The Cable

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Briefing Skipper: Syria, Iran, Israel, Angola, Burma

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department’s daily presser so you don’t have to. These are the highlights of Thursday’s briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Honolulu Thursday still on the first leg of her 13 day, seven country whirlwind trip around Asia. Friday she’ll give ...

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

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Honolulu Thursday still on the first leg of her 13 day, seven country whirlwind trip around Asia. Friday she'll give a major speech on U.S.-Asia relations before moving on to Guam. Crowley doubled down on U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's strong statement about the increasing danger of an increasing well armed Hizbollah and what it means for the stability of Lebanon. "We continue to have deep concerns about Hezbollah's destructive and destabilizing influence in the region, as well as attempts by other foreign players, including Syria and Iran, to undermine Lebanon's independence and endanger its stability," he said. Rice also said that Syria has shown has "displayed flagrant disregard for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon." The secretary-general's office has released its latest report on UNSC Resolution 1559. Clinton met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in New York and his deputy Faisal Mokdad was in Washington this week, but neither of those meetings produced progress. "We expressed during that meeting our deep concern for Syrian interference with Lebanon's sovereignty. We also expressed in that meeting hope that Syria would make progress, you know,  in its thread of the Middle East peace process," Crowley said. "We do not hesitate to express our concerns publicly and privately about, you know, Syria's ongoing behavior... The arms that Syria provides Hezbollah undermines the ability of the Lebanese government to be the principal protector of the Lebanese people." Israeli chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho was in Washington earlier this week, Crowley confirmed, without addressing a report that the administration thinks Molcho is not negotiating in good faith. Special Envoy George Mitchell was in New York so did not meet with Molcho but they talk on the phone all the time, Crowley said. No movement on the U.S. effort to get both sides back to the table. "And I don't really have a progress report, other than to say that this is something that we are working as aggressively as we can," Crowley said. Responding to the New York Times report that the administration has prepared a new proposal for Iran involving the Tehran Research Reactor, Crowley said, "We have not arrived at a consensus yet in terms of how to update the TRR proposal that we put on the table just over a year ago. I think there is a recognition that an updated TRR proposal can be helpful as a confidence-building measure." The new proposal would be more onerous on Iran than the one they rejected last year. "And crucially, it would have to be updated because we have to take into account Iran's ongoing enrichment over the the past 12 months," Crowley said. Crowley expressed U.S. condemnation of sexual violence in Africa, referring to new allegations of the gang rape of 30 women as they were being deported from Angola. "We encourage Angolan officials to investigate these allegations and determine who perpetrated the alleged human-rights violations against Congolese women before their deportation," he said. "And we encourage Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo to use bilateral mechanisms set up last year to address migration issues along their shared borders, but most importantly to protect both of their populations, particularly women and children." Meanwhile, the Obama administration is not going to sanction the DRC for its use of child soldiers. Crowley rejected the Burmese Junta's statement that it might release Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from her house arrest, but only after the upcoming severely flawed elections. "This is a craven manipulation by Burma. How convenient that they're hinting that she might be released after an election that is unlikely to be fair, free or credible," he said.

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

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Honolulu Thursday still on the first leg of her 13 day, seven country whirlwind trip around Asia. Friday she’ll give a major speech on U.S.-Asia relations before moving on to Guam.
  • Crowley doubled down on U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s strong statement about the increasing danger of an increasing well armed Hizbollah and what it means for the stability of Lebanon. "We continue to have deep concerns about Hezbollah’s destructive and destabilizing influence in the region, as well as attempts by other foreign players, including Syria and Iran, to undermine Lebanon’s independence and endanger its stability," he said. Rice also said that Syria has shown has "displayed flagrant disregard for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon." The secretary-general’s office has released its latest report on UNSC Resolution 1559.
  • Clinton met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in New York and his deputy Faisal Mokdad was in Washington this week, but neither of those meetings produced progress. "We expressed during that meeting our deep concern for Syrian interference with Lebanon’s sovereignty. We also expressed in that meeting hope that Syria would make progress, you know,  in its thread of the Middle East peace process," Crowley said. "We do not hesitate to express our concerns publicly and privately about, you know, Syria’s ongoing behavior… The arms that Syria provides Hezbollah undermines the ability of the Lebanese government to be the principal protector of the Lebanese people."
  • Israeli chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho was in Washington earlier this week, Crowley confirmed, without addressing a report that the administration thinks Molcho is not negotiating in good faith. Special Envoy George Mitchell was in New York so did not meet with Molcho but they talk on the phone all the time, Crowley said. No movement on the U.S. effort to get both sides back to the table. "And I don’t really have a progress report, other than to say that this is something that we are working as aggressively as we can," Crowley said.
  • Responding to the New York Times report that the administration has prepared a new proposal for Iran involving the Tehran Research Reactor, Crowley said, "We have not arrived at a consensus yet in terms of how to update the TRR proposal that we put on the table just over a year ago. I think there is a recognition that an updated TRR proposal can be helpful as a confidence-building measure." The new proposal would be more onerous on Iran than the one they rejected last year. "And crucially, it would have to be updated because we have to take into account Iran’s ongoing enrichment over the the past 12 months," Crowley said.
  • Crowley expressed U.S. condemnation of sexual violence in Africa, referring to new allegations of the gang rape of 30 women as they were being deported from Angola. "We encourage Angolan officials to investigate these allegations and determine who perpetrated the alleged human-rights violations against Congolese women before their deportation," he said. "And we encourage Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo to use bilateral mechanisms set up last year to address migration issues along their shared borders, but most importantly to protect both of their populations, particularly women and children." Meanwhile, the Obama administration is not going to sanction the DRC for its use of child soldiers.
  • Crowley rejected the Burmese Junta’s statement that it might release Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from her house arrest, but only after the upcoming severely flawed elections. "This is a craven manipulation by Burma. How convenient that they’re hinting that she might be released after an election that is unlikely to be fair, free or credible," he 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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