COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY/IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL
BRIEFING WITH IRAQI SECURITY ADVISOR,
DR. MOWAFFAK AL RUBAIE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: THURSDAY, MAY 27, 2004
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) You have heard early in this morning
that we have reached an agreement, an initial agreement, with Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr.
This is a very happy news to save the blood of our people. This is also a
victory for the supremacy of law and order, a victory for the forces of
democracy and freedom in Iraq, and a victory for the Iraqi people also.
You may have been acquainted with the text of the letter sent by Muqtada al-Sadr.
The text of the letter will be distributed among you. And for television
purposes I am going to read this letter. The letter will be distributed in
Arabic and in English.
"To put an end to the tragic events in holy Najaf, and the violation of the holy
shrines in it, I agree with this, the following plan.
"The plan is four points. First, canceling all military activities and the
evacuation of all governorate buildings, and the withdrawal of the Mahdi Army
who are not from Najaf, and stop pursuing people or bringing them to court. Give
the opportunity for the police and the other national forces to provide security
and not bothering them by anyone.
"Third, the withdrawal of the occupation forces to their bases, except for small
units to protect their headquarter and building of the municipality.
"Fourth, hold discussions with representative of the Shi'ite house concerning
al-Mahdi Army, and not taking any measures until that time. Please take the
necessary measures to carry out this plan. Thank you."
MR. AL RUBAIE: And you have to excuse my pidgin English in translating this
agreement, but I'll try my level best:
"Honorable brother, members of the Shi'a house, peace and the mercy and the
blessing of God be upon you.
"To put an end to the tragic situation in noble Najaf, and the violation of the
sanctity of the sacred shrine of Imam Ali, and the rest of the noble sites, I
announce my agreement to the following plan.
"Eliminating -- number one, eliminating all armed manifestations, putting
governorate buildings to use by the governorate offices and institutions,
withdrawing all Mahdi Army fighters who are not citizens of Najaf from this
city, ceasing the pursuit and trial of persons in the courts, and undertaking
not to return to that.
"Number two, opening the way for the police and the rest of the Iraqi national
forces to carry out their duties in providing security and order, and refraining
from anyone getting in their way in that duties or work.
"Number three, withdrawing the occupation forces to their bases, with the
exception of small units to protect their headquarters and the governorate
building, with a continued connection to these two places.
"Number four, engaging in a broad discussion on the future of the Mahdi Army and
the judicial trial with the representative of the Shi'a House, and the
refraining from taking any measure until that time.
It's requested that the measures necessary to implement this plan be taken."
Signed and sealed by Syed Muqtada al-Sadr.
Before you start your questions, let me try to do what I call preemptive strike
on the journalists -- try to answer some of your questions before you ask them.
Let me tell you the agreement announced in the small hours of this morning is a
signed agreement between Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shi'a House, which brings
together prominent Shi'a members of the Governing Council. It provides for the
The departure of all Mahdi Army fighters from the streets. It provides the
departure for all Mahdi Army fighters not from Najaf Governorate -- so they
depart the governorate -- those people who have come from outside the Najaf
Governorate -- they go back home. It provides the evacuation of all governorate
buildings occupied by the Mahdi Army to go back to the governorate institutions
and offices. It also provides the cessation of illegal acts of arrest and trial.
It also provides the resumption of Iraqi police and ICDC responsibility for the
law and order. It also provides the resumption of the Iraqi police and the ICDC
responsibility for the law and order and maintaining the services. Also, the
redeployment of coalition forces to their bases, with the continued access to
the CPA offices and the governorate building.
The offering of discussion -- also provides for the offering of discussion with
the Shi'a House and between the Shi'a House and Syed Muqtada.
On the issue of Mahdi Army and the arrest warrant issued against them. Syed
Muqtada and suspension of action on the warrant in the interim.
You will ask whether the coalition forces have participated in this negotiation.
The coalition did not participate in the negotiation of this agreement, but was
kept aware of its progress. We understand its terms to apply -- the terms of
this agreement applies to Kufa and Najaf, because it's one governorate.
I'm very hopeful that Syed Muqtada al-Sadr -- and I hope and pray that Syed
Muqtada Sadr will live up to the commitments he made in this agreement. And we
know it in this regard press reports Mahdi Army will implement it, the departure
from Najaf as soon as noon today.
Successful implementation of this agreement will permit the people of Najaf,
which was living under total paralysis for the last several months, or the last
several weeks, since early April -- it will allow the people of Najaf, who have
been paralyzed and living in total paralysis, to resume their normal lives. It
will also permit the safe resumption of pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Ali Ali
Selam, and also the removal of further danger to that shrine by parties seeking
to inflame the population.
The coalition forces will reposition to their bases outside Najaf, while
maintaining protective units at CPA offices and governorate building, as soon as
the Iraqi security forces have assumed responsibility for public security and
reestablish law and order. There will be no vacuum of security in Najaf. Until
that time, coalition forces will suspend offensive operations, but will continue
to provide security by carrying out some patrols.
We understand that the additional Iraqi security forces may be moved into the
region, and that the urgent recruitment, training and deputization of the tribal
element may act to bolster the capabilities of the limited police and the ICDC
forces currently available.
Ladies and gentlemen, we pray, we hope, we expect Syed Muqtada and the
representative of the Shi'a House to open discussion to resolve these issues as
soon as possible. Insha'Allah.
I am open for questions.
Q Kimberly Dozier with CBS News. Sir, what does this say about the arrest
warrant against Muqtada al-Sadr, that you are suspending it? Can you describe in
detail what you are intend to do with this? It was a warrant for murder.
MR. AL RUBAIE: Well, this is being left for the negotiation, or the discussion I
should say, between Syed Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shi'a House. And so we thought
to break down the big problem, to phase it out -- that's the idea.
Q Daniel Williams, the Washington Post. Are you understanding that the coalition
has accepted this deal? Have you been told that?
MR. AL RUBAIE: I understand that the coalition will honor and respect this deal,
Q (Through interpreter.) What about the victims who fell in Najaf? Will there be
any compensation for that from the coalition forces? And about putting Muqtada
al-Sadr to a trial, will it be postponed?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The Shi'ite House will choose the
delegation which will enter into negotiations with Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr to solve
the security file and the file of the Mahdi Army?
Q Is the effect of this agreement focused strictly on Najaf, or has Syed Muqtada
al-Sadr agreed to restrain his forces all over Iraq, including in Sadr City?
MR. AL RUBAIE: Well, the standard for the last few weeks now was in Najaf. And
because of the special status of this city, and there are no military
manifestations or armed manifestations outside Najaf now after the Karbala has
been sorted out, so we thought we'd concentrate on the heart of the matter, and
that's Najaf. And if we sort out the Najaf then it will be easier to go
Q Hi. Will members of the Mahdi Army be eligible for employment in the security
services that you're talking about expanding recruitment for?
MR. AL RUBAIE: Sorry, the Mahdi Army?
Q Will they be eligible to join the Iraqi police and ICDC? You said you were
MR. AL RUBAIE: This is a matter for discussion between the Shi'a House
representative and Syed Muqtada. When they enter into this discussion, then all
possibilities are open for discussion.
Q Addie Raval, ABC News. The last couple of weeks coalition forces have captured
some of al-Sadr's aides, including a capture yesterday. Is it now your
understanding that under the terms of this agreement that the coalition will no
longer take such action in the future?
MR. AL RUBAIE: This item has not been discussed, has not been addressed in this
agreement. So the only thing I can tell you is I assume that law and order has
to be implemented, and it's -- our prime concern -- the pivotal issue here is
the law and order.
Q (Through interpreter.) Does the Shi'ite House have legal authorization from
the coalition forces?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) There are many legal problems which
prevent the coalition forces from entering into direct agreement or hold any
direct negotiations with Mr. al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr. These are technical
issues. Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr wrote a letter to members of the Shi'ite House, and
the members of the Shi'ite House are the guarantors of this agreement. And the
coalition force is welcoming the implementation of this agreement.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible.) Peace be upon you. Will there be any
compensation for the citizens of Karbala and Najaf? For example, the cars,
houses and shops that have been destroyed as a result of bombarding and the
fighting which took place between the coalition forces and the militia forces.
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) This issue has not been discussed in the
agreement. This is a very important issue, and I think it comes -- this issue
will come when the delegation of the Shi'ite House will discuss this when he
meets with Mr. Muqtada al- Sadr.
Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible.) Will Mr. al-Sadr be offered a political
position? Will he take part in the political process? And is the negotiation
concerning the Mahdi Army in Najaf or Karbala or all throughout Iraq?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) This issue has not been discussed in the
agreement, and we didn't talk about this issue during the negotiations, and I
don't see any reason to prevent any political movement which resort to polls and
democratic means, and the political pressure and the media pressure. Any
political group can enter into the Iraqi government and contribute to building a
new Iraq. The new Iraq cannot be only built on the Governing Council only or on
the ministers. The Iraq people are invited to take part in this process. All
sectors of the Iraqi people -- the ethnic, the religious sectors.
The negotiations about the Mahdi Army, are they confined to Najaf and Karbala?
When we enter into these negotiations, the Mahdi Army is not only in Najaf and
Karbala. It exists throughout Iraq, and the negotiations will cover all
formations of the Mahdi Army.
Q (Off mike.) What would comprise, from Sadr's point of view as you know it,
what would comprise a violation of this, if the U.S. was to do X, it would be
considered a violation of this?
MR. AL RUBAIE: Well, this is a question you don't address it to me -- you
address to Syed Muqtada al-Sadr. I don't think I would be able to answer this
question, what's in his view considered to be a violation of this agreement.
Q But did they give any indication? I mean, did he say, you know, if I see 1,000
troops, 100 troops --
MR. AL RUBAIE: We sensed a strong will last night -- night, or 3:00 in the
morning -- we sensed the strong will of wanting to get to the -- to a peaceful
settlement. And that's everybody's drive. And that's everybody's motive. We want
to stop the bloodshed, we want to stop the violation of the sacred places in
Q (Through interpreter.) (Inaudible) -- from Mesopotamia. I want to ask a
question. I am very sorry I cannot answer a question outside this -- we have
received from the Egyptian news agency about postponing the issue related to
Muqtada al-Sadr. Does it apply to Muqtada al-Sadr only or to his lieutenants
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The agreement is very clear the security
files and the suspension of any procedures is only related to the security files
Q (Through interpreter.) Basiy Hill from el Mineh (ph). You talked about the
issue of Muqtada al-Sadr when the Mahdi Army is withdrawn and there would be no
security vacuum. Do we understand that there will be joint patrols between the
Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces, or all the occupations forces
would be confined to guard the buildings of the governorate?
You also talk about the issue of tribal participation. Do we understand that the
tribal leaders will have a role in providing security for Najaf?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The agreement didn't include any joint
patrols. What I talked about is there would be no security vacuum. The coalition
forces will not withdraw without the Iraqi security forces and the national
defense forces. After that the coalition forces will depart.
Concerning the tribes, the tribal leaders will be made use of to back the
operation carried out by the Iraqi security forces and Civil Defense Corps.
Q (Off mike.) Just clarify regarding the legal situation. Will the discussions
be empowered to actually throw out the case against Muqtada al-Sadr? And could
you also just clarify whether or not there are any outside people coming in to
be involved in the discussions? There were talks of a congressman from the
States coming over.
MR. AL RUBAIE: Congress from -- congressman?
Q From the U.S., yeah.
MR. AL RUBAIE: Search me. (Laughter.) This is -- where was it made, this idea?
Where was it fabricated? Which factory? One of the Arab media factories or one
of the Western media factories?
Q This is from the Islamic organization.
MR. AL RUBAIE: Sorry?
Q From the Islamic organization --
MR. AL RUBAIE: As far as I know -- well, everything is possible in this world,
but as far as I know, there was no congressman or senators were involved in the
discussion at all. It was purely Iraqi initiative. And I know that the Merjeria
(ph) and the Najaf people -- they have played huge role in this, in pressurizing
some of the negotiators to accept this. And we are so grateful. Nobody can claim
credit on this settlement and, God willing, Insha'Allah, it is going to be a
final settlement. But I can tell you the people of Najaf, the holymen, the
clerics in Najaf, the Merjeria (ph), have played a huge, major role in this, and
we are very, very grateful for that.
Q And the first part of the question regarding --
MR. AL RUBAIE: Sorry, I didn't catch the first one.
Q Will -- in discussions, will they have the power to throw out the case against
Muqtada al-Sadr over murder?
MR. AL RUBAIE: We have not discuss their authority in terms of this case,
because they -- see, some of them they have an official role, others they don't.
So I don't think this body for the Shi'a House has a judiciary or legal
authority to throw the case out.
Yes? Sorry, the gentleman here.
Q Under this agreement, will any of the Mahdi Army be disarmed? And, if so, who
will disarm them?
MR. AL RUBAIE: I'm sorry, the agreement did not point or indicate that there was
going to be disarmament or disarming or disbanding the Mahdi Army. The Shi'a
House representatives are going to enter into negotiation or discussion with
Syed Muqtada on the Mahdi Army fate, if you like, the future of Mahdi Army. And
we are open for suggestion here. We are quite ambivalent. We are going into this
discussion with an open arm. We have to fulfill or implement this agreement and
it is for the good of Iraq.
Q (Through interpreter.) The negotiations will be between Muqtada al-Sadr and
the members of the Shi'a House. Will there be any members of the Governing
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) I said that the Shi'a House consists of
members of the Governing Council, their deputies, their assistants, and they
have prominent members in the Governing Council and in the Iraqi government, and
they should have responsibility of that.
Q Can you tell us who are the Governing Council members that were involved in
these negotiations? And does this plan need to be approved or agreed upon by the
Governing Council, by all the members of the Governing Council?
MR. AL RUBAIE: It's a letter from Syed Muqtada to the Shi'a House, which is
formed of members of the Governing Council, and it doesn't need approval from
the Governing Council. Actually it needs endorsement and respect from the
Q Well, can you tell us the members of the Governing Council that participated?
MR. AL RUBAIE: I don't think this is of any use to you as a journalist.
Q Well, can you let us decide that?
MR. AL RUBAIE: Obviously I don't want to answer this question. I just have to be
rude to you. Thank you.
Q (Through interpreter.) Dr. Fahil Rasai (ph) from the Jordanian News Agency.
How far will this agreement succeed? You know that there have been many
violations in Fallujah.
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Arabic not translated.)
Q Question: Can you just clarify what happened in Karbala? Was the joint
simultaneous withdrawal by the Americans and the Mahdi Army -- was that the
result of an agreement?
MR. AL RUBAIE: In Karbala there was no agreement. There was no agreement. I
believe it was a sheer fatigue, and don't quote me on that. (Laughs.) Well, you
are going to quote me on that, obviously. It was a sheer fatigue. There was no
agreement in Karbala.
Q (Through interpreter.) Salam Abdel Hassan (ph) from -- (inaudible) -- Dr.
Murfaq, you said that the accusation leveled against Muqtada al-Sadr is there
for negotiations, and you said it was left for the jurisdiction. Will this
accusation postpone or suspend it?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) The agreement says that this issue will be
left to the negotiation which will take -- the enlarged negotiations which will
take place between the government -- between members of the Shi'a House and Mr.
Q Insurgent forces, who allegedly included foreign fighters and represented a
threat to the whole region of Anbar, if not the country, were dealt with on a
local basis by local and largely Sunni religious authorities.
In Najaf, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has manifested forces and military aggression
everywhere from Baghdad to Basra, was again treated on an obviously urgently
needed local truce basis, but again by Shi'a House, which is not a national
organization. Is this starting to set up a pattern that could be dangerous to
the eventual realization of a unified national Iraqi state?
MR. AL RUBAIE: Not at all. I don't believe for a minute that this is endangering
-- or this won't endanger the unity of Iraq. I think the coalition and among the
Iraqi communities, major communities, it's so strong that I don't think -- I
mean, we have gone through a rough time, and we have not heard anybody calling
for a splitting of or secession of one part of Iraq or another. So I don't
believe it is.
But it is the reality that those people in Najaf probably carry more weight and
influence in trying to change the view of certain people. You don't bring
somebody from -- I don't know, far away -- even from Basra for that matter -- to
influence the negotiators in Najaf. This is a local issue.
This is on the security side. But on the political side this is not a security
issue by the way. This is an issue, very complicated issue of the violence,
resorting to use of violence and arms in south of Baghdad in the last couple of
months. This is not a simple, straightforward issue. I think it's a very
complicated one. It's an uprising -- not uprising, but it's a revolt by the
underclass, by those who have been dispossessed a long, long time, and obviously
a mixture of former regime elements, a mixture of religious committed people as
well. A lot of social element as well in it -- religious element in it, there's
an economic element in it. So it's not -- it's a very complicated phenomenon,
and I think it needs to be tackled -- studied and tackled properly and in a more
comprehensive approach rather than a single security type approach.
MR. AL RUBAIE: The one before last question I'll take.
Q Thank you. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. Is the door open to members of
the Mahdi Army who are from Najaf to now join the security forces that will be
fulfilling that security role there?
MR. AL RUBAIE: This is going to be left to the discussion between the Shi'a
representative and between the representative and Syed Muqtada al-Sadr in their
Q (Through interpreter.) Khoula Diseri (ph) from -- (inaudible). And the third
item says that coalition forces will withdraw except small units. Have you
obtained an approval from the coalition forces not to patrol Najaf?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) As I said, the coalition forces were
informed about these developments. They were following up these developments
closely. And if I use the expression, "a promise" -- they gave a promise to
respect this agreement. Otherwise there wouldn't be -- the agreement wouldn't be
Q (Through interpreter.) What are the guarantees to safeguard this agreement? We
know that the coalition forces will maintain the right to defend themselves.
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) This issue can be referred to the
coalition forces. But the right of self-defense is a right entitled to all
parties. This is a natural right, and we can't deny this right to any party.
Q (Through interpreter.) From al Kharia (ph). You said that you pray that these
-- this agreement will be adhered to -- as if this agreement was imposed on
Muqtada al-Sadr, and not by an agreement between members of the Shi'a House and
Muqtada al-Sadr. I think Muqtada al-Sadr respects his promises and he respects
his commitments. While you were reading this letter, is there a project for a
truce, for a cease-fire or suspension of the military operations?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) I will answer the second question. Last
night the citizens of Najaf slept soundly -- since 2:00 in the morning the
citizens of Najaf slept peacefully for the first time since many months. They
need time to restore electricity and to clean the streets and open the shops.
This is the responsibility of the Iraqi government.
Concerning your first question, will there be any violations of this agreement
-- any agreement I pray God that all parties will adhere to this agreement. This
is an agreement. If we can't practice self-restrain, this agreement -- there
will be some renegade elements. We don't know where they came from. These
elements might try to subvert this agreement through the violation of cease-fire
and there might be a reaction and escalation of events. That's why I implore God
to honor --
Q (Through interpreter.) This means there is no fighting going on?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) No, there isn't any fighting right now in
Q (Through interpreter.) Peace be upon you. Khalid Maseadi (ph) from Al Sabah
(inaudible). I am asked Dr. Murfaq al- Lubaiee now we are in the process of the
handover of sovereignty. What are the security preparations to prevent the same
violations which took place during the fall regime?
MR. AL RUBAIE: (Through interpreter.) Although this issue is out of our
conference, the Iraqi government, backed by the coalition forces, has a detailed
plan as we are approaching the date of handing over sovereignty. This plan will
be carried out during and in the first weeks of assuming power.
Last question, I hope.
Q (Off mike) -- problem of Najaf, what will be the second issue? This is the
first question. And the second: Have U.S. military forces told Iraqis about what
authority the U.S. will have to keep and operate at present facilities in Iraq
after the handover?
MR. AL RUBAIE: I don't think this is part of the topics we are discussing today.
Probably I can feel there are so many questions regarding the relationship
between the Iraqi government, the interim Iraqi government, and the
multinational forces in Iraq, the relationship between these two parties and
also the security issue after the 30th of June.
I'm sorry I have to leave, but I am not going to answer the last question
because it will take a long time. But thank you very much indeed, but please
pray for Iraq, and pray that this agreement will stick and Insha'Allah will