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News Transcript

Presenter: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director For Coalition Operations, and Daniel Senor, Senior Adviser, Coalition Provisional Authority
Sunday, May 30, 2004

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. General Kimmitt has an opening briefing, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon. The Coalition continues offensive operations to establish a stable Iraq, in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy, and transfer sovereignty to the people of Iraq. To that end, in the past 24 hours, the Coalition has conducted 2,093 patrols, 18 offensive operations, and 46 Air Force and Navy flight sorties, and captured 67 anti-Coalition suspects. The next detainee released at Abu Ghraib is scheduled between 4 and 6 June, 360 detainees are scheduled for release.

In the last three days, the Coalition military training team graduated 19 pilots from flight school at the Royal Jordanian Air Force Flight School on Amman, Jordan, qualifying on the UH-1H Iroquois helicopter. All 19 pilots were former Iraqi Air Force aviators, and received training in democratic leadership as part of their new responsibilities. The pilots will form the core of the new Iraqi Air Force, and a squadron of six helicopters will be stationed at Taji Air Base, and that will increase to 16 helicopters by April 2005.

In the northern area of operations, a government facility in central Mosul was attacked with indirect fire. One Iraqi citizen was killed, and three were wounded, including a 10-year-old boy. Last night Coalition forces conducted a cordon and search in Northwest Mosul targeting Mohammed Sabri Salih (ph) suspected of being responsible for the 28 March murder of two security personnel. The target was detained along with his brother, Marwan Sabri Salih (ph).

In the north central zone of operations, the Coalition patrol was attacked with two RPG rounds and small arms fire southeast of Baqubah. The patrol returned fire with AT-4s and small arms. The patrol conducted a search of the area after the attack with no further contact with enemy forces.

Yesterday, anti-Iraqi forces attacked a Kirkuk fire chief, Colonel Mohammed Sabir Mohammed (ph), and his family, in a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk. The fire chief, his wife, and sister-in-law were killed. His son was wounded and taken to the Azadi Hospital.

In Baghdad, Coalition forces conducted a cordon and search in Sadr City against an anti-Iraqi cell leader, Satar Zuwad Al-Ami (ph) suspected of numerous attacks against Iraqi police, Iraqi infrastructure, and Coalition forces. The target was detained with weapons full remote house alarms, a large multi meter, 38 CPA travel documents, and over 7 million dinars.

Yesterday a Coalition forces patrol stopped a kidnapping attempt in Northeast Baghdad when a car failed to stop, and in so hitting a military vehicle. Four individuals ran from the car. Soldiers engaged and wounded one who was carrying a pistol, and the others escaped. Soldiers found an Iraqi man tied up in the back of the car. Iraqi police took custody of the wounded criminal, and Coalition forces took the kidnapped Iraqi, a taxi driver, to a Coalition base camp prior to his release.

Today, Coalition forces conducted a raid in Al-Tarmia against Admom Magribi (ph), a suspected anti-Iraqi cell member. Forces detained the target and confiscated 15 blasting caps, anti-Coalition propaganda, two large rolls of wire, and various remote controls used in IEDs.

In the western zone of operations, there have been no cease fire violations in Fallujah. One thousand workers have been hired for 22 local projects. Fourteen claims were paid today at the Fallujah Civil Military Operations Center for $182,000, and this brings the total claims paid in Fallujah to $927,000.

The main effort of the First Marine Expeditionary Force in the west is to prepare the IGC government for sovereignty. Coalition forces continue to train, mentor and conduct joint operations with the Iraqi security forces, and the success of these efforts in the coming months will be realized when the Iraqi security forces are tested and respond to the anti-Iraqi attacks in a decisive, competent, and professional manner.

In the central south zone of operations, Muqtada militia continue to attack Coalition forces in Kufa. There were five incidents on the 30th (sic). Today there has only been one incident. Yesterday, the concentration of engagements were in the vicinity of the Kufa Bridge. Three incidents of Coalition patrols were attacked by small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenade and/or mortar rounds east of the Kufa Bridge, three mortar rounds impacted northwest of the Coalition base, and there were four incidents of Coalition patrols attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire west of the Kufa Bridge.

Today a Coalition patrol was attacked at 10:00 with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars in the vicinity of the Najaf cemetery, and in the -- overall, the engagements of the past two days two Coalition soldiers have been wounded.

On 28 May, a three-vehicle convoy carrying an IGC member, Dr. Salama al-Khufagi was ambushed in the vicinity of Mahmodia while traveling northeast to Baghdad. Two vehicles drove through the ambush site, and one vehicle crashed into a canal. Sadly, Dr. Khufagi's son and a bodyguard were killed in the incident, and another bodyguard was wounded and has been taken the 31st Combat Support Hospital for treatment.

In the southeastern zone of operations, the Sadr building in Al-Samawal was engaged by rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. The Iraqi police occupying the build returned fire and the attackers fled into the city. Coalition forces deployed to assist the police in a search of the area, and there were no casualties or damage to equipment or buildings sustained in this attack.

MR. SENOR: With that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Yes, Charlie

Q Thanks, Dan. Charlie Mayer from NPR. General, would you say that the clashes that are happening in Najaf are because these militia members haven't gotten the message about the deal, or have they gotten the message and decided not to follow it? Also, is there anything you can do to try to put the word out that there is, in fact, a deal?

GEN. KIMMITT: First of all, the clashes were not in the town of Najaf, they were in the town of Kufa, about five kilometers to the northwest. We did have one incident today in the northwest portion of the cemetery. That has been the first incident in Najaf over the past two days. It may be a combination of not getting the word, misunderstanding the cease fire only to include Najaf. It is our clear understanding that When Muqtada al Sadr says there will be no armed manifestations, it includes Najaf, it includes Kufa, it includes the entire government of Najaf. It may be a matter that some of the militia are not getting the word. Whether they're getting the word of not, they have a clear understanding before this that if they raise their arms against the Iraqi people, or against the coalition forces, we will respond.

MR. SENOR: Najim (ph), go ahead.

Q (Through interpreter.) From Ad Distor (ph), Najim (ph) al-Robay. The nomination of Mr. Iyab Allawi for prime minister was received with caution by the Iraqi people, because of his CIA links. They fear links with Iraqi intelligence. The nomination of Mr. Riyad Al-Yawar for the presidency, he said that that most members of the Governing Council support me, the Shi'ites, the Sunni, but Lakhdar Brahimi interfered and nominated Dr. Adnan Pachachi as president. Are these information true?

MR. SENOR: I don't think so, Najim. I know that Mr. Brahimi has been consulting widely throughout Iraq, reaching out to all communities, and all corners of this country, as he begins to finalize his recommendation to the Secretary General for the interim government that is to take over on June 30th. To my knowledge he has not finalize the entire government, and will be making a formal announcement when he does. He has said he will make a formal announcement, he is comfortable with the way the process is moving along, then he will be making a formal announcement. And so I'm reluctant to comment on a specific consultation, you're characterizing a specific consultation that he may have had with one of the bodies, one of the many bodies that he's consulting in this country, one of the many organizations that he's been consulting. I'd rather let him characterize those discussions.

As far as Mr. Allawi, again, I am reluctant to speak on his behalf, but I will say that Iraq has many political leaders who for many years fought for the liberation of Iraq, and fought to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and received support from governments and individuals from around the world to assist with overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and fighting for the liberation of the Iraqi people. So I don't think that that is something that most Iraqis would view as a negative, and he like many has been committed to Iraq's liberation.

Q (Through interpreter.) Me and the Iraqi people would like to understand the techniques by which you form this government, the prime minister and the president? The Iraqi people don't know about the techniques used in forming this government. Can you inform us about these techniques?

MR. SENOR: Again, I would let Mr. Brahimi and the U.N. speak to that, because they're the ones who have taken the lead on it, Najim. But, I can tell you, based on what I know, that Mr. Brahimi has been committed to a very robust consulting process, where he's literally traveled the entire country, and met with numerous, dozens, and dozens of organizations, literally probably over 1,000 people, religious leaders, political leaders, regional leaders, from throughout the country, and getting a sense from them as to what kind of profile, what kind of skill set, what kind of experience would be appropriate for the leadership positions in this country, and then based on those consultations, which are two-way, which are back and forth, he is beginning to make recommendations.

Yes, sir, in the back?

Q Claude from Le Monde, Paris. Can, you keep saying that it's for Mr. Brahimi to choose and pick on this area, but the story we get is that, in fact, Mr. Allawi was chosen by the governing council in consultation with Mr. Bremer only, and that Mr. Brahimi was told afterwards of this choice.

MR. SENOR; Where are you getting that story?

Q From a number of people from the governing council.

MR. SENOR: I would let Mr. Brahimi speak for himself on it. Again, I understand he said the other day that he's very comfortable with the way the process has been moving, and he intends to make a formal announcement, I guess later this week. So I would defer to him. My understanding is he's been very supportive of how this process has moved forward, and how various individuals have percolated into leadership positions.

Q General Kimmitt, you mentioned earlier that if the insurgents in Najaf or al Kufa raise their arms they'll be dealt with appropriately, but they're also parading around the streets with arms, and that in itself seems to be a violation of the agreement you had reached. So even if they don't shoot at the -- at your forces, then what will you do if you just see them parading around the streets with RPGs and AK-47s?

GEN. KIMMITT: Muqtada's militia is a declared hostile force. Our soldiers have the obligation to take action, and our soldiers certainly have the inherent right of self-defense.


Q James Hider from the London Times. The members of the governing council are complaining that the United States is leaning quite heavily on them to vote for, or to back Mr. Pachachi in the presidential selection process. Could you make some comment on that, how much truth there is in this, and why you'd be backing Mr. Pachachi so heavily against their own chosen candidate, who is apparently Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar?

MR. SENOR: There is no truth to that. We have not been, "leaning" on anybody to support one candidate for the presidency over another, and there isn't just one organization that is involved in this selection process. I should say, there's one organization that has the lead on this election process, which is the United Nations and they have been engaged in consultations throughout the country with multiple organizations. One of the organizations they've been talking to is obviously the governing council, which has a voice. There are many voices throughout the country. And we do not -- we have said from the beginning, we don't have a list of candidates, we don't have a preferred candidate for this position, over another particular candidate, or another particular position. This is part of a consultative process that the U.N. is leading, and we are not pressuring or engaging anyone, urging them to go one direction versus another.

Q (Through interpreter.) From al-Asaea. My question is, General Kimmitt, why don't you enter into dialogue, discussions with al Sadr to solve this problem, and gain stability back to the Iraqi streets?

GEN. KIMMITT: The positive sign over the past five or six days is you have seen Iraqis taking the lead in trying to reach a peaceful resolution. Iraqis reaching out to Iraqis, a group of prominent Shi'a members of the Iraqi governing council reach out to Muqtada al Sadr to try to calm the situation down, albeit, the solution they proposed is not a complete solution, because it doesn't address our two conditions, which is that Muqtada al Sadr must face justice, he must meet the requirements in the arrest warrant issued against him, and he must disband and dissolve his militia. But, it does get us one step closer, it is a positive first sign with regard to withdrawing Muqtada's militia from the streets, and still allowing us to have maneuverability inside Najaf, and allow us to secure government buildings, Iraqi police stations, the coalition facilities, and allow for Iraqi security police, Iraqi national police to come in and address the security situation on the ground, all very positive signs. It's important to remember, that where we are today is a result of Iraqis speaking to Iraqis, Iraqis reaching out to Iraqis. And any day that is happening, any day that Iraqis communicating with Iraqis to try to reach peaceful resolution is occurring is something that is not only good for the moment, but bodes well for Iraq post-June 30th, because you see Iraqis taking up the leadership positions, and taking the initiative that is necessary to reach some sort of peaceful resolution among themselves.

Q Jim Glands, the New York Times. Satellite photos taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency show that whole sites, sometimes as many as 20 buildings, or military industrial sites, are disappearing, possibly in big salvage operations. What's happening with those sites, and what is the coalition doing to make sure that sensitive equipment that may have been on those sites doesn't fall into the wrong hands?

MR. SENOR: I spoke to this the other day. When we are aware that there are sensitive materials, or contaminated materials at a site, we seek to secure the situation, and guard against materials being taken away, and looted, and being taken, obviously, into civilian areas or outside of the country. So when we are aware of the situation, we address it. We are aware, though, that we're not always aware of these incidents, and so we are working with the Iraqi authorities in the respective ministries that obviously have a serious interest in this issue to look for even more robust ways and more thorough ways to protect against the problem that you were referring to. Yes, in the back?

Q I'm Matthew Green from Reuters. The acting Palestinian charges d'affaires, Adalil al Kasus (ph) has told us that two Palestinian diplomats were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the invasion last year by U.S. forces, and they spent the last year in Abu Ghraib prison. He says that those arrests were a flagrant violation of their diplomatic immunity as diplomats here in Baghdad. What do you have to say in response to this case?

GEN. KIMMITT: Could you give me their names, please?

Q Yes, one of them is called Naja Abdel Rahman. He was the acting charges d'affaires; and the other one is called Munir Subahi (ph). I apologize, my pronunciation might not be --

MR. SENOR: Yes, if we could just get together with you after this, we can try to trace that and find out what --

Q Sure, thanks.

MR. SENOR: Yes, sir.

Q Shukran, Mr. Senor. (Through interpreter. Thank you, Mr. Senor. Salaam alaha (ph). The citizens in Baghdad and in all the Iraqi government after the situation in Fallujah and Najaf calm down, how are you going to plan for the future? What are -- do you have any information about that after the reconstruction of the Iraqi government and we are in the process of electing a president? Do you have anything to add to assure the Iraqi people of the future?

GEN. KIMMITT: Iraq is moving to become a free democratic sovereign state. It is certainly the case that we are working with the people of Iraq to try to stimulate the economy, repair the infrastructure, provide for the security. We can set the foundation for Iraq to move forward, but it will be the people of Iraq that really take this country forward as a free and sovereign country. Your country will make those decisions. You will make the decisions with your government, you will make the decisions with your economy, you'll make the decisions on how to use that infrastructure that's been rebuilt, and you will be making the decisions on the security of this nation in the long run. That is one of the aspects of democracy that sometimes is not very well understood by some countries after 35 years have depended on a central dictator to make the decisions for them.

The future will be what the future is. We have no crystal balls. But what we can tell us is that the future of any country that is converted to democracy, certainly is well beyond that and certainly shows more promise for the people, for the economy, for the children, than those that have been living under the thumb of a dictator for 35 years.

MR. SENOR: Yes, go ahead.

Q (Through interpreter.) Two questions to Mr. Kimmitt and Dan Senor. Mr. Kimmitt, the emblem behind you is for the multinational forces, and it's -- there is the line of Babylon and two other swords. Will the multinational forces contain Arab forces and will their uniform be changed? And Mr. Dan Senor -- one of the offices of Mr. Ahmad Chalabi in al Anbar was raided. Did the American forces take part in that raid with the Iraqi police, especially that some sources said that Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi is going to announce the president of Iraq. What is the role played by the coalition forces in this respect?

MR. SENOR: -- second question -- I am not aware of a second raid or second set of raids on properties associated with Dr. Chalabi, but I am happy to look into it. With regard to the coalition's role, the U.N. special representative is here at the invitation of the governing council and the coalition. Last January we went to New York with the governing council and asked the Secretary General if he could deploy a team of experts here -- the U.N. have a lot of experience in this -- to make a determination as to whether or not elections could be held -- direct elections could be held in Iraq by June 30th, and if they could not be held, given that we still wanted to hand sovereignty over to the Iraqi people on June 30th, what alternative was there, how long would it take to have direct elections, and what alternative government could be put in place in that interim period from when we hand over sovereignty until Iraq is ready for direct elections, which they agree to do? And they came here, the U.N. team came here, did some research, and made a determination that Iraq would not be ready for direct elections until eight, nine months after the electoral process got started, which we ultimately determined January 2005.

And so the U.N. then began to look at ways to formulate an interim government to take over here for that interim period between sovereignty and direct elections. Something that is viewed as legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people, recognizing that it's short of direct elections, it's trying to provide a legitimate, credible, honest government that can take over for that very short period of seven months until there are direct elections so Iraq could still have its sovereignty even though the country isn't ready for direct elections, and the U.N. took the lead on that. Mr. Brahimi, as you know, took the lead in formulating the government and making recommendations to the U.N. Secretary General, but we have a consultative role. We have a back-and-forth discussion with Mr. Brahimi, as he does with Iraqis all over the country, and it is a very interactive and fluid process. But the U.N. and Mr. Brahimi do have the lead on it.

GEN. KIMMITT: There was an operation, as we all know, about 10 days ago against some of the properties of Ahmad Chalabi. Coalition forces did not participate in that except in a support role. I don't know of any other operations that coalition forces knowingly participated in operation conducted against any of Mr. Chalabi's properties.

Now, on your point about the patch -- it's a point well taken. The coalition, the multinational forces in Iraq certainly are open to any forces that would like to make -- to any country that would like to make a force offer. We do that habitually at Central Command in Tampa. We have a number of nations represented at Central Command. That is the way they express their desires to be part of the coalition now and in the future part of the multinational forces. I would suspect that Gen. Abizaid would welcome force contributions from this region -- countries such as Jordan, Kuwait. I don't know that any have made any offers in that regard, but there is certainly nothing that we have said a priori to exclude any Arab nations from participating in this great mission.


Q Kevin Flowers, CNN. Dan, you said that the process has been a consultative process with the U.N., the governing council, and the CPA. Is it wrong to say that the ultimate decision about the transitional government then lies with the CPA as the -- the CPA is the ultimate sovereign power right now, correct?

MR. SENOR: That's correct.

Q So the decision on the composition of the transitional government ultimately lies in the hands of the CPA?

MR. SENOR: Well, but we have -- I mean -- we have many responsibilities here as part of our sovereign power -- many of which we defer to other institutions, for instance, the de-Ba'athification policy. You remember last fall we deferred -- we sort of delegated the de-Ba'athification policy to the governing council and said, yes, technically under international law we have ultimate authority for all policies that are issued here, but we are going to hand that authority, we are going to delegate that authority over to the governing council. Now, it's not in a legal sense with regard to the U.N. and the political process, but we -- the U.N. is here at our invitation, and we have asked them to take the lead in this process and make a formal recommendation to the U.N. Secretary General.

Q But just so I'm clear -- I mean -- and this is a theoretical, but you could ultimately, if the U. N. and the governing council were to come up with names as the ultimate sovereign power, you could veto those recommendations and say, "No, we disagree with that."

MR. SENOR: I would say this -- under international law, we have ultimate authority for what happens in Iraq. We are the occupational power, and with -- being occupational power, with being the executive authority in Iraq, we have certain obligations, and we have certain responsibilities, but, as a practical matter, to your point, we have issued authorities, we have delegated authorities to others who we thought more appropriate to make certain decisions, make certain recommendations, and this is one of those cases -- where we believe right now the U.N. and Mr. Brahimi are in the best position to take the lead on formulating an interim government. Yes?

Q (Through interpreter.) Radam Hamid Allia (ph) from Al Meshera (ph). Mr. Dan, will the governing council work in that closed session to choose the president? This means that Brahimi has come as an advisor but now we must tell Brahimi, it seems that he is going to take the decision, and it is the governing council to approve this decision. Why did you insist on Friday -- why did you insist on choosing Alawi? And Brahimi has finished with this issue and presented this for the governing council for approval, but you said this was not done.

MR. SENOR: First of all, as to whether or not the governing council does their business behind closed doors, out in the open, on any particular issue, it is their prerogative. I'm not going to speak for them about how they manage their daily business. And the governing council is one of many bodies -- this is a very important point -- the governing council is one of many bodies, one of many organizations throughout the country that Mr. Brahimi and Ambassador Bremer have consulted with during this process. I know that you all don't give attention to all the various organizations and all the various individuals that Mr. Brahimi meets with, but the fact is he has been meeting with many of them, and many of them have expressed different views on who should be in positions of power in the new government, and these voices have come throughout the country.

So while there is tremendous scrutiny, it seems, on the governing council's endorsement, please recognize it's not the only endorsement. And while, from time -- and certain -- a number of these positions, their endorsement will be in common -- will be the same as the positions or the personalities or the individuals that Mr. Brahimi chooses. It won't always be the case, because there are many, many voices out there, and there are many, many organizations that are expressing their views, that Mr. Brahimi has consulted with.

Yes, ma'am?

Q Shukran. (Through interpreter.) Hamal (ph) from Al Ferat (ph). My question is about the discussions of Lakhdar Brahimi with the governing council. Is among these discussions -- can the governing council veto any decision?

MR. SENOR: No, it cannot. Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter) Halli Masaadin from al Sabah. Concerning Iraq -- Iraq will be one of the multidivision forces. Will there be an Iraqi officer within the decision-making command and the multinational force? Can they object or not take decisions or will they be executing orders only?

GEN. KIMMITT: We still have some ways to go before we have worked out all of the command relationships. It may be that the Iraqi forces will work separately from the multinational forces. It may be that they will be integrated along with the multinational forces. One thing will be certain -- we will be working together as part of a partnership. The Iraqi voice will always be heard in the conduct of operations. The Iraqi officers will be full partners in the process of defending this nation, and their expertise and their tactical knowledge and their knowledge of this country will be instrumental to that partnership, and we look forward to working with these officers.


Q (Through interpreter.) Abbas Salihe (ph) from al Minot (ph). Mr. Dan, you talked about the formation of the new government. A comment has been made by Mr. Bremer about choosing Mr. Alawi. As one of my colleagues talked about Lakhdar Brahimi, Lakhdar Brahimi was only a supervisor of the operation. Now the situation has changed. Lakhbar Brahimi makes decisions now. The issue of choosing the government is the responsibility of the three parties -- the governing council, the United Nations, and the coalition forces. We want you to explain this point. General Kimmitt, you talk about the partnership with the Iraqi forces. We have seen the exchange of command between General Sanchez and General Metz We have noticed the presence of the chief of staff and the Iraqi flag. What we have seen is that the Iraqi forces will be present in this partnership, and that the leadership of these forces will be under the U.S. command. As Mr. Annit (ph) had said, this is a big ambiguity in this process. How can you explain this?

MR. SENOR: The situation remains the same. The U.N. Secretary General's special advisor here, Mr. Brahimi, has the lead in the process. We are involved, but the U.N. and Mr. Brahimi have the lead, and Mr. Brahimi has not made a formal announcement yet on the interim government. When he does, I can assure you that Ambassador Bremer will comment, but that hasn't occurred yet. We expect it soon, and Mr. Brahimi talked about it occurring soon. It could be as soon as later this week, but we're going to wait for the U.N. to make their decisions, their recommendations, their announcements, and then we will, of course, respond.

GEN. KIMMITT: There is some uncertainty right now in terms of the command and control structure between the multinational forces and the forces of Iraq. And this is not unusual, because there are many, many different ways to achieve the structure and the command and control that we seek in this partnership. It might be a command and control arrangement very similar to what is done right now in the Korean Peninsula, where the U.N. forces commanded by an American are able to absorb the Korean forces into a joint force for the defense of Korea. It may be that there is a parallel command structure where the multinational forces of Iraq work side by side but not integrated with the Iraqi security forces. There are very many different ways to do this, there are many ways to put this together. That's why we've got the experts sitting down and talking about this and discussing this, along with the Iraqi forces, about the best way to take this forward.

But one thing is for certain -- we will be working side by side. It will not be a senior/subordinate relationship. It will be a full partnership. The question was made earlier -- will Iraqi forces only be taking orders and not giving orders? The answer is no. Will the Iraqi forces be able to speak up in the discussions about the best way to conduct the operation? The answer is yes. When we talk partnership, we mean partnership, working side by side together for a common goal, which is the safety, security, and defense of the nation of Iraq.

MR. SENOR: Thank you, everybody.

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