Saturday, January 10, 2015

10-Jan-15: Clothing, feeding and harboring terrorists? Not what Americans used to think it meant

Head of the terrorist organization, Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, on one of several visits
to Turkey, with the Turkish leader Erdogan [Image Source]
For Americans, and for those of us hoping to see the US show some spine in the face of terrorism's expanding frontiers, this depressing exchange below from Thursday's Daily Press Briefing at the State Department in Washington DC is worth filing away and remembering. ["Ms. Psaki" refers to the spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Jennifer Psaki, who served previously as spokesperson for President Barack Obama. "Matt", who asks the questions, is probably Matt Lee who covers the State Department for Associated Press.]

QUESTION: -- Turkey, the Turkish foreign minister has said that the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is welcome in Turkey anytime he wants to – any time he wants to go. Do you have any thoughts about that, given the fact that he is --

MS. PSAKI: I spoke to this a little bit yesterday, but it wasn’t asked in the exact same way. Our position on Hamas has not changed. Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization that continues to engage in terrorist activity and demonstrate its intentions during the summer’s conflict in – with Israel. We continue to raise our concerns about the relationship between Hamas and Turkey with senior Turkish officials, including after learning of Meshaal’s recent visit there. And we have urged the Government of Turkey to press Hamas to reduce tensions and prevent violence.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, is there any – I mean, I don’t get it. This guy is the leader of a terrorist organization. If Ayman Zawahiri showed up in Turkey, would you have a similar muted response? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s a muted response. Obviously, we look at each situation case by case.

Ms Psaki [Image Source]
QUESTION: Well, this is a NATO ally and they seem to be --


QUESTION: -- they’re hosting and seem to be willing and happy to host the leader of a group that you deem a foreign terrorist organization. So is Hamas somehow less bad than other – other groups that are on the FTO list?

MS. PSAKI: I just conveyed we expressed our concern. We’ll continue to have that discussion with Turkey.

QUESTION: Can I ask in a different way, slightly – the other side of the coin? Could the hosting of somebody like Khaled Meshaal place Turkey in some jeopardy of finding itself on the list of nations that sponsor state terrorism or states that sponsor terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Obviously, there are a range of criteria that are looked at in that regard. So I --

QUESTION: Well, you remember the famous Bush doctrine: If you clothe, feed, or harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist. Does that doctrine still hold?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we’ve repeated that exactly. There’s obviously criteria that we look at as it relates to designating countries or individuals. We’re not looking at that as it relates to Turkey.

QUESTION: Well, welcoming --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re concerned about this.

QUESTION: Well, welcoming the leader of a group that you’ve designated a foreign terrorist organization would certainly seem to be supporting it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --


MS. PSAKI: -- obviously we’ve expressed our concerns. There hasn’t been action that we have knowledge of to confirm about where his whereabouts are, so --

QUESTION: But you just said that you knew – that you raised your concerns with him when you found out that he was there a couple --

MS. PSAKI: That he recently visited. Yes, we did.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, that’s it? It’s okay?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said it was okay.

QUESTION: Well, no --

MS. PSAKI: Pam, do --

QUESTION: -- I know. But there isn’t any consequence, then, except for you saying that we’re concerned about --


QUESTION: All right.

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