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Ambassador Bremer Conference Call with Editorial Writers

Presenters: Ambassador Paul Bremer, Presidential Envoy to Iraq
July 24, 2003

Q: Ambassador Bremer, John Needman from the LA Times.

You said all week that security is a primary concern of yours and Sergio DiMayo echoed that the other day in his report to the Security Council. Is the current troops strength adequate to produce the security that you’ll think is need now?

Bremer: Yeah I think it is. We’re doing basically three things now and over the next 60 days to improve security.

One of them is to reconfigure our troop profile there as John Abizaid announced over the weekend. Basically the general concept is to get to – get away from heavy forces towards lighter more mobile force, forces which have Special Operation skills.

And the second thing we’re doing is intensifying our intelligence collection against the kind of renegade Ba’athist who are the people who are essentially attacking us. And as part of that encouraging Iraqi citizens to come forward and give us information and as in deed happened on Monday night when we got the tip about the two brothers.

The third we’re doing is trying to put more of an Iraqi face onto the security area by things like raising the Iraqi – New Iraqi Army and raising this civil defense core and getting the police up. All of those three things will also I think almost certainly increase the amount of intelligence were getting because we’ll have more Iraqis out on the streets. So I think these three things will give us a better ability to deal with the security threat.

Q: Ambassador Bremer this is Bob Kittle with the Union Tribune in San Diego.

I’ve heard you address this a couple of times in interviews this week. But can you give us the latest on whether in the killing of Uday and Qusay whether the U.S. government has gained any intelligence that makes it likelier that Saddam Hussein would be apprehended?

Bremer: Well it’s a bit early to you know reach that judgment, yet Bob, but I am confident that this kind of operation in fact will turn up more intelligence and will turn up more -- a lesser threat to our security. Either one of two things or both will happen. We will get more information from people saying, well this really works, you can turn in these guys and the Coalition will deal with them or we’ll have people themselves – people Ba’athist and so forth who say, on second thought I’d rather not die in a shoot-out and I’ll turn myself in. And or I guess there’s a third thing which is we discourage a terrorist from coming into the country, which has been another part of the threat. So I think the operation on Tuesday will almost certainly improve our intelligence but it also has an important – obviously important political message that the Ba’athist are finished.

Q: Ambassador, Paul Weingarten Chicago Tribune.

Can you tell you us – we’ve been told over and over again that it’s critical to find Saddam Hussein or to find him, kill him or whatever it is. Can you tell us do you still feel that way? And if he is not found, I mean you the audiotapes that are now surfacing every few days. How much more complicated does that make your job?

Bremer: You know I’ve said all along Paul that I believe it’s important that we either capture or kill Saddam because he remains a rallying point for these bitter enders that we are seeing attack our soldiers. I think his position has been substantially weakened by the death of his two sons, so that’s a good step. But I would like to see us finish the job by capturing or killing him. I think that would put the final end to the idea that somehow the Ba’athist are going to come back, which is what they run around with and there are certainly are some people who are fearful of cooperating with us because of that. Although as I’ve said several times this week – well it’s quite interesting, about three weeks ago I started getting reports from our people who are working with the Iraqi police that informants are coming into the police more frequently now, and I heard the same from some of our tactical Commanders that they are beginning to get more informants coming in. So I think this event on Tuesday will encourage that flow of intelligence.

Q: This is Allen Burger from the Boston Globe.

A couple of weeks ago Ayatollah Sastani the Shi’ite Ayatollah issued a "fatwa" calling on Iraqis to ask to have the Iraqis who will draw up a constitution be elected and so far it seems that you’ve decided not go in that direction. I was wondering what the reason is? I was talking to an Iraq who said that would confer legitimacy on the process and it would also be a sign of respect for Sastani.

Bremer: Well we haven’t made any decision on this. What we have done is in fact encourage the governing counsel – which started only a week ago or ten days ago, to appoint a preparatory committee to go out and make recommendations to the governing counsel as to how the constitutional process should work. And we have – I’ve said publicly a number of times, and we said it in our discussions with the governing counsel. We agree with Sastani that the process must be seen as legitimate and we agree that the Iraqis themselves must write the constitution it must not be written by Washington or London or somebody else. So the question now about the process is really in Iraqi hands – it’s not in our hands, it’s in the hands of the Iraqis and they will have to decide how they meet the requirement, which we agree with of it being a legitimate process. We have not ruled anything in or out, it’s up to the Iraqi government counsel.

Q: Right. So if they recommend to have the constitutional convention of some kind be elected, that would be okay with us.

Bremer: Yeah, I mean it’s really up to them. I think they’re going to find as we have that holding what you would sort of western style election right now is rather difficult. There are no voter registrations, there are no constituent boundaries, there are no electoral laws; there are no political party laws. But we have got town counsels in 85% of the towns in Iraq and it could very well be that some process could be found where the town counsels play a role in selecting on some proportional basis; people to go to a constitutional conference. And that may very well be a perfectly legitimate way to get a representative constitutional conference convened. But this really is in the hands of the governing counsel now.

Q: Ambassador, this is Bob Caldwell at the San Diego Union Tribune. And I’m sorry that I missed perhaps the first question or so. So if this question has been asked I’ll apologize and withdraw it.

The fact that Saddam’s sons were found with virtually no staff or protective arrangement around them I mean you know one or two or three or four people. Does that suggest that number one, they were not directing any kind of organized resistance against the Coalition Forces? And two, does it suggest that this sporadic resistance that there has been maybe isn’t organized at all? Except in the loosest fashion.

Bremer: Well I guess the answer is yes and yes. We have said consistently that we see know evidence that the sporadic resistance as you call it, is organized essentially, we’ve seen no evidence and therefore I’m not – I wouldn’t be surprised and I’m not surprised that Uday and Qusay were not directing such resistance because we never thought they were nor I think Saddam Hussein is.

What it looks like to us from everything we see from the people we capture from the people we kill and then look into their background, and from the intelligence we get, is consistent that what we’ve got is highly professional killers – people from the fedayeen Saddam, the special security organizations, the Republican Guards who are operating essentially on more or less on autonomous basis, usually not more than squad-level people, five, six sometimes ten people at the most in these operations. And their does not yet – there is no evidence yet of any centralized control, now maybe that’ll change but we certainly haven’t seen it yet.

Q: And there’s no evidence I gather that Saddam Hussein maybe directing any of that except perhaps to urge resistance in these audiotapes.

Bremer: That’s right. I mean I think he has a role in a sort of sense that his very – the fact that his status is ambiguous, we don’t know where he is, he hasn’t been captured or killed. Certainly provide some rallying point for these renegade types and of course the tapes as you point out are a way for him to encourage these attacks but there’s no sign of any central commanding control.

Q: Ambassador Bremer, Timothy O’Leary from the Dallas Morning News.

What about foreign troops helping out? Are we beginning to see some there – besides to Brits of course? And do you see a new UN resolution to make it possible for others to have the political cover that they feel that they need to come in and help us?

Bremer: Well you know it’s a story that doesn’t seem to get written much but we have the troops of 19 other countries already on the ground – sorry 18 other countries.

Q: Are they militarily significant?

Bremer: Well some are some – some are some more than others. I mean the Poles are going to come in with basically a division, the Ukrainians are coming in with, and I think it’s a Reinforce Brigade. I mean some of them are significant, some of them are less but 19 other countries –I’m sorry 18 other countries have made commitments of troops on the ground and we are in discussions with another probably 10 or 12 countries.

Whether another UN resolution is necessary or not as Secretary of State has said over the last few days, is a question that we are looking at. It really is a question of whether such a resolution would be helpful or not, we certainly would welcome more troops and more countries providing troops and that’s just a question we’re discussion with a variety of countries like India and Pakistan, Turkey and some others.

Q: This Allen Berger again from the Globe.

How much of a problem Moqtada Sadr and his people been and have you had any contact direct or indirect with him or his followers?

Bremer: I would say that the interesting thing about what’s going on in the Shi’a community is that in fact Moqtada Sadr does not appear to have the support of the Shi’a leadership in the country. In fact after the speech or the sermon he gave last Friday and the demonstrations over the weekend, three members – three Shi’a members of the governing counsel separately issued statements essentially condemning his activities and saying it doesn’t represent what the Shi’a believe in and it’s not going to serve the cause of the Shi’a in Iraq to follow this confrontational path. So -- and we’re getting that message pretty consistently as well, privately from a Shi’a members of the governing counsel and other Shi’a we’re in touch with. So and the only thing I can say my own experience – and I’m not an area expert so I don’t pretend to be but my own area experience traveling around talking to a lot of Shi’a in the last two months suggest that most Shi’a do not seek an Iranian style government in Baghdad, that’s not what they’re after. Most Shi’a like most Iraqis welcomed the liberation that we gave them and welcome the presence of troops there as a stabilizing force in Iraqi life.

Q: I’m sorry Ambassador Bremer.

Bremer: Yes.

Q: Doug Maceachern from the Arizona Republic.

You noted that you expect to run out of your $6 billion dollar budget. What kind of – what kind of budget then are you – what kind of money do you expect spend? And where exactly do you anticipate it’s going to come from?

Bremer: Well we have a number of sources of funds to spend at the moment. We have of course the appropriated funds from the U.S. Congress. We have the Development Fund for Iraq, which was established by Resolution 1483. We have funds that were seized by the United States in Iraq and we have funds that were vested by the U.S., they were seized here and then vested in the U.S. government as their called.

We also have as potential – and obviously we have our oil revenues and we are exporting oil so we are getting revenue from oil. I think the squeeze on us will be over the next 18 months while we try to get our oil revenue – our oil production rates back up to pre-war levels. Once – it looks like once we get our production levels up to pre-war or slightly above pre-war levels, which is somewhere between 2 ½ and 3 millions barrels a day, Iraq then begins to be self-sustaining in its revenues versus expenses. But I’m reluctant to say that definitely until I have the results of the World Bank needs assessment as it’s called. It’s being conducted in the next six weeks where they’ve got something like 15 different teams coming out to Iraq to assess the overall needs. And the numbers are likely to be even larger than I think they are, I mean I know the UN has already said for example, that they believe Iraq needs to spend $16 billion dollars over the next 4 fours just on water projects. And my engineers say we need to spend $13 billion dollars over the next 4 years – 5 years I guess on new power projects. So they’re some pretty big numbers floating around out there and we’re going to have to have a better look at how we’re going to fill those gaps in September after the needs assessment are done.

Q: Ambassador Bremer, what’s your overall answer to critics who say that the Coalition in general, the Americans in particular are way behind schedule in Iraq and that in fact the Coalition and our mission in Iraq is in trouble?

Bremer: I don’t think that’s true at all. I think we are working according to our plan and we have a very comprehensive strategy for dealing with security and essential services, the economy and the political transformation. We have a plan that goes out what we’re going to do precisely in the next 60 days, next 120 days next 360 days. We won’t be able to execute on all of those things, I mean we’ll have some set backs and we’ll have some good days and some bad days. But I don’t agree with that. It is a very difficult plan to execute. You know one of the favorite subjects that keep reading about in the press is power and the electrical power and it’s a structural problem. We have about 400 megawatts of installed power in the country – that’s the pre-war level, that’s the level that has been there. We are now producing at about 3,3[00], 3,400 hundred megawatts every day, so we about ¾ the level, we hope to get back to the pre-war level in the next 60 days, but once we’ve done that we are still about 33, 35 percent short of what demand is, demand is about 6,000 megawatts. And that – if we’d gone in there on March 18th that would be the case and going in there now that’s the case, it’s not a post-war reconstruction problem, it’s a post-Saddam economic mismanagement problem. And we have to just keep reminding everybody, particularly the Iraqis that there is a price to pay for 35 years of economic mismanagement. There’s a hell of a lot of money that’s going to have to get spent on these infrastructure programs and it’s going to take time. You don’t just produce 2,000 megawatts of electric power over night. For one thing it cost you $2 billion dollars for another thing you got to build power plants.

Q: Ambassador Bremer could we back to – stay on the power and water for a minute. This is Judy Dugen at the LA Times.

Bremer: Yep.

Q: And where do you see the major bottlenecks that are keeping you from getting power and water even back to near pre-war levels? You’ve given instruction then it goes down the line and it gets carried out in one way or another, it can be sabotaged by guerillas. What are your biggest two or three problems to getting…?

Bremer: Well on the power issue – they are slightly different. The power problem is fore structural as I said. No matter how well we do, we’re only going to get two thirds of the way there because that’s all there is in an installed base, there isn’t any more.

Q: So you’re saying that one third of it was destroyed during the war?

Bremer: No, no, no it was never built.

Q: Right but?

Bremer: The total – the total amount of power available once we get to pre-war levels is about 4,000 megawatts. The total demand is 6,000 that were true last year, it was true the year before last, and it was true on March 19th. It doesn’t exist.

Q: And the total today is 2,000 some?

Bremer: We’re at about 3,400 so were moving –

Q: On a steady basis?

Bremer: Yeah, pretty steady.

Q: That’s up quite substantially from?

Bremer: No it’s been above 3,000 for at least 10 days – I don’t have the numbers in front of me but we’ve been working our way up and we’re going to continue to work our way up and the next 60 days we’ll get to 4,000. But it’s going to leave us 2,000 megawatts short because there is no bigger install base. You know there are ways to deal with that. I’ve ordered for example a 4,000-megawatt generator to be brought into Baghdad, it will arrive next spring. You don’t pick up 4,000 megawatt generators at your local Wal-Mart, they have to get built, it’s going to cost almost a half billion dollars, but I believe it’s worth doing so that by next summer we at least have that much extra capacity available for Baghdad. But that’s all you can do, you can’t do much more than that. We can put some emergency generators around and we’re doing that.

For example, I just gave orders to pay – to buy emergency generators to put on top of each of the 36 water-pumping stations – to answer your water question. There are 36 water-pumping stations in Baghdad. When the power goes out in Baghdad you have a problem with water pressure because you can’t pump water. We can put smaller generators – I think these are 1 ½ to 2 megawatt generators onto the 36 pumping stations around the city so that in fact if power goes off we can still pump water but, we’ve got to go out and find 36 1 ½ to 2 megawatt generators, which we will do and it’s going to cost us about 70 million dollars but we’ll do that.

The water supply in most of the country now is above pre-war levels, it’s much better in Basra in fact than it’s ever been. And it is basically pretty much at pre-war levels in most of the country.

Q: How about Baghdad?

Bremer: Well the Baghdad problem is not so much as water supply as the problem with sewage. The sewage plants in Baghdad, there are three of them are 1960’s technology stuff and –

Q: Sounds like LA.

Bremer: (Laughter). They were looted, the control rooms or whatever you want to call it, were looted at the end of the war. They took out the electronics, so we have to put back in the electronics, which we’re doing but the sewage system is very primitive – it’s another example of very under invested infrastructure. My engineers tell me that even after we spend about ½ billion dollars on it, it will not be adequate to a city of 5 ½ million. And we’re going to have to get the process started to replace the entire sewage system which you can imagine in a city of 5 ½ million is not going to be an easy job. You know and you go pretty much around the whole country and go through this problem. The collapse, the lack of capital investment in infrastructure is simply appalling and we’re going to have to find ways to help the Iraqi people get this stuff fixed.

Q: Was this collapse entirely unexpected?

Bremer: Collapse is the wrong word. I think I used it but it’s the wrong word. The right word is that the infrastructure wasn’t there, and I think all of us have been surprised at how poor the infrastructure was.

You know I visited a refinery where the refinery was using in one place, boilers that were put there by an American company in 1953, equipment that is at least probably almost 30 years beyond its useful life. I visited a textile plant that’s using spinning machines from 1963, equipment that is at least 20 years beyond its useful life and this is true throughout. And I think its clear that – anyway we didn’t understand how pervasive this under investment or misallocation of capital was.

Q: Ambassador, Paul Weingarten again.

Could you give us a little sense based on what you’re talking about? Two things, one you say you’ve got a plan – an overall plan. Is there somewhere where we might be able to see that plan or at least see some of the outlines of what you’re doing? And that’s one of the complaints it seems that Congress have had, as they don’t really understand what is being done and on what timetable?

Bremer: Yeah, yeah my press guys will get you something on the plan. We do have a piece of paper and we can get it to you.

Q: And as a corollary -- Do you now have a better sense of how long you think we – we as in United States, might be in Iraq? You said earlier until elections but (inaudible) questioning you’re talking about a lot of intensive infrastructure.

Bremer: Well let’s be precise about what we’re talking about when we say "we". There are three different slices of it. The Coalition Provisional Authority is the sovereign authority there until such time is there is a sovereign Iraqi government under international law and under the UN resolution. The sovereign Iraqi government comes in to being after elections. When will that happen? It depends on how long it takes the Iraqis to write a new constitutional and get it ratified. I’m hoping that they can do that once they convene their constitutional conference that we talked about earlier. I hope they can get it written in a period of months not years so, once they get the elections and I would like to hope that they might be able to get elections next year, then the Coalition Provisional Authority will no longer exist but the United States at that time, almost certainly, presumably will have an embassy there so there will still be a civilian presence. Then there is the third dimension, which is the military. How long the military will be there and how big the military will be, will be a matter of discussion obviously between the eventual Iraqi government and the United States government in terms of presumably – whatever the Iraqi government believes it’s security needs are. And that lies down the road somewhere and I wouldn’t speculate about how that would develop.

Next question will be the last question.

No other questions.

Thank you.