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Secretary Rumsfeld And Gen. Franks Press Conference In Doha, Qatar

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 12, 2002 11:45 AM EDT

Thursday, December 12, 2002 - 11:45 a.m. EST

(Press Conference with Commander, U.S. Central Command General Tommy R. Franks in Doha, Qatar)

Rumsfeld: (inaudible) ...and now here in Qatar. It has been an excellent trip. There's no question but that in each stop the growing support for the global war on terrorism has been manifested. We have had excellent cooperation from each of those countries. And I was privileged last evening to join the foreign minister in signing an implementing agreement here that General Franks and his team have been working on.

I also, and I would say particularly, have had an opportunity to meet with U.S. and coalition forces, both here and in Djibouti. It has been a treat for me to be able to tell them how much they're appreciated and what a wonderful job those from the United States and those from coalition countries are doing for the cause of freedom. Their morale is high, and their capabilities are excellent.

One aspect of the stop here has been the opportunity to join General Franks in observing the Exercise Internal Look. It is an indication, I would say, of the readiness and the new capabilities that exist. And certainly General Franks and his team are doing an absolutely superb job, and we appreciate it.

Franks: Thank you, sir.

Rumsfeld: General Tom Franks.

Franks: Well, Mr. Secretary, in fact it's a great honor for all of us -- myself certainly, but also for these great men and women -- to have you visit. And so I would say thank you for that.

You know, for more than two years now, we have talked a lot about transformation, and we have thought a lot about what transformation means. And we have thought about the way we field our assets, the way we train our people, the sorts of technologies we use and a great many other things.

The power of this exercise, Internal Look, in my view, has been that -- or is that it is giving us an opportunity to get out at all those points.

You know, the doctrines that existed for our armed forces several years ago really don't apply to the first war of the 21st century. The fact is that we have the assets we have and what we are able to build, and we have the responsibility to train our people, to get the highest readiness that we can. And so we have had an opportunity here in Qatar to begin this Internal Look exercise, and have a chance to study our readiness, have a chance to look at our state of training. And I just have to tell you that up to this point, I'm very, very pleased with what I see.

And with that, sir, I guess I would offer that the secretary is ready to answer your questions.

Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.) I'll answer some, and Tom will answer the tough ones.

Who's first? Yes, Tobi?

Q: Mr. Secretary, North Korea earlier today said that it will immediately end the freeze on its nuclear power plants in response to the allies' freezing the oil shipments. Can you respond to that? How serious a situation would you say this is?

Rumsfeld: Well, I've not seen anything authoritative from North Korea. I've seen press reports about it.

We all know that some weeks back the North Koreans were discovered to be engaging in a highly enriched uranium program, in direct violation of three or four of their international agreements, including the agreed framework. One portion of the agreed framework was a understanding whereby several countries participated in providing fuel oil to North Korea. The North Koreans, in violating the agreement and the other several agreements, in effect made null and void that agreement.

The president of the United States has indicated that what he wanted to do and has been in the process of doing is working with Japan and South Korea and the EU to embark on a diplomatic initiative to work with North Korea to see if they wouldn't reverse their position of violating these three or four agreements.

My -- I have no idea what will take place next, but there clearly is -- have been, and I suspect will continue to be, a diplomatic effort to have the North Koreans fulfill their international obligations.

Yes, sir?

Q: (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I don't know what the subject you're asking about is. What agreement?

Q: The agreement signed yesterday.

Rumsfeld: Oh, the implementing agreement?

Rumsfeld: Ah! This implementing agreement -- well, I'll let Tom Franks answer that. He's been the one working on it.

Franks: Yes, sir, thanks.

Actually, this agreement has nothing to do with the defense cooperation document you mentioned. We've been working for, gosh, I guess maybe over two years, on this arrangement having to do with Al- Udeid Air Base. And what we want to do, and what we'll be able to do because of the implementing arrangement or agreement, is to improve our base operations capability out there in a -- well, in a mutually beneficial way between our own government and the government of Qatar; be able to enhance some of the technologies out there at the air base. And so it's simply a cooperative arrangement that continues to strengthen an already very positive relationship between our two countries.

Rumsfeld: Go ahead.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you comment on a published report today that said that an al Qaeda-linked group managed to get a chemical weapon inside Iraq in the past few months that may have been VX gas. This morning you suggested that you may have seen information to that regard. Is there credible evidence that this happened and is this report accurate?

Rumsfeld: I am inclined not to discuss intelligence information.

Yes?

Q: I have a question for General Franks. It's four days into Internal Look. Can you say today what the assessment is of that new forward command -- (inaudible)?

Franks: Yeah, thanks. I mentioned that 21st century and what we're looking at with the global war on terrorism means we have to think about the way we do our work in the military a bit differently.

What we know for sure is that enhanced flexibility provides my boss, and provides the president of the United States additional options with respect to where we're able to deploy, what the time lines for deployment look like. And so in fact, a bit more than a year ago, we started building this deployable command post. And being able to bring it into Qatar for Exercise Internal Look has given us an opportunity to do several things. One, it's given us an opportunity to pack up this brand new set of technology, which is absolutely cutting edge, state of the art, and move it several thousand miles, set it up again, and then train ourselves on how to use that.

I don't know about you, but each time we go from Microsoft something to Microsoft something else, you know, I go through a little training process. And so that's what this exercise continues, by the way, to be all about. We're just at the beginning of the exercise now. And as I said, I like what we see, I like the reaction of our people to the technology, and I like the performance of the technology.

Rumsfeld: And as someone coming in just to look at it for a brief period, I must say it is impressive.

Yes, sir?

Q: Secretary, notwithstanding the fact that Internal Look has been in the offing for some time, the activities of the U.S. military here in the Gulf in general have been thrown open to the media in the last week or 10 days, rather more than they were before. Are you pretty anxious to send a strong message to Iraq at this time?

Rumsfeld: I think that first of all, I didn't know that the activities had been thrown open to the press in an unusual way. So if anyone's trying to read signals from me, don't.

The -- I think it's important to think of the setting six months ago. Six months ago, the Iraqis refused to have inspectors in their country; they were ignoring 16 resolutions of the United Nations.

Because of the potential for the use of force, and because of the initiative of the president of the United States going to the Congress and getting and overwhelming votes in both houses, and then going to the United Nations and getting a unanimous resolution from the Security Council, because of those activities and only because of those activities there now are inspectors in Iraq.

And it is the mix of diplomacy with a recognition, one would think, on the part of the Iraqis that -- (music begins to play) -- that's very nice -- (laughter) -- on the part of the Iraqis that has persuaded them that it is in their best interest to fulfill this request for a declaration, which they now have done, and to allow inspectors in. And only time will tell the extent to which they really are or are not going to cooperate.

But I think that it is very clear to me that had the president not gone to the Congress, and had he not gone to the United Nations, and had the United Nations not acted and had the Iraqis continue to believe that they could ignore 16 or 17 resolutions of the United Nations, that they would have had they believed that was possible. They now believe it is not possible, which is why you're beginning to see at least a declaration and inspectors in their country.

Yes?

Q: Sir, the United States has threatened that, if the United Nations doesn't act, to take a preemptive action against Iraq for failing to fulfill its international obligations. With North Korea, they seem to be pursuing their own course, irrespective of the United States or their international obligations. At what point do you think that the United States is going to have to envision preemptive action against North Korea in this scenario?

Rumsfeld: Well, of course that's not for me to say. I have no idea what the United Nations or the president of the United States may or may not decide with respect to North Korea.

What you have is a very strange regime. You have a -- if you'll recall, within recent weeks they met with the Americans in North Korea and said that they did not have any activities going on relating to highly enriched uranium. They then went to bed and came back the next morning and said we do have them. So you have a behavior pattern that I think is -- has to be noted as somewhat unusual. I have no idea when any country, including the United States, would make a judgment that the diplomatic effort which is underway, can't bear fruit. But I know the president has personally dealt with President Putin in Russia, he has dealt with Jiang Zemin in the People's Republic of China, he's worked with the senior leadership in South Korea and in Japan and the EU, and is determined to give that a fair chance.

Yes?

Q: I have two questions, one for Mr. Secretary. You talked about -- you talked many times about the connection between Iraq and (al Qaeda ?). Do you have real evidence about that?

Rumsfeld: The truth is, I have not talked many times about that. What I did do some weeks back was, because I was being asked questions by people like you about that linkage, and I thought, my goodness, I will see if I can provide some unclassified information that might be helpful on that question. So I contacted the Central Intelligence Agency and received a single sheet of paper with four or five points on it. In response to a question, not at my initiation, I responded, and I read precisely what the Central Intelligence Agency had declassified. I happen to know a lot of classified information, but I don't talk about classified information. And literally, the sum total of anything I have ever said on the subject is in that one piece of paper.

Q: My question, the last question is to the general about -- (off mike) -- involved in this exercise. And is there any Arab or (inaudible)?

Franks: If I understand your question, it's the involvement of a coalition and who is involved in this exercise. As a matter of fact, there are several coalition members, to include some in this region, involved in the exercise. As you know, we operate from a number of facilities and we're training from a number of facilities in the region. And actually, my good friend General Al-Attiyah and some of his associates from Qatar will be out here over the weekend and we'll have a chance to spend a good deal of time together and discuss the technology and the way the exercise is moving and so forth.

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Last week President Bush said that Iraq is already in violation -- (inaudible) by firing on U.S. planes in the no-fly zones. You said this morning that we needed to give it time. Has the U.S. softened its position on Iraq?

Rumsfeld: No. The position of the president is the position of the United States. The reason the president said what he said -- because that's what the resolution says. The resolution, if you'll go back and read the U.N. resolution, cited a series of things that could be considered further material breach, not an initial material breach, but a further material breach. Just in plain English, that means that they stand in material breach the day the resolution was passed. So I don't think there was anything distinctive about what the president said, except to reiterate what the resolution said.

And what I have said is -- I said -- you say I said, "Be patient." That's not my nature -- to be patient. But the truth is that a declaration that is in thousands of pages, in two languages, has just arrived in the early part of this week in the hands of the members of the Security Council. It seems to me not unreasonable to allow people to look at it, read it, analyze it and see what we think about it. And if that means be patient, it -- I think I would characterize it, I suppose, as it means being reasonable.

This thing has been served up. It is now in many countries, being examined and looked at and thought about. And I suspect that the people that are doing that -- I'm obviously not one of them doing it. There's an interagency committee in the United States that's working on it. I'm here, so I don't know what it says. And I don't think it's really possible to know, in a matter of hours or days, what that document represents, whether it represents a degree of cooperation or whether it's another example of a lack of cooperation. And I just simply don't know.

Q: Have you, the U.S. -- do you think you've seemed too impatient in the last couple of weeks?

Rumsfeld: "Have you, the U.S." --

Q: The U.S. seemed too impatient over the last couple of weeks. That's what several of your allies have been saying.

Rumsfeld: Well -- which allies?

Q: Britain, for one.

Rumsfeld: See, I haven't seen that. Interesting.

Q: They've been briefing the press in Britain that you're -- (inaudible) -- too hard --

Rumsfeld: "You" being the United States?

Q: Yes, the U.S.

Rumsfeld: The U.S. Well, my impression is, the United States is not pushing too hard, that it's -- but that -- what I've said here today is a reflection of it. So if there are people -- there are going to be people with all kinds of impressions. And if there's some folks briefing the press in the U.K. right now to that effect, you know, they can do what they want. It's a sovereign country, and each person can say whatever they want. But I don't see any manifestation of that, and I can't quite imagine how it could be very persuasive to the people they're briefing, since there's nothing to back it up.

Yes, sir?

Q: Do you think there's a need to establish a new military base in the region?

Rumsfeld: A new military base in the region?

Q: Yes, new military bases in the region, do you think there is a need to do that now, establish new military bases in the region?

Rumsfeld: Ah. We have no plans or announcements to make with respect to the establishment of new bases in the region that I know of.

(To General Franks) Do you?

Franks: No, I don't. In fact, I think, you know, that we have military-to-military relationships with -- I'm trying to think if there is an exception, and I really can't think of one -- with all the nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council. And as you know, we cycle forces in and out, and have been conducting operations -- Southern Watch operations, and maritime interdiction -- for years. And so the vision we have right now is that we'll continue those bilateral military operations.

Rumsfeld: Countries do from time to time suggest that they would like us to use some port or some base or some test range, or whatever, from time to time. But we don't have any particular plans to announce.

Yes?

Q: Secretary, last month the Arab League voted against any use of force in Iraq. However, many Gulf states are specifically hosting military bases. Do you think that specifically the Gulf nations are caught in a Catch-22 where they're appeasing the Arab League and appeasing the United States?

Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, I wouldn't put it that way. It seems to me that each country is a sovereign country that can make up their own judgments as to how they want to conduct themselves. And we have excellent cooperation from any number of states here in the Gulf and from around the world. If you think about it, the global war on terrorism now has over 90 countries involved. If you further think about it, the resolution that passed in the United Nations was unanimous, and there were countries in that unanimity that would fit into the description you've just indicated.

We'll take a couple more questions. One here and then one here.

Q: I'm wondering if we can both expect to have a peaceful Christmas and New Year's -- (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: Why I hope the world will have many peaceful Christmases.

Yes?

Q: General Franks, you've spoken about the involvement of the other allied countries in the exercise. Will they be involved in the -- (inaudible)?

Franks: We set a practice some time back that said, you know, you never quite want to get in front of the prerogatives of another nation. And so actually, what I'd say is that we -- I'd leave it to each country to give you the answer to that, I mean honestly. Otherwise, we'll get out and say something that would hurt someone's feelings. And so I don't think we'd probably go there.

Q: (Off mike.) (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Is that a request or a threat? (Laughter.) I'm just kidding!

Yes, sir? We'll make you the last question. Make it a good one. Make it a very good one.

Q: I hope so. Is there any link between the Internal exercise and the threat against Iraq? Any linkage?

And a second question, sir --

Rumsfeld: No, no. Just one.

(Laughter.)

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Let him answer that first. Otherwise, he'll have to remember it.

Q: Have you transferred any equipment from Prince Sultan Air Base to --

Franks: The first, the first one -- the first one, please. You said something about a threat. Say that part to me again, please.

Q: Any link between the exercises right now and threat against Iraq?

Franks: Well, actually, I wasn't aware that any threat had been issued. The purpose of the Internal Look exercise is as I described it: move the command post a long ways and gain the effect of this training and increased readiness.

Q: Have you shipped or transferred any equipment from Prince Sultan Air Base to Qatar?

Franks: I wouldn't make it a practice to describe whether we had moved any equipment from one place to another. But I fully understand the question you've asked, because it's been asked of me many times, and that is, do we at the military level or at the level of my boss intend to move out of Saudi Arabia? And my answer to that is no. One never predicts the future, but we're not in the process of moving things like that, no.

Rumsfeld: Thank you all very much.

Franks: Thank you.

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