The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Yemen, Visas, China-Iran, Taiwan beef, Holbrooke to Pakistan?

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. Here are the highlights of Wednesday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley: The U.S. Embassy in Yemen opened today after two days of being closed. "There was some action by government of Yemen security forces yesterday north of the ...

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. Here are the highlights of Wednesday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • The U.S. Embassy in Yemen opened today after two days of being closed. "There was some action by government of Yemen security forces yesterday north of the capital. Those actions addressed a specific area of concern and contributed to the embassy’s decision to resume operations today," Crowley said, noting the threat of terrorist attacks remains high.
  • U.S. assistance to Yemen is increasing, but the State Department wants more action from Yemen in exchange for that assistance, Crowley said. "Clearly things like the action taken yesterday are a step in the right direction. But we need to see out of Yemen a much more consistent approach to dealing with extremism within their borders."
  • The State Department continues to adjust policies for no-fly lists and revoke visas for people suspected of terrorism, but Crowley refused to get into how many have been revoked since the underwear bomber incident on Dec. 25. "I don’t think it’s fruitful to get into a scoreboard about, you know, how many people have we found today that we think have links to terrorism."
  • Well, at least he confirmed that underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s visa has been revoked. "Well, put it this way. He’s not doing any traveling," Crowley said.
  • Crowley rejected the call by some Senators to transfer the responsibility for visas from State to DHS. "The president said very clearly the system failed. That doesn’t mean the structure failed," he said. Visa policy is done at DHS and adjudication is done by State posts and that’s the way it should stay, he said.
  • China’s statements that it won’t support Iran sanctions aren’t the final word on the matter, said Crowley. "It’s no secret that China and the United States look at the utility of sanctions differently." He noted that the government is looking now at ways to target the IRGC specifically. "We want to do this in a way that can target specific entities within the Iranian government, but not punish the Iranian people, who are clearly looking for a different relationship with their government," he said. That doesn’t seem to jive with the Dodd or Berman Iran sanctions bills, which focus on petroleum exports.
  • The State Department is "disappointed" that Taiwan has decided to restrict U.S. beef sales, which Crowley said violates a recent bilateral agreement on the issue. The U.S. won’t retaliate by holding back on Taiwan arms sales, although those haven’t been announced yet anyway.
  • Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and his French counterpart met with Guinea’s ruling junta in Morocco. He did not meet with Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who was shot at point black range last month. He did meet with acting junta leader General Sekouba Konate. Crowley said that Konate should leave Guinea.
  • Meanwhile Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly was in Honduras today to meet with President-elect Pepe Lobo ahead of his Jan. 27 inauguration, still pushing for implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.
  • Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is in London to do preparatory work for the Afghanistan meeting there on Jan. 28. Reports have him going to Pakistan at the end of the month as well, but no confirmation from Crowley on that.

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