(CNSNews.com) – Diplomacy was put on hold at the State Department on Thursday as spokesman John Kirby clashed with a reporter for the pro-Kremlin RT network, telling her at one point, “I can’t believe honestly that you aren’t embarrassed to ask these questions.”
Kirby, a former Pentagon press secretary, barely concealed his irritation with Gayane Chichakyan’s line of questioning – about a flap between Iraq and Turkey over the presence of Turkish troops who are training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday called it a “flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”
Chichakyan said the U.S. was basically “silent” about the uninvited presence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil, and asked whether that was because the U.S. needed the use of Turkey’s Incirlik air base for its campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) “and doesn’t want to lose access to it.”
“Oh, so here we go,” said Kirby. “This is what you’re really getting at.”
He disputed that the U.S. was being silent, and said repeatedly that the matter was one for Turkey and Iraq to sort out bilaterally.
“The expectation that the United States ought to intervene in every issue between every two countries, I think is just completely ridiculous.”
Chichakyan asked whether Iraq should not be concerned about the fact that the U.S. invites countries to take part in the campaign it is leading against ISIS, but that when differences occur – as now between Iraq and Turkey – the U.S. says essentially that “it’s none of our business.”
“Aw come on,” said Kirby. “Another ridiculous question. When have we ever said it’s none of our business?”
He repeated the position that the U.S. wants the dispute settled bilaterally.
“The way you’re trying to twist this all around, to make it look like we’re doing something nefarious, or that, you know, we’ve got some sort of inappropriate relationships here, I mean it’s just so silly.
“I can’t believe honestly that you aren’t embarrassed to ask these questions,” Kirby continued. “You have to be looking at these questions and almost laughing to yourself, don’t you? I mean they’re absolutely crazy.”
Chichakyan asked which questions Kirby thought she should be embarrassed about.
“You can ask me whatever you want, I’m just stunned that you’re not embarrassed by some of the questions you ask,” he said.
Kirby then took aim at her outlet, a Kremlin-owned network formerly known as Russia Today.
“I notice that RT very rarely asks any tough questions of their own government.”
He said Chichakyan could come into the State Department briefing room and ask whatever she wanted, and be as challenging and accusatory as she liked.
“You can do that here, in the United States. I don’t see you asking those same questions of your own government about ISIL in Syria,” he said in reference to U.S. claims that the Russian air campaign in Syria is not really targeting ISIS, as Moscow insists, but aims to bolster the Assad regime.
“And I would love to see those questions get asked.” Kirby added.
RT commented in a later news item on the exchange: “Is it really ‘ridiculous’ or ‘baseless’ to ask a question about what the Iraqis obviously consider an important issue, one that they are obviously not ‘working out’ bilaterally with Turkey, from a diplomatic spokesman representing the country so fond of pointing out its leadership of the 65-nation coalition? You be the judge.”