The U.S. State Department had nothing to say on whether ISIS had plotted an attack in Saudi Arabia against the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, or whether it was concerned that ISIS might be operating inside the kingdom, with State Department Spokesperson Rathke answering “I’d refer you to the Saudis” no fewer than 9 times in a brief question-and-answer session with the press.
The government of Saudi Arabia reported today that they arrested nearly 100 terrorist plotters who were planning a suicide bombing attack against the U.S. embassy.
“Can you confirm that the plot involved hitting the embassy with a car bomb?” asked a reporter.
“I don’t have any details of that to confirm,” said Rathke.
“Well ok, but one of the distinctions we’re looking to make here is: the Saudis said they arrested 98 people, many of them with ties to the Islamic State. Do you know if this plot to target the embassy was directed and organized by the Islamic State?”
“Well again, these were Saudi steps they’ve taken, I’ll refer you to them for details of…” said Rathke, before being interrupted by the frustrated reporter.
“I know, but it really closely involves the United States, given that it was targeting the embassy and you have a campaign to ‘defeat and degrade’ ISIS,” the reporter shot back. “So I don’t think it’s really out of your wheelhouse.”
“Well again, I don’t have details to share about the particulars of the arrests and the reasons for which the arrests were made, so we’ll refer you to the Saudis on that one,” said Rathke.
“And you can’t distinguish the plotters as ISIS from al Qaeda or anything?” asked the frustrated reporter
“Again the arrests were just made, we’ll refer you to the Saudis on that one,” replied Rathke.
Another reporter asked a follow-up question on if the U.S. is concerned that “it appears that ISIL may have started to take root inside the kingdom of Saudi Arabia?”
Rathke replied: “Well, I’m not jumping to that conclusion, but again I’d refer you to the Saudis for their information...”
“Is this, to your knowledge, the first ISIS arrest inside Saudi Arabia?” asked a third reporter.
“Well, again, I’d refer you to Saudi authorities,” said Rathke.
Rathke managed to avoid the snide and condescending tone of fellow State Dept. spokespersons Marie Harf and Jen Psaki while pleasantly evading questions on nearly everything posed to him throughout the brief press conference.
He constantly, and with alacrity, repeated phrases like: “I’m not able to confirm the details” and “I have no more details on that to offer you,” on a whole tinderbox of world events – from the deteriorating situation in Yemen, to a Marshall Islands flagged-ship fired on and seized by the Iranians.
Reporters failed to ask why the U.S. State Department feels it needs to direct questions on ISIS’ terror activity to the Saudis before responding.