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Briefing Skipper: Byrd, BP, Gaza, Eikenberry, Iran

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Wednesday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is off to Europe Thursday, but will delay her trip by one hour to stop by the Capitol building and pay her ...

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

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is off to Europe Thursday, but will delay her trip by one hour to stop by the Capitol building and pay her respects to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who is lying in a coffin in the middle of the Senate chamber.
  • Clinton met with United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark Wednesday morning. It was their first official meeting. The U.S. is the leading donor Programme, contributing around $300 million a year.
  • The State Department has sent out letters accepting 22 more offers of international assistance to help with the BP oil spill, in addition to the 5 offers they’ve already accepted, Crowley said. Those 22 offers come from 12 different countries, "And I should emphasize that, in addition to what we are doing through the National Incident Command and through BP, BP itself is tapping into a wide range of international sources to bring assistance and equipment to help with the oil spill," Crowley said.
  • Special Envoy George Mitchell was in Israel Wednesday and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He also visited the Kerem Shalom land crossing in Gaza. Thursday Mitchell will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
  • Meanwhile in Washington, Undersecretary of State Bill Burns met Wednesday with the parents of Rachel Corrie, the Seattle woman who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in Gaza in 2003 and for whom the lead ship in the Gaza flotilla incident was named. "Rachel Corrie’s parents have visited the department regularly since March of 2003 and her tragic death. And we continue to provide them with support and assistance," said Crowley.
  • No comment on the details of the dispute between U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and the Afghan attorney general, who accused Eikenberry of threatening to get him fired if he didn’t investigate a particular fraud case. "I would simply say that Ambassador Eikenberry is doing his job as our civilian representative in Kabul," Crowley said.
  • There’s a lot of new confusion about Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who seemed to surface in a YouTube video claiming he was abducted and taken to the U.S. against his will. "We know exactly where he is. He’s on YouTube," Crowley joked while avoiding all other questions on the issue.
  • Swiss Ambassador to Iran Livia Leu Agosti was at the State Department Wednesday. "She has greatly assisted our government in our efforts to ensure fair and humane treatment for Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who have been detained without charge for nearly a year, and to Reza Taghavi, who has been detained without charges since May 2008," Crowley said. "She’s also amplified our call on the Iranian government for cooperation in the case of Mr. Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran over three years ago, in March 2007."
  • Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, is leading the U.S. delegation to a meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Rome this week.

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

Tags: Gaza, Iran