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View All Transcripts: Ask the Ambassador | Ask the State Department

Welcome to "Ask the State Department" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to State Department officials.

Tom Casey, Director, Office of Press Relations, Bureau of Public Affairs, led an online discussion regarding Iran's nuclear program and other U.S. foreign policy issues. .

Thomas Casey, Director of the Office of Press Relations, Bureau of Public Affairs
Tom Casey, Director
Office of Press Relations
Bureau of Public Affairs


June 16, 2006


A.T. writes:

Sir, how serious are you about promoting democracy and freedom in Iran. Correct me if I'm wrong , but is it not true that a democratic Iran does not serve U.S best interests? Otherwise why would you have to wait 27 years to promote democracy and freedom in Iran?

Tom Casey:

A.T.-- Thanks for your question. We're serious about promoting democracy throught the world -- including in Iran --because it's the right thing to do. This doesn't mean imposing our ideas on other people though. Our goal is to support individuals around the world working to open up the system in their own country. Our support can take many forms, from providing technical training for human rights groups, to helping people monitor elections, to speaking out on behalf of individuals being persecuted for freely expressing their views and ideas.

Promoting democracy in Iran presents some special challenges. Those identified as working with us would be at real risk of reprisals from the regime. For that reason we've not publicized those who have been receiving U.S. democracy grants. However we are committed to working with those in Iran who seek to promote basic rights and freedoms for themselves and their fellow citizens. As you may have heard, we've asked for additional funding this year ($75 in the President's budget request) to expand our efforts to reach out to the Iranian people.


Jerome writes:

I am a PhD student at the University of Queensland. My thesis will be looking at whether we are still in the 'Second Nuclear Age' or have moved onto a Third.

My question: Do you think that Iran's nuclear program is a problem of demand or supply?

Tom Casey:

Jerome -- I think Iran's nuclear program is a challenge to all of us who believe in and support international non-proliferation efforts. What has happened over time is that Iran has eroded what credibility that it had with the international community. Despite extensive efforts the International Atomic Energy Agency still hasn't been able to get answers from Iran on key questions about its nuclear program. Failure to address these questions has only heightened concerns about Iran's intentions. Let's be clear that neither the United States, nor anyone else, is saying that Iran can't have a peaceful civilian nuclear program. But Iran has to show that it is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon under the cover of such a program.

The U.S., UK, France, Germany, Russian and China have presented Iran with a package of incentives and disincentives that gives it a clear choice. We hope what Iran's leaders will do is chose the path of cooperation. If they do so, we believe it will be possible to get a diplomatic solution that will serve the interests of all of us -- including the people of Iran.


Cellington writes:

I'd like to get an update on an investigation. A May 6, 2005, AP story did not name the two soldiers under investigation in connection with selling ammunition to paramilitary groups in Colombia, but our Bogotá bureau providing information that identified them as Alan Norman Tanquary, an Army warrant officer, and Army Sgt. Jose Hernandez, both attached to a training unit in Bogotá. The 2005 story quoted Richard Boucher of the State Department on the situation.

Tom Casey:

Cellington -- I'd love to give you one. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to check with the Defense Department -- specifically the folks at the U.S. Southern Command -- to get an answer to this question. Since this involves members of the U.S. military, they are the ones who could really speak to this question.

In general, I should add that we don't want to see any support given to paramilitary or terrorist groups in Colombia. Colombians have suffered greatly over the years as a result of violence from these kinds of groups as well as from drug traffickers. We're committed to working with President Uribe and his government to help them deal with these problems. Colombia has been a good friend and ally in our efforts to deal with the drug problem and we have made real progress with them on this issue.


Bill writes:

I would like to know the names of all nations considered to be allied with the US in the War on Terror. How does a nation become a member of the coalition?

Tom Casey:

Bill-- Most countries in the world cooperate with us in some way in the Global War on Terror. Each country has to choose for itself how it can best support anti-terrorism efforts. Some are very active militarily and have troops in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others provide valuable intelligence and law enforcement cooperation that allows us to prevent terrorist attacks. Everyone -- including the United States -- can always do more, but by working together we can make a real difference in dealing with what is going to be a long and difficult struggle.

Unfortunately, there are a handful of countries out there that are actively working against us. You can take a look at our annual report on terrorism for more specific information, but countries like Syria and Iran are considered state sponsors of terror, providing financial or logistical support for violent groups. There are other countries that have weak national institutions that we also need to work with to prevent them from becoming safe havens for terrorist organizations. We never again want to see a situation like we had in Afghanistan before 9/11, where a terrorist group can operate in safety with the active or passive approval of that nation's government.


R.W. writes:

With the recent solidification of the Iraqi government, the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, raids on insurgent groups and joint forces initiatives to secure Baghdad, is Iraq considering a policy of offering amnesty to Iraqi nationals involved with the insurgency?

Tom Casey:

Ron-- National reconcilliation is a big part of the agenda for Iraq's new government. Amnesty can be a part of that process and it is something that is being discussed by Prime Minister Maliki and members of his cabinet. We'd expect that any proposal made would include requirements for a specific rejection of violence and support for the democratic political process. We are in touch with the Iraqi Government on this to see how we can best achieve our shared objectives.


T.B. writes:

Why are people parading around a picture of “the New Face of Al Qaeda?” They should give it a rest while the Middle East settles down a little WITHOUT a declared fanatic leader. The more the administration/military acknowledges that person, the more credibility they give him - it's basic PR. Don't they know that? I hope you can tell them...

Tom Casey:

T.B.-- The only thing that really matters is putting terrorists out of business so they can't hurt anyone. The reality is that we're going to keep on going after them no matter who claims to be running their operations. These people are the worst kind of thugs and we're certainly not going to do anything that builds them up or gives them legitimacy.


Monica writes:

I'd like to know if the State Department has recognized the separation of Serbia and Montenegro. Has there been any official statement?

Tom Casey:

Monica. We sure have. In fact if you go to http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/67839.htm you can find the official statement made by Secretary Rice on our decision to recognize Montenegro's independence.

The Government of Serbia made a similar annoucement today, and we weclome it. It is our hope that these now two countries will continue to work well together as they arrange the final details of this separation.


I.W. writes:

To the best of my knowledge, America does more (both our federal government and "NGO"'s) to help other needy countries than any other country in the world. Does the State Department do anything of a PR nature to point out what the U.S. does in both the public sector and private sector to help other nations? It seems to me that we need to blow our own horns a little more.

Tom Casey:

The United States (our government) is the single largest doner of official development assistance in the world. That doesn't count the generosity of millions of Americas who contribute to the work of NGOs. We've seen that generosity at work in responses to things like the tsunami and last year's earthquake in Pakistan.

We -- particularly our colleagues at USAID -- do try and emphasize the work that we do to help people around the world -- though I admit this good news story doesn't get anywhere near the attention we'd like it to.

Take a look at www.usaid.gov and you'll see the kind of things we're doing to help people from Afhganistan to Zimbabwe deal with disaters and humanitarian emergencies and their own efforts to develop opportunities for their people.


C.D. writes:

Recently, at the Save Darfur rally at the National Mall, Assistant Secretary Frazer spoke of U.S. efforts to finalize the peace process in Burundi, and compared the successful completion of the peace process there and the integration of former rebels into the Burundian government to the current U.S. efforts in Darfur. However, U.S. efforts in the Burundian process were minimal compared to efforts in Haiti, the Balkans, and Kosovo, and similar efforts in Darfur will NOT suffice to end the genocide and killing. Is the U.S. willing to -strongly and actively- finance and support AU or UN peacekeepers in Darfur, and how quickly will we see the results of that support on the ground in Darfur?

Tom Casey:

C.D. -- We have and we're going to continue to work as hard as we can to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Darfur crisis. Our Deputy Secretary was a key player in the peace talks in Abuja Nigeria that led to signing of the Darfu peace agreement and we intend to work with the African Union (AU) and the UN to make sure the agreement is implemented. The key issue right now is strengthening the AU Mission in Darfur (AMIS) and transitioning it over the next few months to a UN force that is larger and more capable of ensuring the safety of civilians and verifying that the accord is being implemented. A UN assessment team is in Darfur now working on the details of getting that mission ready. We've already provided extensive funding for the AU mission as well as to help with the humanitarian needs of the people in Darfur (the vast majority of aid being given has come from the U.S.) and the Senate has just voted to give us additional funding to help support peacekeeping efforts there.


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