The Cable

Briefing Skipper: China, Israel, Iran, Cuba, Russian spies

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Monday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down to lunch Monday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Chinese State councilor Tang Jiaxuan, who are co-hosting ...

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

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down to lunch Monday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Chinese State councilor Tang Jiaxuan, who are co-hosting this week’s U.S.-China Track Two Dialogue at the Hay-Adams hotel. The group will meet tomorrow with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Tuesday, Clinton will host the U.S.-Northern Ireland Economic Conference at the State Department and meet bilaterally with State Secretary for Northern Ireland Owen Patterson, the Northern Irish first minister Peter Robinson and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.
  • Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon led the second iteration of the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue consultations Monday in Washington. "While today’s Strategic Dialogue covered many subjects, it is clear that Iran is among the greatest challenges we face today in the Middle East," the official readout stated. We’re told the issues on the table were Iran, Hizbollah, Syria, Lebanon, and other issues. The peace process did come up at breakfast but was not a major focus of the discussions.
  • Crowley downplayed the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Iran Monday. "I wouldn’t over-interpret this," he said. "We understand that Iran and Iraq are neighbors; they have to have a relationship. But we certainly think that Iran can be a better neighbor by respecting Iraqi sovereignty and ending its support to those who use violence in Iraq." Crowley added that State was encouraging Saudi Arabia to increase its dialogue with Iraq but couldn’t force them to do so.
  • He also defended the inclusion of Iran at an international meeting on Afghanistan Monday in Rome. "We understand that Iran, in the context of Afghanistan, does have relations with Afghanistan and has interests in Afghanistan. And in fact, we have worked directly and cooperatively with Iran previously," Crowley said, referring to the time before the term "Axis of Evil."
  • Crowley confirmed the substance of Monday’s Washington Post article which said that the Obama administration is pressing China on its busting of the new sanctions against Iran. "We did provide some information to China on specific concerns about individual Chinese companies, and the Chinese assured us that they will investigate," Crowley said, adding that there are other countries that are raising concern as well. "China is one of them, but not the only one."
  • Regarding the New York Times article that said the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan had gotten warnings from more than one of David Headley’s wives that he was planning the Mumbai terror attack, Crowley confirmed that U.S. officials had met with both wives, one of them twice, once in 2007 and once in 2008. "We followed up on that information and provided it to relevant agencies across the U.S. government," he said, adding that the information was shared with New Delhi. He added that the information wasn’t specific enough to act on. "The fact is that while we had information and concerns, it did not detail a time or a place of the attack."
  • Crowley said it was "unfortunate but not surprising" that the Burmese junta has decided not to allow any observers or foreign media in the country for their upcoming election. "Obviously, we’ve already said that we don’t think that these will be credible elections. And the fact that they’re not going to open it up for outside observers is par for the course," he said.
  • Crowley confirmed that Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, but said that the only thing discussed was the fate of imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross. "The purpose of the meeting was simply to encourage his release," Crowley said, adding that the Cubans gave no indication whatsoever that his release was pending.
  • When asked if the State Department had any comment on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s awarding of "top honours" to the 10 Russian spies returned to Moscow, including Russian Maxim cover girl Anna Chapman, Crowley said, "No."
 Twitter: @joshrogin

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