COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY BACKGROUND BRIEFING
SUBJECT: NEW IRAQI INTERIM GOVERNMENT
ATTRIBUTION TO A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
LOCATION: BAGHDAD, IRAQ
DATE: TUESDAY, JUNE 1, 2004
(Note: Because the briefer and questioners were off mike, this transcript
contains numerous inaudible portions.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (In progress) -- against the armed opponents of democracy
So this new cabinet which has been announced today along with the presidency is,
we think, deeply committed to democracy. And their willingness to take these
responsibilities in such difficult and dangerous times is inspiring, I think, to
all of us who love freedom.
So with those comments, I'm happy to take your questions. If you could identify
yourselves, I'd be grateful. (Off mike.) Okay, so I'll just -- I'll spread them
around as best I can.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think you'll have to use the mike. Begin again.
Q As far as the interim --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Can I have somebody -- (inaudible.)
Q There had been an agreement with the Governing Council and with the women --
(inaudible) -- for a quarter of the new government to be women, and this looks
like you have six of 33. That's less than a quarter. Could you talk about that?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, this was -- the outcome was the result of enormously
intense and complex discussions. As you know, the political geometry in Iraq is
complicated, so there are many, many factors that were balanced one against the
other. I think as you get a chance to see the biographies of these women, you'll
Why don't we go to somebody on the side of the room. Okay. (Off mike.)
Q (Off mike) -- with the Washington Post. The U.N. released a statement earlier
today saying that Dr. Pachachi was offered the position of president, but
declined for personal reasons. And then Dr. Pachachi at a press conference just
a little while ago said that the reason he had declined it was because there
were people inside the Governing Council who didn't want him to be the
president. Can you talk to us a little bit about the process of the selection of
the president and how we, you know, got from Pachachi to Ghazi Yawar?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I don't want to intrude on Ambassador Brahimi's
purview. He'll, I think, explain the latest events in that respect -- (off mike)
-- in the statement that you mentioned.
I will say several things. We had, as we went through this process in this
(four-cornered ?) way, many, many suggestions of who ought to be the president
of Iraq. About -- now about a week ago, the list was narrowed and -- (off mike)
-- the cabinet -- (off mike). And -- but the -- (off mike) -- just explain the
process, but it was narrowed; however, really up until yesterday, other names
started appearing. So someone would say, "Well, that's good, but have you
thought of so-and-so?" So this was evolving really right on up through yesterday
-- (off mike) -- including the presidency where there were some other names that
came up late in the process.
But I think it was clear that Sheik Ghazi and Ambassador -- Minister Pachachi
had the most significant support, so the preoccupation was centered on them,
both of whom I think are exemplary.
One thing I did want to say in that regard is, I noticed -- you all are in that
-- (off mike) -- but I noticed that several days ago, somebody wrote that
Pachachi was the American choice; some of you wrote it, maybe even somebody in
this room. And then every other story said this. I think this is -- (off mike).
It's not true. In the middle of last week, when it looked as if these two were
the strongest contenders -- (off mike) -- were those two gentlemen, Ambassador
Bremer and I went back to Washington for guidance. We asked our -- the top of
the administration -- these are the two; please express whatever preferences you
might have. And fairly rapidly, within, indeed, I think, several hours, the
answer came back, either of them would make an excellent president of Iraq, and
we don't have a favorite.
And therefore, as these discussions went on, we lobbied for either one. You
won't find any of these people that we talked to who will tell you --
truthfully, anyway -- that we went to them and said you should choose A or B.
By the way, there were some other stories, although they're fewer in number,
that had exactly the opposite argument. We didn't lobby -- (off mike.) We said
that we thought either one of them would make a fine president of Iraq. So I've
corrected that, for what it's worth.
Q (Name off mike) -- from -- (off mike) -- newspaper. Yesterday we heard about
the -- (off mike) -- with Sheik Ghazi and Mr. Pachachi. Can you describe to us
-- (off mike) -- nominate and how has he been chosen -- how the Governing
Council or the -- (inaudible) -- Sheik Ghazi -- (off mike)?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not, of course, going to name who else's name
came up, not least because they didn't get the job. (Chuckles.) I don't think
that would be (smart ?).
But I think I've just said all I need to say about the process that produced
these decisions. And essentially, it was Ambassador Brahimi put out the
statement, and you would want to talk to him, and you ought to ask him about it.
Sir? (Off mike.)
Q (Name off mike) -- from National Public Radio. Thank you. Do you expect the
Governing Council to dissolve? There's been some discussion --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: My best understanding is it did.
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think it dissolved this morning.
STAFF (?): Yes, they dissolved this morning. (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Okay. It dissolved this morning. It dissolved itself, I
believe, if I'm not mistaken. It dissolved itself.
Q Did they make a statement or anything?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I'm --
STAFF (?): (Off mike) -- we can set up --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Okay. I know I -- (off mike) -- you'll have to -- (off
Q (Off mike.) So who is running things on the Iraqi side -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: The prime minister and cabinet.
Q They've actually taken (things over ?)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, there's a ceremony today, as you know, which we all,
if we can, will go see, at -- this afternoon at 4:00. And then, they're the
interim government of Iraq until the election.
Q (Off mike) -- today, and what's the difference between today --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, from now until June 30, the sovereign authority in
Iraq, on behalf of the Iraqi people, is the CPA. And between now and June 30,
you have an interim Iraqi government, which will prepare to acquire that full
sovereignty on the 30th of June. And that -- that's -- under international law,
until June 30th, the CPA is the sovereign authority in Iraq. And then, on the
afternoon of June 30th, this interim government, led by the prime minister and
the cabinet that you've seen, will take control of sovereignty and begin to
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: But I said that Ambassador Bremer and myself went to
Washington and said these are the two final candidates, (most liked ?); do you
have a preference? Because we get to have our opinion, too.
Q Did you go to Washington?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Oh, no, no, no, I didn't go -- (inaudible) -- not that. I
Q You talked to -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yeah. (Inaudible.) That would have been dramatic, into the
night, fly off -- you didn't even miss me -- (inaudible). As I say, I don't know
where that story started. (Inaudible.)
I better go over here. Yes, sir? But I'll be back.
Q Eddie Sanders from the LA Times. In the cabinet, do you know what the ethnic
breakdown is? And were you looking to hit any specific targets in terms of --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: You should -- I'm not going to comment on that. There are
many complexities -- geographic, ethnic, religious. So you just have a look and
see what you think.
Q Can you talk about whether or not that was one of the factors in your
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, balance of various kinds. Where are they from? Are
they from -- (inaudible) -- all of us to have all of the various dimensions of
Iraq that we could reflected in a cabinet, and I think you can see. So it's got
Q And I would ask one tag-on to that. Were you specifically looking for people
that were not part of the GC now in trying to round out that cabinet?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, we were looking -- yes, the answer is we were looking
for new faces, and we were looking for people, individuals who had indigenous
roots and support. We were looking for excellence. And of course, some number of
members of the Governing Council qualify on all those accounts. Some of them --
I'm not going to announce which ones -- some of them took themselves out of the
interim government, didn't wish to participate in it, and so forth. So, but
yeah, we were looking for essentially a new team. And as you look at the names,
you'll see it's a new team.
I'll go back over here. Sir?
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yes, sir.
Q How do you see that -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Of course, that's the most fundamental question that's been
asked so far. We think it's an extremely strong, talented group. And of course
they have, as we've seen today, even around where we are, what a daunting,
difficult task they have. But we think that they are up to it, and we think that
they will perform well. We think that they have the qualities, the talent, the
strength, bravery, now and historically -- (off mike) -- I suppose, bravery.
They know that the new security situation -- (off mike). So we think this is
really quite an extraordinary group of people that Brahimi's come up with, and
think that they're up to the task. And we'll do our best to support them.
Q Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. At the beginning of the process, I think
Ambassador Brahimi said he felt that there would be a conflict of interest for
people in this interim government to put themselves up for election to the
transitional government. So have any of these people pledged not to run for
election? And what kind of oversight or restriction would there be on them not
to abuse their powers given them, absent of any Congress, absent of any kind of
-- (off mike) -- holding the purse strings to make sure that they don't use --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I think those are two different questions. I'll try
to take them seriatim. The first one is no, there's no prohibition on running
for office. And I think, if I may ask -- (inaudible) -- to ask questions about
what Mr. Brahimi thinks, (you can direct it to him ?).
Q Well -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yeah. (Off mike.) But anyway, the answer is no. I think
there are other countries where serving members of the government can run for
reelection. (Off mike) -- think of one.
Q (Inaudible) -- congresses and --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: That was what I was going to say next, which is the issue
of checks and balances. If you look at the TAL, you will see that the creation
of the presidency -- (off mike). And if you'll also look at the TAL annex,
(which we don't have to look at ?), there will be a supreme court. And then of
course there will be this council, this interim council that will be stood up
probably in early -- about mid-July by the time we do it. So I think there will
be oversight of -- (off mike).
Let me try and pick someone I haven't -- (inaudible.)
Q Yes, Mark Jolley (sp) from Reuters. There's a widespread perception in the
street of Iraq that all of these politicians you've talked to or appointed since
day one, the whole process has been signed and sealed by the Americans. How much
time did you actually go out and spend with people in the street asking them who
they want versus these various organizations you talked with and women's groups?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, this is, of course, always a problem when one -- I'm
a social scientist, so I actually know something about databases. This is a
problem in democracies, if you -- the talent to try to understand what votes who
aren't organized think. And we did give our best at doing that.
But as always in these exercises, we mostly speak with representatives. So you
try to find women's groups and you talk with women about how they see Iraq and
so forth. So you mostly -- (inaudible) -- I don't know exactly practically how
(you go to ?) any other. And by the way, if I may be tedious -- the tedious
professor here, in social science terms, anything you discover in such anecdotal
encounters -- (inaudible) -- it really depends on who you (drop ?) into. So
can't meet with 10 people.
So we did what people do. We (engulfed ?) as broad a -- as a matter of fact, all
together thousands and thousands of people, maybe even some of them were
ordinary Iraqis. I know who you think the street is, but thousands of people,
thousands of people. And that process -- which as I say, took the last month --
won't satisfy everybody. I suppose in democracies, you can't.
But what happened as the process went on is some names begin to be mentioned
more and more and more. And so we -- and I'm not saying -- the U.N. was
extremely entrepreneurial in itself going out. They didn't just sit and wait,
"Well, who wants to come and see?" They were out soliciting -- "Who should we
talk to? Who should we talk to" -- all the time, and we were as well.
I guess over here, sir.
Q Dexter Filkins with The New York Times. What promises did you receive from the
members of this government on -- that they wouldn't amend the interim
constitution and they would not -- (inaudible) -- political freedom --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No.
Q And if you didn't, then why didn't you?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, I don't exactly know how we would require them to --
(inaudible) -- promises. On the first point, of course, there's the TAL, and if
you read the TAL, that answers your question.
On the second -- well, maybe --
Q I mean, so many groups have said that they -- (inaudible) --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I know, but the problem is that it wouldn't be legal if
they did, so I don't think that's going to happen. (Inaudible) -- they run into
the law of the land here someplace.
On the second point, we didn't ask for any such, "Raise your right hand, do you
solemnly swear," because we didn't have a government. And one of things we'll
want to do in June, now that -- starting from, I guess, 6:00 tonight, we'll have
an Iraqi prime minister, an Iraqi defense minister, interior minister. At some
point -- I don't know when, but not too far -- we'll start having discussions
with them about the security arrangements -- (off mike). So, we couldn't do it
beforehand because we didn't have an entity with which to do it. But that will
be fairly soon, I think. They'll have to settle in to some degree, of course,
because there are so many new people that (define their ?) ministries, and so
forth. But once they get their feet on the ground, we'll start having that
Q (Name off mike) -- with the AP. Ambassador Brahimi -- (off mike) -- to us.
What are the differences between this government today and the government you
gave Iraq after the invasion? What's the main --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think that that invites you to make invidious comparisons
between -- directed at a group of people, some of whom lost their lives by
carrying out their responsibilities as members of the Governing Council. I think
that's your (applicable ?) job; you do it, you look at it and make your
judgments. But I'm not going to say anything critical of these people in the
Governing Council. They did the best they could under extraordinarily difficult
circumstances, and some of them died. And all of them were under threat all the
time; there were close calls, and so forth. So I take my hat off to them.
There's nobody -- nobody forced them to do this; they kept at it, and I take my
hat off to them. I think it was an extremely difficult situation that they
Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) I'm just still a little bit unclear about how
the president was chosen. I know you said that you -- (inaudible) -- Washington;
they said either one would be fine. But what happened from there? How did --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, there were -- these were discussions -- again, this
is something that you should ask Ambassador Brahimi about. He released a
statement today. So have a word with him about the naming -- (off mike).
Q (Name off mike) -- from Knight Ridder. Besides Adnan Pachachi, were there
others who were offered positions who declined? And if so, what were the
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I don't -- I think there were a couple, and I think they
were basically personal -- (off mike).
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No, no, no. Personal. That I have a sick somebody or other
that I -- (off mike).
STAFF: We have time for one more.
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Most said yes, most of them. There were a couple.
(Off mike) -- I think two more, two more.
Q (Off mike) --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I'm sorry can you -- (off mike)?
Q (Off mike) -- spoken for the past few weeks and said -- (inaudible) -- this
process, not just, you know, the presidency, but all along, and how -- (off
mike). Can you comment on that? I know you say -- (off mike) -- but how much --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: We have -- (off mike). We were one of these four -- (off
mike) -- and we were expressing views and we were coming up with names. But it
was collaborative. I can't speak to whether we conducted ourselves --
(inaudible) -- manner. There are people, if I might say, and it's completely
natural and fine, who are disappointed their particular favorite didn't make it
across the finish line, or their -- by the way, the one thing I would just point
out to you all if I might, maybe this will show up as a -- (inaudible). What's
been happening here, including in addition to the presidency, is a process
that's called whoa, politics.
What is politics? People going out and saying -- (inaudible) -- I have to have
seven ministries or I shall not this and this, or I -- and this is what happens
with -- (inaudible) -- politics. It's exciting. It's never happened here before,
by the way, in how many millennia? Ever. Okay? I know that may be too long a
time span for your readers. (Laughter.) I'd like to start my lead with
Mesopotamia -- (off mike). But it's true. I mean, I know maybe it's hard -- it's
certainly hard for me -- (off mike) -- step back and say, this is actually sort
of out of control. And so -- (inaudible). Oh, he's getting so -- (off mike). But
I could just (feel it ?) that through -- (off mike).
Oh, it's not as good as elections, and you will find that people on the street
in January get to make the definitive. It's not as good as elections. We could
have had elections earlier, but we're -- (off mike) -- not to -- (off mike). But
given what happened, I -- (off mike) -- see these people emerge from this
Okay, last question.
Q (Off mike) -- the president and the prime minister --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: This sounds like a hypothetical -- (inaudible) -- (briefer's
name) didn't give -- (off mike).
Q (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: No hypotheticals. No -- (off mike). If I were (wonderful
?), I'd answer that question.
Q Okay. (Off mike.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (Off mike.)
Q Do the president and the prime minister have the right to say whether --
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Well, this is -- what I'm trying to say is they have full
sovereignty. They're just -- they're a country. They have full sovereignty. And
we have had -- I'll just say this: We've had more than 50 years of successful
security arrangements with nations and governments that face similar threats.
And how do we do that? You get that by talking to them and then reaching
arrangements. And that's what I think will happen. We haven't been able to do
that before because we didn't have the entity. We now have a prime minister,
Defense minister, just like that. And so we'll be talking to them soon about
this. And let me say -- let me give you a prediction: It'll work out fine. And
the reason it'll work out fine is that the threat to those characteristics that
I began with about what do people want, they want security, personal, all
relatives; they want kids to be able to go, leave the house and home; they want
economic development, prosperity. They want what Homo sapiens want. And on the
security side, they can't do it themselves now. But they'll be working hard with
us to create the capabilities where they can do it all themselves. And when that
moment arrives, the coalition leaves. They can't -- I don't know of any Iraqis
who is arguing that they can do it themselves. So that will occur, this
discussion, in the next month or so, and I think it will work out between
ourselves and this interim government which will take full sovereignty on June
(Inaudible cross talk.)
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: (Off mike) -- that was one of the last acts -- (off mike)
Q They did that today?
SR. ADMIN. OFFICIAL: Yeah, sworn in.
(Inaudible cross talk.)