Maj.Gen Kevin Bergner, September 13, 2007
Monday, 17 September 2007
DATE:SEPTEMBER 13, 2007
MAJ-GEN KEVIN BERGNER
BRIAN DAMEIEN McELROY
*REP1 = First Reporter (Interviewer)
*REP2 = Second Reporter
*INT = Interpreter
*UM = Unknown Male
*UF = Unknown Female
UM: Ladies and Gentleman, welcome and happy Ramadan for everybody. And we thank you for coming to this press conference that was set late last night, but I do ask from all our friends in the media to respect the people who are fasting. So from now on today, if you want to eat, there is, uh, the backside of the CIPI. We have no problem with that, we MNFI…MNFI respect all religions, so if you’re eating or drinking, please do no do it in the press room of the MNFI, because we have lots of people who are fasting and tired. And we do thank you for your patience this month. We have to remember that we are in Iraq and Iraq falls under the law of Islam, uh, and, uh, this is how it’s going to be for this month only. We do thank you and we do thank you for respecting other people religion and, uh, welcome once again. I do ask of everybody please to turn off their phones. We have Major General Kevin Bergner today. We have an important press conference and we do thank you for coming on late notice. Thank you very much.
International Force IRAQ and the CPIC we wish all the reporters of Iraq and abroad a happy Ramadan. Thank you.
MG BERGNER: Asalamalakum. The surge of operations continues to make progress in a tough fight. As you heard this week during the testimony of General Patreus and ambassador Crocker. There is discernible progress, but still much work ahead of us and the Iraqi people.
MG BERGNER: I’ll start from the top.
UM2: Thank you.
MG BERGNER: Shukra. The surge of operations continues to make progress in a tough fight. As you heard this week during the testimony of General Patreus and ambassador Crocker. There is discernible progress, but still much work ahead of us and the Iraqi people. We’re continuing to see local citizens step forward and become part of the solution. We have seen the delivery of economic assistance from the government of Iraq, to provincial governments, and most importantly to we have seen the courage and sacrifice of the Iraqi people and our forces combined to keep the pressure on the extremists. The multinational force continues to welcome the commitment by Mugtada al-Sadr to stop attacks by his followers against citizens and security forces. If fulfilled, this declaration has the potential to improve stability and security for all Iraqis. We do see some indications that some members of Jaish al-Mahdi are respecting their leader’s pledge, and coalition and Iraqi security forces have seen some reduction in attacks that were previously associated with these elements. But we also see some members are disrespecting Sadr’s commitment by continuing attacks. We have also welcomed his commitment to isolate those in his organization who continue to attack innocent civilians, Iraqi security forces, and the coalition; and thereby discredit his pledge of honor. On Tuesday, it appears some of those criminal elements ignored Sadr’s pledge and launch a rocket attack against a coalition base. The attack was launched from a West Rachid District of Baghdad, which is a place that is under the influence of Jaish al-Mahdi, that apparently are not honoring Sadr’s pledge. They also chose a launching point that placed innocent Iraqi citizens at risk by locating themselves among civilian homes. The attack used a two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rocket, which is a weapon that these groups have received from Iranian sources in the past and recently used in other attacks against coalition forces. You will recall that in mid August I spoke to you about a two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rocket attack on one of our operating bases south of Baghdad. I showed you images of the rocket launch area with some of the unfired two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rockets that were recovered from the site as well as fragments from the impact site. And as you’ll remember the markings on the unfired rockets were consistent with Iranian supplied munitions. We also know from Qais Khazali and his Lebanese Hezbolla associate Al Mussa Daqduq that these rockets are among the types of weapons that Iranian sources have provided to the special groups in the past. To my right is one of the fragments of the two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rocket that impacted our operating base on Tuesday. The attack resulted in one (1) killed and a dozen (12) injured. Our explosive ordinance experts assess it is of consistent with the rockets of Iranian origin we have seen used in other attacks. We know that some of the elements of Jaish al-Mahdi rely on Iranian sources of funding, training, and weapons like this. Al Mussa Daqduq and Qais Khazali have said in their own words that these criminal groups could not conduct these, uh, these types of operations without the support they receive from Iranian Qods Force Networks. Unfortunately that support is continuing to undermine the security and stability of Iraq at an important moment when some here are trying to reduce the violence and improve security. In addition to the casualties it caused, this action also places more Iraqi citizens at risk. It increases the prospects of more violence within the neighborhood from which it was launched and it will prolong the security problems facing the Iraqi people. These attacks also distract the focus of Iraqi and coalition forces from operating against Al-Qaeda. The multinational force will continue to support the government of Iraq in welcoming the pledge by Mugtada al-Sadr to stop attacks and we will show restrain in dealing with his followers who uphold this commitment, however, Iraqi and coalition forces will not show the same restraint against criminals who continue to target civilians and security forces. And the actions required against these criminals unfortunately may place more neighborhoods at risk of violence as these criminals hide among innocent Iraqis. That concludes our update for this afternoon and I will now take just a few questions. Yes sir?
STEVE: Steve Negus, Financial Times…
MG BERGNER: Let me make sure I got my earpiece plugged in.
STEVE: Steve Negus, Financial Times. Uhm, apologies if I misunderstood something you said, but, uh, the markings in the rocket were consistent with the marking on early…on rockets that had earlier been used, uh, that you had assumed or that you had deduced had come from Iran. However, have you ever, I mean, that’s that particular…is there anything linking that particular part of hardware to an actual manufacturer in Iran or someway that you can…that, I mean if, if, if the markings in one rocket that you believe come from Iran or are consistent with the markings on another rocket you believe come from Iran there is sort of a missing link that actually links the original rock…the original…one of the original rockets to a place where it was manufactured in Iran. How do you actually know that these are coming from Iran and not from say Sunnis or Soviet manufactured rockets that could be designed in multiple places? How do you know the original chain originates in Iran?
MG BERGNER: The, uh, the Iranian Falaq-1 rocket is the only two hundred and for…forty (240) millimeter rocket found or fired to date in Iraq and Jaish al-Mahdi is the only group known to fire those rockets, uhm, we have seen lot numbers, uh, that are traceable, we’ve seen dates of origin, and…that, that provides us insights into that and so our experience with these two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rockets is one where we have a good sense of their, uh, source and of the recency of their manufacture.
STEVE: Is the Falaq, is…is that a knock off of the Soviet… Is the Falaq a knock off of a, of a Warsaw Pact design or is it something specifically made…
MG BERGNER: There are, there are a number of countries that produce two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rockets. You are correct.
STEVE: What are the distinct features of the Iranian one?
This one is a different color, uh, and it has different markings as well that would…that would indicate where it, uh, came from. Thank you. Shukran.
REP1: Arabic reporter asks question in Arabic…
INT: Question from Al-Fayhaa TV. You mentioned your…you’re accusing some of Jan that their being supplied by Iran, so why do you rule out the other part of the middle east since they’re actually all, uh, under the command of Mugtada al-Sadr?
MG BERGNER: Well, we respect the commitment that Mugtada al-Sadr has made to the government of Iraq and reducing the number of attack…stopping attacks! As I said in my remarks there are indications that some of his followers are fulfilling that pledge of honor that he has made, uh, as the leader of that group. We have seen other indications of others who are not fulfilling that commitment and, uh, and who are not fulfilling the honor of that commitment that he made. And so we know that there are some who are not, uh, operating within the bounds of his guidance. Shukran. Yes sir?
BRIAN: Brian from AFD and could you comment on the report in the L.A. Times that the U.S. military is engaged in secret talks with members of Mugtada al-Sadr’s group?
MG BERGNER: We are not engaged in secret talks, uh, we do engage with a variety of…of, uh, people at the local level and so our commanders on the ground will talk to individuals in those neighborhoods, districts, areas where, uh, where they…they want… other individuals want to engage in dialog that could lead to a reduction of attacks, and so that’s…our commanders will talk to a variety of people, uh, at that level and, uh…so that…that there isn’t any specific group that we would engage at the exclusion of others. We have talked to other groups, as you know in Anbar and other places to help people step away from the violence and, uh, work more closely with their…with their government, with their security forces and with the coalition. And that’s…that is on the way, that is taking place. Yes sir?
DAMIEN: Damien McElroy from the Daily Telegraph, uhm, this particular rocket, a few questions about it. Do you believe that it was specifically targeted at the Camp Victory Headquarters? Uh, how far away did it land from there? And, uh, I understand that Iranians don’t, uh, use Farsi to mark their weapons, what…what sort of markings are they? Are they numeric or are they, uh, codes? Or what, what is marked on Iranian weapons that says this is Iranian?
MG BERGNER: Yeah, uh, the first answer to your question is we don’t know what their intended target was. It did impact, uh, one of our operating bases. I won’t get into a discussion of its relative proximity to specific facilities that were there, uh, but it did impact on our operating base there. Uh, what its intended target was, uh, it’s difficult for us to say. Your…the second part of your question is there are consistent, uh, lot numbers and markings that allow, uh, discrimination between sources of origin between different country’s weapons, uh, and…and frequently countries will mark their weapons in English and in this case that’s generally what we see with may of the Iranian source weapons. They will have English markings, English slot numbers and…and numbers. Yes sir?
REP2: Arabic reporter asks question in Arabic…
INT: Question from Al Arabiya TV. You’ve talked a while ago that you respect, uh, Mugtada al-Sadr and his commitment, uh, for Jame...for Jaish to stop violence and on the other hand the American side…will he also stop to, uh, pursuing this man. At least will he consider him…will he not consider him as a terrorist as before?
MG BERGNER: We have said in response to the commitment that was made that we would respected and we would show restrain for those who were, appeared to be fulfilling, uh, that commitment to stop attacks and we have, uh, continued to fulfill that, uh, that commitment where we have seen restrain on the part of those followers that are fulfilling the pledge that was made. And so we understand that are there are both, uh, circumstances that will be present here, but there will be some who, uh, honor the pledge that was made and in…in those cases, uh, the coalition and the Iraqi security forces working with the government of Iraq, uh, are going to show restrain. Uh, in other cases where there is no such a commitment, uh, we will fulfill the responsibility that we have, which to act against criminals, uh, and…and protect the Iraqi people and ourselves from those actions. Shukra. Yes sir?
JIM: Oh, Gen…General I’m Jim Randle with the Voice of America Radio. Can you tell us anymore about the, uh, base that was first reported in the…in the Wall Street Journal to be built near the Iran-Iraq border, uh, is that true? What’s the purpose? Is it true, uh, some…there are some press reports that Georgians, Brits, and Americans will be serving there and what’s the… Is it on the drawing board, is it on the ground, is it a reality, where is it sir?
MG BERGNER: Yeah, that’s a great question, uh, we will organize our forces and position our forces to have the best opportunity to interdict, uh, and deal with the threats to…to our forces and to the people of Iraq. One of the things that we know is that, uh, uh, weapons, uh, funding, uh, training, trainers, uh, have continued to come across the border from Iran into Iraq and so we have looked at places where the positioning of coalition forces could better, uh, work with Iraqi forces and the government of Iraq in interdicting that flow, and so the report that you refer to it’s actually, uh, about, uh, adjusting our forces and putting them in a position where they would have a better opportunity to have an effect against the sources of lethal support that we have continued to see, uh, provided to extremists groups and so it isn’t, uh, as much about, uh, uh, a…a strategic commitment to a base, which I think is the way it sounded in some of the characterizations. It is specifically about positioning a force in a place where it has the opportunity to interdict the flow of those weapons. So we are working with, uh, uh, coalition countries, coalition forces, uh, to take those steps and position a force that might be better sui…better positioned to achieve that purpose. Yes sir?
MG BERGNER: I’m sorry. Right there. I’m going to somebody who just hasn’t asked one, so…
STEPHEN: Stephen Farrell New York Times, could I just ask, doest the fragment you have in front of you have any markings on it and do any, if not, do any of the fragments, or does this particular missile that you guys found have any markings on them and what exactly are those markings? Uhm, can we see them? And second, and just more broadly, uh, is how many weapons, how many missiles or any other sort of munitions come from countries other than Iran targeted at the coalition forces, Iraqi security forces or civilians that you’re aware of?
MG BERGNER: This, this specific, uh, uh, fragment, uh, does not have any discernable markings on it. Uh, our explosive ordinance, uh, uh, teams are still examining all the different components that have been recovered from the blast site. They’re still assessing exactly what is discernable and what they can piece together, but their initial assessment is that this weapon and its delivery were consistent with the…with the pattern we have seen up to this point. All of those, uh, have been produces or sourced, uh, form Iran and they have all been employed by groups of Jaish al-Mahdi up till point. And I’ll take one last question. Yes sir?
STEVE: You think…you think…
MG BERGNER: Steve go ahead.
STEVE: …[U/I] other countries.
MG BERGNER: I’m sorry, what was the last part?
STEVE: Well, there’s actually two parts. One is I wasn’t clear from what you said if any of the other fragments of this particular rocket have any markings on them? And, uh, whether you said your people had examined them, but do they have any markings? And secondly, apart from Iran what country, what munitions from what other countries do you find, uh, in this theater?
MG BERGNER: Are we talking about specifically two hundred and forty (240) millimeters rockets or you’re talking about more broadly? I’m not sure what your…what your specific questions was…
STEVE: We heard a lot about Iranian weapons here…
MG BERGNER: Sure.
STEVE: …are there any weapons from any other countries being pushed in into this theater to fund militias, militants, terrorist, insurgents, whatever you want to call them, and…and specifically on this particular rocket do any of the fragments from this rocket in your possession have identifiable markings on them, if so, in what language etc?
MG BERGNER: The answer to your first question is there are a number of sources of weapons, uh, that we have seen and you know that rocket propelled grenades and small arms and ammunition can be resourced from another…a number of countries. Uh, and so there…there’s not a sole sourcing that’s attributable only to Iran. I would say in the case of the two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rockets we have not seen any other, uh, sourcing or any other indication that they’re coming from another…another source other than the one we described today and, uh, uh, there’s no, uh, and there is no other I think…I think broader or…or, uh, better way to describe that other than to say, yes, there are weapons and ammunition that, uh, would come from other places as well. Yes sir?
KIM: Kim Segupta from the Independence in London. Can I ask you…what’s the most, uh, is it the most prolific area of infiltration in your view from Iran to Iraq? In particular and in specific the case that the areas which forces are left in the south like Maysan have become conduits for Iranian infiltration?
MG BERGNER: And you…you’re asking where do we see it the most acute?
KIM: That’s…the most…that’s, the most prevalent, the most easy source of infiltration of Iranian weapons into Iraq?
MG BERGNER: Ah, yeah…
KIM: …specifically, in the south?
MG BERGNER: …uh, I’m not sure I can give you a specific, uh, province or characterization of where we see, uh, the greatest flow of…of, uh activity, uh, and…and that’s what we’re working very hard with the government of Iraq and with their security forces, and the border enforcement efforts in our own forces, uh, to…to focus our efforts against, but we do see for example the majority of…of these kinds of rockets, uh, being employed, uh, more of them, uh, in southern Iraq, uh, but we have seen them in Al-Hillah, we saw them in the area I mentioned earlier and we’ve obviously seen them fired in Baghdad. Going back to your questions Steve, I think the point you were asking is can I hold up a piece of fragment today that has a specific marking on it, uh, that traces this back to an Iranian marking and at this moment I cannot do that, uh, but the explosive ordinance team as I said, are still analyzing all the different fragments that they have achieved or they have, uh, they have gathered and the other point I want to make sure you understand is, uh, this is both from a launch location, who was controlling that area? And, and consistent with both what we have seen in the past, uh, and what we know about the nature of a two hundred and forty (240) millimeter rocket. So that’s where we are. Last question. Yes sir?
JAMES: James Bates from [U/I]. You say that…you claim this rocket is of Iranian origin, yet as you said yourself Iran is a major weapons supplier in this region and it’s possible these…these rockets could have been traded on, so do you have any proof of direct Iranian government involvement?
MAJ BERGNER: Well, we know from Qais Khazali and we know from Al Mussa Daqduq, two individuals who were personally involved in, uh, the support of Qods force operatives being provided to these special groups that, uh, that they…these were among the kinds of weapons, uh, that were being facilitated and supported by Iranian Qods force operatives. And so it’s not just the…the rocket on the rail that we showed you the picture of from the August eleventh (11th) attack on our forces south of Baghdad, which had markings of Iranian nature that identified them positively as Iranian in nature, uh, it’s the testimony of those individuals in their own words saying that this is where, uh, uh, sources of support were coming from, uh, and it’s the operational pattern that we have seen, which is, uh, Jaish al-Mahdi units operating, uh, with those kinds of weapons. And so it isn’t, uh, a single inci…instance, it is a combination of documentation, uh, descriptions in the part of those two operative as well as our, uh, past experience in, in interdicting those…those rockets, so it’s a cumulative result of that assessment. Uh, I thank you all very much. Thank you. Assalaam.
[END OF PRESS CONFERENCE]
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