MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. I just have a couple of quick announcements. General Kimmitt has an opening briefing and then we will be happy to take your questions.
Ambassador Bremer earlier today did his weekly interview on Al- Iraqiyah. Two issues that came up in the interview that I just want to bring to your attention.
One relates to discussion he had about a proposal we are looking at with the Iraqis to set up a special commission to compensate the victims of the previous regime. This is something we are going to flush out in the days ahead, but I just wanted to give you a general sense of the proposal we are considering, working on.
Under the old regime many lost jobs or were imprisoned or were executed because they opposed the regime or refused to join the Ba'ath party, or simply were related to someone considered by the previous regime as an opponent. The problems are complex and involve many thousands of people.
The responsibility for judgments about how justice is to be done should be taken by Iraqis. However, the coalition will help by establishing a commission and setting aside initial funding to begin the process of correcting these injustices of the past, again, primarily targeted at those who survived crimes of the former regime, but were either imprisoned under the former regime unjustly or lost jobs.
The coalition, as Ambassador Bremer said, will set aside funding. The amount will be substantial. We are still working on that detail as well, but it will be used to compensate. And it will be -- the commission would be run and implemented by Iraqis.
Secondly, another issue -- related issue that came up was related to the dismissal of teachers under the former regime. According to the Ministry of Education, approximately 20,000 teachers were fired by the former regime for political reasons. The ministry has a program of rehiring them and about 9,800 have been put back on the ministry payroll over the past year.
The ministry estimates that there are now approximately 20,000 teachers who were fired by Saddam's regime, as I said, including the rejection -- and for political reasons, including the rejection of Ba'athist ideology. They were often forced to teach Ba'athist ideology and if they did not they were fired. In many cases, however, they were fired not because of what they did themselves but in retribution for actions allegedly taken by members of their family. And we are working with the Ministry of Education right now on a way to address those.
You know in Ambassador Bremer's address to the nation last week he talked about what we are doing to reinstate jobs for teachers who were Ba'athist in name only but were not participants in the crimes of the regime, and ways in which we could reintegrate them not only into their employment but back into Iraqi society. The same applies with the same diligence and discipline focused on those teachers who were unjustly dismissed under the former regime, who were not only not participants in the crimes, but were also not even Ba'athist in name only; they had no connection to Ba'athist ideology, and in many cases that's why they were released, or because they were tied to family members targeted for retribution by the former regime.
The minister of education, in my understanding, is holding a press conference tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Look out for details on it. But it will address a number of these issues.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thank you.
Before I give the operational briefing, a brief announcement. Today a visit between Saddam Hussein and authorized members of the International Committee for the Red Cross occurred at an undisclosed location. The visit occurred upon request of the ICRC under the Geneva Convention's rule of visitation with enemy prisoners of war. A visit between Saddam Hussein and authorized members of the ICRC last occurred on February 21st.
Coalition forces welcome the crucial role of the ICRC in the advocacy of enemy prisoner-of-war rights. The coalition will continue to work with the ICRC in order to uphold our obligations under international law to include provisions for ICRC visitation with enemy prisoners of war.
I wanted to take a couple of minutes and give a map overview of the current situation. I haven't done it for about a week, thought it would be helpful to get an impression of where we see current operations.
Pretty quiet in the north. The area around Mosul had a couple of incidents the other day with some indirect fire attacks on a hotel, on a mosque, on a coalition base, but generally speaking, the area around Mosul has been quiet, as well as the area of north-central -- the zone of operations. We continue to see most of the activity up and down the Baqubah-Samarra-Tikrit-Baiji-Kirkuk area, but in general the province remains fairly quiet. Same with the western zone of operations.
Of course, all of us still are watching the situation around Fallujah. Fallujah was very quiet today. The negotiations, the discussions, in the minds of the Marine commanders, continue to proceed even though we did not see a tremendous number of weapons turned in today. In fact, I'm not certain that any weapons were turned in today. There's felt to be some intangible progress along with the negotiating teams in order to push the process forward.
Many of you saw last night on the television set the operations in Fallujah, the engagement between the Marines and the enemy that were firing from the location of the mosque. What I wanted to demonstrate, what I wanted to show you was a picture of the "before and after" of that engagement. Again, we very reluctantly go after holy sites, but when those holy sites are used to store weapons, to fire weapons, we must take action if our Marines are pinned down. In this case, as you remember, they went into the mosque one time, after being attacked early in the morning. They went into the minaret, found a significant amount of ammunition shell casings, left at about 1200, returned to their position. That afternoon they started taking more gunfire from the minaret, and as a consequence of that, being pinned down, they had to call in some precision strikes in order to stop that source of fire.
As you can see, the minaret is no longer standing, but the entire remainder of the mosque are is -- remained -- remains intact. That's the value of precision weapons: that on those few occasions when we must attack a holy site, when it has lost its protected status under the Geneva Convention, we've used the minimum amount of force necessary to protect our Marines.
Continuing on throughout the area of operations, one of the roads going out to Fallujah, approximately 10 miles north of Baghdad, out to Fallujah, is closed -- one of our supply routes. It is closed for repairs. It's closed because of the security situation. And part of the supply route that we call ASR Jackson, south of Baghdad, is closed for repair as well.
There is, as you know, the alternate route that goes up into Baghdad. So we don't think that that will have a measurable effect either on military nor civilian logistics resupply.
Within Baghdad, the only problem area remains a number of engagements that happen on a daily basis. In the vicinity of Sadr City and just south of Sadr City, we unfortunately lost one of our soldiers today and another soldier wounded, who was -- who were conducting a joint patrol with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
Further down, we all know the situation around Karbala and An Najaf. But for the rest of the country, by and large, the security situation is at a point where we are able to continue with the restoration of the infrastructure, revitalization of the economy and transfer of governance.
Next slide, please.
I wanted to talk about some of the actions east of Kufa that we've seen some reports on. First of all, it's very important to understand this area. This is the Euphrates River that runs along here. This is the town of Najaf, the holy shrine, the Imam Ali Shrine down here in Najaf, the Kufa mosque, the Euphrates River, the Kufa Bridge.
All of the operations have been mischaracterized today as somehow either inside Najaf, just outside Najaf, inside Kufa. In fact, all the operations over the last 24 hours have been on the east side of the Euphrates, starting yesterday at 1300, when one of our patrols came under small-arms attack. And after that small-arms attack, I believe there was something on the order of seven enemy killed, a number of enemy wounded, no coalition casualties.
Last night, after 2100, we had at 2112 an M-1 tank on the eastern side of the Euphrates attacked with RPGs. During that operation, it was also identified that there was a ZPU gun, a 14.5 single-barrel antiaircraft gun that was in this vicinity. That was engaged by some aircraft, and as a result of that engagement and the enemy surrounding that there were somewhere on the order of 57 enemy killed in that vicinity, assessed to be Mahdi Army, Sadr militia. Again, all of this happened on the far side of the Euphrates. No coalition forces have conducted military operations either inside the Kufa area or inside the main town of Najaf.
With that, let's go ahead and turn it over to questions and answers.
MR. SENOR: Yes, sir.
Q (Through interpreter.) Hassam Munaf from Iraq For All News. Frankly speaking, we hope that today there have been some of the patrols, joint patrols of coalition with the Iraqi police and the ICDC in Fallujah. Can you just clarify, give us an explanation why they haven't resumed these patrols today? Thank you.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. Frankly speaking, we would have had -- we would have liked to have seen those joint patrols happen today as well. But as you can imagine, the commanders on the ground took an assessment of the training status of the Iraqi police service as well as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel, looked at how they were operating along with the coalition forces, made the judgment that those forces weren't ready to operate together to go in something as significant as the types of joint patrols that we're looking for. We would expect that the commander on the ground will look at this happening over the next couple of days; probably not tomorrow, possibly the next day. But we're going to let the commander on the ground use his judgment on when that happens.
Nonetheless, the negotiations, in the minds of the commanders on the ground, are continuing to go well. There doesn't seem to be any significant backsliding on the part of the enemy. There were, for example, only three violations of the cease-fire over the past 24 hours. Now that's not to commend the insurgents inside Fallujah because they yet continue to fail to produce the weapons, fail to produce the fighters, fail to produce those that have been responsible for some of the heinous acts inside of Fallujah. Nonetheless, the sensing of the commanders on the ground is that they believe that the intangible benefits that are continuing with the negotiations are sufficient to keep the process moving.
MR. SENOR: Yes, ma'am?
Q (Through interpreter.) Zana Barata, German Radio. Is there a deadline for conducting these patrols? Is there a deadline for the subject for conducting these joint patrols by the Iraqi forces -- Iraqi ICDC and the coalition forces?
GEN. KIMMITT: At this point we don't think that putting deadlines, ultimatums on the table are very helpful. The deadline is going to be when the commander on the ground feels that the conditions are right with both the situation in the city, as well as conditions are right with regards to the level of training of the Iraqi police and the ICDC and their ability to interoperate with the coalition forces.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Gene Chu (sp), NBC News. General Kimmitt, the forces that are coming in to replace the Spanish troops inside this base -- could you tell us where they're from and who they are, what units they are?
GEN. KIMMITT: We have elements of the 1st Armored Division operating in the Multinational Division Central-South area of operations. Those forces were moved a couple of weeks ago in response to some of the operations around al Kut and in the vicinity of Najaf; they were forces that formerly were in Baghdad. As you know, the 1st Cavalry Division has assumed responsibility for Baghdad, so the 1st Cavalry -- so the 1st Armored Division is the major subordinate unit that's operating in that area.
MR. SENOR: Patrick?
Q Two questions.
First for Dan. There have been some reports that significant portions of the transitional administrative law have been scrapped. Wondering if there's any truth to that.
And General Kimmitt, could you clarify, when exactly are the troops moving in -- when exactly are they replacing the Spanish troops and moving into the Spanish base? And is that the Spanish base inside Najaf, kind of on the border between Kufa -- or Najaf, or is it the Spanish base that's kind of outside of town, the former Spanish base?
MR. SENOR: Pat, on your first question, I saw the same report. It is factually incorrect, flat out factually incorrect. We remain firmly committed to the Transitional Administrative Law. And it is our understanding that the Governing Council does, too. In fact, the Governing Council signed this document several months ago after much negotiating and a very elaborate and robust process that was outlined in the November 15th agreement, and the agreement as well, the November 15th agreement was agreed to between -- by the coalition and the Governing Council.
The coalition remains firmly committed to the Transitional Administrative Law, all elements of it. We think it is critical that there be a legal framework going forward for Iraq as it begins its political transition, as it forms its interim government, a legal structure to govern the interim government and protect Iraqi rights. Individual liberties alone protected in the Transitional Administrative Law are unprecedented for Iraq and unprecedented in this part of the world. Due process rights. Principles like federalism, civilian control of the military, separation of powers. These principles that are enshrined in the Transitional Administrative Law are essential to Iraq's path forward to democracy. And we also believe those are principles that we hope will be enshrined not only in the Transitional Administrative Law but in Iraq's permanent constitution.
GEN. KIMMITT: Patrick, for obvious reasons, I don't want to specify which bases they're in, but they're generally in this area right between the town of Najaf and Kufa, outside of both the Medina area of Najaf, the holy portion of Najaf, as well as Najaf proper. If you were to walk in that area, you'd sort of expect it was sort of in the outer suburbs of that area.
Q So are they in one of the former Spanish bases, or are they just starting --
GEN. KIMMITT: We have some of our forces moving into the former Spanish bases.
MR. SENOR: Christine.
Q (In Arabic) --
MR. SENOR: No; Christine, right behind you.
Q I'm sorry.
MR. SENOR: Najim, I'll come to you after. Go ahead.
Q This question is a little bit off. I want to understand that -- the American troops went into Najaf -- sorry, went into Fallujah because of the four contractors who were killed and mutilated. I just wonder if there has been a follow-up on the three coalition people who were killed in Hillah in what was a pretty bad killing, if you will, and why was there no response to that. And can you follow up on what information is known about the killers of Fern Holland and the other two coalition employees?
GEN. KIMMITT: Certainly the reason we went into Fallujah included the killing of the four contractors, but Fallujah was not a garden paradise before then. You know as well as we do that Fallujah has been a problem, a significant problem for the coalition and for Iraqi security forces for many, many months. You could almost say that the four contractors killed were sort of the end of the series of reasons to reestablish control, not the beginning.
With regards to the killing of the -- the horrible killing of the CPA employees, I know there's an investigation going on. We have not been informed that there have been any significant breaks in that investigation, and we still conduct the investigation until and will keep the investigation over until we find the persons responsible.
MR. SENOR: Christine, I would just add, just to pivot off General Kimmitt's first point, I think there's a real sense on the political process side that, as Iraq transitions to a democracy and Iraq assumes its sovereignty, it would be irresponsible of us to ignore areas where we know there are bastions of former Fedayeen Saddam, of former Mukhabarat, Special Republican Guard, of Mr. Zarqawi and the al Qaeda affiliates operating in and out of Iraq. When we know there are areas where these dangerous elements are concentrated, we have a responsibility to address it in one way or another; to get those elements removed out of the area and take action in some way -- in one way or another against them because if we ignore it, Iraq's path to democracy will be that much more bumpy.
And it looks like you have a follow-up question.
Q If I could just follow --
MR. SENOR: I'm not surprised.
Q Okay. If I could just follow up. The time of those three killings of the CPA employees, it was said that they were police -- people wearing police uniforms, and then you came to the discovery it probably was police. It seems to me that that's as much of a threat to security in Iraq in a prominent city in Iraq as finding out the Fedayeen is in Fallujah, and -- if Karbala you can't or Hillah you can't trust the police.
MR. SENOR: I would just -- General Kimmitt, if you want to add -- I would just say, Christine, without commenting on the Hillah situation, which is not necessarily with regard to whether or not police were involved, we're not certain that that is necessarily a problem that's symptomatic of the entire police force or a problem that's symptomatic of the entire region.
Certainly in Fallujah, though, we have a much different scenario. And General Kimmitt can speak to the numbers, but when we have a substantial number of individuals and organizations who are either tied to the former regime or who have come to this country to wreak havoc and slaughter -- and in some cases mutilate -- Americans, coalition forces, Iraqis, and as I said all that is concentrated in a certain area, that's a much different problem and one that really needs to be addressed.
(To Gen. Kimmitt.) I don't know if --
GEN. KIMMITT: (Off mike.)
MR. SENOR: Okay.
Q (Through interpreter.) Mr. Dan Senor --
MR. SENOR: Najim, we'll come to you right after. I apologize.
Go ahead, ma'am. I'm sorry.
Q (Through interpreter.) Mr. Dan Senor, you have mentioned that Ambassador Bremer has decided to compensate the victims of the previous regime. So how do you plan to compensate the very large number of these victims?
MR. SENOR: Did she ask you that?
Q (Through interpreter.) Second question is for General Kimmitt. Sorry. The second question is for General Kimmitt.
MR. SENOR: In many countries where a totalitarian regime or an authoritarian regime that has oppressed the masses is succeeded by a free democracy, it is often the case that commissions -- some sort of commission is set up to compensate those who suffered under the former regime.
It is never possible, I believe, to fully compensate victims or the families of victims for the pain and suffering that became associated with the regime that governed. Certainly in this country the regime was in power for over three decades, three times as long as Hitler was in power, for instance, in Germany.
Now -- but that said, we still think it's important to provide some sort of compensation, some sort of financial compensation, to those individuals who may have lost jobs, who may have been imprisoned. And we have been talking to a number of Iraqis about that, and they agree this is especially important.
And as we move forward to a period of reconciliation and a period of healing -- and I've been talking to a lot of Iraqis about the fact that Iraq cannot move forward until it deals with its past -- we think this is a part of that. And that's why we're looking forward to announcing soon a formal commission that will be led by Iraqis, to deal with this issue.
You have a second question or no? No?
GEN. KIMMITT: Go ahead, translators.
Q I need to ask --
STAFF: (Off mike.)
INTERPRETER: Okay. Can she repeat the second question, please?
Q (Through interpreter.) Regarding the first question, I just meant the victims of your attacks. Do you have any details regarding the people who have attacked the hotel in Mosul? Can you just tell us whether they were elements of al Qaeda, or which kind of attack was that and by whom it was conducted?
GEN. KIMMITT: The attacks in Mosul two days ago were primarily indirect fire attacks. They -- some were conducted with mortars. In the afternoon attack against the Iraqi Media Network, we believe that there -- 122-millimeter rockets were used. We don't have any group that has claimed responsibility. But again, when you start seeing simultaneous operations -- there were three or four attacks in the space of 15 minutes -- using military gear, such as mortars and rockets, our first direction that we would look at is former military units, former military personnel that may have retained some of that equipment. So that's where our first direction is heading, and we'll see where the investigation takes us.
MR. SENOR: Najim, I owe you a question.
Q (Through interpreter.) Najim Rubaie from Distor newspaper. My question for both of you: Today we have heard that the coalition forces have bombed one of the mosques in Fallujah. And you have announced before that the holy sites and the holy shrines are protected, according to the Geneva Convention. But you say that the armed people inside Fallujah are the terrorists. So could the terrorists drag you to attack these holy shrines and holy places in Fallujah and in some of these sites? Because this is considered as a violation to Islam. And the Muslims in Fallujah have denied or they have condemned -- condemned -- the fact -- well, especially the fact of killing those Americans and the mutilation of the bodies. They condemned this attack, and they were not the people responsible for these attacks. So why are you revenging upon those people?
GEN. KIMMITT: You bring up a very good point. It may not be the residents of Fallujah that are inside the minarets. It may not be Iraqis that are inside those minarets, shooting down at the coalition forces. It may be that those terrorists, some of those foreign fighters are trying to drag not only the people of Fallujah but the infrastructure of Fallujah, the holy sites of Fallujah, into this fight precisely to create a wedge and animosity between the coalition and the people of Iraq.
And that's why it's very, very important for everyone to take a stand against these people, to not let them use minarets, to not allow them to use mosques, to not allow them to use places of worship from which to store weapons, to fire weapons, to execute military operations. We can't passively sit by, whether we are the coalition forces, whether we are the Iraqi security forces, whether we're the people of Iraq; we cannot allow these people to drive a wedge between what we collectively are trying to do as this country moves to sovereignty and democracy, and those who try to derail the process.
Q (Through interpreter.) Sorry for interrupting. If they are foreign fighters, but I am, as Iraqi, even if there were people from Israel, they were Jewish; but since they are inside the holy shrines, this is a violation. So you can cordon and search these sites and you have the ability to bomb them and you have the air force and you have so many different tactics. So you could use any of these means or tactics, but not bombing these holy shrines and holy places. So even if they were Jewish.
GEN. KIMMITT: You're exactly right that, before we use those types of weapons on holy sites, we try to use the minimum amount of force necessary. We talked about yesterday, the first thing we did when taking fire from the mosques and the minarets was actually call through the psychological operations, loudspeakers, to get the people to come out. We did cordon it. We did go into it. We did search it, exactly as you say. When we got to the top of the minaret, there were shell casings scattered all about. The soldiers then returned to their position without doing any damage to that minaret.
It was only in a second engagement where the Marines were pinned down to the point where a cordon was not sufficient, where return fire was not sufficient from their small arms, they gradually responded more and more in an attempt to take out the enemy, to kill the enemy before they had to go to the last prospect, which is to make that choice: am I going to let my fellow Marines die or am I going to recognize that that minaret, which has lost its protected status under international law as soon as it's being used as a firing platform, needs to go away? The choice was made to save their fellow Marines. That's the right choice, and it was done with full consideration for what that minaret meant and, as you took a look at that picture, with the minimum amount of collateral damage done to any other part of that mosque. And I have absolutely no doubt in the weeks and months ahead, when this whole situation -- instability in Fallujah -- is set behind us and we move forward side by side with the Iraqis inside Fallujah, that you will see the coalition forces participating in the process of rebuilding that minaret.
Sewell. Welcome back.
Q Thank you. Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. I have a few questions for Mr. Senor relating to the commission for compensation of victims from the former regime.
MR. SENOR: A few questions. All right.
Q First, has Ambassador Bremer formally signed an order creating this commission and setting up its process? Why is this commission being established now, a year after the fall of the regime and before the inception of the interim government? Has it been decided how the members of the commission will be appointed and how many there will be? And finally, what is the source of the funding for the compensation?
MR. SENOR: I said at the beginning that this was at the embryonic stages of the drafting of the proposal. In the days ahead, we'll have more information.
Why in terms of the timing? I think as Iraq begins to prepare for sovereignty, as we begin the process for establishing an interim government, this is a body that should be administered by Iraqis, this is a process that should be run by Iraqis, and it is something that should be -- oversight should be led, supervised by the interim government. So it's more a process that's forward-looking vis-à-vis sovereignty. There has been nobody named yet to run the commission. The structure of the commission -- our details we're finalizing right now. The source of the funding is something we are working out now. This is a concept that we are finalizing, and Ambassador Bremer previewed it today on Iraqi television. And in days ahead, we will have details, particularly as we talk to more Iraqis about who the right individuals would be to lead the commission.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- from IWPR. General Kimmitt, revenge is -- it is an uncivilized thing. As you said, we have lost a lot -- you said that you have lost a lot of the Marines. Aren't you keen on the lives of your soldiers? Don't you think that it is possible or it is preferable to resort to peaceful solutions rather than conducting offensive operations? In fact, the people of Fallujah, they refused the entrance of the coalition forces inside the country. This is a tribal decision, and this cannot be over passed. So can't you just resort to the peaceful solution so that you can minimize the casualties of both sides?
GEN. KIMMITT: I couldn't agree more. A peaceful solution is what we seek inside Fallujah. We have laid out in our discussions with the people of Fallujah a series of benchmarks by which we can move towards peace. The Marines, when I talk to them, are no longer thinking about the here and now on Fallujah, what they're saying is what do we want Fallujah to look like six, 12 weeks from now. They're already looking to the long term of the rebuilding; the rebuilding of the health clinics, the rebuilding of the schools, the rebuilding of the infrastructure.
They have now conducted a unilateral suspension of offensive operations for almost 17 days. They have sat there in their positions in a cordon, peacefully waiting until a resolution has been established with the people of Fallujah to end this hostage situation in Fallujah by the foreign fighters, by the terrorists, by the people of Fallujah, some who are brainwashed by some of these organizations to think that somehow this is a great act of resistance.
It is the coalition that has chosen the political track. It is the coalition that is seeking peace. It is the foreign fighters and the belligerents inside Fallujah that continue to conduct cease-fire violations on a daily basis that we are adequately and carefully recording. It is the coalition that seeks peace.
Now, given that, it must be clearly understood that we are looking to achieve a goal in six to eight weeks of starting a significant amount of rebuilding in Fallujah. We hope we get to that end point in six to eight weeks peacefully. We are prepared to use force and we have more than sufficient force to be able to conduct that through force of arms. That should be clearly understood. It is the military coalition forces that are choosing the path of peace and using their weapons only when fired upon. We would ask the belligerents to do the same.
Q General Kimmitt, sorry. (Through interpreter.) The coalition that you have just put -- this condition that you have just said for the people of Fallujah, why do you suggest to go inside Fallujah together with the Iraqis for police forces? The people -- the tribal people in Fallujah they do not accept the fact -- why do you -- they do not accept the fact to enter Fallujah. This is a tribal decision.
MR. SENOR: John, go ahead.
Q General Kimmitt, a simple question for you and a slightly more difficult one for Dan.
Can you tell us, was it a tank shell or was it a helicopter gunship that brought the minaret down?
And for Dan, I get the impression, and these things are difficult to measure, that when you're talking about once again more forward- looking things that you're breathing a little bit more easily now than you were, shall we say, 10 days, two weeks ago, when all the talk was of a kind of terminal crisis here and of the entire American enterprise being threatened -- the talk in the media in any event.
Can you just give us your reflections on that? Do you think that you're beginning to emerge -- this would be as much for General Kimmitt as for you. Do you think you're beginning to emerge from the moment of worst crisis for the American enterprise in Iraq, or do you see more nightmares ahead?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, on the first question, it was a tank round that brought down the minaret, not a helicopter round.
MR. SENOR: John, I will say that it wasn't us who was characterizing the situation the way you described it. I think it was perhaps some of you and your colleagues who were characterizing it as such. There's no doubt that a few weeks ago we suffered some setbacks. And it is very likely in the weeks and months ahead we will suffer more setbacks. We have said all along, from last May, when Ambassador Bremer arrived, there will be really good days here in the reconstruction and there will be some really bad days. And a few weeks ago we had some really bad days, and we may have some really bad days ahead.
I think our approach all along, however, is to be as steadfast in moving forward on our political process, on the economic reconstruction, on the infrastructure reconstruction as we are on the military effort that General Kimmitt talks of. We say regularly that our strategy is two-tracked. On the one hand, it is to have the military take the lead on hunting down the terrorists, the extremists, the former Saddamists, capturing or killing them, and is to also simultaneously conduct a political and economic reconstruction effort that will, we believe, not only help Iraq build the democracy that is self-sustaining, but also isolate the terrorists and the Saddamists, because if we provide economic empowerment and political empowerment, it will do as much to isolate the Zarqawis in Iraq as the military force being used against them. And that's been our strategy all along. And I will say -- and the fact that one got more attention than the other over the past few weeks didn't mean that both weren't moving forward simultaneously.
Let me also say, with regard to some of the initiatives I think you're referring to in terms of things I talked about earlier, we believe that the economic reconstruction and the infrastructure reconstruction, the physical infrastructure reconstruction are critical, but we hear over and over from Iraqis about the psychological reconstruction of this country; that after over three decades of brutality under Saddam Hussein, reconstructing from that horror doesn't happen overnight, and yet the Iraqi people reconstructing themselves, if you will, from that horror is something that is fundamental to Iraq moving forward on a path to a sovereign democracy. And that is why we are working with Iraqis to expedite that process to the extent that we can and to the extent that the Iraqi people are ready for it. And it is always the fine balance, trying to figure out exactly when is right to do what. But we have been hearing more and more from Iraqis that they want more and more in this regard, and we've done a lot and will continue to do more.
And finally, I will say that I do think, John, what we are seeing in recent days, which is very encouraging, is a number of Iraqis speaking out publicly on one issue or the other, whether it's on the issue in Fallujah, whether it's on the issue in the south. And it varies on which side of the issue they come out, but the fact is is I think below the radar screen, perhaps, of some of the press, some of the Western press, I think there is a real discussion going on. There is a real debate among Iraqis, and more and more Iraqi leaders are beginning to emerge and speaking out about which direction this country should go in light of the events that have occurred here over the past few weeks, and we think that that is a positive sign.
Q Can I just ask one supplementary to that? The --
MR. SENOR: The preface to your question started saying I was going to be the top one, and now you want --
Q It's really to General Kimmitt.
MR. SENOR: Okay.
Q You talk about Iraqis speaking out. We understand there's a group calling itself the Thulfiqar Army who has begun to speak out in a particularly dramatic way about Muqtada al-Sadr's army in Najaf, that there have been killings committed against Sadr's militiamen in the wake of the distribution of leaflets in that city complaining about the lawlessness. Do you know about this, and what is your position on it?
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't know the particular organization that you're talking about. There is anecdotal evidence and anecdotal reports that are coming in about that type of activity. We don't assess it to be a very large activity at this point.
Coalition control will return to Najaf. Iraqi security forces will return to Najaf. There will be a time when Najaf, like the rest of this country, is under the direct control of the Iraqi government. And when that time comes, there will be a time to decide what happened inside that city when it was not under coalition control.
MR. SENOR: Thank you, everybody.
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