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Saturday, April 5, 2014


Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
~ Friday, April 4, 2014

Good morning.  Chairman [Frank] Wolf, Ranking Member [Chaka] Fattah, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget for the U.S. Department of Justice – and to provide an overview of the Department’s recent achievements and ongoing priorities.

Despite significant challenges, the past year has been characterized by remarkable progress – from expanding civil rights for all Americans to holding private corporations accountable for wrongdoing.  In the financial sector, concerns have been raised recently about a practice called “high-frequency trading.”  This practice, which consists of financial brokers and trading firms using advanced computer algorithms and ultra-high speed data networks to execute trades, has rightly received scrutiny from regulators.  I can confirm that we at the Justice Department are investigating this practice to determine whether it violates insider trading laws.  The Department is committed to ensuring the integrity of our financial markets – and we are determined to follow this investigation wherever the facts and the law may lead.

Across the board, many of the Department’s ongoing activities and recent accomplishments are notable – but none have been more important than our work to protect the American people from terrorism and other threats to our national security.  I know we’re all mindful, as we come together this morning, of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood.  As I indicated yesterday, I have directed that the full resources of the Department of Justice and the FBI be made available to help conduct a thorough federal investigation.  And as we keep striving to achieve justice on behalf of our men and women in uniform – by working to determine what happened this week, and bringing help and healing to those who need it – my colleagues and I will continue to do everything in our power to prevent these horrific and far-too-common tragedies from happening again.

We also will remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure America’s national security – and to hold accountable those who seek to harm our nation and its people.  Last week, the Department achieved a major milestone in this regard when we secured the conviction of Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, the son-in-law of Usama bin Laden and a senior member of al Qaeda, on terrorism-related charges.

We never doubted the ability of our Article III court system to administer justice swiftly in this case, as it has in hundreds of other cases involving terrorism defendants – and this outcome vindicates the government’s approach to securing convictions of senior al Qaeda leaders.  It is my hope that this case will help lay that political debate to rest.

The President’s budget request would strengthen our national security work by investing a total of $4 billion in the Department’s cutting-edge counterterrorism and national security programs, including $15 million in new funding to maintain and operate the FBI’s new Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center facility in Alabama.

It also would provide $173 million to support our efforts to strengthen the federal criminal justice system through the groundbreaking “Smart on Crime” initiative I launched last August to make our criminal justice system both more effective and more efficient.

This, in turn, would enable us to further invest in the outstanding work that’s performed every day by dedicated attorneys and support staff in each of the Department’s litigating divisions and United States Attorneys’ Offices.  Thanks to their efforts, during the fiscal year ending in 2013, the Justice Department collected a total of more than $8 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties.  This represents more than double the approximately $3 billion in direct appropriations that pay for our 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and main litigating divisions.  During FY 2012 and FY 2013, the Department collected a combined total of more than $21 billion – a record amount for a two-year span.  And, particularly in recent months, we’ve obtained a series of historic resolutions and taken other significant actions to ensure that we’re serving as sound stewards of taxpayer dollars – and protecting American consumers from fraud and other financial crimes.

Last November, the Justice Department secured a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. – the largest settlement with a single entity in American history – to resolve federal and state civil claims related to the company’s mortgage securitization process.  As part of our ongoing efforts to hold accountable those whose conduct sowed the seeds of the mortgage crisis, the Department also filed a lawsuit against the ratings firm S&P.  Last month, we reached a $1.2 billion agreement with Toyota – the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on an automotive company.  And just yesterday, we announced a record $5.15 billion settlement with Kerr-McGee Corporation and certain affiliates, and their parent Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, including $4.4 billion for environmental cleanup and claims.  This represents the largest recovery for cleanup of environmental contamination in the history of the Department of Justice.  It holds the company and its subsidiaries accountable for decades of significant environmental damage and fraudulent attempts to evade responsibility for its actions.  And it marks another critical step in our effort to protect the American people from all forms of fraud, to combat corporate misconduct, and to safeguard the environment.

As we move forward, I am eager to work with this Subcommittee, and with the entire Congress, to secure the timely passage of the President’s budget request – which provides a total of $27.4 billion in discretionary resources for the Department of Justice, including $25.3 billion for vital federal programs and $2.1 billion for discretionary state, local, and tribal assistance programs.  This support will be essential to ensuring that we can continue to protect the American people and strengthen our criminal justice system.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, FY2014 marks a critical year in the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, as states will soon be required to comply with national standards for curbing sexual assault in prisons.  The Department is committed to helping state and local governments overcome any challenges they may encounter as they work towards implementing the National PREA Standards and – with funding this Committee has provided – has established a PREA Resource Center in order to assist with implementation.  We are confident that these standards, which were the results of extensive public comment, are attainable.  The problem of sexual assault in prisons is too great to settle for anything less than an aggressive approach to implementing these key reforms.

I thank you all for the opportunity to discuss this work with you today.  And I especially want to thank Chairman Wolf for his exemplary leadership and support of the Department’s work – and particularly our efforts to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking – over the course of a long and distinguished career in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Chairman, I have come to greatly value your advocacy of the Justice Department’s essential mission and your high regard for the tireless career employees who make our work possible every day.  Your expertise – and your steadfast support of our public safety efforts – have been invaluable over the years.  And upon your retirement from the House of Representatives at the end of this year, they will be greatly missed.

Thank you, once again, for your service and leadership.  I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel waves to the pilots of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter after landing at Hardy Barracks in Tokyo, April 5, 2014. Hagel met with troops at Yokota Air Base earlier in the day and will continue his three-day stay in Japan, meeting with the Japanese prime minister and the defense and foreign ministers. DOD Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo  

Hagel: U.S.-Japan Partnership Critical to Regional Security
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

TOKYO, April 5, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel landed in Japan today as part of his fourth official trip to the Asia-Pacific region to reassure the nation’s leaders that the U.S.-Japan relationship is one of America’s strongest partnerships, friendships and treaty relationships.

This evening Hagel met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. According to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the secretary thanked Abe for his leadership and for helping the two militaries maintain a strong relationship.
Hagel expressed his firm commitment to the U.S.-Japan treaty of mutual cooperation and security and to working closely with the leadership of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to improve the nations’ collective capabilities, Kirby said.

The leaders discussed a range of regional security issues, including recent provocations by North Korea, Chinese maritime claims and military activities, and the need for a continued focus on dialogue and cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Hagel affirmed strong U.S. support for Japanese efforts at defense reform and thanked Abe for supporting the Japanese government last December in securing a landfill permit for the Futenma replacement facility.

Tomorrow, Hagel will meet with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.
“There are challenges in this part of the world that include Japan’s future,” the defense secretary told reporters traveling with him.

“I’m visiting Japan … not just [to] reconnect and recommit U.S. efforts but to build on the recent meeting President {Barack] Obama had with Prime Minister Abe and South Korean President Park [Geun-hye],” Hagel said, “as we look at new opportunities and challenges in this part of the world.”

He added, “The Japanese-American partnership is a very critical anchor to peace and stability and security in this part of the world, so I look forward to conversations here in the next couple of days with the senior leaders of Japan.”
Even before he landed in Tokyo, Hagel initiated and hosted in Honolulu an informal meeting of defense ministers of the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. The meeting was the first ever held in the United States.

“The ASEAN defense ministers conference was an important first step in what I’m doing here in the region because it represented the initial effort we have been working on as we continue to collaborate and coordinate with and strengthen our relationships in the Asia-Pacific,” Hagel said.

As President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Hagel himself have said many times, ASEAN is an important organization now and will continue to be important, the secretary said, because it represents the collective interests of the region.

ASEAN member countries are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“When you add to [this] the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus members [which consists of the 10 ASEAN defense ministers and defense ministers from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia] … that’s a significant representation of this part of the world,” Hagel observed.
The U.S. strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region “is very much based on these relationships and all their variances and dimensions,” the secretary said, “so to start [his fourth trip to the region in less than 12 months] spending a couple of days with ASEAN members was important.”

Hagel landed here today at Yokota Air Base, whose host unit is the 374th Airlift Wing, and his first visit was with 200 U.S. service members and Japanese Self-Defense Forces troops.

In a hangar on a stage in front of giant flags of the United States and Japan, the secretary brought greetings from President Obama and thanked those from U.S. Forces Japan and their families for their service and sacrifice.
Hagel also thanked those from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces “for what you do for your country and for our partnership, and for helping keep peace and stability in this part of the world.”

In Hagel’s discussions with Japanese leaders, a senior defense official traveling with the secretary said Hagel will have an opportunity to maintain the positive forward motion initiated in Tokyo last fall during the historic Two Plus Two meeting he attended with Kerry.

That progress, the official said, involved work on the bilateral U.S.-Japan alliance to revise the defense guidelines, move forward with the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan, and strengthen and orient the alliance to focus on 21st century challenges.

Hagel and the Japanese leaders also will discuss building a common understanding of the regional and global security environment.

“Here the secretary will … share perspectives with the Japanese prime minister and defense minister on what they’re seeing on the Korean Peninsula, in the East China Sea and in the South China Sea,” the official said, and conduct important alliance consultations on opportunities and challenges of the international security order.

The senior defense official said Hagel and Japanese officials also would discuss Japan’s relationships with other countries in the region.

“The president and Prime Minister Abe and South Korean President Park had a historic trilateral summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit at the Hague recently,” the official said, “and there will be an opportunity to continue underscoring the importance … we see in greater trilateral cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea, and the United States, Japan and Australia, and how to move those relationships forward.”

In Washington on April 17-18 the United States, South Korea and Japan will hold a sixth round of Defense Trilateral Talks, the official said, and in late April President Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia.



Afghanistan Elections

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 5, 2014

Millions of Afghan men and women took to the polls today with courage and commitment. This is their moment. The Afghan people secured this election. They ran this election, and most importantly, they voted in this election.

Today’s vote demonstrates how committed the Afghan people are to protecting and advancing their democracy. The fierce determination of the millions of voters undeterred by violence and threats of violence has been remarkable.

Now, we need to give the Afghan electoral bodies the time they need to do their work in processing the outcome of these elections.

The United States remains ready to work with the next president of Afghanistan. We will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan as they work to build a democratic future.



Weekly Address: The President’s Budget Ensures Opportunity for All Hard-Working Americans

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President highlighted the important differences between the budget he’s put forward – built on opportunity for all – and the budget House Republicans are advocating for, which stacks the deck against the middle class. While the President is focused on building lasting economic security and ensuring that hard-working Americans have the opportunity to get ahead, Republicans are advancing the same old top-down approach of cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and slashing important investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 5, 2014.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
April 5, 2014
Hi, everybody. 
Today, our economy is growing and our businesses are consistently generating new jobs.  But decades-long trends still threaten the middle class.  While those at the top are doing better than ever, too many Americans are working harder than ever, but feel like they can’t get ahead.
That’s why the budget I sent Congress earlier this year is built on the idea of opportunity for all.  It will grow the middle class and shrink the deficits we’ve already cut in half since I took office.
It’s an opportunity agenda with four goals. Number one is creating more good jobs that pay good wages. Number two is training more Americans with the skills to fill those jobs. Number three is guaranteeing every child access to a great education.  And number four is making work pay – with wages you can live on, savings you can retire on, and health care that’s there for you when you need it. 
This week, the Republicans in Congress put forward a very different budget.  And it does just the opposite: it shrinks opportunity and makes it harder for Americans who work hard to get ahead. 
The Republican budget begins by handing out massive tax cuts to households making more than $1 million a year.  Then, to keep from blowing a hole in the deficit, they’d have to raise taxes on middle-class families with kids.  Next, their budget forces deep cuts to investments that help our economy create jobs, like education and scientific research. 
Now, they won’t tell you where these cuts will fall.  But compared to my budget, if they cut everything evenly, then within a few years, about 170,000 kids will be cut from early education programs.  About 200,000 new mothers and kids will be cut off from programs to help them get healthy food.  Schools across the country will lose funding that supports 21,000 special education teachers.  And if they want to make smaller cuts to one of these areas, that means larger cuts in others. 
Unsurprisingly, the Republican budget also tries to repeal the Affordable Care Act – even though that would take away health coverage from the more than seven million Americans who’ve done the responsible thing and signed up to buy health insurance.  And for good measure, their budget guts the rules we put in place to protect the middle class from another financial crisis like the one we’ve had to fight so hard to recover from.
Policies that benefit a fortunate few while making it harder for working Americans to succeed are not what we need right now.  Our economy doesn’t grow best from the top-down; it grows best from the middle-out.  That’s what my opportunity agenda does – and it’s what I’ll keep fighting for.  Thanks.  And have a great weekend.



Background Briefing on the Upcoming P5+1 Talks on Iran's Nuclear Program

Special Briefing
Senior Administration Official
Via Teleconference
April 4, 2014

MODERATOR: Thank you so much, and welcome, everyone, to today’s conference call backgrounder. We have a Senior Administration Official with us. For your knowledge, it’s [Senior Administration Official]. From now on, just will be referred to as a Senior Administration Official. Again, all of this is on background. So [Senior Administration Official] will make some opening remarks, and then we will open it up to folks for question per the instructions the operator just gave.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, everybody, and happy Friday. Thank you for calling into this backgrounder today. We thought it made sense, as we did last time, to do this prior to landing in Vienna to ensure that we can get more of you on the line and sort of tee up what’s upcoming. I’ll start with a few words about this third round of talks in the comprehensive negotiations, and then, of course, take your questions as usual.
We head back to Vienna for this round of talks clear-eyed about the challenges ahead and determined to keep making progress on these very difficult issues. We will have more topical discussions like we had in March, with both sides laying out their positions and trying to better understand where each of us are on the various issues. This process has been helpful in setting the table as we prepare to dive much more deeply into what a comprehensive agreement might actually look like on paper and what everyone might be able to agree to.

As always, these political director conversations follow on the tremendous work of our experts, who have been and are still now in Vienna meeting with their counterparts and will be doing so through probably mid-day on Saturday. And they have had quite intense, and from the initial readouts I’ve gotten, continue to be productive and constructive conversations. As we’ve said, putting this agreement together will really be like solving a Rubik’s cube. We can’t look at any one issue in isolation, but rather will have to consider what package we can all agree to that will meet the objectives that we have.

We are looking to ensure we have the right combination of measures in place to ensure Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon and that it’s program is exclusively peaceful. As we work to bridge the gaps that exist to see if we can find that right combination, the pace of our work will intensify even more than it is today.
And with that, I will be glad to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Looks like our first question is from Indira with Bloomberg News.

QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to ask you two things. First off, about the reports that have resurfaced of a possible Iran-Russia $20 billion oil-for-goods deal. And in the past, the White House and other senior Administration officials have expressed concern that this would be a serious concern, but they have also said that there is no sign of Russia or anyone else violating the oil sanctions. So could we find out from you what is your latest on that? What information do you have about that deal possibly going ahead?

And related to that, has the problems – have the problems with Russia over Crimea bled over into the Iran negotiations at any level? We’ve seen some remarks from Sergei Ryabkov, that suggested that in the aftermath of the last talks that Russia might play the Iran card against the U.S. in this Crimea-Ukraine issue.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Indira. On the Russia-Iran oil-for-goods, we’ve seen reports that you all have written on the purported deal or potential for a deal between Russia and Iran. We do not have any information to suggest this deal has been culminated or implemented or begun to be executed or finalized. We’ve been very clear about our concerns with both parties regarding this or any similar deal. If such a deal were to happen, it appears it would be inconsistent with the terms of the P5+1 plus European Union Joint Plan of Action and could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions against the entity and individuals involved in any related transaction. But we have conveyed this directly to all parties, as we do in any situation that we see developing where there might be concerns of sanctionable activity.
Regarding Russia and its illegitimate action in Crimea, which we still do not and the international community does not recognize as legal and legitimate – we believe in the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including Crimea. It has not had any appreciable or substantive impact on the negotiations. As I said at the end of the last round, Sergei Ryabkov was constructive, professional, and very much focused, as were all the members of the P5+1 and the European Union on our work. My understanding is in the experts talks that have been ongoing the same is true. And I’m aware of the remarks, obviously, that Sergei made after the last round. We have all understood privately that we have to be very mindful of the tremendous responsibility that the United Nations has given to the P5+1 and the European Union to try to reach an agreement with Iran, and that has to be the focus of our attention.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks. It looks like our next question is from Elise Labott of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this one, Senior Administration Official. (Laughter.) I’m just wondering – I mean, I know that there’s been this goal to do it within a year, but I mean, how far along do you really think you are in terms of – I know you say it’s a Rubik’s cube, you’ll need to fit all the pieces together. But do you find that you’re making progress towards that goal? And I mean, are you confident that you’re going to be able to finish it within the year? I guess that’s my main question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, thank you, CNN. (Laughter.) Elise, we are committed to – all of the parties are committed to not finishing this in a year but finishing this in the six-month frame of the Joint Plan of Action by July 20th. And I’m absolutely convinced that we can, though the real issue is not about whether you can write the words on paper, do the drafting; it’s about the choices that Iran has to make, and some of them are very difficult. And in order to ensure that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has the assurances it needs that their program is entirely and exclusively peaceful, they will have to make some significant changes and some significant choices. So this will be about the decisions that Iran makes, but the drafting is certainly doable.

QUESTION: But how close are you? Not – I don’t expect at this point in the process that you would be close to a deal. But in terms of how the negotiations are progressing, do you see --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have – we set out a work plan of how we were going to proceed to get to a comprehensive agreement, and we are on pace with the work plan that was set out. We were very conscious that we were going to use the March and April rounds to go over every single issue that we believed had to be addressed in a comprehensive agreement and make sure we understood each other on those issues, both at a macro level as well as at a technical level, because this is a highly, highly, highly technical agreement. And that’s why – pardon me while I take a sip of water, the allergy season has gotten to me. That is why it’s so critical that our experts spend quite a bit of time in conversation going through the technical details of what each other means by what they are saying.

So we are on pace with that work plan, looking toward beginning drafting in May and as we get through this month and begin to start to work that process. So we’re on pace with the work plan that we all set out with each other.

MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Our next question is from Lou Charbonneau of Reuters.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I wanted to follow up on the question that the – that CNN asked. And the fact that you just said that you’re not going to start drafting until May, I mean, my understanding is that there are still some pretty serious fundamental disagreements on some of the main things expected from the beginning would be difficult, namely enrichment, R&D, the scope of that, how much uranium they’re going to be able to keep and what level at that to keep at any given time. How much progress have you made in the last few weeks in overcoming the differences on those very difficult issues which are going to be the ones that ultimately decide success or failure of this whole process?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think I’ve told you all before so you won’t be surprised to hear me say again that I’m not going to negotiate in public. What I will say is that we understand each other very well. We know where we can see points of agreement. We know where the gaps are that have to be bridged. But I’ve also said this is a Rubik’s cube, and where one makes progress on one element may mean there’s more trade space on another element. So it’s very – it’s literally impossible to say okay, I can see a way forward here without understanding its impact on the way forward there. So it has to be looked at in its entirety, not just element by element.

QUESTION: But if I can just follow up quickly, even though – I mean, stepping away from the Rubik’s cube analogy for a moment, what percentage of the issues would you say that you’ve managed to reach some kind of understanding and what percentage remains difficult? And I realize that some – there could be 2 percent of the issues that are unresolved, and those could ultimately break the deal.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think you’ve answered your own question, which is the percentages don’t matter, even if I could give you a percentage, which I can’t. But the percentages don’t matter because the Joint Plan of Action says nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and I would add to that nothing is agreed till everyone agrees to it.
So it doesn’t matter, exactly as you said. Even if you got agreement on everything but there were two last sticking points, you have to resolve those two last sticking points. As we finished the Joint Plan of Action, there were a handful of brackets, and until you resolved all of those brackets, there was no agreement, even though you’d resolved a great deal of the text. So it only matters when you get to an agreement.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks, Lou. Our next question is from Barak Ravid of Haaretz.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks. I was wondering – the last round of talks the U.S. negotiations team didn’t go to Israel after the talks to brief, while that usually used to be the case. I was wondering if there’s any plan to do it now.

And the second question: There was – there were reports that the U.S. gave Iran some kind of a proposal about transforming the Arak reactor from a heavy-water reactor to a light-water reactor. Can you say anything about that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So we maintain very close consultations with a number of partners and countries of interest all around the world, including Israel. And sometimes that means that I’ve traveled with my team to brief. Sometimes that means we do it by a video conference or phone or meetings here in Washington. So there are a variety ways, but that close consultation with Israel and with a number of other countries continues on a regular basis, and will for this round as well.

In terms of proposals about the Arak reactor, I’m not going to discuss any specifics in these briefings, as you can imagine. This is a negotiation, and that means it has to stay in the room.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks. Our next question is from Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Hi. I think this is sort of a variation on the theme that others have spoken on before. The Iranians said at the close of the last negotiations that we’ve done the framework planning, we’ve done the technical stuff, and the next time we’re going to get down to real issues. But it doesn’t sound, from what you’re saying, that that’s necessarily the case, that you’re still – at least until the first of May, you’re still kind of laying the table. Is that – would that be a fair assessment?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. Well, Karen, when you lay the table, you get down to real and serious issues. I think Minister Zarif laid out the issues that we held discussions on in the last round, and believe me, they were quite substantive discussions, quite detailed, quite technical. And in those discussions, one begins to – in fact begin to see the areas of agreement and the areas where there are still gaps that have to be overcome.
So I would say we’ve been getting down to the serious business even in the last round. We will do that on all of the remaining issues as well as revisit some of the issues from the last round, because we sent our experts away with a set of work products that we wanted from them to try to be able to advance our discussions further. So all of this work is quite substantive, quite detailed, quite technical, and meant to make the actual drafting an easier process.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that for a second? The Iranians have made several comments over the past couple of weeks basically saying under no circumstances will we give up the Arak reactor and things along those lines. Are those things that you just consider part of the chaff as the negotiations go on, or to what extent do you feel that you have to clarify those issues with the negotiators when you sit down?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’re quite direct and quite straightforward with each other, so I don’t think there’s any mystery about positions. And what we are focused on is what is discussed in the room, not what anyone says on the outside.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks. Our next question is from Michael Adler.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. Just – I don’t want to beat this to death, but – (laughter) – but when you say you’re getting down to drafting, does that mean that that’s when the give-and-take of finding out how much

concessions people are willing to make is going on, or will that be more in June than in May?
And a second question: What is your assessment at this point about how the sanctions regime overall is holding up? And do you see any signs that the Iranians might be using the time you’re taking to lay the table to determine just how much they’re going to have to give in terms of where the sanctions regime is in May or June?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So what I would say, Michael, is from day one, we were already testing each other, looking at assumptions, seeing where there might be areas of agreement, areas that had to be bridged. So that give-and-take starts the moment you begin a discussion. The negotiations have been going on since before the Joint Plan of Action over the comprehensive agreement, and the Joint Plan of Action, in fact, laid a framework for the comprehensive agreement. So give-and-take has been going on for months now. So we’re not talking about, all of a sudden, this is going to start one day. It began many months ago. And all of it set a frame and all of it set the conditions for a comprehensive agreement.
So I don’t think you can say we’re going to wait until May or going to wait until June or going to wait until July. It is constant. It is constant. And it’ll get refined and refined and refined until we hope we can reach a comprehensive agreement that ensures that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community is assured that its program is entirely and exclusively peaceful.

As far as the sanctions regime is holding up, I think that it is. We gave limited, targeted relief for the six-month period of the Joint Plan of Action. We have fulfilled our commitments in that regard. And that is all moving forward in the way that had been agreed to. And so Iran is getting that limited targeted relief, and I’m sure that Iran is assessing what it needs for the future, how it needs it, and what impact that has on getting to a comprehensive agreement, just as we are assessing it from the other side of the table.

QUESTION: Can I just – a quick follow-up? If the give-and-take has started, do you already have an idea about how likely it is that you’re going to get an acceptable package and get compromise on those key terms that make up the Rubik’s Cube?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I go back to what I said a moment ago: Until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Elliot Waldman of Tokyo Broadcasting.

QUESTION: Hello, hi. Thanks for doing this. I have just a couple questions, one on levels of Iranian oil exports. There are reports that those export levels are rising, have been rising rapidly the past few months. Is it still your understanding that this level is within what’s allowed by the JPOA? And what are you – are you coordinating not only with China but also countries like Japan and the ROK and India, who have shown quite an appetite for Iranian oil?

And then also, how do you expect this issue of the Iranian ambassadorial nomination to the UN, Mr. Aboutalebi, to impact the nomination – the negotiations? I know Marie has said that they’re separate, but realistically, given the importance of congressional involvement and the fact that so many members of Congress have expressed outrage about this, what’s your level of concern that this could be an issue going forward? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In terms of the oil exports, as we have always said, we expect there to be fluctuations. They go up and down month to month. What we care about is the aggregate over the period of time that’s agreed to. We have had teams talk to each of the remaining importers of Iranian oil, and we feel comfortable that in fact, they will meet the target that we have, and there’s nothing to lead us to believe otherwise at this time. We, of course, keep continuous eye on this and in continuous discussion with all of the importers.
In terms of the report that there is a possible nomination for the Iranian permanent representative at the United Nations, we of course have seen these reports. If in fact this possible nomination were in fact the person nominated, it would be extremely troubling, as both our deputy spokesperson has said and as the White House spokesperson has said. We are taking a close look at this case now and we have raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the Government of Iran through a variety of channels that we use to convey our concerns.

QUESTION: All right. Do you expect it to have any specific impact on the P5+1 negotiations?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All I can say at this time regarding this is that if this possible nomination were the nomination, it would be extremely troubling, and we have raised those concerns with the Iranians.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Our next question is from Kasra Naji of BBC.

QUESTION: Yes. I just wondered – I’ve got two or three questions, actually. The first one: In recent days in Washington, there have been suggestions that there should be some kind of a threat of use of force by President – by the President of the United States to strengthen any kind of agreement that is going to be reached, hopefully. Is that a new development? Is that going to change attitudes in Iran, do you think? A.

B, on the issue of Russia and how they’re going to play this Iranian card or not playing the Iranian card, I just wondered, you said, if they do come with – on that agreement about this huge deal on oil exports and so on, you said it would be inconsistent with Iran +5 talks and its aims. If that happens, what will be the position of the United States within the P5+1?

And a third question: The third question is about these reports from Iran that Iran is actually having trouble getting its hands on the money that was supposed to be released under the Geneva agreement. Have you heard that? Can you confirm that? And do you know why that – there’s a problem there? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. I think you’re referring to a report about a Brookings Institution publication, and we very much value all of the think tanks in Washington, D.C. Obviously, members of Congress, leaders and thinkers all over the world who have suggested things to us in the negotiation have put down on paper their ideas about how things go forward, and all of this is a very valuable input to our thinking through this negotiation. I would point out, just for a factual matter, I think the way that particular report is written, as you said, is that Congress would take such action if Iran pulled out of a negotiated agreement. So it’s really something that I think they were discussing down the road. But regardless, we listen to all variety of voices with very, very different positions because this is tough, this is difficult, and we’re happy to hear everybody’s ideas.

In terms of the Russia for oil deal, if it – a Russia-Iran oil deal, if it happened, we would take a look at the deal, and if it in fact was sanctionable, we would take the appropriate action. All of the members – rest of the members of the P5+1 and the European Union are well aware of the implications if such an agreement were to occur.

And third, your question about Iran having trouble getting their hands – you’ll have to ask the Iranians for their comments on that. The United States, the European Union, we have done everything that we made a commitment to do in the Joint Plan of Action and our teams have been working very hard to facilitate everything that was required in the JPOA.

MODERATOR: Great, thank you. And I think we have time for one more question from Hannah Kaviani of Radio Free Europe.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Hi. I have a question about a few reports which we’re seeing there about Congress going to move towards a new set of sanctions, non-nuclear terrorism related, on Iran. Al-Monitor also reported on this first. And I wanted to see if the – you’re aware of this move, and if yes, how do you think or how the Administration think it’s going to affect the talks with Iran?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’ve seen reports that folks are considering some additional legislation that are non-nuclear related. I can’t comment on legislative proposals that I haven’t seen.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. I think --


MODERATOR: Oops, sorry. Did you have a quick follow-up, or did you say thank you?

QUESTION: No, it’s okay. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Well, thanks to everyone for jumping on the phone on a Friday afternoon. As always, this was on background, Senior Administration Official. We’ll send the transcript out, and we will see hopefully many of you very soon in Vienna.


Credit:  U.S. Government 
Remarks at Peace Corps Swearing-in Ceremony
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Youth and Sports
Rabat, Morocco
April 4, 2014

Chris, thank you very much. Thanks for your service, and thank you for the introduction. And Minister Ouzzine, it’s a great pleasure to be here with you. Thank you very, very much for being part of this. And all of our guests, distinguished guests – oh, there’s President Kennedy over here. I’m just looking over there. (Laughter.)

This is really cool. I want you to know I’m really excited about this. I’m thrilled that somehow it coincided and we were able to work out that I have the privilege of swearing you in. And when I heard I was swearing in 101 Peace Corps volunteers, I immediately thought of 101 Dalmatians. (Laughter.) I couldn’t help it. Sorry about that. That has nothing to do with anything, all right? (Laughter.) And you certainly don’t think of yourselves that way.

There are a lot of reasons why this is special. I am old enough to have been old enough at the time that it meant something to me when President Kennedy made the announcement about the Peace Corps and appointed his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver to be the first head of it. And I remember that very distinctly, the sense of excitement. I had the privilege of meeting President Kennedy, because I was then 18 years old and just out of high school, working full time for somebody who was to become my colleague, Senator Ted Kennedy, then a candidate for senator in Massachusetts. And I was just a kid in the summer, and I happened to be in a place where the President was during that period of time. And we chatted a bit, and he chastised me for my choice of college, but – (laughter) – he was very funny about sort of the commonality of some of the interests at any rate. And he made an impression on me – a lifetime-lasting impression.

And the Peace Corps itself has always embodied really the best aspirations of America in terms of our reach in the world – our efforts to help people to do better in life, our efforts to try to create stability and opportunity and prosperity, our efforts to give people a sense of what makes a difference in terms of the values which will guide them as they grow and become, hopefully, public citizens themselves at some point in time. And so your willingness to stand up and say, “I’m going to serve,” in this capacity is really, really special, particularly at a time when so many people are sort of pressured and enticed towards a more lucrative undertaking, particularly in their immediate post-college years, where you’re saddled with college debt and other career pressures and choices.

You’re joining one of the proudest traditions that there is. As Chris mentioned, the 5,000-some people who have served here, it includes Ambassador Chris Stevens, whom we lost, as you all know, in Benghazi. It includes a fellow by the name of Ambassador Robert Ford, who has been our special – really, he’s been the ambassador to Syria, but because he hasn’t been in Syria, he’s been our special envoy, so to speak, to the Syrian opposition, and has worked diligently these past years to be able to help the people of Syria do better. But his commitment began right here, like yours. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, one of our distinguished diplomats, a man who went on to help broker peace accords at Dayton and dealt with so many difficult issues, began as a Peace Corps volunteer.

So you’re following in the footsteps of accomplished, distinguished diplomats who made a difference as they went on in life, and I’m confident that you will, those of you who choose to go on in that way. And I have no doubt that perhaps sometime in the future, when a next secretary is standing up and swearing people, one or more of your names will be the examples that will then be given to people.

You’re joining the Peace Corps at a very, very important time. I can’t emphasize enough to you how critical it is. And obviously, it has its challenges. The world is changing unbelievably rapidly. And to some degree, that’s creating the counterforce that we see in certain places. It’s a reaction against modernity, against change, against the invasion of the rest of the world into people’s lives because of the media and because of communication that’s sometimes unwanted and unwitting.

And so whether you like it or not – and we talked about this in our security dialogue a few moments ago with our Moroccan friends – that everything that’s happening everywhere invades everywhere all the time. And the result of this is a sense of invasion, really, of sometimes unwanted values, unwanted principles. And it forces a transition, no matter what. So in places that are particularly tribal or particularly insular, and where there’s a more conservative strain, that can be difficult. And we have to acknowledge that. We have to honor that. People need to be able to do things at their pace and in their way, but still, we have to remain committed to fundamental values – freedom, human rights, democracy, and tolerance, things that you will be practicing and teaching every day in your efforts as Peace Corps volunteers.

And when you look at the population of Morocco, it’s really a reflection of what is happening in the rest of the world – 60 percent of a population under the age of 30, and 50 percent of the population under the age of 25 – 50 percent. That’s a lot of jobs to find and create. That’s a lot of educating to do. That’s a lot of opportunity to create. So it’s a big task. It’s a complicated world. And I admire enormously those who have chosen to go out into this world and help to make a difference.

Now, I will tell you that what you do could help shape the economy of this country in the future. It will certainly shape lives. Individual lives will be touched by the multiples for those people that you come into contact with and make a difference for. And it seems to me that this is what makes this adventure you’re about to embark on so meaningful, is that when you help a young Moroccan develop a skill to be able to build their community or to build their own career, when you help somebody to learn English or help somebody to start a business or to learn some valuable lesson as simple as playing sports and being a part of a team, you are investing in a safer region and a stronger world.

So the 101 of you are going to match your diverse talents with your expertise, and you’re going to go out there and have an opportunity to be able to learn a lot about the perspectives of the young men and women that you’re going to meet. And as you do, you’re going to strengthen the friendship between Morocco and the United States, a friendship that is older than the Constitution of the United States of America. I remind you that Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the United States in 1777.

So before I ask you to join me up here on the stage to take the oath, I just want to leave you with one reminder and perhaps one prediction. The reminder is this: In every intersection that you have with any individual Moroccan, anyone you meet, you may be the only American that that person has met that day, that week, that year, perhaps, or that lifetime. So you represent the United States in every single thing that you do. And I ask you to remember that the ambassador who is presenting his credentials today may have the fancy title of ambassador, but every single one of you are an ambassador. And that was something that Sargent Shriver said more than 50 years ago when he returned from Africa at the beginning of this journey. He said that the manner in which volunteers carry out their work is just as important as the quality of their work. And believe me, that is still true today.

So that’s my reminder. My prediction is this: You’re going to find that this journey means as much to you as it will mean to the people and the communities that you’re going to serve. It goes both ways. That’s the beauty of it. And in the same message that I just mentioned Sargent Shriver gave when he came back from Africa, you know what he said? He said, “Go in a spirit of humility, seeking to learn as much as to teach.”

So I’ve got every bit of confidence that you all are going to do that. It’s my honor now to administer to you the very same oath that I took, the very same oath that the President takes and that all of us have taken since the time of George Washington. So please, if you will join me up here on the stage, I will deliver your oath that will make you official Peace Corps volunteers.

(The oath was administered.)



Remarks at Opening Plenary of the U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Rabat, Morocco
April 4, 2014

FOREIGN MINISTER MEZOUAR: (Via interpreter) Mr. John Kerry, Mr. Ambassador Dwight Bush, ladies and gentlemen, I’m very delighted to be hosting you today in this meeting and in this visit, which is as – important as the second round of the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco. Delighted also to work with you together so that this round is a second boost for a strategic partnership between our two countries.

Welcome, Mr. John Kerry, the Secretary of State for foreign affairs, and also I would like to welcome the delegation, your delegation. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador Dwight Bush, whom we are delighted to have with us here. And we are convinced that he shares the same feelings.
Mr. Secretary of State, ladies and gentlemen, I would like first to commend the interest that the American administration has always shown towards Morocco as a country that represents a model for stability and quite democratic reforms, which reiterate its belief in the values of the freedom, justice, (inaudible). (Inaudible) would like for this interest which represents (inaudible) quite clear during the visit of His Majesty Mohammed VI to Washington. And that was the (inaudible) very interesting at the level of its result as translated by the statement, the common statement whose content is an optimistic roadmap for our two countries. And it opened horizons and opportunities, new horizons, and the new opportunities for cooperation to face the international changes and the many expectations of our two people.

The Strategic Dialogue which started in 2012 is based on a very (inaudible), also to see the future for a strategic partnership, a multidimensional partnership, (inaudible), economic, cultural, and peace relations based on common values in which we believe together the values of freedom, democracy, human rights, tolerance, peace, and human solidarity.

The economic cooperation (inaudible) a very important point in the Strategic Dialogue in spite of the progress that was achieved at this level, like the (inaudible) of the free exchange. We are looking forward, of course, to more cooperation. And in this context, the size of the investments, American investments in Morocco, shows efforts that we have to make because it represents only 8 percent of all the investments attracted by Morocco. At the time when we’re looking forward to the fifth international (inaudible).

(Inaudible) our cultural and education partnership, which is diverse and numerous, we would like to report the positive process into (inaudible) university education thanks to a network of American schools in the country, led by the University of New England, which will open in the city of Tangier, and also thanks to the programs of university exchange which has made it possible for thousands of Moroccan students to study in American universities.

Within the same spirit of cooperation and – because of the values of peace and tolerance, Morocco hosted the J. Christopher Stevens full – Virtual Exchange, which was launched by His Majesty Mohammed VI and President Obama, and it will contribute to the interaction of these two cultures. And I am convinced that the cultural and educational work group will be one of the concerns, and they will have to think about new topics for this cooperation at the level of university and youth.

Mr. Secretary of State, Morocco has always, under the leadership of His Majesty, in the process of reforms that are political – and its experience in the reconciliation was a model that became a reference not only in the region and contributed to the facilitation of the core democratic reforms, thanks to the (inaudible) of the institutions of Morocco and their maturity and their ability to react and interact with the changes, both nationally and internationally. The flexibility of our institution and their openness and their ability to listen and because they believe in the values of modern times might have helped Morocco to interact in a balanced way with new developments.

In this framework, the process of reforms was launched through the constitution of 2011 and its democratic provisions and guarantees of universal rights all through the reform of justice and good governance, in addition to the reinforcement of equality between men and women which, I think, agrees with the reforms of our country and its international commitments. In the domain of human rights, we put in place mechanisms to control those rights. And this is about the National Council for Human Rights, which opened branches in the regions of Morocco and made the recommendations to the government about the civil rights and political rights in their universal dimension. The government also worked on the translation of these recommendations on the ground in the form of laws, the last of which was making it impossible for – to present people to military courts. All these initiatives of reforms are guarantees that Morocco gave to its people on one hand, and this is very important, and also to its partners, led by the United States on one hand. And it made of it a special case which deserves to be called exceptional, and the uniqueness of its experience in the regional context, which is still seeking stability.

So this process came to reiterate the role of Morocco at a very precise moment in the region, facing challenges of violence, extremism, terrorism, and instability, in particular in the region of the Sahel. And in this context, the spiritual authority which His Majesty enjoys because he’s the leader of the believers, plays a very important role in facing extremism, and it also disseminates cooperation with African countries in the religious domain at a moment where Africa needs this spiritual support to face terrorism based on these values, the values of tolerance. But to guarantee the stability in the region and the Sahel in particular has to be the result of the settlement of the crisis in the Sahara. Therefore, Morocco appreciates the support that is given by the United States to the efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations and his special envoy to find a final solution accepted to all about the Sahara on the basis of the Moroccan initiative for self-rule, which was considered by the American Administration to be very serious and realistic.

The Moroccan initiative in its content reacts to the expectations of the people in the Sahara in the management of their own affairs, which guarantees dignity, freedom, and development. And in this framework, I would like to report the role of the National Council for Human Rights and its regional communities, especially in the south of Morocco, to reinforce the culture of human rights. And I would like also to report the recommendations for the development of the region as suggested by the National Committee for Human Rights and which have been launched very recently.

So Morocco, to enter the African environment, is based on the support of our friendly people and that we need here to point out to the different visits conducted by His Majesty to a number of African countries, and which seeks to reinforce cooperation – South-South cooperation and focuses on peace and the settlement of conflicts in a peaceful way, and also human development and also the preservation of cultural identity and the religious identity of a number of African countries, and are very delighted to report at the same time the interest in the African continent and the initiative of the United States of America in the person of President Barack Obama to organize next August the first summit of the United States and Africa. And this is a strong sign to the commitment of the American Administration towards the development of this continent.

In this context, Morocco is convinced that it is necessary to implement common programs with our American partner to guarantee stability and economic prosperity and also to have access to energy and reinforce trade and encourage investments in various domains. We are convinced of our ability together to contribute to build a stronger partnership towards Africa based on three pillars – Morocco, the United States, and Africa – in order to invest in common because of the position of Morocco as a hub towards Europe and Africa, and also because of what we can do for the stability in the Sahel and in Africa in general.

The international current reality, Mr. Secretary of State, as well as the challenges for the peaceful settlement of conflicts imposes (inaudible) Morocco to continue its efforts in the framework of the United Nations and international agreements according to the statement on the – following the meeting of His Majesty and the President of the United States. So Morocco renews its commitment to work together with the United States and any other international actors for more coordination of our attitudes in order to put an end to bloodshed in the civilians – Syrian civilians – and in order to find a solution accepted to all for political transition that will guarantee the integrity of Syria. Our commitment to the values of peace is behind our attempt to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the option of two countries that live together in peace. Undoubtedly, the recommendations of the 20th round of the Al Quds Committee held in Marrakesh and the – is a step towards the achievement of these common objectives.

Mr. Secretary of State, ladies and gentlemen, the atmosphere of an understanding – of the environment of understanding based on common political and references of democracy and human rights makes us believe in our ability for a common partnership on the basis of new developments (inaudible), and this will be very important and decisive in determining the process in this region and in Africa in general at the economic and – level, and also peace, but also to fight terrorism and disseminate stability, which have to go through the processing of tensions in the region. And this is a role that Morocco tries to play very strongly because it is convinced that a strategic partnership with the United States of America is going to bring the two countries together and achieve the objectives like our relations have done in the past in many domains.

I would like to welcome once again the Secretary of State as well as the delegation that comes with him, and also his (inaudible) ambassador. I wish the success to the proceedings of our group. Thank you very much indeed. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Minister Mezouar. Thank you for a very, very generous welcome. We had a spectacular dinner last night. As many of you know, the tradition of a great meal in Morocco is a long-held one and a very special one. And I want you to know that I’m going to try to persuade people in America that we need to have a meal where we have eight meals in one. It’s really – it was splendid, and it’s wonderful to come together in this beautiful hall, a mini-United Nations, really spectacular.

And I will tell you I’ve had the privilege in the last year visiting many foreign ministers in their offices, but very few are as splendid as the office I just was in with the view of the river and the wall and the old fort and the city in the background – absolutely spectacular. I don’t know how he gets any work done. From now on, I told him when I telephone him, I’m going to have this image in my mind of this extraordinary view as he sits there talking to me.

I value enormously, as President Obama does, our relationship with His Majesty as well as with the foreign minister and his team, and we’re very, very grateful to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation for hosting us here for this Strategic Dialogue. I’m very grateful to our new ambassador – many of you probably have not had the chance to meet him yet – Dwight Bush, who just arrived here five or six days ago, will present his credentials today prior to my meeting with His Majesty. And we’re grateful to the U.S. Mission for their cooperation and help here.

And we’ve got with us a really first-tier delegation involved in this dialogue, as you do, Mr. Minister. And I think this is an important step in helping our countries to build a very longstanding relationship and take it to a new level in a very new and challenging time, as you just described in your comments. We often talk about the rich history of the relationship between the United States and Morocco. Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States in 1777, and we remember with great gratitude and with a sense of respect for history the important role that Morocco played during the Second World War. And it’s truly important to remember the deep historical foundation and friendship between Morocco and the United States. So when I hear the minister a few minutes ago talk about freedom and democracy, human rights, tolerance, peace, human values, we understand this is part of our DNA. And it’s not a coincidence that our relationship goes back to 1777.

So we have much to build on, and the work of the Strategic Dialogue and of our strategic partnership will contribute to the ability of the United States and Morocco to show that we value something a lot more powerful than our past, and that’s the future. We are here today to help shape a common future, and it’s a future defined by a shared prosperity and shared security that we can create together, but it’s also shared by all of those values that Salaheddine just a moment ago enumerated.

We just met a few minutes ago upstairs in a bilateral meeting. And the foreign minister laid out to me, to us, a very comprehensive and eloquent statement about the transformation and the transition that is taking place in Morocco, the efforts Morocco is making to manage this movement to the future. In some parts of the world, there is a major resistance to modernity, and how each nation makes this transition will be defined by each nation individually. There are going to be different ways, different speeds, different levels of accomplishment in different places.

We want to make sure that we are thoughtful and sensitive to that process, but obviously, we also want to make sure that we’re encouraging and working cooperatively and creatively to help countries be able to make this transition. We’re living in a world with a remarkable population bubble – unbelievable numbers of young people. Sixty percent of the country – this country and others – under the age of 30; 50 percent or more under the age of 25. It’s extraordinary. And the challenge of any government anywhere to be able to provide jobs, education, opportunity is enormous.

I mean, all of us remember that what began in Tunisia was not religiously driven; it wasn’t extremist driven. It was a fruit vendor who was exhausted by corruption, by the inability to be able to lead his life and sell his wares. And when a police officer slapped him around and refused to allow him to do what he was doing, he rebelled and set himself on fire, and that fire ignited a revolution.

In Tahrir Square, it wasn’t driven by the Muslim Brotherhood or any religious or other Islamist effort. It was driven by young people who were demonstrating against a structure that didn’t allow them to have opportunity. And everybody today is connected. No politician can shut off the world. Nobody has the ability to be able to tune it all out, because everybody through communications and travel and the internet and television, everybody knows what’s going on everywhere.

When I was in Kyiv, in Ukraine a few weeks ago, I met a man near the Maidan who said to me, “You know, I just came back from Australia. And the reason I came back is I want to make sure that in my country I have the ability to live the way I saw people living in Australia.” It’s pretty simple.

So this is our challenge together, and the United States is deeply committed to an incredibly vibrant and extraordinary capacity that Morocco has and is already exhibiting, already engaged in – by you, not by anybody else. You have, with the leadership of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI, already undertaken major reforms and major efforts to manage the future. And the United States has demonstrated commitment to that, I hope, in many ways, and we will continue to. We want to work with you. We have a $700 million Millennium Challenge Compact, which was completed last year. It’s just one step.

But I think the growth in our bilateral trade, which has actually tripled over the last 10 years, is very significant, and we want it to go further. I heard the foreign minister tell me that we’re still a small percentage of foreign direct investment. We want that to grow. And Morocco is one of fewer than 20 countries in the world, and the only country on this continent where the United States has a free trade agreement. That’s important. But we can’t pretend that that’s enough and we don’t come here pretending that it is.

We need to build on the strength of that investment, and we need to strengthen it. Morocco’s incredible potential for growth and it’s growing role as a vital gateway to a very dynamic continent, make it even more vital for the United States, frankly, to be able to grow the relationship.

So when Morocco is already among the top African nations investing in African nations, you can understand why investors around the world want to be part of it. And that’s part of what has attracted dozens of American companies to the U.S.-Morocco business development conference that took place last month. Morocco is clearly a country that is open for business and open to the world. And that’s exciting. It’s never been more clear than in recent months during King Mohammed VI’s recent outreach to the region.

With the 18 different agreements Morocco signed earlier this year with Mali, in areas from microfinance to infrastructure, Morocco is driving both greater security and greater prosperity in the region, in the Maghreb. And I also understand that his – after His Highness left Mali he left immediately to go to Guinea, Gabon, and the Ivory Coast, where he also brokered a series of new economic agreements. That’s all just in the first months of this year. So I guess it sounds like he and I have a similar travel schedule. But apart from that, he’s really aggressively out there trying to manage this process and push it forward.

And of course, King Mohammed VI was in Washington, as Salaheddine mentioned, for a very important meeting last fall where we clearly rededicated ourselves to the importance of the relationship, and I believe that visit has helped to strengthen ties that we see in every facet of this relationship.

We are also very appreciative and excited that Morocco is hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit later this year. I went to last year’s Summit in Kuala Lumpur. I had the privilege of speaking to about 5,000 young kids, all who want to be entrepreneurs. And I cannot tell you the energy and the excitement and the initiative of those young people, all of whom, in our language, want to be the next Bill Gates and the next Steve Jobs. They’re exciting. And it gives you enormous hope for the future. What we have to do is create the climate for these young people to be able to take an idea and make it into a business and use their energy and ingenuity.

So I firmly believe that the places where citizens have the freedom to dream up a new idea, and to take that idea and put it into reality, those are the places where people can be their own boss and where they’re free to fail – those are the societies that are the most successful, they’re the societies that are most cohesive, and those are the places that are most peaceful, tranquil, and satisfied.

USAID’s new strategy here in Morocco is focused on supporting exactly that kind of pursuit of prosperity. And the efforts that they began last year are concentrated on three areas: developing the workforce; supporting more responsive government; and improving education in those first, most critical years. If you can’t get a decent education and then get some kind of a job to build on that education, you will be economically handicapped the rest of your life. And that’s an important principle to begin any discussion about the future. USAID is making those commitments – I want to emphasize this, it’s very important – we’re making those commitments to support what the Moroccan people and the parliament have committed to together. We’re not trying to make independent initiatives. We’re not trying to do something that isn’t proved, not part of the process, but we want to support Morocco as it implements the organic laws, opens up its civil society, and finds the most effective ways to introduce difficult but necessary economic reforms.

Now obviously – although we talked upstairs about how possibly to deal with extremism and to deal with society, education and jobs and opportunity and civil society are in some ways equally important or more important than security – but still security is one of the most fundamental obligations that a government owes its citizens. And here too, the United States and Morocco stand side by side. In fact, the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces are wrapping up the 2014 African Lion military exercise in Agadir today. And for a decade now, the United States has participated in these exercises; we are expanding them to include other partners from Africa, Europe, and Canada. And Morocco’s military commitments continue to be a mark of strength and a stabilizing force in the region. And the evolving threats in the Maghreb make it clear that this kind of commitment is really more vital than it’s ever been.

I also want to commend Morocco for its leadership in the Global Counterterrorism Forum and especially Morocco’s proactive role in co-leading with the Netherlands the year-long GCTF initiative to address the phenomenon of foreign fighters.

So whether in Morocco’s support for Mali’s new government or its continued efforts to counter violent extremism, in its robust economic outreach in the region and commitment to fostering religious tolerance, Morocco is playing an essential leadership role and we come here today to show our understanding of and respect for that role.

The United States stands by and will stand by this relationship every step of the way. President Obama is deeply committed to that, and that commitment comes from much more than the impressive group of American officials who’ve come here today. It comes from our people.
We know that that commitment is evident in many different ways. You just mentioned the Christopher Stevens virtual exchange. We’re very, very grateful to your leadership with respect to that. And as you know, Christopher Stevens was a Peace Corps volunteer here. Today, I will be swearing in the latest class of Peace Corps volunteers, and they’re going to join the more than 4,000 Americans who have dedicated two years of their lives to serve here in Morocco since the day that President Kennedy started the Peace Corps and made this call for deeper engagement in the world.

We’re very, very grateful that Morocco has engaged the United States as a partner and as a friend from the very beginning of that initiative. And we take pride in what we’ve accomplished together and in the many ways that the bonds between our people have deepened. So I want you to know that President Obama is committed to making certain that that legacy is a legacy that we can build on here today and work together on every single day going forward in order to grow this relationship with the work that we do in the days to come. So Mr. Minister, thank you very, very much for your generous welcome here, and thank you for hosting this Strategic Dialogue. (Applause.)



U.S. soldiers conduct a presence patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 26, 2014. The soldiers are assigned to Forward Support Company, 65th Engineer Battalion. National Guard photo by U.S. Army Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer.

A U.S. soldier conducts a presence patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 26, 2014. National Guard photo by U.S. Army Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer.



Mines Advisory Group's 25th Anniversary: International Day for Mine Awareness

Rose Gottemoeller
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC
April 2, 2014

As Prepared
Thank you, Jonathan, for the introduction. I don’t always watch television commercials, but when I do, I prefer that you are in them.

It is an honor to be here and to share the stage with Senator Leahy, Senator Casey, Congressman McGovern, and Ambassador Chedid. My particular thanks go out to Senator Leahy, for hosting this event. Senator, the State Department appreciates your longtime support for U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action programs, including the Leahy War Victims Fund that USAID has managed since 1989 to respond to the needs of civilian victims of conflict.
As we continue to focus our efforts on explosive remnants of war arising from past U.S. military operations, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, I would like to thank the Senator for his long-standing support of a well-funded Conventional Weapons Destruction program.
I appreciate being invited here by Rich Eisendorf and the MAG (Mine Action Group) America team. I congratulate you on 25 years of assisting post-conflict societies “survive the peace,” by clearing mines and unexploded ordnance that can threaten lives and livelihoods long after the fighting ends.

I know it’s been mentioned, but the event’s photo exhibit is absolutely stunning. Please take a look before you leave. Sean Sutton’s photographs beautifully illustrate not only the hardship and danger that communities face from explosive remnants of war, but also the hope for the future that international assistance provides.

The hope is clear in the photo of the MAG Sri Lanka female deminers that MAG and Sean graciously provided the State Department for the cover of our 2013 edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety. These women are clearly devoted to this cause, and the U.S. State Department is proud to fund their work and that of many other deminers around the world who are making their communities safer.

The United States shares common cause with MAG America and all those working to address the harmful effects on civilians from landmines and unexploded ordnance left over from wars. Without the work of MAG America and other clearance operators around the world, these items will remain hazardous to civilians for decades after the end of armed conflict.
U.S. efforts have assisted 15 countries around the world to become free of the humanitarian impact of landmines and have helped to dramatically reduce the world’s annual landmine casualty rate. In 1999, the casualty rate from landmines and explosive remnants of war was just over 9,000 annually – that number dropped to less than 4,000 in 2012.

Since the inception of the Humanitarian Mine Action program in 1993, the U.S. government has delivered over $2.2 billion in aid in over 90 countries to help overcome threats from landmines and explosive remnants of war, as well as the destruction of excess, loosely-secured, or otherwise at-risk weapons and ammunition. We are the world’s single largest financial supporter of Conventional Weapons Destruction programs.

We have provided much of this assistance through non-governmental implementing partners, like MAG. It is their dedication, expertise, and professionalism that make the difference in affected communities and helps us maintain a global reach. Thank you to MAG and all our partners.

Here are a few examples of how they work:
MAG’s commitment to mine action in the hostile environment of Northern Iraq continues to contribute to increased security in that region. MAG was actually one of the first organizations providing assistance on the ground in Libya in 2011.

And in 2013, MAG was the first international NGO to conduct survey and clearance operations in Quang Nam province, Vietnam. This is a testament to your years of excellent work in the region.

In these budget-constrained times, State Department assistance programs are under great scrutiny. However, our support for the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance has proven a wise investment that saves lives and fosters stability in every region of the world.
The program helps countries recover from conflict and creates safe, secure environments to rebuild infrastructure; return displaced citizens to their homes and livelihoods; help those injured by these weapons to recover and provide for their families; and promote peace and security by helping to establish conditions conducive to stability, nonviolence, and democracy.
In closing, thank you all, and particularly our host Senator Leahy, for your support for the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Most importantly, thank you to the professionals around the world in and out of the government who work to reduce the threat to life and limb from landmines and unexploded ordnance.


CDC Reports More Cases of Heartland Virus Disease
New virus infects six more people and found in second state

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with health officials in Missouri and Tennessee have identified six new cases of people sick with Heartland virus: five in Missouri and one in Tennessee. The new cases, discovered in 2012 and 2013, are in addition to two discovered in 2009 and are described today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Heartland virus was first reported in two northwestern Missouri farmers who were hospitalized in 2009 with what was thought to be ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne disease. However, the patients failed to improve with treatment and testing failed to confirm ehlrlichiosis. Working with state and local partners, CDC eventually identified the cause of the men’s illness: a previously unknown virus in the phlebovirus family now dubbed Heartland virus.

Ongoing investigations have yielded six more cases of Heartland virus disease, bringing to eight the total number of known cases. All of the case-patients were white men over the age of 50. Their symptoms started in May to September and included fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, or muscle pain. Four of the six new cases were hospitalized. One patient, who suffered from other health conditions, died. It is not known if Heartland virus was the cause of death or how much it contributed to his death. Five of the six new cases reported tick bites in the days or weeks before they fell ill.

Nearly all of the newly reported cases were discovered through a study conducted by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and CDC are actively searching for human cases at six Missouri hospitals.

CDC has been working closely with the Missouri and Tennessee state health departments and other federal agencies to advance understanding of Heartland virus disease by learning more about the patients who were infected, their illness and their exposure to ticks. CDC seeks to determine the symptoms and severity of the disease, where it is found, how people are being infected, and how to prevent infections.

CDC studies to date have shown Heartland virus is carried by Lone Star ticks, which are primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. Additional studies seek to confirm whether ticks can spread the virus to people and to learn what other insects or animals may be involved in the transmission cycle. CDC is also looking for Heartland virus in other parts of the country to understand how widely it may be distributed.

“During the past two years, CDC has worked closely with state health departments, hospitals, and many experts from universities and other federal agencies to learn more about Heartland virus,” said Roger Nasci, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch. “By gathering information about the disease Heartland virus causes, and about how it’s spread to people, we hope to better understand the potential impact on the public’s health and how we can help protect people from this virus CDC developed the blood tests used to confirm the new cases of Heartland virus disease. CDC teams are working to further validate these tests and develop additional tests. As more is learned, CDC hopefully can develop a diagnostic test that public health laboratories could use to test for the virus.

There is no specific treatment, vaccine or drug for Heartland virus disease. Because it is caused by a virus, the disease also does not respond to antibiotics used to treat tickborne bacterial infections such as Lyme disease. However, supportive therapies such as IV fluids and fever reducers can relieve some Heartland disease symptoms.

To reduce the risk of Heartland and other vector-borne diseases, CDC recommends that people:
Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter;
Use insect repellent when outdoors;
Use products that contain permethrin on clothing;
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you;
Conduct a full-body tick check after spending time outdoors; and
Examine gear and pets, as ticks can “ride” into the home and attach to a person later.


The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based financial services firm for improperly calculating advisory fees and overcharging clients.

SEC examinations and a subsequent investigation found that Transamerica Financial Advisors offered breakpoint discounts designed to reduce the fees that clients owed to the firm when they increased their assets in certain investment programs.  The firm permitted clients to aggregate the values of related accounts in order to get the discounts.  However, Transamerica failed to process every aggregation request by clients and also had conflicting policies on whether representatives were required to pass on to clients the savings from breakpoint discounts.  As a result, the firm overcharged certain clients by failing to apply the discounts and failed to have adequate policies and procedures to ensure that the firm was properly calculating its fees.

Transamerica has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.  As a result of the SEC investigation, the firm reviewed client records and has reimbursed 2,304 current and former client accounts with refunds and credits totaling $553,624 including interest.  In the settlement, Transamerica has agreed to pay an additional $553,624 penalty.

“Transamerica failed to properly aggregate client accounts so that they could receive a fee discount, and this systemic breakdown caused retail investors to overpay for advisory services in thousands of client accounts,” said Julie M. Riewe, co-chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit. 

According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, Transamerica’s failure to properly process aggregation requests occurred since 2009.  SEC examiners first alerted Transamerica about aggregation problems in 2010 after an examination of a branch office.  While the firm went on to provide refunds to clients of that branch office, Transamerica failed to undertake a firm-wide review of all client accounts as SEC examiners recommended.  Hence during a subsequent examination of the firm’s headquarters in 2012, SEC examiners found that Transamerica was still failing to aggregate certain related client accounts.  The problem persisted beyond any one branch office.  In fact, Transamerica had conflicting policies throughout its branch offices on whether the firm required its representatives to provide breakpoint discounts to advisory clients.

“The securities laws require investment advisers to charge advisory fees consistent with their own disclosures and stated policies so investors get what they bargained for,” said Eric I. Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office.  “Transamerica failed to take appropriate remedial steps even after SEC examiners had flagged the problem.”

The SEC’s order finds that Transamerica willfully violated Sections 206(2), 206(4), and 207 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-7.  Transamerica agreed to a censure without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, and must cease and desist from committing or causing any further violations of those provisions of the federal securities laws.  In addition to the monetary reimbursements and sanctions, Transamerica agreed to retain an independent consultant to review its policies and procedures pertaining to its account opening forms, fee schedules, and fee computation methodologies as well as the firm’s account aggregation process for breakpoints. 

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Salvatore Massa and Tonya Tullis under the supervision of Chad Alan Earnst in the Miami Regional Office.  Mr. Massa and Mr. Earnst are members of the Enforcement Division’s nationwide Asset Management Unit.  The 2012 examination that led to the investigation was conducted by Jean Cabot, Jesse Alvarez, and Roda Johnson under the supervision of John Mattimore in the Miami office.