(Also participating Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides from today's briefing are located at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/May2003/g030520-D-6570C.html. Photos of today's briefing are available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/May2003/030520-D-9880W-096.html and http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/May2003/030520-D-9880W-050.html.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
Each day the conditions in Iraq are improving, and life is slowly beginning to return to what one might call the normal pre-war standard. There are difficulties, to be sure, but that difficulties exist should not come as a surprise to anyone. No nation has made the transition from tyranny to a civil society -- has been immune to the difficulties and challenges of taking that path. As Thomas Jefferson said after our revolution, "We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed."
But the fact is, there is some good news coming out of Iraq today. Consider a few examples. Each day we get reports of problems and also of things that are working. Here are a few of the things that are working.
Education. We've -- we're told that in Baghdad an estimated 65 percent of the city's 5.5 million students are back in school.
(Pause.) That number's wrong.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: It's 65 percent of the city's 5. -- the students in a city of 5.5 million are back in school.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: That's the city's population.
UNICEF is distributing "school in a box" kits to Basra, Umm Qasr, Safwan and An Nasiriyah. Each kit contains enough supplies for one school -- per student per year.
An Iraqi committee of Shi'ites, Sunnis and other interested groups is being put together to revise the curriculum. So schools that once taught really basically obedience to the regime can begin preparing students to live as productive citizens in the society.
Passenger rail service between Baghdad and Basra has resumed, and regular service between Baghdad and Mosul and Baghdad and Umm Qasr have been restored.
Governance. A new mayor of Kirkuk will be sworn in May 27th, and the coalition has helped organize a new town council. Mosul held its first municipal elections, with residents selecting a mayor and 23 delegates to the town council out of more than 200 candidates. In Baghdad, local courts have been successfully re-opened, and U.S. soldiers have been asked to testify in some criminal cases involving looting. The coalition helped organize the first weekly Baghdad city management meeting, involving the various Iraqi ministry representatives and the Baghdad city council.
Throughout the country, civil servants are returning to work, and some 900,000 Iraqi civil servants have been provided emergency payments. The coalition has begun holding meetings with a group of Iraqi military officers, which provided a list of some 27,000 officers, non-coms, Defense Ministry civilians and others who may be ready to assist in security activities of various types in the future.
Basic services. USAID's reconstruction team reports that residential electric customers in the north and the south of Iraq have more electric service today than at any time in the past 12 years. In Basra, operation Leak Stop began on May 14th with a team of Iraqi plumbers moving through the city repairing leaks in water pipes, which has been a fairly continuous problem because of the degradation of the infrastructure. In Kirkuk, 13 of 16 primary health care centers and 46 of 56 health care facilities are now operational. In Baghdad the coalition is employing some 1,500 Iraqis to remove trash and clean overflowing sewage in the neighborhood of Throrah (sp), formerly known as Saddam City, and clean up and refurbish the Ministry of Justice. The Oil for Food distribution system has been re-activated in Umm Qasr, and the coalition is working to restart it through other portions of the country.
On communications. The coalition has established the Iraqi Media Network, which last week began broadcasting four hours of programming each night. Among the first broadcasts was a report on the municipal elections in Mosul, including interviews with the candidates, coverage of the resumption of train service to Baghdad. In Najaf, a local paper has begun publication with the help of the coalition civil affairs teams. Also, a selection of Arab and foreign newspapers and magazines are on newsstands for the first time in 20 years.
Security. In Baghdad some 4,500 Iraqi police are now on duty. And reports of looting, curfew violations and gun-fire are decreasing. In Nasiriyah local police are now armed and the force has grown from 350 to over 600. In Diwaniyah, 277 Iraqi police officers have been hired, and the coalition is installing 911 emergency phone lines.
Antiquities. There now appears to be growing evidence that the theft at the museum was most likely an inside job, and only an estimated 38 items seem to be currently confirmed as still missing.
The point is this: There are problems -- there are challenges in Iraq, let there be no doubt about that, but not withstanding the challenges to be faced, conditions in Iraq are improving. And as more countries join the coalition, the situation should continue to improve in the days and weeks ahead.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I'd like to begin by extending our sincere condolences to the families of the Marines who were killed in the helicopter accident and the soldier that was killed in a vehicle accident yesterday in Iraq.
We continue to conduct broad ranging security and stability operations and to support the increasingly effective humanitarian operations in Iraq, as the secretary said. We currently have some 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Approximately one-third of those forces are in and around the greater Baghdad area. (Laughter.)
Q: We're reacting to the slide. (Laughter.)
(Political cartoon of Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers is shown by slide.) (More laughter, applause.)
Rumsfeld: There you are. Gee, I think that's best cartoon of the year. (Chuckles.)
Excuse me. (Laughter.)
Myers: Let me -- can I start over? (Laughter.) (Laughs.) That's good, and unexpected. Boy, that was asymmetric warfare. (Laughter.) I guess I didn't have a need to know.
Approximately one-third of those forces are in and around the greater Baghdad area, and we continue to root out residual pockets of resistance from paramilitary forces and Ba'ath Party personnel. Additionally, our forces conduct as many as 1,000 separate patrols daily, as well as provide protection to several hundred fixed sites that include internal power, water, fuel, hospitals and food sites. We also guard some prisons, evaluate potential WMD sites and protect cultural sites from looting.
Yesterday, number 50 on the black list, the two of clubs in the deck of cards, turned himself over to U.S. forces. That brings to 24 the number of most-wanted members of Saddam's regime that we now have in custody. So, while the situation in Iraq is becoming more stable, as the secretary said, and that is happening by the day, it is still a dangerous place where there is much work to be done and many challenges ahead.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Rumsfeld: Before we do, I'd like to say that the famous Robert Duvall is sitting in the back row here. He's helped out with USOs and he's visited hospitals to visit the troops. And we appreciate your help, and thank you for what you do. We appreciate that. (Applause.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, the United States has apparently raised its anti-terror threat level to threat level orange now because of --
Rumsfeld: It has or is going to? Or what did you say?
Q: Yeah, going to.
Rumsfeld: Is going to?
Q: Is in the process of doing it, sir. I was wondering if the military will also, at the same time, raise your own threat level, perhaps, to DEFCON -- DEFCON Delta? And will you distribute anti-aircraft missiles around Washington, as you have in recent times when you've raised the level to orange?
Rumsfeld: Charlie, you know as well as I do --
Q: It doesn't hurt to try! (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: You know as well as I do that the combatant commanders around the world have the responsibility for managing threat conditions in their areas and force protection conditions, and we do in the capital region, and we don't announce that. We do things on, not a random basis, remember, but a regular basis; and from time to time, we change force protection levels and threat levels, depending on intelligence or depending on other things, and we don't announce it.
Q: Without getting into details, could you at least tell us whether or not you plan on increasing the level of threat?
Rumsfeld: I could, but I shan't.
Q: Can I have a follow up, please? Are you considering increasing or restoring the combat air patrols over selected U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C. and New York, during this danger?
Rumsfeld: That's the same question, same answer.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: General Myers, this week, sir, the Senate and the House are voting on the next defense spending bill. Among the provisions are two things -- three things requested by the Bush administration. One would remove the ban on the development of so-called battlefield nuclear weapons, 5 kilotons or less. Secretary Rumsfeld and others have made clear the need for different bunker-busting bombs, but this would be more of a battlefield weapon. And I have a two-part question on that. One, could you be a little bit more specific in the possible need for such a weapon? And two, as a man in uniform yourself, the thoughts that go through your commanders mind of using such a weapon when their troops are nearby.
Myers: Sure, I'd be happy to do that. First, I think the characterization is very, very important. What -- there has been law that prohibits even the study of weapons, nuclear weapons, that could penetrate deep and buried targets.
Q: I'm not talking about the bunker buster, sir. I'm talking about the -- that's the earth penetrator, the robust earth penetrator.
Myers: Right. Mm-hmm.
Q: I'm referring to removing the Spratt ban on development of 5-kiloton or less nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield -- in other words, the Fulda Gap scenario, where thousands of people come through. Those are two separate issues, and I'm sorry if I was confused in my question.
Myers: Okay. No, I was confused. And I can address the former. I can't address the latter.
Q: The Spratt -- you can't address the --
Myers: Right. No, I can't. I can't address --
Q: Okay. Well, perhaps, Secretary Rumsfeld, you could address that one, then. And what need would you envision --
Rumsfeld: The only thing we've done that I know of is that we have proposed that the absolute ban on the study of a deep-earth penetrator has been removed from the bill at our instance, because we do intend to study a variety of types of deep earth penetrators, for very good reason.
Q: Sir, I'm sorry to interrupt. But again, I'm very puzzled, because I've only covered the Pentagon a few months, and I know you are a detailed man, sir. And the fact is that the Senate Armed Service Committee and the House -- there are two separate provisions. One is for the continued spending of 15.5 million a year to pursue the robust penetrator, you know, with a possible nuclear payload. The second is to --
Rumsfeld: To pursue. I think it's to study.
Q: To study, to study --
Rumsfeld: It's not to develop. It's not to deploy. It's not to use. It's to study.
Q: To study the penetrator. But what I'm referring to, sir, is the vote in the Senate committee and the legislation that would remove the current ban, the so-called -- the Spratt ban, after Congressman Spratt, that would restrict the testing and development of -- study of weapons, nuclear weapons --
Rumsfeld: Testing and development of study. What does that mean?
Q: Sir, the study and possible development of weapons of 5 kiloton or less for use on the battlefield, not a bunker buster, sir, but a tactical battlefield weapon. That --
Rumsfeld: I think you're leaping to a conclusion as to what a study would produce. I am aware of that.
Rumsfeld: And the proposal that we've made is precisely what I said. It is to permit the study of less than 5-kiloton weapons.
Rumsfeld: That is a fact.
Q: Okay. What would that kind of weapon possibly in the arsenal be used for?
Rumsfeld: We don't know. That's why we want to study it. And we're kind of inclined to think that the idea that we should not be allowed to study such a weapon is not a good idea. We think it -- for one thing, I -- and then I'll ask Dick to comment on the possible use against, for example, chemical or biological storage areas, where a conventional weapon could have a disastrous effect and a low-yield nuclear weapon conceivably could have an effect that would be -- that would mitigate some of the problems with a conventional weapon. But the -- it's important to appreciate that to the extent the United States is prohibited from studying the use of such weapons -- for example, for a deep earth penetrator -- the effect in the world is that it tells the world that they're wise to invest in going underground. And that's not a good thing, from our standpoint.
Q: Sir, I understand -- the penetrator I understand.
Rumsfeld: Do you want to comment on it?
Myers: You bet.
Q: The penetrator I understand.
Rumsfeld: Wait a second. We could spend the whole meeting on this. That's just not going to work.
Q: I'm sorry. Go ahead, sir.
Myers: Let me just add to that that, as the secretary said, study is needed here because -- for a couple of things. The threat, in many cases, is going deep underground. I'm not going to just focus on the penetrator, but that's where the threat's going. The threat is also going to chemical, biological and -- weapons, and we know that. There's a greater and greater proliferation. And so we've got to study the effects of how you might deal with these weapons.
Conventional weapons, as the secretary said, if you had chemical munitions or biological munitions and you wanted to destroy them, in some cases do nothing more than just spread the biological or the chemical weapons, creating a larger hazard than you'd have when it would be contained. Nuclear weapons have some -- can have some effect on those.
In terms of anthrax, it's said that gamma rays can, you know, destroy the anthrax spores, which is something we need to look at. And in chemical weapons, of course, the heat can destroy the chemical compounds and make them -- not develop that plume that conventional weapons might do that would then drift and perhaps bring others in harm's way.
So this is exactly what the secretary said. It's a study. It seems like a very prudent thing to do. It has nothing to do with the development or the fielding or even the employment of these types of weapons. But the study seems like a prudent thing to do.
Rumsfeld: I don't want to prolong this, but it is terribly important that people not hype this and create misimpressions in the public about it by misusing words or being imprecise in the use of words, and saying things like "pursue," which you did. We should be very precise as a to what it is. It is a study. It is nothing more and nothing less. And it is not pursuing, and it is not developing, it is not building, it is not manufacturing, it is not deploying, and it is not using.
Q: Well, why study something if you're not at least considering some --
Rumsfeld: My goodness gracious, I can't believe you would say that, Jamie. You study things to learn.
Q: I'm not -- if I can finish, though --
Rumsfeld: You study to learn.
Q: But it seems a bit disingenuous to say this is only a study --
Rumsfeld: That's exactly what it is.
Q: -- and it's not leading to anything else --
Rumsfeld: It may or may not. People study things all the time that don't lead to things.
Q: But when you study something, the implication is that you're interested in it and you'd like to see what the potential is.
Rumsfeld: That's true. And we're doing that for a variety of things, for deep earth penetrator.
Q: (Off mike) -- could lead to some of these other steps that you're urging us not to -- but why else would you have a study except to possibly give you information that would lead you to make decisions that possibly might -- and you just outlined some reasons why nuclear weapons --
Rumsfeld: You -- I'll answer your question. You make a study for a very simple reason: to learn whether you do believe that that is a need -- something that's needed, something that would be useful. And we're going to look at a variety of different ways -- conceivably -- to develop the ability to reach a deeply buried target. That's what you do things, you study things, that's what you do in the pharmaceutical business. That's what you do in defense business. That's what you do in all -- and many of the things you study you never pursue.
Q: Mr. Secretary, may I turn to the Philippines for a moment? Yesterday, as you know, the president announced a new military assistance package to the Philippines, some $900 million-plus. The one thing left out of that was the number of U.S. troops that would be sent over. Will they exceed the 1,200 to 1,500 that went over last year or so? And what kind of troops -- and perhaps more important, though the Philippine constitution prohibits foreign soldiers fighting on Philippine soil, if the U.S. forces are attacked while -- during this training, will they be given permission under rules of engagement to fight back?
Rumsfeld: Well, there's about six questions in there. First --
Q: Take the first two.
Rumsfeld: -- the -- (laughs) -- the answer is that we don't know because we have not signed a memorandum of agreement, or terms of reference with the Philippine government yet. And until we come to some common understanding as to what kinds of activities can we believe we can provide and they believe is within their constitution and they believe would be helpful, from their standpoint, we will not know the answer to that question. And when we do, we'll certainly announce it as we did in prior years.
With respect to the second part of the question, I think it's obvious that our forces are always permitted to defend themselves. And so in the event someone was in a position where they needed to defend themselves, they would be able to.
Q: Mr. Secretary? Last briefing you said despite the Saudi bombings that al Qaeda had been significantly degraded, not able to raise money like they used to be able to, not able to train like they used to be able to. Since then we've had the bombings in Morocco, and now the White House is saying that the alert is going up to orange based on intelligence chatter. Can you characterize to us the status of al Qaeda, and if there is a mixed message here, that they're still very dangerous but we are having tremendous success?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's for the intelligence community to do assessments on al Qaeda, and they do. And their assessment is essentially that the use of all instruments of national power by our country and by dozens and dozens and dozens, something in excess of 100 other countries, is having an effect. That is, it is doing exactly what I said the other day -- it is making it more difficult to raise money; it's making it more difficult to move money; it's making it more difficult to recruit and retain people. And the numbers of arrests that have taken place, something in excess of 2,000, clearly have put into custody in a variety of different countries people who otherwise would be out planning and executing terrorist acts.
We've always said that, expect additional terrorist acts. I've said that every time I've ever addressed the subject. The fact that you're having some success, and you're capturing some money, and your capturing some people, and you're making life more difficult for them does not mean that they're gone. They're not. We've said they're in lots of countries, including this country. And we know that. And they're being pursued, and the president recognizes that this is something that's going to take a long time. We've said that repeatedly. It's a fact. And we've said also that, regrettably, reasonable people have to expect that there will continue to be terrorist acts. We know that. And that is not a mixed message. It is a very clear message, it seems to me.
Q: General Myers, on another topic. Do you believe there are enough troops on the ground in Iraq to win the peace right now?
Myers: We respond to the requests from Central Command and from Ambassador Bremer on that matter. And they're looking into it, I mean, almost on a daily basis, trying to evaluate, you know, the right number. And what the secretary has said is that whatever number is required will be provided. As you know, we have a big effort right now to get some international partners in there with us. It is bearing some fruit. We've had many nations stand up, not just in Europe, but essentially around the world that want to contribute to the stability operations in Iraq. So I don't think the number of troops is going to be the issue.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has now for the third time stated that it is an urgent need, in his opinion, that his people get into Iraq to try to secure and try to test and try to assess what is happening at the different nuclear sites. Thus far, the U.S. has not, I guess, looked favorably upon letting this international body in to do this work. Why is that? And can we expect in the near future that an international inspections agency like that would be allowed into Iraq to do what they say is urgent work?
Rumsfeld: I don't know a lot of the details of the past. I do know that the subject has come up recently. And I've checked with General Franks, the combatant commander, and his attitude is he has no problem with their going in, and that's been communicated within our government.
How this fits with the U.N. resolution or the discussions that are taking place with the White House from the Department of State and the U.N., I don't know. But it -- from my standpoint, from our standpoint, we have no problem with it.
Q: You would welcome them to come in and assist and to complement what the U.S. is doing?
Rumsfeld: I don't know quite what all that means -- assist and help and complement. But what you have is a series of sites that they are knowledgeable about -- as I understand this -- where they have sealed certain things. These are the known sites that have existed, and they have put seals on certain things. And my -- the reason I think it might not be a bad idea for them to come in is that they probably have inventories of all of that and would be in a position to know what was there, or what they thought was there, and where the seals where, and what it looked like the last time they were there.
We do know there's been some looting in some of those sites. We do know that most of what was looted -- or I shouldn't "most of," because we don't know what was looted precisely. Some of the things that were looted are now back in those sites and have been brought back in by people involved in the looting, as I understand it. But at some point in the future, I think it might make sense to try to get ground truth as to what they looked like the last time they were in there.
Q: He says it's urgent. What you seem to be indicating is you welcome -- or, not to put words in your mouth. You say at some time in the future it might be wise.
Rumsfeld: It's just not up to us. It is -- it is fine, and my guess is it will happen. The U.N. has been working on a resolution. I don't know where that stands, but everything I've heard about it or read about it leads me to believe that it could happen very soon, like in a day or two or three. I don't know. You never know when something's going to conclude with all those people having a vote and a veto and voice in it, but it could happen fairly soon.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could go back to the nuke issue for a minute. You laid out what was a very sensible explanation about -- for situations in which it might make sense to use those kind of weapons. I think one of the objections that people have raised is precisely that kind of reasoning makes nuclear weapons -- the use of nuclear weapons thinkable when it's been unthinkable for so many years. Can you just address that, the idea that the threshold should be way up there so that people should not even think about nuclear weapons as a tool that can --
Rumsfeld: We already have theater nuclear weapons. This is -- the Russians have many multiples of the numbers of theater nuclear weapons that we have. I mean, the idea that a study is going to change something in that regard is just nonsensical; it's just not a fact. They already exist. The Russians are making them. Every day, they make new ones. So, there's not some threshold that's going to be left over here. It just is a non sequitur, it seems to me.
Q: You mentioned the U.N. Security Council vote, that the State Department's saying that vote could come as early as tomorrow, and they are seeking for a unanimous vote. I wondered if you could elaborate how significant you think that vote will be for the future of Iraq.
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I don't know what they'll decide or whether it will be vetoed or what will happen. We'll find out soon.
Q: Well, in terms of what the resolution called for, it called for --
Rumsfeld: It depends on what they negotiate up there. They're still doing what they do.
Q: You have a new intelligence organization in this building, the organization run by Dr. Cambone now, the new undersecretary for intelligence. Could you help us -- go back and help us understand what it was in military intelligence in the Pentagon that you felt was lacking that this new organization you've established can now help with, that could possibly contribute to more success against key challenges like al Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction, that sort of thing? What's this organization going to solve for you?
Rumsfeld: First of all, you use the word "organization" in a way that suggests it's going to be some sort of an incremental addition to the Defense Intelligence Agency or to the National Reconnaissance Office or to the National Security Agency or some of the other intelligence-related agencies. I don't think of it that way. I think of it as a very small office -- (chuckles) -- at a very senior level, which will help pull together these agencies in the department so that they can interact with the Central Intelligence Agency and the other intelligence entities in the United States government in a more professional and coordinated way.
For example, we have -- General Myers and I spent a lot of time on contingency plans. And if you're working on contingency plans and you are planning for a warning time of "x," and you ask yourself the question, how might you get "2x" in warning time? And how might that advantage you in terms of the lift you need, or the speed you have to get there, and if you can double your warning time? Well, that's the kind of a question that Dr. Cambone's office could then work with the intelligence community and make judgments. What would be the cost, and is it -- first of all, is it possible to increase warning time? What would be the cost? Is the cost worth -- is the benefit worth the cost? And those types of things which are military-related issues, that you need someone who is looking at the totality of the intelligence capability of the department rather than any one single piece.
Q: So you would reject the notion from your potential critics that this is making a run at what the director of Central Intelligence already does?
Rumsfeld: Oh, obviously. That's just not the case. Otherwise, why would George Tenet be an enthusiastic supporter of it, which he has been? It's just -- it's jousting at windmills by somebody.
Q: General Myers --
Q: Mr. Secretary, the House version of the defense authorization bill would put a number of limits on base closings in 2005. You would have to retain excess capacity for, I believe it's 12 Army divisions and about 450 ships. Would that kind of limit on base closing be acceptable to the department? If that bill passes, would you recommend that the president veto it?
Rumsfeld: That was to you, I think, wasn't it?
Q: Either one of you.
Rumsfeld: On the veto, I can answer. We've already -- the president's already said he'd -- correction. I have already said that I would recommend to the president that he would veto -- (laughter). The other might also be true, but it's not for me to say. (Laughs, laughter.)
Q: You said that, if I understood it correctly, if -- if base closing was eliminated altogether you would recommend the same thing with these limits on base closing.
Rumsfeld: I haven't looked at all those limits. But I'll tell you for a fact, base closing is needed. A BRAC is needed. The taxpayer's money is being wasted. And we need to go forward with that. If it's taken out of the law, or if it's delayed, or if it's amended in such a way that it is crippled, I clearly would recommend to the president that he veto it.
Myers: And I would just add that we are still burdened with more infrastructure than we need. And just like the secretary said, that the BRAC process was developed to be a fair process to evaluate that kind of infrastructure. And it's the best one around to -- the best way to do this -- and we'd expressed that -- without limitations.
Q: Secretary, I have a budget question quick. The House and the Senate committees both pretty much rejected your request to try to streamline the congressional -- the reporting process, and also some of the personnel rotation issues that you see as crucial to transforming processes within the building here. How serious a setback are those twin hits, and are those enough to possibly recommend a veto also of the legislation?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that the way you've phrased it is accurate. My recollection is that the Senate didn't address it and plans to deal with it in conference -- those questions.
Q: (Off mike) -- thumbs down.
Rumsfeld: Pardon me?
Q: And the reporting -- you were streamlining for reporting -- they rejected it. The House was a bit more muted.
Rumsfeld: Oh, did they?
Myers: Just the reporting aspects of it, though.
Rumsfeld: Just that one piece?
Q: (Off mike) -- are reporting that you've complained about that.
Rumsfeld: I don't know. It -- how it'll sort out -- end up in conference. And the Senate will have one view, the House will have one view, and they'll get together, and we hope that what they'll do is take a major portion of what we've proposed and approve it, obviously.
I mean, take the personnel issue. We've got 300 and plus thousand -- some people say 320,000 -- men and women in uniform doing jobs that properly belong to civilians. And why is that? The reason it is, is because people are rational, and they look around to get a job done, and they know they can manage military people, because they can put them in a job, they can transfer them to another job, they can change how they do their things. They can do the same thing with contractor. They can start them. They can stop them. They can give them guidance.
With the civilian workforce, it's managed outside this building by others. They can't. So what do they do? They immediately go to military, and they've got 320,000 people in uniform doing things we -- that military people shouldn't be doing, don't need to do, aren't properly tasks for them.
And we've got contractors doing things. In each case, they could done by the civil service. And they're not being done, because of the way the rules and requirements are fashioned over a long period of time. That's not good. That's not right. We ought to fix these things.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: There have been a number of reports in recent days that a number of al Qaeda operatives, including those perhaps responsible for the bombings in Riyadh, have fled into Iran. To what extent do you believe this is true? How significant a flight is there into Iran? And what is the United States prepared to do about that?
Rumsfeld: I have no information that people who engaged physically in terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia have since fled to Iran, if -- which is what you suggested, I believe.
Q: You've not seen evidence?
Rumsfeld: I've not seen anything to that effect. I have seen -- there's no question but that there are al Qaeda in Iran. And they -- there's also a good deal of speculation about their role in what took place in Saudi Arabia.
Q: What do you believe their role is?
Rumsfeld: I know. (Chuckles.)
Q: Well, what is it?
Q: (Inaudible) -- sir?
Rumsfeld: And I'm not going to get into it. That's for others to do. And --
Q: What about the second point, were they calling the shots?
Q: You had suggested they weren't necessarily involved in that, but perhaps mentally involved; in other words, in the planning and orders --
Rumsfeld: I said what I said, and I said it perfectly accurately. I said I have no information about al Qaeda who were engaged physically in Saudi Arabia then fleeing to Iran. I have seen all of the chatter out there in the press about the possibility that people in Iran may or may not have been involved in one way or another in the planning or the assisting of attacks that took place in Saudi Arabia, but I'm not commenting on that.
Q: Well was there Iranian government involvement?
Rumsfeld: I have nothing to say about it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said you've seen chatter in the press.
Rumsfeld: I have.
Q: But how about -- when you say you know whether or not these people were involved in Iran --
Rumsfeld: I do.
Q: -- that's not based on chatter in the press --
Rumsfeld: No, it's not.
Q: -- it's based on intelligence?
Q: Mr. Secretary, you've been very public from this podium in the past about Iran and Syria, for example, but to Iran about their involvement in affairs inside Iraq. You have not been shy about addressing the problem of Iran from this podium. What -- do you have a similar message for Iran today from this podium regarding their relationship with the al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: There is no question that it's exactly the same as it's been consistently. The president has said that terrorists are active in killing innocent men, women and children, and we don't like it. And countries that are harboring those terrorist networks and providing a haven for them are behaving as terrorists by so doing. And it is -- it is something that the president has spoken to, the secretary of State has spoken to, I've spoken to. There's nothing new about it. And it is certainly not something that would commend a country.
Q: Is there anything the Bush administration can feasibly do about it? The president said you're with us or against us. And if they're against us, what can you -- what can the administration do?
Rumsfeld: That's for others to judge.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: In the coming weeks --
Rumsfeld: Let's make this the last --
Q: Question. In the coming weeks in Iraq, Ambassador Bremer is going to be creating this interim Iraqi authority. And I'm wondering if you can give us some sense of how it will be selected, how it will be organized, what power it might have?
And as a special bonus question -- (laughter) -- I'd like to ask what indications you have that the missing antiquities was the result of an inside job, and what the way ahead on that is going to be. Are we going to see arrests? Are we going to see something?
Rumsfeld: With respect to the latter question, I'm really just reading and hearing all of the information that you are; that people on the ground, experts have gone in, our experts, other -- experts from other countries, experts from inside of Iraq that had knowledge, and the growing body of information suggests what I said is the case. How it will shake out, clearly, if people are found to have been responsible for that kind of theft, then they ought to be punished. And you have to first find them, then you have to find the evidence, and then you have to figure out a mechanism so that the Iraqi people can express their displeasure about it.
Q: It depends on the interim authority.
Q: But the size –(inaudible) being created, what powers it may have?
Rumsfeld: I think that I have really nothing to add to what Jerry Bremer has said. I think he -- I don't know that he has set any timetables. I know that he and General Garner are interested in seeing that that process move forward, that the Iraqi people play a role in it. Everyone has believed that it would evolve over time. That is to say, it would begin in a series of meetings which have been going on, it would then move to a stage where there would be an entity, some sort of an interim Iraqi authority of some type that would have some numbers of people; and as it gained strength and viability, it very likely might be given various types of responsibility. There might be some ministries that might be transferred to it. There might be a role that they would play in one way or another.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Just a second. They would conceivably come up with proposals as to how you might fashion a constitution, and come up with ideas as to how they select people to participate in that process. They would be, presumably, involved in recommending what the next stage ought to be for a subsequent entity of some kind; whether you call it, then, a government or you call it another authority, I don't know.
But the thing you're asking for, it seems to me, is an answer from an American when, in fact, the answer's going to come out of Iraqis over time. And it's not going to be static, it's going to be evolutionary. And I don't think it makes any sense to try to anticipate what they may or may not do as we go further down the road.
Q: The reason I ask is that the U.N. resolution the United States is putting forth talks about this interim authority, which lends some -- makes you think that there's something planned to come up pretty soon, because it gives certain powers to that group and a role to that group. And I can't imagine that -- I mean, you're an organized, directed guy, and he works directly for you. And I've got to figure you guys have some sort of plan in place to say let's get 10 people and have them be advisory, or let's have --
Rumsfeld: I don't know how long Jerry's been out there. But I think it might be a week? Is that roughly what it's been? And I'm sure he has been developing conviction as to what it might look like, talking to people. And always we have felt that the sooner it could be done, the better, in some form, because then you have Iraqis taking responsibility and talking to Iraqis. But --
Q: So right now you don't have some kind of formed --
Rumsfeld: I'm patient, and I really think patience is probably the word people ought to have in their heads about this process. Even you, Torie. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you.
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