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Briefing Skipper: Iran, Google, Haiti, Thailand, Colombo

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. Here are the highlights of Thursday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving Friday for Doha, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for Valentine’s weekend (assuming Bill is OK). "It’s a broad based agenda, but ...

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

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving Friday for Doha, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for Valentine's weekend (assuming Bill is OK). "It's a broad based agenda, but certainly in her bilateral conversations Iran will be a major topic," Crowley said. State Department is skeptical of Iran's announcement they are a "nuclear state" now they are enriching uranium at a level up to 20 percent. "I think there are questions about what Iran's true capability is. They've been boasting a lot of things for a lot of years. But we do take their word seriously," Crowley, adding "this further solidifies the view of the international community that Iran's nuclear intentions are anything but peaceful." Strong criticism of Iran's actions to block internet communications and jam broadcast signals during Thursday's anniversary protests. "Based on our monitoring of various networks, it would appear that Iran has attempted a near total information blockage and it is an unprecedented and overwhelming step using force to intimidate their own people and restrict freedom of assembly and freedom of expression," said Crowley, "It's clear that Iran is afraid of its own people." No specific state department actions to aid Iranian protestors get their messages out of Iran, as the State Department did during the protests last summer. "At this point it really is the companies themselves... at this point they are taking their own steps," Crowley said. No confirmation that the Haiti government plans to release the 10 American missionaries who are imprisoned there under charges of kidnapping. "We've been very careful not intervene in this case, this is a matter for Haitian authorities to resolve... our role has been simply to monitor the ongoing proceeding and make sure our citizens have been given their appropriate rights under Haitian law," Crowley said. State Department is grateful for Thailand for investigating the case of the crew that was smuggling North Korean arms, and has no objection to Thailand releasing that crew to their home countries for further action. Crowley was "disappointed" but the EU parliament's decision to reject a deal to swap data that could be used to track terrorist financing. "The outcome is a setback for U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation," he said. There have been several communications by senior U.S. officials urging for the deal, but those didn't work, apparently. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo has a statement flatly denying the Sri Lankan Defense Secretary's claim that the U.S. is supporting the opposition candidate financially. "It's not true," Crowley said, adding that discussions with the Sri Lankan ambassador in Washington and State wants to see the legal basis for the detention of General Sarath Fonseka. State isn't hedging on the upcoming visit between Obama and the Dalai Lama, despite new Chinese criticism. "I know President Obama is looking forward to his discussion with the Dalai Lama, and this is something that is clearly in our interest to do," Crowley said.

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

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving Friday for Doha, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for Valentine’s weekend (assuming Bill is OK). "It’s a broad based agenda, but certainly in her bilateral conversations Iran will be a major topic," Crowley said.
  • State Department is skeptical of Iran’s announcement they are a "nuclear state" now they are enriching uranium at a level up to 20 percent. "I think there are questions about what Iran’s true capability is. They’ve been boasting a lot of things for a lot of years. But we do take their word seriously," Crowley, adding "this further solidifies the view of the international community that Iran’s nuclear intentions are anything but peaceful."
  • Strong criticism of Iran’s actions to block internet communications and jam broadcast signals during Thursday’s anniversary protests. "Based on our monitoring of various networks, it would appear that Iran has attempted a near total information blockage and it is an unprecedented and overwhelming step using force to intimidate their own people and restrict freedom of assembly and freedom of expression," said Crowley, "It’s clear that Iran is afraid of its own people."
  • No specific state department actions to aid Iranian protestors get their messages out of Iran, as the State Department did during the protests last summer. "At this point it really is the companies themselves… at this point they are taking their own steps," Crowley said.
  • No confirmation that the Haiti government plans to release the 10 American missionaries who are imprisoned there under charges of kidnapping. "We’ve been very careful not intervene in this case, this is a matter for Haitian authorities to resolve… our role has been simply to monitor the ongoing proceeding and make sure our citizens have been given their appropriate rights under Haitian law," Crowley said.
  • State Department is grateful for Thailand for investigating the case of the crew that was smuggling North Korean arms, and has no objection to Thailand releasing that crew to their home countries for further action.
  • Crowley was "disappointed" but the EU parliament’s decision to reject a deal to swap data that could be used to track terrorist financing. "The outcome is a setback for U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation," he said. There have been several communications by senior U.S. officials urging for the deal, but those didn’t work, apparently.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Colombo has a statement flatly denying the Sri Lankan Defense Secretary’s claim that the U.S. is supporting the opposition candidate financially. "It’s not true," Crowley said, adding that discussions with the Sri Lankan ambassador in Washington and State wants to see the legal basis for the detention of General Sarath Fonseka.
  • State isn’t hedging on the upcoming visit between Obama and the Dalai Lama, despite new Chinese criticism. "I know President Obama is looking forward to his discussion with the Dalai Lama, and this is something that is clearly in our interest to do," Crowley said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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