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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Iraq

Presenters: Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor
February 21, 2004
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Iraq

(Participating were Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, and Dan Senor, senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority.)

 

     Senor:  On Monday, Dr. Khadir Abbas, Iraq's minister of health, and Mr. Jim Haverman, CPA's senior advisor to the Health Ministry, will host a media roundtable at the Iraqi Ministry of Health.  The purpose of the roundtable is to discuss Iraq's new health care system, the ministry's accomplishments, the numerous significant events that are our on the near horizon, specifically related to transition -- increasing transition of authority to the Iraqi Ministry of Health from the CPA.  The Ministry of Health will be one of the first -- will be within the first group of ministries for the Iraqi government to take total control over.

 

     The roundtable will also be an opportunity for open dialogue with the minister.  It takes place Sunday, February 23rd, as I've said, which -- no, sorry, Monday, February 23rd, 11 a.m. for the Iraqi media, which will be in Arabic; 11:30 a.m. for the international media, which will be in English.  The location is at the Iraqi Ministry of Health.  If you would like to attend the roundtable, please e-mail us your name and news organization, or just let Susan and Jared know before the event.  They are in the press center.

 

     Secondly, educators and professional NGOs from more than half a dozen nations are meeting in Iraq this weekend for a conference on international examples of teaching civics.  The conference is sponsored by the Ministry of Education, the Iraq Foundation, the American Federation of Teachers and the Center for Civic Education.  The conference kicks off on Saturday, today, and will end with a press conference on Monday.  Seven Governing Council members, the minister of human rights for the Kurdish regional government, as well as the minister of education, will also be on hand.

 

     Finally, the fourth battalion of the Iraqi army will graduate from basic training during an 11 a.m. ceremony on Thursday, February 26th, at the Kirkush military training base.  Journalists wishing to attend should send an e-mail to our office, or again let Susan or Jared know by February 24th.  Please include names, the new organizations.  The press bus will depart at 7 a.m. from the convention center and return by mid-afternoon.  Again, this is the fourth battalion, from which 1,032 soldiers for the Iraqi army will graduate.  This battalion will be based at Al Qasik in the north near Mosul.

 

     Just an update.  The first battalion, currently approximately 450 soldiers, graduated October 4th, and that was under the command of the 4th Infantry Division.  The second battalion, of 704 recruits, graduated January 6th, and is now stationed at Taji military base north of Baghdad.  And the third battalion of 697 recruits graduated and is now in transition to be stationed in the Mosul area.

 

     General Kimmitt.

 

     Kimmitt:  Good afternoon.  The area of operations remains relatively stable.  Over the past week there have been an average of 19 engagements daily against coalition military, just over four attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and just under two attacks daily against Iraqi civilians.

 

     To that end, in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,490 patrols, 30 offensive operations, 20 raids, capturing 55 anti-coalition suspects, and releasing two detainees.

 

     In the northern zone of operations, coalition forces conducted three simultaneous raids near Hamamal-Alil (ph), and detained three individuals.  The individuals were captured with weapons and information that allowed them to plan anti-coalition attacks.

 

     Iraqi border police in Rabea (ph) detained Tariq Faizi (ph) last night.  Faizi (ph) is a former mayor of Tikrit and a cousin of Saddam Hussein.  He is suspected of providing false passports for individuals crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border.

 

     Two days ago, coalition forces conducted a rail about 15 kilometers south of Sinjar.  The target was a suspected terrorist recruiter Karim Ufay (ph).  Ufay (ph) and five associates at the home where they were captured were detained without incident.

 

     In the north-central zone of operations, the former chief of staff for the Al-Thafa-Mouvin (ph) Division, Kadim Salih Khalaf Jumah (ph), turned himself in to coalition forces.  He admitted to being a firqa member of -- firqa level Ba'athist and enabler of Rashid Taan, blacklist number 49.

 

     Two days ago, Iraqi police arrested Adnan An Mandalay (ph) at his residence in Baqubah.  Adnan was a previous target of a coalition raid on 18 February, and suspected of being a Wahabi extremist.

 

     Two days ago, coalition forces initiated Operation Eagle Liberty 3 throughout the west side of Bilad.  The targets of the operation are individuals suspected of attacks against forward-operating bases in the zone.  A total of 16  targets and three personnel were captured and detained, and the operation was conducted without incident.

 

     In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 557 patrols, 33 escort missions, and captured four anti-coalition suspects.

 

     On 18 February, while conducting a mounted patrol, coalition soldiers were struck by a bomb placed in a mound of garbage along the road leading to their forward-operating base.  Forces captured Jamal Shikuki (ph), who admitted to placing and detonating the bomb.  He also gave the name of the individual who paid him to execute the bomb.  And there were no injuries or equipment damage from the attack.

 

     In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 249 patrols, including 15 independent ICDC patrols, and captured 16 anti-coalition suspects.

 

     Early yesterday, coalition forces conducted a series of three cordon-and-searches and two search and attacks near Ula Lim (ph) to kill or capture members of two anti-coalition cells operating in the area.  The operation was conducted without incident, and resulted in the capture of 10 enemy personnel, including six targets.  Also confiscated during the mission were 35 rockets, 13 Sagar (ph) missiles, 257 artillery and mortar rounds, and over 35,000 rounds of ammunition.

 

     Yesterday, coalition forces conducted a cordon-and-search in Musaihib (ph) to kill or capture Kasim Halal (ph) and Ahmed Halal (ph).  They are expected of leading a bomb-making cell and conducting attacks in Musaihib (ph) and Iskandariyah areas.  The operation resulted in the capture of four enemy personnel, including both of the primary targets.  And also confiscated during the mission were weapons, wire, electrical equipment, timing devices and 15 CDs with anti-coalition propaganda.

 

     Two days ago, coalition forces were involved in a direct-fire engagement east of Calidea (ph).  After clearing the objective, coalition forces found what appeared to be a bomb-making factory and possibly a medical care facility for anti-coalition forces.  Confiscated from the house were one suicide vest, two five-gallon tin cans of PE-4 explosive, one 155-mm artillery round wired as a bomb, 40 cans of powder, 15 bags of sodium nitrate, two 155-mm artillery rounds, two suitcases of wires and batteries, and five grenades.

 

     At the site, forces also found 17 ID cards, medical supplies, IV bags, a stretcher, gurney, and a seat from an ambulance.  And the medical supplies were either removed from a stolen ambulance or used to treat anti-coalition forces wanting to avoid local hospitals.

 

     In the southeastern zone of operations, a bomb was discovered in a car of an Iraqi police captain in Shukeh Shukah (ph).  Explosive ordnance recovered device, consisting of approximately five kilograms of PE-4, and a further assessment is ongoing.  And with that we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

     Mark.

 

     Q:  Thanks.   Mark Stone (ph), ABC.  We were hearing reports just very recently that the Red Cross has visited Saddam.  Can you clarify that, tell us if it's correct, and any details?

 

     Senor:  Yeah, I can confirm that the International Committee of the Red Cross is making arrangements to visit Saddam Hussein.  We haven't reached the final modalities on how that will occur, but Saddam will be visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross.  And that's all the details we'll provide at this point.

 

     Q:  So they haven't yet visited them?  The reports said that they have already visited -- Red Cross -- Saddam.

 

     Senor:  I haven't seen that report.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Q:  Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, DPA.  Mr. Senor, today in seven days the deadline for the basic law or transitional administrative law has to be met.  What are the chances that this basic law up to this date will be in place?  And is it very important to have it at the time, or can this time be extended for a couple of days or weeks?

 

     Senor:  What's important is that the Governing Council pass a document, and implement a document, that enshrines the principles that were agreed upon in the November 15th agreement, which would effectively establish the first bill of rights, if you will, in Iraq's history.  It would not only be an historic document for Iraq, it would be an historic document for this entire region.

 

     The Governing Council is working quite ambitiously on this effort, recognizing that the February 28th deadline is looming.  And by all indications they've made to us, they will meet the deadline. They have made it clear that they are making a lot of progress.  We are in discussions with them.  They are moving forward.  And they believe that February 28th they will have the transitional administrative law finalized.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  (Inaudible.)  You say that the terrorists come from the outside of the country.  So as you know that these borders are open.  So you just said that these terrorists are coming through the borders.  Why don't you try to secure the borders so that we can know that these terrorist attacks are going to be reduced to the minimum?  Thank you.

 

     Kimmitt:  Well, first of all, we have not said declaratively that terrorists only come from outside the country.  In fact, there are a number of organizations inside this country that have -- that we believe to be responsible for attacks on Iraqi citizens, on Iraq and coalition forces.

 

     However, as we also stated, the problem of terrorism is not one that can be stopped by putting a wall a mile high around a 1,700-kilometer border.  If the terrorists are clever enough to be able to set up the type of bombs we've seen, they're certainly clever enough to get through the borders.

 

     We had said repeatedly that we are working in a partnership with the Iraqi people and the coalition forces to understand that terrorism is something that needs to be fought not at the border, but through the width and breadth of this country.   And we advocate a continued partnership so that everybody is comfortable, and we have built the trust and confidence, so that if you have people in the neighborhood who you don't recognize, who speak with a foreign accent, where cars are coming at all times of night, loading and unloading, that you report that kind of information to the Iraqi security forces or the coalition forces.  Terrorism is a scourge.  Terrorism is a constant battle both inside Iraq and every other country in the world, and it is something that is a fight that needs to be fought well beyond the borders.

 

     Senor:  I would just add it's important to set realistic expectations.  Iraq has very porous borders.  It's a topographical fact of life.  And that is why it is important to fight the terrorist, capture, kill the terrorists in the theater, with the methods that General Kimmitt has discussed, which is the coalition working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi security forces.   Certainly the terrorists understand that that is the way that we are stopping them from their designed successes.  That's certainly what Mr. Zarqawi outlined in this memo right here, which many of you are familiar with, this letter which we released a couple of weeks ago, that in fact the growth of the Iraqi army, the growth of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the growth of the Iraqi police is making it harder and harder to engage and plan their attacks.  And certainly as they are in a race against time, as he says, then we move closer and closer to the June 30th handover of sovereignty it is becoming increasingly difficult to get their job done.

 

     Kevin, yes?

 

     Q:  In an interview with Der Spiegel, Sistani is characterized as saying that the foundation of the constitution that is passed should be sharia law.  I'm wondering if that is in keeping with the vision that the coalition has for what they see as a workable constitution for this country.

 

     Senor:  As far as the role of Islam broadly in the constitutional process -- and I'd rather focus it on the interim constitution or the transitional administrative law, because that's really what's before us -- I would just refer you to what the Governing Council agreed upon with the coalition November 15th, where they talked about a recognition of the Islamic identity for the majority of Iraqis, while at the same time respect and protection for freedom of religious commitment, freedom of religious expression, freedom of religious practice.  We believe that that value, those principles, will carry through in this process.   As it relates to sharia law specifically, Ambassador Bremer has said that sharia law absolutely should be an inspiration for the source of all these laws going forward related to the transitional administrative law -- but not the only source.   And we have the broad principle and broad approach to use as a guide that was agreed upon by a Governing Council, a very diverse group of Iraqis from all over this country, representing all ethnic and religious groups.

 

     (Inaudible.) -- yes?

 

     Q:   Dan, there have been some wire service reports today quoting an interview Ambassador Bremer gave to Al-Arabiyya Television.  Those reports quote Bremer as saying that it would take 15 months to organize elections, starting from now.  That even puts you beyond the March 2005 time deadline that was cited in the November 15th report.  Why is Bremer -- does he now believe that even that March 2005 time figure in the November 15th report is unattainable?

 

     Senor:  Actually the wire reports you see are incorrect.  What Ambassador Bremer said in the interview is -- and I actually have the exact quote -- he said it might be -- in reference to what the U.N. estimates for how long it will take -- he said, "The U.N. estimates somewhere between a year and 15 months.  It might be that.  It could be sped up."

 

     Ambassador Bremer's view, as many of you know, is that there are not -- there is the electoral infrastructure necessary in this country for direct elections.  According to the analysis we have received, and according to the expert consultations we've received, the electoral infrastructure that's necessary to be in place is not here now in order to set up direct elections within the next few months -- certainly before the June 30th deadline -- no voter rolls, no political party laws, no constituent boundaries. There hasn't been a census in this country in some 20 years.  So that all the infrastructure that is necessary is not here.  We've been told by independent groups that it will take some time to set it up, varying estimates on how much time that will be. But it is certainly not Ambassador Bremer's view that it will take 15 months.  He said that that is one date-range estimate that we have heard, but that is one end of a range.  He certainly thinks it could possibly be done shorter.   Certainly a number of the groups with whom we have consulted have said the same thing.  So, again, just to clarify, that was an incorrect report.  What Ambassador Bremer said is that the U.N. estimates somewhere between a year and 15 months.  He was characterizing what the U.N. estimates, not what Ambassador Bremer estimates, and he said that could be sped up.

 

     Q:  What does Ambassador Bremer estimate at this point?

 

     Senor:  We are not experts in what is necessary and what the appropriate timeframe is for direct elections.  We have been on the receiving end of expert advice, of which we consider the U.N. to have quite extensive experience in this area.  They have worked on setting up elections and constitutional processes all over the world -- certainly in the developing world.  And so we welcome their advice and look forward to hearing their report.  But we've heard recommendations from a number of organizations.

     The most important point as far as the implementation of the November 15th agreement is concerned is that what we've heard is that it is impossible for direct elections to occur in this country for all the reasons I stated earlier within the next three or four months.  That's what we know.  How long will it actually take?  That's something we have to take a closer look at, and we are with the independent groups that we are consulting.  And we look forward to hearing the U.N.'s recommendation, and we will certainly welcome their advice.

 

     Yes, Christine?

 

     Q:  I just want to follow up on that.  Certainly Ambassador Bremer knew when he went on TV, and he raised the phrase that the U.S. estimates that it could take a year to 15 months -- that in fact that would be interpreted as a signal that in fact you're look at a year to 15 months.  It's not coming across to anybody in Iraq as anything but a signal of what he means.

 

     Senor:  I'd rather not characterize what Ambassador Bremer's intentions were when he gave the interview.  He was asked a very specific question by Al-Arabiyya), related to the U.N., related to their time estimate -- we can provide you a transcript of the exchange, if you'd like -- and he was responding to what the range of estimates were.  He was not characterizing his point of view on how long it would take.  What he knows is that direct elections in the next three or four months will be very difficult. He has not pegged a specific timeframe on how long he thinks it will take.  There are ranges coming from multiple independent organizations, and we expect one to come from the U.N. as well that will be factored in.  But he himself has not articulated what he thinks the timeframe should be.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Q:  Todd Conner (ph) with Fox News.  Dan, what's being done to pacify those who might -- who don't want to wait 12 to 15 months?  They're expecting elections if not before June 30th than immediately after.  What kind of work is being done to talk to those people and work some arrangement out?

 

     Senor:  We are engaged in a lively dialogue, spirited dialogue, with the Iraqi people right now.  We are -- more importantly, the Governing Council is.  There have been a number of major town hall meetings -- some of you have covered them -- everywhere from Baghdad to Baqubah to Mosul, to Basrah, Tikrit.  There have been some 600 neighborhood town hall-style meetings across the country in which issues related to the implementation of the November 15th agreement and the political process going forward have been addressed.

 

     In a number of the town hall meetings that I've watched on television coverage or transcripts that I've read, much is focused on the challenges of direct elections between now and June 30th.  And what is clear is this:  When the Governing Council leadership, when provincial government leadership explains to the Iraqi people that it will be very important to hand sovereignty over to a legitimate and credible government on June 30th, if that government was chosen in haste, in a very disorganized fashion, in an environment in which there were no proper electoral mechanisms in place to ensure that everybody who is eligible to vote had an opportunity to vote -- that's what we're talking about here.  We're talking about everybody who should be eligible to vote having the opportunity to vote -- and protecting their right to do so, and protecting participation.

 

     When we talk in those terms, when the Iraqi political leadership talks in those terms, it resonates.  Iraqis want badly sovereignty soon.  We recognize that.  That's why we are staying so firm in handing over sovereignty on June 30th as we committed.  But they also want a credible government -- a government that represents them, a government that is legitimate in their eyes.   And when we explain the challenges of that government being selected in the environment that we're in, people understand, and we certainly engender sympathy to the position that we've been taking.

 

     Q:  That message doesn't seem to be getting through to many of the powerful Shi'ite leaders for instance who still insist on elections sooner rather than later.

 

     Senor:  Fortunately we are in a very free and vibrant society right now, since April 9th of last year.  For the first time in 35 years, Kurdish leaders and Kurds at the grass-roots level can speak out about their views on federalism without having to worry about being the victims of chemical attacks. Shi'a members of this country, Shi'ia citizens in this country, can speak out about their own hopes for direct elections sooner than we may think is possible, without having to fear of winding up in a mass grave.  It is a different environment which we are in right now.  Iraqis have many opinions.  They're speaking out.  They are engaged in this discussion. There are over 200 newspapers that have sprouted up since liberation that have -- that are certainly exercising their right to free speech.  I have no doubt that there is divergence of view and a lively debate going on out there, and some people agree with our position and some people disagree.  The important point is they all have the right to express it.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  -- (Off mike.) -- there has been a sense with Governing Council that Iraq is going to adopt the Islamic law as a source for setting up the institution.  So why Ambassador Bremer is insisting that Islam should not be the only source for writing down the Constitution while the members of the Governing Council have admitted that in their last meeting?

 

     Senor:  I have not seen any report that the Governing Council as a collective body has taken the position that you've just characterized.  I can tell you though that the Governing Council as a collective body did agree to the November 15th agreement in which they agreed to enshrine in the interim administrative law respect for the fact that a majority of Iraqis are of Islamic identity.  At the same time though, however, striking a balance between that and protecting the religious practice and expression and identity of all Iraqis, regardless of what religion they are.  So that is the position of the Governing Council.  Individuals may be speaking out and saying things that diverge from that, but that is the document that they signed.  That is the agreement we reached with them, and we are pleased that they are implementing a process going forward now as we move forward to the final passage of the transitional administrative law that reflects those principles that they agree to.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q [Question in Arabic through interpreter.]:  -- Wadil al Zawi (ph) from the Arabic Section of the BBC.  Do you speak about and all the administration speak about handing over the sovereignty to the Iraqis and the transition law.  We do want to understand that to whom you are going to hand over the authority -- to the members of the Governing Council, or to include the members of the Governing Council? Is it going to be according to what the Iraqis appeal or want? Is it going to be accounted on the election and Iraqis are going to participate in this election?

 

     Mr. Sistani says -- it was his statement that the authority is not -- the new government is not going to -- so he said that -- Sistani said that the members of the new government are not going to be responsible for any decisions they are going to make.  So I think it's true they are going to be under the pressure of the American administration.  And I think it's true also that they are not going to be free and independent.  So what is the use of handing over the sovereignty to the Iraqis since they are not going to be independent and they are not going to be the master of decisions?  There are going to be others who might just decide for them.  So can you just clarify for us how are -- who you are going to hand over the sovereignty to?

 

     Senor:   When we stated our concerns with the ability to hold direct elections in Iraq within the next three or four months, before we hand over sovereignty, we recognized that implicit with that concern was the fact that it is difficult to hand sovereignty over to a political body that is deemed as credible and legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people that is not directly elected.  That's a difficult task to establish credibility, establish legitimacy for a political body short of direct elections, short of every individual in Iraq, every eligible individual in Iraq, being able to drop a ballot into a ballot box on a certain day.  That is a fair point.

 

     So we have established a process with the caucus system, which you all are familiar with, to address those points.   It's complicated.  That's why the caucus system is so complicated.  Establishing a legitimate government short of direct elections is complicated.  And in order to address that complex problem, which we have a complex solution, which are caucuses.   Nobody to this point has seemed to be able to provide or offer an alternative that is less complicated.  In fact, when Mr. Brahimi was here standing at this podium, about a week and a half ago, he had certainly important answers to a number of issues.  But one issue he did not have an answer to immediately, just based on his week in Iraq, was how to address the issue that we're trying to address, which is the legitimacy for a government short of direct elections.  He himself acknowledged it is complicated and it's going to take some time to work that through.  That is why we have said all along we have a recognition that it's complicated, we are open to improvements, we are open to clarifications, we are open to modifications.  We are ready to listen and we are ready to work with individuals, organizations, who think they have a simpler process.  And that is in part why we are looking forward to the U.N.'s report on this particular issue in the weeks ahead.

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  You haven't answered my question.  To whom you are going to give the sovereignty?  What is the form of the government that is going to take over?  Is it going to be employed by the Coalition authority?  Is it going to be given to the improved form of the Governing Council?  To whom you are going to give this sovereignty?

 

     Senor:  I actually did answer your question, and the answer is we have a process to hand over sovereignty to a transitional National Assembly and a government and executive branch at the head of that transitional National Assembly.  That is outlined in the November 15th political agreement -- it’s clear, open for everybody to see.  We have a process.  It is a process by which caucuses in all the 18 provinces in this country select delegates to a transitional assembly, and that assembly in the month of June chooses a government to run the country.  It is very representative of all of Iraq -- not directly representative albeit -- I accept that point -- but it is as representative, we believe, is as possible in an environment where we cannot have direct elections immediately. That's our process.  We are open to clarifications, we are open to modifications, we are open to elaborations.  We are receiving them from multiple individuals and organizations and political leaders throughout Iraq.  We are looking forward to the recommendation from the U.N.  And to the extent that those -- to the extent that that input influences the process, there will be changes.  And when there are changes, we will be sure to let you know as soon as possible, and the Governing Council will be certain to let you know as soon as possible.

 

     If you want to know the mechanism that is in place, the mechanism that is in place is the November 15th agreement.  But it’s subject to change right now for the reasons I articulated a moment ago.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q:  Stephen Gray (ph) from the Sunday Times, London.  What plans do you have to hand back the presidential palaces, both in Baghdad and around the country, to the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi people?

 

     Senor:  We -- that is not an issue we have addressed right now.  Presumably that is a matter that will have to be addressed as we move closer to sovereignty and handover of authority.  We are -- there are a number of issues on our plate right now.   Some of them are more pressing than others.  Certainly the transitional administrative law, in the short period of time left before the deadline, is the immediate priority.  There are other issues to be worked out in the months ahead.  Presumably that is one of them, but I think that's one that we will probably deal with later on in the process.

 

     Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Dan, you talked about the issue of the transitional committee that is going to be making this transition.  How are you going to choose or  select transitional committee?   Who are going to be the representatives in this transitional committee?   When the authority is going to be handed over; what will be their role? How are they going to play their role?

 

     And for Mr. Kimmitt, can you just give us a clarification of the second corps, their operations, how -- can you clarify the operations of the 2nd Corps where you have just detained and captured a member of the suspected members in Karada (ph)?  Can you clarify this operation for us?  More clarification?

 

     Senor:  Are you -- just to clarify, are you referring to the transitional administrative law, the transitional law or the transitional --

 

     Q:  Yes, yes.

 

     Senor:  Or just the transitional committee?

 

     Interpreter:  No, he is just mentioning the transitional committee that is going to be formed.  So who is going to be members in it?  Who are going to represent them? And what will be their role?

 

     Q:  (Off mike.)?

 

      Senor:  The transitional committee, meaning the transitional parliament that I was just referring to, the transitional assembly?  Well, the way that is outlined in the November 15th agreement, which is as you all know subject to change right now, the way it is outlined is for there to be caucuses in each of the 18 provinces, in each of the 18 governorates.  And those caucuses would select delegates based on proportionate representation, population representation of their provinces to this national assembly. The way the delegates to the caucuses would be chosen would be through organizing committees.  There would be an organizing committee for each caucus in each province.  Fifteen members on the organizing committee; five members selected by the Governing Council, five members selected by the provincial council or provincial government, and five members selected by the five largest cities and towns -- their councils, their municipal councils, would select the organizing committee members, and the organizing committee members would select the delegates, and the delegates would select individuals to represent the province in the transitional administrative assembly.  But -- transitional national assembly.

But again let me say, for all the reasons I've explained a few minutes ago, that process is subject to significant change right now, and we're looking forward to hearing recommendations as we move forward the process, because we are focused on the June 30th handover, and we want to get to a process where we have a body to hand sovereignty over to.

 

     Kimmitt:  On the question about the 2nd Corpus, I think we might be having a translation problem.  Why don't we take that question, and we can sit down afterwards.  I think it might just be a -- we have no organization called the Second Corpus.

 

     Interpreter:  He says the armored division.   The armored -- oh, now he clarifies -- no he clarifies.  Okay, I will just translate directly what he said.  He said the operation that was held by the 2nd (Brigadel?), through their division to capture and detain some of the suspected members in Karada (ph).  So he mentioned the 2nd Armored (Brigadel?).

 

     Kimmitt:  Again, I think we are having a translation problem.  Let's take that for afterwards.  We don't have a -- it's not translating well, a 2nd Armored (Brigadel?), but perhaps we can work that right after this.  Okay.

 

     Senor:  Yes, sir?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  -- I have two questions.  The first to General Kimmitt.  You just announced a few days ago that you have reduced the level of your soldiers from the central part of the country into the borders.  So do you have any -- do you think that this is a new strategy that is going to be adopted by you?

 

     And the second question is for Mr. Dan Senor.  Why have you chosen to have training for the Iraqi police forces?  Do you think that Iraq is not capable enough to hold up these training courses or training for the Iraqis and Jordan is more experienced and they have more --

 

     Senor:  We do have a very ambitious schedule for police training in this country, and it is more ambitious than the commensurate infrastructure in place to handle the training schedule that is necessary.  So we are sending some recruits to Jordan to do some of the training.  Many recruits are being trained in Iraq, so Iraq is very capable, and Iraqis are very capable of handling police training.  It's just an infrastructure problem.  We don't have the capacity.

 

     However, what we're also doing is we're not only training some Iraqi recruits, police recruits, in Iraq, but we are sending Iraqi police trainers to Jordan to work with the Jordanians on the training.  So Iraqi trainers are training Iraqis in Iraq, and Iraqi trainers are training Iraqis in Jordan.  It's just from a facility infrastructure standpoint Iraq doesn't have a capacity necessity to train at the rate we need to.  And so we have reached a bottleneck, and we are seeking to address it by diversifying the training facilities.

 

     Kimmitt:  With regards to your questions about the reduction in forces in the central part of the country, there would be one of two places that that would have occurred, either in the Al Anbar province, where there will not be a net reduction of forces -- in fact, the capabilities that the Marines are going to be bringing in with the 1st MEF minus will probably actually give us more capability in sheer numbers, because of the size of their forces and the size of their infantry battalions.  Within the city of Baghdad, the net effect between the transfer of authority with the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Cavalry Division will be roughly on the order of about 20 percent of the force will be a little bit -- will be smaller.  Numerically that can be accounted for by a couple of reasons.  One, we're certainly reducing the number of armored vehicles that are going to be coming with the 1st Cavalry Division.  The 1st Armored Division came into this country capable of fighting high-intensity warfare.  That threat is no longer there.  We do not envision in the near future having tank-on-tank battles here in the country.  So there is no longer a necessity for the large number of tanks that the 1st Armored Division possesses.

 

     Number two, they will be doing more -- there will be more Iraqis -- there's certainly more Iraqi security forces operating in Baghdad now than there were when the 1st Armored Division first came into Baghdad.  That increase in the number of Iraqi security forces, that contribution that is being provided by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, by the Iraqi police force, certainly offsets any reductions in the number of personnel that are going to be departing as the 1st Armored Division transfers out with the 1st Cavalry Division.

 

     Senor:  Yes?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  I would like to ask a question after this statement of Mr. Ambassador Bremer.   One of the Shi'ia leaders announced that they are going to conduct an armed revolution in case they are not going to be listened to some of their requests.  So how are you going to respond to this request, or how are you going to respond to this action in case this announcement was true?

 

     Senor:  We are having a very vibrant discussion right now with Iraq's political leaders on how to move forward in the political process, how to address the transitional administrative law.  It is a non-violent process.  There are channels for democratic activism in Iraq today that are non-violent.  We will not tolerate any violence in any way in the context of the political process or any other.  And I would just leave it at that.

 

     Most of Iraq's political leaders will tell you that we are very open to serious discussions on a very regular basis.  Just today Ambassador Bremer, for instance, met with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani from the north about how to move forward on issues of their concern in the transitional administrative law.  He is meeting regularly with Shi'ia leaders.  He is meeting regularly with Sunni leaders.  He is meeting with leaders from various parties and various professional groups.  And earlier this morning he met with a women's group.  There are many channels for communication with the CPA and for discussion within the Iraq body politic and within the Iraq political theater if you will.  We will not tolerate violence as a means of political expression.

 

     Yes, sir?

 

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  By the name of God the most merciful, a few minutes ago you have just announced that the transitional authority is not going to have -- you just said Islam is not going to be the only source for sharia.  What is your expectation in case that sharia was the only source for writing down the law of the constitution?  So how are you going to respond in case the only law has been adopted for constitution was sharia Islamiya?

 

     Senor:  This -- I'm not going to address hypotheticals and speculate.  It's a very complicated process we are engaged in right now, and it is very fluid.  It is very difficult to provide a snapshot at any given moment in this discussion as to exactly where things stand and how we will react in the event it goes one route rather than another.  Let's let the process play out.  Ambassador Bremer has articulated what his view is going forward for this political process, and what President Bush's and Prime Minister Blair's vision is for a sovereign, democratic Iraq, at peace with itself and at peace with the world.  And the Governing Council has also spoken out quite clearly on this issue in the November 15th political agreement.  So we have enough guideposts, if you will, that are quite clear to get us through this process, and if things are thrown off track, we'll address them when they are thrown off track.  And if there are new developments, we'll address them when they -- as they develop.

 

     Christine, the last question, and then we're going to wrap up.

 

     Q:  Can you characterize the meetings today that Ambassador Bremer had with Mr. Barzani and Talabani?  And are they in reference to the problems with the Kurds and what they want with the basic law?  There's been several press reports.

 

     Senor:  Sure.  I would say this:  Ambassador Bremer had a very productive discussion this morning with Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani, and very constructive as we move closer and closer to February 28th.  Both they and we understand the importance of resolving any issues of mutual concern by February 28th as we finalize -- as the Governing Council finalizes the transitional administrative law.

 

     And, as I said earlier, I'm reticent or reluctant to characterize the state of discussions on an issue-by-issue basis, certainly on a minute-by-minute basis, because it is so fluid and it is so complicated.  Certainly once we bring all these issues to closure they will be made fully transparent to everybody.  But in the minute-by-minute process here, which is very, very fluid, Christine, I'd rather not characterize it at the moment, because I think it will end up shedding -- or complicating the reporting of the process rather than shedding light on it.

 

     Thanks everybody.

 

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