Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death

contact@ifamericansknew.org

 

 

Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.

#SupportPalestineInDC2016

U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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Order or download Rachel Corrie cards, letters, and posters on our site

Protest AIPAC in DC on March 20th! Join this rally spearheaded by Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

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Iron Man Suit Costume: Do It Yourself Guide

Build Or Buy Your Own Iron Man Suit Armor Costume And Become The Next Tony Stark. The Only Do It Yourself Guide On Internet. Click Here!

IMDIY1.jpg

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be Tony Stark when he is flying around New York as Iron Man? Well, that kind of technology is not here yet but here’s the good news: you can now build your own iron man costume! Just don’t try to fly around wearing it, because it is still too early for that kind of hi-tech gizmo to be available.

Marvel Studios did a great job turning the iron man comic book into a multi-million dollar film franchise and it also resurrected the career of Robert Downey Jr. along the way. Before anything else, let’s take a look at all the capabilities of the iron man suit as it was seen in the movies.

The Arc Reactor

It serves as the main battery of the suit. Without it, Tony won’t be able to do anything cool like blasting bad guys and flying around. Just think of it as a little nuclear reactor that gives off tremendous amounts of energy. Not bad, considering it looks like a big round bulb carved into the chest piece of the suit.

The Repulsor Beams

These are the round laser blasters found in the palms of the suit. They shoot concentrated blasts of laser that could literally stop a tank in its tracks. These would also be great in cooking barbecues in the backyard.

Propulsion System for Flying

Propulsion System for Flying are made up of tiny rocket engines found at the soles of the iron boots and also in the palms. It is amazing every time you see Tony Stark fly around while wearing a hunk of metal in his body. It just shows how strong the boosters are in the armor.

Mini Rocket System

If you are Iron Man, then you will probably end up in different war zones in various parts of the world, since you are trying to maintain world peace and all that. So it is good to know that the suit has a built-in mini rocket defense system that can shoot multiple missiles at different targets.

Jarvis, the super advance AI

Last but not least, Jarvis, the super advance AI is the wise-cracking super intelligent operating system of the suit. Its name is Jarvis and he’ll only shut up when you tell him to, so make sure you give him specific instructions.

Transform into Iron Man now!

Now let’s get back to reality and focus on the super cool all-real Ironman costume for sale. Whether it’s Halloween or just the office shindig where you want to look ultra hi-tech and be the envy of your co-workers, this Ironman costume will always rock the occasion. Here’s what you’ll receive when you buy the package:

  • Material List (all you will need to build the suit)
  • Step-by-Step Guide (follow this and you’ll do great)
  • 3D Files (all the files of the suit designed in a 3D Software)
  • Software Viewer (you will get the software necessary to view and print the files) Not available for Mac.
  • Pictures (these will help you to know if you are in the correct path)
  • Videos (to know exactly what to do and how to do it)

http://5e80b9xr3udsfmci3ipl4l3tdd.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=IRONMAN

The Glorious Days Of Achievement

Have you ever won a trophy?

trophy

I took dance classes from age 2 to age 9. We always got trophies for participating, but those trophies were more a courtesy thank you for participating type.

Some time in middle school I was on a soccer team and there was a local competition in which our team placed 2nd, so I got a medal for that. I played defense but I scored one goal during the season. I was definitely not the best athlete. I’d actually consider myself athletically challenged.

But, my biggest childhood achievements occurred in the 5th grade when I won 1st place for the ‘Why Science is Important?’ essay contest. I won 1st place in the entire school. I also won 2nd place in the science fair that year as well. My science project was called “Fancy Footwork” and it focused on the ability to use your right hand to write a number 6 and motion your left foot to write a 6 on the floor at the same time. And vice versa with the left hand and right foot.

Because I placed 2nd in the school, I was able to go to the county science fair, in which I place 3rd. I didn’t make it to the state competition, but it was pretty cool because I was able to get into some extra science classes after school with the other participants.

Good times.

[announce_onepalestine] Update on Amer Jubran

Newsletter By:

necdp@onepalestine.org

announce_onepalestine@lists.riseup.net

2/4/16

Update on Amer Jubran

We would like to send out our thanks to all those who have sent faxes and emails on Amer Jubran’s behalf.

In January, Jordan’s State Security Court reduced Amer’s sentence from 10 years to 6 years. Current Jordanian law states that actual prison time served can be additionally reduced by 25% for “good behavior.” This along with time already served (1 year and 9 months) means that Amer may still have to serve another 2 years and 8 months in prison.

In December, Amer was moved to a prison that is an hour and a half away from his family. He gets only 10 minutes with each family member when he is allowed visits. Every day in prison is time away from his wife and four children, time away from his parents, extended family, and friends.

Though the sentence by Jordan’s State Security Court was reduced, it is still not just. A verdict that is solely based on a coerced confession under torture should be overturned. Amer Jubran has done nothing wrong. He should be free.

Please stay tuned for further updates and action calls and thank you again for your support.

Amer Jubran Defense Campaign

freeamer.wordpress.com

_____________________________________________________________  

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Breaking: U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear cases attacking birth control coverage (again) — and women’s health is at risk!

Remember Burwell v. Hobby Lobby?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some bosses can deny their employees coverage for birth control. It was a deeply troubling ruling that undermined women’s health and took our country backward.

Well, it’s time for another round in this fight!

That’s right. The Court just announced it will hear seven consolidated cases, again attacking birth control and putting access to contraceptive coverage at risk for even more women.

And it’s a painful reminder that women’s reproductive health care is under siege in this country.

That’s why the National Partnership is launching the new Women’s Defense Fund — so we can stand up, speak out and fight back — and I urge you to become a charter supporter by donating $5, $50 or even $500 today!

Extremists are launching relentless and dangerous attacks on women’s access to reproductive health care … in the courts, in Congress and in the states.

The threats are very real — and really dangerous. Over the next weeks and months, we expect …

  • A case from Texas headed to the Supreme Court, with the fate of many reproductive health clinics hanging in the balance,
  • A surge of abortion restrictions in the states,
  • More congressional committees conducting baseless investigations of abortion providers, and
  • Extremists plotting to defund Planned Parenthood.

The National Partnership is on the frontlines of these fights, but we need your support. Big time.

That’s why we are launching our new Women’s Defense Fund. And that’s why we’re sounding the alarm for all our supporters and donors.

Please chip in $5, $50 or even $500 to ensure we have the resources necessary to defend women’s health and rights from these attacks. Every single dollar will be put to very good use right away!

Together, we will stop extremists from eroding our rights and erasing our hard-fought gains.

Thank you for standing with us during this critical time!

Sincerely,

Debra Ness

President

1875 Connecticut Avenue NW

Suite 650

Washington, DC 20009

202.986.2600

info@nationalpartnership.org

www.NationalPartnership.org

[announce_onepalestine] Human Rights Groups Call for Justice for Amer Jubran

***Please forward–Action call below***

Two more global human rights organizations have added their voices to the international campaign for justice on behalf of Amer Jubran.

On November 3, 2015 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint statement focusing on the issue of Jordanian authorities torturing Amer and his co-defendants to obtain a false conviction:

“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are calling on the Jordanian government to ensure a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into allegations that [Amer Jubran] made the ‘confession’ that contributed to his conviction under torture and other ill-treatment.” ( https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/11/03/jordan-investigate-alleged-torture )

The statement also reiterates long-standing concerns about the lack of independence of Jordan’s State Security Court and its use as an instrument of repression against dissidents.

The Alkarama Foundation issued a public statement in October condemning the gross violations of human rights in Amer’s arrest, detention and trial, and promising to raise the allegations of torture before the UN Committee Against Torture in its upcoming review of Jordan, set to begin on November 9. (http://en.alkarama.org/reports/1896-jordan-human-rights-activist-sentenced-to-10-years-in-prison-after-unfair-trial-before-state-security-court )

Amer’s case is still on appeal before Jordan’s Court of Cassation. Please take a moment to e-mail the Prime Minister urging him to ensure justice on Amer’s behalf, and calling attention to the growing list of international organizations who share our concerns about the human rights violations in his case.

Please e-mail Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour: info@pm.gov.jo

Please cc’ the following:

Minister of Justice, Bassam Talhouni: Feedback@moj.gov.jo .

Minister of Interior, Salamah Hammad: info@moi.gov.jo

(You can also send us a copy: defense@amerjubrandefense.org)

****

Sample letter:

Dear Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour,

I am writing to you about the case of Amer Jubran, a Jordanian citizen sentenced to ten years in prison by the State Security Court on July 29, 2015. His case is now before Jordan’s Court of Cassation.

Global human rights organizations have expressed grave concerns about the violations of fundamental human rights in Mr. Jubran’s arrest, detention and trial.

As you may be aware, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint statement on November 3, calling upon your government to conduct an immediate investigation into allegations of torture in Mr. Jubran’s case, and condemning the lack of judicial independence and rights to fair trial in cases brought before the State Security Court.

On October 5, 2015, the Alkarama Foundation issued a public statement condemning Jubran’s “unfair trial during which confessions extracted under torture were admitted as evidence.”

Please act to ensure that Mr. Jubran’s appeal receives full and independent review. The unjust sentence must be reversed and the officers responsible for torturing Mr. Jubran and his co-defendants must be brought to justice.

Sincerely,

___________________________

[announce_onepalestine] FW: [Free_Amer] Amer Jubran: Statement on GID Detention: Torturers Named; Threats of Retaliation

**Please Forward Widely***

Amer Jubran Statement on Detention Under Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate.

Torturers Named. Threats of Retaliation by Prison Officials.

On October 1st, Amer Jubran made another statement with a more complete commentary on his case and the conditions he is now facing in prison. In this statement he named two of the GID interrogators who tortured him.

We received word on Oct. 10th that Amer is now being threatened by prison officials, who are  limiting contact with his family and pushing for him to be placed in solitary confinement. We urge people to continue to write Jordan’s Minister of Justice. New sample letter here: https://freeamer.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/sample-letter-101215/

We are releasing Amer’s statement below, along with some further details from court papers concerning his trial:

“This case is made of two parts: one of targeting US soldiers stationed in Jordan back in 2006, and the other, of joining Hezbollah to carry out terrorist acts. As far as the part about US soldiers is concerned, how can a plot go on for 8 years without execution unless it was not true at all? Besides, there are no American troops in Jordan, as confirmed by the king himself and the Jordanian Prime Minister through their official statements published in the local media and presented to the court as evidence. Furthermore, there was a similar case that was ruled in favor of the defendants based on the same official statements. And also, there is one big question here:  who is  to be believed and who is lying? Is it the king, or is it some confessions extracted by force by the GID?

The GID has exaggerated this case for the following reasons, apart from its vindictiveness against me: first, they wanted to enlarge the achievement for themselves and for the officers involved, for promotional reasons; also, accordingly, to reflect maximum punishment and revenge against me in person; and thirdly, to use their false achievement to collect anti-terrorism funds from the foolish US government. No proofs were presented in this case except for the confessions made by forceful process. If this case is as serious as they claim, how come all the co-defendants have received 2-3 year sentences and I have received a 15 year sentence? Lastly, please note that I was declared innocent on the charge relating to carrying out terrorist acts and this constitutes a screaming contradiction between the verdict and the sentence.

As for the part about Hezbollah, apart from the political argument over this issue and my denial of this charge–and despite my respect and admiration for Hezbollah–here is the big fact: the Jordanian government has not classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The judges denied us our requests numerous times where we have requested both in writing and verbally to make the prosecutors spell out Jordan’s official position on Hezbollah’s classification or have us get an official statement from the Prime Minister or the GID and the Ministry of Interior, or the Ministry and the Ministry of Defense. The Court ruled on this based on its opinion and not based on the legal official stance of Jordan  on Hezbollah. Again, in this part, no proofs were submitted except for a false confession and a laptop–that had an encoding and decoding software–seized from the defendant  number 7. Defendant number 7 had this laptop  in his possession, and surprisingly he was cleared of any charges including also codefendant number 5.  Which puts a question mark on, Why? 

During the interrogation there were numerous sessions during which I was asked questions about friends and activists from the States. Including [list of names]. They claimed, when I asked why, that this was for their own use of information and for their friends in the States. [He provides some additional details about statements that the GID claimed were made by his co-defendants concerning people from the US.] These are total lies, made up to pressure me into cooperating […]

My dear friends, I admit that I was not a hero during the encounter with the GID. Except for refusing to be a sell-out. I was broken down by the amount of threats against my faith and my family, and the one I love. But one would ask, Why I would believe these threats? Because the GID is credible in its evil and criminal history. I, until this moment, still fear the vindictive reaction against myself and my loved ones. I have signed all documents that they have presented to me. And wrote all sorts of confessing narratives including admitting to full responsibility of an attack that was carried against the Israeli Ambassador convoy back in January 2010. Also plotting to attack the Israeli embassy in Amman. At the end, it got so funny with the confessions and the rearrangement of the confessions, that they had to rewrite them and to rearrange them–the whole full set of the confessions by all the co-defendants for over five times. And each time they changed–they made sure that it is directed toward my full responsibility. And along with these changes and amendments and total turn around of events in each different confession that they had assigned, the Prosecutor went on and made the changes accordingly in order to match and fit the confessions made by the interrogators, or before the interrogators.

The abuses and torture were carried out by a colonel whose name–you have his name in the papers. His name is Habes Rizk. He was the man in charge. And also, he is Officer Number 1 in the table list which you have. Also, there are many others. The first five witnesses presented by the prosecutor. … The first 5 of them were the actual interrogators and officers in charge of the whole show. The first witness is what you know as Officer Number 2. And he’s the one who took charge, from the moment of raiding my house, threatening me and my family inside my house, taking me and doing all sorts of torture and threats and abuse.

Last item I have, I’m kept now in a group solitary confinement with the other six co-defendants, of which 5 of them have made my life hell as they have been instructed by the GID if they were to get off the hook.

[… ] Now I will be in lock-up for perhaps some retaliatory measures to be carried out against me while in prison like perhaps by denying my rights to make phone-calls and visitation, or even by moving me to another prison where individuals who are charged with Al-Qaeda and its sisters do not take lightly people who are charged with being with Hezbollah or members of that party. And this is the least I would say.

Please note, I don’t know if you have realized in the documents which you have received that the court of military judges has said that they did not need to look even at our facts of defense or our evidence of defense and they have thrown all of that out and ruled from their own heads what was designed or predesigned before even the trial went on.”

***

Amer refers in his statement to a table list with officers who conducted the interrogations against him. This list of interrogation methods was provided as part of his trial testimony, but with numbers in the place of the names of officers. Since Amer has now provided the names of two of the individuals who tortured him, we are supplying the names of the actual officers in brackets from the narrative provided by Amer’s lawyers:

1.    Officer 1 [Colonel Habes Rizk] threatened to “hide  [the defendant] behind the sun” and expressed his racism that all the Palestinians are traitors because they want to free their country.

2.    Officers 1 [Colonel Habes Rizk] and 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] deceived the defendant by claiming that his father [name] , his brother [name] and ten of his company’s employees had been arrested.

3.    Torturing other arrested persons in the same case before him like [defendant name] and [defendant name].

4. Successive interrogation sessions lasting 72 hours, with an interrogation team alternating every 8 hours. Sometime these sessions extended for 120 hours. During such sessions, the defendant sometimes suffered from fainting and in three such instances was taken to an internal clinic, a large quantity of acetone was poured into his nose to revive him, and the doctor would say that the fainting has nothing to do with cardiac disease, but is a psychological effect of the severity of the interrogation. When the interrogation was resumed, if the defendant lost consciousness he was given a cold shower with his clothes on to wake him up and the interrogation continued.

5.     On the third day after each interrogation tour, Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] would pour water on the defendant and treat him as if he had urinated on himself. He would then be punished by ordering him to stand in the corner of the room and then by insulting him, e.g. ‘Is not it shameful for a 45 year old man to urinate on himself?’ This would be repeated every three or four days.

6.     During the interrogation, Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] threatened to bring the wife of the defendant, and to insult and assault her in a way that would guarantee cooperation on part of the defendant. This occurred in the presence of Officer 3.

7.     Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] would use the method of applying pressure to the point where the defendant’s neck meets his shoulder while he is seated. He would do this by using a conscript called ‘Abu Zeid’ who was heavily built. Abu Zeid would put his elbow on the aforementioned area while pushing the head in the opposite direction for several hours. In addition, the method of slapping the defendant on the face was used when he was not responsive.

8.     Officer 2 [Captain Motaz Ahmad Abdurrahman] would order the defendant to sit in the prayer position and would place both feet on the leg of the defendant in case of his failure to respond.

***

At the conclusion of his statement, Amer refers to the Court’s refusal even to consider the testimony and evidence of the defense. The court relied entirely on the confessions obtained through torture, although the defendants testified that in some cases they had not even been allowed to read these “confessions” before signing them. Here is the statement of the court:

“… The court was assured of the evidence presented by the prosecution, and relies on it for proof, including the fact that the confessions of the defendants during the investigations were given clearly, correctly, with no ambiguity, and were given freely and by choice.  … Upon the preceding and upon the prosecution’s evidence, this court finds that it is not obliged to discuss Defense’s evidence presented by defense attorneys since accepting prosecution’s evidence automatically implies rejection of defense’s evidence, as this was the interpretation settled upon by the respected Court of Cassation in many of its rulings, among them decision number 757/2002 chapter 21/10/2002, from which is quoted: ‘…the State Security Court has done well to set aside defense’s evidence without discussing it.'”

***

Amer’s case is still on appeal before Jordan’s Court of Cassation. We urge supporters to share information publicly about his case to create as much visibility as possible while it is still in appeal.

Amer’s case underlines the fact that the primary purpose of torture has never been to gather intelligence. Its purpose instead is to terrorize people into silence and inaction and to force them to implicate themselves and others in false crimes, which in turn props up whatever narrative the state wishes to promote about terrorism.

As friends of Amer from his time in the US–some of us apparently named in the the GID’s interrogation sessions–we express our full solidarity with Amer in his pursuit of justice, and condemn the use of torture against him and his co-defendants.

_______________________________________________

Free_Amer mailing list

Free_Amer@amerjubrandefense.org

http://mail.amerjubrandefense.org/mailman/listinfo/free_amer_amerjubrandefense.org

_____________________________________________________________  

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TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Matt Matthews

 

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING/ROUNDTABLE WITH DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE AND SENIOR OFFICIAL FOR APEC MATT MATTHEWS

TOPIC:  VITAL PARTNERS AND ALLIES:  PREVIEW OF THE 2015 AUSTRALIA-UNITED STATES MINISTERIAL CONSULTATIONS (AUSMIN)

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2015, 2:00 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR:  [I’m Mark Zimmer,] Media Relations Officer for East Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Press Center.  We’re very pleased today to have Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. senior official for APEC, Mr. Matt Matthews.  He’s going to offer a preview of the 2015 Australia-U.S. Ministerial consultations. 

We’re on the record.  We’re going to record this.  We’ll put out a transcript later.  We are not broadcasting this event.  We’ve got a New York office on the line.  If anybody has a question, they’ll come up to the screen, so we’ll do it that way.  We’ve got about a half an hour today, and again, we’ll ask the Deputy Assistant Secretary to make a statement and then we’ll open it up for questions.  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  So again, all right.  So I just wanted to say, first of all, I’m really delighted to be here and we are very excited to be welcoming Foreign Minister Bishop and your new Defense Minister Marise Payne to Boston next week for the AUSMIN.  This is our 30th AUSMIN, and we are also celebrating the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Australian relations – very close relations.  And it is also the 10th anniversary of the signing of our Bilateral Free Trade Agreement which was signed back in 2004. 

Accordingly, we are very excited to be holding this important meeting in Secretary Kerry’s hometown of Boston, and we’re very pleased to welcome the new defense minister there, to congratulate her as the first woman in Australia to hold that position.  We hold AUSMIN each year to reaffirm the close bilateral relationship and a strong military alliance between Australia and the United States. 

Over the past 75 years, Australia and the United States have become indispensable global partners.  I think as you all know, the United States is Australia’s largest foreign direct investor with I think somewhere on the order of $760 billion in investment in Australia.  We are your third largest trading partner, if I’m not mistaken, and you are our 11th largest export market.  So there is a very important economic relationship that underpins the relationship.  We also have a million and a half tourists travel between the United States and Australia every year – something that we encourage all people to do.  And there are 13,000 students studying in both our countries as well. 

Both countries engage in robust exchange in the areas of science and technological innovation, ranging from neuroscience to clean energy to information technology, and of course, our space-related cooperation that NASA has been doing in Australia for years that goes back to the time before they made the movie “The Dish,” right?  So it’s like if you’ve ever been outside of Canberra and been to visit that site, it’s kind of classic.

Australia and the United States have also a shared history of sacrifice across the globe, and we have dedicated ourselves to maintaining peace and security throughout the world, and that has been enshrined in our 1951 security treaty.  But I would say that it’s clear that even today Australia is contributing significantly to the coalition to fight ISIS, to provide personnel and aircraft to the coalition for air combat and support missions.  And Australia and the United States also continue to work as partners in the Asia Pacific region to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight with respect to international law and unimpeded lawful commerce. 

Australia and the United States worked together tirelessly with a number of other Pacific nations to successfully conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership just earlier this week, and we will continue to promote this agreement as one of the most expansive, high-quality trade agreements, and as a major opportunity to increase commerce, investment, and create jobs with increasing prosperity for all those participating economies.

America is a Pacific nation.  Its future is very closely tied to the Pacific.  The Australians are some of our closest friends there, and in fact, our closest friends in the world.  We are delighted to host them for AUSMIN, and at this time I’d just like to open it up and take your questions.

QUESTION:  Assistant Secretary, I’m Michael Vincent [of ABC Australia].

MR MATTHEWS:  It’s – just to downgrade myself to my proper rank, I’m a Deputy Assistant Secretary.

QUESTION:  Mr. Deputy Assistant Secretary – (laughter) – so, look, are you expecting any what you guys like to call deliverables out of the meeting at AUSMIN or is it kind of expected to be a sort of, I don’t know, what’s the —

MR MATTHEWS:  I think the best way to describe AUSMIN is a chance for our senior leaders at [the] cabinet level to get together and ensure that our comprehensive understanding of the way we look at the world and the challenges we face are really tightly matched.  Naturally, during the course of the year we have many interactions at lower levels in the U.S. and Australian governments between our diplomats from State or military folks from DOD.  But this is the premier event which really kind of sets the general framework and where both sides can reassure each other that we do – are coming from the same place.  And where there needs to be discussion, then discussion takes place.

QUESTION:  So when you – sorry, guys, just a quick follow-up on that.  When you say reassure each other you’re coming from the same place, you mean on policy goals and —

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, I think —

QUESTION:  — on defense and trade and that sort of stuff?

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, we actually – we don’t really need to assure each other, since we really are very tightly intertwined and we have a very close set of views about the challenges we face in the world.  But it provides – as issues arise and as they will, it provides that opportunity to be discussing them at a senior level.  And I think it’s always a very healthy thing to do.  That’s why we do it on a regular, annual basis.

QUESTION:  Australia has a new prime minister and also a new defense minister.  What are the U.S. Administration’s expectations of relations going forward with Australia?  I mean, I’d note Tony Abbott – I think it would be widely accepted he ensured there was strong relations between the U.S. and Australia under his leadership. 

MR MATTHEWS:  I think we are very confident that through the decades and through changing administrations on both sides the relationship has been extremely robust, and we fully expect that they will continue to be so.  We have a very talented team led by Prime Minister Turnbull, and I’m sure we’ll have excellent interaction and the relationship will continue to be as strong as ever.

QUESTION:  So you’d expect continuity?

MR MATTHEWS:  We do.

QUESTION:  The ground beneath these meetings is shifting rapidly, though.  Isn’t it because apart from the change of leadership in Australia, the situation on the ground in Syria has massively changed in the past couple of weeks.  Is that going to be a focus of the talks?

MR MATTHEWS:  I think it’s – first of all, I would say that the grounds for the relationship are firm and stable and sure.  They’re globally based, they’re regionally based, and they’re bilaterally based.  So that’s a really strong, stable framework in which we operate in.  There are challenges that arise like Syria, ISIL in particular.  And how we go about meeting that challenge does present new problem sets to solve, but I think you’ll find that the United States and Australia are working quite well together in dealing with it. 

QUESTION:  Will the talks – do you expect the talks to focus on how the Australian contribution to the coalition fighting ISIL can operate alongside other coalition members, led by America, in parallel to another war going on being led by Russia?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, they may get into issues like that.  I don’t know specifically whether that will happen.  ISIL and Syria will be on the agenda to discuss.  But certainly to date, that coalition has been working effectively, and whatever challenges we face in managing our coalition activities side-by-side with increased activity from Russia – well, if that comes up, that would be perfectly natural and —

QUESTION:  You talk about Australia and the U.S. having similar objectives, and I think an example used was freedom of navigation in the Asia Pacific waters.  I assume you meant —

MR MATTHEWS:  Anywhere in the world.

QUESTION:  Yeah, the South China Sea is obviously very topical at the moment.  What role do you see Australia playing in helping to ensure there is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, in the case of the South China Sea, there has been rising tension over the past several years due to the fact that there are multiple overlapping claims, and China has taken a more aggressive stance in asserting its claims.  The United States has a very clearly defined position.  We don’t take a position on territorial claims themselves, but we take a very strong and clear position that resolution of any of those claims has to be done consistent with international law, and it has to be done in a way that is free from bullying or coercion and should be done consistent with international institutions that are aligned to help deal with them.

So I think we have sought in international fora, including the EAS, including the ASEAN EMM, etc, to enunciate that position.  And we have called upon likeminded nations to do the same to ensure that the temperature and the level of tension is reduced by all parties adhering to reasonable means of addressing their overlapping claims, those that are consistent with international law.

We have also asked that all activities in the South China Sea that would intend to change facts on the ground, to change their positions, be halted, and we call upon China and other claimants to adhere to that halt.  And we appreciate it when other nations in the region share in promoting that view as a way of lowering tensions in the South China Sea.

QUESTION:  So Australia, in other words, being an advocate —

MR MATTHEWS:  Yes.

QUESTION:  — of the similar values that you were just espousing now.

QUESTION:  Given the Secretary’s very necessary focus on Syria and before that – well, and continuing, I imagine, dispute in Israel and around – in these talks, will he seek to reassure Australia of the State Department and the Administration’s ongoing commitment to a Rebalance?

MR MATTHEWS:  I think you can be well assured that the United States’ Rebalance takes place within the framework of whatever other challenges we face.  The United States has a fundamental position, which is that the future growth of the world is centered in Asia.  The highest, the greatest amount of global growth will be occurring in Asia and America as a Pacific nation with deep ties throughout Asia, and we need to have our efforts and our resources applied commensurate to that problem and to those opportunities.  So you can fully expect the Rebalance to continue, and I’m sure the Secretary will make that clear statement.

QUESTION:  Could you just – on that, can you just explain to us whether there will be any discussions about an increase of rotation for U.S. forces to Australia as part of the Rebalance or whether there’s going to be any other increase in joint exercises with neighboring countries of Australia, say Indonesia, which I think the U.S. is, I think, going to be hosting next month?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I don’t know all the specifics about future plans for rotations, but under the general force posture agreement I think there is a longer term plan currently there – the rotations involve about a 1,200 Marine – is that right? – in and out of Darwin on a rotational basis?  And over time that builds up to 2,500.  So it would be perfectly natural that folks are talking about how you actually do the implementation of that plan.  But I don’t know the specifics of how they plan – that’ll be done between the defense minister and our Secretary of Defense.

QUESTION:  Okay, but there’s no – like I said at the outset, in terms of deliverables from this meeting, it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be any major changes to it being defense agreement, be it personnel rotations, [inaudible], be it intelligence sharing, or not that you’d probably discuss that with us anyway.  But it doesn’t sound like apart from just checking in the head of (inaudible) or whatever which is coming up in November, there’s – it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be any major announcements.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I think what you would expect is that their discussions will focus on the implementation of the force posture agreement as it stands. 

QUESTION:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Just back on the South China Sea, there’s been reports in the last 24 hours that the United States is planning to sail warships in a peaceful nature within 12 nautical miles of disputed islands.  I mean, would Australia have any role in such a maneuver, or is our role more limited to a more advocacy, diplomacy role that you sort of alluded earlier?  Is that where our sort of strength comes into any situation such as that?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess first and foremost I’d just say that the United States has a longstanding robust freedom of navigation program and you can expect that to be ongoing.  The United States has naval resources in the South China Sea in any particular day, but I don’t and cannot comment on any specific plans.  For Australia’s plans, I refer you back to the Australian Government.

QUESTION:  On that, do you expect Australian Government plans to change underneath the new leadership.  Obviously not the underpinning of the relationship, but say contribution levels to the coalition joint effort.  Is that a matter you expect to be discussed?

MR MATTHEWS:  I hate to say it, but I just – I’m not sure of whether that is on the agenda or not —

QUESTION:  There was some —

MR MATTHEWS:  — and whether that – how that would be affected.  I mean, I would again refer you to the Australian Government on what its plans are for its future assignment of forces for particular coalition engagements. 

QUESTION:  It was reported some weeks ago in Australia that Australia requested the United States in turn request that Australia contribute to their coalition – contribute fighter aircraft.  Can you comment on that?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, what I would say is that we are in a coalition.  We welcomed Australia’s decision to participate.  That’s a decision for the Australian Government, and we’re happy that they are a part of that coalition.

QUESTION:  You can’t comment on the – how that came about?

MR MATTHEWS:  I’m not clear on the specifics, but a decision was made by the Australian Government and we’re happy they’re a part of the coalition.

QUESTION:  They —

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  You go, Michael.  It’s all right.

QUESTION:  All right, just quickly.  I’m just trying to (inaudible) out what we’re going to be doing next Tuesday.  So aside from discussions about the coalition (inaudible) coalition in Syria and Iraq outside the South China Sea and these sort of defense issues, force posture discussion (inaudible).  Are there any other major defense issues or any – are there any other major foreign affairs issues that you think we should aware of ahead of these talks?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, like I say, like, the – I guess the three major brackets of things to discuss in AUSMIN are bilateral issues broadly speaking.  You’d expect that TPP and discussions about TPP, although it’s now concluded – we’re all celebrating that conclusion, but all of us have work to be done to do the legal scrubs and then begin moving that agreement through the ratification process.  I would expect that’ll come up.  You can expect that there will be regional discussions, as we said, as well as broader global issues.  And among global issues, that can cover the – a very broad array.  With COP 21 coming up towards the end of the year, I think you should not be surprised if the issue of climate change and commitments on climate change going forward comes up as well.

QUESTION:  Since the new government’s taken power in Australia, some foreign policy experts, not all, have suggested or speculated that Malcolm Turnbull may have a more independent foreign policy of the U.S., not to say he wouldn’t be still a strong supporter of the U.S.-Australia alliance.  He has strong relations in China.  Is there any concerns within the Administration about that particular speculation?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t think there’s any concerns in the Administration on the strength of the U.S.-Australian alliance, period.

QUESTION:  Is countering violent extremism slated to be a matter of discussion?

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, countering violent extremism will be a topic of discussion.  As you know, it’s a challenge and the amount of disruption taking place in the Middle East – in Iraq and in Syria – the problem of foreign fighters, fighters going to the Middle East and at some point returning is an issue of real concern to nations around the world.  That would naturally be something that you would expect will be discussed in the course of the AUSMIN discussions.

QUESTION:  In particular the issue of foreign fighters and what —

MR MATTHEWS:  I would just say that would naturally be an element.

MODERATOR:  So we have a last question, maybe?

QUESTION:  Is there going to be – I believe there’s going to be a review of the troop levels in Afghanistan.  I think it’s been hinted at by the U.S. Administration.  It’s been reported in Australia that Australia is considering, I think, retaining high levels there if the U.S. does.  Could you comment on that?

MR MATTHEWS:  I really can’t.  That I will refer you to the Defense Department on.

MODERATOR:  Michael, anything final on your side?

QUESTION:  No, I’m good.  But I think that’s a very good overview of what we’re going to get.  I appreciate your time, Deputy Assistant Secretary.

MR MATTHEWS:  It’s my pleasure to speak to all of you.  Take care.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.

QUESTION:  See you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Michael.

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