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Middle East Digest: Jan. 22-26, 2007

Bureau of Public Affairs
January 22 - 26, 2007

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The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing on a weekly basis. For the full briefings, please visit http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/

From the Daily Press Briefing of Jan. 22, 2007:

QUESTION: Concerning specifically al-Maliki and al-Sadr, he -- al-Maliki has pledged to rein in al-Sadr's militia. I mean, do you sincerely believe that he's going to do his utmost to do this?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible)?


MR. MCCORMACK: We take him at his word. He has said -- he understands and -- he understands that they need to get a handle on these groups, organizations, militias that are out -- operating outside the law. He understands you simply can't have that in any functioning democratic society. It just can't happen. You can't have armed groups operating outside the law. The people need to feel as though that the state and the government is providing for their security. It's one of the basic tenants of any functioning democratic society.

And he himself has said he's going to do this. Came out, he put his name behind it, he said, "I'm going to do this," so we take him at his word. And we will see if the actions follow through those words.

QUESTION: Well, any reactions to al-Sadr's ending of his parliamentary boycott?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, he was -- how they sort out their political differences in the Iraqi political system are up to them. Certainly, the kinds of steps when you boycott the parliament, effectively not allowing it to function in the way that it was allowed to function, is really a break with the faith of the people who put you there. Maybe not his specific voters, but the people of Iraq who invested in Iraqi democracy. They expect results, they expect their parliament to work, they expect their parliamentarians to show up for work and to act on their behalf. So it's a step back in the right direction, but you have to go back to the original question of why they did it in the first place.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: On Iran. Iran's apparently asked -- blocked 38 IAEA inspectors and the IAEA says that they're still confident, even if they couldn't send those 38, that they'd have enough people to monitor what they need to monitor. Do you have a response to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're still looking -- David, we're still looking into the details of this report. But you know, even if the IAEA makes the decision that there somehow is a workaround here where they can send other individuals to perform the functions that these individuals were supposed to perform -- and I -- again, I can't confirm the specifics of this story. I refer you back to the two parties in question, the Iranians or the IAEA -- it's another indication that Iran continues in its defiant attitude towards the international community.

They just don't get it. The international community has put them under Chapter 7 sanctions. Yet, here you have another example of the Iranians trying to dictate the terms to the international community -- in this case, the IAEA. And it just -- it -- I don't know who's providing them the leadership their advice, but it doesn't do their reputation in the international system any good and this kind of defiant behavior only adds to that.

They are in a very exclusive club right now. This state under Chapter 7 -- Chapter 7 sanction -- the EU just today made it very clear in public that they were going to fully implement Resolution 1737. The fact that Iran now finds it much more difficult to access the international financial system in the ways that it had in the past in order to facilitate the developments in its weapons of mass destruction programs is again another message to the Iranian people that they find themselves more and more isolated. That's not what we want. It's not our first choice. We've given this regime a different pathway and that pathway certainly is available to them, but they have chosen not to pursue it.

So once again another indication that this regime clearly doesn't get it. They will find -- they continue in this kind of behavior they will find themselves only more and more isolated from the rest of the world. And Iran is -- the Iranian Government is not the kind of government that can function in total isolation from the rest of the world. That's just -- they rely upon the exports of oil. They rely upon the international financial system in order to function. And I'm not saying that we are in any way contemplating or in fact now focusing our efforts on their oil sector. It's just to point out that they -- this is a country that does have a fair degree of integration with the rest of the world. That integration however is dependant on a two-way conversation and there are two sides to it. There's the Iranian side, there's the international community. And in this case, the international community is saying that we are not going to allow business as usual because you are exploiting those international institutions, in this case not a formal institution, but the international financial community, in ways in which we do not agree and there are consequences to that action. So again, the bottom line is, you know, yet another step that really signifies that they're going to find themselves more isolated.

QUESTION: Sean, two separate things here. One is ISNA, the Iranian state news agency, that reported this described it as a first step in curbing their dealings with the IAEA. Do you believe that this presages a further effort to limit the IAEA's operations in Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: I would hope not. I would hope not. Again, we're working to understand exactly the details here and I would hope that they are not trying to dictate to the IAEA who should be on inspection teams and monitoring teams. I would hope that's not the case because certainly that raises some real questions again about their intent with respect to allowing these monitors in.

Now, I can't speak to what future cooperation they may have with the IAEA or exactly what their intents are. If they do -- I have seen the reports -- they do continue to make various sorts of other threats, but if they don't understand already that that sort of behavior further -- only serves to further isolate them, I guess that they will again have to see that that kind of defiance of the will of the international community will again only be met by their continuing to be isolated more and more from the international community which is not what the Iranian people want.

I would -- just one other point, when I say that we do not want to be isolated necessarily from the Iranian people, we follow through on that. Our -- we had a wrestling team that participated in a tournament in Iran very recently. They've come back. They actually -- they met with -- they had a very warm reception from the Iranian people and I think that's really instructive. Even though this is a regime that spews all sorts of invective about the United States and the others who are seeking to curb their drive for a nuclear weapon, the Iranian people actually desire that sort of contact with the outside world. They desire contact with the American people. We certainly will do what we can to facilitate that but a big obstacle in the way of further developing that is the behavior of this regime and the Iranian people should understand that.

QUESTION: Sean, the second is you raise the issue of Iran's, you know, oil exports. Oil is one of the most precious and scarce commodities in the world and one without which this country doesn't -- you know, can't really function. And why shouldn't one regard the threat or the possibility of somehow the United States not, you know, wanting Iranian oil or other states not -- I mean, why shouldn't one regard that as sort of an empty threat? People need oil. It's a very fungible market. You know, why is -- why do you raise that? It's not as if we're not going to stop needing oil or the rest of the world is going to stop needing oil.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I was only pointing out the fact -- and it's an easy example -- for how Iran is integrated in the rest of the world. You could juxtapose it, for example, with North Korea which is quite isolated from the rest of the world. But even in that kind of self-imposed isolation they still do need contacts with the outside world in order to continue to function. It was -- I was just pointing out, using as an example, to show that, yes, the Iranian people -- Iran desires interaction with the outside world. Another example, there are lots of airline flights in and out of Iran. That's another example.

Again, none of this is intended to foreshadow or indicate any particular action on our part. I'm just trying to use them as examples to show that there is that interaction and desire for interaction.

QUESTION: You could regard oil as their ace in the hole, given the world's dependence on oil. In other words, they can do what they want and they know that people will keep dealing with them because people need the oil.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, that gets to the decisions of individual corporations and companies around the world. And they will have to make their own decisions based on their own investment risk assessments, their reputational risk assessments. They will -- businesses will have to make their own decisions. Of course we do from time to time talk to states who have perhaps some influence, some role, some stake in oil corporations about -- questioning, well, is now really the right time to be investing in the Iranian oil sector. We did that, for example, with the Chinese. You heard the Secretary talk about that a little bit.

But again, those are decisions for individual corporations to make. But there are very real factors that are on the table now in terms of investing in Iran, not because of anything in particular that we have done. But it really -- because of the Iranian regime's actions, which has in turn gotten a response from the international community.

So you know, again, when you're talking about and you're sitting there in the corporate offices thinking about making multi-billion dollar bets that return investments over a couple of decades, you have to consider these sorts of things. They're very real factors.


QUESTION: But you've said previously that the U.S. has no plans to target Iran's oil industry with sanctions. That still remains? I mean, that's no something that you're --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's true.

QUESTION: -- contemplating at the moment?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, that said, we do still have on the books our own national laws, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. I think they've dropped -- intend to or are going to drop the Libya from that, which does speak to investment in the Iranian oil sector, the oil and gas sector. But that's the only thing that's on the books and, as we said, we don't at this point have any intention to proposing sanctions that are targeting their oil and gas sector.

QUESTION: But are you speaking on a regular basis with U.S. companies considering investing in --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think U.S. companies under the law are not allowed to invest in their oil and gas sector.


QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Qatar visited Iran on Sunday and assured the Iranians that any threat against Iran will be a threat against Qatar and the region. Isn't Qatar a member of the alliance of the GCC+2?

MR. MCCORMACK: Gulf Cooperation Council, yeah.

QUESTION: That the Secretary met with in Kuwait?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm, right. And they issued a statement for all to read.

QUESTION: I mean, what's -- I mean, do you have a reaction on his visit?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. But look, the Gulf states and other states are going to have relations Iran. We would only encourage them to be good, neighborly, transparent relations that have -- that are based on mutual respect.

Charlie, did you have anything?

QUESTION: No, not -- if no one else has, I was going to do my Greek chorus thing. But no.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. David.

QUESTION: Is that a message that you heard during this recent trip that they and that the countries of that region did not want to see a military action against Iraq -- Iran? Pardon me.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, it wasn't anything that was being contemplated. You heard from the Secretary that while the United States and the President never take any options off the table, we are seeking to address our differences with Iran on the nuclear issue through diplomatic means. Within Iraq we are also -- we are going to confront any of those networks or individuals who are financing or involved in attempts to harm our troops. And in terms of fighting terrorism, it's well known what our stance is. We are going to take any steps that we believe are prudent in order to protect the people of the United States.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.


QUESTION: You said that wasn't something the U.S. was considering, but was it something that you heard during the trip from the other members of the GCC?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'll tell you, frankly, in the meetings that I was sitting in, I didn't hear it.

QUESTION: Cyprus. Do you have any reaction on today's EU ministerial's decision about (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me look into it for you.



QUESTION: What's your reaction to Abbas visit to Syria and this meeting with --


QUESTION: President Abbas. The -- of the Palestinian Authority.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. He's --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: He is, in the context of trying to sort out the various contradictions within the Palestinian political system, talking to Hamas again about forming a national unity government. I'm not sure that, at least reading the press reports, much has come out of this particular meeting. Again, it's up to the Palestinians to sort out for themselves and among themselves exactly what kind of configuration they are going to have in their government.

What we have said is that the platform of that government has to meet the Quartet principles that have been outlined. And not only that, but their actions have to follow those principles.

QUESTION: Some press reports said that the U.S. discouraged him from going to Damascus.

MR. MCCORMACK: It is his decision whether or not he was -- he wanted to go to Damascus or not.



QUESTION: Can you tell us what Secretary Rice hopes to accomplish at the Lebanon donors conference and can you give us any sense of how much of a contribution the United States hopes to make?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll leave that for -- on the last part, I'll leave that for Secretary Rice to talk about. It will be substantial, but that is not really the -- shouldn't be, really, the sole measure of this kind of conference. You are going to have high-level representation at this conference and a number of countries represented at the ministerial level. President Chirac himself has taken a personal interest in this conference, so I think more than anything else, what it does is it demonstrates the support of the international system for this democratically elected government and also, the international system's support for the Lebanese people.

Now there are going to be -- you know, the opposition is going to do everything it can to detract from that message. We've heard -- I've seen the press reports and we've seen the reporting about various strikes and demonstrations that are planned coincidentally to begin tomorrow, I believe. And also -- you know, also coming out with just extravagant reports of exactly what will be pledged at this conference far beyond anything that anybody would -- might rationally expect. This is just a -- it's a tactic that they are using to -- trying to distract people from the fact that they themselves have not met, really, any of the promises that they have made to "rebuild" the south of Lebanon.

So what Secretary Rice is going to be doing is, when she goes there, both in her words and through our actions, demonstrate support for this democratically elected government as well as demonstrate the support of the American people for the Lebanese people in very real ways. One important thing, one important initiative that we have started is really to encourage public-private partnerships. And while the political support from the foreign government, as well as the direct assistance from the foreign government, are very important things especially in this case, over the medium to long term, what the Lebanese people and Lebanese -- the Lebanese economy really needs is that sort of integration with the rest of the international economy and direct investment in Lebanon and the Lebanese people from foreign corporations.

In this case, you're going to see some of that from U.S. corporations and that's critically important for Lebanon and for the Lebanese people, and their economy.

QUESTION: Can you say anything else about her travel?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of her travel, well, she's going to be going to Brussels to talk about -- she's going to have a meeting with her NATO counterparts up in Brussels. The real -- the centerpiece of that discussion is going to be Afghanistan. Again, we are going to be talking about our support in a variety of different ways for Afghanistan. We have done a review of our programs and our strategy in Afghanistan, and Secretary Rice is going to be talking about that. We believe that we're on the right pathway. We're going to -- she is going to talk about the kinds of resources that we're going to dedicate to making sure that we succeed in that mission. She's going to talk to her NATO counterparts about the importance of NATO as an organization, making sure that it is committed in all the right ways to succeed in that mission. I'm sure that they'll talk about the caveats issue. That's been one that's been -- it's been an issue that's on the table. It's important. It's particularly important to those countries with troops in the south; the Canadians, the Brits, for example.

So we'll talk about that. I would expect they'll probably also, while they're there, touch upon the issue of Kosovo. It's again an issue that's going to be in the news, I suspect, for the -- over the next several months. So that's real -- that's what she'll be doing in Brussels.

QUESTION: Sorry, just to get back to Lebanon, about 10 days ago, Tom Casey, when he was announcing the 20 Humvees, which is part of the initial 285-Humvee package, he said that the U.S. was going to be asking for additional military funding for the Lebanese military. Do you have any figures on how much you're asking Congress for? I know that it's being packaged together with the humanitarian aid.


QUESTION: Do you have any special figures?

MR. MCCORMACK: I do, but I can't share them right now. No, Sue. We're going to -- I'm going to let the Secretary make any announcements of numbers?

QUESTION: What does substantial mean, though? Because it could mean hundreds of thousands, it could mean billions. I mean, the figures out in the region are really -- as you said, what did you say, exorbitant figures? I can't remember --

MR. MCCORMACK: Exorbitant.

QUESTION: Exorbitant, yeah, with $7 billion and then the other one was $4 billion for what --


QUESTION: -- the Lebanese Government would like, of which the U.S. will provide a substantial amount, so --

MR. MCCORMACK: The -- I'm just going to say that the U.S. package will be substantial.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

From the Daily Press Briefing of Jan. 24, 2007:

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me just go through a little bit of the Secretary's activities. As you know, she is on her way to Paris at the moment. Nicholas, I'm surprised to see you here. You're missing Paris.

She is on her way to Paris. She'll be getting into Paris 9 o'clock or so tonight local time. Tomorrow she will have the -- attend the Lebanon donors conference that is being hosted by the French Government. She will also have a meeting with Prime Minister Siniora and some American CEOs. And I wanted to bring this to your attention because this is actually a really very interesting part of our support for Lebanon and the Lebanese people, and that is that you have direct governmental assistance, and Secretary Rice is going to talk about the substantial pledge that we are going to be making at this conference, but there is also another important element to what the United States is doing to support the Lebanese people. And that is the private sector commitment to investment in Lebanon and that's what these CEOs are going to be talking about. Dina Powell is one of our assistant secretaries over here, as well as Randy Tobias went to Lebanon several months ago with the CEOs to talk about this important program. And it's important in a number of different respects.

But I would underscore this. That is, long after direct U.S. Government assistance has gone through the pipeline and been delivered, investment by foreign companies and U.S. companies is going to continue to create jobs and opportunity in Lebanon and those places where U.S. -- the U.S. companies have made a commitment to support, countries that are trying to get back up on their feet. Another example is Pakistan in those earthquake zones. I think you all remember that trip.

So I wanted to highlight that for you. She will then -- she'll probably have a couple of bilateral meetings while she's there and the folks on the ground can keep you updated on those. Then on Friday she's going to be traveling to Brussels for a NATO ministerial meeting. Afghanistan is going to be at the top of the agenda there. The Secretary is again going to talk about our commitment to Afghanistan. She's going to talk a little bit about what kind of support we are going to provide the Afghan people in terms of our assistance to them, our commitment to the Afghan people.

She is also going to be discussing with other NATO ministers there some of the issues that NATO is working through right now. As you know, NATO has a big commitment in Afghanistan. They have taken on the security task in southern Afghanistan and they're doing a great job at it. But there are some issues within the alliance that we're going to be talking about. One of them is going to be caveats. I expect also that we'll probably talk about Kosovo and maybe a couple of other issues that might pop up on the agenda. Again, folks on the ground with the Secretary will be able to keep you updated on that. But I just wanted to quickly run through her schedule and let you know what she's up to.

QUESTION: Can I ask one about the trip?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Do you expect any of the CEOs to make any announcements about a particular investment, particular jobs they might be creating working with Lebanese companies, or are they there just sort of for moral support?

MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me, I'm sorry, Nicholas. I just had somebody handing me a note so I got a little distracted. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any announcements about investment or other jobs or anything that the CEOs who are with the Secretary might be announcing tomorrow in Paris?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they'll have something to say about their commitment to the Lebanese people, but I'm not going to try to steal their thunder. You can tune in tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay. So I mean, it's not a sort of general --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's not just talk. They're actually -- they're acting.


MR. MCCORMACK: And I think that's a really -- that's really a great part about this effort is that, as I underscored, long after U.S. Government assistance and other direct government assistance has been pledged and delivered and had its effect, those kinds of foreign investments on the ground are going to have continuing effects and you're going to get a multiplier effect through job creation and building up industries in places like Lebanon. So it's a terribly important part, component of the overall effort of the United States, not just the United States Government but the United States and the commitment to helping these countries that are really fighting against the forces of violent extremism around the world.

QUESTION: Is it -- I know that you don't want to talk numbers today, but is it fair to say that the Secretary will make a commitment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars? Is that a --

MR. MCCORMACK: Hundreds of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We can do better than that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Hundreds of millions. I'm sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: It's going to be substantial. It'll be substantial. I don't want to get into it. She'll talk about it. She'll talk about it.

QUESTION: A prestigious Lebanese daily quoting State Department officials that the Secretary will make a commitment up to $700 million. Can you deny that? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to let the Secretary make the announcements on that. It's a pretty big number though, isn't it?


QUESTION: On North Korea.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, Lebanon.

QUESTION: You talked about Dina Powell's and Randy Tobias's trip. Why was she going? She's the Assistant Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs.

MR. MCCORMACK: Exchanges. This is something that the -- our group of people here, Karen Hughes' shop and Dina have been deeply involved in, in terms of public-private partnerships. It is something that -- you know, from the very beginning, the Secretary was interested in promoting. We talked about this, actually, during the transition period and she looked to Karen and Dina, really, to follow through on that and they've done a great job in that regard, in terms of engaging U.S. industry in issues that are of interest to them as well as interests -- issues of interest to us.

They recently had a public-private partnership summit regarding public diplomacy and the interest of -- you know, these American corporations in doing -- seeing what they can do to assist in those efforts. That was just, I think, a week or two ago. So that's -- there are a few examples. You can kind of go down the list and see it, but that's -- the reason why is -- you know, the Secretary saw this, really, as something that fell within the realm of public diplomacy. They, of course, work closely with -- you know, Dan Sullivan and our Under Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs on these things as well.

QUESTION: Just one last one on Lebanon, sorry if I'm monopolizing, but there were reports from the region that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and Mr. Larijani of Iran are negotiating a sort of unity government in Lebanon. Do you know anything about these talks that have been going on and do you support a government different from the current government of Prime Minister Siniora?

MR. MCCORMACK: A couple things. One, I've seen all the press reports about Mr. Larijani visiting Saudi Arabia. I'll let the Saudis and the Iranians talk about what they talked about. I don't think anybody wants -- anybody supports -- I don't think the Saudis would support this, as well, anybody negotiating over the heads of the Lebanese people or the Siniora government.

Now Amr Mussa has had an effort working with the various political factions within Lebanon about ways that they might -- ways to -- ways out of the current political impasse that they find themselves in. But this isn't negotiating over the heads of the Siniora government or anybody else. This is -- we're trying to work with them to see what they can do, lend their good offices to that effort. Secretary Rice has talked to Amr Mussa about this. She talked to him about it in Washington as well as in Cairo when she was -- or Luxor, excuse me, when she was there.

So these are -- those are efforts, certainly, that we're well aware of. I don't think anybody -- we certainly wouldn't support any effort to try to negotiate something over and above the heads of the Siniora government.

QUESTION: Well, it's very difficult to imagine that the Iranians who are part of this would be willing to -- or would be interested in preserving this government, given that the Hezbollah doesn't agree to this government staying in office. So what is your understanding of what exactly they're negotiating?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I can tell you, you talk to them and -- you know, I'm not in any way going to confirm the substance of this particular report because I can't. I don't have any information on it. As for your point about whether or not Iran would support the Siniora government, I think that that -- that the reality of it is they probably wouldn't because their proxies, Hezbollah, are doing everything they can to undermine the Siniora government out in the streets of Beirut and otherwise.

And their motivations really lie in doing what they can at the behest of the Iranians and the Syrian Government to try to stop any forward progress on this -- on the Hariri tribunal as well as stop any progress to Lebanon fully getting on its feet and really putting the past of Syrian domination behind them.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: But to follow up on that, would the U.S. Government be ready to work with a national unity government in Lebanon, including Hezbollah?

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't meet with Hezbollah ministers. There are Hezbollah ministers in the current government. We don't meet with them.

QUESTION: So it's not a problem if they are more --

MR. MCCORMACK: We're not going to change that -- again, we're not going to change that policy. We support the elected government of Lebanon led by Prime Minister Siniora. As for any political arrangements or accommodations that Prime Minister Siniora might come to with the various factions in Lebanon, those are going to be decisions for him to make. But we won't work with individual ministers from Hezbollah and we won't meet with them.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Lebanese army role played yesterday during the demonstrations?

MR. MCCORMACK: In what regard?

QUESTION: The Lebanese army -- what did he do yesterday during the demonstrations? He left demonstrators, cut the roads, put blocks on the road and something like that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Michel, I'd have to look into it for you. I'm happy to work with you afterwards and look into it.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: On Iran, please.

QUESTION: Actually, I'd like to stay on this one real quick. Sorry.




QUESTION: I'm just wondering, the Secretary didn't stop in Beirut on her last trip and with this building over the past few months -- well, since the summer, I'm just wondering why she didn't go.

MR. MCCORMACK: She stops in places where she thinks that regarding the timing and the contents of the visit, she can do some good work. She's been in good, constant contact with Prime Minister Siniora. I think her support for this government and those forces for freedom and democracy in Lebanon is quite clear. I'm sure she's going to go back to Beirut. She's been there a couple of times already during her tenure as Secretary of State and I expect she'll go back.

QUESTION: So you don't think that a stop last time would have been able to prevent the upheaval we're seeing right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, because look, these -- what you're seeing manifested in the streets of Beirut is an effort to sidetrack Lebanon from the direction in which it's headed right now. And that direction is a more stable, democratic, prosperous Lebanon. They are trying to distract the world's attention from the fact that those forces started a war with another country in that region that cost the Lebanese people dearly. They made a lot of promises about reconstruction and getting international assistance to ironically help rebuild those things that were destroyed by the war that they started. They haven't come through on those promises.

So as a result this is -- what you're seeing is actions designed to distract the Lebanese people from those facts and they're also designed to try to undermine the efforts of this government, Prime Minister Siniora's government, to move forward on the Hariri tribunal so that the Lebanese people can know who murdered their former Prime Minister. I think they have a real interest in that. But there are people in Lebanon and outside of Lebanon who don't want to see that go forward. And so again that's another reason why you see these demonstrations in the streets. So what we think we can do is we can rally the forces of the international system to support this government and the good work that it's doing on behalf of the Lebanese people.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: What do you make of the argument that the donors conference and all this international support is competing with a country like Iran that's pumping a lot of cash into Hezbollah for reconstruction of that country and it's really a battle for hearts and minds in Lebanon between the West and the moderates and Iran who's furthering this kind of extremism?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it's no secret that there are -- if you look around the Middle East, including in Lebanon, that there is a ideological struggle that is ongoing in the Middle East. You can see it in places like Lebanon. You can see the forces of violent extremism at work in Lebanon and they are -- in 2006 they punch back. The forces of freedom and democracy in Lebanon had a good year in 2005, but the forces of violent extremism punched back in 2006. And our job as an international system and our job as a country that has an interest in seeing greater freedom and democracy in the Middle East and an interest in supporting the Lebanese people in their struggle for a more stable prosperous state is to stand with them and make it clear to the Lebanese people and make it clear to those forces of violent extremism that we are going to stand in their way. We're going to stand in their way in their efforts to bring about a Middle East that is more that is more oppressive, that is less prosperous and is going in the opposite direction from the rest of the world.

QUESTION: But just to follow up very quickly -- but can you fight this battle, like in the pocketbook? I mean --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's -- I made this point the other day that you shouldn't just look at the Lebanon donor's conference as people making pledges and signing checks. That's important. It's important in a couple of ways. One, it actually can help the Lebanese people rebuild some of that infrastructure and build their country, so there are real physical effects on the ground. But there's also an important political and diplomatic statement that that makes. Just the fact that you have this conference and you have these countries gathering together at a very high level, President Chirac convened this conference, there are going to be a number of countries represented at senior ministerial levels that demonstrates the support of the international system for what Prime Minister Siniora and his government is trying to do on behalf of the Lebanese people. So it is as much a statement of political and diplomatic support as anything else.



QUESTION: Do you want to go first?

QUESTION: Okay, Iran is still resisting the pressure of these UN sanctions. On the day the resolution was passed Ambassador Wolff said that it was only a first step. Can you -- if this is the case, what's the next step?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you're seeing the next steps all around the world. The EU recently voted that it was going to fully implement Resolution 1737. You have seen actions where various banks have been designated by various countries as involved in trafficking and terrorism as well as the -- helping to finance Iran's weapons of mass destruction program. So there are a lot of different steps that are ongoing beyond the Security Council route. That is a route that's still open. And I would -- there's a review period after, I think, coming up in about 30 days or so as to whether or not Iran has complied with what the Security Council has asked them to do.

Thus far, they've done nothing. As a matter of fact, they've actually gone in the opposite direction. They've denied entry to 38 inspectors the other day and it looks like they're inspector shopping. There are certain inspectors that they don't want to see back there because the Iranians might perceive them as being a little bit too tough. And that certainly doesn't give one confidence that they are -- that they intend to cooperate with the international community. So there is the Security Council route but there are also follow-on effects from the Security Council resolution, and states around the world, including in Europe, are taking a good, hard look at how their financial systems are being exploited by the Iranian Government entities involved in nuclear weapons program development. And I expect that you'll probably see more and more of that.

QUESTION: If I can just ask you about the diplomatic process thus far itself. In an interview with Fox News, John Bolton claims there was, and I'm quoting him, "a fundamental disjunction between the objective and the diplomacy we've been pursuing." He says the resolution was weak. He says that the U.S. compromised too much in terms of what the Russians and the Europeans wanted. How can we make -- what's he talking about?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see all of John's comments. Look, John was deeply involved in this process and I think that he and his team should take great pride in the fact that they shepherded through the Security Council a 15-0 resolution, Chapter 7 resolution, against Iran. That means something. That has great meaning in the international community.

And look, does the resolution look like we would have written it ourselves? No, it doesn't. We've said that up front. But that's part of international diplomacy. You know, you make compromises but you don't compromise on the basic principles. And what we said going in is that Iran needs to hear a clear, strong message that their behavior is unacceptable and that there are costs to that behavior. And they got that signal. They got a 15-0 resolution, a Chapter 7 resolution, which puts them in a very small club in which they didn't want to find themselves.

And it's very interesting in Iran now. You're seeing a lot of public debate that people suspected previously was going on behind closed doors about whether or not the Ahmadi-Nejad regime is following the proper course. That's very interesting. And I don't think that that -- you would have seen that debate pop up into the public view absent this kind of unified international front. So this resolution has really had some important effects.

QUESTION: What Bolton is fundamentally saying is that his hands were tied, that he had this very strong objective that he was given by the President, but when it came to the actual negotiation level with the P-5, the Europeans (inaudible) gave the U.S. no compromise in direction.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you're not going to get everything you want in a resolution. And the fact of the matter is this is the President's policy and at the end of the day that's what matters. And you can have -- look, in the Administration of course you're going to have people bring views to the table, they're going to make their strongest arguments. Those arguments are all going to get a fair hearing. Certainly with Secretary Rice I know that and certainly with President Bush. But at the end of the day you have to make decisions about what is in the best interest of the policy at that moment and there was a considered decision that this resolution was -- met the conditions that we had laid out before we even started talking about the specific provisions of the resolution.

So like I said, is it everything that we would have wanted in the resolution? No. But is it a good, strong resolution? Yes. And is it having real effects on Iran and their ability to develop nuclear weapons? I would argue yes to right now and I think probably even more down the road if they continue down their current line of behavior.

QUESTION: A couple more on this?


QUESTION: First of all, a recent poll that just came out by worldpublicopinion.org said that a majority of Iranians would want their government to enrich uranium but only for a peaceful nuclear program. And a congruent poll in the United States said most Americans would agree for Iran to enrich a small amount of uranium if it was governed by IAEA regulators. I mean, you mentioned the Iranian public opinion and how Ahmadi-Nejad is not, you know, kind of in line with the international community. But if both the Iranian public and the United States and presumably other countries would see that there's some common ground, I mean, is there any common ground to having Iran have a strictly nuclear -- civil nuclear program with uranium if it was strictly monitored?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have said that we have no quibble with the idea that Iran can have peaceful nuclear energy.

QUESTION: But enriching -- with enriching uranium --

MR. MCCORMACK: The problem is that because of Iranian behavior over a long period of time, the international community simply doesn't trust this regime. It doesn't trust this regime on this particular issue. And that's solely because of the behavior of the Iranian regime. It's -- you know, as a hypothetical matter in the future of whether or not you can have a peaceful nuclear energy program based on uranium, I mean, that's -- that would be acceptable to the international community, certainly if Iran changes its behavior I suppose it would be a matter for discussion and debate. But you're simply not at that point right now. You have to deal with the facts as they are before you. And the facts as they are before you is the international system doesn't trust this regime in that they are saying one thing, saying that they have only a peaceful nuclear program, yet all the indications are that they're actually trying to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of that peaceful nuclear energy program.

As for the public opinion polls in Iran, I would just posit to you that their government isn't being forthright with them in terms of what has been offered the Iranian regime. They have been offered an opportunity to discuss all matter of topics that are of interest to the Iranian Government. All they have to do is suspend their highly enriched uranium reprocessing and enrichment program. Then they can get into negotiations and they can talk about their desire for peaceful nuclear energy. But they refuse to do that. So I think this regime is not being square with the Iranian people in terms of the opportunity costs of their behavior, and they're real now. They're starting to see what those opportunity costs are. So we'll see down the line if the Iranian regime continues to take the Iranian people down a pathway of isolation, exactly what those attitudes are.

QUESTION: One more on this. There's a report out from the Telegraph in London. Isn't necessarily the most reliable paper.

MR. MCCORMACK: Goodness.

QUESTION: It said that North Korea is helping Iran with potential nuclear testing and that they're providing enough technology to help Iran accelerate the uranium enrichment process so that perhaps it could conduct a nuclear test by the end of the year. Now, based on everything that kind of officials have said publicly and privately, it doesn't seem that Iran is that far along. Is that your understanding? And do you have any evidence of North Korea helping?

MR. MCCORMACK: On the matter of where Iran stands in the state of development of a nuclear weapons program, the intelligence community puts out regular assessments of that that are publicly available. I don't have the current one in front of me, but they're easily accessible on -- with their website.

Certainly, the Iranians would -- could benefit from outside assistance. I think the very fact that they were dealing with A.Q. Khan is evidence of the fact that they would like to have outside assistance. I couldn't comment on whether or not North Korea is involved in helping out Iran on their nuclear weapons program. I would assume that would get into intelligence information and I couldn't -- that's not something that I could discuss. But standing here, I don't have anything that I can offer on that particular aspect of the report.

We do know that North Korea and Iran have had in the past cooperation on missile programs. For example, the Iranian Shahab medium-range ballistic missile is based on a North Korean ballistic missile. So there are patterns of cooperation there. Whether that cooperation has extended into other areas, I don't have any information for you.

I would note one thing though, that both of these countries are under a Chapter 7 resolution. And very specifically under 1718, which applies to North Korea, all countries are mandated not to cooperate or participate in trade related to missile technology or weapon -- or nuclear weapons with North Korea. So if -- I emphasize if Iran were, in any way, involved in those kinds of exchanges with North Korea, they would be in violation of the UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: You noticed that the Russians delivered advanced air defense missile systems to Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, saw that and we've -- you know, we've made our views clear on that. We raised with the Russians whether or not it was really the right moment, given the circumstances, to go through with that sale to Iran. We've raised the issue with them. They decided to go through with the sale. There are certainly laws and regulations that have to -- that would trigger a review of that sale and whether or not there are any actions that we are required to take in reaction to that. But at this point, I couldn't tell you, I couldn't give you an assessment of what the findings of that -- those reviews might be.

QUESTION: Whose laws are you talking about?

MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?

QUESTION: U.S. laws?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yeah, our --

QUESTION: What kind of review?

MR. MCCORMACK: Reviews in -- I can't tell you the specific laws, George. I can get you a citation. But it has to do with trading in military equipment with Iran.

QUESTION: Isn't this -- can I just finish? Isn't this another indication, though, that the diplomatic process, particularly with Russia, if you -- if it goes to the UN again, if there's another resolution, doesn't this require some review? Because it's clear that Russia continues this kind of relationship. And again, I'm going to quote Bolton. He says, "The Russians did an outstanding job from the Iranian point of view of weakening resolutions, so Iran at this point would proceed."

MR. MCCORMACK: They also voted for the resolution at the end of the day and that's going to have a real effect on the Iranians' ability to develop their nuclear weapons program and also develop their missile technology programs. It's not a perfect resolution. I will grant you that right up front. But it does have a very real effect and at the end of the day, the Russians did vote for it and I think that surprised the Iranians. I think that they might have been counting on some cover from other countries in the international system and they didn't get it. They didn't get it because of their behavior. And I think that that was a real shock to the system for them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) this resolution, as it stands, will encourage them to stop enriching uranium at this point?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. It's up to the -- at this point, it's up to the Iranians. I can't tell you that at this point that they're going to change their cost-benefit calculation. But the point of our diplomacy is to get them to change that cost-benefit calculation and to see that the pathway of engagement and diplomacy is the way to go, as opposed to the pathway of defiance that they're currently on.


QUESTION: The L.A. Times has a story that essentially questions the evidence available at the extent to which Iran is meddling in Iraq and it goes on to report that there's been little sign of modern or advanced weaponry crossing the border and no Iranian agents have been found at all -- very, very few weapons been found in sweeps by U.S. troops. Can you comment on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I asked some folks about that and they told me that's just flat wrong, that assessment. There is solid evidence that Iranian agents are involved in these networks and that they are working with individuals and groups in Iraq and that they are being sent there by the Iranian Government. And I would expect that, you know, in the near future we are going to try to talk a little bit more in public to the extent that we can, because again you're dealing with intelligence information, about what we know of Iranian support for these networks.

You've had individuals that have been captured that we have suspected of being involved in these networks and it's not just us. The British earlier last year talked about the threat that they faced from these networks and the threat that it posed to their troops, as a matter of fact, they lost some troops to these kind of devices. So it's the considered judgment of the British Government as well as our intelligence community that there is Iranian support for these networks, that the threat is very real. And as President Bush pointed out, we are going to confront those networks, those individuals that are trying to do harm to our troops.

QUESTION: The British have also said, though, that they haven't found Iranian-made weapons in the areas that they patrol. That's according to this report in the LA Times. And what evidence can you provide at least to some extent the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have the full contents of exactly what the individual was quoted as saying in that report. But I would just point you back to the news reports which are - and there are plenty of them early last year about the Brits talking about the threats from these networks. You don't necessarily have to construct something in Iran in order for it to be, you know, a threat to the U.S. or British troops from the Iranian regime. There are a lot of different ways you can do that. You can bring the know-how, you can train other people in Iraq to do that. So there are a lot of different ways, a lot of different ways to do it. I would suspect that they were probably trying to hide their tracks somewhat, so you're not going to have a "made in Iran" stamp on all of these items. But certainly the technology and the know-how originates in Iran.


QUESTION: What about the five people arrested in Arbil? Do you have any news about them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Still in custody of multinational forces.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Well, I just have one more on Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, still on Iran.

QUESTION: Amr Moussa, the Arab League Secretary General, said today that he believed there was a 50-50 percent chance that the U.S. would attack Iran and he fears that any such strike would lead to greater sectarian violence across the region. I wondered if you had any response to those comments.

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you've heard from the President on this. We are going to confront those networks that are trying to do harm to our troops in Iraq. We are going to work with the international system to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And by the way, Iran's neighbors in the region, more than anybody else, don't want to see that happen.

We are working in a cooperative fashion with our friends and allies in the Gulf, witness the deployment of a carrier group into the Gulf as well as deployment of Patriot 3 systems to that region. This is all in the way of cooperation and certainly as a defensive measure. It's also intended to send a signal to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is going to stand with those reasonable forces in the region who will stand against violent extremism. The President has always said you never take any option off the table, but we --- I think we are being quite transparent in the ways that we're seeking to deal with the various threats posed by Iran, really to the region.

QUESTION: And one more thing, if you could just expand a little bit on your "inspector shopping" comment. Who do you think they're looking for then and what is the makeup of the 38 inspectors within that group? How many Americans are included in --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think it's necessarily Americans. I can't tell you the exact composition of the group. But it's a well known fact, I think if you check around in the diplomatic circles that there are certain inspectors the Iranians don't want to see walking through the door because they perceive them as being a little bit too tough. And these are people just trying to do their job. So I point that out only to illustrate the fact that this is not a regime that is cooperating at all with the international community, in fact, quite the opposite.

QUESTION: One more on the --

QUESTION: Because --


QUESTION: Sorry. Some members of diplomatic circles are saying that in fact the reason why Iran doesn't want some of these inspectors in is because they fear that they're going to collect information as happened prior to the Iraq war then use that information.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's just a smokescreen. I'm sorry.


QUESTION: One more on the detainees. I'm sorry if you've gone over this in the past. The Iranian -- the ones that were arrested and being held by (inaudible). What is their characterization? Are they considered detainees, prisoners of war? Have they been afforded consular access? Are you affording them --

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with MNFI. Yeah. The only thing we can tell you is they're not diplomats.

From the Daily Press Briefing of Jan. 25, 2007:

QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) violence is taking place or still taking place right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would appeal for calm -- and I've seen certainly on the TV screens and the press reports about the violence that has broken out at one of the universities there. I can't pinpoint for you the origins of this violence, but the initial reporting from our folks on the ground seem -- would indicate that this is an outgrowth of the political tensions that we're seeing within Lebanon today. I understand that there was a loss of life and that's tragic.

Again, I can't pinpoint for you who started this or exactly the motivations behind it, but what you -- it is fair to say that there are certain irresponsible parties in Lebanon who have been provoking an atmosphere of confrontation and antagonism within the political system. And the links between those individuals and groups and outside entities are well known and they have been engaged in a cynical manipulation of public perceptions in the political process.

And I do think it is fair to say that those attempts at cynical manipulation of the political process certainly have had an effect on the overall atmosphere in Lebanon and I think it is fair to say likely played a role in these kinds of tensions that you're seeing manifested at -- today in Beirut and at the university.

QUESTION: Could it affect the results of Paris-3 conference?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what it underscores is the fact that we and the international system stand behind those who are implementing -- proposing and implementing the political and economic reforms that it is going -- that are going to make Lebanon a more democratic, prosperous country. And we stand with those people.

It's well known who is on the other side of that fence, those individuals who are ready to use violence, use extremism to whip up emotions within the Lebanese political process in ways that are unproductive and detrimental to Lebanon and to the Lebanese people.

QUESTION: Sean, do you think that weakened Siniora inside Lebanon, just as he's getting all this international support, to have the violence on the streets? Has that weakened him at home politically?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't do a political analysis for you, but what it -- I guess -- I don't know what the intended effects of this violence were. Again, I can't tell you what the motivations were behind it, but the reaction from the international community is that we stand with the Siniora government and the Lebanese people who are fighting for a better, more democratic, prosperous Lebanon.


QUESTION: Do you think that this money, this $7 billion or so that's been pledged will somehow help the political situation there? Is that your wish that it will somehow embolden the Siniora government and improve his standing within his own people in Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he -- his standing with his own people in Lebanon is quite strong, it would appear. The money is intended -- there is a twofold effect here. One, there are very real, practical effects in terms of budget, support, reconstruction, security assistance. So those are very, very real, tangible effects. But the other effect is an expression of political and diplomatic support for the Siniora government by the international system. And what that is intended to do is intended to support the forces of freedom, democracy, and reform in Lebanon and Prime Minister Siniora is at the lead of those -- at those forces. So the net effect is to strengthen Prime Minister Siniora, I believe, within Lebanon.

QUESTION: But with all of this political turmoil, you have been speaking about seeing various companies that are interested in investing. How are you going to encourage investor confidence in Lebanon when the political situation is so unstable? You have -- you know, riots on the streets, people being killed. It's a very difficult situation.

MR. MCCORMACK: It is a difficult situation and it's an important moment in Lebanon's history, but you have private sector individuals, hard-nosed businessmen who take a look at the situation in Lebanon and say, "We are going to invest in Lebanon." You have countries like -- companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Occidental Petroleum, who say that, despite some of the political turmoil in Lebanon right now, we are making a bet on Lebanon and Lebanon's political future. And -- but that is that the Lebanese people are going to succeed in overcoming the forces of violent extremism and oppression in that country. Now, it's not to say that that is going to be an easy task. The Siniora government and those forces for freedom and democracy in Lebanon need support. They need support from the international community and you just saw a very strong tangible demonstration of that today, not only from governments around the world, but also the private sector, as well.

QUESTION: How much did the private sector put forward? Do you have a number or is it just promises?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a specific number. There was the $150 million OPIC facility that was worked with Citigroup.

QUESTION: Is that a loan guarantee or something?

MR. MCCORMACK: The -- you can check with OPIC as to the term of art that is associated with that. I don't want to get in cross wires with the bankers. But it is a tangible demonstration of support for Lebanon.

QUESTION: Sean, are you confident in the stability of Siniora's government? You said his standing is quite strong? I know there were some concerns awhile back about his government being toppled. Are you guys confident that he can stay in power?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're confident that he has been a tenacious advocate for freedom and political reform in Lebanon and we are going to continue to support him. We believe that he has the support of large swaths of the Lebanese population, despite the best efforts of countries like Syria and Iran and their proxies, Hezbollah, the Siniora government has continued to govern in the face of difficult challenges by those groups, by those countries who want to turn the clock back in Lebanon. And Prime Minister Siniora I think has earned the respect of other leaders around the world and that respect has manifested itself today in Paris with the donations that you've seen.

QUESTION: Could I just -- one more, just --


QUESTION: I mean, do you still have concerns though, first as against him toppling his government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly we are concerned that those who want to turn the clock back. And it's our job as an international system to do everything that we possibly can to see that that does not happen, that the role of the Lebanese people for economic political reform and a better day for Lebanon to succeed.

QUESTION: But, can I --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Go ahead, Charlie.

QUESTION: Well, I want to follow up on part of it which is that earlier you made a comment to irresponsible parties --


QUESTION: -- in talking about today's activities.


QUESTION: And you didn't name anybody in particular. And just now in answer to the last question you mentioned Syria, Hezbollah. Do you include the Government of Syria in terms of irresponsible parties in today's activities?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm trying to make a -- excuse me -- a settle point and that is that I can't tell you exactly who is responsible for fomenting the violence at the university today in Beirut. But what I'm trying to indicate is that the atmosphere that allowed that to move forward was created by those parties like Hezbollah and their outside supporters, Iran and Syria. They have created an atmosphere of political tension in Lebanon where they have directly challenge the role of the Lebanese people for political and economic reform and for freeing the Lebanese people and their country from the oppression that they lived with for 20 years during Syrian occupation. So that's -- I'm trying to get at the point, they have created this atmosphere in which these kinds of political tensions have now begun to manifest themselves in violence in the streets.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: Sean, you have the violence on the streets which seems much more of an urgent, immediate problem than the money that you're pledging today is ultimately for long term reconstruction to help the government with the debt problems, strengthen its hand on the government. But I mean, how can you help with the situation that's on the ground today to prevent it from overtaking the kind of seeds that you're sowing right now for the long term stability of it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in the immediate term, it's the Lebanese security forces that are going to have to deal with the current tensions and the Lebanese political leadership. Now, I understand that across the board, the political leadership has called for calm in Lebanon and certainly that is an important action. But in the immediate term, it is going to have to be the Lebanese that deal with the violence that you're seeing in Beirut.

QUESTION: Three or four months ago, the -- maybe a bit longer - the White House and yourself issued, this is to follow on from Libby's question --


QUESTION: -- issued a very strong statement saying that you feared for Siniora's -- Prime Minister Siniora's life and that there were forces working to get him, basically. Do you still stand by that statement?


QUESTION: Is the situation still the same or is it even more dire than when you --

MR. MCCORMACK: It hasn't -- I can't tell you if it's anymore dire at the moment. But certainly, there are forces that want to stop progress towards a free democratic prosperous Lebanon. We've seen that. We've seen them assassinate and attempt to kill numerous individuals. They succeeded in killing a former prime minister. They succeeded in killing people like Pierre Gemayel. And we have no reason to believe that that threat has abated in any way. It is I suspect that that threat will continue while those forces that are responsible for violent actions feel threatened by things like UN Security Council Resolution 1559, 1701 and the International Tribunal that is going to bring to justice those responsible for the murder for former Prime Minister Hariri. So as long as those -- I would suggest to you, as long as those threats remain to those individuals who are responsible for this violence, then the threat of violence will likely continue.

QUESTION: But do you think it was a good idea for him to leave his country at this time to go to Paris? I mean, doesn't the threat that -- of him being out of the country that things could become even more difficult for him?

MR. MCCORMACK: He's the head of government. He has to be able to represent the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese people. And we think that it is absolutely appropriate and right for him to represent Lebanon and a hopeful future for Lebanon in Paris today.


QUESTION: Sean, how does the U.S. read reports that Saudi Arabia and Iran are basically intensifying efforts to broker a solution in Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look. If we are regional actors who want to play a positive role in Lebanon in trying to help the Lebanese reach the political accommodations that they need to reach in order to move their political process forward, then certainly, that is positive. Amr Mussa has made very, very public efforts in that regard. He has briefed Secretary Rice on those efforts, so we're fully cognizant of those.

If there are other efforts, then certainly, that would be positive as long as they are welcomed by the Lebanese Government. What would be of great concern to us as well as others would be any attempts to negotiate or broker solutions over the head of the Lebanese people and not with the full consent and participation of the Siniora government.

QUESTION: Has the Saudi Arabian authorities been keeping you -- keeping the United States informed about such diplomatic efforts?

MR. MCCORMACK: They can speak for themselves about what they may or may not be involved in.


QUESTION: Switch topics to North Korea?

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Lebanon --

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we'll go with North Korea.

QUESTION: No, she had Lebanon.

MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, you had Lebanon -- oh, Lebanon, then we'll come back, sure.

QUESTION: Are you going to see any positive action to come from Iran regarding the Hezbollah in Lebanon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Have we seen anything?

QUESTION: Are you -- do you expect anything like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: They have, over the past 20 years or so --

QUESTION: No, any positive action?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me just -- let me put it in historical context for you. They -- Iran helped create Hezbollah and they have continued to support Hezbollah during the 20-plus years that they helped create it. And I don't, at this point, see any intention on the Iranians' part, at least any sort of public intention, to try to play a more positive role via Hezbollah in Lebanon's future. 


Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: This follows on a topic we discussed earlier this week about President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Now Mr. Rafsanjani, the former president, is -- looks to be taking over some more of the nuclear issue, meeting with British officials, saying that Iran is ready to have full verification of its nuclear programs, things like that. Do you see an opening here and do you think that this signals that President Ahmadinejad is being increasingly isolated? And is that -- do you have --

MR. MCCORMACK: Hard to say, hard to say. The internal dynamics of Iranian politics at the top level of the Iranian regime is pretty opaque. I couldn't tell you what the intentions of various actors within that system are. But one thing you can say, just looking at the public reports, press reports, is that there is now a debate about the stance of the Ahmadinejad government on the nuclear issue that has broken out into the public.

There was, for quite some time, some suspicion that that debate was taking place behind closed doors, but now it's broken out into the public, which is certainly interesting. Now where that debate will lead to, I can't tell you and I can't -- certainly can't speak to the motivations of various actors like Rafsanjani or others who might be involved in that debate. It's fine for people to express intentions and good will, but what the Iranians need to do now is to act and they need to do so in tangible ways that meet the conditions that have been laid out for them by the Security Council as well as the IAEA. Thus far we haven't seen anything that comes close to meeting those standards.

QUESTION: But the fact that new players seem to be involved and seem to be opening a door that Ahmadinejad closed, does that give you some optimism that there might be an opening here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, words are great, but what you need are actions. The door has been opened by the international system for the Iranian regime and we'll see if they walk through it. Thus far, they have given no indication that they are going to.


QUESTION: Sean, is the Secretary planning to pledge any more financial support for Afghanistan when she -- well, she's already out there in Brussels by now, maybe soon will be, but tomorrow there is a meeting at NATO.


QUESTION: What kind of support is she planning to announce for Afghanistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to see some very substantial pledges on the part of the United States, both for reconstruction support as well as for military training and equipping of the Afghan army. So you're going to see a substantial number that the Secretary is going to propose. Now I have to point out that this is just a proposal because the supplemental budget request has yet to be submitted to the Congress, so I want to make clear that this is a proposal, not a firm pledge that all of that money is going to be forthcoming. We certainly intend that it will be, but Congress has a say in this.

QUESTION: You're talking about a '07 budget.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, a '07 supplemental


MR. MCCORMACK: Request, right. So this is going to be a very substantial amount that she talks about tomorrow.

QUESTION: Sean, can you talk a little bit about the review that -- I guess there's been a review going on of Afghanistan policy within the Administration? Can you talk about that a little bit and what's sort of the state of play is over there, what you think Afghanistan needs from our government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the review was begun -- I can't tell you exactly when -- it's been ongoing for several months. And what senior policymakers wanted people to do is take a look at what has worked in Afghanistan, what are we doing right. And in areas where we need to improve, what is it that we need to do to improve our efforts with the eye to -- how can we help the Afghan people and the Afghan Government succeed? There are real challenges to that success, namely the Taliban as well as terrorist groups that are seeking to take that country back to where they were three, four, five years ago.

So the assistance that we are going to propose is intended to focus on a few key areas: Afghan reconstruction; helping with the building of roads. This is terribly important in Afghanistan. It is critical in a couple of respects: the practical effect of people being able to move around more easily in Afghanistan; the very practical effect of the farmers being able to get their goods to market. For example, Afghanistan could be a real producer of various types of agricultural products, but some of those are perishable and by the time -- with the current road system, by the time you get those goods to market, they're no good, they're spoiled. And therefore, farmers who might otherwise be involved in that kind of agricultural production might look elsewhere -- look to ally themselves with other kinds of forces, so roads are very important. Basic infrastructure, electricity grid, irrigation, also all this goes hand in hand with our counternarcotic strategy to make sure that the people of Afghanistan are involved in activities that help build up a legitimate economy in Afghanistan as opposed to being involved in the production of illicit narcotics.

There is also the other part to the assistance pledge is going to be helping to train and equip Afghanistan's national security forces. I think the bulk of this looking to expand the capabilities of the Afghan army and the police forces. They've made real strides in putting together their security forces, but they're going to need some help. The Afghans want to take over responsibility for being able to secure their country. Right now they can't do it by themselves. We're there to help. NATO is there to help. And there are serious challenges to the Afghan Government, especially in that southern region where NATO is operating. So part of this -- what this is intended to do is to help reinforce the successes that we have had in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: What do you make of these reports that Pakistani intelligence services are actually contributing to the rise of the Taliban again?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't -- this has been a continuing issue and certainly the Afghan Government has some strong feelings about it. We have -- what we have been trying to do -- we first and then NATO -- is try to bring the Afghans and the Pakistanis together to work on security issues along that border region. The forces that threaten Afghanistan also could pose a potential threat to Pakistan as well, so there's a real mutual interest there. A stable Afghanistan, a stable, prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan as well as the rest of the region and vice versa. So there -- you've seen in public, there have been tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan on this issue. They have put in place at least the groundwork for better cooperation to get after that security issue along the border region, they need to build on that. They also need to make more effective their cooperation and there are two sides to this. So what we are doing here is trying to help with the Afghan side of this and to, like I said, help them succeed beyond where they have been able to succeed thus far.


QUESTION: Could you be a little bit more definitive on the numbers attached to the -- both the reconstruction and the military side? What do you have in mind?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not going to get ahead of my boss in terms of making those announcements. It'll be pretty -- it'll be substantial. I've seen press reports out there of multiple billions of dollars and I think those are in the right neighborhood.

QUESTION: Could you also say why, so many years after the Taliban was driven out, the opium poppy production is so high?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not an expert in this, George, but there are a number of different reasons, I talked a little bit about them, is you had -- Afghanistan, prior to the overthrow of the Taliban regime, had a very, very rudimentary economy and Afghanistan is not a place that has a lot of natural resources. So what you are trying to do is not necessarily rebuild Afghanistan; you're actually trying to help the Afghans build Afghanistan so that it is a state that is fully integrated with the modern international system.

And as a result, because you have a number of these shortcomings in terms of infrastructure, people are seeking to spend their time in, what we would view, less productive ways and counterproductive ways. For example, you mentioned growth and production of illegal narcotics, poppies. And what we are trying to do is encourage those individuals who may be tempted to spend their time cultivating poppies and to instead engage in other kinds of activities. You don't want to build an Afghan economy that is built on foreign aid and illicit narcotics production. That is not good for Afghanistan, nor the Afghan people, nor the international system.

So I think that the short answer to your question is the roots of this are in Afghanistan's -- the lack of development in Afghanistan and the particular historical circumstances of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Don't you have to move aggressively against it, the way you're doing it in Colombia with the eradication?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is a lot of discussion about that. There are a lot of different techniques that you can employ to get after the narcotics production. You can have spraying, you can have manual eradication, you can have mechanical eradication. And President Karzai and his government obviously have a big say in this and we want to respect the fact that they are a sovereign government. We can offer our best advice and -- but ultimately, these decisions are up to President Karzai.

The bottom line is everybody wants this to be effective. President Karzai understands that getting after the production of illicit narcotics in Afghanistan is in the interest of his government and the interest of the Afghan people, so we're going to do what we can to stand with President Karzai and the Afghan people. Part of the money that Secretary Rice is going to propose tomorrow is intended to help with counternarcotics, so we're going to remain deeply involved in those efforts, as are other interested actors in the international community.


QUESTION: Are there any parts of the strategic review that are specifically designed to expand the reach of the Karzai government and to cement his support with Afghanistan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what you want to do is you want to cement the democratic system in Afghanistan. You have it at the federal system, you want to get it down more and more to the provincial as well as the local levels. Now again, you're building on the existing social political structures in Afghanistan, but you want to formalize those and help the Afghans build those institutions at those lower -- at the grass roots level. So that's part of what these funds are intended to do as well.

And part of -- and when you have the construction of infrastructure at those regional as well as local levels, that helps reinforce those fledgling institutions at the local and regional level as well. 


QUESTION: Is there any possibility that the Afghan model can be used in Iraq? In the near future is more (inaudible) involvement possible for security reasons and rebuilding Iraq?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you have -- I'll let the folks on the ground in each of those places speak to the specifics, but very generally, you do have a counterinsurgency approach in which you have to take on those forces that are seeking to destabilize the country; in the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban and in the case of Iraq, multiple actors.

And there is a military component to that counterinsurgency strategy, there is a political component, and a reconstruction/development component and they all have to work together. And you will see, when Secretary Rice talks about this tomorrow, that that is present certainly in the -- in our Afghan strategy and you heard from President Bush and it's very clear that that's at the core of our Iraq strategy as well.

So I think certainly, in general terms, there are commonalities in approach. You have to tailor those to the specific circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan and I'll let others speak to the commonalities at a more specific level, but certainly at a general level, yes, there are some common approaches.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Again --

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: You have mentioned expanding the Afghan army and police, do you have specific numbers or a percentage increase in mind?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll talk a little bit more in detail about that in the coming days. 

From the Daily Press Briefing of Jan. 26, 2007:

QUESTION: Mohamed ElBaradei said the West and Iran should declare a sort of a time out under which Iran would --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's go sit on the stairs --

QUESTION: Yeah. Iran would, you know, cease its nuclear work and then UN sanctions would be suspended at the same time. I wonder --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's the offer that's on the table. The -- well, it's not quite the offer that's on the table. But the Iranians come back -- come to the table, engage in serious negotiations, if they suspend their enrichment related activity. The ball is in their court. The international community has spoken. They've spoken with a unified voice. The international system has said very clearly to the Iranian regime that your rude behavior is across the line, that you are outliers at this point in time in the international system. They have a Chapter 7 resolution and they have brought upon themselves the Chapter 7 resolution. That's hard to do. It's hard to do because the international community tends to give countries every possible opportunity they have to come into compliance with behavior, answer various questions that are outstanding. But the situation is such that the threat posed by Iran being able to develop a nuclear weapon is that the international system said we can't allow that to stand. We can't allow Iran to continue to progress in developing a nuclear weapon because the threat is so grave. And that's -- they have brought this upon themselves, so the ball is in the Iranian's court at this point.

QUESTION: So the Iranians have to give up enrichment and then come to the table?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's what the Security Council has said.

QUESTION: This happening together, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. That's what the Security Council has said.

Yes. Libby.

QUESTION: Still on Iran, you talked a little bit about the gaggle about this evidence that you're working on possibly presenting to the American public about Iranian activities in Iraq. Can you talk about where that is in the process and why you're considering doing it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, apparently, walk back a little bit, there was apparently a challenge put out there I believe from the Iranian Ambassador in Baghdad said, well, show us the evidence, show us the evidence that Iranian agents are engaged in these activities and Ambassador Khalilzad, rightly so, said, we will present that evidence. We will make it public.

Now, where we are in the process is taking a look at the mountain of evidence that we do have and seeing what it is that we can cull from that in a declassified form so that we can make very clearly connect the dots between these EFD networks and Iranian influence over them. So we are working through that progress -- that process. It often takes a lot of time. It's sort of a laborious process because you have to -- because you want to make sure that you are able to protect sources and methods, all the while painting as clear a picture as we possibly can for global publics
as to the involvement of the Iranian regime in these EFD networks.

QUESTION: Will this be in the form of -- like a national intelligence estimate, something like that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think it would be quite something like that because those tend to be highly classified documents and this would be more of something that is a public presentation. Now, I would caution that this is our intention and we are working through the process right now. At the end of the day you have to make a determination as to exactly how useful the information is that you are able to declassify. There are certain restrictions. You don't want to blow your sources and methods. You don't want to in any way harm your ability to continue to collect the information that is helping us protect our troops. So it is our intent to do this and we'll see exactly how long it takes us to work through that process and at the end of the day what the judgment is about the utility of the information that we're able to declassify.

QUESTION: Would you say that U.S. forces are being extra cautious given, you know, the controversy over Iraq intelligence and --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. No. You want to be cautious because you don't want to do any harm to our ability to continue to gather information that will help to protect our troops in Iraq.

QUESTION: Did you say -- (inaudible)


QUESTION: -- (inaudible) other adjectives like lethal or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Keep going. Lethal as in describing, what, the --

QUESTION: You said a "mountain of evidence."

MR. MCCORMACK: A mountain of evidence, yes, indeed. A substantial body, convincing, clear evidence. I mean, you know, we can keep on going down the line.

QUESTION: And will this come from the military side of things? Will this be announced in Iraq, will it be announced here? How -- what form will it take?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't think that anybody's begun to work through those modalities quite yet.

QUESTION: Did you say that --


QUESTION: -- what you guys are considering was this from intelligence you've received from this raid in Arbil or was this related to things from December?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the problem didn't just start in -- at the end of December. The problem goes back a ways and you can -- I think this first really came to public notice early -- earlier last year when the British MOD, Ministry of Defense, started talking a little bit about the threats that their soldiers in the south faced from these new type of more lethal IEDs and then traced that back to Iranian networks that were providing the know-how, the technology, and some of the resources to build these, so this goes back a ways.

As from where we collected this information, that would be something perhaps we could talk about when we actually have a presentation at this point. I think you can assume that it comes from a variety of different sources.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: A little bit to follow up your comments this morning on this policy of going after some of the Iranian actors --


QUESTION: -- in Iraq. Is this being done in consultation, cooperation, or coordination with the British who are facing the same threat? There are some reports that the British are also patrolling along the Iranian border and finding some suspicious activity.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our guys in Baghdad, military folks in Baghdad are probably in a better position to talk about cooperation between the multinational forces in the north and then in the south. I can't speak specifically to it, Elaine. Certainly, we coordinate all the time on a whole matter of different topics. It's a common threat, it's a threat to their soldiers, it's a threat to our soldiers, it's a threat to all the international forces that are on the ground in Iraq. So there is a common threat. I can't specify for you the level of cooperation that we have.

QUESTION: And then -- and just one more also on the suggestion that Secretary Rice has objections to the idea of going after Iranian actors in the country, even though she said and others have said that that's not true.


QUESTION: Could you speak about Secretary Rice's reported seeking of assurances or specific people that could make sure that specific guidelines or conventions are followed to the letter?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, she, of course, participated in the discussions that led up to these decisions and she fully supports this effort, of course. This is a force protection issue. It's designed to protect our troops. Absolutely, she wants to do everything that we possibly can to protect our troops and she has full confidence that these activities are going to be implemented in such a way that maximizes the benefits to our forces in protecting them from these lethal networks.

QUESTION: So could you say whether she specifically sought a point person to make sure that -- you know, all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, to make sure that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Elise, she -- let's just clear up any questions here. She fully supports this effort, yeah.

QUESTION: What's the goal, then? To go after these guys and kill them or interrogate them?

MR. MCCORMACK: The goal here is to protect our troops and the military can talk about how exactly it does that. They will talk about their rules of engagement, but the goal here is to protect our troops.


QUESTION: On this still, what do you say to critics that say this is just more of a political move to set up a confrontation between the U.S. versus Iran throughout the Middle East? And -- you know, you talk a lot about extremist forces versus moderate forces and --


QUESTION: -- really defining that.


QUESTION: So what do you say to people that say that's what this is about?

MR. MCCORMACK: That this is more political than actually an effort to protect our troops?

QUESTION: Or at least -- yeah, the public -- you know, talking about now presenting evidence and that sort of thing.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I -- you know, I don't know who these people are. They just don't know what they're talking about. I presume that these are people on the outside looking in who have some time on their hands who just have no idea what they're talking about.

Look, this is a serious issue of protecting American lives in Iraq and the President laid out very, very clearly his reasons for the decision and what it is -- the latitude that is being given to make sure that our forces are protected in Iraq. He also made very clear, as recently as this morning, that these activities are taking place within Iraq. Chairman Pace made that very clear when this story first came out, that these activities of force protection are governed by existing Security Council resolutions as well as the fact that they are taking place within Iraq. We have full confidence that we can do so.

We are working on other fronts to -- with the international community to address different aspects of Iranian behavior, for example, on the nuclear front. We have -- you're well aware of what we're doing on the nuclear front with respect to our diplomatic activities. So this is a very particular issue with respect to force protection protecting American lives in Iraq.


QUESTION: On the next step regarding Iran's behavior, like if -- when Dr. ElBaradei present his report that the Iranians did not implement the resolution, what type of sanctions are you considering to impose on Iran?

MR. MCCORMACK: Samir, as for the next steps in the Security Council process, that's something we're going to talk about with the other members of the Security Council. We'll see. We'll see what Dr. ElBaradei has to say. Most importantly, we'll see what the Iranians do. They continue in provocative behavior, I've seen various news reports indicating -- saying that they have indicated they intend to install more centrifuges, certainly not the kind of response the international community is looking for. So our response as an international system will be guided by what the facts are on the ground in Iran, what their behavior is.

Regardless of the Security Council track, we continue to work with other governments on implementing the existing resolution. It is having some effect on the Iranian regime. They are starting to see the cost for their behavior, not only the actual costs now, but the opportunity costs down the road and I think that's worrying some in Iran. You're starting to see more of a public debate about whether or not they're really following the right set of policies.

And that is what this diplomatic strategy is intended to do. It's intended to elicit a change in behavior and it's intended to do so through application of increasing levels of diplomatic pressure and they're starting to feel it now. And you're starting to see, in public now, the conversations that we were all hypothesizing were taking place behind the scenes. We hope that they change their behavior. There is an opportunity here for them to change their behavior, but we're going to be consistent in continuing to apply that diplomatic pressure absent a change in their behavior.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Any specific comments on Iran's threat not to allow the head -- UN head inspector to go in and look at their nuclear work?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's outrageous. You know, it is -- it's outrageous that they find themselves in the position of a country under Chapter 7 resolution for their failure to cooperate with the international community and now they're trying to dictate, again to international bodies, what those international bodies can and can't do in the form of who they're going to send to inspect them. These are all highly qualified professional individuals and certainly to accede to this demand from Iran, really calls into question the integrity of that inspection process and I'm sure the IAEA will take a close look at that. And as a member of the Board of Governors we would have -- you know, we would have concerns about any agreement to accede to this demand by the Iranians. So this is -- this was proceeded by another demand earlier that they get a whole new set of inspectors to come in for this next round. They're inspector shopping.

As -- and put aside the specifics of it, just the tone of those kinds of actions are indicative of their continued defiance. And this is not what the international system is looking for or frankly what it was hoping for in terms of Iranian behavior.

QUESTION: That said, yesterday ElBaradei said it was -- we're still working, the jury is still out there, even if Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon there five to ten years from today. Can you anticipate any kind of disparity between your sense of momentum in getting this back to the UN and what the pace of the IAEA wants to go at, in terms of their inspections? It seems --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I don't think there's any disparity. I mean, these are two separate tracks. The IAEA has its work. And certainly the Security Council resolution was informed by some of the Iranian reaction to the IAEA. But there are other factors that went into that resolution, so the IAEA track and then the UN Security Council track are two separate things and all of those are separate from the P-5+1 efforts. So the IAEA is continuing to do its work and they continue to send in inspectors. I think everybody has a healthy sense of the urgency of the need to get Iran to change its behavior, including Dr. ElBaradei. That sense of urgency is shared by the members of the -- most of the members of the Board of Governors as well as the P-5+1 and the Security Council. So I think the system as a whole is actually working relatively well in this regard in terms of applying some concerted pressure to Iran to change its behavior.

Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Why have you been waiting this long time to take the steps toward Iran to protect the U.S. army in Iraq? Why you didn't take it before a long time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, frankly, because it's -- as the information is developed and as you see the threat emerge, it's based on the facts on the ground. And you start to see these facts on the ground emerge and to develop. And in reaction to that, you have to take steps to protect our troops. So it's -- the short answer is because it's in reaction to the realities as they developed on the ground in Iraq.


QUESTION: Sean, also of Davos, there was the World Economic Summit and it's almost a love fest. You had Foreign Minister Livni sitting directly next to President Abbas in the audience and they seem to be engaged in some peace negotiations. And as far as the Davos summit, it looks like the world leaders are looking to resume the roadmap. Is that what you're gleaning from that summit?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I can't tell you, Joel. I don't think we've gotten any feedback from Davos, obviously. The Secretary is in there. We have I think some folks that have decided to go there. Look, there is -- you know, what you point out is indicative of the mood in the international community in its desire to seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think that's shared by some of the leadership on the Palestinian side, certainly President Abbas, and on the Israeli side as well. You saw another example of it back in September around the General Assembly. They had that Security Council meeting which they talked about this issue. It was remarkable because it was really free from the kind of hurling of accusations back and forth in terms of a dialogue. It was more -- it had more of an atmosphere of trying to find common ground and seek solutions.

So there is what you point out as indicative of the existing atmosphere, I think, in the international community, and that's what Secretary Rice is talking about when she says that there is an opportunity here. It doesn't -- that doesn't guarantee you success, but there is an opportunity here to move forward. And that's why she's working so hard right now, working with responsible parties in the region to see how we can move forward.

QUESTION: Change of subject?



QUESTION: A question on the detainees. On like al-Qaida or the insurgents, they're actually paid employees of a sovereign government. So does in any way raise any legal questions as far as detaining them?

MR. MCCORMACK: Talk to MNFI. They can, I think, speak in more detail as to how they view these individuals and their standing vis--vis international treaty obligations. I would point out that when the incident back in September when we scooped up several of these guys, it was brought to our attention that a couple of them, I believe two, had diplomatic status, formal diplomatic status inside Iraq, and in short order those individuals were released, turned over to the Iraqi Government, who then turned them back over to the Iranian Government and I think that they were asked to leave Iraq at that time. So we did abide by our Vienna Convention obligations.

As for the particular status of these individuals, I think talk to the folks in Baghdad. They can give you a better read on that. 



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