MR. SENOR: Good evening. We are joined this evening by Dr. Hamid Kifa'i, who is the spokesman for the Iraqi Governing Council. He has an opening statement to make, then I'll have a few words, and then we will be happy to take your questions.
MR. AL-KIFA'I: (Through interpreter.) Once more the terrorists seek to bring their -- (inaudible) -- to cause problems to the authority, and once more they hurt the citizens who joined the army and the police. Yesterday, tens of martyrs fell in Iskandariyah, and today on the Damascus road have been hurt.
Their goal is to destabilize Iraq, and to keep Iraq occupied, and keep fear in the hearts of the people. But they will fail in making Iraqis (give up ?) as to the determination of the Iraqis who want to form a democratic system that respects people and take Iraqis to the level of developed countries and advanced countries. They can perhaps inflict terror in the hearts of old men and women and children, but they will not split Iraqis; Iraqis all are moving towards freedom and liberty, and to hell with the evil ones -- for them to go to hell.
(In English.) I have a statement in English.
The terrorists have resorted once again to targeting ordinary Iraqis trying to get on with their lives. Yesterday, they murdered 55 gallant Iraqis at Iskandariyah. Today they spread havoc in Baghdad, killing tens of Iraqis queuing to process applications to join the new democratic Iraq institutions.
Their aim is clear; destabilize Iraq and impede the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. They want to keep Iraq occupied and kill our hopes of establishing a democratic system in the country. We say this to them: Let there be no doubt that we are going ahead with our plans to regain sovereignty and establish democracy. Our determination to proceed with our plan is undiminished. Our people are united behind us. The U.N. and all peace-loving people are also with us. And these acts of cowardice will not succeed. Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Ambassador Bremer met with several members of the Governing Council over the past 24 hours as part of the formal briefing of the Zarqawi memo (to view entire english version click here; http://www.cpa-iraq.org/transcripts/20040212_zarqawi_full.html . During these meetings he also certainly today expressed his condolences and deepest sympathies to the Iraqis for the past two tragedies that occurred over the past 24 hours. And he reinforced the message that he's conveyed all along: that we will stand with the Iraqi people as they face these cowardly terror attacks.
About an hour and a half ago, the coalition released -- formally released the full 17-page Zarqawi memo. This is a blueprint for terror in Iraq. It outlines very clearly that the blueprint calls for unleashing civil war, provoking one ethnic group in Iraq against another ethnic group with the hope of tearing the country apart. It talks about continued attacks against any individual working with the coalition.
But the document also includes a blueprint for how this terror strategy will fail. It is very clear it will fail if we continue to ramp up the number of Iraqis serving in security services. It is very clear that the terrorist strategy will fail if America continues to show its resolve the coalition has demonstrated over the past 10 months. And the terrorist strategy will fail if we hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30th as outlined in the November 15th political agreement.
The fact that that time period is referenced specifically underscores a trend we have been seeing for some time: that the foreign terrorists coming into this country, elements associated with al Qaeda, feel threatened by the prospect of a sovereign, democratic Iraq. And that is all the more reason to continue to forge ahead in handing over more and more authority to the Iraqi people, to continue to train more and more Iraqis who are stepping forward to protect their own country.
The other encouraging detail in this memo is the frustration expressed by Mr. Zarqawi, the frustration expressed by the fact that there are so few Iraqis willing to cooperate, willing to sympathize with this terror strategy. He talks about the number of sympathizers who will bring the terrorists into their homes as being -- he characterizes them as being as rare as, quote, unquote, "red sulfur," which we believe is quite telling.
The document is available in Arabic. We have English translations for the key components, what's sort of the action plan in the document. And we are happy to take your questions.
Q James Haida (sp) from the Times. Reading this, it seems that they're preparing a major set of attacks in the run up to the handover of sovereignty. Are you prepared for the wave of attacks they're talking about?
GEN. KIMMITT: We have predicted that, as we come closer and closer to governance and as we come closer and closer to handing over sovereignty of this country to the Iraqi people, there would be a spike in violence. We have been planning for it, we're prepared for it, and the coalition activities up to this point have demonstrated the number of attacks that we've prevented from happening. It has demonstrated that we're fully capable of maintaining a safe and secure environment in the main -- within the country of Iraq.
MR. SENOR: Just to follow up on that, this memo actually to some degree validates many of the trends that we have been seeing, and it certainly validates a lot of what we have saying for some time, which is the greatest bulwark against a successful terror strategy in this country is the increase of Iraqis -- increasing the number of Iraqis serving in security services and handing over governmental authority to the Iraqi people, and we will continue to do both those things. Clearly, according to Mr. Zarqawi, it is a -- it is one path to defeating his effort in Iraq.
Q Christopher Dickey with Newsweek. Can you tell us a little bit more about how this document was found? The New York Times has carried now two versions. One says the Americans found it directly. William Safire says it was found by the pesh merga. Who found this thing and how was it found?
GEN. KIMMITT: The important thing is that we have this document in our hands. How it was found is not as important as the fact that we have it, we've reviewed it, we understand what it is saying, and we can use it, as Mr. Senor said, to understand the thought process behind the terrorists, so that we can use that in future operations to kill or capture those that would create and conduct anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi operations.
MR. SENOR: Yeah. For operational security reasons, and certainly issues related to sources and methods and intelligence gathering, we cannot reveal at this time all the details that were involved in the discovery of the memorandum. But as General Kimmitt has said, it is important to have the opportunity to climb into a mind of an individual who is planning, and we believe executing, a major terror campaign inside Iraq.
Q Paul Martin from Washington Times and the Mirror. Could we ask, first of all, what evidence there is that Zarqawi himself wrote the document? Is his signature on the document? How do we know it's Zarqawi, is the first question.
Secondly, you mentioned the date of the 30th of June. What do you expect both from the IGC side and your own side to change after the 30th of June in terms of your security threats and responses?
GEN. KIMMITT: To answer the first question: we're satisfied that given the initial conditions under which we obtained the document, and follow-on intelligence that has been obtained since we picked up the document, that this can be traced back to Zarqawi.
MR. SENOR: Mr. Zarqawi says in the memo, to your second, Paul -- Mr. Zarqawi says in the memo that if the Iraqis assume effective control of their own government, the terrorists, the al Qaeda elements, will lose their quote-unquote, "pretext" to wage terror in this country -- and that he says they will literally have to pack up and go somewhere else, find another battle.
We hope he's right, because that's the path we're on; we are on the path towards handing over sovereignty and we are on the path towards defeating these terrorists. The two are inextricably linked. Does that mean that we are going to let our guard down following June 30th? Absolutely not. We will work side by side with the Iraqi people, with the Iraqi security services, to ensure that the situation remains secure following the June 30th hand over. Yes, William?
Q William -- (name inaudible) -- Fox News. Two questions. Number one, two bombs, two days, 100 dead. Have you seen any reduction in the number of volunteers? And number two, do you have any immediate plans to change the security arrangements around these recruiting areas?
MR. SENOR: On the first question, we -- it's a little too early to determine -- 24 hours -- it is a little too early to make any conclusions or try to analyze any trend lines. I will say, our experience in the past, however, when there have been attacks against Iraqi security services and against Iraqi political leaders, it has not resulted in a decrease of the number of Iraqis who want to step forward and play a part. In fact, what we have seen since we've launched the security services, since we've launched the political process is a gradual increase in the number of Iraqis stepping forward both to play a role in the security services and to play a political leadership role in this country. And that upward trend has never been thrown off by a terror attack.
(To Mr. al-Kifa'i) I don't know if you want to --
MR. AL-KIFA'I: I just want to say that these attacks are really a sign of desperation by the terrorist groups. They are targeting Iraqi civilians, Iraqi individuals, and they are killing innocent people. They are desperate, they are failing, and they will not succeed.
As far as the Zarqawi document, I would like to say something in Arabic to our Arab journalists here and Iraqi journalists.
(Speaks in Arabic, with English through an interpreter): Iraqis -- (inaudible) -- not succeed in Iraq. Zarqawi is trying to -- (inaudible) -- Iraq. We have to have one identity; are we Sunnis, Shi'as, Kurdish -- Kurds or Assyrians. We are one nation. We are going to work for the democratic system in this country. No one and no (attempt ?) will succeed to divide us, neither from Saddam Hussein or from anyone or anyone using terrorism.
GEN. KIMMITT: (Note: The Iraqi translation channel overrides some of General Kimmitt's words on this response, indicated as "inaudible.") With regard to the question about force protection, every time that we have (an incident of this sort ?), we review our force protection measures. The commanders -- (inaudible) -- the people in charge on the ground have the authority to make (the security ?) changes.
(Inaudible) -- it is important to understand there were very few casualties taken by the people behind the protective barriers that had been set up at both Iskandariyah and at -- (inaudible) -- process that we have put into place to try to harden up some of these sites. For example, yesterday in Iskandariyah, nobody that was standing behind the (stanchions ?), behind the -- (inaudible word) -- barriers that had been established (was still ?) injured. (Inaudible) -- for the most part -- (inaudible). But I would suspect that in the wake of both these -- (inaudible) -- in both these incidents, the commanders on the ground and the people responsible on the ground will review those force protection procedures -- (inaudible) -- minimize the chance -- (inaudible).
Q Thanks. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. I'd like to follow up on that point again more generally. Some of the wounded today said they were very disappointed that they were made to stand outside the protective barriers and were in the street where they were vulnerable. And if you look at Assassins Gate, you see how it now has been fortified to be more protective. If you could respond to whether the coalition is doing enough to protect people who are coming forward to volunteer for the coalition and security forces. And more generally, I don't know if you saw a recent analysis by Kenneth Pollack that came out in January. He criticized the Army and said that they're spending too much time protecting the Army and not enough time protecting Iraqis.
Q The second one?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, with regards to the issue about the people that are standing outside the barriers, there are some prudent measures that can be taken to try to reduce the risk of personnel that are queuing up in front of a set of bastions -- in front of a set of barriers, and I think most of the commanders on the ground are going to take a look at that for the future.
With regards to the second question, we have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment within the country of Iraq. I don't think that our commanders necessarily discriminate between those that are wearing uniforms and those that aren't wearing uniforms, and I think the presence of coalition forces everywhere in the major cities and throughout the country demonstrates that they are not simply protecting one group of Iraqi citizens, but understand they have a responsibility to provide a secure environment for the entire country.
MR. SENOR: Yeah. I would just add terrorism tragically is not limited to attacks on the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police. Terrorism is not limited to attacks within Iraq. Terrorism -- there's a worldwide terror war going on right now, and it's hit everywhere from New York City to Casablanca to Riyadh to Istanbul to Bali.
It is -- the terror threat is inherently an asymmetrical war. The terrorists, in order to promote terror, in order to promote insecurity, they can attempt attacks over and over and over and over, and they only have to be successful once in a while for their strategy to work. The protection against terrorism, if you want to promote perfect, 100 percent security, that strategy has to be effective 100 percent of the time. And so it's inherently an asymmetrical battle. It's an asymmetrical fight.
There will be times where they break through. They won't break through every single time, but they will break through from time to time. They did it today. They did it yesterday. They've done it in other parts of the world over the -- certainly since 9/11 in multiple occasions. But the important point is to continue to hunt down those who are organizing or harboring or supporting these attacks and either capture them or kill them.
When we get information like we got today -- sorry, like we released today, where you actually have a game plan -- you actually have a blueprint of a terror strategy -- that is invaluable intelligence that we can use in pursuit of these individuals. It will help reduce terrorist acts. Will it completely wipe them out? Probably not. But will it help us reduce them? You bet, as Mr. Zarqawi clearly states.
Q Gavin Mostrom (ph), CNN. You say that you're expecting a spike in violent incidents in the lead up to the June 30 handover and that you are taking all the necessary precautions. If that's the case, why at this very time are we seeing the military essentially roll back to eight bases, for instance in Baghdad, while you're expecting this spike to occur?
I've just got a second one, if I could quickly, on the detail in the Zarqawi letter. He says he claims responsibility for many of the attacks in Iraq, but not in northern Iraq. In the case of Irbil, what do you think are the theories on whether that's the case? And if so, what are your other theories about who might be responsible?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, let me take them backwards. First of all, with the issue of the attack in Irbil, I think we have seen one group claim responsibility -- Jeddah al-Islam. We believe that that is a splinter group or an umbrella group for the Ansar al-Islam. So it may well be that Zarqawi was not -- his group was not responsible for it; it may have been the other group.
With regards to the first question about the coalition forces pulling back from Baghdad, again, this seems to be misinterpreted time after time after time. The U.S. and coalition forces are not pulling out of Baghdad. The sum total of the forces that are providing security inside Baghdad are a combination of the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces, the Iraq Civil Defense Corps, and the Iraqi police and the new Iraqi army, the Iraqi security forces. There is a net amount of security that is provided by both those organizations.
The intent has been, for a long period of time, to establish and move to a process called local control; which is as the Iraqis are capable of picking up the security responsibility themselves, then it is appropriate for the coalition to reduce their visibility. It's far more effective to have Iraqi security forces walking the streets of Baghdad than to have coalition forces do that.
But that is not to suggest that the coalition forces are moving a thousand miles away nor a hundred miles away, they're moving outside to the outskirts of Baghdad. Much like a fireman -- where they have up to this point been like the policemen walking up and down the streets, the Iraqi security forces are now capable of providing that function. The coalition forces will move to the outskirts of the city, like the firemen. Their response time may increase from about five minutes to 15 minutes, but they will be inside their bases still conducting some measure of patrol, but like a good fire department, come out when necessary. The first responder, the first person on the scene will continue to be, and appropriately be, the Iraqi security forces. It is their country moving towards sovereignty and self- sufficiency. But while we're going through that transition period, the coalition will stand by, ready to help, but appropriately move to a less visible position, but nonetheless, still providing the same measure of security. The net effect of security should be the same, and more appropriately, with an Iraqi flag on the left shoulder rather than a coalition flag on the left shoulder.
MR. SENOR: Brian, yes?
Q Yeah, on the scene in this country yesterday we encountered something that's been encountered at all sorts of events around Iraq, where the reality of what's happened is 100 percent polar opposite from what the perceptions of the people on the ground are. It spread like wildfire, the belief that the Americans were behind that. This has happened time and again. We go to an event and it seems very clear to us and the evidence that you find is that a car bomb or terrorist attack has happened, but somehow this word just spreads like wildfire around an area, through the entire city, throughout the entire country.
How do you think this word is getting around? Why do you think it happens? And why do you think people are so quick to believe that Americans are behind things like this?
MR. AL-KIFA'I: Well, it is irresponsible of some media organizations to feed up this rubbish to the people. You know, we all know that it was a car bomb. How can the Americans, you know, fight themselves? How can they fire a missile at a police station? You know, it is unbelievable -- it's laughable. But we want some responsibility from the media in the future -- not to just to, you know, spread all these rumors and untruths, because, you know, the law is going to -- we are not going to leave this just like that, because any media organization that is going to continue to spread incitements like these will be prosecuted. There's no doubt about that, because all these sort of rumors and untruths will cause problems, will incite violence. We all know it's not true, absolutely not true. People will not believe it. But some media organizations are behind the spread of these laughable stories.
I would also to talk about the Zarqawi document that is before us here. Obviously, Zarqawi is betting on Iraqis fighting each other. But this is not going to happen. Iraqis are one nation, be they Sunnis, Shi'a, Kurds, Turkmens -- (word inaudible) -- Assyrians, we are all one nation. We are not going to fall for these, you know, very pathetic arguments of Zarqawi. They have tried it on Mohammed Bakir al-Hakim, he was killed. But nobody accused -- no sect accused the other. In fact, people of Iraq were united when a Shi'a leader was assassinated.
So to really bet on the Shi'a and Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs fighting each other is not going to happen, it's not going to happen, because we are one nation; we have never fought each other. We are united more than ever to establish a democratic system in Iraq. All the Iraqi political forces are united in moving forward and in applying the 15th of November agreement. So all this talk of civil strife is not going to happen. And the terrorists will be disappointed.
Q With all due respect, sir, may I just follow up on that? The people on the scene who believe this came in no contact with any media. I mean, we're talking about, you know, right after the incident and this is before anybody could have gone home and watched a television or picked up a newspaper, before any of us really had a chance to really report it.
How is the information traveling around? Where are people getting their information in Iraq? And why do you think that people are so quick to believe one person in a crowd who whispers to them, the American did this? And then it just spreads across the country like wildfire. What's behind this?
MR. AL-KIFA'I: Well, the people I meet do not believe all this. I have heard some media organizations spreading these stories. But the people I meet, Iraqis, know it's not the Americans, because Americans are our friends and allies. They're not going to do it. It would be against their interests to do it. It's only the terrorists who go and kill innocent people. So ordinary Iraqis do not believe these stories, but obviously there are those who have less knowledge who might fall for stories like this. But in the end, the media will be responsible. If they incite violence, they will be prosecuted.
GEN. KIMMITT: Brian, one other reason for that might be because this is a country that for 35 years did not allow free speech, did not allow a free press, did not permit the people to know the truth. In fact, what we have seen is it takes time for people to understand what a free press is capable of. It takes time for people in this country to learn to trust the people we have in the front row here. And it will take some time before rather than jumping to conclusions and jumping to wild assertions and assumptions, that perhaps the best way to find out what actually happened is to depend on a free press -- go look at the television, go read the newspapers, depend on the journalists such as we have in the front rows here who can be relied upon to give the truth of what actually happened on the ground.
MR. SENOR: Tom, you had your hand up.
Q Tom Lassiter, Knight Ridder. I was wondering if you could speak some about the terrorist network as you understand it and specifically as you could speak about it in Iraq. You know, we have these different events -- are these the results of, you know, one person slips over the border, does it; or is there a preexisting network of safe houses, that sort of thing? And I'm asking specifically about Ansar, whether or not it has, you know, come back in the country, gone south and set up a network.
My second question would be, at times after these events, it sounds like al Qaeda and Ansar, that these two organizations are, you know, their names are used almost interchangeably. And I was wondering if you could make the distinction there. Thanks.
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, with regards to the first issue about are they slipping over across the border or is there some level of presence: we have stated from this podium that we believe that al Qaeda is in this country and we've known for quite a while that Ansar al-Islam is in this country as well. These types of attacks can't happen without some level of support base -- some level of logistical support within the country. The size, the character, the location, of course -- that is something that our intelligence analysts are working every day to find out.
With regards to your second question about using AI and AQ interchangeably, there are subtle differences between what we believe to be the motivations of each of those groups. Now, their larger objectives may be very similar in many cases, but there are some distinctions between the two that we probably won't want to talk about here. But there are ways to identify by types of methods, by motivations, by targets, whether it might be an AQ-type target or an AI-type target.
Q If -- if I could, how -- how far through the country do you believe that Ansar specifically has spread?
GEN. KIMMITT: No, I don't think we want to talk about that in here.
MR. SENOR: I'd just add, when you look at incidents like the terror attacks of the past 24 hours and you read a document like this, you can't help but wonder whether or not Mr. Zarqawi and his associates have their fingerprints all over these sorts of attacks. It is precisely these kinds of attacks that he talks about in his memo. It's precisely his frustration with the individuals that are being killed today and yesterday that he talks about in his memo. He's frustrated with the ramp-up of Iraqi security services. He talks about the need to kill these Iraqis who are stepping forward and cooperating and playing a role in the security of their own country. And today and yesterday these sorts of events occur.
Q Shu Beqtu (sp) from NHK TV. I'd like to address my question to Dr. Hamid and to you, Mr. Senor. Apparently you agree to the fact that when the occupation ends the terrorists will lose the pretext to fight against. In the other hand, do you acknowledge that, by the fact that this occupation is here, the Iraqi people are in more danger?
MR. AL-KIFA'I: No, I don't think so, because the terrorists are going -- you know, they plant bombs in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in the United States, in Africa. It's not the occupation. The occupation is going to end. We have an agreement with the Americans. And by the 30th of June we'll have our sovereignty back. And so, the terrorists, who are mostly foreigners, have nothing to do with the sovereignty. It's in their interest the occupation continues. So it is really not because of the occupation, it is because they want to spread havoc, they are anti-human, they are anti-democratic, and they just want to, you know, destabilize our country. It has nothing to do with the occupation, and they go around spreading havoc, not only in Iraq, in other countries. It is an international problem that has got to be solved on an international basis.
Q So -- (off mike) -- how can you say that if the occupation ends there could be more security --
GEN. KIMMITT: Okay, we need to put on your microphone.
Q So I don't -- I'm puzzled. How can you say on one hand that if the occupation ends there could be more security in this country; on the other hand, if the terrorists have nothing to do with the reason --
MR. AL-KIFA'I: You see --
Q -- (inaudible) -- the occupation?
MR. AL-KIFA'I: You see, the terrorists have attacked Iraqis, ordinary Iraqis. And yesterday and today, only Iraqis died. So they are against Iraqi individuals, Iraqi civilians. It's nothing to do with the occupation.
You know, Iraqis are capable, quite capable of dealing with the occupation, dealing with the Americans. We have had a dialogue with the Americans over the last year or so. So we don't want advice from across the borders. We don't want Mr. Zarqawi's advice. We are quite capable of dealing with our country's affairs. We are going to deal with them. They are not going to succeed, because killing innocent people is not going to solve any problem.
MR. SENOR: I would just add you really should read this document closely. He answers your question -- Mr. Zarqawi answers your question. He says that we have a plan, and our plan is working. And one of the reasons it's working for us is because it is defeating the ability for the terrorists to operate in this country.
We have a plan to build up a modern, effective, sovereign democratic government in this country. We are on the path to doing it, with the deadline of June 30th. He references that time, and he references the plan. And as we move forward in this plan, as we move forward in handing over governmental authority to the Iraqi people, as we move forward in handing over sovereignty, it makes it increasingly difficult for the terrorists to operate, and it makes it increasingly unlikely that any Iraqis will be left in this country who support his efforts.
Q Yeah, so by the fact that you occupy this country, do you acknowledge that you put the people more in danger?
MR. SENOR: We are -- what we are doing is handing over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Every day we're handing over more and more governmental authority to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have more authority over their daily lives today than they did nine months ago, and they'll have more authority over their daily lives six months from now.
Q Don Teague with NBC News. Despite the fact the author says this isn't a call to arms, the document certainly reads like one. And I'm curious if you're concerned that releasing this to the world will have the opposite effect of bringing more people from outside the country in, exposing them to this message.
GEN. KIMMITT: No, we believe that by handing this document out to everybody in Iraq and everybody in the world, the plans of the terrorists are laid out for everyone to see. What they need to understand is that when everybody in Iraq, both coalition and Iraqi citizens, read this document, they'll fully understand what the terrorists are up to.
The greatest concern that the terrorists should have and do have is that you have a united front against terrorism here in the country of Iraq. If you can't give them the support base and you won't give them the support base, they cannot operate in this country. If every Iraqi citizen recognizes that these people that are coming into their towns looking for help, claiming to be fellow Muslims here to help them out, are -- in fact have a terrorist intent, they will turn those people in, over to the Iraqi security services, over to the coalition forces. And it will be a very clear sign to the terrorists that this is a country and that this is a coalition that is united, working together to keep terrorism out of this country. That's why we believe it's important to give this document out for everybody to see how false the promises are of the terrorists.
MR. SENOR: I would just add, by maximizing exposure of this document, more and more Iraqis will be aware of what the terrorists' strategy is in Iraq, and it will be that much easier for them to play a role in helping to defeat that strategy.
Yes? In the back, right there.
Q Hi. Jeff -- (last name inaudible) -- The New York Times. Is there evidence that these two latest attacks were organized by Zarqawi?
GEN. KIMMITT: We don't have conclusive evidence from today. We have some preliminary evidence from yesterday. And I would just say that al Qaeda fingerprints are all over the Iskandariyah bombing.
MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible.) My question is to Mr. Hamid al-Kifa'i. A great number of Iraqi parties they said that the security issue should be left to Iraqis. And this is what Zarqawi is saying, that Iraqi security will be more respected and to deal with terrorists. Is it an error that -- the delay for providing that the Iraqis --
MR. AL-KIFA'I: (Through interpreter.) The Governing Council from the beginning stated that giving security to the Iraqis is a solution to stability and to Iraq security. This did not occur because there are obstacles. The fact that there is a lack of police forces and security forces for nine months until now. We are building these systems now. The number of police forces is increasing continuously, and their equipment and systems are moving upward and their abilities are moving upward.
Now the Iraqi police are coordinating with the coalition forces. And if you follow up the Iraqi press, you find out that the number of terrorist attacks that were stopped by the police forces or prevented by the police forces before they happened, a great number.
Yes, there are difficulties. Yes, there is a lack of certain security. That is because of some terrorist attacks by non-Iraqis. We know that suicidal attacks are not part of the culture of Iraqis and that Iraqis have no relations to do it.
Security -- in spite of all the problems that happened in the last two days, the security situation is improving constantly. The evidence of this is that terrorists are moving toward gatherings, civil gatherings. In Irbil, they utilized the Eid ul-Adha event to kill innocent people, and yesterday and today they used an opportunity to target civilian groups. That's because they have given up to be able to do any effort that has military value. The work is improving and the coordination between the coalition and Iraqi security forces. Police forces are moving fast and they have plans to deal with the security situation and to follow on to the terrorists.
MR. SENOR: I would just add, too, violent crime, actually street crime, looting crime is down in Iraq. Actually, the decline coincides with the ramping up of the Iraqi police force. We have recruited and trained or are in the process of training over 70,000 Iraqi police officers. When Ambassador Bremer arrived here in the spring, there was not one single Iraqi police officer on the street. Today we have over 70,000 in service, and certainly it's not coincidental that in the last two months we've seen a 39 percent decline in the crime rate in Baghdad. The governor of Basra tells us that they have experienced a 70 percent decline in the crime rate there.
We still have other major problems: terrorist violence, which is the sort of violence we experienced over here in the last 24 hours; the violence organized by elements of the former regime. But General Kimmitt and his colleague are busy hunting down these remnants of the former regime. They've hunted down the overwhelming majority of the deck of cards.
Now, sometimes new cards emerge, like Mr. Zarqawi. Call him the wild card. So now there's a wild card or the al Qaeda card or whatever you may want to call him. He now emerges, and he has laid out a blueprint for terror in Iraq, and so we have to hunt him down. And as we continue to pursue these individuals, as we continue to ramp up Iraqi security forces, as we continue to hand over authority to the Iraqi people, you will see the description that he uses for the number of Iraqis that are willing to cooperate with his efforts, that they're as rare as red sulfur, you will see his description continue to be illustrative of the situation he is finding in terms of the support he can garner in this country for his efforts.
We have time for two more questions. Rajiv?
Q What connections, if any, do you folks currently believe exist between Zarqawi and members of the former Ba'athist government? It's interesting to note here that in the translated copies there isn't much reference to any of that. And just wondering, you know, what you believe any of the current connections are; we don't need to go into the stuff in the past.
And secondly, just getting back to the decisions on releasing this, one point you made was to sort of deprive them of any support, but at the same time, this document says that -- you know, that the people who support them are as rare as red sulfur. So what do you want Iraqis to do, from reading this? What can they do in response to this? Is this more just sort of an effort to get them to sort of tolerate what's been happening here?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first question, we have not seen significant evidence suggesting that there is a linkage between the former regime elements and the terrorist groups.
With regard to your second point, about what can be done, I think that that answer is quite simple. We've got to understand, and everybody in this country has got to understand that the best way to fight the terrorism is in a united front, with everybody vigilant towards the terrorist activities, with a trust that is gained -- a trust and confidence between the Iraqi people, the coalition, the Iraqi police services, the Iraqi security services, so that everybody stays vigilant towards anything that seems unusual in their neighborhoods, anything that seems unusual around their houses.
We run operations based on actionable intelligence. Intelligence is the coin of the realm in terms of our precision operations. The more intelligence we get, the more intelligence we derive from any number of sources -- coalition sources and Iraqi sources -- we take that intelligence and we turn it into operations, those operations which go out to kill or capture people like Zarqawi and the terrorists that you see out creating this kind of damage.
The more intelligence that we can get from the people of Iraq, the more intelligence we can get from our own forces, the more intelligence we can get from the Iraqi security forces, the more that can translate into improvement. So that's what the people of Iraq can do, which is continue to trust, continue to confide in the coalition forces and their own security services to provide us that information so that we can turn that information into action and we can turn that action into a more secure environment for the people of Iraq.
MR. SENOR: One more. Dexter, yes?
Q Just getting back to the former regime guys, are you saying basically you've neutralized them? I mean, you've got most of the "deck of cards." Are they no longer a factor in this?
GEN. KIMMITT: They certainly are a factor, Dexter. The fact remains, is when you see the three S's -- suicide, spectacular, and symbolic, those types of attacks -- one has a tendency to take a look at the foreign fighters. But the fact remains is while we see a lot of these large spectacular attacks, we still see a number of smaller attacks going on on a day-by-day basis, whether they're small roadside explosives, whether they're small-arms attacks by a few fighters out there.
We don't believe that at this point we have completely eliminated the FRE threat. We've seen in many areas, such as the 4th ID area, where the great work that's done by the 4th Infantry Division soldiers has reduced the problems that have been ascribed to the former regime elements in cities such as Samarra and Baqubah. But to suggest that we have eliminated this threat, that's certainly not the case.
MR. SENOR: Thanks, everybody.
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