COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BRIEFING
WITH BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT,
DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR COALITION OPERATIONS;
AND DAN SENOR, SENIOR ADVISER,
COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 2004
MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. I just have one very quick announcement, and then
General Kimmitt will have an opening briefing, and then we will be happy to take
Ambassador Bremer, over the last several days, has issued a statement and is
encouraging everyone here to be vigilant in this time during the Arba'in period
about possible terrorist attacks that could occur in this country. And while
there are many other issues that we are all dealing with and attending to -- be
they in Fallujah or in the southern part of the country, we should not be
distracted from the very real possibility that a terror attack can occur in this
country. The sorts of attacks we've seen over recent months, which we believe to
have been orchestrated by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, specifically targeted at Shi'a
holy places -- of course there was this document that obtained in which Mr.
Zarqawi lays out his battle plan for Iraq, which we obtained several months ago,
in which he says, and I quote, "They" -- the Shi'a -- "are the insurmountable
obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty malicious scorpion, the spying enemy and
the penetrating venom. The unhurried observer and inquiring onlooker will
realize that Shi'aism is the looming danger and the true challenge. They are the
enemy. Beware of them fight them, by God they lie."
Then he goes on to take responsibility for a number of operations, terrorist
attacks that have occurred in Iraq, dating back to last summer. Certainly the
one we have in mind, foremost in our mind was the attack in Najaf, and obviously
the ones recently around the time of Ashura.
So again, we will repeatedly remind all Iraqis the importance of being vigilant,
being very aware of this very real threat that faces Iraqis, and specifically
many of the religious Shi'a during this time.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon. What I'd like to do, as I did about two days ago,
is give a quick orientation to the entire area of operations, and try to give a
perspective of what is going on in the overall theater. I want to talk about a
couple of the towns and take you through a quick orientation of the areas that
you're hearing about and try to put in your mind an idea between the map and
those places that you're reading about.
Here is the town of Fallujah. Right here is small suburb of Abu Ghraib. There
has been some fighting in the vicinity of Abu Ghraib today. And parts of the
lines of communication were cut right along this route coming out of Baghdad to
Fallujah. And we currently have active, ongoing operations by the 1st Armored
Division and the 1st Cavalry Division in that area to open up that route. Right
now they say the route is amber and they expect that route to be green quite
In Fallujah, the unilateral suspension of military operations, announced about
48 hours ago by coalition forces, is continuing to be maintained on the parts of
the Marines. There has been sporadic fighting by the enemy forces. The enemy
forces in some cases are attacking, in some cases just taking pot shots. We
don't know if they have not got a centralized command structure which is causing
them not to understand that there is an offer on the table for a cease-fire or
if they're continuing to fight by their own volition. Nonetheless, it is the
intent of the coalition to continue to allow the interim Governing Council to
come into the town of Fallujah so that we can talk and the Governing Council can
talk about prospects for restoring governmental control to the city of Fallujah.
Of course you know the town of Baghdad -- Baghdad has been quiet for the last 48
hours. There have been individual activities, small localized engagements. There
was -- there were some pictures shown, I think about 24 hours ago, suggesting
that the Americans had withdrawn, the coalition forces had withdrawn from Sadr
City. The fact remains is that in the estimation of the ground commander, Sadr
City is back in Iraqi control. We have Iraqi personnel in the police stations,
the Sadr building was destroyed. We don't see -- even though there has been some
slight rebuilding of it, we don't see a significant Sadr militia presence in
Sadr City. Around the city, of course today we've had a couple of explosions.
But -- and however -- 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division estimate that
Baghdad is still fully under Iraqi control.
As we head to the south, there are the towns that you have read and heard about
-- al Kut, Ad Diwaniyah, Karbala, Najaf and Nasiriyah. Of course, further in the
south are the larger towns in Dhi Qar province, Basra, so on and so forth. But
let me focus on these towns.
In al Kut we continue to maintain coalition's presence. There was some method
and some manner of Sadr control over the city for a small period of time. We
brought in 2/6 Infantry, as I described yesterday, came across the bridges,
attacked into the town, and the vast majority of the town of al Kut is back in
coalition hands. It is clear that the people of al Kut appreciate the coalition
presence, although many of the people, most of the people are staying inside
It is clear at this point that the ground combat units are now moving from the
notion of reestablishing Iraqi control to the city of al Kut to now going to the
next phase, which is bringing in the information, bringing in the dollars,
bringing in the assets so that all the destruction, what minor destruction there
was done, we can start rebuilding that and convince the people of al Kut that
the purpose of coalition control and Iraqi control is to bring them one step
closer to sovereignty and democracy.
Same thing in the town of An Nasiriyah. An Nasiriyah currently has significant
Italian patrols, the Italian Arieti (ph) brigade in control of the entire city.
We would suspect that in both Kut and in Nasiriyah that there are small bands of
Sadr militia that may be hiding out, holding out. However, the contact has been
negligible. In both these towns -- there may be some operations upcoming in both
these towns and as we conduct intel-based raids to go out and clean up the
Same idea in An Nasiriyah. Now that the fighting is over, we want to get back to
the process of rebuilding, of building structures, building confidence, and
getting those towns back on the path to democracy and sovereignty.
We have talked about Diwaniyah. Diwaniyah, again, is quiet. And right now the
remaining presence of significant Sadr militia seems to be in the towns of
Karbala and An Najaf. They are mixed in with the pilgrims that are observing
Arba'in. At this point, we don't want to go into those cities. We do have forces
on the outskirts of both those cities. As and when necessary, as and when it
makes sense, we will reestablish coalition control over those towns, reestablish
Iraqi control over those towns.
So as you look at the overall area of operations, things are improving, in the
south particularly, as we are now starting to -- well, finishing the destruction
of the Sadr militia. The Sadr militia has gone to ground in many of these towns.
They are no longer an active offensive threat. They will be a threat for some
time to come. The coalition forces certainly have the capability to maneuver
forces anywhere in the country necessary to finish the destruction of the Sadr
militia, as long as it remains a threat to the people of Iraq and the progress
In Fallujah, the discussions continue with the enemy inside in Fallujah. We are
now looking for the political track to be the method by which we reestablish
Iraqi control over the city of Fallujah, get legitimate Iraqi authority over
that city, not extremist control of that city, so that as we are doing in the
south, we can take Fallujah and start moving it forward.
There are small pockets of resistance and activities such we're seeing along
Route Tampa and some of the other areas, but the coalition remains confident
that as these threats crop up, they have the maneuver capability, the force
capability and the intelligence capability to minimize those threats.
So given what we see right now on the ground, subject to new intelligence coming
in, the assessment of the coalition and the Iraqi authorities is that we're
making progress in trying to get back to the most important aspect, which is to
move the political process forward, move the process of handing governance over.
There have been tremendous small unit engagements, and I want to take about
three minutes to give you a flavor of the kind of operations that your soldiers
have been engaging. This one is in the small town of Baqubah, which -- it is our
assessment that the former regime elements that were operating in Baqubah saw
this recent activity in the case of Fallujah and in the south as an opportunity
to raise some trouble. And this is what they found.
At 2 p.m. on Friday, the Baqubah police station, the government -- the
governor's building and the civil-military operations center were simultaneously
attacked by armed insurgents. At least 15 rocket grenades were reported being
fired at the police station. Between 2:00 and 3:30 there was continuous direct
fire contact. At 2:45 coalition fores reported that mortars were observed
impacting near the civil-military operations center.
Two Iraqi police were killed during the attack on the police station. Two U.S.
soldiers were wounded. And between 3:30 and 4:00, there was a brief lull in
enemy contact. At 4:00 contact increased again.
At 4:45, while moving from (barriers/burrows ?) to clear an armed enemy, a
coalition force was ambushed by enemy elements of unknown size. Reports indicate
at least 20 rocket grenades were observed during the course of the engagement.
Forty to 50 armed individuals were observed, some wearing black pajamas
uniforms, others wearing civilian clothes. Coalition forces returned fire,
killing at least 20. And during the course of the engagement, a rocket grenade
impacted with the turret of one of the infantry fighting vehicles, injuring the
gunner, and en route to his forward operating base, that gunner died.
At 6:10, coalition forces were again engaged by at least six rocket-propelled
grenades, an unknown number of armed Iraqis firing from alleys. Continuous enemy
contact was reported from a traffic circle, and by 8:30, up to 100 personnel
armed with rocket grenades and small arms were reported in the vicinity of the
traffic circle. Coalition forces established positions to the north of the
circle and to the east of the circle and conducted an assault to clear remnants
of enemy contact and establish blocking positions on the bridges.
During movements to the bridges, forces were engaged by at least six
rocket-propelled-grenade teams and small-arms fire, but by 10:30, coalition
elements were again established at the twin bridges. By 10:40 that evening,
forces completed repositioning of forces to the Governor's Building. Enemy
contact was light throughout the remainder of the night.
So although these engagements have been sporadic and, in a country-wide
analysis, they have been limited, the fact is we have coalition soldiers out
there every day fighting a determined enemy, fighting an enemy that wants to
reverse the course of where this country is going to go. And some are paying the
ultimate price for the freedom of this country, and for that, the coalition
MR. SENOR: With that, we'll be happy to take your questions. Yes, go ahead.
Q Daniel Cooney from Associated Press. We've had a report that U.S. forces have
ordered pilgrims out of Karbala. Can you comment on that?
GEN. KIMMITT: There's no truth to that rumor. And there's no truth to that
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Nick Riccardi, Los Angeles Times. I have two questions. The first one is
mainly clerical. General Kimmitt, when you've said "Iraqi control" in describing
a situation, is that a synonym that you're using for coalition control?
GEN. KIMMITT: It is a synonym for legitimate control in this country, which is
represented by both Iraqi authorities and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Q As opposed to Sadr loyalists or other --
GEN. KIMMITT: As opposed to Sadr militia, as opposed to former regime elements,
as opposed to anybody who doesn't represent the 25 million people of Iraq.
Q And my second question is, the situation in Fallujah, you're now seeking a
political track; what changed in the course of the military operation to make
the coalition decide that the political solution is the one that should be
pursued right now?
MR. SENOR: I would just say that we have been approached by a number of Iraqi
political leaders, members of the Governing Council, who indicated to us that
after the initial hostilities and the initial operations in Fallujah, there was
an opportunity for them, if given a clear passage into Fallujah, to try to
minimize the bloodshed. And we believed it prudent to give them the opportunity
to do so. We are now waiting to see where that goes. It's really at its initial
Q (Through interpreter.) ANN, Al-Arabiyah Television, reported that peshmerga or
Kurdish forces have worked with coalition forces in Fallujah. How much truth
GEN. KIMMITT: There is no truth that peshmerga militia work in the area of
Fallujah. Anyone who is operating in the vicinity of Fallujah is either a member
of a coalition force or an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps unit. That Iraqi Civil
Defense Corps unit serves the nation of Iraq, serves the people of Iraq, and
swears its loyalty to the people of Iraq.
MR. SENOR: Yeah, Sewell. Go ahead.
Q Sewell Chan with The Washington Post. General Kimmitt, could you comment on
two reports we've been hearing today, one about at least one helicopter being
downed west of Baghdad? And secondly, could you give us an update on the two
American service members who are missing in action? Could you tell us what unit
they're from, what efforts are being made to locate them or ascertain their
whereabouts? Thank you.
GEN. KIMMITT: As we reported earlier, there was an AH-64 helicopter brought down
by enemy fire today at about 11:05, approximately five kilometers west of
Baghdad International Airport. I'm sad to report that the pilots have been
declared killed in action. We have a Quick Reaction Force on site, conducting
the recovery of the equipment and the personnel. And our hearts go out to the
families that tonight will be getting that message, and we'll pray for them.
As to your second question on --
Q MIA service members, sir.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. We have no soldiers currently listed as missing in action.
We have two soldiers whose duty status is unknown, and as we find out further
information on that we will keep you updated on that.
Q As a quick follow-up, sir, there was another report that apparently just went
out over the wires about another helicopter being downed. Have you heard about
GEN. KIMMITT: I haven't heard -- I have no reports on that additional
MR. SENOR: Rachel, go ahead.
Q Thank you. I have one question for each of you.
First, do you have any reports about two Marines that were shot by a sniper in
Fallujah or the surrounding area?
And the second question is, speaking with a senior member of the IGC yesterday,
he said to us that the -- what's happened in Fallujah has caused a considerable
amount of damage in the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people themselves in
the coalition because there was excessive force in this person's opinion. My
question is, how then do you now move forward and try to repair that
relationship? Is it possible? What are the methods you'll take?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, on the first question, we had understood that there may be
some reports coming up indicate some Marine casualties today. I don't yet have
those reports. As soon as we have them we will pass them out.
And one part of your question, about excessive force, that again -- I think what
we need to repair is a press that will continue to try to manipulate the facts
when the vast majority of facts on the ground disprove those opinions. The
forces out in Fallujah have been tremendously precise, tremendously circumspect,
well within the rules of their -- rules of engagement, and have not engaged in
any violations of the laws of war, nor their rules of engagement.
MR. SENOR: Rachel, I would just add, on your second question, the
decision-making process we go through when we consider operations like in
Fallujah, like against Sadr's militia, are based on what kind of setback would
occur if we don't confront those elements. We have to think about this if there
are individuals or organizations in Fallujah that mutilate individuals and just
engage in sort of mob violence, and certainly the mob violence that we've
observed in the southern part of the country with Sadr's militia and the violent
intimidation tactics used to try to achieve through the barrel of a gun what
these -- what Sadr and his militia knows they could never achieve at a ballot
box. We have to consider, if you do not confront these forces head-on, what does
that say, what does that mean, what kind of roadblocks does it create for Iraq's
path to democracy, for Iraq's path to sovereignty?
And we make the calculation that it is better to combat and confront that
cancer, that poison in Iraq's body politic now rather than down the road. We
have no reason to believe that it is a problem that would be minimized by
waiting, by turning our heads. When the sort of violence, the mob violence that
has run rampant in certain parts of the country is left unchecked, it is not
going to go away if we choose to ignore it. And that certainly, we believe,
would pose much larger problems down the road for Iraq's path to democracy than
just ignoring it now.
Q Can I -- just one follow-up. Was the IGC consulted before you had drawn up
plans to go into Fallujah?
MR. SENOR: I don't want to comment on our planning process. Certainly on the
operational side I can let General Kimmitt speak to that. But I will say that
the Governing Council has been in very constructive discussions with Ambassador
Bremer over the past few days on seeking some sort of resolution. Certainly the
talks about organizing a cessation of hostilities has had the deep involvement
of members of the Iraqi Governing Council.
Q Two quick Fallujah questions.
First, for General Kimmitt, I've heard you speak from the podium for several
days now about the precise, limited nature of the Marine actions there, also
seen wire reports from inside the city with very large reports of civilian
casualties. Do the Marines have an estimate as to the number of civilians and
Iraqi combatants who have been killed as a result of the actions there? It would
be helpful to get some sort of estimate from your side.
And the second question. Dan, assuming that the cease-fire is agreed to, or some
sort of temporary cessation of hostilities, what are the coalition's conditions
for a permanent cessation of hostilities? What do you want from the leadership
of Fallujah so that this issue can be resolved? Thanks.
MR. SENOR: I think it's premature, Rajiv, to get to that stage, conditions,
permanent cease-fire. We are at a very preliminary phase right here. We are
allowing -- we are trying to suspend hostilities so that the Iraqi Governing
Council delegation can get in and out of Fallujah easily, to have discussions
with Fallujan leaders. Once we get comfortable with that phase, we can talk
about the nature of those discussions that could lead to perhaps something more
permanent and the conditions that you're referencing. But we're just -- we're
just not there yet. We're trying to get access for the delegation. We're trying
to get the fighting to stop. We're trying to minimize the bloodshed, and then we
will go from there.
GEN. KIMMITT: And as to the figures that you're seeking, I'd recommend you go
talk to the Marines. I think they can give you a much better estimate of the
numbers there. But I think when you do talk to them, make sure that you talk to
them about what was the reason any of those casualties occurred. Was it because
of Marine tactics or was it because, more probably, of an enemy who's trying to
wrap himself in the civilian population, among the civilian population, as human
shields, as barriers, as an attempt to draw them into the fight; when by
international law they're technically considered noncombatants.
And I think before we suggest where the blame lies, I would recommend you go out
there and take a look and see for yourself the type of enemy that will fire from
a mosque, that will shoot his mortars from a mosque, will try to kill coalition
soldiers from a mosque, and then, when a portion of the outer wall of the mosque
complex is then destroyed in order to stop the shooting that was killing
coalition soldiers, will then proclaim from that same mosque about the war
crimes of the coalition forces. The answer ought to be obvious.
MR. SENOR: Go ahead.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- from Ad- Dustour. General Kimmitt,
the delegation that went to Fallujah have returned. I have communicated with the
head of the delegation and he informed me that there was an agreement with
resistance to cease operations, but they were demanding that American forces
should retreat from the Fallujah when the city will be given to Iraqi police and
Iraqi army. Do you agree with that as a condition?
My second question, if you have accepted the idea of doing dialoguing with
Fallujah, are you going to be dialoguing with Najaf? Or are you providing the
same condition for Najaf to do this so it will become an Iraqi situation to be
dealt with by Iraqis?
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't think that I want to stand up here and comment on the
positions of both sides. The coalition side on Fallujah is simple. We have been
on a unilateral suspension of offensive operations for about 52 hours now.
Yesterday we called for a unilateral -- a bilateral cease-fire. We did not
ascribe any conditions to that. We did not place any conditions on that. Now the
-- persons have come back and started putting conditions on that.
I think the most important thing to understand at this point is that the
coalition forces have suspended offensive operations. They are permitting the
political track and the discussion track to go forward. They will always retain
the inherent right of self defense, and they will be prepared, if the
discussions break down, to continue offensive operations.
In terms of the tick-tock as it goes back and forth in the discussions, I think
I'll leave that to the Governing Council to discuss that with other coalition
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Jerry Azyak (ph) from (IFE ?). You've been talking about the suspension of
offensive operations, but you have not talked about the cease-fire that went
into effect this morning. What happened this morning?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well again, the cease-fire would indicate that both sides have
agreed to it. Certainly we would ask the enemy to suspend their offensive
operations. We would as the enemy to stop their operations as well.
Q Could you discuss some of the terms of this agreement, you know, with the --
GEN. KIMMITT: There are no terms. We have unilaterally suspended offensive
operations. If the enemy were to unilaterally suspend offensive operations, or
any of their operations, then we would have a cease-fire on the ground.
Q Second question. You haven't talked much about the humanitarian situation in
Fallujah. Could you describe it for us and tell us what the Marines are doing to
GEN. KIMMITT; The Marines remain ready, willing and able at any time to provide
any level of humanitarian assistance. Outside the city of Fallujah, I understand
they've already set up facilities for any displaced persons that come out of the
city that need assistance. That is something that the Marine Corps is expert in,
the whole notion of assistance, rendering assistance to any (town ?) in the
world at any time. We've got to get to the conditions of stability so that they
can provide that. The Iraqi government has already provided some supplies to
them as well. We are not aware of any appeal on the part of anyone inside of the
city of Fallujah for any additional supplies. I am certain that the Marines, if
asked by a legitimate authority to provide and render humanitarian aid or any
aid to people, particularly noncombatants, that need it, I think they would
probably find a very open dialogue to provide that.
Q (Through interpreter.) From Azema (ph). Two questions. One for Dan Senor. You
have stated that you have allowed the political track, the GC, to go to Fallujah,
and then at the same time you say that from unilateral position that you have
stopped the work. Are you going to play a role to have -- you have allowed it,
but then you have stopped the cease-fire.
Then the second question to General Kimmitt. From here, from this podium you
talk about a clean war in Fallujah, but the Iraqis have an image through
television from what is happening in Fallujah from killing children. Is there a
way that you could convince Iraqis by your point of view that you've utilized
force against terrorists?
GEN. KIMMITT: With regards to the solution on the images of Americans and
coalition soldiers killing innocent civilians, my solution is quite simple:
Change the channel. Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest
news station. The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing
women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda and that
is lies. So, you want a solution? Change the channel.
MR. SENOR: I mean, you yourself cited Al-Jazeera. And we've noticed a real trend
with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah and some of the other channels that are -- we
believe are misreporting facts on the ground and contributing to a sense of
anger and frustration that possibly should be directed at individuals and
organizations inside Fallujah that mutilate Americans and slaughter other
Iraqis, rather than at the coalition.
To your other question, our goal is quite simple; it is to minimize bloodshed.
We were approached by members of the Iraqi Governing Council who wanted to
organize a delegation to head into Fallujah to try to work towards some sort of
discussion here, and in so doing, would require a suspension of hostilities. And
we are acting on that; we are suspending hostilities to allow the delegation to
get peacefully inside Fallujah and begin those talks with Fallujah leaders. That
is our goal.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- from Al- Mesharaw (ph). My question
to General Kimmitt, how many helicopters have you lost since the beginning of
hostilities in Fallujah until now?
Second, some channels showed two people that have been murdered. They stated
that they are CIA officials. How much truth to that?
Now, you are putting your forces in front of Fallujah and you are ceasing fire.
Is this a tactical approach so that you could continue your operation later?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first question in terms of the number of helicopters that
we have lost during this operation, I talked about one Apache today. I know that
we've had a couple of others do precautionary and emergency landings over the
space of the last few days. But in terms of total losses, I don't think we have
had -- one today, and possibly one two days ago. I'd have to check and see if it
was a total loss or just a partial loss.
With regards to the persons who were shown on the TV today, who were apparently
murdered, I can't answer who they were, I can't answer what organization because
I simply don't know.
And in terms of the positioning of the forces in Fallujah, quite simply these
were positions that coalition forces fought for, some died for, but they've
accomplished those positions, and they're not giving up those positions until a
decision is made with regards to a final determination on how we're going to get
legitimate Iraqi control back into the city of Fallujah, so that we have Iraqi
police governing that city, Iraqi governmental officials making decisions for
that city, Iraqi civil defense marching up and down that city.
But with regards to why the Marines are there, because they fought for those,
they bled for those, and in some cases they died for those positions. And they
don't give up ground that easy.
Second, if the talks break down and the enemy continues to attack, those will be
very good positions from which the Marines can continue the attack to finish
taking the town of Fallujah.
MR. SENOR: Jim, go ahead.
Q I want to follow up a little bit, if I can, on a question my colleague over
here asked, and that is about the future. And we know a conflict could be coming
in Najaf. And I'm sure, General Kimmitt, you know that urban warfare, as careful
as anybody is, civilians are going to get killed.
There's a city where you're trying to win hearts and minds. Certainly the Shi'a
south, everything that you've said about al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army would say
that it's, you know, an isolated problem. But Dan Senor, is there a need here
for the Iraqi leadership, working with the CPA, to start talking to the people
in that city right now, to solve that problem? Is that under way?
MR. SENOR: Let me say this, Jim. We -- what we're seeing in Najaf and other
parts of the south central region is Sadr's militia taking over police stations,
intimidating Iraqi police officers, taking over government buildings, shutting
down schools, murdering their fellow Iraqi citizens.
The majority of Iraqis, even in the south central region of the country, the
silent majority, if you will, are communicating to us and through our channels
that they don't want a part of Sadr's militia, they don't want a part of this
sort of thuggery and mob violence. And we believe we have a responsibility here
to address it.
Now by addressing it, do you run the risk of there being civilian casualties and
pain and suffering imposed upon local citizens, regional organizations, regional
institutions? It's -- that's a risk in any military conflict. It's a risk in any
operation you engage in. But what's the alternative? And that's the question we
have to ask ourselves.
And this isn't to suggest that we are -- and I'll let General Kimmitt speak to
planning or preparations for additional operations or holding back on operations
-- but I will just say that -- this comes back to Rachel's question -- in all
these situations, we have to ask ourselves: What is the risk of not acting? What
is the risk of turning our head and just ignoring this problem?
And the risk is not only one of a security nature for the coalition, but it is
also an enormous risk for the Iraqi people and their ability to build a
democracy and their ability to move on their path to sovereignty. If we do not
address these elements and these individuals and these organizations now, we
will rue the day, because these organizations, these militia will rise up again
another day. And it's better to deal with them now than after June 30th.
GEN. KIMMITT: And quite simply, what I would say is that there are many ways for
the town of Najaf to come back under legitimate control of the Iraqi government,
the Coalition Provisional Authority, and -- that don't involve any fighting at
all. The people of Najaf can certainly turn over the Sadr militia. The people of
Najaf can help us in this process. The people in Najaf can restore the Iraqi
police to their rightful positions inside their city.
We don't see it as a necessary requirement that any military action has to occur
in Najaf. In fact, I think anyone who has ever had to send soldiers into combat
would always prefer to have another solution. We look forward to that solution;
that solution simply being restoration of Iraqi control -- not militia control,
but Iraqi control into the city of Najaf and Karbala.
Q So very briefly, is that a yes, that you are pursuing some other things; there
are talks going on in order to head off a conflict, if possible?
MR. SENOR: We would prefer there to be no conflict. I'm not going to comment on
the sort of operational details. I would say that our goal is to minimize
bloodshed and to head off any sort of conflict. But of course, as I said
earlier, we have to consider the alternative to inaction in all these
situations, if in fact there is no track for negotiations.
Q Yeah, hi. Jonathan Steele from the Guardian. Two questions.
To Mr. Senor, first of all: There have been reports that the family of the
assassinated Ayatollah Kho'i wants the arrest warrant for Muqtada al-Sadr lifted
or removed. If that -- do you know if that's true? And if so, are you willing to
have that removed?
And secondly, to General Kimmitt: You talk about changing channels. But what is
your reply to people like Adnan Pachachi who have accused the coalition forces
of using collective punishment on the city of Fallujah? Have you got a reply a
little bit more nuanced and subtle than just to tell Mr. Pachachi to change
MR. SENOR: On your first question, I've seen the same report and it's erroneous.
That has been confirmed to me. And I would say, just at a broader level here,
the arrest warrant against Muqtada al-Sadr was issued by an Iraqi investigative
judge based on evidence connecting Mr. al-Sadr to the murder of Mr. al-Kho' and
two other individuals. And the Iraqi investigative judge has multiple eye-
witnesses that he believes serve as the basis for a very strong case, and he's
moving forward with that case.
(To General Kimmitt.) You want to?
GEN. KIMMITT: And we have great respect for all the members of the Governing
Council. Every one of them have different views. We respect all views in this
country. In this case, we can disagree without being disagreeable, but it is not
the practice of the coalition forces, any of the coalition nations, to exercise
collective punishment or collective action on a city. It's just not done. It is
not practiced. And it violates international law. And we don't believe at this
point that the coalition can be shown any proof to suggest that is in violation
of international law or the laws of land warfare.
MR. SENOR: And I would just add to that, while, as General Kimmitt said, we
don't share Dr. Pachachi's characterization of the situation as collective
punishment, I would also add we have tremendous respect for Dr. Pachachi and the
other individuals of the Governing Council and the situations they're in. They
are in touch with their local communities. They are hearing frustrations from
their communities. And they feel, as Iraqi political leaders, an obligation to
share those frustrations with us. We respect that role. It's an important role
for them to perform.
What we also respect is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Governing
Council members are working with us to bring resolution to these issues in a
very constructive way. Ambassador Bremer has been meeting regularly with members
of the Governing Council, and they've been having very constructive discussions.
And so while what's often reported is the one or two sentences of criticism
about the way things are being handled, what's not often reported is the extent
to which we are having very constructive discussions with these Iraqi political
Q Yeah. Two quick questions, one for General Kimmitt. Sorry, for General
Kimmitt. Do you know exactly who you're dealing with in terms of the leadership
GEN. KIMMITT: No. I don't think we really believe that there is a centralized
organization that is calling the shots for all of the disparate extremists that
are fighting coalition forces in Fallujah.
Q And the second quick question is, do you know the whereabouts of Muqtada al-Sadr?
There have been some reports that he's fled to Iran.
MR. SENOR: I have not heard those reports.
On your first question, I would just add we are deferring to the delegation that
is traveling to and from Fallujah to make determinations about who -- some of
the appropriate leaders to deal with, and we are having discussions with them
We just have a couple more minutes here. Yes.
Q (Through interpreter.) Bassar Haim (ph), al-Minar. I have two questions, one
for Dan Senor. Senator Dan Senor, you said that there is a statement from
Ambassador Bremer to be vigilant -- to all the Iraqis to be vigilant. Have you
received any information that assures that the coming days will witness a
The second question, to General Kimmitt. You spoke about the city of Najaf and
Karbala, which is outside the control of the coalition forces. And then what is
to be done if there was no agreement reached what would happen, and then the
militias would return to the authority? Don't you think that a military
operation in Najaf and Karbala will intensify the crisis upon the coalition
MR. SENOR: Sorry? Yeah, the "senator."
On your first question, here's what we know. We know that Abu Hassam (sp)
Zarqawi drafted a document that laid out a very clear plan for provoking civil
war in this country, central to which was engaging in terrorist attacks against
Shi'a at their religious holy sites and in other parts of the country. This was
a document we have very good reason to believe was headed to senior al Qaeda
leadership outside of Iraq.
We have since all seen or heard the tape in which our Zarqawi lays out further
plans, takes responsibility for recent activities inside Iraq, terrorist
activities that are consistent with his messages in the first document we
obtained. We have been aware of other indicators -- and I'll leave it at that,
"other indicators" -- that Mr. Zarqawi may in fact be involved with planning
further or future terrorist attacks inside this country. And recognizing this
period, the Arba'in period, where you have a large number of Iraqis and citizens
of other countries out and about in the streets engaging in religious pilgrimage
and other events, it makes them especially vulnerable to the sorts of terrorist
attacks that Mr. Zarqawi has orchestrated in the past. And so recognizing all
this, we are doing our part to be as vigilant as possible, and we are
encouraging all Iraqis to be equally vigilant.
GEN. KIMMITT: And to your question about Najaf, we don't see military action as
preferable, we don't see military action as inevitable. We seek any resolution
and any number of resolutions that would allow, very simply, restoration of
legitimate authority into the town of Najaf and Karbala.
MR. SENOR: Last question, right here.
Q (Through interpreter.) From Al-Hurriyah Television to Dan Senor and General
Kimmitt. The last statement from President Bush he said that we are going to
provide sovereignty to Iraqis by June 30th. And then there is a statement that
sovereignty will not be complete.
Then my other question to General Kimmitt, that you are preoccupied on the Iraqi
border; you're stating that there are foreigners who are coming in to cause
terrorism. But you are now preoccupied with the interior and there are
conditions on the borders now. Doesn't that mean that you're allowing the
opportunity for foreigners to penetrate Iraq?
MR. SENOR: On your first question, we are on track to hand sovereignty over to
the Iraqi people on June 30th. It will be complete sovereignty. Iraqis will have
complete political sovereignty in their own country.
We will still have a substantial presence here to assist the Iraqis as they work
through transition phases in other areas, be it in the reconstruction of their
infrastructure or to deal with their security situation. We recognize that there
will be a significant terror threat in Iraq after June 30th. We also recognize
that as courageous and as brave as a majority of the Iraqi security forces are,
it still will not be -- the security forces will still not be able to defend
against the terrorist threat completely on their own. And so there's still going
to be a role for security forces here.
You're going to have the largest U.S. embassy here in the world. We're going to
be deploying almost $20 billion in reconstruction funds, which has already
begun. So we will have a role here, but Iraqi political leaders will be in
control of their country, Iraqi political leaders will be in control of their
political destiny. We believe that's very important for a number of reasons, not
the least of which is we often talk up here about confronting the terrorist
threat and the threat posed by extremists, like Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia,
or these former Ba'athist types that have orchestrated attacks in Fallujah and
the surrounding areas. And the military strategy is important, but equally
important is a political strategy and an economic strategy, and they all must
work in tandem. And that is to say that the more we politically empower the
Iraqi people, the more we economically empower the Iraqi people, the more
difficult it will be for the terrorists and the extremists and the former
Ba'athists to capitalize on any sense of frustration or sense of hopelessness.
And that is why June 30th is so central to our overall strategy, and we are
focused on it.
GEN. KIMMITT: I don't think I have anything further to say about the border
issue nor the terrorist threat within the country. Clearly, the Iraqi
government, the Iraqi security forces, the coalition forces continue to work
very hard towards trying to find the terrorist threats and then attack to kill
or capture those terrorists that would attempt to kill Iraqi citizens and
coalition forces. That is an effort we continue, even as we have the ongoing
pace of operations to destroy the Sadr militia, to bring down the lack of
control in Fallujah. We are still continuing those other efforts as well. That's
a job that won't stop as long as the coalition is here, and it's a job that
won't stop even after the coalition has left.
MR. SENOR: Thank you, everybody.