1:19 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then happy to open it up for your questions.
First, a travel update. Secretary Kerry is now in Honolulu where he will give a speech at the East-West Center in Manila. It’s at 6:30 tonight, I believe. You can watch it on State.gov. He will meet with military leaders at U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters, and as I said, will deliver a speech this afternoon at the East-West Center on the U.S. vision for Asia Pacific engagement. I would encourage people to take a look at that.
On his stop yesterday in the Solomon Islands, the Secretary commemorated the World War II battles fought on Guadalcanal. He also met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Lilo and the governor general to discuss sustainable development, ocean preservation, and how the island’s residents are coping with the effects of climate change.
Last item at the top: We have seen multiple news reports that are just coming out of the plane crash in Brazil on which presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was on board. We are saddened at this tragedy, express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Our ambassador there is reaching out to senior Brazilian officials as we speak to formally convey our condolences as well.
QUESTION: In Iraq, please. Today Prime Minister al-Maliki said he would not step down from his post until the Iraqi judiciary rules on whether or not his constitutional challenge to the process should go forward or not. I’m wondering if you all have any idea of how long this process might take as it speaks to some concerns people have raised about whether he will try to run out the clock on the 30 days he now – that designate al-Abadi has.
Also I’m wondering if you were able to get an answer to my question yesterday as to what level of confidence does the U.S. have in the Iraqi judiciary system.
MS. HARF: A couple issues, and then we’ll – I’m sure you’ll have follow-ups. The comments made by the prime minister today were similar to ones he’s made in recent days, quite frankly. And as I said yesterday, with all political systems there will be differences with how certain processes unfold. We never expected this to be completely seamless, but the United States firmly rejects any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial processes.
And then look, I don’t want to get ahead of the constitutional process that’s underway. We just began the 30-day time clock for the Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi to form a new government. They are moving along with that process. So we will watch day by day as that plays out, but Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi is moving forward as part of this process, and that’s what we’ll be focused on in the coming days.
QUESTION: So you don’t believe this court challenge that Maliki is posing is going to be slowing that 30-day clock in any way?
MS. HARF: Well, look, the prime minister-designate is the one who is in charge of what happens during the 30-day clock, and he’s working actively towards that. And again, we would reject any efforts by anyone to use the judicial processes to manipulate or coerce the outcomes here. But there is a separate process and it’s the constitutional one, and that’s moving forward.
QUESTION: How is it that the designate has control of the clock when Maliki is still the prime minister?
MS. HARF: Well, he has control of the clock. What I meant was the progress that can be made in the 30 days to form a new government is in the hands of the prime minister-designate, who has the support, as I said over the last few days. He was nominated by the Shiite bloc, including many members of Prime Minister Maliki’s own party.
So we’ve seen these kind of comments from the current prime minister before, but separate from those comments there is a process under the constitution that is moving forward. And we expect that to move forward and we will continue watching what happens in the coming days.
QUESTION: Do you have any expectations of how long this court appeal will last?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any guess on that.
QUESTION: May I just follow up on that? I mean, his words were very critical of the United States, today – Maliki’s speech. He basically said that you espouse democratic values but you go ahead and sabotage the democratic process. What do you have to say to that?
MS. HARF: Well, the Iraqis have their democratic process that’s underway right now, and that process has led to a new prime minister-designate being named by the current prime minister’s own bloc. So the process is playing out how it should. Again, we knew this would not be without complication. Nothing ever is – certainly not here in Iraqi politics. But their own democratically, constitutionally outlined process has been ongoing and that’s what’s happening right now.
QUESTION: I know that you warned against manipulating whatever legal process in the courts or whatever to sow divisions and so on in Iraq. Has anyone talked to the prime minister personally to say refrain from doing that because you’re driving the country further into the abyss?
MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had conversations with a range of leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, emphasizing, Said, that this is a key, critical time in Iraq on the security front, on the political front – they are very closely intertwined – and that nobody should do anything to prevent the progress that’s laid out under the constitution from taking place and from moving forward. Nobody should.
MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had those conversations.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, as we – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, they all welcome the prime minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi, but Maliki still has some support within the Shiites. He has some support within some, like, militant type of militias and so on. Are you concerned that he actually might resort to violence?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture to guess on that hypothetical, Said. There’s a process in place and that process is moving forward. What’s key here is that the President asked the prime minister-designate to name a government. This was the designate that his own bloc, Prime Minister Maliki’s own bloc selected. So I think that should speak very clearly about the support that Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi has. And, again, the process is moving forward.
QUESTION: Okay. And conversely, you deployed – or the United States deployed some 130 —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: — advisors and so on to Erbil. Does that mean that the situation in Baghdad or around Baghdad is quiet enough where you don’t need this kind of advisory effort?
MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear about what these 130 advisors will and will not be doing. They are focused squarely on looking at the humanitarian situation on Mount Sinjar and developing options to potentially move people and relocate people safely from the mountain. As we know, dropping food and water is not a long-term solution for the tens of thousands of people on that mountain. So these U.S. military personnel that have just gone in are assessing the best way to bring these people to safety, whether that’s some sort of airlift, whether that’s a humanitarian corridor. They’re looking at the options, they’ll present them to the President, and then he’ll make decisions about how – the best way that we can help do that will be.
QUESTION: And I know yesterday that you denied that there was any kind of pressure on Maliki to leave August from early June or mid-June right after the fall of Mosul. So no one has talked to him at that time, “It’s time for you to leave?”
MS. HARF: What we’ve always said, Said, is that there is a constitutional process and that process needs to move forward. There are very clear rules under that process for how a new prime minister for a new government is designated. We have encouraged everyone to play by those rules, period. And that’s the message that we’ve been sending for a very long time.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: In your view that the federal court decision won’t have any impact on the formation on the new government?
MS. HARF: I don’t know, quite frankly, legally inside Iraq what the ramifications of that might be. That’s a hypothetical. I’m happy to check with our team. What I do know is there’s a constitutional process that has been followed here. It’s moving forward, and that’s what we’re focused on.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you on one of the points you mentioned, saying it’s not a long-term solution to be dropping supplies to the Yezidis on the mountain.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Is there —
MS. HARF: Which seems fairly self-evident, I think.
QUESTION: Certainly, but I was going to ask: Is there a timeline for how long they actually have? I mean, is this something that needs to be done immediately? Can they wait out —
MS. HARF: As soon as possible. I mean, every day we go by – look, we’ve now made six humanitarian airdrops onto the mountain. Up until this point, we delivered 100,000 – over 100,000 halal meals and over 27,000 gallons of fresh drinking water over six nights of airdrops. But the need is quite urgent. So that’s why the President, as the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense, sent in these advisors, because we know it’s very urgent. As I said, he – they – he – they will be looking at options, providing recommendations to the President to see what we could do to help move these people to a safer place. And our team is looking at that right now.
QUESTION: Marie, on that, can you explain what the State Department’s role, even if it’s a support role, will be with those advisors who were sent in?
MS. HARF: Yep. Well, obviously, we’re all working together out of Erbil, out of our consulate there. And there are some USAID, particularly, experts in humanitarian work who have gone in previously but who are still there who will be working very closely with this team. Obviously, they’re experts in humanitarian issues and they’ll be working very closely with the rest of our team as well.
QUESTION: Are those the DART advisors?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh, DART. And there are also some other folks, but mainly the DART advisors that went in over the weekend to Erbil.
QUESTION: But for those folks who have made it off the mountain by either extraction or wandered down —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — is State doing anything with those – I guess you could call them refugees, or certainly displaced people?
MS. HARF: We have a number of things we’re doing to try and help with the situation with internally-displaced people writ large in the area. Certainly USAID is focused on it; the UN is quite focused on it. There does remain quite a serious security challenge. So one of the reasons we have sent these advisors in to look at additional options is that we are heartened that some people have made it off the mountain, but we don’t believe that there’s a large-scale way for everyone to that would be safe and secure. Because we do need to have places for them to go where they won’t be under threat. So we are looking at that. We’re working – we are certainly working very closely with international organizations, with the Iraqis and the Kurds as well.
QUESTION: Just – Marie —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: And for some of these – we’ve seen a lot of media reports, a lot of these are kids without their parents.
MS. HARF: Yes. It’s a horrific situation across the board. A lot of children. Again, every day that goes by it gets worse. That’s why we’ve every single day been providing food and water, but are urgently looking at what more we can do.
QUESTION: So is there anyone there on the ground now working specifically with the kids? I mean, within this DART team, within whatever State is doing?
MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I know – I’m sure there are. I know we’re helping on a wide range of – in a wide range of ways here. Let me check if there’s anything specifically for children, but it is a huge problem. You’re absolutely right.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: With regard to the rescue of the Yezidis, how do these new advisors that are being added to the mission not constitute boots on the ground?
MS. HARF: Well, the President has been very clear that we will not be sending troops back in in combat roles. That’s the key phrase. They’re assessing. They’re not there in combat roles. They are U.S. military personnel, but they are operating out of a consulate and they are an assessment team, essentially. So they’re not performing combat roles.
QUESTION: But these advisors are not troops, you’re saying?
MS. HARF: Well, what the President has said specifically is what he will not do is introduce troops in combat roles. Both of those key points are important there. There have obviously been U.S. military advisors in Iraq for some time now, for several months now since we first announced the tranches would be going to assess the situation. So there are U.S. military personnel there, but the President’s key point has always been they will not be serving in combat roles. That hasn’t changed and that won’t change.
QUESTION: But when you have these advisors on the ground, any kind of rescue effort to bring the rest of the Yezidis off the ground – it’s been reported that 20-, 30,000 still remain – don’t you need to have boots on the ground to assist in this rescue effort?
MS. HARF: Well, a rescue effort is very different from combat. We have, as you know, air power over the skies of Iraq right now that the military is engaged in, as the President has spoken about. Those obviously aren’t combat troops on the ground. So we’re engaging in offensive airstrikes. Now there have been 24 in total since we began: seven related to the Mt. Sinjar humanitarian crisis in areas around the mountain, 17 in defense of Erbil. So we have air power from the sky and teams on the ground of assessors. They are not serving – you know this very well. There are specific roles that are combat roles, and that’s not what they will be doing. Any humanitarian action would be a humanitarian action. It would be – not be troops on the ground engaged in combat.
QUESTION: Right. But if a rescue effort involving helicopters, close air support – doesn’t that need to be coordinated with somebody on the ground?
MS. HARF: Certainly, and that would be coordinated with our assessment team on the ground, but also very closely coordinated with the Iraqi forces. That’s a key point here. The Iraqi forces, particularly the Kurdish forces in the north, are very engaged in this fight. They obviously have their combat troops on the ground, for lack of a more technical term. So it was all very closely coordinated with them.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the role and help of the international community?
MS. HARF: We are. Just a few points on this: The Brits have announced a $13.4 million package of emergency humanitarian assistance. As part of that package, they’ve flown with us to deliver water containers filled with safe drinking water and lanterns that can be used to recharge mobile phones. France and Australia have also offered to help deliver humanitarian supplies. Canada has offered assistance with broader humanitarian operations for displaced Iraqis. They’ve announced a large sum of money as well. The Saudis, the – and New Zealand and Germans have also announced to help as well. So we’re talking to partners about what can be done here. We obviously have unique capabilities that we can bring to bear.
QUESTION: And the French Foreign Minister Fabius said today, “When people are dying, you must come back from vacation.” He was imploring Western leaders to come back off of vacation. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. HARF: I think you’ve seen President Obama and the Secretary and everybody, no matter where they are in the world, very deeply engaged on this issue, making decisions, getting updates, talking to their team. The miracle of modern technology is that you can do that securely from wherever you are. I can guarantee you we’ve had a number of conversations with my colleagues who are with the President and with his team, as have our folks here. So everybody is very, very, very deeply engaged on this issue.
QUESTION: And lastly, why didn’t you do more to help the Christians when they were being attacked earlier?
MS. HARF: Well, Lucas, look. We’ve done a number of things to help with the dire humanitarian situation in Iraq. And since Iraqi populations have started really over the past several months being threatened by ISIL, we have taken steps to increase the Iraqis’ capability to fight this threat. Whether it’s providing increased intelligence through surveillance and reconnaissance to help them go after targets, providing direct humanitarian assistance – we’ve done all of that.
Here, there was a limited and discrete and incredibly urgent humanitarian situation that we could bring assistance to. So when we saw a place where we could help, we did so. There are other ways you can help in other situations, but this, again, was a very discrete situation. The Iraqis had tried to do some of this and didn’t have all the capabilities.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Kerry support the expansion of airstrikes to hit targets? It was reported that ISIS has gotten hold of 30 M1 Abrams tanks.
MS. HARF: Well, the President outlined the two specific missions the airstrikes would be focused on last Thursday when he made this announcement. First, of course, was protecting the people on Mount Sinjar with the humanitarian aid, but also with the strikes around the mountain; and also protecting Erbil, which, of course, houses our people – many of them – but is also a key strategic city. So those are the two missions as of right now. The same principle would, of course, apply to Baghdad, because we have many people there.
But there’s a separate question here between how you defeat a terrorist group that is essentially acting like an army, right. ISIL’s a terrorist group that right now is taking territory and has heavy weaponry. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. But there’s a longer-term strategic issue of how you degrade the terrorist group’s abilities to take territory, to conduct attacks, and to do some of the things they want to do. Those are conversations that are happening together, and we’ll continue making decisions about how we can best do that going forward.
QUESTION: Marie, on this issue —
MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go to Arshad. Go ahead.
MS. HARF: No, that’s okay.
QUESTION: What are you relying on to defeat ISIL in the future? And they are gaining on the ground day by – day after day.
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, when you look at how you traditionally degrade a terrorist group, what are the kinds of things you can do, right. You can take out their leadership; you can reduce their operational capability; you can cut off their financing sources. We’ve done this other places, and there are a number of ways you can do that.
So that’s, in some ways, a little bit of a separate issue because they’re acting very much like an army in that they’re taking over territory. So right now, we’re focused on pushing them back from this territory, helping the Kurds, the Iraqis regain this territory, and then longer-term, helping the Iraqis develop the capabilities to degrade the terrorist group – whether it’s increased surveillance and reconnaissance even more so they can target their leadership, whether it’s increased weapons that we’re getting to the Iraqis and the Kurds.
All of those things are a longer-term conversation because, as we’ve always said, there’s no long-term American military solution here in Iraq. We need to help them build their capacity so they can degrade the terrorist group in the long run. Right now, what we’re trying to do, quite frankly, is prevent them from taking any more territory and to protect our people as well.
QUESTION: Marie, just (inaudible). You said in response to Lucas’s question that a rescue effort is different from a combat effort.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Definitionally, I think?
QUESTION: Yeah – no, no, it makes sense.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Would – does the U.S. Government – would providing security on the ground to try to facilitate the evacuation of people from Mount Sinjar – is that or would that be a combat role? Or is that conceivable to you as not a combat role?
MS. HARF: Well, two points: (a), I don’t want to get into sort of hypotheticals about what kind of support we might give and what that might look like or what any option might look like, (a), and I wouldn’t be able to make a determination based on that hypothetical. But the President has been clear that we will not put troops on the ground engaged in combat roles, period.
QUESTION: The reason I’m asking the question is that the American people are presumably interested in understanding under what circumstances there may be boots on the ground, and humanitarian experts argue that you have to have somebody who provides security on the ground when you’re trying to evacuate people, however you’re doing that – doing it by air so that the —
MS. HARF: Right, yep.
QUESTION: — choppers or whatever can land, doing it by land so that the lanes are – don’t come under attack. And so the reason I’m asking the question is that if providing security on the ground is not deemed to be a combat role, then conceivably, American soldiers could be put in, but be in danger or they could come under fire and so —
MS. HARF: Well, I understand the reason you’re asking the question.
MS. HARF: And to be clear, even our advisors are serving in a very dangerous place.
QUESTION: I get it.
MS. HARF: So just – even though they’re only in an assessing role, they are undertaking some very difficult work here. Again, there haven’t been decisions made about how to do this. We’ll have the assessment team provide recommendations to the President, and then when there is a path forward, we’ll talk about what the different pieces of that look like on the ground. I just really don’t want to get ahead of something where decisions haven’t been made, but again, President has been very clear – no troops in a combat role. That hasn’t changed, and we’ll figure out the best way to help get these people off the mountain.
QUESTION: But you wouldn’t – the nature of your answer, which is carefully, it seems to me, to preserve the President’s options since he hadn’t made any decisions yet —
MS. HARF: Like in general, the principle of mind is to preserve the President’s options from this podium.
QUESTION: Sure. So you would not rule out the possibility of American troops providing security on the ground?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to rule it in either, though. I really just don’t want to comment in any way on what this eventually might look like. There’s a team on the ground and we’ll see what they come back with. I’m just not going to rule things in or out.
QUESTION: And one other one: You mentioned the Kurdish forces that are on the ground. Is it conceivable to you that they could provide that kind of security?
MS. HARF: Certainly conceivable, yes.
QUESTION: A question about the international support: Prime Minister Cameron has indicated that Britain would be ready to help with the rescue effort. I just wondered, in terms of the others – France, Australia, Canada – have they mentioned they’d be willing to help with any of that, or is it just humanitarian supplies?
MS. HARF: We’re having those conversations with them right now and we’ll see what our assessment team comes back with and see what the path forward looks like, and we’ll continue having those conversations. Nothing specific to report out, though.
QUESTION: Madam, would you call all these new groups the new face of al-Qaida or supporters of Usama bin Ladin, or their followers?
MS. HARF: Well, what’s interesting about ISIS or IS, or whatever we want to call it this week, is that they’re, in some ways, even too brutal for al-Qaida, which is an extraordinary thought to think about. They’ve, in some – in many ways been rejected by al-Qaida because of how barbaric and truly nihilistic they’ve really been in attacking anyone who gets in their way – Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, you name it. They have shown no bounds to their brutality.
But as we’ve said, there are terrorist groups that we watch very closely. This unfortunately has been a direct result of what we’ve seen in Syria and the situation there. We’ve watched it. It’s been a changing threat, but we continue to watch it and continue to figure out the best way to go after it. We also – we’ve talked a lot about whether this is a threat to the homeland or not. We’ll keep watching that. We always monitor for potential threats to the homeland, but we’re really focused right now on the threat they pose to our people and to the people of Iraq. That’s our immediate-term focus here.
QUESTION: When he said to you —
QUESTION: Just quick.
MS. HARF: Let me have – but he can have a follow-up.
QUESTION: One more quick question, thank you. Many experts are, Madam, saying that why don’t you also go after those who are supporting them financially and also arming them, including some names are coming like Saudi Arabia.
MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said, we’re very concerned about their source of financing. Much of it comes from kidnappings, from thefts. Much of it comes from activities – criminal activities, for lack of a better term – that they undertake. We don’t have evidence that other governments are supporting them, but it is something that we know private citizens have supported. So we have constant conversations with our partners in the region, particularly in the Gulf, about private citizens that may be funding them and really cracking down on these financial networks, because a lot of this is that they’re able to get money. We also won’t hesitate to take further action on our own to disrupt financial networks, including through Treasury. I think they made some additional designations last week. We constantly see if there are ways we can help crack down, too.
QUESTION: Madam, most of the —
MS. HARF: One more. Yeah.
QUESTION: Madam, most of the financing comes in the name of charity.
MS. HARF: I’m not sure that’s true with ISIL. I think most of their financing comes from criminal acts like ransoms, kidnappings, and theft. I’m not sure if that’s actually true here, and I think any notion that the people that are part of ISIL are doing anything that is any way based in religion is just offensive and completely untrue.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on the issue of advisors.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: What do you say to your critics from the Hill that are saying you are not doing enough, that this is actually just like window dressing, sending advisors; that you need a lot more and perhaps you need to pursue ISIL in Syria and other places?
MS. HARF: Well, I think that for the people on that mountain who have received food and water from the United States who have advisors in there right now seeing if we can get them off of that mountain, they wouldn’t call it window dressing, Said.
QUESTION: So is —
MS. HARF: And I also think we’ve taken 24 strikes over the past several days hitting ISIL targets. We – the President always takes into consideration a number of factors when making decisions about when and how to use military action. It’s an incredibly important decision. We don’t take it lightly. There are a range of factors that go into it. And as I said, we are looking long-term at how we fight ISIL.
QUESTION: Yeah, but their role – they went there before Sinjar, before the humanitarian situation exploded on Sinjar. So the role was really to —
MS. HARF: And we were working with the Iraqis to fight them then. We’re just doing it in a different way now. As the threat has changed, our assistance has changed.
QUESTION: Can I clarify something?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you all – is the government assessing right now – is it fair for – to me to assume that the assessment is on how the U.S. will address ISIL in the long term? Is that basically what you just said?
MS. HARF: Certainly. We’re – we’ve been looking at that for quite some time. That’s not new.
QUESTION: Not just in Iraq but also in Syria?
MS. HARF: Correct. And again, we’ve been looking at that for months and months, even before the latest offensives that started in June against Mosul. For a year or so now, we’ve been looking very closely at how you confront them in the long term.
QUESTION: And so in this year, have there been any conclusions or any recommendations?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve taken a number of steps, as you’ve seen. In Syria, it’s a different challenging operating environment so it’s a completely different picture there. We’ve worked with the moderate opposition to increase their ability to fight back against these groups. We’ve taken steps to cut off their funding. We’ve worked with other governments to do so. And we have worked particularly with the Iraqis to help them build their capacity to do this. Really, what’s going to have to happen here and what we’ve been focused on is how you get the necessary assistance, whether it’s monetary or with arms and weapons, with training, to these countries who are really in the crossfires here in terms of ISIL’s threat. So that’s a long-term issue we’re working on together.
QUESTION: Marie, on that, does the U.S. view the Syrian opposition, the FSA, as a partner in the fight against ISIS?
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So when you say there’s been moves to support the opposition, has there been any increase to that of late, since we recognize the border but obviously ISIS does not between Iraq and Syria?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, I think I don’t have much update beyond what the President announced during his West Point speech when we said we were submitting to Congress a request to train and equip through the Department of Defense the Syrian opposition. We need Congress to act on that. But we’ve continued to work with them in a variety of ways, not of all of which we outlined, but certainly, we are continuing to work there. The threat picture is just a little bit different in Syria, given the fact that you have not only ISIS in Syria, but you have al-Nusrah, you have the regime, you have the opposition, and everybody – there’s not as clearly delineated battle lines, for lack of a better term. There’s a lot of people all in densely populated areas operating many times in very close quarters here. So we are working on it, but it’s a very different threat picture.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: But as you’ve said, there’s been no progress with that statement the President made at West Point. Nothing’s happened on the Hill.
MS. HARF: We need Congress to act.
QUESTION: So without —
MS. HARF: Speaking of what Foreign Minister Fabius said about coming back from vacation. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So since they haven’t, is there thought to acting then in terms of what the President could do?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been acting. To be fair, we provide them with a wide range of assistance, not all of which you know we talk about publicly. But that’s continued and that will continue to increase.
QUESTION: Would you say that ISIS is as much of a threat to the United States as AQIM or AQAP?
MS. HARF: I would separate AQIM and AQAP. AQAP has demonstrated through attempted attacks their desire to attack the homeland, whether it was with the Christmas Day bomber, the other – the printer cartridge plot. They’ve very clearly shown their willingness to try to attack the homeland. So that’s why we’ve been quite focused on AQAP and worked with the Government of Yemen quite a bit. And this is sort of a country you can look at where we do have a very close counterterrorism relationship to fight a shared threat.
AQIM’s a little bit different. We haven’t seen the same – I mean, they’re obviously very dangerous; constantly vigilant. We haven’t seen the same level that we’ve seen from AQAP. AQAP’s really the affiliate that has been the most aggressive in terms of targeting the homeland.
But again, ISIL, as I said, has even been rejected by AQ. And we haven’t seen them in the same way focused on that. We’re constantly monitoring, constantly vigilant, and constantly on the lookout for any threats to the homeland. And it doesn’t mean this group isn’t horrific; it doesn’t mean they don’t threaten our people in Erbil. But again, they haven’t been as focused, necessarily, on external attacks and plotting and planning of those. Again, they’ve been mainly focused in Iraq on actually getting heavy weaponry and taking territory, which is very different than, I would say, AQIM.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: But with hundreds of Westerners holding passports as a part of this Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS – isn’t that the biggest threat to the homeland right now?
MS. HARF: It’s certainly a threat. And I – let me check on “hundreds.” I’m not sure if that’s the number. It very well may be. That’s —
QUESTION: The Attorney General said this is what it is.
MS. HARF: Well then, hey, if the Attorney General said it, it’s probably the number. But that is certainly a threat. A threat is some of these folks returning to Europe particularly or even to the homeland. We obviously have very strict border controls, security controls on who can come here. But that is a huge threat.
QUESTION: Also, would – Marie, going back to the rescue mission, would you say that Mount Sinjar is located in a combat zone?
MS. HARF: I don’t know technically what I would say. Clearly, there’s a lot of fighting going around it.
QUESTION: I mean, with ISIS surrounding —
MS. HARF: I know what you’re trying to get at here, but I will be clear again: The President has said there will be no troops engaged in combat roles, and you know what that means.
QUESTION: I do.
MS. HARF: I know. And that’s why I said it. But we want to be very clear that just because they’re not in combat roles, it doesn’t mean that they’re not operating in a very dangerous place.
QUESTION: Just most people watching this briefing say that Mount Sinjar is located —
MS. HARF: All three of them watching online, two of which are my parents. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, when people do watch highlights of this —
MS. HARF: They do. I – they do. They do.
QUESTION: — it’s going to be hard for people to think that Mount Sinjar, located near the Syrian-Iraq border – that this is not a combat zone and people dealing with the rescue mission aren’t engaged in some kind of combat, armed combat.
MS. HARF: Well, they won’t be, period. The President’s been clear about that. Again, it doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, but I think one of the reasons that we are so focused on making clear what we will and won’t do here is because the President has been very clear about what needs to be – what needs to happen going forward in Iraq, what we’ve done in this Administration in terms of bringing troops home, and being very clear with people about why this is not a repeat of that, why that’s not going to turn into that. And I think that’s very important for him and for us to be very clear about that, and that’s why we keep harping on it.
QUESTION: Marie, on —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the delivery of arms to the Kurds, especially that France and Britain have decided today to deliver military —
MS. HARF: No updates for you. Obviously, we believe they need to get weapons, everything as soon as possible, as quickly as possible. We’re working with the Iraqis and the Kurds on that, but no other update or details for you.
QUESTION: And what do you think about the Britain and France decisions?
MS. HARF: I don’t have more assessment of that. I know we’re focused on getting them the equipment they need.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. HARF: No, I don’t think yet.
QUESTION: No, it’s —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned total of 24 airstrikes —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — and six humanitarian drops, whatever.
MS. HARF: Six, yes. One each night since the President made the decision.
QUESTION: So you think it’s – the humanitarian crisis is getting better or it’s getting worse?
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: And —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — the second question; related. The number of the – like, I mean, the people who are displaced are increasing or the same number or some —
MS. HARF: Well, those are two different questions. Let me take the first one.
We are heartened that some people have been able to leave the mountain, in part because we’ve taken military action around it. But we don’t believe that’s a long – a strategy for everyone to do so safely. So we know there’s still a very dire humanitarian situation on that mountain. That’s why we’re continuing to provide assistance and are looking at options for getting them off of it, quite frankly.
But second, I can get our numbers on internally displaced people. I would guess they’re the same or they’re still pretty high. I just don’t have the latest figures on that, so let me check on that.
QUESTION: So no more people are pushed to the mountain?
MS. HARF: No, correct. It’s my understanding that no more have been pushed to the mountain, but there still remain a number of people there.
QUESTION: Second question regarding the confronting with the ISIL or ISIS: How much Iraqi forces are playing a role, if any role?
MS. HARF: A huge role. The Iraqi forces and the Kurdish forces, as I’ve said a couple of times, are working very closely together to confront this in truly an unprecedented way we had never seen before. That’s something that we want to see continue. We think it’s a good thing for Iraq in general. And they are confronting them. On the ground you see them doing so. We’re helping them with some of these airstrikes around Erbil, but they need to have some more capabilities that we’re going to help them build.
QUESTION: So your understanding there is a coordination, or —
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — kind of cooperation between them?
MS. HARF: Correct, yes. And between us as well.
QUESTION: And going back to the democratic process or the constitutional process you mentioned at the beginning of this briefing, what is your understanding of what is your – how do you explain it is linked to the security process which now going on in – at north of Iraq?
MS. HARF: Well, how it’s linked going forward —
QUESTION: Yes, I mean —
MS. HARF: Right. So in order for Iraq to be as strong as it can be to confront ISIL, we need a new government in place as quickly as possible. You need a prime minister – we have a president, we have a speaker – who can set the path for Iraq moving forward in terms of fighting this threat. They can make very clear they’re going to do this together. They can keep up the cooperation between all of the different regions. They can put additional resources to it. They can govern inclusively. They can help bring Iraq together to do this. And we’ll be with them. As the Secretary said, we’re looking at ways to do more once a government’s in place.
So it really is about the future of Iraq and getting past this political process, getting it in place, and really putting all of Iraq’s resources towards fighting this threat and, quite frankly, not towards a political process that should be over fairly soon.
QUESTION: So do you think that with a new government would be able – the new government would be able to confront the new reality that is now shaped by the presence of ISIL in Iraqi land?
MS. HARF: I think that the members of the new government, including the prime minister-designate, understand the incredibly dire security situation they are facing. I think they understand the urgency of it. I think they understand the need to do much, much more to work closely with us. And I think they know that Iraq’s future is at stake here, and they want to be a part of helping them have a better future. And I think that you really do see that among the Iraqi leaders our folks have been talking to. They understand how important this moment is and they understand how important it is to move quickly.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
QUESTION: Actually, can we —
MS. HARF: And then we’ll go to Gaza, Said, as soon as we’re done with Iraq.
QUESTION: Sure. The issue of arms for the Kurdish fighters. There have been reports that Peshmerga have been talking about an alliance with the PKK to fight ISIS.
MS. HARF: Oh, I hadn’t seen that.
QUESTION: Obviously, the PKK is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group. Does that give any pause to the United States?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. Let me check with our team.
MS. HARF: And if we have any announces, happy to do it then.
Anything else on Iraq?
QUESTION: Marie, one more.
MS. HARF: One more on Iraq.
QUESTION: Did anybody from the Administration talk to Prime Minister Maliki today after his statement?
MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer to that.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
MS. HARF: We can.
QUESTION: Okay. Your counterpart at the White House said that the President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Do you have any more information on this?
MS. HARF: I would refer to my counterpart at the White House.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know that – whether the Secretary of State spoke with the Israeli prime minister on the issue of the ceasefire and —
MS. HARF: He spoke with him yesterday and on Monday. Not to my knowledge yet today.
QUESTION: Okay. So could you tell us: What is the American team doing in terms of extending the ceasefire?
MS. HARF: Well, Frank Lowenstein is on the ground.
MS. HARF: The team is working on this. Basically, there are three steps in this process. I’m just – I want to be a little more clear than I was yesterday, probably, about what we’re trying to get accomplished here. There’s a temporary humanitarian ceasefire in place now. That was step one. What we want is a more sustainable, longer-team ceasefire – that’s what we’re working on – the parties are working on with our advice in Cairo – or absent that, an extension of the current temporary one. And then, obviously, we would talk – and Elise isn’t here, but she asked about this yesterday – we talk about the details of reconstruction and what that might look like. We’re starting to have conversations with people, but obviously that would be further down the road.
So we’re focused right now on the fact that we’re almost at the end of the 72 hours. We hope they can get an agreement today and move to a sustainable ceasefire. If that is not possible, as I said, we hope they can get to an extension of the temporary ceasefire.
QUESTION: As far as a sustainable ceasefire is concerned, would it or should it address Palestinian grievances —
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: — such as lifting the siege, opening the crossing points, and so on?
MS. HARF: Every day you ask about specifics —
QUESTION: Of course.
MS. HARF: — that it should address and every day I tell you I’m not going to talk about what specifics it should address.
QUESTION: Well, let me ask you a very specific thing. The Israeli press reported that the United States is willing to rebuild the Gaza harbor. Are you willing to rebuild the Gaza harbor?
MS. HARF: Well, Said, we’ve begun to have discussions with the Israelis, with the PA, the Egyptians, the UN, the EU, the Norwegians, and the Arab League about what efforts might entail and are preparing the groundwork, obviously, to do some long-term rebuilding here. But this all hinges first on us getting a sustainable ceasefire agreed to by both of the parties. So the conversations have started, but no more details beyond that.
QUESTION: Marie, absent from your list was the disarmament of Hamas. Is that of concern of the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t lay out a list about what is part of the talks. Obviously, we – I said what we want to see happen but didn’t see what that should look like.
QUESTION: I thought you said you wanted to see three things.
MS. HARF: Right, the temporary humanitarian ceasefire is in place. I didn’t say what the substance of those decisions and agreements should look like. Obviously, long term that’s something that needs to be addressed.
QUESTION: Would you like to see Hamas disarmed?
MS. HARF: Obviously, yes. That’s a long-term goal of ours, but I’m not going to get into whether or not that’s a part of the discussions.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you confirm or if you have any information on the PA security personnel going into Gaza and perhaps being at the crossing points and so on?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that.
QUESTION: Would you like to see them go in?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into —
QUESTION: Wouldn’t that bring Gaza under the —
MS. HARF: Said, you can try —
MS. HARF: I’m not going to outline what our positions are on any of these issues that may be a part of the talks in Cairo, and we’re not a direct party to the talks.
QUESTION: But it is your goal to see the Authority maintain authority over Gaza, correct? The Palestinian Authority?
MS. HARF: That is correct, but I’m not going to get into more details, Said. But to be fair, Hamas is the one who was responsible for the security of Gaza right now. And we’ve said that repeatedly.
QUESTION: But – although you will not talk with them, right?
MS. HARF: We will – we do not and will not talk with them.
Anything else on Gaza?
QUESTION: I just have one quick one.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: New York State Governor Andy Cuomo was in Israel today. He expressed, quote, “total solidarity” with the country during the Gaza war. Wondering if the State Department agrees with that or if these comments are helpful.
MS. HARF: I actually, quite frankly, haven’t seen them before I came in here. Look, we’ve said we are – stand very closely with Israel as they fight this threat. But it’s much more complicated than that, and I think much more complicated than those comments probably outline. What we’re focused on is getting – not what people say during visits, it’s on what we can get accomplished by helping the parties to get to a ceasefire here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Marie, I’m wondering if you’ve seen the tweets at the account that allegedly belongs to the Supreme Leader, saying over the last year he’s decided the officials hold talks with the U.S. on nuclear issues, but it didn’t work and they increased sanctions; it was a valuable experience to learn talks with the U.S. have absolutely no effect on reducing their hostilities and are useless. What do you make of that?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re still engaged through the P5+1 with talks with Iran, had a bilateral meeting just last week – was it last week; all of the weeks are running together now – in Geneva. And we focused on exclusively on the nuclear issue. We see them as an opportunity to test Iran’s seriousness to reach an agreement. If Iran passes this test, it will – it won’t be through words. It won’t be. It will be through concrete actions, verifiable actions, some of which we’ve seen. And I would note that we have not imposed additional nuclear-related sanctions since the Joint Plan of Action. We’ve been very clear about that. I’ve stood up here from this podium and argued strenuously against any.
QUESTION: So are there further meetings planned, though? Because this is not a positive endorsement or assessment.
MS. HARF: Yep. Well, as we – as I said last week as well, we expect there will be a P5+1 plenary with Iran, with the EU before UNGA. I expect there will be one at UNGA as well, possibly probably with ministers at the ministerial level. We’re engaged with them, quite frankly, every day on this issue.
QUESTION: Do you regard these tweets attributed to the Supreme Leader as bona fide? I mean, do you know that they’re – do you believe that this is actually the Supreme Leader tweeting?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the tweets. I saw some other comments this morning that were very similar to this. I don’t know if I’m going to verify his Twitter account, but – (laughter) – I’d refer you to Twitter to verify that. How about that?
QUESTION: No, I just wanted to make sure that – anyway.
MS. HARF: We’ve seen comments like this before.
QUESTION: Around the same time, President Rouhani has been pushing back on some hardliners. I think some colorful language for him to tell hardliners to “go to hell.” And I’m just kind of wondering if – what kind of support the U.S. is offering to him. I mean, if he is going out on a limb and he and the Supreme Leader are at odds here, what that might spell.
MS. HARF: Well, I would be cautious – well, first of all, this isn’t about U.S. support to President Rouhani. That has nothing to do with any of this. I would be cautious in drawing broad analytic conclusions about the relationship between the Supreme Leader and President Rouhani from any one set of public comments. I probably don’t have much more to add than that.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Madam, as India and Pakistan celebrate their independence this week, India has warned Pakistan stop proxy war over the border because some incidents have been going on over the border between India and Pakistan in the recent days. And yesterday, Prime Minister Modi was in the area and he was talking about this, that time has come for peace and lasting peace between the two countries. If these wars – proxy wars against India continues, then there’s no chance to have any peace between the two countries. Any —
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen the comments; as we have in the past, continue to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan, welcome any and all positive steps the two sides can take to strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation.
QUESTION: And are you – is the Secretary sending any messages on these two countries about this independence —
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary just had a very good visit in India, has had a number of conversations when he was there, and I don’t think – he sent the message I just sent from here.
QUESTION: And one more quickly on the Secretary’s visit to India. Was there any discussion about this India-Pakistan as far as the Kashmir issues or these ongoing issues and proxy – all these border issues going on?
MS. HARF: I would expect there probably was, but I don’t know the specifics. So I can check for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On the same subject —
MS. HARF: Yes, Lucas. Let’s go to Lucas, and then I’ll go around to the back.
QUESTION: On the same subject?
MS. HARF: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m on the same subject. You —
MS. HARF: Oh, he’s on the same subject, too.
MS. HARF: We’ll just walk around the room. Okay.
QUESTION: Today’s the three-year anniversary of Warren Weinstein’s kidnapping in Pakistan. I was wondering if the United States Government had an update.
MS. HARF: I don’t have much of an update for you. We remain concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Weinstein, continue to monitor the situation closely, and we continue to work actively with Pakistani authorities to try to secure his release. We remain in regular contact with his family in the United States, are providing all possible consular assistance – of course, strongly condemn kidnappings of any kind, call for the immediate release of the victim, and the prosecution of those responsible.
QUESTION: His family is demanding that the United States Government do more at – what is the highest level of exchange of talks?
MS. HARF: That we’ve had with the family?
QUESTION: Not the family, but with the Government of Pakistan. Has it gone to the prime minister level, or —
MS. HARF: I don’t know. I can check on if that’s something we can share, but I just don’t know the answer.
QUESTION: Just one more —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — quickly, just follow-up.
MS. HARF: And then I’ll go to you.
QUESTION: As far as Pakistan’s government is concerned, they are really in trouble because Nawaz Sharif is calling for a national unity because of those – Imran Khan and other groups are going, protesting and demonstrating against because they’re saying that this election was illegal or against the constitution. Are you getting any feedback from the government? They are – if they have ask any kind of help, or —
MS. HARF: I don’t think – I think you’re referring – there’s some marches, I think, coming up. We don’t have any position on the planned marches – obviously, stand strongly in favor of a democratically-elected civilian government, but also the position of individual rights, including people to assemble peacefully.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you, Madam.
MS. HARF: Let’s go to the back. Yes.
QUESTION: Today, Pakistan has rejected the allegations by Indian Prime Minister Singh that they go against the spirit of recent moves towards resumption of the dialogue between the two countries. What is your position on that?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve seen these comments. We continue to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan, and we would welcome any and all positive steps that the two sides could take.
MS. HARF: Let’s go to Scott, and then we’ll go to Libya.
QUESTION: South Sudan.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: We’ve heard more from the UN Security Council about possible sanctions against people in South Sudan who are violating the ceasefire accord. Might those – might that include the real powers here – Riek Machar and Salva Kiir?
MS. HARF: Well, as you know, the Security Council had just traveled to South Sudan, including Ambassador Power was there as well. They warned Machar that the politically and ethnically motivated violence really put South Sudan at a great risk of famine, joined other council members in expressing concern that Mr. Machar had failed to implement the previously agreed-upon commitments.
So obviously, we can’t comment on potential future action or who that may include, but – which would, of course, have to be agreed to by the whole Security Council. But we are considering sanctions options as appropriate to target those who are acting to impede the peaceful resolution of the conflict in South Sudan, including and in particular those responsible for human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan.
We are also considering what other steps we might take under our own executive order that the President signed on April 3rd that puts in place the architecture for further sanctions. We’ve already undertaken some but further ones as well. So we’re looking at both; we’re actively engaged in both.
QUESTION: When you say, “We are,” that’s the U.S. Government, correct?
MS. HARF: Correct.