Dissecting Orientalism

As noted by Anderson, Tessler and Halliday, regional studies are essential to the social sciences because they make broader analytical frameworks pertinent to the areas they comprise. Halliday brings forward his thoughts on the impact of Orientalism on the social sciences and makes several concerning points about the Orientalist debate.

Edward Said considered one aspect of Orientalism to be a certain depiction of the Middle East and East Asian cultures, that portrayed the East as backwards, exotic, uncivilized and in need of rescue.

“Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which “the West” constructed “the East,” yet in Halliday’s critique, he refers to Arabs as one entity. This fails to address the non- Arab population living in the Arab nations. Before the modern Arab world existed there were a multitude of different cultures and languages spoken in the Middle East and North Africa region. As of recent statistics, there are more than 300 million Arabs in the MENA region, this number, however, includes the many ethnic minorities that do exist in the area, including the Kurds, Armenians, Aramaeans, Chaldeans, Turkmens, Cherkess, Turks, Zangians, Nubians, Berbers, Banyans, Haratins, Gnawas, Tauregs, Chechens, Romanis, Ajamis, Moors and Assyrians.[1] Halliday fails to address the demographics of people who were Arabized, such as the Berbers, as Berber languages were seen as inferior to Arabic. [2,3, 4] Just as the West orientalized the East to justify their colonialism, in turn the Arabs Arabized the Berber population as they too were and are capable of orientalist-like beliefs. Haliday’s failure to address this flaw and label of “Arab” is in a sense an orientalist belief because he has grouped different cultures together under one label.

Another concerning point unaddressed by Halliday was the effect Orientalism had on MENA academics, researchers, journalists and writers, as well as what happens when these people serve an Orientalist agenda. For example, Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese poet, translator and the creator of the Jasad quarterly magazine. She is also the editor of the cultural pages of the Al-Nahar daily paper. In her book I Killed Schehrezade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman, she attempts to debunk stereotypes of Arab women in the West, yet she also enhances the eroticization and orientalization of Arab women in her magazine’s erotic portrayals. She aims to show that the “typical image of Arab women is not all wrong, but rather incomplete,” but her argument and actions found throughout the book leads the reader to believe that she herself believes Arab women are oppressed.[5] She orientalizes herself by grouping Arabs with Muslims together, as not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs.

While Halliday, Tessler and Anderson addressed many issues faced by academics studying the Middle East, their concerns seemed self-centred and short-sighted, seeing as little focus was given as to how their research can influence ideologies held by MENA researchers and politicians, as well as affect the lives of the people living in the regions they study.

[1] The Islamic Human Rights Commission. “IHRC – Minorities in the Arab World.” Islamic Human Rights Commision (IHRC). 27 Jan. 2004. Web. 17 July 2011. <http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=989&gt;.


[2] Weiss, Bernard G. and Green, Arnold H.(1987) A Survey of Arab History. American University in Cairo

Press, Cairo, p. 129.


[3] Harich, N., E. Esteban, A. López-Alomar, P. Moral, A. Chafik, and G. Vona. “Classical Polymorphisms in Berbers from Moyen Atlas (Morocco): Genetics, Geography, and Historical Evidence in the Mediterranean Peoples.” Annals of Human Biology 29.5 (2002): 473-87. Print.
[4] BBC NEWS. “Africa | Q&A: The Berbers.” BBC News – Home. 12 Mar. 2004. Web. 17 July 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3509799.stm&gt;.


[5] Haddad, Joumana. I Killed Scheherazade Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman. P. 31. Lawrence Hill, 2011. Print.

Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death




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.


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

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TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matt Matthews



MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2015, 10:30 A.M. EDT


MR ZIMMER:  Good morning.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  My name is Mark Zimmer.  I’m one of the Media Relations Officers here.  We’re very pleased to welcome you this morning to a pre-brief of the APEC 2015 meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews. 

Before we start, I’d like to take a moment to mention International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.  That’s today, November 2nd.  I don’t have to tell this group about the importance of a free press as part of every vibrant democracy regardless of location or culture.  This commemoration, which the UN General Assembly initiated in 2013, reminds all of us of our responsibility to prevent violence against members of the media and to ensure accountability for those who do commit violence.  The United States Government commends all of you for your role in promoting free speech, and we recognize the importance of journalists being able to do their work without fear.

With that, let me please welcome Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews.  He will have some opening remarks, and then we’ll take questions.  I will moderate that session.  We’ll welcome colleagues in New York as appropriate.  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Good morning.  I’m very happy to be here with you all to just preview a few items in the lead-up to our APEC senior officials meeting, the APEC ministerial, and of course, the APEC leaders meeting, which will conclude our APEC year. 

I think as all of you know, APEC is a critical piece of our economic architecture in the Asia Pacific region, and we see it as the premier organization for advancing free and open trade and investment.  It’s also used to foster cooperation in promoting sustainable and equitable growth.  One of the most important parts of our Rebalance agenda is for shared prosperity in the region, and APEC contributes directly to that agenda.  There are a number of things that go into it, but APEC basically is structured to help regional integration, stability, and to support rules conducive to U.S. economic competitiveness both for us and the region as a whole.

There are a couple of reasons why APEC really does work and works effectively.  Number one, it’s the institution in the region that we use where we can cooperate on freer and more open trade and investment.  It’s the right environment for holding those discussions.  We have the right experts together both from government and from business to create substantial and workable, practical measures that help move us forward in that area. 

It’s also a good institution for capacity building.  The United States participates in that, but so do other economies in APEC.  And the purpose of that capacity building is to make sure our participatory economies in APEC or developing countries have the capabilities that enable them to take advantage of the trade liberalization that we move forward on in APEC.

And, lastly, I’d say that it’s key to ensuring economic growth that is sustainable and that benefits everyone.  That’s a key element in the themes that you’ll hear time and again during the Philippines’ year, is inclusive growth.  It’s really something that APEC has been working on for some time, but it is being highlighted during the Philippine host year. 

So, we see APEC being able to move forward on all these fronts because it’s an incubator for new ideas, for innovative approaches, and for tackling challenges in the region that other folks haven’t thought of or tried before.  That’s facilitated, as I said, by the level of frank and open discussion that we can have in APEC.  And we can have that kind of frank and open discussion because it’s an organization that’s based on consensus, and the outcomes that we reach are non-binding except inasmuch as each and every member economy commits to doing the things that we all have agreed make sense to do, that we all agree will expand trade, will create greater prosperity, and create benefits across our economies.

So what you’ll see over time is each and every economy coming to a conclusion, coming to a consensus within APEC, and then going home and doing the things they need to do to make those proposals fact, to make them real, to actually open their economies in ways that actually have spurred growth in the region.

I believe that APEC not only has but will continue to play essential role in enabling agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and those of the WTO by helping economies envision and prepare for high-standard rules-based economic systems throughout the region.  I think one perfect example of how APEC has done that is in the area of environmental goods and services. 

So I just thought I’d highlight it for you because this year is the year in which all economies have committed to implementing commitments to either reduce tariffs on 54 items in the environmental goods and services list to below 5 percent or zeroing them out completely.  That’s an amazing step forward, and it’s a step that inspired the WTO to try to pick up a similar process.  And it’s moving forward now on a global framework.

So, again, incubator of ideas, effective means of communication within APEC where we have open discussions and plenty of time to examine the consequences of what a policy move might mean, then consensus and moving forward on it to implementation and providing that idea for others in the global economic community as a point of reference and, perhaps, adoption as in the case of environmental goods and services.

So that environmental goods and services list and the implementation of it is one of the real key highlights for deliverables this year.  But there is much more on the APEC agenda, and first and foremost I would say is work on digital economy.  This is something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years and we’re continuing to prepare it to ensure that the internet and the dissemination of new technologies that have led to rapid change is, in fact, possible within the APEC environment. 

What does this really mean for us?  It means that the internet needs to be open for markets and for free flow of information.  The free flow of information is critical to firms making rapid and accurate decisions.  So anything that prevents the free flow of information on the internet really is an impediment to growth.  It’s an impediment to prosperity. 

So we’re supporting a discussion in APEC that looks to identify those barriers and, as we move forward not only just this year but in the years to come, to thinking about ways we can move forward of dealing with the digital economy as a major trade issue for APEC, one that will allow us to address barriers in an effective way across the board.

The goal here, of course, is to make sure that we have a 21st economy in the Asia Pacific that continues to drive growth for the globe, and we’ll do that by making sure that we’re on that cutting edge, that we’re taking advantage of all the tools and all the benefits that the internet has that we can apply to our economic systems.

Another thing, of course, moving forward is work on the free trade area of the Pacific.  There is a study going on now and … working chapters are being developed by various economies.  That is something that will be progressing year by year as we look at ways of even broadening out the degree of integration within APEC.

There’s also, as I said, a key agenda on prosper – maintaining prosperity through sustainable, healthy, and resilient communities.  So what are we talking about there?  In APEC, we’ve come up with practical applications for dealing with marine debris.  There are better programs going out now where cities are undertaking very pragmatic programs that will take debris, waste material, and turn it into energy – just a creative and effective and economically viable approach.  Again, we’re doing it as an example, not only to the Asia Pacific region, but for the globe as well.

Fossil fuel subsidy reviews – we’re taking a look in APEC at those fossil fuel subsidies and asking each economy to take a clear look and ask themselves whether it’s delivering economic benefit or is it perhaps counterproductive.  And in those cases where they identify a counterproductive subsidy – that means a subsidy that doesn’t work to that – the goal that we have in mind or that – or there are other policy options that might be more efficient.  Folks are then encouraged to pursue those other options. 

On the environment, we’ve got a number of initiatives but, of course, first and foremost was the environmental goods and services agreement.  And I’d just highlight for you, in terms of environment, that the reason why that’s important is we are encouraging businesses and encouraging economies to adopt the best available technologies that allow us to grow, but to grow greener by reducing our carbon footprint.  One key way to do that is by zeroing out the tariff, cutting the tax on those items so that businesses are more likely to adopt those technologies sooner and on a broader scale.  That means that we can grow and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.  But in addition to that, we’re also doing work on electric vehicles and, as I said, we’re doing this fossil fuel subsidy study.  So there’s that element on environment.

Again, there’s an element covering health.  And in health, we’ve done work on both reducing the barriers – or not reducing but at last identifying barriers to trade in health care products.  Again, looking forward, what we’ve got in mind here is this:  What we’re trying to do is improve the health outcomes in each and every economy, and one of the best ways of doing that is to take a look and see where are the tariff rates inconsistent with that goal?  Where are they so high that they’re actually preventing good health care products from getting to consumers who need them?  And, ultimately, what we’ll try to do is work together with our other APEC economies and come up with approaches of how we can reduce those barriers.

But another thing that we’re doing is working in public-private partnerships on infection prevention and the control that is working in conjunction with the global health security agenda.  

And a third area of work in APEC, which is very important and which requires private sector assistance – and one reason why APEC is so effective is it brings the private sector together with government – is to take a look at innovative medical products and take a look at the kind of global standards we’re adopting in applying them.

I’ll give you a following-up area for work that we’re doing, is in women’s economic empowerment.  Here, the most basic thing we’re trying to achieve is ensuring that each and every economy in APEC grows at its optimum level, but the only way you can really do that is by ensuring that women have a full right to participate in the workforce and to contribute to our economic growth. 

So in a broad range of measures, both on – by identifying policy frameworks that can facilitate and encourage full participation of women in the economy through a digital dashboard, and through a number of other specific measures, including this year we had one on transportation – women and transportation, which took a very clear look at this key node, making sure that women have safe transportation systems to get them to and from work, to make sure that that doesn’t become a barrier to their participation in the workforce.  And as a kind of ripple effect, allow economies to say, okay, that’s the way it worked in transportation; are there other areas in our economy that are, unbeknownst to us or without us having really thought through them, creating barriers that we didn’t intend but are in fact there?  As we take a look at the policy settings, we can say here are things, practical things, we can do to make sure that there’s nothing that stands between a woman and her desire to participate in that economy and generate income for her family and help that economy grow.

So one last thing I would mention to you is our work on disaster preparedness.  This is something that was particularly poignant, I think, for the Philippines here because the Philippines, of course, is subject to as many if not more disasters than any other economy in APEC, whether it’s volcanoes, whether it’s earthquakes, whether it’s typhoons.  But all economies in APEC to some degree or other have to handle these kinds of challenges.  And what we want to do, particularly in APEC, is make sure that we’re coordinating in ways that, number one, ensure that we can get humanitarian goods to and from any disaster zone as efficiently and effectively as possible.  This means over time dealing with the customs regulations and restrictions that might slow down that process.  Our goal here is to make sure we alleviate suffering as much as we possibly can, as soon as we possibly can.  And a second element of the APEC’s work on disaster preparedness is, again, I think unique to APEC because it takes a look at what happens after you’ve dealt with the immediate humanitarian crisis:  What about getting our supply chains back in business?  What about getting our businesses back up and running?  What about making sure we have resilient energy systems that can be either sustained through a disaster scenario or be returned to service as quickly as possible?  We’re looking at all those kinds of elements within the framework of discussions in APEC.  So I think you can see we have a really broad agenda, but it’s focused on delivering economic improvement and greater prosperity and greater equity throughout the system.

So I think with those opening remarks, I’ll just open it up.

MR ZIMMER:  Thank you.  Please identify yourself and your outlet.  If any guests in New York come to the microphone, we’ll recognize them.

Please, in the middle here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  I have a question about India.  India has applied for membership of APEC and Philippines said it’s considering it.  What’s U.S. position on that?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t believe that there’s any active consideration within APEC for expanded membership at the current time.  From time to time, countries and economies will register interest and – at present, though, there’s been no significant discussion along those lines.  But at a future date, those things may be reviewed and we will see where they go.

One thing I would suggest is for any economy that’s interested in APEC, a great way to start is to go into – identify sub-fora or working groups that work on particular areas across our APEC agenda that are of particular interest to them and apply as a guest to send experts in to participate, both to help understand how APEC works and to get a better understanding of how we process and turn out good outcomes that help APEC be that organization that pushes for leading-edge and innovative ways of expanding a more open and free trade and investment environment.

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle here, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Alexander Panetta from the Canadian Press.  So there will be a new member of APEC this year – Canada has a new prime minister in two days.  So I’m just wondering whether there are any plans for either a bilateral or a pull-aside with Canada’s new Prime Minister Trudeau and any issues that might be priorities for the United States in dealing with a new government.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, Canada has a new prime minister and we welcome the prime minister into the APEC family, but Canada is not a new member.  And Canada is a very significant and important member of APEC, one which we work with very closely.  We anticipate having a tremendous amount of continuity in the APEC agenda and that Canada, if it does have new priorities that it would like to raise or address, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the prime minister and his team when we go into the ministerial and leaders agenda period during these discussions coming up.  But nothing’s been raised as of yet that I’m aware of.

MR ZIMMER:  Thanks very much.  Let’s go to the side here, please.

QUESTION:  My name is Varughese George.  I have a follow-up question on India.  I’m from India, The Hindu newspaper.  India has already been an observer since 2011 and President Obama, when he visited India last year, did say that the U.S. would support India’s membership in APEC.  So are you suggesting that there is no forward movement at all on that – India’s request for membership?

MR MATTHEWS:  I think it’s just important to be very careful and accurate about describing the President’s comments.  The President has welcomed India’s interest in APEC, and I think that speaks for itself.  We are welcoming your interest.  We welcome India’s examination of what APEC’s all about, but we have not entered into a discussion and I don’t believe India is formally pressing for actual membership now in APEC.  And remember, keep this in mind, APEC is an organization that’s consensus-based.  So each and every member of APEC has to agree to an expansion of APEC membership, and no discussions in APEC this year have focused on that topic – just so you’re focused on that, okay?  You’re welcome.

MR ZIMMER:  We’ll do the front and then we’ll go to the back, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Rita Cheng from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  Every year the U.S. delegation will meet with the Taiwan’s counterpart during the APEC.  I wondered is there any meeting confirmed during this year?  And any other topic that you will be discuss with Taiwan’s counterpart? 

And also, not every country in – of APEC has been included in TPP.  I wonder the America – how America and in what way will put the – cooperate the TPP (inaudible) with the – like the region’s economic framework?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, I’m not sure if I got all of that.  But first and foremost, Taipei is a full member in APEC – Chinese Taipei is a full member in APEC, and it works across the whole APEC agenda with every other economy in APEC and we work with Chinese Taipei in those various sub-fora and working groups, in senior official meetings that I participate in with, and of course during ministerials and even the leaders meeting.  So I think you can anticipate that, just as in prior years, Chinese Taipei will be an active participant in all those elements and we look forward to that.

MR ZIMMER:  In the back, please.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  My name is Adam Xu from Voice of America, Mandarin service.  I have two questions.  You mentioned the U.S. will support the discussion on the free flow of information on the internet.  I’m wondering:  Do you have a list of participants in the (inaudible) or is this discussion going to be carried out?  And can you elaborate on the focus of such discussion, and what are your expectations?

And my second question is about the South China Sea.  Given the recent tensions in South China Sea, is it going to be on the agenda in the APEC discussions?

MR. MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  So, on digital economy, right now we’re at an early stage in the APEC process on discussing the digital economy and digital trade issues, so I would say that this is essentially a working-level process.  But both at ministerial and, I believe hopefully, at the leaders level there will be acknowledgement that this is an important issue that has to be discussed and engaged in, but it primarily has to be engaged at this working level to make sure we kind of start to flesh out all the different specifics that we think are critical to ensuring that we have a free and open internet that supports future economic growth.  So I guess that’s where I’d say we’re on that one.

And I have nothing for you on the South China Sea, except I would just reiterate that APEC is an organization that focuses on economic issues. 

MR ZIMMER:  How about on the side for this one.

QUESTION:  Hi, 21st Century Business Herald.  About TPP, some trade experts told me that among the TPP members in the ASEAN countries, Malaysia will be the one, the country that will face a lot of challenge during the TPP ratification process in terms of the prime minister’s challenge from his own party and from parliament.  So is this the case, or do you optimistic about the ratification process of TPP in Malaysia as there will be a trade minister session in the APEC?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I am optimistic about ratification of the TPP agreement by all the participating economies.  It doesn’t mean that it won’t take a lot of work.  Even in our own country we anticipate it’s going to be a major effort to make sure we do a good job of explaining the actual outcomes of TPP and what the benefits are.  But we remain optimistic and I think we remain optimistic across all the participating economies. 

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle, please, then we’ll go to the back.

QUESTION:  Hi, Maria Garcia, Notimex, the Mexican news agency.  As – Mexico as a member of APEC has started ambitious economic reforms.  Do you think that the Mexican model could be – to what extent the Mexican model could be regarded as a model for other members of the APEC?

MR MATTHEWS:  Other members of APEC?  Well, I would say this, that we have a very broad agenda of issues in APEC, and I would say it’s probably fair to say that almost every economy participating in APEC has at some point introduced innovative ideas or good policy suggestions that get discussed by APEC and ultimately adopted by APEC.  And Mexico, of course, is one of them.  But it’s part and parcel of the way in which we operate, so particularly in every host year whenever an economy decides to host, they have a chairmanship role which allows them to help highlight issues that they think are of critical importance, and they naturally do this in consultation with other economies.  But it does give them a chance to provide some additional input. 

But even in non-host years every economy has the ability to introduce at working levels at the senior official level new ideas that they think will help all the economies at APEC to grow more effectively.  And Mexico has participated in that and they are an active and helpful player in helping us move towards a more liberal and open system.  So I can only say thank you to Mexico.

MR ZIMMER:  All the way in the back, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Marion with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.  I have two questions about two major economic developments in the region this year, first of all the TPP and then also economic uncertainty coming out of China and the resulting financial market volatility.  And I’m wondering if those two things would specifically be on the agenda for the leaders’ summit.  TPP, I assume, would definitely be a focus in the trade minister summit, but I’m wondering if there would be a sort of separate TPP meeting at the leaders’ level as well. 

QUESTION:  Well, there’s been no decision, I think at this point, on whether or not there will be a TPP sidebar meeting at the ministerial or at the leaders’ meeting, but I refer to USTR on that.  As we get closer to the date they may have something more for you on that. 

In terms of China, China is pursuing a broad-based economic reform agenda.  It’s a challenging process of shifting the growth model – one dependent on investment and exports to domestic demand – and it’s a natural process you would anticipate that when you go through a major economic policy transition like this that issues will arise.  They seem committed to the process.  I think though the IMF and other economies understand their commitment and are supportive of their commitment to that reform process. 

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have more in the back?  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  My name is Tatsuya Mizumoto from Jiji Press.  About digital economy: so, are you discussing about cyber security?  And then about TPP, I know you have no TPP agreements, so what kind of the impact you will have to (inaudible) by this?

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, cyber security does get raised in certain fora within APEC, and – but it’s – we have a pretty strong economic focus for the discussions.  So what you want to do is make sure that you have systems in place that preserve trade secrets, that preserve the integrity of business information, et cetera.  You want to make sure that economies are protected against potential economic downside of cyber hacking, et cetera. 

But I’ll get back to you with more detail that would probably help you, because I don’t have the specifics in front of me but I’d be happy to give you more information on that in a follow-up.

And then your second question was?  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  So APEC’s agenda is separate – TPP is a separate negotiating group of economies.  They’re all APEC members, but it’s done separately.  So we’re not driving the APEC agenda based on what happens in the TPP negotiations.  The APEC agenda keeps moving forward on trade liberalization processes regardless.  So – but obviously, we all welcome the successful conclusion of the TPP, but it won’t directly affect the APEC discussion process.

MR ZIMMER:  Do you have a short follow-up?

QUESTION:  Yes, I want to follow that, so on the TPP.  But I think as – to your final (inaudible) that you are going to write a TPP standard to – in the APEC area, right?  So —

MR MATTHEWS:  Right.  So there are two things.  There’s a free trade agreement of the Pacific discussion group, which basically is starting to flesh out what chapters in an APEC-wide agreement might look like.  That discussion process will go forward, and is going forward, and chapters are being worked on by individual economies who have raised their hands and volunteered to help contribute.  And I guess that’s what I can tell you.  That’s an ongoing discussion process and ongoing drafting process.  That continues. 

MR ZIMMER:  Any final questions?  Okay.

QUESTION:  I am Grigory Dubovitskiy, Russian news agency RIA Novosti.  Are you aware of any plans, maybe possible, to discuss any questions with Russian delegation on the sidelines while SOM meet, maybe you aware of what level it could be?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t know about – and I can say to you that I meet with the Russian delegation for the senior officials level on a regular basis and at every SOM basically – and my predecessors did.  So those discussions continue because we have points of discussion that need close communication on a regular basis.  And my team that does APEC issues is, of course, working with our counterparts in the Russian delegation to APEC.  As for more senior-level meeting schedules, I don’t have the specifics for you on that.

MR ZIMMER:  One here, and then a final couple in the back.

QUESTION:  Two quick follow-up questions.  Alexander Panetta, again, from the Canadian Press.  Can you give an example or two of some of the environmental goods and services you’re talking about, and what a change in tariffs might mean or an elimination of tariffs might mean in terms of their proliferation?  That’s the first follow-up.

And the second thing I wanted to ask was, if I understand correctly, that you don’t know yet whether there might be a meeting with the new Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I’d refer you to the White House on their scheduling of bilateral meetings for the President during the period of the leaders’ meeting. 

As for your other question on environmental goods and services, well some obvious ones that come to mind that are covered are wind turbines and solar panels – things that you’d say just – inherently you’d say anybody who wants to operate more greenly and wants to generate green power will want to make sure we can get those products to every market in APEC with the lowest tariff possible, if not zero tariff, so that a greater number of firms and a greater number of households can actually adopt the use of those technologies to reduce their energy intake and their carbon footprint.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay.  Maybe one more after this one.

QUESTION:  All right, thank you.  Rob Gentry with TV Asahi.  I had a follow-up on your question about – on your point about reducing tariffs for health care products.  Is it tariffs or is it also non-tariff barriers that you’re interested in on that? 

And then as a general question for the leaders’ meeting, what does the U.S. hope to have in terms of discussion on currency in the region, in terms of its effect on trade?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  So for healthcare products let me just be clear, we’re in very early stages of discussions on health care products.  Really what we’re doing at this current stage in APEC is agreeing to kind of identify barriers.  But one other thing that I’d like mention to you that we’re doing with regard to healthcare products in APEC is having private sector and governmental cooperation on helping to identify substandard health care products that can enter the market or even fraudulent ones, and then making sure each economy has effective means of taking those substandard products out of the pharmaceutical system to make sure we’re not delivering products which don’t help improve the health outcomes for our citizens.  But so we’re really at an early stage on that healthcare initiative, and we’re not to the point of, I think, identifying tariffs or talking about tariff reductions but just basically doing a study of the overall picture on barriers.

And I’m sorry, what was your other question?

QUESTION:  Currency.

MR MATTHEWS:  Currency.  I can’t give you anything on that.  I don’t know that there’s – yeah, I just don’t have an answer for you on that one.

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have a final question?  Over here, one more.  Last question, please.

QUESTION:  Sorry, it’s still a follow-up to the TPP.  I just wondered, is that like the similar, that during the APEC the discussion group will have a meeting and any country who would like to join the TPP, that they will have the chance to talking about that?  It’s something like that?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, well, thanks for that question.  I don’t believe it’s envisioned right now.  Remember, every economy that’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership at present is focused on one thing.  It’s getting from the conclusion of the negotiation to ratification within their own system, and that’s precisely where the United States is.  So our focus is completely dedicated to preparing everything we need to do to get ratification by the U.S. Congress.  And until we get that done, we’re not really going to be focusing on other economies.

We welcome the interest of other economies in APEC who are interested in TPP, but we just have to tell folks, please understand our focus right now is getting to ratification.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay, we appreciate Mr. Matthews joining us this morning out of his busy schedule.  We appreciate your joining us.  We’ll see you next time.  Thank you.

# # #

BACKGROUND BRIEFING: Senior State Department Officials on the United States Refugee Admissions Program


Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release


SEPTEMBER 9, 2015 

Senior State Department Officials

On the United States Refugee Admissions Program

September 9, 2015

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Justin.  Thanks to everyone for joining us this afternoon.  In light of the news, obviously, we’ve all been following closely out of Europe with the refugee situation over the past couple of weeks, we thought it was advantageous to put together a call for all of you on background with a senior State Department official to talk about what the U.S. is doing to respond, but also more broadly about our Refugee Admissions Program.  Just for your own purposes, the senior State Department official joining us this afternoon is [Senior State Department Official].  As I said, the rules for attribution is [Senior State Department Official] will be henceforth referred to as a senior State Department official.

So without any further comment from me, I’ll hand it over to [Senior State Department Official] to give some brief remarks, and then we’ll turn it over to your question.  [Senior State Department Official.]

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Thanks very much.  We’re having a busy day here at the State Department.  Secretary Kerry and I went this morning and met with members of the House and Senate judiciary committees to present the President’s proposal for refugee admissions in Fiscal Year 2016.  We were accompanied by officials of the Department of Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – so USCIS – and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.  With the members we discussed the work State Department officials are doing to address the recent refugee crisis in Europe. 

These consultations are held annually.  It’s a legal requirement that they be carried out by a cabinet member, and it’s done just before the beginning of the new fiscal year.  During our consultations, Secretary Kerry proposed increasing the number of refugees that will be accepted by the United States through the Refugee Resettlement Program.  This is an increase above the current level of 70,000 that we have had for three years now in Fiscal Years 2013, ‘14, and ‘15. 

Today’s consultations discussed the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that will address resettlement needs of refugees from close to 70 countries, including Syria.  Each year we designate ceilings based on the anticipated needs, but as the year progresses these numbers fluctuate based on the situation on the ground.  The Administration is actively considering a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement.  We are also in regular contact with countries in the Middle East and Europe who have been greatly impacted by the increased number of refugees. 

It is important to note that while we are speaking today about the United States Refugee Resettlement Program, our primary goal when speaking about Syrian refugees is to get them home again so that there can be peace in Syria and that they can return home in peace.  In the meantime, we – this bureau, the Population, Refugees, and Migration Bureau provides a great deal of humanitarian assistance overseas through international organizations and some of the best nongovernmental organizations.  We also seek to protect the refugees in the places to which they have fled.  But our hope and our main goal is that someday refugees can return home when the conflict ends.

Why don’t we take questions now?

MODERATOR:  Great, thanks so much.  We’ll open up to questions now, Justin.

OPERATOR:  Certainly.  And as a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, you can go ahead and hit * followed by 1.  It looks as if our first question comes from the line of Michael Gordon of The New York Times.

QUESTION:  Could you tell us, please, what the range of numbers is?  You say you want to – the Secretary wants to increase the number of refugees that are admitted, so what is the range you’re looking at and what does that cost?  And then it seems that part of the problem is vetting, in that the UN has submitted a list but it takes a long time to vet these people.  Are you looking at committing more resources to speed up that vetting process?  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  The Secretary talked about a range of different numbers, but I will not be sharing them with you today.  And there was varying views within the group from the judiciary committees of the House and Senate about how receptive they were to increasing the numbers of refugees coming.

And the process to bring refugees here is careful and deliberate, and that’s – as a result, it takes a while.  It takes between 18 to 24 months between when a refugee is referred to us and when they – if approved, when they end up arriving in the United States.  And a big reason for this is the care that’s put into the security vetting for them.  It involves several aspects.  Part of it is that every refugee has their sort of case file put together with help from organizations that we fund overseas, and then those files and the refugees’ families themselves are interviewed by someone from the Department of Homeland Security, from USCIS.  And then we also check their names against a whole series of U.S. Government databases to make sure that they’re not already in there – some sort of derogatory information about them.

What we’re trying to do is weed out people who are liars, who are criminals, or would-be terrorists.  And this is something that slows down the process and it’s taken very seriously by everyone involved in it.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you.  Next question, please.

OPERATOR:  Comes from the line of Elise Labott of CNN.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing the call.  A couple of things.  We talked about that you’re asking to increase the number from around the world, including Syria.  I was wondering at this point, given, as you noted, that there’s a lot of activity right now with the migrants in Europe, particularly Syrian refugees, what type of priority right now in terms of your quota are you looking for Syrian refugees?  Is – are you looking to increase the quota on top of Syrians?  Like, is there a special category for them?

And then also, you say that obviously the goal is to get the Syrians back home, but we are going on over five years into the civil war.  So I mean, it doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon.  So I mean, at what point can you not let the perfect be the enemy of the good and just try and get some of them out of there given the increased flow?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Well, let’s see.  It’s over four years, four-and-a-half years, coming up on five years next spring that this has been going on.  And the numbers have climbed over the course of the crisis.  What to me is astonishing is how many people inside Syria who have been affected by the war who are dependent on humanitarian assistance or are displaced – there’s over 7 million people displaced – have chosen not to leave Syria but to stay there.  That’s a very large population.  One of the reasons we try to get as much aid as possible inside Syria is so that they can survive there – since they’re choosing to stay there, they can survive and not have to flee.  Then there’s the assistance – over – there’s the assistance we’ve given to the neighbors who are hosting a lot of the refugees in the immediate area around Syria.  Between the money that’s gone inside Syria and the money for the neighbors that’s all humanitarian, meaning it’s for keeping the lives of innocent civilians going and protecting them, that’s $4 billion since the start of the crisis. 

And now as the – and throughout we have had our Refugee Resettlement Program operating for other parts of the world – we only got referrals from UNHCR in the last year or so.  We – in larger numbers.  We now have 17,000 referred by UNHCR.  So we’re – we’ve all along been planning to bring more to the United States, but the numbers that we bring under this program is sort of careful and by design.  And what’s happening in Europe is that people are walking out and walking to Europe and getting there on their own energies and showing up.

So one of the things that we were talking about here earlier, before this briefing, is the difference between having someone show up in your country and seek asylum and having someone resettled as part of this program, this annual program of refugee resettlement.  So the U.S. leads the world in resettling refugees.  We take 70,000 per year, and that’s 70 percent of all the refugees resettled, so we take more than all the other countries combined.  And what you’re seeing happening, though, in other countries is that people are showing up and requesting asylum, saying that they can’t go back home again.  And so that’s, as you can tell, it’s not a – there’s nothing – there’s no careful design in it; it’s a spontaneous flow.

Now, migrants and refugees have been heading from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and the Middle East to Europe for a long time.  And there’ve been crises in the Mediterranean.  Two years ago, we were looking at the lives lost around Lampedusa.  What’s different now, I think, is that the numbers have picked up so much and that it’s affecting so many European countries because so many are coming all at once.

MODERATOR:  Next question, please.

OPERATOR:  Comes from the line of Margaret Brennan of CBS.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing this. 


QUESTION:  Can you explain what the formula is for coming up with 70,000 as the magic number?  If it increases above that, can you just sort of help us understand what the formula is and how that math adds up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  There is no formula.  What has happened is the program – there’s always been refugees and immigrants coming to the United States.  Since the time of pilgrims, obviously, there’s been refugees coming, fleeing for religious persecution.  The program really got started in the ’70s during the Vietnam era.  And the high point around that time – it went from 150,000 to 200,000, so much higher than it is today.  But then it’s gone up and down over time and it completely dropped and stopped after September 11th, 2001. 

So since that point, we’ve been building the program back up bit by bit.  And what’s different about the last three years is we set a target and we actually met it.  Last year, we came within 13 people of hitting 70,000 refugees brought.  And this was seen as a good thing, that we were managing the program well, and that we were delivering what we said – we were bringing refugees in throughout the entire year and not having them all show up at the end of our fiscal year in September.  We were providing – after the economic problems in 2008, Eric Schwartz, the first assistant secretary for the Obama Administration, worked to increase the amount of money per capita that is spent on helping the refugees resettle in the U.S. for the first three months that they’re here. 

So there were a lot of sort of good things done to tighten up the program and help it run better.  It’s a public-private partnership with nine groups across the United States.  Six are faith-based, different religious groups that help resettle refugees, and three are nonsectarian.  And we ended up resettling refugees in over 300 places around the United States; it’s some 190 towns and cities, but there are like 300 different sort of storefronts, if you will, where refugees are resettled.

And so we have been building up to 70,000, had it there at three years, and the thinking was we could now – the thinking all along this year was we could move to increasing it, and some sort of a modest increase.  Given what’s going on in the world today, I know that there’s a lot of people outside the Administration and inside the Administration too in very senior positions who would like to increase it significantly.  The question becomes: Will Congress support that?  Can we move this process that we have that doesn’t turn on a dime to start bringing larger numbers sooner?  That’s hard, but that is clearly what some people are looking for.

MODERATOR:  Okay, thanks.  I think we have only time for a couple more questions.  Next question please.

OPERATOR:  From the line of Carol Morello of Washington Post.  Your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  As you know, the International Rescue Committee and this group of 14 Democratic senators back in May called for an increase along the lines of 65,000 people by the end of next year.  Is there any scenario in which you might have an increase of that high or even higher?  And would any increase that you have be limited largely to Syrians since there are people from other countries who are looking at what’s going on in Europe as sort of their window of opportunity?  Is the increase for Syrians or might other people from other countries be finding – be allowed to come in in increased numbers as well?  Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  When we talk about increasing the overall numbers, we’re talking about increases for people from around the world.  The top three groups we resettle these days are from Burma, Iraq, and Somalia.  If we increase, in addition to bringing more Syrians, which is already in the plan, we would like to admit more African refugees next year.  We just recently – let’s see if I can find this number – we recently brought more refugees from Africa than we had in some time.  I can’t find that number, I’m sorry.  And that was another goal that we’d had for the Administration and something we would like to continue to do especially for people who fled Congo and have had – torture victims or people who were injured in war or rape victims, because they’d be able to start their lives over in the U.S.  So we have a growing number of – we intend to have a growing number of Syrians and Congolese, no matter what the total overall number is.

MODERATOR:  Great.  I think this has to be our last question.  I apologize.  Please go ahead.

OPERATOR:  Sure.  Our last question comes from the line of Lesley Wroughton of Reuters news. 

QUESTION:  Thanks.  I was wondering whether there were specific requests or discussions going on with Europe right now about trying to ease the influx from Syria.  Even during the Kosovo war, the U.S. temporarily took in refugees.  But is there specific discussions going on right now where the Europeans have asked the U.S. to take on more refugees?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Well, the Secretary works constantly, on a daily basis I would say, with his counterparts from the leading countries of Europe and is in close touch with his counterparts in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world, of course.  So he has had conversations, for example, with the German foreign minister in the last 24 hours, and of course this topic came up.  And we are asking ourselves here in this building what should the U.S. do to respond to this crisis.  We already are the leading donor to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.  We already are the leading donor to the International Organization for Migration.  Some of our contributions are being used to help provide food, water, and legal assistance to refugees transiting on the periphery of Europe – so Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia.  We’ve set up a working group to coordinate State Department responses to any requests we get from Europe.  My sense is Europeans are so focused right now on this on a daily basis that they’re not really looking to us yet to help them, but of course, we are thinking about what can we do to be helpful.

There’s also a series of meetings coming up – international meetings – where these issues will be discussed.  The first one is the UN General Assembly.  We have the Pope’s visit to Washington, then we’ll be going up to New York for the UN General Assembly meetings.  So that’s a perfect location to have a broad international conversation about this.  So things are being done to get that organized.  Then I’ll be going to Geneva for the annual meeting of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, then there’s a Global Forum for Migration and Development that happens every year, and this year the host is Turkey.  So I think that this will be very much on the agenda there.

So conversations about what we can do and how we can be helpful will be taking place in a lot of this.  One important piece that we will remind people of and then recommit to, I think, is providing assistance – humanitarian assistance – inside Syria and around the region so that people don’t have to flee further, so that they can make it inside of their own country or to the neighboring countries to which they’ve fled.  So there’ll be more on that in the coming weeks.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Well, thank you again, Senior State Department Official, for taking the time out to talk to the many journalists who have questions about this issue, and thanks to all of the journalists who joined us for this call.  We have to end there, unfortunately.  But again, everybody have a great afternoon, and thanks for joining.  Take care.

# # #

Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

Dear FPC Journalists,

Sharing below a statement from the Office of the Spokesperson.



Washington Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State

Tel:  (202) 504-6300



From: State Department Press Office [mailto:usstatebpa@subscriptions.fcg.gov]
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2015 5:00 PM
To: PA All – FPC
Subject: STATEMENT: Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists




Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release


August 29, 2015

Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al-Jazeera journalists – Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste.

The freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment – even when its perspective is unpopular or disputed – is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development.

We urge the Government of Egypt to take all available measures to redress this verdict, which undermines the very freedom of expression necessary for stability and development.

Opening Remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations


Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release


March 11, 2015

Opening Remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry
Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

March 11, 2015
Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Well, Chairman Corker and Ranking Member Menendez, members of the committee, we’re pleased to be here.  I’m pleased to return here, and particularly so with – in the distinguished company of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marty Dempsey.

From my 29 years of service on this committee, I have nothing but respect for the committee’s prerogatives, and particularly the role that it can play on a critical issue like this.  We are very simply looking for – as I think both of you, Mr. Chairman and the Ranking Member have said – the appropriate present-day authorization – not, as you said, Senator Menendez, 2001, but 2015 statement by the United States Congress about the authority with which we should be able to go after, degrade, and destroy, as the President has said, a group known as ISIL or Daesh.

Now, Mr. Chairman, in our democracy, there are many views about the challenges and the opportunities that we face, and that’s appropriate.  That’s who we are.  But I hope we believe that there is an overwhelming consensus that Daesh has to be stopped.  Our nation is strongest, always has been, when we act together.  There’s a great tradition in this country of foreign policy having a special place, that politics ends at the water’s edge, and that we will act on behalf of our nation without regard to party and ideology.  We simply cannot allow this collection of murderers and thugs to achieve in their group their ambition, which includes, by the way, most likely the death or submission of all those who oppose it, the seizure of land, the theft of resources, the incitement of terrorism across the globe, the killing and attacking of people simply for what they believe or for who they are.

And the joint resolution that is proposed by the President provides the means for America and its representatives to speak with a single powerful voice at this pivotal hour.  When I came here last time, I mentioned that —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  The American people are speaking out, Secretary Kerry.  We’re tired of an endless war.  We don’t want to go in with – a war with no (inaudible).

CHAIRMAN CORKER:  The committee will be in order.  Look, we appreciate —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) be another endless war and killing of innocent people.

CHAIRMAN CORKER:  Okay.  If this happens again, I would ask the police to escort immediately people out of the room.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) dollars on the war, creating more terrorism, killing more innocent people.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Killing more innocent people.  I wonder how our journalists who were beheaded and a pilot who was fighting for freedom who is burned alive, what they would have to say to their efforts to protect innocent people.

ISIL’s momentum has been diminished, Mr. Chairman.  It’s still picking up supporters in places.  Obviously, we’ve all observed that.  But in the places where we have focused and where we are asking you to focus at this moment in time, it is clear that even while savage attacks continue, there is the beginning of a process to cut off their supply lines, to take out their leaders, to cut off their finances, to reduce the foreign fighters, to counter the messaging that has brought some of those fighters to this effort.  But to ensure its defeat, we have to persist until we prevail in the broad-based campaign along multiple lines of effort that have been laid out over the course of the last months.

The President already has statutory authority to act against ISIL, but a clear and formal expression of this Congress’s backing at this moment in time would dispel doubt that might exist anywhere that Americans are united in this effort.  Approval of this resolution would encourage our friends and our partners in the Middle East, it would further energize the members and prospective members of the global coalition that we have assembled to oppose Daesh, and it would constitute a richly deserved vote of confidence in the men and women of our armed forces who are on the front lines prosecuting this effort on our behalf.

Your unity would also send an unmistakable message to the leaders of Daesh.  They have to understand they can’t divide us.  Don’t let them.  They cannot intimidate us.  And they have no hope of defeating us.  The resolution that we have proposed would give the President a clear mandate to prosecute the armed component of this conflict against Daesh and associated persons or forces, which we believe is carefully delineated and defined.  And while the proposal contains certain limitations that are appropriate in light of the nature of this mission, it provides the flexibility that the President needs to direct a successful military campaign.  And that’s why the Administration did propose a limitation on the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”  I might add that was after the committee – then-committee chair Senator Menendez and the committee moved forward with its language and we came up here and testified and responded, basically, to the dynamics that were presented to us within the committee and the Congress itself.

So the proposal also includes no geographic limitation, not because there are plans to take it anywhere, but because –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) we want permission —

SECRETARY KERRY:  — it would be a mistake to communicate to ISIL —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  — (inaudible) the United States and then all of the world, not to kill – the United States is killing innocent civilians with drones.

CHAIRMAN CORKER:  I would just ask those in the audience – we live in a country where —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) are killing innocent people (inaudible) killing innocent people (inaudible).

CHAIRMAN CORKER:  — people have the opportunity to express themselves in democratic ways.  We would hope that you would allow this hearing to proceed in an orderly way and respect other citizens’ rights to be here and to observe what is happening in a civil manner.  I would say that I don’t think you’re helping your cause at all.  I would say you’re hurting your cause.  And hopefully, you will remain in an appropriate manner.  Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY:  Mr. Chairman, thank you.  The point of the no geographic limitation is not that there are any plans or any contemplation.  I think the President has been so clear on this.  But what a mistake it would be to send a message to Daesh that there are safe havens, that there is somehow just a two-country limitation, so they go off and put their base, and then we go through months and months of deliberation again.  We can’t afford that.  So that’s why there’s no limitation.

And Mr. Chairman, we know that there are groups in the world, affiliated terrorist groups, who aspire to harm the United States, our allies, our partners.  Daesh is, however, very distinctive in that, because it holds territory and it will continue – if not stopped – to seize more, because it has financial resources, because of the debilitating impact of its activities in the broader Middle East, because of its pretentions to worldwide leadership, and because it has already been culpable in the violent deaths of Americans and others.

And I don’t need to preview for this committee the full litany of the outrages that are committed by Daesh, but let me just say that just among them – scratching the surface – are atrocities against Assyrian Christian and Yezidi religious communities; the crucifixion of children; the sale and enslavement of women and girls; the hideous murder of captives from as near as Jordan and as distant as Japan; and the destruction of irreplaceable cultural and historical sites; the plunder and destruction of cities and towns in which followers of Islam worship and raise their families.

Now I testified before this committee just a couple of weeks ago regarding our strategy for disrupting and defeating ISIL.  That strategy continues to move forward on all fronts.  Secretary Carter and General Dempsey will touch on the military elements, but I can say – from a diplomatic perspective – that the world is strongly united in seeking Daesh’s defeat.

Our coalition is receiving help from governments throughout and beyond the Middle East – governments that may disagree on other issues but not about the need to take decisive action against Daesh.  And to date, we have a coalition of some 62 members, including 14 nations that are contributing directly to the operations against Daesh in Iraq or in Syria, 16 of which have committed to help train or otherwise assist Iraqi Security Forces.  Since the coalition came together less than half a year ago, we have stopped ISIL’s surge, we have degraded its leadership, we have forced it to change its communications and its movement and its tactics, and heavily damaged its revenue-generating oil facilities.  And if you have a classified briefing, I think you’ll get a very good grounding in the progress that is being made to date.

We continue to see progress in governance in Iraq, where new leaders are working to strengthen and reform the country’s security forces through the purging of incompetent or corrupt officers and the more extensive inclusion of Sunni fighters.  In Tikrit right now, there are nearly 1,000 Sunni taking part.  There’s a cross-section of engagement.

So Mr. Chairman, just to respond and move rapidly here –

CHAIRMAN CORKER:  We’re not moving that rapidly, actually.

SECRETARY KERRY:  That’s why I’m cutting and – I’m going to cut to the chase.


SECRETARY KERRY:  Responding to the threat posed by ISIL is just not a partisan issue, at least it shouldn’t be.  It’s not even a bipartisan issue.  It’s really a test that transcends political affiliations, and it’s a tremendous challenge to the security of our nation and to the values of our citizens.  And so it’s really the kind of challenge that this committee is here to deal with.  And my hope is that we will live up to the tradition that we have never failed to meet in the past that when we had this kind of challenge, the Congress came together; the Senate particularly, I think, in this format.  And I’m confident that we can do so here again today and in the next few days.

So I’m happy to respond to your questions, but first I’ll turn to Secretary Carter.

# # #

New Immigrant Communities in the American Heartland: Nashville, Tennessee

New York Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State


WHAT:   New York Foreign Press Center Reporting Tour

TOPIC:   New Immigrant Communities in the American Heartland: Nashville, Tennessee

WHEN:   Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20


WHERE: Nashville, Tennessee


RSVP:     Please RSVP to nyfpc@state.gov by Friday, March 13, 2015.


BACKGROUND:  Nashville, Tennessee is traditionally known as Music City, USA for its thriving country music production scene.  In recent years, Nashville has also become a booming immigration hub as well, leading President Obama to hold a town hall meeting on his executive order on immigration there in December.  Since 2012, Nashville has the fastest-growing immigrant population of any American city, with the largest Kurdish diaspora population (11,000) outside of the Middle East, and increasing numbers of Sudanese, Somali, Burmese, Laotian, and Cambodian immigrants, along with a large, well-established Latino community.

Six years ago, the city was deeply divided during a referendum on whether to make English the official and only language of the city government. A broad cross-section of the city — businesses, civil liberties groups and others — united to defeat the measure.  Since then, Nashville has launched new public-private partnerships to become a model for integrating immigrants and other minority groups. Government initiatives, including Mayor Karl Dean’s Office of New Americans and MyCity Academy, involve immigrants in local government, expand economic and educational opportunities, and create partnerships between Metro and community organizations.


PROGRAM:  The schedule includes visits to the Mayor’s Office of New Americans, including a meeting with Mayor Karl Dean and a launch event for MyCity Academy, Casa Azafrán, where President Obama spoke on his executive action on immigration, the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration office for a naturalization ceremony, the Islamic Center of Nashville, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese Consulate-General, and Metro Nashville Public Schools. We will also meet with local community and immigrant empowerment organizations such as the American Center for Outreach, American Muslim Advisory Council, Conexión Américas, Mesa Komal Commercial Kitchen, Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, and Justice for Our Neighbors.

LOGISTICS:  Journalists are responsible for airfare, meals, hotel, and any other costs associated with filing their stories.  Local transportation will be provided to meetings in Nashville.  Hotel recommendations will be provided once participation is confirmed.

Foreign Media Only, Please


NOTE: All events are subject to change.  Please call (646) 282-2830 or visit the FPC web site: http://www.fpc.state.gov for information on this schedule and other FPC programs.


New York Foreign Press Center
799 UN Plaza, 10th Floor
New York, NY  10017
Phone: (646) 282-2830 || Fax: (646) 282-2847