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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Daniel Senor, Senior Advisor to the CPA and Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deupty Director, Coaltion
March 30, 2004 9:05 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I just have a few announcements on Ambassador Bremer's schedule, and General Kimmitt has an opening statement.  And then we will be happy to take your questions.

 

            Today the Ministry of Education, the Iraqi Ministry of Education, hosted more than 200 Iraqi education, business, civic, political and religious leaders, who have traveled from across the country for a two-day national symposium focusing on the future of Iraq's educational system.  The symposium included a specific focus on the development of Iraq's curriculum as the nation prepares for the transfer of sovereignty in less than a hundred days.  Media were invited to all sessions throughout today, and the program, the symposium, will continue tomorrow.

 

            On March 31st, Dr. Alwan, the minister of education, will -- which is tomorrow -- will hold an English-language press conference to review the events and outcomes of the two-day symposium.

 

            Earlier today Ambassador Bremer hosted a meeting of Iraq's 25 ministers.  It was approximately a two-hour meeting, in which a number of issues were addressed, including early preparations for the ministries' 2005 budgets.  And other issues that came up included oil-for-food program documentation, as there has been several investigations brought to our attention with regard to the oil-for-food program.  And Ambassador Bremer has issued a directive to all the ministries regarding providing cooperative -- cooperating and providing documentation.

 

            Ambassador Bremer later on in the day had a meeting at the Al- Naharain (sp) law school, where 50 law school students attended, and he announced continued appointment of inspector generals to the various ministries.  In fact, eight of the inspectors generals (sic) were in attendance.

 

            And about an hour and a half ago, Ambassador Bremer held a town hall meeting with approximately 50 Iraqi university students -- and this is for broadcast on Al-Iraqiyah; it should broadcast within the next 24 hours -- in which a whole host of issues were addressed.  They were -- the questions were posed by the students, and it was just a free give-and-take.

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Thanks, Dan.

 

            Good afternoon.  The area of operations remains stable, although there has been a slight up-tick in the number of attacks against coalition forces in the past week.  There have been an average of 26 engagements daily against coalition military, just over five attacks daily against Iraqi security forces and just over three attacks daily against Iraqi civilians.

 

            Nonetheless, the coalition continued to conduct precision offensive operations to kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people, in order to obtain intelligence for future operations and to ensure the people of Iraq of our determination to establish a safe and secure environment.  To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,383 patrols, 14 offensive operations, 12 raids, captured 56 anti-coalition suspects and released 48 detainees.

 

            In the northern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 115 patrols, four offensive operations and detained three anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Yesterday Iraqi police were attacked with small-arms fire from a house in Mosul; two Iraqis were wounded and one apprehended.  Inside a vehicle nearby, police found and confiscated two rocket-propelled grenades and three hand grenades.

 

            Yesterday forces reported that a contractor security patrol was attacked with small-arms fire northwest of Mosul.  The attack resulted in three injured security employees, later medevac'd to coalition medical facilities.  Today three coalition soldiers were wounded by IED during a patrol of Mosul.  There was minor damage to two vehicles, but all the injured soldiers returned to duty.

 

            Yesterday two Coalition Provisional Authority vehicles were engaged by small-arms fire.  They broke contact and sought refuge at an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps checkpoint.  The ICDC protected them and deployed a quick-reaction force to the site.  After a brief firefight, the ICDC captured two individuals.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 254 patrols, one raid and captured eight anti-coalition suspects.  Two days ago, coalition forces conducted a raid in southern Kirkuk.  The purpose of the raid was to capture targets suspected of facilitating the entry of foreign fighters into the area of operation.  The force captured a man they believe to be the target and is currently in custody for identification and interrogation.

 

            In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 620 patrols, 31 escort missions and captured eight anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Yesterday an Iraqi drove through the do-not-pass sign at a checkpoint.  The guards manning the checkpoint signaled for the driver to stop but he continued to move forward.  The soldiers fired a warning shot, the vehicle stopped for a few moments and then proceeded forward again.  Once the vehicle passed the no-penetration line, the unit fired one round inside the vehicle wounding the Iraqi citizen in the arm.  The Iraqi citizen was treated on-site and then transported to the 31st Combat Support Hospital for treatment, and an investigation has been instigated -- initiated into this incident.

 

            Yesterday two persons in a vehicle threw grenades at the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps recruiting station on the 14th of July Road.  The guards returned fire and the attackers broke contact.  There was no damage to personnel or injuries resulting from this incident.  Two days ago, coalition forces conducted a cordon and search to capture suspected anti-coalition cell members.  The unit captured three persons, two of them targets from the cell.

 

            In the western zone of operations, a 13th Corps Support Command convoy was attacked with an improvised explosive device in the vicinity of Al Asad yesterday.  The explosion caused one of the convoy's vehicles to run off the road, killing one soldier and wounding another.  After the wounded soldier was evacuated by helicopter, the ambush site came under attack with small arms.  The second attack resulted in the detention of seven Iraqis.

 

            At 9:15 this morning, a dismounted patrol was attacked with an improvised explosive device near Ar Ramadi.  The attack resulted in one coalition troop killed and one wounded.  The wounded troop was air medevac'd to the 31st Corps Support -- Combat Support Hospital.

 

            In the central south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 122 patrols, established 54 checkpoints and escorted 39 convoys.  Yesterday coalition forces and Iraqi police conducted a joint operation in Ad Diwaniyah to close an alleged Shari'a court.  One machine gun was confiscated, and two militants believed to belong to the Mahdi army were arrested.

 

            Civil Military Cooperation soldiers and the Humanitarian Assistance Center in Emendi (ph), central south, established a delivery distribution plan for donated medicine worth 500,000 American dollars.

 

            Six Iraqis, including the bodyguard of the chief of Babil Province were injured this morning when a suicide bomber killed himself detonating a car bomb near the chief's home in Al Hillah this morning.  The wounded were transported to the Al Hillah Hospital, where their conditions remain unknown.  The Iraqi Police Service has responsibility for the investigation of this attack.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, coalition forces were tasked to evict trespassers from local government buildings in Basra yesterday.  Forces were assaulted by a crowd of 50 to 70 personnel who surrounded them, throwing stones and vandalizing vehicles.  After a short period of time, the incident resulted in two minor coalition casualties, later evacuated to the military hospital nearby.

 

            United States Agency for International Development partner Bechtel is constructing 56 kilometers of branch rail lines from Umm Qasr to the Shawaba (ph) Junction and 16 kilometers of port rail sidings to improve the Basra region rail facilities.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we will be happy to take your questions.  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Concerning the arrests or detention of some suspected near Karbala, as in a statement that there were five suspected which were detained.  Who is this terrorist organization to which they belong?  Is it the first time you discover a terrorist organization in Karbala?  And then Mr. Bremer, did he meet with the delegation of the United Nations which is visiting Baghdad?

 

            MR. SENOR:  On the first question, Mr. Bremer has met with one of the teams.  Only one of the teams from the U.N. is here, arrived a few days ago.  Mr. Brahimi's team has not yet arrived, but the first team, led by Ms. Perelli, has been here for a few days.  Ambassador Bremer has met with them on several occasions.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'm not aware of the report you're referring to regarding the apprehension of five terrorists in the vicinity of Karbala.  It is not the first time, if it did happen, that we have apprehended persons with ties to terrorist organizations in the vicinity of Karbala.  As you remember, after the bombings earlier this year during Ashura we did pick up a number of people north of Karbala that we believed had associations with a terrorist cell.  So again, I'm not sure which report you're referring to, but it is certainly not the first time that we have seen persons with terrorist connections in that region.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, go ahead.

 

            Q     Dan Murphy from the Christian Science Monitor.  I guess this is for General Kimmitt.  Why do you think the security situation seems to have deteriorated so badly in and around Mosul?  Thanks.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, first of all, that's an assessment that you may be making; it is certainly not an assessment being made by the personnel up in Mosul.  They did have, over the past few days -- I believe on the 28th and 27th -- an up-tick in the number of attacks. It normally gets somewhere in the order of four to five attacks per day.  On one particular day it spiked up to 12.  They are not yet ready to suggest that it's either a trend as much as it might just be one or two bad days.  They've had a very good day for the last two days, and I know when I talked to them today they felt that the situation at this point still remains manageable and they're not really to suggest -- they are not ready at this point to suggest that the security situation has changed in any appreciable manner.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah.

 

            Q     Can you confirm that the man the BBC program "Panorama" named as the one who having turned in Saddam Hussein was Mr. Musslit?

 

            MR. SENOR:  One of the things that we traditionally do in our -- among other things that we do with the persons that come forward to provide information is honor their desire for anonymity, and so we're not going to either confirm or deny that that person that you're suggesting on "Panorama" had anything to do at all with the apprehension of Saddam Hussein.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Fiona?

 

            Q     General Kimmitt, do you know anything about disturbances in Najaf today, in which Spanish soldiers were injured?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, we heard that question being asked earlier, and we called down to the unit.  The unit itself, the Multinational Division Central South, can't confirm that there were any disturbances in Najaf.  Doesn't mean they haven't had it; we just have had no reports of it.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Jennifer?

 

            Q     The shutdown of Al-Hawza -- were they warned at all?  Were there any sort of letters sent to them before this letter that Bremer sent?  And what kind of message do you think that sends to Iraqi journalists?

 

            MR. SENOR:  There was no warning.  Under CPA Order Number 14, we are not required to issue a warning.  From time to time, there are cases that we think warrant a warning, and then other times there are cases that we believe warrant swift action.

 

            I think our overall message to the Iraqi people is quite clear in events like this, which we hold on a daily basis.  There are over 200 Iraqi newspapers that have sprouted up since liberation.  Many of them are represented at our daily press conferences, free to ask any questions they want.  A group of Iraqi journalists meet on a weekly basis with Ambassador Bremer.  We bend over backwards to protect the free Iraqi press's right to exist and practice their trade here in Iraq.

 

            What we will not tolerate, however, is individuals or organizations that seek to incite violence against the coalition or against Iraqis, whether they're news organizations or not.  We will not allow that sort of activity in an environment in which are responsible for the security and safety of the local population and of our forces.

 

            We have a responsibility to protect, to strike a balance.  And the balance is between protecting against incitement of violence while at the same time protecting the freedom of press.  It's often difficult to strike the right balance.  But some cases are clear.  And when you have a newspaper like Al-Hawza, which repeatedly uses rhetoric designed to incite violence against U.S. soldiers and against the Iraqi people, we have an obligation to step forward and shut them down.  And we did it for 60 days, and we hope that's all it will require.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Can you clarify what was within those five persons that deserve to call them terrorists (sic)?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The -- again, we still have not acknowledged that we captured five persons who we're calling terrorists.  But however, we typically talk about terrorists -- people that will attack innocent civilians for the sole purpose of trying to create spectacular effects, symbolic effects.  Anybody who uses car bombs to go against Iraqi police stations, killing a significant number of persons in the process, innocent civilians, bystanders; anybody who will fire rockets specifically to kill innocent civilians; anybody who will use suicide vests to kill innocent civilians, we would label them, we think appropriately so, the term terrorist.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah?

 

            Q     Dan, in the wake of these basically protests coming from Ayatollah Sistani, I'm wondering if there's been any effort at all to try to change his mind, to get him to soften his criticism of the interim constitution, the TAL.  And also wondering if there's any chance -- are you ruling out the possibility that the TAL could be changed before June 30th -- any changes to it, as he has been calling for?

 

            MR. SENOR:  We are moving forward with the TAL.  We are moving forward with the overall political process.  The Iraqi Governing Council is engaged in this effort.  They are actually appearing and will be appearing over the next several weeks in participating in a very organized public effort to promote the transitional administrative law to the Iraqi people.  I think Dr. Adel Mehdi, a member, prominent member of the -- or deputy member, if you will, of the Iraqi Governing Council, represents Shi'a community -- will be speaking I think tonight on the Al-Iraqiyah, tonight or tomorrow night, about the transitional administrative law.

 

            So I would -- I don't think there's any sort of unanimity among one community on the transitional administrative law.  I think you have multiple communities, and within those communities multiple voices speaking.  We think that's a healthy process.  We would be concerned, as I've said earlier, if there was no discussion, no heated debate, no difference of opinion after a document like that was passed.  It's a good sign that people are engaged in debate about this.

 

            As for Ayatollah Sistani, we have tremendous respect for him, his point of views.  He represents a long tradition and a great number of Iraqis.  And he is a key voice in this debate, as are all Iraqi political, religious and regional leaders.  And he -- my understanding -- has sent correspondence to the United Nations with regard to the   interim constitution and there is purportedly some sort of exchange, or could be some sort of exchange, between him and Mr. Brahimi.  And I don't want to speak on behalf of two statesmen, two leaders -- speak on behalf of the communications they're having with one another.  But we welcome all voices in this process and we're glad that they are contributing to a vibrant debate.

 

            Yeah.

 

            Q     Do you know anything about reports from Mosul that 300 police officers have quit?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We were asked that last night.  We contacted the military units up in Mosul.  They have no knowledge of any such massive resignation on the part of any number of police up in that region.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Here.

 

            Q     General, how are Marine operations going in Fallujah?  And, Dan, is there any assessment that these daily Hawza demonstrations are also going outside the bounds of freedom of expression?

 

            MR. SENOR:   They're going -- the demonstrations are going outside the bounds?  How are they going --

 

            Q     Do you have any concern that, by expressing their anger or building in numbers or churning around town daily, this is going to become a problem?

 

            MR. SENOR:   Carol, fortunately since April 9th we have seen many people speaking out and organizing demonstrations, sit-ins.  They have -- I attended a Governing Council meeting once where a group of people were organizing a protest.  We've seen dueling press conferences inside this country since April 9th.  This is all part of the language and rhythm and tone of a free society, and we think whether individual Iraqis support the measures we take or are critical of the measures we take that they would all probably agree that freedom of speech, freedom of assembly is a good thing, and the liberation that came on April 9th was a welcome development in their daily lives.

 

            As for the individual incidents that are taking place regarding the closing of Al-Hawza, to my understanding they have been nonviolent and to my understanding they have not reached the level that would cause concern.  But I don't know the most up-to-date situation with regards to demonstrations.  You may have more information than I do. But to my understanding there has been no real concern about incitement of violence against the coalition or against Iraqis, which would obviously be a concern for us if that were occurring.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The operations in Fallujah.  The Marines are quite pleased with how they're moving, progressing forward.  There was a short period of time, perhaps a misjudgment on the part of a small number of insurgents out there that believed with the changeover between the 82nd Airborne and the Marines that somehow there could be exclusionary zones and areas where the coalition could not or would not operate.

 

            The Marines, knowing that they have a responsibility for a safe and secure environment throughout the entire Al Anbar province, and fully understanding their requirement to have freedom of movement throughout the province, went in there.  Some people challenged them. Some people tested them.  Some people failed the test.  And the Marines are enthusiastic about, one, maintaining security, but more enthusiastic about the second aspect of that, which is getting on with the notion of providing support in that region, so that all citizens in the Al Anbar province, all citizens in the town of Fallujah will not be terrorized by a small number of insurgents, but in fact can profit from the significant amount of civic action projects that they can bring into the town of Fallujah.

 

            So the Marines are quite pleased with how things are going in Fallujah, and they're looking forward to continuing the progress in establishing a safe and secure environment and rebuilding that province in Iraq.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Go ahead.

 

            Q     General Kimmitt, Robert Fisk of The London Independent.  I notice in your narrative today that there seems to be a distinction, in what you say, between terrorists or terrorist cells and insurgents, which is the word you always use about Fallujah.  Could you define the difference between the two words and why you use the two different words, please?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Sure.  Yeah.  Many of the reporters that have been here for a couple of months -- I think we have gone through this process of understanding the two different types of threats that we have seen out over in the region over the past few months.  You've got former regime elements, paramilitary trained in the Iraqi army, Iraqi intelligence service, who had -- and perhaps still continue to have -- some sort of idea that they can return, if not a Saddamist government to power, perhaps could bring some sort of authoritarian Ba'ath-like structure back to power.  They -- those types of insurgents are the ones that we've seen at length out in Fallujah.

 

            We've seen that most evident in situations such as the attack on the Fallujah police station about a month ago, where somewhere on the order of 75 paramilitary attacked the Fallujah police station.

 

            That is a different tactic, and we believe they have a different motive than what we've seen in other regions of Iraq, where you have a term -- a number of terms -- suicidal, symbolic and spectacular attacks, done by groups such as Ansar al-Islam, the Zarqawi network, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, who, rather than target the coalition in what we would euphemistically call stand-up fighting, would rather target soft targets using car bombs, going into masses of people, to try to create a spectacular event with a large number of civilian casualties, against a symbolic target.  Typically this happens against foreign hotels, Iraqi police service stations.  It's happened against the new Iraqi army recruiting station.  It's happened against mosques and against town halls.  And we have often seen with that the use of a suicide car bomb sort of triggering event.

 

            And those are two different types of threats that we've seen through this country over the past six to 12 months.  The former regime element has something we spent many, many months working against, fighting against, and we've seen that threat diminish, but it has not yet been eliminated.  The terrorist threat, which we started to see some of the preliminary signs and signatures and handiwork, such as the U.N. bombing, the International Committee of the Red Cross bombing, we've seen that over a period of time too, and in fact, the latter, the suicide terrorist types of attacks, there's been a minor up-tick in that over the last couple of months as well.

 

            We think this is all coincident with our projections that as we got closer and closer to handing over governance to this country that there would be those two distinct groups, sometimes they merge together for common efforts, but who are trying to stop the people of Iraq from moving to a secure, independent and sovereign nation, and would either like to see a restoration to an authoritarian, Ba'ath- like regime of five years ago, or even worse, an apocalyptic, extremist, sort of Afghanistan/Taliban/al Qaeda type of environment of five centuries ago.  Both of them work together at times, both of them work independently.  They certainly have different motivations.  But both of them have different signature, different characteristics, and we believe, in the end, different motivations.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Can you clarify the nationality of those five that you recognize them as being terrorists?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'm sorry, would you please repeat the question?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  What are the nationalities of the five that you mentioned and you consider them as terrorists?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Again, the question was asked earlier.  Can I affirm that there was an arrest and detention of five terrorists in the vicinity of Karbala?  As I said, we have no reports of those terrorists being apprehended in the city of Karbala.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah?

 

            Q     Colin McMahon from the Chicago Tribune.  General, a couple of questions back to Mosul.  One specifically, that incident in which the car with the four people attacked coalition forces and then they shot them dead, was there any indication that those people in that car had been involved in any of the attacks of the previous couple of days or that day even?  That's the first question.

 

            The second one is, notwithstanding that this up-tick may or may not be a change in security situation in Mosul, you talked last night about the possibility that there may be some tribal or criminal elements involved.  Do you have anything more on that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first, we don't believe that the incident the other day, where there was a drive-by shooting against coalition forces, where fire was returned and four persons were killed in a car, we can't at this point establish any linkage between that incident and any of the other incidents of the past few days.

 

            With regards to whether we can definitely link many of the activities up in Mosul to either criminal or to tribal disputes, politics, that is something that we continue to look at.  We haven't made the exact link.  We suspect there is some criminal activity up there, which would cause some of this violence.  But the sooner we find out the answer to those questions, the sooner we can go to the heart of it and try to get Mosul back to -- either prevent it from having a trend line, where we're going to see more and more attacks, and get it back to a stable and secure environment, which it's pretty much been over the last few months.

 

            MR. SENOR:   Yeah?  Yeah, go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  General Kimmitt, concerning the attack on the Spanish.  Can you give us more details?  There are witnesses who said that there are many accidents that happened in Najaf between the Spanish soldiers and the people asking for employment.

 

            Second question for Mr. Dan Senor, concerning the meetings of the United Nations teams.  Can you give us more details?  How far have you reached in these meetings and will Lakhdar (sp?) Brahimi arrive in Iraq today?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Again, as I stated earlier, we called down to the unit responsible for Najaf and the Spanish unit.  At this point they did not have any reports on the incident.  As soon as we have those reports we will let you know.  We may have something by the end of this press conference, so please ask us after the press conference; maybe a report will have come in of that incident.  Sometimes the press is much closer to the action and, as a result, sometimes you get the reports before we do.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your second question, I'm not going to comment on the travel plans of Mr. Brahimi for obvious operational security reasons.  As for the team that is here, led by Ms. Perelli, that team is primarily focused on the formation of the interim government.  They just arrived here; they're just in the early stages of -- I'm sorry, I have those mixed up.  Perelli's team is focused on the direct elections; Mr. Brahimi will be focused on the interim government.

 

            And as far the interim government is concerned, I'll tell you where we stand on it.  We believe that the interim government should broaden the representation of the political structure of Iraq.  We believe that the interim government should contain some checks and balances within it.  And we think it's also important to remember, as I've said from this podium before, that the interim government will only be in power for seven months.  Its agenda will be limited to preparing and beginning to manage Iraq's 2005 budget, managing the day-to-day operations of the ministries or essentially overseeing the ministers, and preparing for Iraq's first direct election.  That will effectively be the parameters of the interim government, as I said, which will only be in power for about seven months.  And we'll know -- we'll have a better sense of where we are heading and the changes we are making to form that interim government once Mr. Brahimi arrives and consults a broad number -- broad range of Iraqis.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q    (Through interpreter.)  Joal Travul (ph) from Al-Arabiyah. Yesterday the Al-Arabiyah office received the information concerning the martyrdom of two correspondents from Al-Arabiyah.  Let me read this report.  "We are very sorry for the shooting -- the incidental shooting on the Al-Arabiyah correspondents."  Will the soldiers who shoot the correspondents be tried?  Is there any -- there is a law which protects the coalition soldiers from any legal procedures.  This law has led to the soldiers using extra power.  Will this law remain after the 30th of June?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Again, as we said last night, we deeply regret the incident, which resulted in the death of two Al-Arabiyah reporters. The soldiers were investigated.  The incident was investigated.  As you know, the soldiers were not shooting at that particular vehicle, but were acting in self-defense at a vehicle which was coming down after them, had hit one of our vehicles at such a pace, at such a rate of speed that it pushed that vehicle back 10 to 15 feet.

 

            The soldiers have an inherent right of self-defense.  They were exercising that right to self-defense.  It was established that those soldiers acted properly within their rules for the use of force and rules of engagement.  And as a result, at this point the investigation has determined that no further action need be taken against those soldiers.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sewell?

 

            Q     Hi, Dan.  I have two questions, both related to the CPA's consultations with the different U.N. teams.  Obviously, one has not yet arrived.  With respect to the elections, what is the CPA's position on how best to form an independent electoral commission that would have the legitimacy and credibility to be able to administer actual polling?  And what sort of information about the situation on the ground with respect to the logistics of conducting an election is the CPA sharing with the U.N.?

 

            My second question is, you said earlier, just two questions ago, that you believe that the interim government should be a broadening -- represent a broadening of the political structure.  Are you specifically saying that it should take the form of an expanded version of the current Governing council?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, the U.N. has expertise in establishing the requisite infrastructure for direct elections.  It has expertise in doing it all over the world, something like over 50 countries they have ongoing activities, engage in this sort of work.  And one of the things they do is form electoral commissions, form -- work -- establish what's necessary for the drafting of political party laws, voter roles, electoral laws.  And so we are really, Sewell, waiting for their input here before we take next steps on the -- what we would design as the mechanics, if you will, of the electoral commission, the mechanics of this legal infrastructure.  And I really want to wait until they have some time on the ground here working with us before we start indicating which direction we will go.

 

            At a very high level we have a sense of what is necessary.  At a very high level we recognize that certainly there's been no census held in this country, no credible census for some 20 years.  There needs to be a reliable mechanism to account for every eligible voter in this country, and that is one of the things that the electoral commission and the political party law and these other mechanisms will address.

 

            And your other question was, oh, making the Governing Council or, whatever, the interim government more representative.  First let me say we believe that the Iraqi Governing Council is very representative of Iraqi society, of Sunni, Shi'a, Kurd, Turkmen, Christian, men, women on this body.  Certainly watching the pace and ups and downs of the negotiations and ultimate drafting and finalization of the interim constitution was indicative of how diverse this group is and the diverse communities they represent.  It is certainly the most representative government body in the history of Iraq.  It's arguably the most representative government body in this entire region.  It has been recognized as the embodiment of Iraqi sovereignty by the United Nations Security Council.  It has been recognized by multiple international organizations, from the World Trade Organization to the Arab League.

 

            But, that said, we should never stop working to make the political structure of Iraq more representative.  The Governing Council is a representative body, but that's not enough.  We should always be working to make whatever body we hand sovereignty over here to more representative, and that goal doesn't give us right now a clear path of the changes that need to be made to the current plan. It just is a goal, and underneath that goal in pursuit of that goal there are multiple paths we could go.  There is no leading option right now.  The November 15th agreement laid out a plan.  We've said all along that it would be subject to change, clarifications, elaborations; that is to the caucus plan.  We are now -- we now recognize that it's going to be subject to substantial change, if not, you know, total replacement.  And that's what we're waiting for Mr. Brahimi's team to arrive and begin to look at.  But again, the high-level goal: broaden representation. Underneath that goal there are multiple ways to go, and we are -- once Mr. Brahimi arrives, we'll have deeper discussions.  And after we consult with a large and broad number of Iraqis, we'll have a clearer sense of what the path looks like.

 

            Someone who hasn't asked a question.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q     Melinda Liu, Newsweek magazine.  A question for General Kimmitt.  Just a minute ago you explained two types of people who are involved in anti-coalition violence; one being those who want to return to some kind of Ba'ath-type authoritarian system, and another being al Qaeda types who want to return to something like 5,000 years ago.  I would assume that the latter, the al Qaeda types, you would be referring to extremist Sunnis, Sunnis dominating the al Qaeda movement.  I was wondering, is there a role here being played by Shi'ite extremists as well?  Is there some groups that are also mixing up in that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I would be very cautious about trying to attribute any of the extremist groups by either ethnicity, by region of the country, by background, and in some cases, whether they're foreigners or internal to this country.   For a simple paratrooper like me, it's people who are working against a free and sovereign Iraq, and those who working for a free and sovereign Iraq.  And we're not too particularly concerned about where they came from, but we are concerned about what they can do; we're concerned about how they can derail the will of 99 percent of the people of Iraq who want to move to a free, democratic and sovereign and united country.  And we're going to continue our operations against anyone who's not just anti- coalition, but who's anti-Iraqi and who's going to try to take us off this path towards handing over freedom and sovereignty, independence and liberty to the people of Iraq.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Fiona, go ahead.

 

            Q     Just following up again on the subject of insurgents and terrorists, where do you classify people -- there's been an increasing number of drive-by shootings which aren't particularly spectacular, but target softer targets like -- especially local politicians, policemen and Westerners as well.  Who do you think's carrying those out?  Is that people who want to return to Ba'athist Iraq, or people who just want to derail the process?  Or who are they?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I was asked a little earlier about why do you classify them as terrorists.  When you start seeing people moving towards attacking soft targets, innocent people, whose whole reason is to sort of create terror, to sort of live by the terrorist credo of kill one, terrorize a thousand, I think that it doesn't really matter what they started out and what their ultimate purposes are, they clearly are terrorists -- domestic terrorists, perhaps international terrorists.    Anybody that attacks innocent civilians solely for the purpose of intimidation -- I think, again, it doesn't really matter whether they came, sent there by Zarqawi, or sent there by a former member of the Iraqi intelligence service, we just consider them people who are working against a safe and secure environment, and we are dedicated to killing or capturing those people.

 

            Q      I mean, really, are these people different from the former regime elements who are still attacking coalition convoys all the time, who are still sort of focusing their opposition on U.S. forces?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I'm not sure trying to overly classify -- over- classify these different groups is helpful.  It might help somehow in the intelligence community, in terms of trying to find out where they come from and try to find some trails onto them.  But on the operations side, we just call them targets.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah?

 

            Q     General Kimmitt, Kevin Johnson with USA Today.  Could you elaborate a little bit on the Hillah incident?  You mentioned a suicide-bombing device there.  Was that a car bomb, a vest bomb?  And the six people who were injured, could you provide a little more about who they were, and so on?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, we don't have an awful lot about that incident right now, other than the fact that we know that it was a car bomb.  We know that one policeman and five civilians have been wounded.  We believe the target was the police commander.  I don't think we've gotten into the details of it enough at this point to know whether it was a suicide bomber or just a vehicle that was left outside the house of somebody who went away and triggered it.  So we'll probably know in about 24 hours.

 

            Q     But six injured, you say?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  One policeman -- right.  One policeman and five civilians are wounded.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah?  Right there, yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Regarding -- the CPA announced that they have apprehended a number of the terrorists.  Is it possible to -- is it possible to put them on show on the TV so that people recognize them and know -- identify them and know who is behind these terrorism actions?  Is it possible to have them on the TV so that the people recognize them and identify them?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No matter how much -- how emotionally satisfying it might be to use the techniques of the former regime to sort of put these people in front of the cameras and demonize them, the fact remains that one of the bases of democracy and justice is the notion of following rules and norms.  And the rules and norms that we follow for the purpose of security internees and civilian detainees -- in the case of the security internees, such as these people you're describing, we follow the rules of the Geneva Convention, which specifically prohibit the photographing, presentation of the detainees for the purpose of public curiosity or humiliation.  Again, it may be emotionally satisfying to do that, but we feel it's very, very important for us, as signatories, as -- all the nations in the coalition being signatories to the Geneva Conventions, to abide by those conventions.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Go ahead.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Baram Hamad Ali (sp) from Al Mesheren (sp).  Do you think that there is a kind of coordination or you could find any documentation that this leads to -- there have been some of the ex-elements of Ba'ath elements and coordination between them and the Zarqawi people?  Or is any group -- are any one of those groups working independently?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  That's a good question.  We have been concerned for a period of time that as we have reduced the numbers of cells throughout the country, through the active operations that we've run through the fall and the winter, that some of the former regime elements, the former Ba'athists, Iraqi intelligence service may in fact be attempting to collude with some of the terrorist organizations inside this country.  We've seen small indicators of that.  I'm not sure at this point that we can suggest that there is either a pattern or definite linkage.  But yes, we have seen some indicators that these groups that formerly were working solely for the purpose of restoring Saddam or a Ba'ath Party to this country are now colluding, perhaps conducting marriages of convenience, to conduct attacks against Iraqi people and the coalition forces.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Mr. General, salaam aleikum.  What are the security procedures that you adopt regarding pre-cautional (sic) procedures for the Arabaeeniyah (ph)?  And how are you going to treat the situation?  And how are you going to stop those terrorists from doing the negative actions again and as it happens before?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah, we have a significant holiday festival coming up, Arba'in.  We have done a significant amount of work with the local communities.  We have done a significant amount of coordination, planning efforts, provision of equipment in order to try to detect and preclude the types of attacks that we saw on Ashura.  I would love to be able to stand up at this podium and tell you that I am absolutely certain and I can guarantee you that there will be no attacks during the Arba'in festival, but that's a promise that we can't make and that's a promise that no civilized country can make to their citizens.

 

            What I can tell you is that the coalition, working with the Iraqi security forces, working with the local government agencies, working with the local significant authorities, are trying put together a plan so that we can do everything we can reasonably and proactively to try to mitigate the risk.  But I would be afraid that no nation can say we will guarantee 100 percent performance 100 percent of the time.

 

            We would appeal to the people of Iraq during this period to help us out with this process, to provide intelligence on people that you don't really recognize in your neighborhoods who may be possibly conducting operations that don't seem to make a lot of sense: comings and goings at night, loading things into vehicles, taking them out of vehicles.  Go to your local coalition forces.  Go to your local Iraqi security forces.  Provide us that intelligence so that we can take those proactive measures to try an attempt to make Ashura -- excuse me, Arba'in a religious event that it should be.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Last question.  Go ahead.  Do you have one?  No?  All right.  Someone who hasn't asked.

 

            Go ahead, Mark.

 

            Q     Thanks.  Mark Stone, ABC.  Have you had any success in your investigations, which I believe have involved the FBI, into the Karbala bombing, the Baghdad bombing, the Mt. Lebanon Hotel, the CPA shootings, maybe the Assassin's Gate bombing?  Are there any results from the investigations?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I can tell you, Mark, that the investigations are ongoing.  We're not ready to announce the results of those investigations.  I don't think at this point I'd either characterize those investigations as successes or failures.  The investigations continue.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thank you, everybody.

 

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