US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 9, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 9, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 9, 2008
on U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul
Visual Aid Showing Location, Distance of Attack
Turkish National Police as First Line of Defense
Responsibility for Attack / Working with Turkish Government
Status of Consulate / Lockdown / Consular Services / Security Precautions
Report on Passport Record Access
Department of Justice Involvement
Ongoing Missile Defense
Polish Prime Minister Meetings with Secretary Rice, John Rood
Meetings with Motaki, Jalili
Bill Burns' Testimony / Iranian Response to P-5+1 Incentives Package
Intelligence Assessments of Iranian Nuclear Activities
Missile Exercises Contrary to Spirit of UN Security Council Resolutions
Continued U.S. Support for P-5+1, IAEA Process
U.S. Support for Civil Nuclear Deal / Coordination with Congress
in Darfur / Largest Loss of UNAMID Forces
Working with Security Council on a Presidential Statement
12:57 p.m. EDT
MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I just wanted to start
off with one brief statement. This regards today the attack
on the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul.
The United States condemns the terrorist attack that took place on our Consulate General in Istanbul earlier today. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the three Turkish police officers killed, as well as their colleagues who were wounded in the attack. We are grateful for their sacrifice and service. The Turkish police responded quickly and effectively. We deeply appreciate their courage in protecting American diplomats. And we also appreciate Turkish President Gul's condemnation of the attack and the support of Turkish officials in Ankara and Istanbul. Our countries will continue to stand firmly together to confront the threat of terrorism as we have done in the past.
And I brought with me a visual aid here, just to try to help you understand exactly where the attack took place and some of the distances involved. This is the police booth down here where the attack took place. This is an area where people are screened to get into the Consulate. And this is the Consulate itself. The distance from here in this police booth to this entranceway is about 75 feet. We believe the attackers came along this road and attacked this police booth here. As you can tell, it's quite some distance from this area up to the Consulate. And what you can't see in this Google Earth map is that this is - the Consulate is actually up on a hill. You have to - somewhere around here -- get in an elevator and go up, you know, 15, 20 feet or so to actually reach the level of the Consulate.
QUESTION: I looked at the same map. The scale, though, it does appear - did you look at the scale and do a little --
MR. MCCORMACK: I said from the police booth to the front door is about 75 feet.
QUESTION: Right. Exactly. But from police -- or from the entrance there to the actual perimeter of the building -- of the main building is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Of the outer wall or the main building?
QUESTION: To the - well, to the - beyond where the elevator is to the outer wall and then just beyond.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Right.
QUESTION: I mean, I guess I can't be exact because of the satellite imagery. But it's about 100 yards.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that's about right. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. So I mean, that's not - it's a football field, but it's not, you know, a long way.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, look, it's a threat. This was a terrorist attack. No -- by putting this up here, I'm not trying to in any way diminish it.
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. MCCORMACK: I wanted to try to provide you an idea of where this happened, and the fact that the Turkish National Police really were the first line of defense here. And they acted with extraordinary courage in repelling this attack. Unfortunately, some of the Turkish police lost their lives in the course of repelling the attack.
QUESTION: You - you sayit's a terrorist attack. Do you have any idea who committed this attack? Do you have a list of suspects that --
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't at this point. We're continuing our efforts to work with the Turkish Government to determine who is responsible for it, and of course, as best we can, hold to account anybody who is involved in the planning of this, and if, in fact, there were others involved in the execution of it and of course, bring - holding them to account as well.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to dispute statements from the Turkish police that al-Qaida was involved?
MR. MCCORMACK: Can't say either way. I can't refute them. I can't support them at this point. In terms of our view, it's too early to tell in the investigation. I think the - at least the news report that I saw is the Turkish police couched it in terms of suspicions. I think certainly, at this point, one can't rule that out. But I also can't support, at this point, those suspicions.
QUESTION: It didn't appear to be an al-Qaida-like attack, though.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, there's probably more to be known about this, as we dig into it. That is usually the case with these kinds of attacks in terms of determining what the actual motives of the attackers were - what their - not their motives, what their plan was. The motives are obvious.
QUESTION: Do you have any information of the nationalities of the terrorists killed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll leave that to the Turkish officials. I believe that some, if not all, of the attackers were killed in the attack. But again, I'll leave that to Turkish officials to describe.
QUESTION: Well, you at least know it was a terrorist attack. Can you say why you believe it was?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think, it's self-evident. You have a group of individuals that are intentionally going up and attacking part of -- very near a U.S. diplomatic facility. I think that, by definition, is a terrorist attack.
QUESTION: Do you consider this action as a political one, along with a terrorist one?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't mix the two up. There's no justification for this kind of exercise of violence.
QUESTION: What's the status of the Consulate as well as the Embassy and other --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, immediately -- immediately upon notification of an attack, the Consulate went into lock-down. And all of our employees were gathered into the Consulate building there at the top in safe areas. Once the all-clear was given, they were - everybody was accounted for, everybody was safe. And I can't tell you exactly when they went home, but they went home.
Tomorrow, the plan is have the Consulate open for regular business, though not consular business. We'll deal with any emergency cases that may come up. But it won't - tomorrow won't be a regular day in terms of consular services. And I'll tell you one of the --
QUESTION: Just one --
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: The Consulate will be open for business, but not consulate business? Isn't that what --
MR. MCCORMACK: Consular business.
QUESTION: Oh, consular business.
MR. MCCORMACK: Consular business.
QUESTION: So visas and that kind of thing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, exactly. American Citizen Services. That sort of thing.
QUESTION: What were you - you were going to add something?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I was going to - just want to add one thing. One of the - and one of the reasons for exercising caution is this area here, where people line up to get screened to go in for visa applications. So it's about 75 feet away. We want to make sure that there is a safe situation for everybody.
QUESTION: They don't actually go into the building, into the main building, to get their - to have their interview, and that kind of thing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. They go along that walkway there.
QUESTION: This morning we asked about any specific threats that you may have heard about against the Embassy - against the Consulate or the Embassy in Ankara. Did you find out anything?
MR. MCCORMACK: There's - the response you get is that every single day we get threats, some more general, some more specific. I don't have any information regarding this particular attack. But it is a real threat environment in Turkey and in the region as well. And our officials take adequate security precautions. I think you can first judge by this quick overhead look at the facility that we take security seriously in the region.
Lambros, you already had one.
QUESTION: Could you speak - I know you don't want to go into any detail -- how security may have changed at this consulate, other installations in Turkey and elsewhere.
MR. MCCORMACK: In Turkey, the Ambassador convened an Emergency Action Committee, which is standard practice in these kinds of situations. And they took a look at what they might do in terms of taking extra security precautions. I think they've taken a couple of steps, as you might imagine. But I'm not going to detail those.
QUESTION: Different topic, if I may
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, all right. Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Yes to follow up. Do you think that the target of the three was actually the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul?
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, I -- you know, I can't tell you. All I know is that there was an attack against the Turkish National Police who were protecting Americans. And we appreciate the fact that they were there on station, protecting Americans.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: I don't know if you'll have anything to say about it, but the Attorney General was on the Hill this morning. He said he received a request from OIG to pursue an investigation into the passport breaches earlier this year. Do you have anything to say about that, or any information about it? He said it happened yesterday, I guess.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Those are the kinds of things that I'll let DOJ speak to. Of course, our Inspector General has just concluded a report into this issue. And we would, of course, expect them, in the course of their investigation, if they uncovered anything that might potentially be criminal, criminal activity, that they would refer that - to the Department of Justice. That's absolutely what the Secretary would want.
And on this issue in general, she's been very aggressive in dealing with it. Certainly, the protection of personal information that we receive here in the State Department is something that the Secretary takes very seriously. And she's taken a number of steps -- directed Pat Kennedy to take a number of steps that will enhance our ability to protect that personal data.
QUESTION: Two things on it. First of all, maybe it's too soon, but do you know if Consular or anybody else from the building has been in touch with DOJ, to - preliminary talks with them about anything, about these issues?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't - even if I knew, I wouldn't be able to detail for you any interactions with DOJ. It's an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: And then the second thing, you had mentioned that Pat Kennedy was taking a look at it. I can't remember if we actually saw anything out of him, any sort of public report that came out of recommendations.
MR. MCCORMACK: I know that he recently sent a letter up to Capitol Hill in the wake of the Inspector General's report, and we'll see if we can't get that for you and release it for you guys.
QUESTION: Polish Prime Minister Tusk said today that his country could reach agreement with the United States within two weeks on the missile defense shield program, and I - I just wondered, has there been some progress that warrants this two-week timeline now? Would you agree that you could reach agreement in two weeks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't put timelines on negotiations. They have their own rhythms.
We're - I think as comments do indicate, however, that we are still working on the issue. They are serious about trying to conclude an agreement, as are we. But I'm not going to try to put timetables on it. I know that Secretary Rice had a productive meeting with the Polish Foreign Minister prior to her departure for the region. And I know that John Rood also had some productive discussions. But, like I have said in the past, nothing is done till everything is done, and everything isn't done.
QUESTION: Has there been some progress today that he's perhaps referring to?
MR. MCCORMACK: The discussions are ongoing.
QUESTION: Over the phone?
MR. MCCORMACK: And in person.
QUESTION: Where is Rood? Where is he?
MR. MCCORMACK: I - you know, where in the world is John Rood? I can't tell you at the - where he is at the moment.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know where he is.
QUESTION: On Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any indications of when Solana's going to meet with Motaki again?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I know that they're - they were working on that. They were - I know he was in touch with Mr. Jalili's office, his interlocutor. But I don't believe that they have arrived at a mutually convenient date.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, Bill Burns said this morning that -- he shed some more light on the response that Solana had gotten, saying that - that they want to move down the pathway to negotiations. Are you ready to say anything more about how encouraged you feel by these movements?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, in terms of this particular response, we wouldn't take what they have given us thus far as no. And until that point, you have to hold out some hope that they will take up the offer that has been presented to them.
It's interesting to see some of the by-play, at least in the press, from various Iranian officials. Clearly, there's some discussion, some debate there. Now, I don't know whether that presages a possible positive response. We'll see. Certainly, it is an attractive offer that has been put to them that one might surmise has gotten the attention of at least some within the Iranian political system. We'll await the outcome of their deliberations and see what their response is in the form of some reply to Mr. Solana.
Yeah. Pam? Maybe?
QUESTION: But on that, we understand it a little bit more positive than, you know, just a no. He said that they're looking for common ground, that - you know, judging from their response, I mean, are you - are you - it just sounds to me like you're a little more negative than he was and that's --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we are searching -- just by definition of going through this and trying to exercise this pathway of the two-track approach -- we are searching for common ground.
QUESTION: But that Iran is looking for common ground?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess you could - you can deduce from the fact that they haven't said no that they are looking for common ground.
QUESTION: Burns also said this morning that the progress that the Iranians are making on their nuclear program is more modest than they are claiming. Do you have any assessment that you can give us about how long you think it would be until they would get enough enriched uranium for a bomb? Are you able to say that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I would refer you over to our colleagues in the intelligence community for that.
QUESTION: Is there a dispute between the U.S. and the Israelis about how long it may be?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know what the Israeli estimate is, and as for our estimate, you can refer to materials from the intelligence community.
QUESTION: And just as far as Iranian motivations, how are you viewing these tests?
MR. MCCORMACK: The missile tests?
QUESTION: Yeah, the tests. Are you seeing this as a response to what the Israelis did last month, their military exercise?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I'm not inside the Iranian decision-making apparatus, but this is the - I think the third in a series of these kinds of exercises that they have had. They have, I think, back in 2006, held a similar exercise in which they had missile launches as well.
Look, this is certainly contrary to the spirit of Security Council resolutions and the will of the international community. The fact that they also are saying that they are testing missiles of medium and long-range certainly also adds some weight to the argument about missile defense and why you need missile defense. So we are attempting to deal with the various threats that Iran poses not only to the region, but globally in a variety of different ways, varying the threat of missiles - we are trying to work with friends and allies on missile defense. In terms of their pursuit of uranium enrichment and a nuclear program, we're trying to deal with that through diplomacy and through the P-5+1 process.
And obviously, there's a threat posed by terrorism and we deal with that on a daily basis with friends and allies around the world. And in terms of their negative role in Iraq, we are, of course, dealing with that through our armed forces, making it - making life very, very difficult for any Iranian operatives in Iraq who are trying to play a negative role in the development of that country.
QUESTION: Are you worried that this back and forth - you know, the Israeli exercise and now, this - these missile tests are raising the temperature a bit too much in the region, that those sides have gotten kind of amped up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's - it's not as though tension is new to the Middle East and the region. Like I said, we are trying to deal in what we believe are the most effective and efficient and responsible ways to the various threats posed by irresponsible Iranian behavior. That behavior manifests itself in a variety of different ways. Today's exercises are just another example of that.
QUESTION: Well, Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Tension may not be new in the Middle East, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's good.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course not. That's why I point out we are trying to deal --
QUESTION: Right, that's not (inaudible).
MR. MCCORMACK: -- in the best, most efficient, reasonable way. I'm trying to contrast our reasonable approach with our friends and allies with the irresponsible behavior of the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: And your reasonable approach is that Iran should give up everything?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's not it at all. We have - as a matter of fact, the P-5+1 has said we absolutely support --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- Iran having a civilian nuclear program.
MR. MCCORMACK: The question is and the dispute is over whether or not they should be able to possess the fuel cycle. The international community has judged that they shouldn't, because they have not demonstrated that they are responsible in that regard. There are still a number of open questions that the IAEA has. We're supporting the IAEA in their investigations, including, I might add, some questions about work done allegedly by the Iranians on constructing a reentry vehicle suitable, perhaps, for a nuclear warhead atop a missile, hence, the international community's concern about Iran testing medium- and long-range missiles.
QUESTION: Sean, just following up on that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you saying that the Security Council specifically prohibits missile tests?
MR. MCCORMACK: What the Security Council prohibits - I think it is in 1737 - is other countries providing any assistance to the Iranian ballistic missile program. So the logic that underpins that is that the international community doesn't support the continued development of an Iranian ballistic missile program, and certainly not medium- and long-range missiles, because they have just demonstrated that they are not going to explain to the international community the purposes behind the continued development of these kinds of arms.
QUESTION: But just to counter that, the Iranian general said that they - that they have the right to develop these defensive weapons.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I'm not going to get into intelligence information about what we know or not know about the kinds of missiles or how many were launched today, but the press reports are that these are medium- and long-range missiles. I'm not sure - medium- and long-range ballistic missiles - I'm not sure in what sense those are defensive weapons.
QUESTION: The report in The Washington Post today, that Congress may not have time to sign the - to approve the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. There has been a lot of speculation about this. So what is the position?
MR. MCCORMACK: The position of the United States Government is we are committed to this deal. And certainly, if the Indian Government completes a lot of the discussions it has been having about moving forward on a variety of different fronts regarding this deal, the United States Government is committed to doing whatever it can to fulfill its commitments here domestically. Now, of course, we have the Congress, but - we have the Congress to work with on this issue. They have an important role to play in it. But we have been in close contact with the Congress and key members of Congress on this issue, really throughout this period, to keep them updated on it. You know, there are, of course, other aspects to the agreement that would require actions by others; for example, the IAEA.
QUESTION: The big dispute seems to be whether there will be a lame-duck session.
MR. MCCORMACK: That is not - that is not under our control. That is certainly under the control of the leadership in Congress.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on this attack in Darfur on UN and African Union peacekeepers? The latest, they were saying that seven --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- have been killed.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I understand yesterday that there was an attack. It was just an atrocious attack. And I think the largest loss of life in an - of UNAMID forces in an attack of this kind.
We are working within the Security Council to issue a presidential statement on this matter, and our Chargé in Khartoum has also gone in to the Sudanese officials to try to glean any information that we possibly can about who is responsible for this attack. And ultimately, we as well as others in the international system want to see those responsible for the attack held to account.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea who is responsible?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I don't have any insight to that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)
Released on July 9, 2008