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Press Briefing, April 1, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

Multi-National Force - Iraq operational update briefing by Rear Admiral Mark I. Fox, Communications Division Chief for Strategic Effects, MNF-I; and Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, spokesman, Operation Fard Al-Qanun.


(Note: General Moussawi's comments are provided through interpreter.)

GEN. MOUSSAWI: By the name of God, the merciful, the most compassionate, "salaam aleikum."

From the beginning I would like to congratulate you and the Iraqi people on the birth of the prophet Mohammed, imploring God Almighty to confer security and peace on Iraq.

Our armed forces continue their military activities in different operational sectors. And during the last week the forces killed many terrorists and scores of terrorists and detained a large number of 30 terrorists affiliated to al Qaeda organization during a meeting they held in Abu Ghraib. The 3rd Infantry Brigade carried out this operation.

Also, we have been able to liberate a kidnapped family in Dura by the police. And we have been able also to defuse a large number of car bombs and IEDs, and we confiscated large quantities of weapons and ammunition.

And I have some important remarks you should be acquainted with. First, the terrorist groups tried to infiltrate the secure areas, which the secure areas and the quiet areas -- they want to carry out terrorist operations in these areas to inflict brutal casualties among the people.

This happened in the area of Shaab and the market of Shalal and in Sadr City and Khalis and in Tall Afar and in some areas adjacent to these areas. They want to distract the attention of the security forces to these areas and create a security vacuum, and as well the terrorists are carrying out their activities.

Second remark -- the terrorists' elements try to use more harmful tactics to affect the morale of the Iraqi people by using the chlorine gas or poisonous materials.

Third remark -- I would like to point out that all the terrorists' schemings and the terrorists' plans are now being discovered by our military forces and by the Iraqi people. These terrorists' actions will not deter us from carrying out our mission, Operation Fard al-Qanun in Baghdad. These, as we know -- operations will only make us more determined to achieve peace and stability in Baghdad. And in the near future we'll witness more forces, more Iraqi forces deployed in different operational sectors, and we're going to enhance these forces by the Multinational Forces. We have future plans, including Fard al-Qanun operation, but we need more time and we need patience and we need sacrifices.

I would like to assure the Iraqi people that we are not going back. We have achieved some progress, and we are going to continue on this progress.

We need that cooperation with the Iraqi people, with the Iraqi security forces. We need the Iraqi people to provide us with more tips and tips about the whereabouts of ammunition and weapons caches, and the Iraqi people should be contact with the operation theater of Operation Fard al-Qanun. And we have four telephones. We can get these tips by the telephone.

This is my opening statement. I would like to -- Admiral Fox to make his opening statement.

Thank you very much, General Fox.

ADM. FOX: General Qassim, thank you very much, my friend, for allowing me to be part of this press conference with you today. Good afternoon. As-salaam aleikum.

As I've shared with you before, the effort to improve security in Iraq will take time and determination. We've seen some initial progress, but our work will not be accomplished in days or weeks, but will require a sustained effort over the course of many months. Al Qaeda and other extremists continue to carry out their brutal attacks in an attempt to disrupt our efforts and create instability amongst the Iraqi people, and there are undoubtedly more tough days ahead. Nevertheless, working together with the Iraqi security forces our commitment to enforcing the law and bringing security to Baghdad remains undiminished.

Over the past month, Iraqi security and coalition forces seized over 300 weapons caches, detained over 1,400 suspects and found and cleared over 300 improvised explosive devices. Additionally, the more than 5,000 tips from Iraqi citizens last month contributed to Iraqi security and coalition forces' ability to conduct these operations. It's important to keep a realistic view. Violence levels are unacceptable, and we expect to see a high level of violence over the coming weeks and months. Al Qaeda and other extremists will continue their high-profile attacks in an attempt to cause chaos by instigating sectarian violence.

In order to protect the Iraqi people, 31 joint security stations and 22 combat outposts, manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the Iraqi army, Iraqi police and coalition soldiers in various combinations are currently open in all 10 districts in Baghdad and more are being built. The additional coalition forces required to fully implement Operation Fard al-Qanun are still being deployed and will not be in place for several months. The final elements of the third of five U.S. brigades are in or are approaching Kuwait with lead elements moving into Baghdad. The new division headquarters is on the ground in Baghdad conducting preliminary reconnaissance and coordination missions. About half of the U.S. troops requested are currently in place with the remainder expected to be in place by early June.

We are working with the Iraqi people to secure progress and provide hope. The Iraqi people deserve to live normal lives, to go to the coffee corner shop, to walk to work or to walk to school without fear.

Together with our Iraqi partners, we are working diligently to make this happen, but it's going to require patience, resolve and commitment. And with that, I'd like to turn it back over to General Qassim, or be prepared to take your questions. Thank you for allowing me to be with you today.

GEN. MOUSSAWI: Thank you very much, sir.

Recently, there has been a change in the tactics of the terrorists. Why this change in tactics? Is it because of some gaps in Fard al-Qanun operation?

In fact, the tactics used in the past by the terrorists, by targeting the Iraqi people and their forces through the car bombs or IEDs or explosive vests or indirect and direct fire, until now, the terrorists are still applying the same old tactics. And the Iraqi security forces and checkpoints have been able to put some limits on these tactics. The terrorists are left with few options, and they want to prove themselves. And we and the military always discuss the targeting of the Iraqi people.

This proves that the enemy has failed. In every battle, when the enemy targets the civilians, this means it has failed to confront the Iraqi security forces.

And their tactics are now all open and we are going to develop our tactics. Yesterday we received armored vehicles, the Iraqi Army 3rd Brigade, and a few days ago the first group of equipment of detecting explosives -- we received this first group of equipment. I'm sure that this equipment will decrease the level of violence.

Q (Through interpreter.) Hassan Shemshadi (ph) from Iranian Television. My question to General (sic) Fox, the American Army denied that the helicopters bombarded al-Sadr City. If this is true, who carried out the air raids? And does the Iraqi army use helicopters for this purpose?

ADM. FOX: There were operations in Sadr City that did have aircraft that supported the mission. There have been no casualties that we have seen as a result of those operations. We are always extremely careful in the application or the use of force and will always use proportionate or appropriate levels of force to accomplish our mission.

STAFF (?): (In Arabic.)

Q (Through interpreter.) Hassim Sayadi (ph) from the Associated Press. My first question, we have noticed that the terrorists' operations and the sectarian violence has gone to Tall Afar and Hillah. What are you going to do? Will you extend Operation Fard al-Qanun to the provinces?

My question to General (sic) Fox, Muqtada al-Sadr called for a demonstration against the presence of the Multinational Forces. Are you going to protect this demonstration? It is said that millions of people will take part in this demonstration.

GEN. MOUSSAWI: In fact -- the fact that the violence decreased in Baghdad, the terrorists went to the surrounding areas, and these areas are breeding grounds for violence.

And the tribal leaders and the tribesmen are conducting operations against them. We have noticed military operations carried out by the tribes in Al Anbar and how they chased and tracked down the terrorists. They have achieved great progress. And we have seen some encouraging signs also in Diyala and Hillah, and in Nineveh to carry out such military operations. And his excellency the prime minister and the commanding general of the armed forces gave orders to carry out security plans in some provinces which suffer from these breeding grounds of terrorism.

We look at Operation Fard al-Qanun as an example of the operations to be carried out in these provinces. Day after day, the terrorist elements are backed into the corner, and we are going to continue to carry out these operations.

ADM. FOX: In response to your second question in regards to the protests that you had mentioned, or at least the solicitation for a large protest, one of the marks of a free and democratic society is the opportunity for the people to exercise their right to protest. And in fact, we think it's an important part of a free society to be able to express yourself, as long as it's in a non-violent fashion. Anyone who operates within the political framework of a free Iraq I think would be -- is welcome.

I'd also remind -- or point out the fact that the most recent religious pilgrimage, the largest in decades, is also one of the opportunities that comes from having a free Iraq as well.

And so we in the coalition force, in context with support and an assistance function here with our Iraqi security force colleagues, are very interested in protecting the people of Baghdad and protecting the people of Iraq.

And as pointed out, there was a large religious pilgrimage that took place, with more people that had that opportunity to make that pilgrimage than in decades.

So as long as people do stay within the rule of law and exercise their rights peacefully, we think that's probably okay.

GEN. MOUSSAWI: (Off mike) -- in Fard al-Qanun, all the search which have been carried out by the Iraqi security forces and the multinational forces in Sadr City. During these operations there have been cooperation between the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces, and we didn't encounter any problem.

We welcome any peaceful demonstration that call(s) for national unity and getting rid of sectarianism. And we would like to welcome all the Iraqi people who want to create this unity and rid Iraq of this nightmare, the nightmare of terrorism and sectarian sedition. And we would like all of the people who want to stage peaceful demonstrations -- we are with any democratic process in Iraq and with the new Iraq.

Q (Through interpreter.) Amar Hammadi (sp) from Radio Sawa. My question to Admiral Fox: When are you going to complete the joint 52 security centers? And can you explain the news about the riot what (sic) took place near the military -- now the security base you want to establish in Sadr City?

My question to General Qassim: There have been some areas in Baghdad witnessing sectarian sedition.

Are you going to carry out any military operations in these areas, and how are you going to stop the mortar attacks?

ADM. FOX: In answer to your first question, the joint security stations are being built, as I mentioned, as we speak, and we will continue to build them until we have the right number of joint security stations and combat outposts. I would -- I don't have a specific plan or a layout. You can see from week to week the increasing number of joint security stations that have been completed, and we will continue to build those until we are satisfied that they are in sufficient quantity to be able to accomplish our mission.

One of the things I think is important to see the difference of how our security operations in Baghdad are working. Now American troops with coalition troops and Iraqi security forces are living in different districts within Baghdad. They're not commuting from a distant base, but they're living there, and they're operating in the neighborhood and getting to know the Iraqi people in those neighborhoods. And increased contact between security forces and the people in the neighborhood increases the level of confidence that the people have in those neighborhoods in the security forces, which in turn creates an additional level of cooperation. And so that's where you see these additional actionable tips.

The people of Iraq and the people of Baghdad are sick and tired of this violence, and so what you're seeing is an increasing amount of trust being built and working together. And there's no moving out of the neighborhoods anymore. When we clear, now we're holding, and we're going to build. And so what you're going to see in these additional joint security stations and combat outposts is permanent, persistent presence that demonstrates our commitment and our resolve that we are going to stay and we're going to accomplish this mission and protect -- we understand in a counterinsurgency fight, the fight is for the people and the fight -- the people are the center of gravity of the operation. And we are doing everything humanly possible to protect the people of Baghdad and to protect the people of Iraq and to ensure that all appropriate steps are being taken to allow them to have increased security and protection.

GEN. MOUSSAWI: Thank you very much. As for your question, recently we have noticed that we achieved good results during the Fard al-Qanun operation. Some troubled areas in Karkh on the south side, and during the past six weeks, we have been able to clear these areas of terrorist elements. And three days ago, we made a tour in Haifa Street and Allawi (ph) and Zurat Park (ph). And yesterday we went in a tour in Karrada, a media tour in Karrada, and also Sequail (ph) and Southern Sequail (ph).

These areas were the scenes of terrorist operations, and other areas will also be covered by our security operation. And as you all know, the area of Baghdad is more than 670 sequential meters. And terrorism spread all over Baghdad, and we need more time.

Additional troops will be deployed, and the troops of the coalition forces have arrived in Baghdad. Two brigades have arrived, and more troops will arrive in the next two months. And more Iraqi troops will be deployed in the 10 districts in Baghdad -- five in Karkh and five in Rusafa.

And the Iraqi people can ask us, where are we going to secure all Baghdad? As we explained before, this needs time. We need to deploy forces and to clear the areas and to start the services in these areas and return the displaced families. We can't accomplish this in one, two or three months.

We need more time, but we are determined. And we have plan to save these people from terrorism and restore peace and stability to all parts in Baghdad. When we deploy more troops in all areas, we are going to put an end to this phenomenon.

Q (Through interpreter.) My question is about what happened yesterday about security infiltration of the Green Zone in Baghdad. Can General (sic\Admiral) Fox answer this question?

ADM. FOX: Could you -- can I get you to restate the question, please?

Q (Through interpreter.) Mahmoud Fawad (ph) from Al Hurra. Could you please give us details about the reports about security penetration of the Green Zone, and there you have captured two people with two explosive vests.

ADM. FOX: Okay, thank you. Actually, what we found yesterday were two suicide vests, not people, but we did discover two suicide vests in the international zone. The matter is under investigation. I think it reflects the nature of the security challenge that we're facing. But in this case, they were discovered without them actually having been used.

This is a challenging security environment, and whether you're in the international zone or whether you're in the rest of Baghdad, we are committed to providing security for the people of Iraq. And even in areas where there's extreme high levels of security, there are times where we -- you know, we have to be very careful and very scrutinizing of the kind of security measures that we exercise.

So we did find two vests. It's under investigation -- two suicide vests yesterday, and the matter is under investigation.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.) My question is more a query than a question. There is a sign put on the houses to be raided. Two days ago, in a neighborhood in Al- Manamin (ph) neighborhood there have been a search of these areas.

GEN. MOUSSAWI: Can I answer you, or General Fox?

I would like to explain that Baghdad was divided in 10 districts to provide security. In each sector, we deployed a brigade, and some terrorist groups are trying to carry out these terrorist operations, whether kidnapping or sectarian violence or displacing families. The military personnel wear the uniform, and our vehicles now have certain signs, and the military personnel have also identity cards, and the people can ask them for these identity cards.

And we have a form for a search. This form should be filled and signed by the owner of the house which is being searched. Any person who has any doubts about any case during the search can contact the Baghdad operation theater through three phones, and the people can make sure whether it is a military force or not. And we will -- are going to respond immediately to such queries, and we have prepared three staff officers to act on these cases. And every day we get a lot of questions and queries coming from the people.

Thank you very much.

STAFF (?): (Through interpreter.) Only one question.

(Cross talk.)

(In English.) Yes?

Q My name -- I'm from the -- represent the -- Ikana Klass (sp) of the San Francisco Chronicle Op Ed News and Al-Jazeera.info. You've talked about more JSSs, more troops, more searches, more weapons, more tips, et cetera. Is this going to go hand in hand with such hearts and minds operations as increased educational opportunities, electricity, waste services, that kind of thing, a Marshall Plan kind of operation?

ADM. FOX: I'll take the first cut at that, and then I'll turn it back over to General Qassim.

Q Thanks.

ADM. FOX: I think one of the most important distinctions and differences of this plan, Fard al-Qanun, is it's not just a military plan. And in fact for the first time, a great focus exists on economic service -- economic facets, basic services, rule of law, a tremendous level of political commitment on the part of the Iraqi government. We understand that there are two sides of the same coin. There's security, but there's also economic activity. And you can't have one without the other.

And so there's a tremendous level of focus both from the provincial reconstruction teams -- there's one here in Baghdad -- but also a number of basic services projects that are going on throughout Baghdad. That coupled with the security initiatives to allow markets -- you know, there are procedural steps that have taken place -- for example, to only allow vehicles to deliver their goods inside a market area outside of normal market hours and then clear off of the vehicles, so that they can't get into an area where there are a lot of people.

So the economic well-being and the economic development and allowing market economy type of activity to flourish is an important part of this. We understand that we can win every single military conflict, we can win every single battle, but we can't win the peace alone. And so there's a much -- there's a very great acknowledgement and a recognition of the fact that we've got to have economic development, we've got to have basic services. This is -- as I mentioned earlier, the people of Baghdad and the people of Iraq are really the center of gravity of this struggle, and we are reaching out.

Medical services -- just recently there was an initiative in Sadr City of medical services being provided and a tremendous response of the people within Sadr City receiving medical treatment from the security forces and from the coalition. So we understand that it's not just a military struggle, it's not just security; that there's economic and basic services aspects to it as well.

Thank you for the question. Q (Through interpreter.) First question. General Qassim, when are you going to use the modern devices to detect explosives?

Second question to Admiral Fox. Now the American -- more Iraqi forces now are being trained, and you say that the Iraqi forces can shoulder the responsibility after the completion of training. Since the Iraqi forces are going, why do you bring more additional American troops from the U.S.?

GEN. MOUSSAWI: As for the first question, it's a very important question, and the Iraqi people always asking this question. When are we going to use the modern devices to detect explosive charges? We received the first group of this equipment, and a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior and the Department of Explosives have also announced the arrival of this equipment.

These are personal equipment and devices used for vehicles. We are going to use this equipment in some areas where the terrorist operations are taking place, and we cannot talk to the media about these equipment because of security. But within Fard al-Qanun operation, we are going to use these devices to decrease the level of terrorist operations.

Thank you.

ADM. FOX: In answer to your question, it's a combination of both the increasing capability of the Iraqi security forces, coupled with the additional American troops that we feel provides the best plan to create the breathing space, to give us the window of opportunity to break the cycle of violence. And we can't do it with just one or the other, but it requires both.

When you think about the incredible progress that the Iraqi security forces have made -- and it has been impressive -- we see cases where Iraqi police, selflessly defending the people of their community, are stepping in to extremely challenging situations, where you see the Iraqi army being held in high regard within the Iraqi -- within the nation of Iraq. We need to reinforce the successes that we've been able to carve out and then create the opportunity for additional successes with these additional American forces flowing in.

So it's a combination that we feel both are required, and this will give us the capability of holding those neighborhoods after they've been cleared to go back to the economic growth and the opportunity for sustained security and sustained presence within those neighborhoods. And both -- ultimately, this will be an Iraqi -- the Iraqi security challenge will be met with Iraqi forces, and we understand that the coalition force will not be here forever. And so it's incumbent on us that while we have this window of opportunity to make the most of it. It's going to take time, it's going to take months for us to be able to see results from this plan. But in the same breath, we feel like the additional U.S. forces are required to create the conditions for additional success and progress moving forward in terms of the security plan.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- editor and chief of -- (affiliation inaudible). My question to General Qassim. The prime minister announced that the families who live in the houses of the people who have been displaced, and despite this, many people are still living in these houses. So how are you going to deal with this problem?

GEN. MOUSSAWI: As for the issue of the displaced families, there are legal aspects relating to this. The Ministry of Justice has formed a committee to deal with this problem, along with some experts, and we have given a deadline of 15 days. And now the deadline has been extended, and when this deadline expires, we are going to track down all those who didn't carry out the legal instructions about how to deal with those who live in the houses of the families which were displaced.

And we are going to provide you with a copy of these regulations. You know, this is a very complicated issue. We have to verify the documents, and we need to bring back the displaced families. And this is not an easy operation.

We need time, and we need more cooperation from the people who own the house and the people who are living in this house. And the prime minister understands well this issue. But we are not going to allow (displace ?) to continue further. All those who live in the houses which belong to the people who were displaced -- they should give these houses back to their owners.

Thank you very much, and I would like to thank Admiral Fox for this generous invitation. And we hope to meet again. Thank you very much.

(In English.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, sir.


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