WH Chief of Staff: US Working ‘Very Aggressively’ to Free ISIS Hostages

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

U.S. reiterates refusal to negotiate with Islamic State over hostages.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Sunday sought to shore up the Obama administration’s message on recent events in the Middle East, stressing that the collapse of Yemen’s central government will not derail strategic counter-terrorism operations in the region. “I think it’s very important to recognize that governance in Yemen has always been difficult. We will continue to press on the ground, including today, to make decisions transparently, pursuant to a political agreement, so that we can work with them to keep on the offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” said McDonough on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” McDonough’s comments came during a post-State of the Union blitz that included appearances on all five major Sunday talk shows, a morning swing known as “a full Ginsburg.” Predictably given recent events — although nonetheless striking — the domestic policy agenda outlined by the president in last week’s annual address took a back seat to questions about the administration’s foreign policy.

The president continues to push for Congress to pass legislation for private sector workers that would give pregnant women seven days of paid sick leave. “It’s been decades now that the wages have stagnated for hard-working, middle-class families,” he added. “(The president) is saying, ‘Enough is enough.’” We are sparing no expense, and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home.” He added that the woman’s family knows “how strongly the president feels about this. When McDonough was asked if the government had collapsed he replied, “we weren’t surprised that this government collapsed we knew that this is ongoing challenge over the course of the last several months.” McDonough’s comment is puzzling considering the administration made no public mention of their worry that our allies could be thrown from power or what could be done to prevent it. This is a relationship, given its importance, that stretches across many different things, from values straight through intelligence cooperation to defense and security assistance. To spare him the same fate, Islamic State fighters are demanding the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who faces the death penalty in Jordan for her role in 2005 bombings that killed dozens.

We ought to press their political leaders to come up with political resolutions on the ground,” McDonough said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” McDonough also fielded questions on a controversial Congressional invitation extended to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which was made without prior consultation with the White House. “Is the president, is the White House, are you angry with Speaker Boehner for doing this on his own and for Netanyahu accepting it on his own without any consultation with the White House?” asked Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “Look, I don’t spend a lot of time on my emotions or getting angry…” McDonough said. “And here’s the way the president has always seen the U.S. It doesn’t make any sense for them to prematurely act on legislation that the president will veto if it’s going to risk maintaining this international unity.

We think that results in just more cash floating around with these very hateful characters who will just have more ability to ply their trade.” MCDONOUGH: You know our policy on that, Michael. SMERCONISH: You know that there – there have been some criticisms made by family members who say that they – they were held back by the administration from participating in negotiations that they wanted to pursue. And I’m very – I also want to be very clear that I’m neither going to divulge our conversations with them or get into a negotiation with anybody else through you on this show. They open up newspapers and watch televisions every day and they see a new hot spot, and they wonder, have we reached a tipping point where no U.S. policy is going to be capable of maintaining order worldwide? One is, what we’re seeing is, obviously, with the democratization of media, the ability for even the most nefarious actors in the world to reach out and, through very social media outlets, get their story in front of us.

We cannot be an occupying force in a place like Yemen or in Syria and hope that we will be responsible for bringing this, as you say, chaos to an end. And the third thing we’re going to do is, where there is a threat to us – and you I have had this conversation going back to 2007 – we will take action to protect the American people. MCDONOUGH: Well, the president did tick through several things that we have made progress on, unemployment from 10 down to 5.6 percent, 10 million people with now access to health care, health care costs at the lowest level in more than 50 years now for four years in a row, more energy production, be that clean energy, or be that oil and gas, in this country than ever before. Middle-class families like the ones you grew up in Doylestown or the ones I grew up with in Stillwater, Minnesota, have not seen the kind of wage growth that they deserve. The crisis having been passed, now we have got to get at the one remaining issue, which is, how does the middle class get the fair shot that they deserve?

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