THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING BY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST, September 19, 2014

Comment Off 7 Views

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________

September 19, 2014

 

 

PRESS BRIEFING

BY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST

 

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

 

 

12:41 P.M. EDT

 

  1. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  At the beginning of today’s briefing — you see that I’m joined today by the National Security Advisor to the President, Susan Rice.  She is here to do two things.  The first is to give you a little preview about the activities planned for the President’s trip to the United Nations General Assembly next week.  After she presents — sort of lays out what the President’s activities will look like, she will stick around and take a few questions.  She does have to go to a meeting shortly, so she won’t be able to take a lot of questions, but she’ll take a few of them and then I will take whatever is left over.

 

So with that, Susan, you want to begin?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Actually, what I want to do is say a few things about what has transpired over the course of the last week, and then preview the President’s trip to the UN General Assembly and then take a few questions.

 

So as you’ve seen over the course of the last week, the President has been very engaged in driving our progress on a number of national security priorities.  Let me highlight a few of those areas and then I’ll get into the UNGA.

 

First, we continue to implement our strategy to go on the offensive against ISIL.  We’re focusing on multiple lines of effort, including using our unique military capabilities to deny ISIL safe haven, and building the international coalition to support our efforts.

 

As you heard the President say last night, we’re very pleased with the bipartisan vote in Congress to give us the necessary authorities to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition.  And we’re grateful to both the House and the Senate for acting quickly on these authorities.

 

The reason this is so important is that our strategy entails using local forces to fight ISIL on the ground.  Iraqi security forces have already taken the fight to ISIL, along with their Kurdish colleagues, with U.S. support.  And obviously now we’ll be in a position to train and equip the Syrian opposition forces, which will have the ability to do the same inside of Syria.

 

To be clear, as we’ve said repeatedly, our strategy does not involve U.S. troops on the ground in a combat role in either Iraq or Syria.  And no U.S. troops will be in Syria as part of the train-and-equip program.  This program will be hosted outside of Syria, in partnership with neighboring countries.

 

At CENTCOM earlier this week, the President underscored the importance of building a broad coalition of nations to offer assistance in the comprehensive campaign to combat ISIL.  To date, more than 40 countries have offered assistance, and we’re particularly pleased that France has joined us in conducting airstrikes in Iraq, and there are many other countries in the region and beyond offering other important assistance.

 

This afternoon, Secretary Kerry will be in New York to chair an important session of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq.  And that session will underscore international support for the new inclusive government in Iraq, and it will galvanize and support our efforts to build this coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

 

This work of coalition-building is ongoing.  It is something that all of the President’s senior advisors are actively involved in, and of course, the President himself.  And this process will continue through next week at UNGA and beyond.

 

Another important element of the President’s agenda this week was our trip to the CDC in Atlanta, where the President outlined our intensified response to confronting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  The President has made very clear that this is a national security priority.  And while we assess that the Ebola epidemic does not pose a significant risk of spreading to the United States, it is nonetheless the largest epidemic of its sort in history, and the first such in West Africa.

 

And therefore, we have put in place a whole-of-government effort that will build on the measures that we began back in March when this first occurred.  But the response now will leverage the unique capabilities of the United States military, as well as that of our AID and development community, and of course our health and disease control experts to bring this epidemic under control.

 

And then, of course, yesterday we welcomed President Poroshenko of Ukraine to the White House, and this was a very important opportunity for us to reaffirm the United States’ very strong support for Ukraine, its independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and its democratic transition and economic evolution.

 

Yesterday, we were able to announce an additional $53 million in assistance to Ukraine.  That is primarily additional security systems of $46 million.  I think that totals to assistance to Ukraine from the United States of about $290 million thus far this year.

 

 

Now, let me turn, if I may, to next week, which will be another intense foreign policy and national security week.

 

The President will travel to New York on Tuesday.  His first engagement at the UN will be the Climate Summit, which is a meeting of world leaders convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  The meeting will showcase climate action commitments from governments, local leaders and the private sector in an effort to build will and a new global climate change agreement in time for 2015, when the milestone summit will occur.

 

President Obama will speak at that summit and emphasize the ambitious actions that we’ve taken under his climate action plan to reduce carbon pollution at home, and he’ll also stress that all major economies need to step up to the plate if we’re to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change.

 

The President will then attend the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, as he has in the past, where he’ll address how the administration, in partnership with other governments, non-governmental organizations and the philanthropic community is deepening its commitment to defend and strengthen civil society globally.  This even will mark one year since the President launched the Stand With Civil Society Initiative last week at — last year at the General Assembly.  This was a groundbreaking effort to support, defend and sustain the work of civil society around the world amidst a rising tide of restrictions on its work.

 

On Wednesday morning, the President will deliver his annual address to the UN General Assembly, and later in the day, he will chair a landmark meeting of the United Nations Security Council, focused on the foreign terrorist fighter threat.  This convening of world leaders is another element of our comprehensive response to the challenge posed by ISIL.  And we expect during that U.N. Security Council session to be able to adopt a Chapter 7 resolution that will expand upon current obligations within international law, and underscore the centrality of countering violent extremism, which is a key part of the effort to suppress the foreign terrorist fighter threat.

 

This will be only the second time that an American President has chaired the United Nations Security Council.  Some of you may recall that President Obama did it back in 2009.  That was the first time, and that was a summit on nonproliferation.  As in 2009, the United States has the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of September, and thus, the ability to convene and chair such a summit.

 

Later the same day, the President will speak at the Open Government Partnership high-level event.  You may recall, this is an initiative that the United States launched in 2011.  It is co-hosted this year by Indonesian President Yudhoyono, who is, as you know, outgoing; and Mexican President Peña Nieto.

 

This is a very important initiative that was launched by the President, as I mentioned, with seven other founding members three years ago.  And now, it has grown to some 64 countries, and we have generated commitments from countries around the world to more open, transparent and accountable governance, fighting corruption and energizing civic engagement.

 

The last day will be Thursday the 25th, and the President will then address a high-level meeting chaired by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Ebola epidemic.  And we will build on the momentum of the President’s announcement this week where he stepped up our commitment, and we expect this will be an occasion where other countries will announce additional commitments to the global fight against Ebola.  And it will also be an opportunity for the U.N. to detail its plans to support the effort to meet unmet needs.  And we expect commitments in the form of financial assistance, equipment, personnel, and efforts to construct treatment units.

 

Finally, while in New York, the President will, as he always does, have the opportunity to hold some bilateral meetings with other world leaders, and to participate in other functions such as his reception that he hosts every year for visiting heads of state, the Secretary-General’s annual luncheon, et cetera.  And we’ll have more details about those engagements and the schedule in the coming days.

 

  1. EARNEST:  All right.  Jim, do you want to get us started?

 

Q    Thank you, Ambassador Rice.  Wanted to ask you about ISIL.  The French say that, in full support of the mission, they’re willing to carry out airstrikes but only in Iraq.  And I’m wondering whether you run — as you build a coalition, whether you run the risk of creating a bifurcated coalition, one that is willing to carry out the fight against ISIL only in Iraq but not in Syria.  And I’m wondering if you have any other more commitments to take the fight to Syria, as you have from Saudi Arabia, to conduct training there?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Jim, I don’t think we’re going to have a bifurcated coalition.  This will be a unified coalition.  It’s one operation.  It will be under a common command.  And we will continue to welcome the involvement of partners who will make different contributions based on their capacity, based on their varying political circumstances.  But it will be unified, it will be cohesive, and it will be under one single command authority.

 

And so I’m quite encouraged that we will have a number of countries participate in various different ways.  Already, Australia has indicated an active involvement; the British have been involved along with the French and the Australians and the Canadians in the humanitarian operation inside of Iraq.  And we do anticipate that to the extent that action is necessary in Syria, that there will be other countries involved in this alongside the United States.

 

Q    So the President told us last week that he had authorized airstrikes in Syria.  What more needs to take place before that actually happens?  Has he received recommendations from the Pentagon?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Well, I think we’ve been clear, and the President has outlined, that his strategy entails not only broadening the effort against ISIL in Iraq, and going on the offensive in support of Iraqi forces against ISIL in Iraq, but it will necessarily in all likelihood involve action in Syria.  And he has said he is prepared to take that action.

 

I don’t think it would be appropriate or wise for me to telegraph from the podium exactly when that will occur and what steps may need to be taken before that is to occur.

 

Q    But do you need to build a broader coalition, or is it — what —

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  I think, as I said, I’m not going to give you any precision or prediction on when that might occur.  Obviously, we are working every day to build the coalition that — we’re making good progress in that regard.  And there are other elements of the comprehensive approach that we’re pulling together that are important aspects of the overall strategy.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Roger.

 

Q    Thank you.  On the UN Security Council resolution — do you have agreement among the members now?  Do you expect any trouble?  And what does the resolution seek?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Well, the resolution — first of all, I do expect that we will have a successful resolution, which means agreement among at least a majority of member states and no vetoes.  But I expect, actually, it will be a resolution that we’re able to reach unanimity on, given the import of the issue.

 

In my experience, in New York, the resolutions are rarely concluded this far out in advance.  I know the negotiations are going on, but I think they’re going comparatively well.

 

Such a resolution would build on the existing international legal architecture.  You may recall UN Security Council Resolution 1373 that was passed not long after 9/11 that dealt in part with the challenge of the flow of foreign terrorists into combat zones.  This will build on that.  It will increase the obligations on states to try to prevent and deter the flow of foreign fighters.  It will also place new emphasis on the challenge of countering violent extremism in one’s own domestic context, is an important part of the larger challenge.

 

So it will move the ball down the field in terms of the international legal architecture and obligations on states to try to combat this challenge.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Michelle.

 

Q    We have heard something of a timeline on training the Syrian opposition and that it could take up to a year to actually get units up and running.  Do you still see that as being the timeline?  And now that the authorization is there, will the planning for this Syrian training start immediately?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Let me reiterate our gratitude for the swift action by Congress to provide that authorization.  Obviously, that was necessary a predicate for us to proceed.  And now that we have that, we will move out as rapidly as can be done in partnership with the countries that will host the training facilities.  They need to be constructed.  Trainees need to be vetted and brought in to train.

 

So this will be a process that takes months.  And I think that’s been indicated — this is not going to happen overnight.  It is not something that one should expect will yield rapid and immediate fruit.  This is a serious training program, and we’re serious about vetting those that we will be training and equipping.

 

So I can’t give you a precise deadline; I can tell you we’ll move as fast as we reasonably can.  But this is something that will take many months.

 

Q    ISIS has been described as a much greater and more immediate threat right now to the Middle East, countries in the Middle East.  And the most immediate threat that it poses to the United States is with these foreign fighters.  So the first part is, why are we not seeing other countries jump onto this immediately?  We’re seeing really, up until today, only the United States conducting airstrikes.  And can you give some confidence to the American people of what kind of handle the U.S. has on the American foreign fighters — on how many they are and how well we are keeping track of where they actually are?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Well, with respect to the Americans who may be engaged in combat in Iraq and Syria, this is something that our national security agencies and counterterrorism team are taking very seriously.  It’s something we track closely.  And we are doing obviously all that we can to both gather the necessary information and take the appropriate precautions to the greatest extent that we possibly can.  And obviously, that also entails consultation and collaboration with other countries, because in many instances, they transit to and through third countries.

 

So we’re very much focused on this.  You may recall that we had a meeting earlier in the week with the President that was focused solely on the foreign fighter threat as it relates to the larger counterterrorism challenge.  That was an opportunity for members of the national security team to provide the President with an update on their very deliberate and concerted efforts to deal with the problem.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Christi, I’ll give you the last one.

 

Q    Thank you.  Back on the airstrikes in Syria — it sounded like what you said before is that that’s a call, when the time comes, that the President himself will make.  Is that right?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  The decision as to when to strike?

 

Q    Yes.

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Well, I think, as is the case, the President will make the decision that it should happen, and then the commanders will carry it out in accordance with the guidance provided by the President.

 

Q    The Pentagon is waiting for that authorization.

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  That’s not what I said.  You asked a different question.

 

Q    Oh, okay.  Well, will you explain the distinction, just so I know?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  You asked if the President will make the decision, and I answered by — the way I just answered.

 

Q    Has he made the decision yet, though?

 

Q    The President has given the authorization and then he will give the go-ahead?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  What I said is — earlier is that we’ve been very clear that we are prepared to go ahead and take action in Syria as part of this larger campaign.  I am not going to preview from the podium when that will happen.  It will be at a time and a place of our own choosing.

 

Q    But he has authorized it.

 

Q    Has he already made — we’re asking — we’re not asking you to tell us when the bombing is going to start and — like that.  But there’s been some mixed messages — has the President already made the decision to do this, and now it’s just a matter of when the Pentagon pulls the trigger?  Or is there another decision the President has to make?

 

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Jon, I’m not announcing any decisions by the President here today.  I’m here to tell you that we are prepared, and the President has been clear, that the United States is prepared to act in Syria.  And when and how we choose to do that will be an operational decision.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Susan, why don’t you go to your meeting and — I anticipate we’ll be talking about this a little bit more.

 

AMBSSADOR RICE:  Good to see you all.  Thank you.  You may not need this —

 

  1. EARNEST:  I may not; I’ll just push it aside here.  Thanks for coming, Susan.

 

Q    So, Josh, can we go back to this — it sounds like —

 

  1. EARNEST:  We can pick it up from there.  (Laughter.)

 

Q    So the President — has the President given the authorization that the Pentagon needs — but it sounded very clearly like what she said was, when the time comes the President will make the call that the strikes can go ahead.

 

  1. EARNEST:  It’s important for us to sort of see the broader context here in which all of this is taking place.  The President in an address that he delivered to the nation on Wednesday evening said that he was ready to broaden a systematic air campaign against ISIL targets in the region in Iraq and in Syria.

 

The President in the context of that speech explained that the reason he was prepared to broaden that campaign is that there had been formed an inclusive central government in Iraq.  And that gave the President the confidence that he felt he needed to work closely with Iraqi security forces who could take the fight to ISIL on the ground in Iraq, and that we could back them up with American military air power.

 

Since then, the President has been in regular communication with members of his national security team, including his military planners, to discuss operational plans that they’ve been working on for quite some time.  As we’ve discussed in  here many times before, it’s the responsibility of the Pentagon and the operational planners at the Pentagon to develop contingency plans for the Commander-in-Chief.  They’ve been working on this for quite some time, and they have been discussing options with the President since he made this announcement on Wednesday.

 

Now, the President continued this effort when he decided to travel to Tampa earlier this week.  He went to the headquarters of Central Command, where he received a briefing from General Austin and other senior Central Command officials to discuss their ongoing planning efforts as it relates to this broader campaign.

 

The President was pleased with the briefing that he received.  He continues to have a lot of confidence in the work and in the briefing that was presented to him.  He described it, as I described to all of you, as very thorough, when I spoke to him on the plane after he completed the briefing.

 

So what that is an indication of is, it is an indication that both the President and the military are prepared to carry out airstrikes in Syria.  What you’re asking is related to what is the lynchpin of the timing.  And what we are not prepared to do is to give a clear signal publicly — certainly not from the podium — about what the timing might be.  But both the President and his military commanders are prepared to follow through on what the President said he decided last week, which is to broaden a systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq and in Syria.

 

Let me add one corollary to that, which is we’ve already seen an announcement from CENTCOM earlier this week that the airstrike campaign in Iraq has already broadened; that there were strikes that were outside the previous guidelines that the President had offered that was different than the specific mission of protecting American personnel in Iraq and averting humanitarian disasters there; that there were some strikes outside those guidelines, but that were consistent with the President’s view that it’s time to pursue a more offensive phase of the campaign against ISIL.

 

Q    It was clear in his testimony on the Hill yesterday that the Pentagon is waiting for a go-ahead from the President, and I haven’t heard anybody say — you or Ambassador Rice this morning say that that’s not the case.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, that’s not the way that I interpreted the testimony on Capitol Hill.  I think the most accurate way to describe to you the current circumstance is that after a series of conversations, after extensive planning by the President’s national security team and his senior military leaders, including an in-person briefing that he received earlier this week, both the President and his national security team — including the military commanders at CENTCOM — are prepared to conduct airstrikes in Syria that are consistent with the broadened airstrike campaign that the President laid out in his address to the nation last week.

 

Q    Josh, can I quickly follow up?  It’s a very simple question, put aside everything else:  Does the Pentagon —

 

  1. EARNEST:  These are complex issues, and so it is important for people to understand the entire context.

 

Q    I understand the context is important.  But the very simple question here is — we’re not asking about timing; we’re not saying, tell us when this is going to happen.  Obviously, we’re not asking that.  But has the President already made the decision?  In other words, is it just a matter of when the military sees the time is right and the decision has already been made?  Or do they need another go-ahead from the President?  Yes or no?

 

  1. EARNEST:  I think this is why I walked through the context.  The President has made that decision — he announced it in his speech to the country last Wednesday — this is a decision that has been made.  And both the President and the military — as they have been reviewing these plans and they’ll continue to review these plans — are prepared to carry out and move forward with that decision that the President has made to expand our air campaign against ISIL targets both in Iraq and in Syria.

 

Q    So September 10th is a date then?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Excuse me?

 

Q    September 10th is a date he decided.

 

  1. EARNEST:  It’s which date?

 

Q    That’s the night he gave the speech.

 

  1. EARNEST:  That is the day that the President announced to the country that he had made a decision to broaden our systematic airstrike campaign against Iraq and Syria.

 

Q    But does he have to give an additional thumbs up or thumbs down once it starts?  Or is it —

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, as we’ve discussed, the President is not going to be in a position — contrary to some published reports — he’s not going to be in a position where he’s approving or disapproving individual airstrikes in Syria.  More than 160 airstrikes have already been conducted in Iraq.  And the President had laid out guidelines for the military for pursuing and conducting that airstrike campaign, and he did not sign off and review each of those airstrikes, and he won’t do that in Syria either.

 

But again, the best situation — the best way that I can describe this to you is that the President and his military planners are prepared to expand the airstrike campaign in Iraq and in Syria.

 

So, Chris, did you have a follow-up to that?

 

Q    I think the point we’re trying to clarify is will he approve that first strike.  Are they waiting for the go-ahead for the first strike?  Not will he approve each and every strike.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, the President and his team have been reviewing the plans that have been put together by the Pentagon and by the officials at Central Command.  The President received a very detailed, in-person briefing on this topic earlier this week.  He was pleased with the planning that has been conducted.  And the President and his military team are prepared to expand this campaign, but it will be done at a time and place of our choosing.  It will be done at a time and place that maximizes the strategic advantage of those strikes.  And they will be done consistent with a core principle that the President has laid out, which is to deny a safe haven to individuals or organizations that are seeking to carry out acts of violence against American citizens or the American homeland.

 

Go ahead, Bill.

 

Q    You just said that he authorized it, but you won’t say whether he has to give the go-ahead for them to begin.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, the President will be regularly consulting with the national security team, as he has been for some time.  But the question that I’m doing my best to answer is to explain to you that the President has already decided — he did a week ago — that this systematic airstrike campaign needed to be expanded.  He believed that was in our national security interest, and that it would be a core part of our strategy for denying them a safe haven.

 

Since then, the President has met regularly with the team.  And as a result of those conversations, and as a result of the very solid and thorough work that’s been conducted by military planners at the Pentagon, both the President and his military leaders are prepared to follow through on the decision that the President has made to broaden that airstrike campaign.

 

Q    Has he authorized it?

 

  1. EARNEST:  The President has decided that broadening this airstrike campaign is in the best interest of American national security.

 

Q    Can you say that he has authorized strikes on Syria?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, what I’m going to do is I’m going to do my best to describe to you the situation as it exists now.  And the President made a decision more than a week ago that he announced to the nation that he’s ready to broaden our airstrike campaign.  Since then, he’s consulted frequently with military planners.  And as a result of those conversations and as a result of the decisions — the broader strategic decisions the President has made, both he and the military are prepared to carry out this campaign.  And they’ve already begun to do so in Iraq.

 

Q    On a related subject, the military leaders are very skeptical that you can accomplish anything permanently to move back ISIS without boots on the ground — someone’s boots.  And they’re skeptical that it will be the boots of the Iraqis or the Syrian resistance.  A, the Syrian resistance will take a year or more to train; and B, they don’t trust the Iraqis.  And they’ve been a little bit at odds with the administration over this because they fear that this will eventually require American boots.

 

  1. EARNEST:  The President has ruled out the option of deploying American boots on the ground in Iraq and in Syria in a combat role.  The President, the Commander-in-Chief has ruled that out.  But —

 

Q    Never happen.

 

  1. EARNEST:  That’s correct.  But what we will need, however, are boots on the ground to take the fight to ISIL.  They will not be American boots.  These will be Iraqis who are fighting for their country; Syrians who are fighting for their country.  They will do so after having been trained and equipped by American military personnel and by the experts in countries who are part of our broader coalition.  And they will be backed up by airstrikes from the U.S. and from other members of our coalition.

 

Q    —  very skeptical that these people can be trained adequately and in time, and that they will actually fight.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, they will be fighting for their own country, so they will not be fulfilling a polite request from the international community to fight for their country.  These are individuals who are already prepared to do so.  And what they need is they need some additional training and equipment that will be provided both to Iraqi security forces, to Kurdish security forces and to Syrian opposition fighters.  They will also benefit from being backed up by the most sophisticated military air assets that the world has ever seen.  They will benefit from that on the battlefield.

 

The President has also been very clear about the fact that we’re not talking about a short-term proposition here; that this will take some time.  But there is confidence among the President’s team —

 

Q    Yeah, but what happens in the meantime?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, there is confidence among the President’s team — and this includes members of the military — that improved training, improved equipment, the strong support of the international community, a unified government in Baghdad, the strong backing of the United States military airstrikes and allied airstrikes will alter the current dynamic on the battlefield; that these fighters, who, as you point out, have not been particularly successful in facing down ISIL, that that equation will change; that with the support of the American military air power, with the support of the American and allied forces who are training and equipping them, this will alter the equation.  It will not radically change the equation overnight, but it will have an impact on the current battle rhythm there.

 

So let’s try and bring a little order back to this.  Alexis.

 

Q    As you know, General Dempsey said that as part of the planning, the command and control of ISIL is targeted, and the belief is that the command and control is in Syria.  So following up on the questions from the front row, is the President involved — as I would told he would be, so correct me if this is wrong — that he would himself be issuing the OK to target command and control?  In other words, individuals who are head of the Islamic State.

 

  1. EARNEST:  I will not be in a position to talk about specific targets that the President may be reviewing or even approving.  Based on the fact that I described the — well, that the President himself described the briefing that he received from Central Command as thorough, I think it would be fine for you to interpret that the President has a detailed understanding of the kinds of plans that have been conceived by his military planners at the Pentagon.

 

But in terms of what those specific targets are, or how and whether the President will be involved in selecting or acting against those targets, I can’t provide any insight to you on that from here.

 

Q    And one other follow-up.  Because Ambassador Rice was just talking about the importance of this being a unified command but also a coalition, can you help us understand to what extent members of the coalition — whether it’s the French or the Iraqi government itself — have a say in when the onset of hostilities in Syria begin and what kind of targeting, whether the plan is in place, in their view, satisfactorily?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I think you have heard me describe the role of the United States as both building but also leading this broader coalition.  And we will seek to work very closely in coordination with other countries who are contributing assets and expertise to this effort.  So this is something that you can anticipate will be led by the United States, but very closely coordinated with the members of the coalition who have committed to making a tangible contribution to the broader effort.

 

Justin.

 

Q    I wanted to look back to what Ambassador Rice said about the UN resolution.  She said it would be a Chapter 7 resolution.  And based on my admittedly rough understanding of the UN Charter, that would allow —

 

  1. EARNEST:  There’s a chance that it’s even better than mine.  (Laughter.)  Rough, though, it may be.

 

Q    — that would allow sanctions or military action against countries that were not in compliance with the Security Council resolution.  And so what I’m wondering is, if there are countries that the U.S. would want either authorization for sanctions or military actions against, because they’re not doing enough in terms of their laws and regulations to stem the flow of foreign fighters, I’m especially curious about Turkey, which has been obviously the country that’s been struggling with this problem maybe the most, and whether you guys are either worried or want this resolution to open Turkey up to potential sanctions over the flow of foreign fighters from Turkey.

 

  1. EARNEST:  That is a question that extends beyond by bounds of understanding of the U.N. Security Council process.  Let me say as a general matter that we will be working with the members of the Security Council, and there will be an opportunity for, as I understand it, other members of the United Nations — even if they don’t have a seat on the Security Council currently — to participate in this session; that there will be an opportunity for other nations who are members of the United Nations to speak and participate in this session.  So we would welcome the input from the broader international community on this topic.

 

And the reason for that is that this is an issue that is affecting countries around the world.  When we’re talking about foreign terrorist fighters, it’s not just foreign fighters from the West — although that is an area of principal concern for the United States and our allies in Western Europe — but there are foreign fighters that come from other countries too.  And so there are other nations around the globe that share our interest and our concern with stemming the flow of foreign fighters and mitigating the threat that they pose to their homeland.

 

So we will be working closely with the international community to put in place a structure that ensures that the community — the global community is acting in close coordination to meet this threat.

 

As it relates to the possibility of penalties or sanctions or some of those things, I’d actually refer you to the U.S.-UN staff who can give you some more insight into the process of convening a Security Council meeting, drafting a resolution, and what those sorts of commitments would entail.

 

Q    I mean, I guess — maybe ask it a different way, and that’s okay if you don’t know, I guess.

 

  1. EARNEST:  That probably won’t stop me from trying to answer.

 

Q    Why is it important then to have this type of resolution?  What are you looking for or hoping to encourage that couldn’t be done — I think I asked this to you in a different way a couple weeks ago.  But if we’re bringing in coalition partners and everybody seems on board with fighting ISIL, why isn’t this something that we can do because people want to join it?  Are there countries or instances where we’re not seeing people doing what they need to to stem the flow of foreign fighters?

 

  1. EARNEST:  I think I what would say right now is I wouldn’t make the case to you that we’re going to the Security Council because we’re trying to coerce other people to do things.  We have, for the reasons that I pointed out earlier, we have seen countries all across the globe express concerns about the threat that is posed by foreign terrorist fighters.

 

The Security Council merely provides a convenient venue for talking about these issues in a high-profile way.  We want to make sure that countries all around the globe understand that we think this is a priority and that they should too.  Many of them have conducted themselves in a manner consistent with the significant stake that we believe they have in mitigating this threat.

 

So this is an effort to find an appropriate venue where this can be widely discussed with the international community, where we can shine a spotlight on this issue so that other people will make it a priority in the way that we have.  It also will give us an opportunity where there are a variety of countries in the same location to carefully coordinate our efforts.  So we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to put in place a regime that would try to mitigate the threat that is posed by foreign terrorist fighters certainly to the United States and the West, but to countries around the globe.

 

Glenn, welcome back.  It’s nice to see you.  We’ve been thinking about you.

 

Q    Since the President and others have discussed Somalia and Yemen as kind of a predicate, and the President with regard to some of these drone attacks in those two countries said he wanted to achieve, I think the terminology was “near certainty” of no civilian casualties, can you outline for us in broad terms what precautions are being taken in terms of Syria and Iraq, both in terms of drones and manned aircraft, to avoid civilian casualties?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Let me say as a general matter, Glenn, that I can confirm from here that there are measures that are being taken to limit damage or injury to innocent civilians in Iraq and in Syria.  This is a priority.  For the details, the operational details that are related to mitigating so-called collateral damage, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense who can walk you through some more of those details.

 

But this is and will continue to be a priority of the Commander-in-Chief.  Certainly our military planners and commanders understand why this is a priority in the same way that it has been in other countries, including some of the countries that you’ve mentioned as well.

 

Q    Is there (inaudible) just going into this that there will be a certain number of collateral casualties?  And if so, I mean, what is the general threshold of what would be acceptable?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, again for those kinds of guidelines I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.  They can speak to this with more certainty than I can.

 

Michelle.

 

Q    In this broad coalition, why are we seeing these other nations so slow to do something on the level of what the U.S. is doing?  I mean, up until today it’s only been the U.S. acting.  So if ISIS is such a greater threat to the Middle East itself, and there are far many more foreign fighters affecting countries like Britain, why has it been really all the U.S. up until now?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, let me walk through a couple of reasons for that.  The first is, I think that you’ve seen the President assume a very aggressive leadership role in this effort.  He has been willing to back up that leadership and tough talk with action.  And I think that is the kind of authoritative decision-making and leadership that the American people expect from their Commander-in-Chief.  I’m confident that’s the kind of leadership that the U.S. military expects from their Commander-in-Chief.  And it is an indication that the United States is serious about protecting this national security threat — or countering this national security threat and fulfilling this principle that the President has laid out of denying a safe haven to those individuals or organizations that seek to establish a safe haven, and use that safe haven to carry out acts of violence against the United States.

 

Q    So what’s the hesitation among the Britons and the France — I mean, France is stepping up now with airstrikes.  Is it political considerations, like Susan mentioned?  Is that really slowing things a bit?

 

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I think another factor here is that the United States has unique capabilities; that the United States military is a very flexible, dynamic, forceful organization that can, when necessary, turn on a dime and deploy and project American power in important ways.  That’s a capability that really no other country has to the extent that we do.  That certainly is part of this equation as well.

 

That all said, we’re very pleased with the response that we’ve seen from the international community so far to the overtures that they’ve received from American leaders in terms of enlisting them in the broader efforts against ISIL.  The President talked about the discussions that he had at NATO that he had that — I know that some officials described it as pushing on an open door when the President was talking about enlisting them in the broader international coalition to participate in the effort against ISIL.

 

You’ve seen Secretary Kerry travel to the region, and as a result of those travels, we’ve seen a variety of statements from leaders in the Arab world, including Sunni-led countries, talking about their willingness to work with the United States and the broader international community in this effort.  This genuinely is a situation where ISIL is not at war with the United States.  They have declared war on the global community, and this administration and this President is going to lead the effort to build an international coalition to take the fight to ISIL.

 

And the President has laid out a counterterrorism strategy for doing exactly that, and we’re pleased with the response we’ve received so far.  But we’re going to continue to be asking our partners, our allies to contribute more.  And this will be the responsibility of General Allen, who just started a week ago today, I believe, in his role to coordinate the contributions of countries around the world.

 

I do anticipate that — yes, France is the first country aside from the United States to step up and carry out airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.  And I do anticipate that we’re going to see other contributions from other allies and from other partners as we move forward on this effort.

 

Q    And when the decision is made to take that fight into Syria with airstrikes, will the military advisers make that decision when ready, or will they need permission from the President to begin airstrikes in Syria?  Do they have all the authorization they need right now when they decide?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, both the President and the military are prepared to expand this air campaign into Syria.  And the timing for that action will be made at a time and place of the choosing of the United States of America.

 

Ed.

 

Q    On the question there about allies, can you give us a big picture in terms of next week?  What is the expectation?  How important is it in the President’s estimation to bring along more allies to this coalition next week when he has not just the big picture — his speech and all of that — but he’ll have bilateral meetings, as Ambassador Rice suggested?  How important is it next week at the UN to roll out specifically more allies in this coalition?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, this is something that — I am confident this will be the topic of some conversations that the President has at the UN  Ambassador Rice made clear that there are a number of other things that are on the President’s agenda while he’s at the UN as well.

 

This will, however, be the sustained effort and the focal point of effort by General Allen.  He is a retired military general with extensive relationships in the Middle East, based on his previous service to the United States.  He is fulfilling a civilian role as a diplomat to essentially coordinate the contributions of countries in the region and around the world to this effort.

 

So he is the one who is principally focused on collecting the contributions from countries.  The other part of this effort — and I would — Michelle, this goes to your question just a little bit too — that part of this process involves not just getting countries around the world to issue news releases about what they’re prepared to do, but rather it also includes trying to identify very specifically what are the needs of this coalition; what specifically is it that is needed in terms of logistical support, in terms of refueling assets, in terms of kinetic military strikes.  Then that requires an assessment of what are the capabilities of those countries who have volunteered to help, and then matching those needs with the capabilities of countries who are best able to provide them.

 

So that’s going to take a little bit of time.  But it is an indication — I mean, frankly, the fact that we are carefully considering the best way to fulfill those needs is an indication that we’ve gotten lots of contributions.

 

Q    But General Jack Keane today said he’s got great respect for General Allen, he’s got great respect for Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, but that it’s up to the President of the United States to show that leadership.

 

  1. EARNEST:  No doubt.

 

Q    And he has that audience next week; he’s got the entire world in the U.N. speech, and sideline conversations with the key allies.  So you keep talking about General Allen — great respect for him — but is the President going to do this next week and build this coalition himself?  Is he going to push it?

 

  1. EARNEST:  The President has been engaged in this effort for weeks now, and I’m confident those efforts will continue at the U.N., both in —

 

Q    So where are the allies then?  Back to Michelle’s original question — because really for weeks —

 

  1. EARNEST:  — public settings and in private settings.

 

Q    But he’s been doing it for weeks and you’ve only gotten France to add to the airstrikes.

 

  1. EARNEST:  We are very pleased with the commitment that we have received from countries around the world, including Sunni-led countries in the region, to make contributions to this broader international coalition to take the fight to ISIL.  And we are pleased that the international community has responded in a way that is supportive of our efforts.  And we look forward to working with this broader international coalition to accomplish our goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL.

 

Q    Two other quick things.  On the issue of combat troops, again, you were talking about these military advisers who will serve alongside Iraqi security forces.  Will those U.S. forces that you say are not in combat, will they get combat pay from the U.S. government?

 

  1. EARNEST:  I, frankly, am not familiar with details like that.  I’d refer you to the Department of Defense; they may be able to provide you some more insight on that.

 

Q    Okay.  And on one other subject, the President’s event earlier about combatting sexual assault and domestic violence.  He mentioned generally sports leagues, and there’s a report that Secretary Hagel has now ordered that the military, the Pentagon look at their relationship with the NFL.  There’s obviously — they work with them on all kinds of charitable efforts and other things.  Is there any kind of review going on here at the White House about the President’s physical fitness council, the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, which uses stars from all kinds of sports?  Are you reviewing your relationship with the NFL?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Let me start, Ed, by talking about the program that the President and the Vice President announced earlier today.

 

The “It’s On Us” campaign is an effort by this administration to work with colleges and universities.  We’ve worked closely with athletic conferences — the Pac-12, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the A-10 and others — to make sure that we’re getting the word out that it’s on us, it’s on all of us to stand up and combat sexual violence and sexual assault on college campuses and communities all across the country.

 

And one thing I want to encourage everybody in this room to do and people who are watching to do is to go to ItsOnUs.org and pledge to fulfill the commitment that you will join in the effort to set — to make clear in communities all across the country that we will not have a permissive environment when it comes to violence against women, when it comes to sexual violence and when it comes to sexual assault.  So if you guys have time today to do that, I would strongly encourage you to do so.

 

As it relates to the White House’s relationship with the NFL, I don’t have any announcements to make here, but there are — we are pleased with the cooperation that we have gotten from a variety of organizations as it relates to this specific initiative.  And if there are other organizations, including professional sports leagues, that would also like to contribute to this effort, we’re certainly open to hearing from them as well.

 

Colleen.

 

Q    To follow up on next week, can you tell us anything about who the President is going to hold bilats with?  Are the bilats being schedule with an eye toward building out this coalition?  And is the White House seeking a meeting with Rouhani?

 

 

  1. EARNEST:  In terms of the President’s schedule, the bilateral schedule that the President typically will layer into his broader set schedule is something that’s still under development.  So I don’t have any announcements to make in terms of specific meetings the President has now.  Maybe at the beginning of next week, hopefully by Monday, we can provide you at least a little bit more detail about who he might be meeting with.

 

As it relates to a meeting with President Rouhani, there’s nothing like that on the schedule right now.  At this point, I don’t anticipate something like that being added, but we’ll see.

Is there more, Colleen?

 

Q    Sorry, one other question.  Is there an expectation that the President will come away from next week’s meetings with commitments from Arab nations to participate in military operations?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I wouldn’t — the thing that I would do is try to convey to you that this is part of an ongoing effort.  So we’re going to have conversations prior to the United Nations General Assembly meeting with our Arab partners that have signaled a willingness to join this coalition.  We will have conversations during the United Nations General Assembly meetings with our Arab partners who are ready to contribute to this coalition.  And we’ll continue to have meetings after the UN General Assembly meetings with Arab partners who are prepared to join this coalition.

 

So this will be a sustained ongoing effort.  I wouldn’t lay out any deadlines because, frankly, we are moving aggressively to secure commitments and publicize them when those governments are ready to do so.  But we are pleased, as I mentioned, with the response that we have received from our partners in the region and from our allies around the world.  And the President is proud to lead a broad international coalition like this against what is a core American national security priority.

 

Cheryl.

 

Q    Thanks.  The CR that just passed goes through December 11th.  And when Congress comes back in November, they’re already talking about doing just another short-term CR.  Do you need a full year of funding when they come back, especially with the Title 10 authority?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, Cheryl, I’ll say what I regularly say on this topic, which is that we would always prefer that Congress engage in a budget practice — or a budget process that allows for some longer-term planning; that passing budgets on a short-term basis is okay if you do it once or twice, but doing it repeatedly adds to some instability.  And it certainly — you hear members of both parties talk about how important it is for some certainty to be granted to businesses who are trying to run a business in a dynamic economy.  They don’t need the added variable of the congressional budget schedule.

 

So we were pleased that Congress acted in bipartisan fashion to pass this continuing resolution over the course of this week.  That was the right move, and we certainly would compliment members of Congress for putting aside politics, voting their conscience, showing their support for the administration by giving this authority to ramp up our assistance to Syrian rebels, but also for passing a continuing resolution that didn’t have the kinds of ideological riders on them that have fouled up this process in the past.

 

So we’re hopeful that Congress, when they return later this fall and early this winter, that they’ll be able to focus on this task in the same sort of spirit.

 

Jon.

 

Q    Can I just get a quick question about a couple of things Joe Biden had to say this morning?  (Laughter.)

 

  1. EARNEST:  I don’t believe I saw his remarks, but if you want to read them to me I’ll do my best.

 

Q    Well, one of the things he said was that — he said that he and the President “feel a little like the Dutchman at the — the little Dutchman at the dike.  All we are able to do is stop bad things from happening;” of course, talking about all the crises around the world.  I’m just wondering, is that how the President — was he accurately expressing how the President feels?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I think that’s a pretty colorful description.  I do think that the President has talked a lot about how the United States of America and the U.S. President — or under the leadership of the U.S. President, is the indispensable nation in the world.  And there are a lot of urgent crises around the globe that may not have a direct impact on the United States of America, but still represent our broader American interest and do require American involvement.

 

Q    So I guess the little “Dutchman at the dike” was indispensable?  I mean, it seems like an interesting strategic vision.  (Laughter.)

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, again, I’m trying to describe to you what — the way that I think the President and the Vice President both view the responsibility of the United States, and that by playing this role as the world’s indispensable nation, we project the kind of American leadership in a way that protects our interests around the globe.

 

Q    Okay.  And then the other thing is he expressed some nostalgia for the days when Republicans had senators like Bob Packwood.  I’m wondering, does the President wish that Bob Packwood were still in the Senate?

 

  1. EARNEST:  I don’t believe that the President and Senator Packwood served at the same time, so I don’t know if they’ve even met, actually.

 

Q    But I mean, he clearly knows his record —

 

  1. EARNEST:  It sounds like the Vice President may have had a relationship with Senator Packwood but the President does not.

 

Q    But I mean, as you know, Bob Packwood left under a cloud of extensive sexual harassment cases against him.  And the Vice President was citing him in a women’s forum this morning.

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I think the Vice President has a stronger record probably than anybody else in Washington, D.C. when it comes to his decades of leadership on issues related to combatting violence against women.  So I don’t think the Vice President certainly is in a position to have to explain that record to anybody.

 

Roger.

 

Q    Back to Ebola.  The CDC has a working projection that the Ebola outbreak could reach 550,000 or more people without additional efforts to contain it.  Does the U.S. response need to be expanded?  Is the government prepared to respond in a larger way?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, just earlier this week, just a couple of days ago, Roger, you’ll recall that the President announced a significant escalation of U.S. assets and aid that will be deployed to address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

 

I think that this announcement, based on public statements that I’ve seen, was welcomed by countries in the region, by citizens in the region, but also by countries around the globe.  Contributing Department of Defense assets to this specific effort, capitalizing on their logistical expertise has galvanized the international community in a way to bolster their confidence in the response to this Ebola outbreak.  And though I do anticipate that it will have the effect of other countries ramping up the assistance that they provide as well, it is clear that there is significant assistance that’s needed to shore up the public health systems of these individual countries, to provide logistical support to volunteers and other aid workers who are trying to work these basic needs.

 

We do know what is required to stop an Ebola outbreak, but that is why it’s so important for us to act early — that’s why it’s so important for us to act early to prevent this outbreak from spreading a whole lot further.  There’s a lot of work that we need to do and I think some people would even indicate that the international response hasn’t been as quick as we would like.  And that’s why you’ve seen such a strong commitment from the United States.

 

Q    The U.S. has about $1 billion that’s being reprogrammed or asked for, but this is more than half a million people — not a number I’ve heard of before.

 

Q    Did Obama hear that number?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, there are a wide range of projections about this.

 

Q    Did the President hear that number?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, the projections that you’re citing are longer-term projections, right?  That they hypothesize that robust intervention does not occur and the outbreak spreads out of control.  That’s why the President was demonstrating a sense of urgency in making this announcement at the CDC earlier this week — to try to get into — to try to escalate our response as soon as possible to try to prevent some of these broader catastrophic predictions from coming true.

 

Q    Could we go beyond $1 billion?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any new announcements of aid to announce at this point.  We just announced the latest round of assistance three days ago.

 

J.C.

 

Q    Josh, my question takes into both questions the aspect of U.S. efforts to defeat ISIL; U.S. efforts to defeat the epidemic of Ebola.  Will the President be meeting with other world leaders to enlist them for their financial contributions while he is in New York to really support the global effort on both of these wars, shall we say?

 

  1. EARNEST:  I do anticipate that the President will be discussing this issue with world leaders when he is in New York.  As you point out, there are a variety of ways that nations can contribute to this broader effort.  We tend to focus on, and I think with some justification, the military contributions that nations are prepared to make.  There are other ways for them to contribute to the success of this effort.  Financial contributions are certainly welcome.  The government of Saudi Arabia has indicated a willingness to host a training base for Syrian opposition fighters in their country.  We have seen commitments from the Germans and others to participate in some of these training efforts.

 

There are also some financial tools that we can deploy to try to choke off the funding that ISIL benefits from — that requires the cooperation of the international community and there is some expertise that some other countries can lend to that broader effort.  So there are a variety of ways in which countries can contribute and we certainly will welcome those contributions, and the President will be discussing those kinds of contributions in the context of the UNGA next week.

 

Q    Even in the first Gulf War there were countries who didn’t contribute arms, boots on the ground, but basically picked up the tab.  That’s the question that I have.  Will the President be pushing these world leaders to help support both of these very, very, very difficult efforts, in terms of our own financial burden?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, I do anticipate that the President will be discussing the wide range of ways in which countries can contribute to the broader campaign against ISIL.  That includes financial contributions.  It includes using financial tools to try to choke off funding.  It includes the deployment of humanitarian assistance.  In some cases, it could include military assistance that is focused on logistical support, refueling capability.  In some cases, it could include training capability and expertise that some countries around the globe have that could be used to build up the capacity of the Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish security forces, or even Syrian opposition fighters.  So there are a wide range of ways that countries can contribute to this broader effort, and I am confident that the President will be discussing those kinds of contributions at the UN next week.

 

Jared.

 

Q    Josh, the President has made a case to the American people, he’s made a case to Congress about the need for action against ISIS.  What’s the degree to which the President will be making the case to other member states of the UNGA next week, and how much will that rely — Ambassador Rice mentioned 1373 — there is no direct threat at this time to the United States so it’s difficult to get it under Article 51.  How does the United States intend to build the international legal argument for an action against ISIS, and will the President be having that discussion with leaders next week?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, you’ve already — in the context of asking your question — demonstrated a greater facility with UN details and procedure than I can muster from here.  The President is looking forward to the opportunity to discussing this issue with other world leaders at the UN General Assembly.  The President, as Susan mentioned, will be addressing the General Assembly on Wednesday, I believe it is, if I was listening carefully.  And he will have an opportunity to discuss why it is certainly a priority of the United States for an international coalition to take the fight to ISIL and degrade and ultimately destroy them in a way that’s consistent with the counterterrorism strategy that the United States — again, in concert with our allies around the globe — has deployed in other situations to mitigate the threat that’s posed by extremist organizations.

 

Q    Well, let me back up since we can’t talk about a detailed, a nuanced legal strategy or political strategy.  Philosophically, does the President need to make an argument to international partners that this is something that needs to be done?  Or does he feel like it’s already there — you’ve cited 40 allies that have already made contributions.  Is there still convincing to be done, or do we have what we need to move forward?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, let me try to answer your question in a couple of ways.  The first is, I am confident that the actions that the President decides to take will be entirely consistent with international law.  And as you point out, there are already 40 countries or more that have committed to this effort, and I think it’s an indication that they are also confident that any actions that this coalition would take would be consistent with international law.

 

Let me also say that, in the context — it’s difficult for me to characterize private conversations, but I do think that a lot of the conversations that do take place are not focused on that specific issue; that I think that there is pretty clear — based on the terrible violence and mayhem that we’ve seen from ISIL in this region of the world.  You’ve heard the Iraqi Prime Minister speak out pretty publicly about how a safe haven in Syria threatens the territorial integrity and the sovereignty and security of the Iraqi people.  So there is a pretty clear understanding across the globe that international coordination against ISIL isn’t just allowed — it’s required.

 

Q    Let me just try this one more way.  The President is domestically basing his actions on an AUMF from 18 September, 2001.  Internationally, Susan Rice mentioned the 1373, which is 28 September, 2001.  Does the President have any reticence at this point, relying on — domestically and internationally — 13-year-old commitments for opponents that don’t exist in their current form anymore?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Well, Jared, I think this goes back to a question we talked about quite a bit a week ago today, which is this question about the United States and the broader international coalition being at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe.  That’s the same way that we are — the broader international community is at war against ISIL.  So I think that the President has given a speech on this topic that, given your interest in it, I think is worthy of rereading. But the President is confident that he has the authority that he needs under that authorization to use military force to carry out military action against ISIL.  It is consistent with the war that the international community, with the leadership of the United States, is waging against al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe.

 

Glenn.

 

Q    Josh, can you give us a little bit of a preview of what the President is going to say for CGI?  And in the vein of the Rouhani question, does he plan to have any sort of a bilat with the Clintons?  (Laughter.)

 

  1. EARNEST:  The President is looking forward to speaking to the Clinton Global Initiative.  This is something that he has done on previous visits to New York in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly.  I don’t at this point have a preview of his remarks, but we can look into that for you.  And I know the President is looking forward to seeing both the President and the former Secretary of State when he is up there.

 

Hisham, I’ll give you the last one.

 

Q    Thank you.  My question is — I’m trying to be specific a little bit.  You said you are pleased, but are you satisfied with the degree of commitment of Arab nations so far to fight ISIL?

 

  1. EARNEST:  What I can tell you, Hisham, is that we are very pleased with the productive conversations that have taken place between U.S. officials and Sunni-led governments in the region; that those conversations have been constructive.  You’ve seen public statements — the Jeddah communiqué is one example — from these Muslim countries indicating their support for the broader international coalition that the United States is leading.  And I think there are a couple reasons for that.  The first is that for many of these countries, again, the mayhem that ISIL is causing is occurring right on their doorstep.  And it does pose a direct threat to the stability and security of their countries.

 

The second thing is — and the President mentioned this in an interview he conducted a couple of weeks ago now — that many Sunni governments in the region have for a long time perceived their sectarian rivals, Shia-led governments, as the greatest threat to the safety and security of their country and their people.  But this latest threat that has emerged in the form of ISIL may actually impose an even more immediate threat to them — that you have these extremists who are carrying out terrible acts of violence, acts of violence that are completely inconsistent with the tenets of Islam, who are essentially, under the name of their religion carrying out these terrible acts of violence in a way that could eventually be destabilizing to their country.

 

So there is a clear interest for these Arab governments to be involved in a broader international coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization.

 

Q    What is country that has mighty air power in the region only proposes to train the Syrian opposition while they can’t contribute heavily in air strikes in Syria?  What message they send to other countries in the region?

 

  1. EARNEST:  You’re referring to Saudi Arabia?

 

Q    Yes.

 

  1. EARNEST:  I think the commitment of Saudi Arabia to host a training base that would allow the international community to ramp up the assistance that’s being provided to the moderate Syrian opposition fighters is a clear indication that Saudi Arabia is standing shoulder to shoulder with the international community to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  If Saudi Arabia is prepared to make additional commitments to the coalition, we certainly would welcome additional commitments.  And I’m confident that General Allen and others at the State Department are in regular touch with the Saudis about some of these issues.

 

And the process of building this coalition is not something that is just a one-day effort.  It’s not the kind of effort that one day we’ll make an announcement that we’re done building the coalition.  This will require a sustained effort, and we are confident that based on the positive, strong initial response that we’ve received from countries around the globe, that we’re going to have the kind of international coalition that reflects the unity of opinion that an effort should be waged against ISIL to degrade and ultimately destroy them.

 

So with that, let me do the week ahead.  It overlaps somewhat with what Susan said but we’ll just go through it here.

 

On Monday, the President will sign the America’s Promise Summit Declaration at an event at the White House.  Many of you are familiar with America’s Promise, and we’ll have more information on that over the weekend.

 

On Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will travel to New York City for the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.  In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks at the Climate Summit 2014.  Afterward, the President will deliver remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative 2014 Annual Meeting.  I know Glenn will be there.  (Laughter.)  In the evening, the President and First Lady will attend a reception for visiting heads of state and government.  The President and First Lady will remain overnight in New York City on Tuesday night.

 

On Wednesday morning, the President will address the United Nations General Assembly.  The First Lady will also attend that speech.  In the afternoon, the President will meet with Sam Kutesa — I’m probably screwing up his name — Sam Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly.  Afterward, the President will attend a luncheon hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Later in the afternoon, the President will chair a United Nations Security Council summit on foreign terrorist fighters and afterward the President will attend a meeting of the Open Government Partnership.  The President and First Lady will also spend the night in New York City on Wednesday night.

 

On Thursday morning, the President will deliver remarks at a United Nations meeting on the Ebola epidemic.  And in the afternoon on Thursday, the President and First Lady will return to the White House.  On Thursday, the President will deliver remarks at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit here at the White House.

 

Q    Is that Thursday or Friday?

 

  1. EARNEST:  That’s on Friday back here at the White House.  And then on Saturday, the President will deliver remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner.  That dinner is here in Washington, D.C.

 

Q    And this weekend is Camp David?

 

  1. EARNEST:  Yes.  Later on this evening, the President and some members of his family will be traveling to Camp David, where they will spend the weekend.

 

So with that, I hope you all have a great weekend.  Thanks, everybody.

 

END                1:54 P.M. EDT

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Editor of Don411.com Media website.
Free Newsletter Updated Daily