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U.S. not accepting foreign help on oil spill

When State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley refused to tell reporters which countries have offered assistance to help respond to the BP oil spill, the State Department press corps was flabbergasted. "As a policy matter, we’re not going to identify those offers of assistance until we are able to see, you know, what we need, assess ...

When State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley refused to tell reporters which countries have offered assistance to help respond to the BP oil spill, the State Department press corps was flabbergasted.

"As a policy matter, we’re not going to identify those offers of assistance until we are able to see, you know, what we need, assess the ongoing situation. And as we accept those offers of assistance, we will inform you," Crowley said.

Reporters pointed out that the Bush administration identified assistance offers after the Katrina disaster, so what is this, a new policy? They pressed Crowley, but he refused to budge.

Then they mentioned Iran’s offer of assistance, through its National Iranian Drilling Company. Crowley said there was no Iranian offer of assistance, at least in any official capacity. The reporters kept on it, asking why it was taking so long to figure out what was needed in the first place? That’s the Coast Guard’s decision, Crowley explained.

Late Wednesday evening, the State Department emailed reporters identifying the 13 entities that had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations. 

"These offers include experts in various aspects of oil spill impacts, research and technical expertise, booms, chemical oil dispersants, oil pumps, skimmers, and wildlife treatment," the email read.

"While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future."

The Obama administration has been relentless in its messaging that it is doing everything possible to aggressively respond to the oil spill. But for the record, the current message to foreign governments is: Thanks but no thanks, we’ve got it covered.

A State Department official, speaking on background, said that the decision not to initially release the names of offering countries came directly from the State Department leadership.

When State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley refused to tell reporters which countries have offered assistance to help respond to the BP oil spill, the State Department press corps was flabbergasted.

"As a policy matter, we’re not going to identify those offers of assistance until we are able to see, you know, what we need, assess the ongoing situation. And as we accept those offers of assistance, we will inform you," Crowley said.

Reporters pointed out that the Bush administration identified assistance offers after the Katrina disaster, so what is this, a new policy? They pressed Crowley, but he refused to budge.

Then they mentioned Iran’s offer of assistance, through its National Iranian Drilling Company. Crowley said there was no Iranian offer of assistance, at least in any official capacity. The reporters kept on it, asking why it was taking so long to figure out what was needed in the first place? That’s the Coast Guard’s decision, Crowley explained.

Late Wednesday evening, the State Department emailed reporters identifying the 13 entities that had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations. 

"These offers include experts in various aspects of oil spill impacts, research and technical expertise, booms, chemical oil dispersants, oil pumps, skimmers, and wildlife treatment," the email read.

"While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future."

The Obama administration has been relentless in its messaging that it is doing everything possible to aggressively respond to the oil spill. But for the record, the current message to foreign governments is: Thanks but no thanks, we’ve got it covered.

A State Department official, speaking on background, said that the decision not to initially release the names of offering countries came directly from the State Department leadership.

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