any on-the-ground updates more specific than that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, as you heard the President say, that airstrikes will continue to protect our people and facilities in Iraq --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- so I’m just wondering, at this point, if those will be immediately necessary considering that ISIL’s been pushed back at least to some extent?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any prediction about when we’ll take military strikes, and we tend not to say we take them before we take them for, I think, fairly obvious reasons. But under the two goals the President outlined when he announced the military action, we remain and retain the capability to strike at the time and place of our choosing to protect our people, and to protect – with Erbil, it’s obviously a critically, strategically important city. There’s infrastructure there that’s important. So those are all goals that we continue to focus on, and if more strikes are needed, the U.S. military stands ready to take them.

QUESTION: Right, and I guess I’m trying to get to: What is the urgency of the situation of Erbil today, if you have any updates compared to what it was a week ago when some of these strikes started?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve made progress in pushing ISIL back from Erbil. I think there’s still a huge threat, though, so I don’t want to downplay that. But I think we have made some progress, taken upwards, I think, of 20 strikes or close to 20 specifically about defending Erbil specifically.

QUESTION: Twenty specifically on Erbil?

MS. HARF: Well, there were, I think, 25 strikes now. I think seven of the – seven or eight were around Mount Sinjar. I can check on the exact numbers, but taken over a dozen strikes designed to protect the city of Erbil.

QUESTION: Okay. And about the number of U.S. personnel in Erbil, first off, do you have any idea of how many of the military personnel will come out, as you just said?

MS. HARF: A majority. We can check with DOD on specific numbers. I don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Okay. And how – is there any movement to put State Department employees back in Erbil at this point?

MS. HARF: There are a number of State Department employees still in Erbil.

QUESTION: But a number of them came out, so I’m wondering --

MS. HARF: A small number came out.

QUESTION: -- will they be returning?

MS. HARF: I can check and see if we have additional adjustments to our staffing that will be happening. Some of the remaining military personnel will stay to help, particularly at the joint operations center. So that’s being staffed by a number of different American folks to help the Iraqis against this threat, but that’s what they’ll be working on mostly. But I’ll check on the State Department people.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: To Anbar? We have an interview with the governor of Anbar who says that the United States has agreed to provide support to Anbar in their – or to the authorities in Anbar in their fight against the Islamic State. It’s not clear from his comments precisely what kind of support that would be, but the suggestion is that – or what he says is that their primary desire is for air support. Have U.S. officials made any – and he says these meetings were with American diplomats and military. Has the U.S. Government made any commitments to assist the Iraqi authorities in Anbar?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve continued meeting with a range of officials to talk through what the needs might be – the security needs to fight ISIL across the board. Separate from that, you heard the President very clearly outline the current mission that we’re operating under, what the goals of that are. The first is protecting our people and personnel in Erbil, focused on Erbil, and the second was, of course, the humanitarian situation around Mount Sinjar.
So in general, we will continue talking with Iraqi partners about what the needs might be. Nothing to announce in terms of hypothetically what that might look like in the future beyond sort of what we’ve already said about how we make these decisions. But again, nothing to announce or --

QUESTION: My reading of the War – thank you for that – my reading of the War Powers Resolution letter that the President sent to the speaker, and as you just reference, is that it would not cover U.S. military assistance in the form of personnel or airstrikes in Anbar. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: I can take a look at the war powers that we submitted to Congress on this specific – I don’t have that in front of me and I’m not an attorney. But it was focused on these two specific points.

QUESTION: Exactly, protecting your people in Erbil and --

MS. HARF: We also do have people in Baghdad, I would remind.

QUESTION: -- right – and the humanitarian situation in that area.

MS. HARF: Well, there are only very specific things that trigger a war powers that needs to be submitted to Congress. So separate from war powers, in the general issue, as I said, I don’t have anything to announce or preview about a hypothetical and whether we’ll help in one place in one way. We have a variety of tools we can use to help, and if the United States military has the capability they can bring to bear and the President makes that decision, we can have that conversation then.

QUESTION: And is he correct that there’s been a commitment made here?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details for you than that, Arshad. We’re having conversations about what it might look like in the future, but nothing concrete beyond that.

QUESTION: But the President did say, though, that “We’ve increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines.”

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: I would assume that Fallujah is a front line --

MS. HARF: Correct. Yes, yes.

QUESTION: -- as it has been for months.

MS. HARF: And that’s – I mean, our assistance to them has certainly been ongoing, absolutely. We’ve talked about that quite a bit.

QUESTION: Marie, can I ask you for more specifics about the situation in the mountain?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: With the President saying that the siege has been broken, is it your understanding that all these Yezidis who had fled there, that the vast majority of them are now safe, have left? Or are there still some remaining Yezidis who need support?

MS. HARF: So, yeah. What we know now is that basically there were a number of Yezidis on the mountain. And some had been slowly trickling off, as we talked about in this room a little bit, but the U.S. airstrikes around the base of the mountain, in the vicinity of the mountain to take out ISIL targets really allowed for humanitarian passage off of the mountain and into safer – safer areas. The Kurdish forces and the Yezidis have really been in the lead on this evacuation off of the mountain, which has been a very good thing. There are some remaining Yezidis on the mountain. Some of the – we do know that food and water has been getting through to them. Some eventually may end up staying, a small number, given some actually live there to begin with.
So we think that the evacuation will continue, will be able to continue. We’re monitoring it, obviously. But as the President said, we don’t at the – it’s not necessarily likely that we’ll have to take additional airdrops there, humanitarian-wise, but obviously we’ll keep monitoring it.

QUESTION: Sure. I mean, just for our own interest, is there a way to quantify it a bit, of roughly how many --

MS. HARF: With numbers? I can check on that. There have been a variety of numbers floating around out there. I can check and see.

QUESTION: Can you speak to that, actually? Because I was --

MS. HARF: I could say on numbers – just one second – on numbers, we do think that about thousands – and I can see if there’s a more specific number – of Yezidis have been able to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days since we’ve really upped the airstrikes around them. They’ve been doing the evacuations at night for obvious security reasons. And that’s, I think, what they’ve been focused on operationally.

QUESTION: So DOD said today that there were something like 4,000 still left on Sinjar and about half of them were herders who were indigenous and weren’t going to leave anyway.

MS. HARF: Yeah, that sounds about right.

QUESTION: I’m just kind of wondering where the 40,000 number that was being kicked around a couple of days ago first surfaced.

MS. HARF: Well, we think the numbers were in the tens of thousands, certainly. That was our assessment and that remains our assessment. They have been able to be getting off of the mountain, as we said, because we helped open up these corridors here and broke the siege. So the numbers were fairly high. We always said we also didn’t – it’s hard to quantify exactly what the numbers were on that mountain. So --

QUESTION: Of those who escaped, do you think most of them left by the land corridors, or were airlifted out?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yeah. It’s my understanding through the land corridors.

QUESTION: Through the land corridors?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Arshad’s question about Anbar? It seems as if the Administration, both from the President on the record and from other officials on background in recent days, have indicated that airstrikes are going to be an open-ended project for the U.S. military because of the threat from Islamic State group. And one official in particular noted the sophisticated capabilities of these fighters, which would indicate that, okay, perhaps they lose some of their equipment and some of their people due to airstrikes, but they can find other ways to get to other parts of the country if that is indeed their intent. Given the ongoing questions about the Iraqi military’s ability to regenerate itself and develop its capability in order to confront IS directly, why isn’t it reasonable to assume that discussions of the sort with the Anbar governor – and it’s his version of events – as well as with other regional leaders across Iraq, aren’t, in fact, happening?

MS. HARF: I said conversations are happening, Roz. I just said they were happening about how we can best help. I said I don’t have anything up here to confirm about what future action hypothetically we might take.
And in terms of being open-ended, I mean, what we’ve been – the President was very clear that the missions he authorized were very discrete missions, and that obviously you don’t put an end date – you don’t want to tell the enemy, okay, we’re going to pick up and stop bombing you on this date, right, when you’re talking about a group that is rapidly moving forward. And in part because the situation is so fluid, right?


MS. HARF: So I think that going forward here, the President will continue looking at the situation on the ground, he will continue making decisions based on what’s our national security interest, but at the same time really helping the Iraqis get back on their feet and fight. And I would take issue with a little bit of what you said, that the Iraqis have been able to actually regroup in some ways. They’ve gotten more arms, they’ve gotten more weapons, and they’ve been able to start pushing back against ISIL, particularly working with the Kurds to do that. So I think they are on the right trajectory here. We just need to help some more, and I think they need a little more time, but we’ll keep working with them.

QUESTION: But how much territory has the Iraqi military been able to retake from IS fighters? How much --

MS. HARF: I don’t have a percentage for you, Roz.

QUESTION: I mean, the dam is still under IS control.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: There are --

QUESTION: Fallujah.

QUESTION: Yeah, and Fallujah. I mean, there are still very real gains.

MS. HARF: Huge challenges, yes.

QUESTION: Still very real gains. I mean, the President said so himself late last week, this isn’t going to be done in a matter of weeks.

MS. HARF: I wholeheartedly agree with that.

QUESTION: So why isn’t it reasonable to assume that there is some focused discussion on expanding U.S. airstrikes across other parts of Iraq, whether or not War Powers letters need to be sent or --

MS. HARF: We are having constant discussions internally in our own government and with the Iraqis about how we can help – what that looks like, whether that’s our assistance, whether those are our weapons, whether those are our advisors, whether it’s a different military mission, but the President’s been very clear here that there are not going to be troops on the ground in combat roles and that we need to be very deliberate when making decisions about where to use direct military power here. So the conversations are – I’m not saying the conversations aren’t happening. I’m just saying that there’s – I don’t have any new decisions to outline for you about what we may or may not do.

QUESTION: Well, it seems a bit specious to suggest that there couldn’t be any military actions because in particular, given that Iraq does not have a standing air force with the capabilities of, for example, calling in airstrikes, it looks as if it would be left up to the U.S. to provide that backup that the Iraqi military doesn’t have itself.

MS. HARF: There’s really like 15 different hypotheticals, and I’m not sure what the overall question you’re asking here is. Are we considering a range of options? Yes. I don’t know how much clearer I can be than that. And the Iraqi air force does have – let’s step back. They do have some ability to conduct air support to operations happening on the ground. They’ve done it with the Kurds particularly recently that we think has been fairly helpful. Are we considering a range of options? Yes. I mean, I’m not sure how much more clear I can be. Are we going to outline what those might look like? No.

QUESTION: Let me ask it this way if I may: You’ve said from the podium that the decisions were made heretofore in large part based on protecting American people and American facilities in Iraq. That’s why we saw the strikes against Erbil. That was the first piece of evidence used.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Laying apart the humanitarian aid aspect of this right now --

MS. HARF: That was a huge aspect of it though too, but yes.


MS. HARF: Driving the decision making.

QUESTION: The humanitarian aid?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: In Sinjar?

MS. HARF: Correct. But also taking strikes around it to make sure we can get people off. They went hand in hand.


MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, fine. I guess I’m saying – what I’m asking is: What do you think would change that decision-making process in terms of could the U.S. strike places other than targets where U.S. personnel and facilities are not located?

MS. HARF: Well, on that though, remember we have folks in Baghdad, so obviously the principle that’s applied to Erbil would, of course, apply to protecting our people in Baghdad. However, we felt it was – we needed to do that (a).

QUESTION: Right. But you all have said Baghdad’s not under threat --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- the way that Erbil is.

MS. HARF: That’s true.

QUESTION: But Fallujah is, so that’s the distinction I’m trying to make.

MS. HARF: Okay. So you’re asking what our decision-making process internally is like about whether and when we take military action?

QUESTION: I’m asking what would make the decision process change at this point to attack or to launch airstrikes against a city where there are no U.S. interests.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re looking at every situation in Iraq right now – where there are threats strategically, where ISIL has made gains, where the security forces of Iraq might need more support, and we will make decisions based on the threat picture, on the capabilities we have and that we can bring to bear, based on how we think we could be most helpful. And we’ll continue looking at it on a day-by-day basis. There are meetings every single day looking at what more we might be able to do. And in a lot of these places, we’ve increased our – and I keep talking about this, but it’s important – we’ve increased our eyes on our surveillance and reconnaissance so we can help the Iraqis with targets, help find these guys and go after them.

QUESTION: Right. But that’s been going in Fallujah for months now, and IS still --

MS. HARF: It has been, and it’s a really tough fight. And if people think that these things get turned around in a day – I mean, you know that better than anyone. These are – some of these are lengthy, tough fights.

QUESTION: Completely, and what could turn it around is direct U.S. military intervention.

MS. HARF: We will keep looking at what the options are and what we think is in our interests, and we’ll keep working with the Iraqis to help them fight against this threat. I just don’t have more to outline for you on what the internal deliberations are like about where and when we take military action in Iraq.


QUESTION: Marie, can you address reports that Islamic State fighters are massing around the town of Qara Tapa, which is about 70 miles north of Baghdad? Do you have any information on that?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of those reports. I don’t. I’ll check again with our team. I didn’t have anything to confirm that one way or the other. I’m not sure it’s not true; I just don’t know. I’ll check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Iraq?


MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said you had an estimate before of 40,000 people on the --

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say our estimate was 40,000.


MS. HARF: We actually haven’t set a number from the podium, in part because it was really hard to know. We said tens of thousands.

QUESTION: Did you have an estimate of the number of ISIS fighters who were at the base? Because it sounds as if – I’m not a military expert, but seven – six, seven military – or airstrikes, rather, to break the siege --

MS. HARF: Pretty – they’re pretty big airstrikes.

QUESTION: Right. Well, okay.

MS. HARF: Pretty big bombs.

QUESTION: Right. From the CENTCOM readouts, I mean, there were – they were precision
strikes --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to clear – seven airstrikes to prevent a genocide; sounds like a pretty good deal. So, I mean, what --

MS. HARF: I would agree.

QUESTION: Right. So, I mean, are you looking to – is the President committed to continuing airstrikes to prevent humanitarian catastrophe?

MS. HARF: Everywhere we see humanitarian crises or situations, we look at the best way to do that. And the best way isn’t always the United States military. And there are a number of humanitarian crises – not just in Iraq – but in other places around the world where the U.S. Government is absolutely very deeply involved with the provision of humanitarian assistance – food, water, shelter, helping people just stay alive in some of these situations. So there’s different tools we can bring to bear, and it’s not always the best one to use the U.S. military.
Here, there was a discrete – particularly locationally – a situation where, with a very small number of airstrikes – you’re absolutely right – we were able to break the siege of this mountain. That’s not the case everywhere, and that’s – it’s not always the same.

QUESTION: Sorry, if you got into --


MS. HARF: Let me have him finish and then you can go.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was just going to add that is an option that remains on the table in Iraq; theoretically in eastern Syria as well.

MS. HARF: Certainly, we – well, look, the President has always said we maintain the ability to strike at a time and place of our choosing if we believe it’s in our interest to do so, and he’ll make those decisions going forward.

QUESTION: I’m sorry if you got into this, but, I mean, one of – a lot of people think that one of ISIS tactics is to make you think that you’ve dispersed them or broke the siege, and then as soon as the – as soon as you leave the area, that they’ll just start again.

MS. HARF: Well, we have broken the siege of the mountain and --

QUESTION: For now.

MS. HARF: Well, the people that were trapped on it, many of them have been able to leave. So that’s been a good thing. The rest of them who will be leaving – a few thousand may remain up there who, I think, lived there before the siege – are being helped off by Kurdish forces, with the Yezidis helping them. So again, we’ve broken the siege of the mountain. It doesn’t mean there’s not a really horrible humanitarian situation in the north of Iraq that we’re going to keep focused on.

QUESTION: Well, not only a humanitarian situation in terms of aid and things like that, but --

MS. HARF: Security situation.

QUESTION: -- there is a security situation.

MS. HARF: That’s right.

QUESTION: And you’re not abandoning that?

MS. HARF: No, not at all. We’re very focused on it. But in terms of the discrete goal of breaking the siege of the mountain, that was done. That doesn’t mean it’s not – as you heard the President say – still a very serious situation.

QUESTION: Have other countries done enough to help with the humanitarian piece? I mean, there was the --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the video of the British prime minister standing in front of UK aid pallets and we’re weeks into this crisis, and clearly it’s going to get worse as people are now living in tent cities.

QUESTION: We have had a number of partners, and I don’t have the full list in here, but I can get it. Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan – I think I’m naming all the people – the EU, a number – and then, of course, Saudi Arabia and other partners in the Gulf really stepping up to the plate here helping on the humanitarian side. We have been heartened by, really, the outpouring of aid here that has come in. We are continuing to have conversations with our partners about what more we can all do.

QUESTION: How realistic is it to think about trying to get people to go back to their homes, or is this going to be a mission that’s going to have to be carried out over the coming winter?

MS. HARF: In terms of resettling people in their homes?


MS. HARF: Well, obviously, there’s a number of internally displaced people in Iraq, and I think I got some numbers for you – you asked yesterday: 1.4 million Iraqis have been displaced by violence since January; 2.2 million in total since 2004, I think. So a large, large majority of those have been displaced since January. So we’re working with the UN, with – obviously, USAID plays a key role in this – to help those people, to get them food, water, shelter, urgent medical care. Obviously, we want them to be safe, and so the goal at the end of the day may be for some of them to return to their homes, but these places have to be safe. And in the meantime, we want to help them get what they need, the care they need.

QUESTION: So are we going to be seeing the same kind of IDP camps that resemble Syrian refugee camps?

MS. HARF: We’ll see. I mean, I don’t – we’re working with the UN on how we can keep these people safe. Whatever the best way to do that is, I think, is probably what we’ll do.

QUESTION: New subject.

QUESTION: No, can I ask another on Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, if I could just follow up on what you were saying a moment ago. There are a lot of places in the world where there are humanitarian crises, but we don’t necessarily get involved in all of them.

MS. HARF: No, but we always get – we usually always get involved --

QUESTION: Militarily.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Directly militarily.

MS. HARF: That’s a key distinction.

QUESTION: Is sort of the line that’s drawn between where we get involved and where we don’t get involved, is it just a matter of strategic importance? Because we’ve seen other places in the world, as you’ve alluded to, where there have been humanitarian crises leading to the deaths of thousands of people, where the U.S. has very specifically not used the term “genocide,” which it’s used here.

MS. HARF: Potential for genocide here.

QUESTION: Potential for genocide here. But those words have not been used in some of these other crises that were – observers on the ground had used the term “genocide” in Central African Republic; beyond that, Sudan, DRC. What is kind of the reasoning? Where do you decide to get directly militarily involved?

MS. HARF: Right, no, and it’s a good question. And it’s – you can’t draw parallels between any two situations, and we really do judge each of them based on their own merit.
In Iraq we were responding to a very specific request from the government to help and to augment its security forces’ efforts to supply assistance to its citizens. That’s what we were focused on there. And I think the key part of that is we were working with the government. We also – and this is not something we have everywhere – have significant intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance in Iraq. So we have eyes on, which helps our ability to use military assets in these kind of situations. So we have greater capacity to take military action in places we have more eyes on. That’s not the case everywhere, and it’s not always a viable option to use the U.S. military.
But in all of those places you mentioned, we have a very robust humanitarian effort, we work with the UN and other international organizations. So we are very deeply involved, just not militarily.

QUESTION: And then, has – with the siege here having been broken, as the President said, is the potential for genocide lessened?

MS. HARF: Certainly, but – but – what we’ve seen with ISIL’s barbaric acts against all Iraqis from different sects and backgrounds, there’s a very, very serious threat here. It’s really a nihilistic group that has – I mean, we’ve seen the photos and images. I’m sure all of us have. So while this specific situation has been much alleviated, I think there’s still huge challenges, and we’re still watching it and helping in any way we can.

QUESTION: But there’s still – I mean, you’ve broken the siege off the mountain, but that doesn’t – as you said, there’s the security situation. And that doesn’t stop ISIL’s kind of desires to eradicate all quote-unquote “infidels.”

MS. HARF: That’s right.

QUESTION: So the potential for genocide technically still exists.

MS. HARF: Right. I was referring specifically on the mountain.


MS. HARF: When we said there was a potential for genocide on this mountain --


MS. HARF: -- that has been, in large part, alleviated. But again, we’re watching and there are still people there, and we want to make sure people get off who want to get off of that mountain, right. But yes, broadly speaking, there is still a potential here for genocide when you have a terrorist group that has said they want to find people just because of their religion and kill them, I think they’ve been pretty clear about what they want to do here.

QUESTION: Can I ask – you were asked yesterday about the PKK and their involvement.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Did you get an answer?

MS. HARF: I did, a little bit of one. Let’s see what I have here. Our position on the PKK status has not changed. We are aware that there are many groups that are fighting ISIL in northern Iraq. Our efforts are focused on supporting the Government of Iraq, as part of Iraq the KRG, to provide much-needed security assistance to protect Iraq. So again, we know there are many groups here, but our position on the PKK has not changed.

QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence that the Kurds and the PKK are working together to fight ISIS?

MS. HARF: I can check with my team, but I don’t have anything for you.


QUESTION: I think the question was whether you were concerned about the possibility of their working together and therefore concerned about the possibility of U.S. military --

MS. HARF: I think the question was whether we were working with them. But --

QUESTION: Really? Okay, I thought --

MS. HARF: You can ask a different question.

QUESTION: Let me ask it a different way.


QUESTION: I mean, the question I thought was --

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m looking for evidence that the Kurds and the PKK were working together.

MS. HARF: And I said we’re aware that many groups are fighting ISIL in northern Iraq. I can check and see if they’re working together.

QUESTION: And if they are, or if you think they are, if you have concerns about the possibility of U.S. munitions or anything else that goes to the Kurds ending up with a designated terrorist group.

MS. HARF: To my knowledge, we are not concerned about that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: You’re not concerned about --

MS. HARF: And I did ask that question.

QUESTION: Not concerned about in the sense you don’t think that’s happening or will happen?

MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s not a concern. Obviously, we’re – we look at these things. But I checked with our team, and that didn’t seem to be a concern.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I ask a political question about Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is the current prime minister, Mr. Maliki, being as cooperative as the U.S. and others would hope that he would be during this transition period?

MS. HARF: Cooperative with us?

QUESTION: Well, in terms of following the constitutional calendar --

MS. HARF: Well, the process is moving forward and --

QUESTION: But he’s still pushing his legal challenge.

MS. HARF: The process is moving forward, separate and apart from that. And that’s the process the constitution has outlined. We believe that everything’s been done constitutionally and it should proceed.

QUESTION: Does his pursuit of this lawsuit raise any more concerns in this building about whether the transition to an al-Abadi government will take place as scheduled?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we could ask – I’ve gotten asked this question every day for the last three days, and what I’ve said is the process is moving forward. We would reject any efforts to use coercion of the judicial process to change what Iraq’s constitutional process is or impact that process, but there’s a process in place. They’re having meetings about forming a government. The prime minister-designate has broad support, including from Prime Minister Maliki’s own party, and that process is moving forward. So I think we hope we can see some more movement in the
coming days.

QUESTION: Have any U.S. officials spoken with Prime Minister Maliki since Mr. al-Abadi – I’m going to learn how to say this --

MS. HARF: I know.

QUESTION: -- was named by the president last week?

MS. HARF: We have. We’re not going to outline specifically all of our conversations, but we remain in contact with him and with a variety of Iraq’s leaders.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. HARF: Why not what?

QUESTION: Why not describe the phone calls, who spoke with him about what topics?

MS. HARF: Because we don’t always outline our private diplomatic communications, but we’ve remained in contact.

QUESTION: Is this an effort to basically dismiss him from the public stage?

MS. HARF: No, this is an effort to see Iraq’s constitutional process move forward as it is outlined in their own constitution.

QUESTION: But if another country were to do this with the – with President Obama once he comes to the end of his second term, I would imagine that this government would have some real concerns about talking to his successor rather to him since he would still have the legal authorities.

MS. HARF: I don’t even want to venture to address that sort of ridiculous hypothetical that in no way is comparable to the Iraqi parliamentary process, by the way, which is totally different than our own government system.

[note headline corrected for spelling and broken code on photo fixed.]