October 18, 2010
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QUESTION: I have a couple questions on Iraq. There were a spate of stories, it seems, this morning about the political situation and the formation of the new government there and U.S. concerns – alleged U.S. concerns that Iran may be playing quite a big role, that they may be trying to essentially try and form a shadow government in Iraq and that you now are telling the Iraqis to – well, these are just what the reports say, I don’t know if they’re true or not – that you’re telling the Iraqis to slow down, whereas before you were telling them to speed up and get a government in place as soon as possible. Can you comment on those?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, our message to Iraq has not changed at all. We want to see the formation of a new government expeditiously. And we also want to be sure that the new government is inclusive of all four winning blocs. So our message has not changed. And it has been more than six months since the election, but we do notice that the pace of political action to try to form a governing coalition has picked up in Iraq in recent months – recent weeks. Prime Minister Maliki is visiting Iran today. I wouldn’t over-interpret this. We understand that Iran and Iraq are neighbors. They have to have a relationship. But we certainly think that Iran can be a better neighbor by respecting Iraqi sovereignty and ending it support to those who use violence in Iraq.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. Welcome back.
QUESTION: Do you find – thank you. Do you find the statement made by Allawi on this issue to be disconcerting about Iran really meddling in Iraqi politics and so on and out on the open and, in many ways, sort of preempting any kind of coalition formation?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are concerned about any neighboring country that would meddle in Iraq’s affairs. Ultimately, this has to be an Iraqi decision as part of its own political process and we have every indication that Iraq’s leaders are working to try to form a government. We just want to see that government be as inclusive as possible. Our concerns about Iraq and its – I’m sorry, our concerns about Iran and its meddling in Iraq’s affairs are longstanding, but that said, we would expect the Iraqi Government to work on behalf of its own citizens and not on behalf of another country.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up: P.J., Maliki visited Jordan and visited Syria and now he’s visiting Iran. But the Saudis, another major neighboring country, so far has not extended any invitation to Mr. Maliki all throughout his tenure. Is that something that concerns you? Will you put some sort of pressure on the Saudis to receive Mr. Maliki?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we want to see Iraq establish and sustain appropriate relations with all of its neighbors. We want to see Iraq integrated into the region. But it’s not for us to dictate to a particular country what their relations with a government should be. We have talked to Saudi Arabia and encouraged them to increase their dialogue with Iraq, but obviously, what they do is up to them.
QUESTION: P.J., just to follow up quickly – according to The Washington Post and other reports, Iran also meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan, can you have peace in Iraq and in the neighborhood without Iran?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, all right, can we have peace in the neighborhood without?
QUESTION: Iran or Iranian dialogue or involvement?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we want to see Iran be – play a constructive role in the region. We obviously have a lengthy list of concerns about Iran’s behavior, not the least of which, its direct support of terrorism groups and its nuclear ambitions. We understand that Iran, in the context of Afghanistan, does have relations with Afghanistan and has interests in Afghanistan. In fact, we have worked directly and cooperatively with Iran previously. And we note today there was an important regional meeting in Rome and there was Iranian representation at that meeting.
QUESTION: One more follow-up on Iran and Iraq: Are you concerned that these reports suggest that the – Iran’s brokered a deal between Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Madhi Army?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we believe that this should be an issue that is resolved inside Iraq, by Iraqi leaders, working on behalf of their constituencies and working for the interests of Iraq and no other country. We want to see a government formed. We believe a government that emerges that is inclusive and reflects the major blocs that earn significant electoral support will be a government that is strong enough and credible enough to work on behalf of all of the people of Iraq. The sooner that happens, the better.
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QUESTION: Back on Iran for a second.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment, reaction to Iran being – taking over the reins at OPEC?
MR. CROWLEY: We took that question on Friday. I don’t know that I ever – we ever found – it’s a question we took on Friday. I don’t think we’ve had an answer yet.
QUESTION: No? Okay. And then on Feltman’s visit to – his secret visit to Lebanon – (laughter) – does that have anything to do with the –
MR. CROWLEY: The secret –
QUESTION: The secret unannounced before he got there. Did that have anything to do with --
MR. CROWLEY: That’s not true. We announced Mr. Feltman’s travel.
QUESTION: Did you? Well, it’s not in the week ahead. It started in his second stop.
MR. CROWLEY: He issued a very detailed statement –
QUESTION: Yes, after he got there. But, anyway –
MR. CROWLEY: -- after he met with President Sulayman.
MR. CROWLEY: I’d be happy to do a dramatic reading if you’d like.
QUESTION: No, I just want to know if that had anything to do with Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon last week and if it reflected any concern that you might have that Iran was sticking its nose into yet another place that you didn’t – don’t want it to be.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we expressed our concerns to the Government of Lebanon before President Ahmadinejad visited. Jeff is on a lengthy trip to the region and I am quite certain that the subject of President Ahmadinejad visit came up during his meeting with President Sulayman yesterday. He also was in Saudi Arabia today. He’s in Morocco where he had a meeting with Foreign Minister Fassi-Fihri. This was not a secret meeting.
QUESTION: But Lebanon wasn’t on his schedule. What happened to –
MR. CROWLEY: Lebanon wasn’t on his schedule?
QUESTION: Not in the announcement.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. I take that back.
QUESTION: Sorry, wait. Now are you --
MR. CROWLEY: Not so secret.
QUESTION: So it was secret?
MR. CROWLEY: No, I –
QUESTION: He was supposed to go to Cairo.
MR. CROWLEY: I will check and we’ll answer the question whether this was added to his travel after he left Washington.
QUESTION: Any comment or details on an alleged assassination attempt on Ahmadinejad in Lebanon?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, what?
QUESTION: On an alleged assassination attempt on Mr. Ahmadinejad?
MR. CROWLEY: I have no information on that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Post story this morning about the Administration looking at Chinese firms – in particular, for busting Iran sanctions?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, China was integral in the process that left to the drafting and passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1929. China has pledged to fully enforce Resolution 1929. Our Special Advisor Bob Einhorn has had multiple meetings with the Chinese, both, I think, in New York during the UN General Assembly, and also in Beijing towards the end of last month. And we did provide some information to China on specific concerns about individual Chinese companies, and the Chinese assured us that they will investigate.
QUESTION: The first article makes it sound as though China is now the primary concern for the Administration as far as potential sanctions (inaudible) action goes. Is that fair?
MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. We are – as Mr. Einhorn has been visiting a range of countries that we know have extensive economic dealings with Iran – China is one of them, but not the only one. And I think we have worked with China in recent months and years to encourage China to improve its export controls. We think China has actually made significant progress in strengthening its export control system and it pledged to follow up on the information that we provide them.
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