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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director For Coalition Operations; and Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
May 22, 2004
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I just have a quick announcement on Ambassador Bremer's schedule, and Gen. Kimmitt has his opening briefing, and then we'll be happy to take questions.

 

            Ambassador Bremer today participated in a ceremony for the handover of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.  This marks the 12th ministry that has been handed over from the coalition to direct management control of the Iraqi minister.  We have been saying for some time that the path to sovereignty does not begin and end on June 30th, but it's part of a gradual process that began several months ago when we began handing over ministries for direct Iraqi control, which will culminate on June 30th, by which point all of the ministries will be handed over, and this is part of the overall plan for Iraqis assuming more and more control of their government leading up to June 30th, and as I said, that ceremony was earlier today.  We will have pre-advisories out later in the week for subsequent ministries that will be handed over in the weeks ahead.  Gen. Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Good afternoon.  The coalition continues offensive operations to establish a stable Iraq in order to repair  infrastructure, stimulate the economy, and transfer sovereignty to the people of Iraq.  To that end, in the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,504 patrols, 25 offensive operations, and captured 48 anti-coalition suspects.  In the North Central zone of operations yesterday coalition forces conducted a joint raid with Iraqi police against personnel suspected of anti-coalition activity in Baquba. Eight Iraqis were detained in transport to the Baquba police station for questioning.

 

            Enemy forces attacked an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps checkpoint with RPGs, grenades, and small-armed fires.  The ICDC returned fire, wounding and capturing eight of the anti-coalition forces.  Sadly, four ICDC soldiers were killed and one wounded in this attack.

 

            Coalition forces conducted a series of raids to capture anti- coalition forces north of Muqdadiyah.  Eighteen personnel were detained in the operation and along with some weapons.

 

            In Baghdad today at 0750, a suicide car bomb was detonated outside the home of the Iraqi deputy minister of the interior for natural resources, Abdul Jabbar Yousif.  The deputy minister's bodyguards fired at the vehicle as it approached the house, which triggered the explosion.  Three bodyguards and one woman were killed, and 22 vehicles received heavy damage.

 

            Today at 1500, seven mortar rounds impacted north of downtown Baghdad.  Two coalition soldiers and one Iraqi civilian were slightly wounded, treated, and returned to duty.

 

            The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry division ended its weapons rewards program yesterday in Sadr City.  Any illegal weapons not turned in during this amnesty period will now be seized forcibly upon completion.  There were 3,649 AK-47s, 832 rocket rounds, 260 RPG launchers, 182 machine guns, over 7,500 mortar rounds, 2,000 grenades, and 200 artillery rounds turned over.  Coalition forces paid out over $1.3 million to participants.

 

            Three days ago, tribal leaders met with a 1st Cavalry Brigade commander in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to hostilities in the Falwa District.  Coalition forces agreed to halt combat patrols for five days to allow tribal leaders to ease tensions. Unfortunately, the coalition continues to be subject to attacks from small arms and indirect fires.  The coalition recently went an extra step, as set earlier by the weapons reward program, and although the coalition will continue to seek a peaceful resolution, current talks have broken down in Sadr City due to the continued attacks.

 

            The Western zone of operations remained secure with no violations of the cease-fire at Fallujah.  Coalition forces remain with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps at the jointly held checkpoint at the cloverleaf east of Fallujah.  Coalition forces will continue efforts to increase the credibility and capability of the ICDC and the other Iraqi security forces in the West.  There are steady incremental gains set   by the Marines in Iraqi security force proficiency, professionalism, and attention to duty.

 

            In the Central South zone of operations in the Wasat Province, the Civil Military Cooperation Battalion provided medicine, supplies, and medical equipment to several local clinics.  Additionally, they completed three SIMIC  projects related to the repairing of a primary school, renovation of electrical supply network and improvement of a road in the Ameed village northwest of Al Hillal.  The total cost of the projects was $30,000 U.S. dollars.

 

            In the Southeastern zone of operations yesterday, tribal fighting occurred between two tribes in Abu Al-Qasid.  Iraqi police attempted to stop the gun battle between the tribes, coalition forces and ICDC responded to the request for assistance.  The incident resulted in three Iraqi police officers wounded and six personnel detained; however, the situation is now calm.

 

            MR. SENOR:  With that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Charlie?

 

            Q     Thanks, Dan.  Do you have anything new, General, on the attack out west that resulted in people dying at the wedding party?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yes, let me show a couple of slides on that, if I could.  Here are some of the items that were picked up as part of the operation.  You can see a significant number of weapons.  These are not just standard binoculars, but they're the type of binoculars that had engraved in them a reticule pattern so that you can use them to adjust artillery.  These are battery packs already connected for use to power improvised explosive devices.  This was a significant amount of medical gear that was found - syringes, needles - some of that could well be drug-related.  We're having those white, powdery substances tested to see what it is.  Our suspicion is it may be cocaine.  Next slide.

 

            What was interesting about the building itself was that the building seemed to be somewhat of a dormitory.  You had over 300 sets of bedding here in it.  You had a tremendous number of pre-packaged clothing.  Apparently about 100 sets of pre-packaged clothing, expected that when foreign fighters come in from other countries, they come to this location, they change their clothes in typical clothing sets.  We also had in there a waist-high medical table for examination and for treatment, and you can see that they also had about, as I said earlier, about 300 sets of bedding.  Next slide.

 

            We found a significant number of identity cards, ID-making machine, capability to make exit visas for Iraq, a couple of passports -- in this case, one from Sudan.  We could go on and on and on about the significant amount of pocket litter that was found and all the other intelligence that was found, but let me go over a little bit of it and just hit the highlights.

 

            There were a couple of other items that we found quite interesting.     None of the bodies had identification of any kind on them -- no ID cards, no wallets, no pictures -- they had watches, and that was about the only way you could identify one person from another, was by their type of watches.  We feel that was an indicator that this was a high- risk meeting of high-level anti-coalition forces.  There was a tremendous number of incriminating pocket litter -- a lot of telephone numbers to foreign countries -- Afghanistan, Sudan, and a number of others.

 

            This was purportedly a ranch, but there was no indication of ranching activities.  Most of the homes in the remote desert exist to support sheep ranching operations.  There was no evidence of livestock, however, present at that location.  There were large farm trucks present, but there was no indication that they had ever been used for ranching.  Bedding for over 300 people, a medical treatment room, a number of terrorist training manuals, suspected forged Iraqi IDs, and to the allegation that there was a wedding going on, there was no evidence of a wedding.  There were no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration, no gifts.  All the men were almost all military-age; no family elders that one would expect to see at an event of this type.  Contrary to media reports, there was no wedding tent, no nuptial tent present within a kilometer of the objective.

 

            So, again, there still are a number of inconsistencies, and we acknowledge those inconsistencies between what we saw on the APTM video and what we found on the ground, and that's why we are continuing to explore all possibilities of what happened on the ground.  But the more that we look at the intelligence, the more that we look at the post-strike intelligence, the more that we continue to dig into what we found at that location, the more that we are persuaded that there was not a wedding going on.  There may have been some kind of celebration.  Bad people have celebrations, too.  Bad people have parties, too, and it may have been that what was seen as some sort of celebration or spoken to as a celebration, may have just been a meeting in the middle of the desert by some people that were conducting either criminal or terrorist activities, and that's the conclusion that we are continuing to draw the more that we look at the material evidence, the intelligence evidence, the post-strike intelligence, the follow-up intelligence.

 

            Q     Can I just ask one follow-up on that.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Sure.

 

            Q     Do you have information on women or children being killed as a result of this?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As we said, we believe there were a handful of women there at that location.  We believe six were killed.  We acknowledged that in all of our reports.  We don't believe that there were any children killed.  Still no reports, and we've gone back to the soldiers involved in this; still no reports of any children being killed.

 

            Q     Have you matched the footage at all to this area?  I mean, does it appear to have been taken there?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, in fact, as I understand, the film was taken in Ramadi -- that they had brought all the bodies from that location over to Ar Ramadi.  That was my understanding.  But nonetheless, none of the geography in those videos matched the geography of this open area.

 

            Now, having said that, there are still some inconsistencies.  We still remain open-minded about this.  We will continue to look into everything that is provided to us in the way of evidence.

 

            Yes, go ahead.

 

            Q     Guy Raz from CNN.  Can you just give us -- now that you've got more intelligence about this issue, can you give us the sequence of events that you believe took place at this exchange of fire or whatever it was?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, what happened is we had significant multiple sources of intelligence come in the night of the 18th, the morning of the 19th, which caused us to launch a quick-reaction force to that area.  That quick-reaction force had air elements and had ground elements.  We got into the area, our soldiers took fire, they responded.  We put the ground elements on the ground; they went through the objective site; took the casualty count, as we've talked about; saw everything that we recounted in this report; took subsequent photos later on.  But as soon as they had finished sweeping the objective, conducting what they needed on the ground to complete, then they were evacuated from that area, and then went back to their bases.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     My name is Matthew Green from Reuters.  General, could you please bring us up to date with the situation in Karbala, particularly with regard to U.S. forces?  Has there been any withdrawal?  And, also, on the part of Iraqi forces, have you seen any withdrawal on their side as well?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I keep hearing those reports.  We are not aware of any withdrawal going on in Karbala.  We have repositioned some forces inside of Karbala, but it's quite a stretch to consider that to be anything remotely resembling a withdrawal.

 

            Q     Are you talking about U.S. forces then?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Coalition forces.

 

            Q     And in terms of the Iraqi forces, is there any sign of a withdrawal by them?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, quite the contrary.  The police chief from Karbala, in fact, came to us the other day and said he was encouraged to start bringing back in Iraqi police into the city of Karbala.  We would expect to see that there will be more Iraqi security present inside the city over the next few days.

 

            Q     One of Muqtada al Sadr's aides has told us recently that they would be willing to withdraw their fighters from the streets of holy cities if U.S. forces would also withdraw from these areas.  What do you say in response to that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As far as Muqtada al Sadr is concerned, if he is prepared to submit himself to justice, and if he has prepared to disband and disarm his illegal militia, we are prepared to reach a peaceful resolution to this.  We recognize that there are some individuals, some Iraqi notables, who would like to minimize bloodshed in this situation and have sought a peaceful resolution.  To this point, their efforts have not yielded any progress, but if there is progress to be made, we are open-minded, given that those two conditions are met -- Muqtada al Sadr faces justice and his illegal militia disbanded and disarmed.  But in the interim, we will continue to use our own methods for getting Muqtada's militia off the streets.

 

            Yes?  Go ahead, I'm just -- go ahead.

 

            Q     Charles Duhigg of the Los Angeles Times.  We had heard that there is a possibility -- or there is discussion of a possible truce with Sadr?  Can you confirm whether there has been any discussion of that or if there has been any contact made with Sadr?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, there has not been any contact made with Sadr. There is no "truce" to my knowledge.  Again, our conditions are clear. Muqtada al Sadr must face justice, his illegal militia must be disbanded and disarmed.  There have been a number of people, as I said, a number of Iraqi notables who have approached us an indicated that they would like to mediate here and reach a peaceful resolution, and we are open-minded to a peaceful resolution so long as those two conditions are met.  They have not been met, to this point.  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.) There have been questions -- many questions concerning the season of this summer.  Three-quarters of the Iraqi people, they are wondering about the power sources, the electricity.  Can't you -- can't you, with in cooperation with the IGC, this reviews a number of electric generators to provide electricity while the national power resources are rehabilitated, especially with the severe high temperatures within summer.  Thank you very much.

 

            MR. SENOR:  We recognize that the power situation becomes increasingly strained during the summer months.  I was here last summer when it was incredibly hot.  We know there are a lot of challenges for the Iraqi people in dealing with the summer and the power outages.    The difference was last summer we were generating -- when we first arrived here in May, we were generating -- Iraq was generating about 300 megawatts of power a day for a country whose needs are 6,000 megawatts a day.  By summer months that increased up to about 1,000, 1,000-plus megawatts but one-sixth of what the country needs.  That was last summer, and I understand it's very reasonable to have been frustrated with that situation last summer.

 

            This summer we will be generating somewhere near the pre-war levels -- the prewar levels were 4,200 to 4,400 megawatts a day.  We are now generating near that.  On October 6 of 2003, we, for the first time, hit the pre-war levels, and from that point it's gone up and down a little bit but has always hovered around the pre-war level. That's where we're at right now, but it's not enough.  It's not enough to be generating the amount of power that Saddam Hussein did.  We want to meet the country's total demands.  Saddam Hussein only met two- thirds of the nation's demands, first of all.

 

            Secondly, Saddam Hussein distributed power and used the overall distribution of essential services as a tool for oppression.  Some areas got a lot of power; some of his favorite parts of the country like Tikrit and other areas in and around that part of the country. Other -- they got 18 hours, 20 hours a day.  Certainly, Baghdad got those numbers.  As you went south of Baghdad, down to areas like Basra, they were sometimes getting two, three, four, up to six hours of power a day.  So our first priority was equal distribution of whatever power we are generating.  Then it's rebuilding the infrastructure so we can not only meet pre-war levels, which we have basically done, but now we're focused on meeting the entire -- the country's entire demand, which is about 6,000 megawatts.

 

            So the situation this summer will be far better than last summer, but that's not enough.  We actually want to continue improving it, and that's why the U.S. Congress appropriated a substantial amount of money, $18.6 billion last year, to the reconstruction of Iraq, and one of the largest line items within that -- we call it a supplemental request -- within that spending program is reconstruction of Iraq's electrical infrastructure.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Inaudible) -- German News Agency, DPI, I have a question regarding this morning's bombing.  What is exactly the role of Abdul  Jabbar Yousif in the Ministry of Interior?  Is there anything significant about him or is he, for example, involved into any ongoing investigations?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  He is not involved in any investigations that I know of.  It is our understanding that he is one of a number of deputy interior ministers.  His case, his portfolio, is natural resources.

 

            Q     Do we have any idea what could be behind this attack?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, you know, we have seen throughout the last few months a continuation of terror attacks on the Iraqi population, and this is, again, characteristic of what we see.  Here is a suicide car attack, suicide bomb, attacking against a symbolic location -- in this case, an Iraqi government official, to achieve spectacular effects.  In this case, the attempt was to try to kill as many people as possible.  It is a long-standing pattern of intimidation on the part of the terrorists to try to demonstrate to this country that they have the capability to derail the process in the move towards sovereignty.  We have predicted this level of violence for some period of time and, sadly, our predictions have been correct.  But this was, yet again, another attempt for terrorists to try to send a very clear signal that they've got the capability to reach anybody in this population.  The old terrorist adage of "Kill one, terrorize 1,000." And I think, yet again, the response of the Iraqi people has been, "We're watching this, but we're not buying it."  We will continue the process, we will continue our march towards democracy, and the terrorists will not derail us from that promise.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  (Al Zenala ?) newspaper.  Mr. Mark Kimmitt and Mr. Dan Senor, my question is are there any negotiations to settle the problem with Mr. Muqtada al Sadr, especially that Mr. Al Sadr has announced that he will consent to any solutions aiming to resolve this crisis?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  As I said earlier, we have two conditions that thus far have not been met in any possible solution -- with two conditions in any possible solution with Muqtada al Sadr.  The first is that he must submit himself to justice.  He is charged with serious -- being involved with serious crimes including the brutal murder of a fellow cleric, and he must disband and disarm his illegal militia.  Anyone who steps forward who wants to reach a peaceful resolution on this matter must understand that those two conditions are not open for compromise.  They must be met.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And we are pleased to hear that he consents to any conditions.  The conditions are explicit, and we look forward to him turning himself into an Iraqi police station so that he can serve out the warrant for his arrest, and he can meet Iraqi justice.  He can also demilitarize his street thugs so they can no longer be a threat to the people of Iraq and to the institution of the democracy.  So we   welcome that advance on the part of Mr. Al Sadr that he will consent to any conditions to resolves this peacefully.  We would like to meet him and discuss those terms.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Kul (ph) Iraq Newspaper.  Mr. Dan, the advances that are taking place right now, which is the deterioration of the security in Iraq will result in hard feelings from the Iraqis towards the U.S. forces, and you know that the Iraqis need to anyone who can alleviate them from their situation that was present during the previous regime.  So are you capable of achieving this task for the Iraqi people?

 

            MR. SENOR:  That's what we are doing.  We are working right now on three tracks.  One is helping -- working with the Iraqi leadership and the United Nations on getting Iraq on a path towards a self- governing democracy.  As you know, Mr. Brahimi, the U.N. special representative here, has been working on the formation of an interim government, which my understanding is he will begin to unveil in the weeks ahead.

 

            We will hand sovereignty over to that government on June 30th, seven months later Iraq will hold the first direct elections in the history of the country, which will be an amazing thing for this part of the world.  So that's one track.

 

            The other track is the economic reconstruction of Iraq, the infrastructure reconstruction of Iraq, and that's going on every single day.  So we've conducted some 20,000 individual projects, so far, since we've been here.  This approximates 100 projects per day. I have a few examples of some of these projects that have occurred in the last few days -- $64,000 courthouse renovation project completed in Maysan.  The Iraqi -- we funded the Iraqi ports director's visit to the United Kingdom to meet with their peers, their colleagues, over there to look at modern management techniques for docks and ports; $1 million refurbishment of the Basra Technical College now completed; 3,000 donated medical textbooks, journals, will be distributed on Monday.  Every single day there's about 100 of these sorts of projects that go on across the country every single day.  That hasn't stopped. That's on track.

 

            And that is connected to the broader effort that is -- this $18.6 billion that is focused on the overall reconstruction of this country -- $3.2 billion dedicated to the training, recruiting, and equipping of the Iraqi security forces.  In fact, that number is going to increase.  Reconstruction of Iraq's electrical infrastructure; of its oil production and oil refinery infrastructure; schools; hospitals, making sure that those are open -- most of them already have been opened.  So that continues.

 

            Now, how the Iraqi people respond to that remains to be seen. The overall response has been quite positive.  If you travel across   the country, and you travel outside these very narrow pockets where the violence has occurred, you see Iraqis working hand-in-hand with coalition forces not only on securing and stabilizing that part of the country but also on reconstructing it, and that is why it is returning to normalcy.  We couldn't do this on our own.  The success that we have achieved thus far in the overall reconstruction of the country is because coalition forces are working hand-in-hand with Iraqis in these small communities across the country rebuilding.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Achi Mazeer ?) from Agence France Press.    General, you mentioned four deaths in this morning's bombing, can we assume that the fourth one, which is -- a fifth one, which is the suicide bomber?  And another question -- do you have any updates on the two people who were detained -- who are still detained in the case of the killing of Nicholas Berg?  Thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yes, I think that's a fair assumption, that there is a fifth death in there, and that would be the suicide bomber.  The three bodyguards and a female were certainly not associated with the car bomb at all.

 

            I spoke to the element that has detained those persons in connection with the Nicholas Berg murder.  They continue to be questioned.  They have no breaks in the case at this point.  They will continue questioning them until these people demonstrate their innocence or otherwise.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q      Aditya Raval, ABC News.  My question has to do with sovereignty and what happens on July 1st.  In reference to the caretaker government that will take over on July 1st, what kind of powers will they have in reference to the day-to-day governing of the country, specifically oil revenue.  Will they have the ability to sign long-term oil contracts, for example?  Will they have the ability to overrule the Department of State in matters related to foreign policy? And a related question that has to do with the military -- what specifically can Iraqi military brigades and entities object to in terms of what sort of actions they may or may not take in conjunction with American military forces?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Iraqis will have total sovereignty on July 1st, and that impacts everything that you are citing with regard to natural resources.  Iraqis will have control of their oil revenues, they will be able to sign whatever contracts they want to with those oil revenues.  Right now, the oil revenues are deposited into the development fund for Iraq, and that is a fund that is mandated by the U.N. Security Council.  Obviously, how that fund is broken down and distributed is something that the Iraqi government will presumably deal with the United Nations on or make the address in a future U.S. Security Council resolution.  But, no matter what, Iraqis will be in control of their natural resources including oil revenues.

 

            With regards to the Department of State, Iraq will not have to be governed by anything related to the Department of State, because Iraq will have its own Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iraq will have its own foreign minister, Iraq will have its own foreign policy.  It may interact with the Department of State the same way the United States government interacts with other countries on a bilateral basis; the way the United States government interacts with other sovereign democratic countries.  So that relationship will be modeled after the relationship that the United States has with other countries, whether it's Canada or Japan or any countries around the world.

 

            But I think it's important to keep in mind that the government that takes over on July 1st will only be in power for seven months, because there will be direct elections in this country in January of 2005.  So while they'll have total sovereignty, I presume their agenda will be narrow, just because they'll be in power for such a short period of time -- sort of getting a walk on a path to direct election -- the things that they'll likely be focused on includes getting the country ready for the direct elections, the day-to-day management of the ministries, and the preparation of the 2005 budget.

 

            As for security forces, I would just say that we have partnerships with other countries and the security forces between our country and their country all over the world.  Obviously, if our forces are not welcome, we don't seek to impose our forces on other countries in these partnerships, but that is a wild hypothetical as is the idea of the extent to which forces here will be governed by a future U.N. resolution, as it is on the current resolution that allows for a multinational force here.  These are wild hypotheticals because the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want American security forces here after June 30th.  It's something we hear everywhere we go, whether it's Iraqi leaders or Iraqis across the country in the various regions -- they all indicate a desire to have security forces here.  They, like us, recognize that there will be a significant terrorist threat here after June 30th, and they recognize that the Iraqi security forces will not be in a position to defend against that terror threat on their own and are looking for reinforcement support from American forces.  (Inaudible).

 

            Q     In reference to the suicide attack this morning, we know that other Iraqi officials such as the president of the Iraqi Governing Council who was murdered earlier this week turned down American assistance in some capacity or another -- are you aware if this individual has turned down any American assistance on a long-term basis?  Was any offered for this?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I don't know what the nature of his security detail was.  I can check for you -- and I don't know if he has turned anything down.  I can check on that for you.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Hasam Mohammad (ph) (through interpreter) War and Peace Newspaper.  After 40 days, sovereignty will be handed over to Iraqis. It seems that you are trying to terminate Al Sadr and his forces before that date.  So what will you do if that date arrives, and you have not terminated him?  What will your actions be?  Second question -- Hassan al Falwa (ph)  said -- demanded the coalition forces to withdraw from Karbala and Najaf.  And also there are news of arresting leaders from Hezbollah guerrillas party in Iraq.  Can you confirm this?  Thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I haven't known of any arrests of any Hezbollah officials or members in Iraq.  With regards to the conversation of the call for the withdrawal from Karbala and Najaf, I think it's very important for us to continue to emphasize that inside Karbala and Najaf, we are going out of our way to ensure the sanctity of the shrines and the absolute care and respect for the shrines.  We would suggest that the real call for withdrawing from Karbala and Najaf ought to be made towards those who are desecrating the shrines; for using the shrines to fire weapons from; to store ammunition; to use as command-and-control posts.  We have responsibility not just to maintain security for the people of Iraq here in Baghdad but throughout the entire country -- that includes Karbala, and it includes Najaf.  We understand that we've got to be particularly careful in those cities simply because of the significance of those sites.  We have tremendous respect for those shrines.  We have tremendous respect for the religion that the represent, and we will not do anything to show anything but that absolute respect.

 

            We will continue to go after Muqtada al Sadr after 30 June.  We will continue to call for the demilitarization of his street thugs after 30 June.  That date will not affect our ongoing commitment to the people of Iraq to ensure that those who would try to stop this country from achieving democracy will be hunted down.  We will continue to meet our obligation to the people of Iraq to ensure that illegal militias are not allowed to try to decide, through the barrel of a gun, what they are afraid to try to achieve through the ballot box.  So we don't see 30 June as a significant date in terms of our intention to see Muqtada al Sadr see the inside of a magistrate court, nor to see his street thugs demilitarized.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Dexter.

 

            Q     General, you mentioned earlier in your briefing -- I think you were talking about Sadr city, but you said that current talks had broken down, and I'm just wondering, could you describe what those talks were about:  what objective you were seeking, who you were talking to, why they broke down.  And where, exactly?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Sure.  Yeah, in the last couple of press conferences -- you may not have been here -- we had talked about, in Sadr city, that the 1st Brigade/1st Cavalry Division had sat down with a number of the local leaders, some of the local sheiks -- those civic leaders who have a special prominence in the Thawra district.  They had come to an agreement that the coalition forces would reduce their presence inside Sadr city as long as they saw a reduction in the attacks against Iraqi police stations, a reduction in violence.  There was a period of time, from last Sunday to about last Tuesday, when the violence had gone down, but over the last couple of days, even with the tremendous success that the Brigade has enjoyed with the weapons buy-back program, that there still remains a small number of elements inside Sadr city, inside the Thawra district, that are not hearing the calls of their local leaders to put down their weapons, and frankly to knock off the violence inside Sadr city.

 

            So, the coalition forces, quite simply, are going to continue to provide a safe and secure environment inside Sadr city, wither by their presence, if necessary, or their absence, which is our preference.

 

            Q     So, when exactly -- like, when was the last session they had, that hasn't restarted?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I know they met on Sunday.  I believe that they were also going to meet on Tuesday.  I'll check on that for you, Dexter, and see when the last time they sort of felt that -- I wouldn't want to suggest that somehow, even though the words were "talks broke down," it was probably just a frustration on the part of both sides that the conditions for stability inside Sadr city were not being met in that fora -- that or other fora, and so perhaps they're looking at other ways to try to achieve stability.

 

            Q     Just one more.  And you want them to turn people over, or just -- do you want -- I mean, what is it you're asking for specifically?  Do you want the bad guys in hand, or --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Not at all.  We just want them to stop firing mortars, we want them to stop shooting patrols, we want them to stop intimidating the population inside Sadr city.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Meshakh (ph) newspaper.  Less than eight days to the date of May the 30th, for announce the transitional government, which will take over on 30th of June.  But till now we haven't seen any broad lines concerning this government.  And a second question for General Kimmitt:  are there any details about the attack on the Green Zone today?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On your first question, actually, Mr. Brahimi has been quite clear on what the structure of what the interim government will look like.  He held a press conference here in mid-April, standing actually at this podium.  And he described it as such, that it would be a cabinet of about 25 or 26 ministers headed by a prime minister.  They would run the functional day-to-day operations of the interim government.  There would be a ceremonial presidency that would consist of a president plus two vice presidents, if you will, so it would effectively be a three-person presidency.

 

            And now he's working, based on consultations he's had all over the country -- with trade unions, educators, lawyers, judges, police officials -- he's travelled literally all over the country -- local officials, to build out this government, seek out consultations, seek out advice on who the right personalities would be for this government.  His criteria, he has said, has been quite broad.  He's looking for decent, honest competent people who want to make a contribution to this country and to the interim government during this transition phase.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On your question on the Green Zone, there were no attacks on the Green Zone today.  We recorded three different large explosions, or periods of large explosions in Baghdad today:  about 0750 (hours), which was the time that the car bomb went off in eastern Baghdad; at about 1500 (hours) there were six -- a number of mortar rounds, that I've talked about earlier, that hit in northern Baghdad and that injured a number of civilian -- a number of soldiers and a civilian, all who were returned to duty.  We also know that there was a rocket that hit in central Baghdad around 1510-1530 (hours).  We have no reports of any injuries, but we have no reports of any rounds landing inside the Green Zone today.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     The day before yesterday Mr. Chalabi's house was raided by the Iraqi police and also the military police.  But the coalition has denied this and said that the military police did not associate the Iraqi police, but we have seen them.  And today, bombed car that exploded -- and toady, bomb car exploded in front of a member of the Iraqi government.  What is your assessment about those who committed this operation?  Thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Again, our assessment on who committed that operation and our assessment of their technique, we have had no group claim responsibility as of yet.  We continue to work with the Iraqi police.  There were no coalition forces anywhere near the deputy Interior minister's house.  Right now, that whole investigation is being conducted by the Iraqi Police Service.  We will provide any assistance they may need in the process of that investigation.  But I don't think we have an assessment on that, other than we are -- certainly send our condolences to the families of those who perished in today's car bomb incident.

 

            Your point about Mr. Chalabi's -- the incidents surrounding Mr. Chalabi yesterday -- we never denied that there were U.S. coalition forces in the general vicinity, but:  number one, those military police did not go into any of the houses on any of the targets. Number two, they did not provide any of the protection on what we traditionally call the inner cordon.  They were on an outer-cordon responsibility, with no responsibility for the conduct of the raids inside the houses.  They were in the outer cordon just to ensure that the region, the area nearby, didn't have any additional violence.

 

            So, again, the coalition forces did not participate in this raid except to provide outer cordon assistance.  This was an Iraqi matter, conducted by the Iraqi police, with an Iraqi magistrate's -- under an Iraqi magistrate judge's directions and subpoenas and warrants.  And so the coalition had a very, very loose affiliation with this, and those military police, again, were not significant players in this entire operation.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I would just add that the role of the coalition forces, the affiliation with the Iraqi police operation, is similar to its affiliation with numerous Iraqi police operations that occur all over the country.  It wasn't unique to this situation.

            Last question.

 

            Q     Anthony Deutsch with the Associated Press.  General, are you satisfied with the current level of coalition military presence in Iraq, and do you expect that number to increase in the run-up to the handover of sovereignty on June 30th, and if so, by how much?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, I think that all of us take a look at the situation on a day-by-day basis, but for the near-term, we are certainly satisfied with the amount of coalition forces that we have   in this country.  Even if we woke up tomorrow morning and determined that we would need some more, we probably wouldn't see those until probably about 30 days from now.

 

            So -- but we do take a look at a regular basis on our troop requirements here, and I know that all of those commanders on the ground who do that analysis and the commanders at both the corps and the force headquarters believe right now that we have sufficient forces to meet the near-term and --

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thank you, everybody.

 

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