Posted: 8:26 pm ET
Also see “Dissent Channel” Message on Syria Policy Signed by 51 @StateDept Officers Leaks and NYT Publishes Draft Version of @StateDept Dissent Memo on Syria Without the Names of Signers from June 17, 2016.
Here is the DPB for today, June 20 with the State Department spox answering questions about the “it’s good” response from Secretary Kerry — apparently, he wasn’t referring to the punctuation:
QUESTION: All right, let’s start with Syria. Earlier today, in one of the events that you just mentioned, the Secretary told our colleague Abigail that he had read the dissent channel memo —
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: — and that he – that it looked good to him, or he said something like, “It’s good,” and that he would —
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: — he was going to meet them. Can you elaborate at all?
MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t know how much more I can —
QUESTION: Well, what does he mean when he said it’s good?
MR KIRBY: I think – I think —
QUESTION: I mean, does that mean he agrees?
MR KIRBY: Well, I’m – again, I’m limited in what I can talk about in terms of the content of a dissent channel message. I think what the Secretary was referring to was the – that he did read it and that I – that he found it to be a well-written argument. But I’m not going to talk about the content. And as for meeting with the authors, he has expressed an interest in meeting with at least some of them. I mean, there’s a lot of them, so I don’t know that we’ll be able to pull off a single meeting with each and every one of them there, but he has expressed an interest in talking to them, and we’ll do that in due course.
QUESTION: So when you say it was a – what did you say, it was a well-presented argument?
MR KIRBY: What I – what I —
QUESTION: Well-written argument?
MR KIRBY: What I think the Secretary was referring to was that he read the paper and thought that it was – thought that it was well written, that it was good in that regard. I won’t talk to the content or his views of the content.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, without talking about what the actual content was, when you say it was well written or the argument is a good one, does that mean that he is prepared to – whatever it says, I’m not asking you about content – that he is prepared to make the case for those – for the positions that are articulated in this cable —
MR KIRBY: Well, two – two thoughts there. First —
QUESTION: — within the Administration?
MR KIRBY: Two thoughts there. First, as you know, the policy planning staff will be preparing a response, as is required. That response is not yet finished, and we don’t publicize – any more than we publicize the contents of dissent channel messages, we don’t publicize the response. But the response is being prepared. As for any espousal of the ideas before, during or after the fact of them being proffered in a dissent channel message, the Secretary very much keeps private his advice and counsel to the President on policy matters, and we’re going to – obviously, we’re going to respect that.
QUESTION: Well, since this became public last week, you will have noticed numerous articles, numerous – or numerous reports saying outright and suggesting strongly that, in fact, the Secretary agrees with many if not all of the points made in this cable. Are you not – are his comments today not indicative of that?
MR KIRBY: His comments today – I would not characterize his comments today as being indicative of a full-throated endorsement of the views in this particular dissent channel message. Again, I can’t speak to content. What I can tell you is a couple of things. One, obviously, whatever views, advice and counsel he presents to the President need to remain private, and they will. And so I won’t get into that. But then also, as I said Friday, he has made no bones about the fact that he is not content with the status quo in Syria. We are not content with the status quo in Syria. Too many people are dying, too many people are being denied basic life-sustaining material – food, water, medicine – and there’s been too little progress on the political track.
QUESTION: Yeah, but —
MR KIRBY: But if you also look – but if you also look at what else he said this morning – I mean, I know that Abigail shouted out a question, but if you look at the transcript of what else he had to say to those college students, he talked about how important it is that we continue to work through a transitional governing process in Syria, and that that is the best way forward – a political solution is still the preferred path forward.
QUESTION: Right, but when you talk about how no one – you’re not, he’s not, no one is satisfied with the status quo – this is a bit of what is actually going on on the ground in Syria – clearly, no one is. But this isn’t a question about the status quo on the situation in Syria. This is a question about the status quo of the policy. So are you not in a position to be able to say that the Secretary is not – that he doesn’t like the status quo, the policy status quo, the U.S. policy status quo?
MR KIRBY: Nobody’s happy with the status quo of events on the ground, and that is why —
QUESTION: Yeah, but what about the policy?
MR KIRBY: — but – I’m getting there.
QUESTION: All right.
MR KIRBY: That is why, as – and I mentioned this Friday – that is why we do consider – we are considering, we are discussing other alternatives, other options that may be applied, mindful that we are, that the current approach is, without question, struggling. But as the President said himself, none of those other options – be they military or not in nature – are better than – in terms of the long-term outcome, are going to be better than the political solution we’re trying to pursue.
QUESTION: Okay. This will be my last one. I – because I’m just a – the – so you – you’re – what you’re saying is that his comment, “It’s good,” refers —
QUESTION: Very good.
QUESTION: Very good.
QUESTION: It’s very good – sorry, it’s very good – that refers to how it was put together, like the grammar and the sentence structure, and not the actual content? Because that strikes me as being a bit —
MR KIRBY: No, I’m not saying he was talking about punctuation. I mean, I —
QUESTION: Oh, okay, so —
MR KIRBY: Obviously – obviously, he read the memo and found it to be a well-crafted argument, well enough that he feels it’s worth meeting with the authors. Now, what exactly did he find in Abigail’s shouted-out – quote, “Very good,” I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him about every element of it. And again, I’m not going to talk about the content of it from here.
QUESTION: Well, so you can’t – you’re not in a position to say that the “It’s very good” means that he is prepared to make those same arguments within the – as the Administration deliberates?
MR KIRBY: No, I’m not prepared to – I’m not prepared to say that.