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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell October 17, 2007 1:30 PM EDT

DoD News Briefing with Press Secretary Morrell from the Pentagon

MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Due to extensive travel lately, as you all know, it has been, I think, at least a couple weeks since I spoke with you last from this podium. So for that, I want to start off by apologizing and try to make it up for you by providing lots of news for you today.

As some of you are aware, Secretary Gates is on his way back right now from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where he has been this morning attending the -- I guess it's not a change of a command, it's the assumption of command of General Kevin Chilton as head of U.S. Strategic Command.

In addition today, Secretary Gates named John Hamre to chair the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. Dr. Hamre, who served as deputy secretary of Defense under President Clinton, is now president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Secretary Gates has also named the following new members to the board: former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace -- retired General Peter Pace; former Defense Secretary William Perry; former Undersecretary of Defense Peter Rodman; former Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph; and former Deputy National Security Adviser J.D. Crouch. They, along with 18 returning members, will provide the secretary with independent, informed advice on major matters of defense policy. The board will focus primarily on long-range -- or pardon me, long-term enduring issues central to the department's strategic planning.

And with that, I'll take your questions. Bob?


What is the secretary's thinking on the desirability of having a single chain of command for overseeing all private security contractors in Iraq regardless of which department they happen to work for?

MR. MORRELL: Let me start off by saying this is an issue which has obviously occupied a great deal of the secretary's time, of the department's time. It has clearly also occupied a great deal of Secretary Rice's time and her department's time. That said, given the fact that they both have very demanding travel schedules, the two secretaries have not yet, despite the fact that they were in Moscow together last week, had an opportunity to sit down and have a thorough discussion about this very issue.

Clearly the secretary is concerned that his commanders feel as though they do not have complete visibility on the actions, the movements, the performance of armed security contractors in the field. That's the first level of concern.

There is also a(n) issue of accountability. So in addition to trying to get greater visibility to all commanders in the field, there is a belief among some in this building, including the secretary, that it is worth exploring whether or not there needs to be one central entity that would at least be in charge of the mission of all armed security contractors in Iraq. Now, who that is going to be -- I think it is premature to talk about. This has clearly got to -- this conversation has to happen between the secretaries. But I think it's the desire of the secretary -- Secretary Gates, that is -- to try to get a better structure in place -- command and control, accountability, visibility of armed contractors in Iraq.

Q So would it be accurate to say he is in fact advocating that solution?

MR. MORRELL: I don't think it's fair to say yet that he's advocating the solution. I think he is still the recipient of lots of work that is being done within this building as to the best way forward. I talked to you early on about a study team, a fact-finding mission that went over to Iraq a couple weeks ago; they came back, and, as you know, the secretary has briefed you all on his -- on their findings and his reaction to them. There is additional work being done within the department. And I think until the secretary has a chance to sit down with Secretary Rice and discuss this, I don't think it's fair to say that his mind is made up on this matter.

He is certainly sympathetic to his commanders who believe that there needs to be greater visibility and greater accountability over all armed security contractors in the field, not just those who work for the Department of Defense. Now, that said -- let me leave it at that for now.

Q Was that one of the recommendations that he did receive, in fact, from his team?

MR. MORRELL: You know, it was a couple of weeks ago, so I'm trying to think back myself. I mean, I think that sentiment was shared, that the commanders are certainly concerned about that issue, absolutely.

And let me just correct one thing for the record, if I may. I've seen a couple of reports talk about an issue that the secretary raised, which was that 30 percent, I think is how it's been reported, of sort of quick-reaction response calls that commanders get come from security contractors who they weren't even aware were out there. And I just want to correct that this was an anecdotal reference that the secretary had to a story that was relayed by this fact-finding group from one particular commander. So one commander says, "On average I'm -- 30 percent of my calls are going out to contractors who I didn't know were out there." But I don't think it's fair to sort of describe the whole situation that way.

Q Can we talk about Turkey? Can give us an idea --

Q: Can we just follow up on this one?

Q Oh, you want to follow up?

Q Yeah, just very quickly.


Q In an interview with the Washington Times, Erik Prince, the CEO of Blackwater, said that he would not allow his men to be prosecuted under the Iraqi court system. But then in addition to that, he said that his contractors were subject to UCMJ. Is that the case? I didn't think so. I thought only those contractors that work directly for the U.S. military were subject to UCMJ. What is your understanding?

MR. MORRELL: You know, Nick, I'm trying to jog my memory here. I think that -- I think at this point my understanding is that it primarily is focused on DOD security contractors. But I think this is among the issues that have to be decided. I think the MEJA authorities, the extraterritorial judicial act, would give them the option, if there were contractors that work for the State Department who are out of line, that can be referred to DOJ, is my understanding. But with regards to the UCMJ, I think that is a discussion that is still being had, and I don't think it's come to any resolution at this point yet.

I think that is among the things that have to be discussed at the secretary level, between Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates, as to what authorities can be used to hold all these contractors accountable.

Q Is there a dispute between Gates and Rice over this, as this article --

MR. MORRELL: No, I think it's premature to describe it as a dispute. They haven't even had a chance to discuss it yet. I mean, really, I mean, I was with them in Moscow. I know how busy they were on missile defense. I think they had a passing conversation about the need to have a conversation when they get back from their trip.

Q Are the battle lines drawn over it, as opposed to --

MR. MORRELL: No, because I think -- I don't think the battle lines are drawn, because I think both organizations are right now working on this very issue. I think State -- I think -- and I don't want to speak for State. But I think their guys have just gotten back from their travels dealing with this. And obviously Secretary Rice is not back yet, so I doubt they've had a chance to talk.

Our secretary's been on the road. He's going -- he's back on the road today. We go back on the road Saturday. So there has not been the opportunity for everybody to get all their ducks in a row, brief their secretaries, and then have a larger conversation about it.

But I think any characterization at this point that there is a dispute between Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates over this issue is just not accurate. They really have not had a chance to get down into this -- what may well be a thorny issue. But it's premature to describe them at odds over this.

Is this on this, Joe, or do you want to change subjects?

Q No, I want to change subjects.

MR. MORRELL: Let me do -- Kristin was next, okay? Thanks.

Q Turkey.

MR. MORRELL: Turkey.

Q We've heard about contingency planning in case the Turkish government decides to no longer allow the United States military to supply the effort in Afghanistan and Iraq from Turkey. Can you give us an idea about how much more expensive this would be? Because we're constantly hearing that it's going to be more expensive.

MR. MORRELL: I mean, this was a great question, I think, for General Ham yesterday. I mean, those are the matters that the joint chiefs take up in their contingency planning. I mean, I'm not clear that -- first of all, expense, I don't think, is the driving force here. I think the impact of us not being able to use Turkish airspace to supply our troops -- I would think the biggest impact is on timeliness.

You know, we want to keep our troops supplied as quickly as possible. And if the Turks were to deny us use of their airspace, deny of use of Incirlik, deny us use of gas supplies, refined gas supplies that come in from Turkey, that would all be enormously problematic for the war effort in Iraq.

And the secretary has made it clear that it would have a significant impact, and what's more, we should take the Turks at their word as they threaten repercussions for passage of the Armenian genocide resolution. He thinks that the Turks have historically proven to take retaliatory acts against those who have ventured into this area, and he thinks at this time, given the importance of the mission in Iraq, it would be enormously unhelpful to proceed with this legislation and risk Turkey cutting off access to their vital airspace.

Q Geoff, the president today --

MR. MORRELL: You sound like you have a follow.

Q I do. Has the secretary contacted his counterparts in Turkey since the parliament?

MR. MORRELL: As far as I know, the secretary has not talked with his counterpart in Turkey. I know that he has, I think you know, dispatched Undersecretary Edelman, and I think the State Department dispatched a similar ranking member of their team to go to Turkey over the weekend, and they had discussions with their counterparts there. They had -- I do have a readout for you if you'd like, if there's interest. I will find it here so I can be as accurate as possible. (Pause.) Stop me if you don't want me to go there.

Q Please go there.

MR. MORRELL: Okay. (Laughter.)

So they met over the weekend at length with their Turkish counterparts with regards to the genocide resolution. They expressed regret on behalf of their respective secretaries for the House committee choosing to go ahead and pass the resolution. They recounted in detail to their Turkish counterparts the efforts that had been made by a slew of members of this government and past governments to try to prevail upon the committee the adverse impact that such a passage would have at this time for our operations in Iraq and therefore for our national security. There were a slew of calls made to make this point, including by Secretary Gates himself to members of the committee, and I think that the same was done, I think, all the way up to the presidential level, to try to prevail upon the committee to think twice about doing this at this time.

That was communicated to them. I think there was appreciation and a genuine recognition on the part of the Turks that we have made a considerable effort to explain why this would be unhelpful. However, we understand at the same time that they are angry, and we have urged them despite their anger to remember our long-standing alliance before they take any retaliatory action.

I think it is thankful that more an more members of the committee, I think -- or pardon me, of Congress are starting to recognize that indeed this is not the right time to be considering this kind of legislation, and recognizing that if Turkey were, for example, to restrict our access to Incirlik or to their airspace, that it would certainly harm our efforts in Iraq and pose a threat to our national security.

Q Did Turkish officials during this meeting threaten retaliatory action of any kind?

MR. MORRELL: Actually, I asked the specific question. And having talked to Ambassador Edelman on his travels after that conversation, he said that they did not. I think they have threatened so publicly before, but they did not issue any threats during their conversation.

Q I mean, specifically was it their counterparts or was it higher ups?

MR. MORRELL: They met with the deputy chief of the general staff, a gentleman by -- Mr. Sagan (sp). They also met with, I believe, the deputy foreign minister, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Apacan, I think.

But forgive me for -- if I have mispronounced names. But there were -- there was a large delegation they met with, but I think they met with their counterparts in the respective ministries.

Q Has he spoken with his counterparts in the Turkish --

MR. MORRELL: I don't think the chairman has. I think the vice chairman -- oh, no, not talked with his counterparts -- the vice chairman was among those who I think made calls explaining the adverse impact of this legislation.


Q And just staying on that subject, on the other one of Turkey's concerns regarding the PKK, since the United States is the major security force in Iraq, why has it not been a priority? Why has the capability not been provided to end that threat from a recognized terrorist organization against a NATO ally?

MR. MORRELL: Al, I think we'd like to end all threats to everyone in Iraq, but there's only so much you can do at one time. And we certainly have our hands full dealing with al Qaeda, dealing with the sort of extreme elements of the Jaish al-Mahdi, dealing with other terrorist elements and insurgents within Iraq. So that is where our efforts are concentrated at this time.

The Kurdish Regional Government has a sizable military component, and they have the means, we believe, to address this problem. Hopefully they can address it by exerting their influence over members of the PKK and that it doesn't require military action on the part of Turkey. We would strongly discourage that. We believe that there has been very constructive and fruitful conversations.

The one thing that's I think very helpful to note here is that I -- you open the paper every day, you see members of the Iraqi government meeting with members of the Turkish government. The more that dialogue continues, the more we believe the possibility exists that we can avoid military action to solve the problems that the Turks are currently facing.

We don't deny they have a problem; we are very sympathetic to the fact that they have been subjected to terrorist acts by members of the PKK. But we really are urging that the best way to deal with this threat, this ongoing threat is through a diplomatic means, pressuring the Iraqi government, the Kurdish Regional Government to exert their influence over the PKK to stand down and then eliminate them as a terrorist threat to the Turks.

Q Well, it's just that it hasn't worked to date. And as you said, the United States apparently doesn't have the capability to militarily address the issue --

MR. MORRELL: I didn't say we didn't have the capability, Al. I said we had a different priority at this matter.

Q Okay, okay.

MR. MORRELL: We are focused right now on dealing with the immediate threat to the Iraqi people, which is -- the immediate threat to the Iraqi people are al Qaeda terrorists, JAM insurgents and other foreign terrorists who have come into the country. That is where the focus is on.

We have population protection as our top priority. We are trying to hold up this government and protect the people who it governs. That is where our efforts are focused at this time. That does not mean that we do not have grave concerns for the fact that the Turks are being subjected to terrorist attacks by the PKK to the north.

Q But isn't it then difficult to say to Turkey, "Well, don't you attack them, either," if we're not doing it and some other persuasion angle is not working?

MR. MORRELL: Well, Al -- Al, it is a fact that we are dealing at the current time with at least two meddlesome neighbors in our efforts in Iraq. We deal with Iran, who clearly supplies insurgents with weapons that are used against U.S. forces; we have Syria, which has not done, in our estimation, an adequate job of protecting its border from the influx of insurgents. So as we deal with those meddlesome neighbors on either side of Iraq, we do not think this is the time to open up a third -- potential third front in which you then have military action coming over from our good friends the Turks into what is now arguably the most stable region of Iraq. Why would you want to undermine one bastion, one particular bastion of stability in the country by welcoming a cross-border operation?

Q Are you saying, Geoff -- I use this for clarification. The president today referred to Turkish troops that have been stationed in Iraq for some time; he said -- which troops is he talking about? How many are there, and what are they doing in Iraq?

MR. MORRELL: Well, this is sort of old news. I mean, this is -- there have been I think about three battalions -- three battalions' worth of Turkish forces I would say just across the border in a valley south of mountains where the PKK are known to be located. This is a long-standing presence. It predates the invasion. I think in fact it goes back to the late 1990s. I think their presence is widely known in the region; it's known by us, it's known by the government of Iraq, it's known by the Kurdish Regional Government, and it is not then and is not a cause for concern for any of them at this point.

And it has not been and is not a cause for concern for any of them at this point.

Q So these forces, standing forces been sort of in the border region, just over the border. Is that --

MR. MORRELL: Well, when the president said there are Turkish troops in northern Iraq, I take him at his word. And that's my understanding as well, that they are in northern Iraq.

Q Have they engaged in military operations against the PKK or anybody else?

MR. MORRELL: No. They have --

Q What do they do?

MR. MORRELL: Let me preface what I say here by urging you, Mik, to talk to -- they are not coalition forces, so they don't fall under our parameters. So I would urge you for more details to talk to the Turks or talk to the Iraqis.

That said, I can assure you that there are -- or what have been described to me as control measures in place. For example, their mission is limited to information gathering, keeping an eye on things up there, and that they are primarily confined to their base and that they have very limited travel and that all their movements are coordinated with us and with the Iraqis. But that's --

Q They're there with permission of the U.S. forces?

MR. MORRELL: They are there with the knowledge of the U.S. forces, they are there with the knowledge of the Kurdish regional government, and they are there with the knowledge of the Iraqi government.


Q I'm going to change the --

MR. MORRELL: Well, hold on. Anybody else? Peter, I think you’re on this right?

Q Yeah. If there is a Turkish incursion with more troops into northern Iraq, because most of northern Iraq has been turned over to Iraqi authorities you would assume there is a risk that Turks all of sudden run into either peshmerga or regular Iraqi army forces, which could be problematic. Has there been any bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Iraqis that, if you all of a sudden see a whole bunch of Turkish troops pouring over the border, do this, do that, don't engage, anything along those lines? I mean, it would seem that these are two peoples who don't a particularly good history, and if they start rubbing arms with each other --

MR. MORRELL: I think you're getting way far out there, Peter. I mean, I don't mean to cut you off, but I -- I, you know, we're talking about hypotheticals, if and when and who does what, where. And I -- to my knowledge, those conversations have not taken place. Our focus is really on encouraging the Iraqis to engage with the Turks.

And I think -- and I should draw your attention to it -- I think they've got -- just as an example -- they've had -- Vice President Hashimi was in Turkey. I think President Maliki in talking to Spokesman al-Dabbagh, who was here today, he suggested vice president -- that -- Prime Minister Maliki is going to be sending another envoy to Turkey to talk with them. I think there is at the minister of Interior level there are talks planned between the Turks and the Iraqis on the 23rd of this month. There is also a meeting planned between the Turks and the Iraqis in Kuwait at the end of this month, and of course, there -- the Istanbul, the Iraqi neighbors' conversations take place at the end of this month in Istanbul.

So we certainly do not want anything to happen which would disrupt what we think is going to be a very consequential meeting of Iraq's neighbors to try to help them in their efforts to stabilize and grow and flourish as a country. So we are encouraging these kind of talks.

Q Let me ask that in a different way. I mean, General Mixon, I think, from this podium has said that there would be U.S. presence in that region is very minimal. I think it's a handful, dozens at most. Has there been any thought to augment some of that, in case, for buffers or anything like that?

MR. MORRELL: You know, that's a question really best direct to MNF-I, but to my knowledge, I have not heard of any efforts to move troops from where they are now focused to up to the Turkish border region. That has not been a discussion that I am at all aware of, so I don't think that's accurate right now.

Q Any discussions over the weekend --

MR. MORRELL: One second. Let me just share the wealth here a little bit.

Q Are you seeing any sign that the Turks are making preparations for an incursion?

MR. MORRELL: Well, they made preparations in the fact that --

Q No, no, I don't --

MR. MORRELL: -- in the fact that they just passed legislation which would give them the authority to do so.

Q Yeah, I know. But I mean military preparations --

MR. MORRELL: I think the Turks have -- they've dealt with this threat for years. They've been dealing with the PKK for years and have had military components in position to respond if necessary. So I don't know that there has been any additional massing of troops. I have not seen intelligence suggesting that. But I would not suggest that they are not ready and have always been ready for action that they think is necessary to respond to this continuing threat.

(Off mike) -- Jeff. MRAP? You want to do MRAP?

Q Actually, no, I'm going to --

MR. MORRELL: I can give you a monthly update. Do you want that?

Q (Laughs.)

Q That will be great.

MR. MORRELL: All right, but after --

Q Perhaps after the briefing.

MR. MORRELL: Okay. Then not -- after this question. I'll give you a second question.

Q Okay. Well, a quick clarification. The two to three battalions you were talking about, Turkish battalions in northern Iraq -- could they be described as conventional forces or commandos?

MR. MORRELL: You know, I'm not going to describe them, Jeff. I mean, there are two to three battalions. That's -- I think that's the best way to describe them. They are, as I described, pretty much confined to their bases. Their movements are limited and must be coordinated with us. And they are really in sort of an observation role. So I don't know that you'd want commandos in an observation role, but I'm not going to get into describing how they are comprised.

Q And you said you had updated info on MRAP.

MR. MORRELL: I do. I do. I try to -- I mean, I think it's --

Q Are we done with Turkey?

MR. MORRELL: We can come back, but Jeff, I know, loves MRAP. So let's just -- let's satiate his appetite here.

Q Hold the mayo.

MR. MORRELL: I think it's helpful to give a monthly update, just so we know where we are. And this is -- so looking back at September, we now have full numbers for the month of September.

And so of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles produced that month, they totaled 293, which is 23 ahead of what we had planned for the month. What that now means is that, as we had described would happen, we are catching up to our goals.

As you know, production ramps up. Our first few months, we underperformed, but we're closing the gap on a month-to-month basis so that we are now only 12 vehicles behind schedule. And by comparison, I think we had been 23 behind in August or -- no, sorry, 35 behind in August, 35 behind in August. So we've closed the gap considerably. Our target for October for vehicles produced would be 419, so that's a big jump from what we had planned for this month.

Q (Off mike.) I understand for September, 100 MRAPs were flown to theater. At that rate, do you expect to make the 1,500, by the end of the year, goal?

MR. MORRELL: The number of vehicles transported to theater totaled 101 in September, bringing our total thus far to 407. We are still on pace to have, delivered to theater, at least 1,500 MRAPs by the end of the year.

Q About Secretary Gates's meeting yesterday with Israeli Minister Barak, do you have any information on that meeting, what happened, what was the discussion?

MR. MORRELL: I do. Joe, I'm happy to give you some sense of that conversation. I had the great pleasure of attending -- I did not attend the meeting. I had a conflict with the meeting, but I did attend the dinner the secretary hosted for Minister Barak later in the evening, and it was a very productive and friendly affair.

But with regards to the meeting, and let me just characterize it a little bit, they met for about 35 minutes in private. The secretary and Minister Barak met in private for about 35 minutes, so I can't obviously talk about what they discussed there. They then had an open meeting with some members of their staff. It lasted about 25 minutes, at which time the Israelis -- Minister Barak thanked Secretary Gates and the U.S. for their continued security assistance, the memorandum of understanding that was signed in August, which would provide, I think, $30 billion over the next 10 years to Israel.

They also discussed several other issues of mutual concern, including the threat posed by short-range rockets and terrorism. They discussed missile defense for the Israelis. They discussed Israel's understanding of the Gulf Security Dialogue, related to the weapons packages that we are -- that we have entered into with other Arab countries that are their neighbors. And of course, they -- we discussed, as we always discuss, the U.S. commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge.

And they have agreed that the bilateral relationship between the two countries remains strong.

And that at least -- and this is an -- I know this because I've -- it was shared me -- they've agreed to form a committee in which they would study a proposal initiated by the Israelis to sort of adapt and modify, grow their multi-layered missile defense system, I think with the desire of handling not just long-range threats that may be posed by Iran, but short-range threats that are posed by Palestinian rockets coming from Gaza, the Qassam and the Katyushas. So the Israelis are trying to figure out a way to provide a better safety net to deal with the range of missile threats that they face. And we've agreed to enter into a discussion, into a collaborative working relationship to see what we can develop.

Q Is that through the Missile Defense Agency by the way? Or no?

MR. MORRELL: I know it's -- I know Policy is sort of going to be spearheading with him. I don't know if MDA is involved in that. I don't.

Let's keep moving.

Q Geoff, there was a report today in The Wall Street Journal detailing an investigation that's under way regarding contracting and supply contracts in Kuwait. Do you have any information? Can you confirm such an investigation is under way? Can you talk to us about the scope of this contract and how -- what is it exactly that they're looking at?

MR. MORRELL: I have limited knowledge and limited knowledge to share with you because of the nature of the situation. I am told that there is an investigation being conducted by the Justice Department and by DCIS. We obviously for that reason are not able to discuss this matter further, although I can confirm to you that Public Warehousing Company, Agility, is a prime vendor for food and beverage service for our troops in Iraq. But Luis, I can't tell you much more than there is an investigation and that we do business with that particular company.

Q Can you discuss in a general sense how those contracts are dealt with --

MR. MORRELL: I can't. I can't. I can't. Sorry.

Q Same subject. To follow up, has the secretary been made of aware of this investigation?

MR. MORRELL: I'm not -- you know, he's traveling today, so I haven't had a chance to talk to him. He's due back around now, but I have not talked to him today. So Ken, I can't tell you. The first I'd heard of it was in the paper in the morning. So I just don't have visibility on that right now.

Yes, Jennifer?

Q Representative Walter Jones sent a letter to Secretary Gates asking for further investigation by the inspector general here into the command influence exerted by General Kearney over several incidents out in Afghanistan. Is Secretary Gates going to pursue an investigation?

MR. MORRELL: I'm not familiar with the subject at all. I'm sorry. Not at all.

Yeah, Peter.

Q Russia. On the plane back --

MR. MORRELL: Russia?

Q Yeah.

MR. MORRELL: You were just in Russia.

Q (Chuckling.) Yeah, I know everything about Russia now.

MR. MORRELL: You’re not up to speed on Russia?

Q On the way back from Moscow, the secretary very briefly said he was -- I think he said he'd been -- discussions with Putin on Iran were constructive, I think is how he phrased it. He's relatively optimistic with the way the Russians were going. Then sort of 24, 48 hours later, we have yet another Putin public blast at, you know, various things, including seemingly encouraging the Iranian nuclear program and whatnot.

Did you get a chance to talk to him after the Putin comment? Are you disappointed at all that the private assurances that he got from Putin are not being sort of lived up to in public or anything along those lines?

MR. MORRELL: No, I have not had that conversation with him. But I -- you know, listen, I'm not going to -- I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on President Putin's engagements with Ahmadinejad in Iran. I don't know that what he says in public there in any way devalues what he said to the secretary in private. The secretary felt as though, as he told you, once we got past the theater of some of the president's opening remarks, that they got down to business and made progress and that he felt as though there was an appreciation by President Putin of the threat posed by Iran.

And so I don't know that, just because President Putin has said certain things in Iran that -- for public consumption, that he doesn't still believe, as he expressed to the secretary, that he has an understanding of our concerns about the threat posed by Iran.

Q Is that the belief within the Pentagon and/or the administration, that his remarks in Iran were intended only for public consumption?

MR. MORRELL: I don't -- I have not discussed it with anybody here in the Pentagon. I think it's a good question for the State Department, though.

Q Geoff, the Iranian state news agency today is reporting that Putin also had a meeting with the supreme leader of Iran and made a new proposal about -- to try to solve the issue. Are you aware of this proposal --

MR. MORRELL: I'm not, I'm not.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: I'm not. But I think those -- really, those are excellent questions for the State Department, for the White House. And those sound to me like diplomacy issues, and that's not what we're engaged in --

Q (Off mike) -- the secretary -- in the secretary's conversations with Putin over the weekend, did Putin indicate that he was going to make -- be making a new proposal to the Iranians?

MR. MORRELL: As far as I know, they didn't discuss his trip -- his upcoming trip to Iran, other than the fact, I think, it was taking place. That was probably acknowledged, but I don't think they went over talking points with Putin and Ahmadinejad or the supreme leader; I just don't think they ventured down that way.


Q Yeah, I don't know if you can talk to this or not, but a couple of weeks ago, General Odierno was in town and talked about increased activity, engaging with senior members of JAM and other "bad guys," as it was put, to talk and try -- as part of a broader reconciliation plan. I wonder if you could kind of talk a little bit about the secretary's thinking in terms of the kind of engagement, how effective it is and if there's any takeaways, any specific thing that could come out of this that you're aware of.

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I -- you know, I -- in the meetings that I've been in, that has not come up. I mean, the references to JAM lately have been about the sense that -- there is a growing sense among the Iraqi people that JAM is losing steam, that -- just as we saw in Anbar the Sunnis turn on al Qaeda, we are seeing increasing evidence of Shi'a growing disenchanted with Jaish al-Mahdi.

So that's the context to which I've heard JAM discussed lately, that they are falling out of favor rapidly.

Let's just take two last ones, and I'm going to -- Jeff, you've al reach had two. Kristin, have you had a second?

Q No.

MR. MORRELL: Then let's go with Kristin.

Q It's been a month and a half since the infamous B-52 flight across the country.


Q Has the review been completed, whether --

MR. MORRELL: The review is almost completed, if not completed, and I think it will be shared with the secretary by week's end. I think he's due to have a brief from the Air Force, I think, on Friday.

Q Any disciplinary action been taken yet?

MR. MORRELL: Listen, I know that it is on the schedule, that he is going to get briefed fully on their efforts. This is on the Air Force investigation. I think General Welch and the outside group were conducting their own. I do not think that is part of his briefing on Friday. But the Air Force will present their findings to the secretary by week's end. And I know there is an effort by the Air Force to try to speak with you all about it at some point as well.

Q On Friday as far as you know?

MR. MORRELL: I don't have the specifics.

Tom? Nothing?

Q The strong silent type.


Q Turkey?

MR. MORRELL: Anything else? Turkey. One last one. This is it.

Q One last one. In their meetings on the genocide resolution over the weekend, did either Secretary Edelman or his counterparts from the State Department urge the same kind of restraint against the use of military force against PKK that the president did today? And if so, do you know what the response may have been --

MR. MORRELL: Oh, I think we have conveyed that at every available opportunity. We have urged the Turks to show restraint. We understand their frustration, we understand their anger, but we are urging them not to engage in cross-border operations, to let this try to be resolved at this point diplomatically. Let's continue the talks, let's get engagement between the Iraqis and the Turks and let's try to exert influence over the Kurdish regional government, who we believe has influence over the PKK and can, hopefully -- hopefully, get them to stop their murderous acts within Turkey.

Q Does the readout indicate what response the Turks may have offered the -- Secretary Edelman or his counterparts?

MR. MORRELL: I don't -- let me put it this way, Mik. The Turks are clearly frustrated, they're clearly angry, but I also do not think there is a great deal of appetite to take this next step. It would be an enormous step, it would have enormous implications not just for us but for the Turks, and I don't think there is any rush to war on the part of the Turks. They have -- they know how treacherous this terrain is, they know how dug-in the PKK is, and I don't think there is any willingness or any urgency or desire to have to solve this through military action, through a cross-border incursion into that area. So I think, as frustrated as they are, they see, as we do, that the best way to deal with this is to keep the pressure on the PKK, on the Iraqis, on all of us to solve this problem diplomatically.

Thank you all.

Q Thank you.

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