The Cable

U.S. not accepting foreign help on oil spill

When State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley refused to tell reporters which countries have offered assistance to help respond to the BP oil spill, the State Department press corps was flabbergasted.

"As a policy matter, we're not going to identify those offers of assistance until we are able to see, you know, what we need, assess the ongoing situation. And as we accept those offers of assistance, we will inform you," Crowley said.

Reporters pointed out that the Bush administration identified assistance offers after the Katrina disaster, so what is this, a new policy? They pressed Crowley, but he refused to budge.

Then they mentioned Iran's offer of assistance, through its National Iranian Drilling Company. Crowley said there was no Iranian offer of assistance, at least in any official capacity. The reporters kept on it, asking why it was taking so long to figure out what was needed in the first place? That's the Coast Guard's decision, Crowley explained.

Late Wednesday evening, the State Department emailed reporters identifying the 13 entities that had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations. 

"These offers include experts in various aspects of oil spill impacts, research and technical expertise, booms, chemical oil dispersants, oil pumps, skimmers, and wildlife treatment," the email read.

"While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future."

The Obama administration has been relentless in its messaging that it is doing everything possible to aggressively respond to the oil spill. But for the record, the current message to foreign governments is: Thanks but no thanks, we've got it covered.

A State Department official, speaking on background, said that the decision not to initially release the names of offering countries came directly from the State Department leadership.

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Pakistan, BP, Mitchell, Sudan, Bin Laden in DC?

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Wednesday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • The State Department is working the overseas diplomatic angle of the Time Square bombing attempt, reaching out to top Pakistani officials in a number of ways.  U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad Anne Patterson had meetings with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and spoke with Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Special Representative Richard Holbrooke also spoke with Qureshi Wednesday morning. "They recognize, as we do, that this is a shared responsibility and a shared threat to both of us," Crowley said.
  • There are 13 "countries and entities" that have offered America assistance to deal with the Gulf Coast oil spill, but the State Department refuses to indentify who they are, for some reason. The Coast Guard is in charge of determining what's needed and some announcements could come in the next day or two, Crowley said.
  • Special Envoy George Mitchell met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday and will see him again Thursday. Mitchell will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday and again on Saturday. "We hope and expect formally to move forward with proximity talks before Senator Mitchell leaves the region on Sunday," Crowley said,
  • Sudan envoy Scott Gration is in Juba having discussions with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the government of southern Sudan on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and preparations for the January 2011 referendum, but apparently not discussing what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the "flawed" election there.
  • Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is off Wednesday for Canberra to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea before he goes on to Manila to represent the U.S. at the 23rd U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue and the U.S.-Lower Mekong senior officials meeting. He is making addition but unannounced stops as well (Burma?) but will at least have a break from the grueling U.S.-Japan negotiations over the Furtenma air station.
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly and Deputy Assistant Secretary Julissa Reynoso were in Honduras Tuesday to attend the launch the Truth Commission, which is supposed to get to the bottom of the coup that ousted former President and former State Department buddy Manuel Zelaya. Meanwhile, their boss Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela is in Panama, leading the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Central American Integration System (SICA) dialogue.
  • Making fun of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim that Osama bin Laden is living in Washington, DC, Crowley joked, "Over the past few hours we've done an intensive search here at the Department of State -- every nook and cranny, every rock -- and we can safely report that Osama bin Laden is not here."
  • "I don't know," responded one skeptical press corpsman, "There are some strange looking people down in the cafeteria."