Briefing Skipper: Iran, Steinberg, Israel, USAID, North Korea
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 Mark Toner: Undersecretary for Political Affairs Bill Burns is leading the U.S. delegation to the P5+1 talks with Iran regarding its nuclear program that begin in Istanbul Friday. Toner ...
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 Mark Toner:
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 Mark Toner:
- Undersecretary for Political Affairs Bill Burns is leading the U.S. delegation to the P5+1 talks with Iran regarding its nuclear program that begin in Istanbul Friday. Toner set the expectations bar low. "You know, these are small, incremental steps," he said. "We’re not expecting any big breakthroughs, but we want to see a constructive process emerge that leads to Iran engaging with the international community in a credible process and engaging and addressing the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program." What about the TRR deal? "We believe that, obviously… it would have to be some kind of updated arrangement. But we’re willing to discuss that in greater detail," Toner said.
- Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg will travel to Asia and Africa January 23-February 5. He’ll be in Seoul Jan. 26, Tokyo Jan. 27, Beijing Jan. 28, the Maldives Jan. 29, Ethiopia Jan. 30 and 31 for the African Union Summit, then off to Djibouti Feb. 1, Sudan Feb. 2, Kenya Feb. 3, Uganda Feb. 4, and Ghana Feb. 5.
- Michael Posner, assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, will visit Afghanistan and Pakistan this week. "In both countries the he will meet with government officials and non-governmental organization representatives to discuss the importance of civil society, women’s rights, the role of independent media, protection of ethnic and religious minorities, and labor rights," the State Department said.
- David Hale, deputy to Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell, was in Jerusalem Thursday to meet with representatives of the Quartet to prepare for a principals level meeting that will happen Feb. 5 in Munich, Germany. Hale met with Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, following up on last week’s discussions at the State Department, and he’ll meet Saturday with Saeb Erekat in Amman and also plans to meet with Egyptian and Jordanian leaders.
- Toner said the State department was aware of the letter from foreign policy experts and former officials calling on the Obama administration not to veto a Palestinian sponsored U.N. resolution criticizing Israeli settlement policy. But Toner notably did not say the U.S. would veto said resolution. "I’m not going to speculate on how we might vote, but we’ve made very clear both our policy on settlements as well as our belief that action in the United Nations or any other forum is not particularly helpful," he said.
- Toner touted a major speech yesterday by USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, where Shah "outlined his approach to development, stating he is seeking to build a modern development enterprise that will focus on six core areas of USAID’s work; namely, food security, global health, disaster and crisis response, economic growth, and democracy and governance," Toner said. "The speech also launched the agency’s new policy for evaluation. It’s a concrete sign of USAID’s renewed emphasis on evaluation, measuring and documenting program achievements and shortcomings as well as generating data on what works, to drive decision-making."
- USAID has also launched its 50th Anniversary micro site, "which is dedicated to celebrating USAID’s 50 years of progress and the visionaries whose spirit of innovation has improved millions of lives in the developing world," Toner said.
- State is not popping the champagne just yet over the news that North and South Korea might be headed back into direct dialogue. "This kind of positive dialogue is a good step. And we’ve seen some positive signs, communications from North Korea. We want to see those followed up with more concrete actions," Toner said. "We still believe that North Korea has a ways to go before we can engage in meaningful six-party talks. As we’ve said all along, we don’t want to just talk for talk’s sake."
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 email@example.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
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.