Powell: Military Agreement Enhances Prospects
for U.N. Resolution on Iraq
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
June 5, 2004
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL
TO THE TRAVELING PRESS POOL
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Paris, France
SECRETARY POWELL: I just got off the phone with Ambassador Negroponte, getting
an update on how things are going with respect to the U.N. resolution. So I'll
brief you on that. But let me kind of lead up to it by giving you the history
over the last couple of weeks.
We began thinking and working on a resolution a long time ago, and we first
broached it with our key partners as to what we thought should be in such a
resolution when I had the G-8 ministerial meeting in Washington on the 14th of
May. At that time, with all of the G-8 foreign ministers there, in a one-on-one
session with them, we talked about the resolution, what we thought was needed --
full sovereignty, making sure that the world understood that the CPA was going
away. We made it clear that we wanted the resolution to invite other nations to
participate in the reconstruction effort, or the effort to help the Iraqi people
move forward, whether it's with debt relief or additional financial assistance,
reconstruction assistance, or additional troops.
There was quite a discussion on the military relationship between the forces
that are remaining behind without the CPA, the coalition forces, and the new
sovereign government. We took into account everything we heard from the G-8
ministers and, the Monday before last, we tabled the first draft of a resolution
that accommodated all of the suggestions that were made.
Over the last almost -- it will be two weeks Monday, we had other comments come
in. We've gone to the usual resolution drafting process, and as of this morning,
we are very, very close to completing the work. An essential part that came into
the puzzle today, a piece of the puzzle was we now have, heading to New York, a
letter from Prime Minister Allawi, interim Prime Minister Allawi, setting out
the terms and circumstances under which he would like to see the coalition
forces present in the country and how they would work with the interim Iraqi
government. His letter lays out a series of committees -- a committee structure
where there would be political-to-political, and political-to-military dialogue
about the strategy that would be followed, the broad policy on the use of
forces, and how we would deal with any sensitive -- the policy on sensitive
offensive operations that might be contemplated, so that everybody would have a
common understanding of what we are doing.
Not only would he have this committee at the senior level of government to work
with the Coalition Provisional Authority military component -- no longer CPA,
but the coalition forces -- he intends to have this kind of committee structure
going all the way down throughout the country, so that throughout the country,
Iraqi authorities would be in contact with the coalition military authorities
present to make sure there is full coordination and understanding of the
operations that are being planned.
At all times, Iraqi forces remain under the overall command of the Iraqi
sovereign government, the interim government. Obviously, they can permit those
forces to work with our coalition forces for particular operations, but every
nation always retains command sovereignty over its own forces. We do, the Brits
do, the Ukrainians do, the Romanians do, and the Iraqis do. These Iraqi forces
work for their generals under their Ministry of Defense, or if they're police
forces, under their Ministry of Interior, or other relevant bodies.
So Mr. Allawi has sent that letter now. I don't know if it's actually signed,
but it's on the way to New York. I will respond to that letter on behalf of the
coalition, acknowledging his letter and responding in a positive vein. So there
will be an exchange of letters. These two letters are important in that it will
show the Security Council members what the military arrangement is. And as you
know, Ambassador Negroponte is at a retreat with Kofi Annan, their annual
retreat of Permanent Representatives. And with these letters available to them,
I think they'll have pretty good discussions today, and remaining issues in the
resolution proper I expect to be resolved in the next couple of days.
Q: So I understand that these letters -- is this all outside the language of the
resolution, or would the resolution specify this arrangement between the interim
government and the coalition?
SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution will -- in the resolution you'll find a
reference to these letters. And the letters -- here is the technical detail --
the letters will need to be annexes to the resolution, or in some diplomatic
way, whatever the U.N. procedure is, they'll be made a part of the resolution
understanding. Some -- either incorporated by reference -- certainly
incorporated by reference, because there is a reference, or maybe even annexes.
I'll let the parliamentarians figure that out. But you will find that the
letters are totally consistent with the intent, purpose and language of the
resolution, and it is not something that is outside the bounds of the
Q: Just to make this really simple -- so these letters set down in writing the
agreement between the Iraqi government and the coalition, which says, we want
you to maintain troops here; we want you to assure security, and we're going to
put that in writing, so we invite you to be here; and then through these letters
we're setting up a process where we coordinate, so if there's an offensive -- if
there's an issue, we have a process in place to work through any issues we may
SECRETARY POWELL: Right. And it says that any policy issues with respect to
sensitive offensive operations will be discussed with these entities that are
being created. Now, if there's disagreement, then, obviously, you can take it up
to higher levels. But we have put in place a coordinating mechanism so that
everybody knows what our policy is, what our strategy is going to be.
And, frankly, we have been doing this on the ground. I mean, what we did in
Fallujah reflects an understanding not only of the military problem we were
facing, but the political context in which we were dealing with that military
Same thing in the south now. Najaf is starting to improve. We've gotten some
interesting reports today that maybe weapons are starting to be turned in in the
south. So patience, understanding the political context in which you're using
military forces -- gee, this sounds vaguely familiar but -- understanding the
political context in which you're using military forces, that's all contained in
this letter. It's an invitation, it's a welcoming, it's a recognition that they
can't provide for their own security yet. It says clearly they want to build up
their forces as quickly as possible, so they can do it for themselves. But they
expressed appreciation for what we are doing, thankfulness, and then the letter
goes on to describe in specificity the mechanisms that will be created and what
these mechanisms are for.
Q: Do we know what the French attitude is? I'm sorry, do we know what the French
attitude is towards this?
SECRETARY POWELL: The French have not yet seen the letter. They'll see it in the
course of the day. But I think they will find it very responsive. We have been
in very close touch with the French recently. And I have been in regular touch
with Foreign Minister Barnier. And I think we have dealt with almost all of the
issues that have been raised through a good series of dialogue and discussion in
New York with Jack Straw, the other co-sponsoring nation Foreign Secretary
talking to his colleagues, me talking to the same guys. And we're getting there.
It's only been 10 days; not bad.
Q: How do you resolve the French concern, because it still seems to me --
SECRETARY POWELL: What French concern?
Q: That they would like the interim government to, in effect, have a final say
over military operations, which you and others have ruled out publicly. What you
seem to be saying is, this will ameliorate the situation, because the Iraqis are
saying, hey, this is okay with us, we've got a lot of coordination here --
SECRETARY POWELL: Sovereignty means sovereignty. And this is an arrangement
between this sovereign government and the coalition forces that are there at the
invitation of that sovereign government. So if the arrangement is acceptable to
the sovereign government, and to the coalition forces --
Q: Does the letter give the United States final say?
SECRETARY POWELL: The letter is as I have described it. And we all know that
every government ultimately has sovereignty over its own forces. The Iraqis have
sovereignty over theirs. So we're setting up a strawman problem that I don't
think is going to exist. The French, when they look at this, I think they will
see that the Iraqis are pleased that we are there, are pleased that we are
willing to participate in these instrumentalities of coordination and
consultation. And they already have seen in a practical sense how these sorts of
things will work in Fallujah and in the south. And so if the new sovereign
government is satisfied, it would seem to me that should satisfy all of my
colleagues in the Security Council. And the work that we have been doing on the
resolution suggests they have a pretty good understanding of what we're working
out with the Iraqis on the ground. But I have to wait and see what they might
say after they actually read the letters today.
Q: Does the resolution spell out -- will the resolution spell out the specific
command structure of exactly who is in charge and what authority each government
has over its own forces?
SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution won't go into that level of detail, because
that really is something for the sovereign government, the Iraqi interim
government, to work out with the coalition. And the resolution will say that
such arrangements have been made in these letters, which are incorporated by
reference or an annex, so everybody can see what that sovereign has arranged
with coalition authorities. And what the U.N. is voting for when they vote for
this resolution, and when they know that there is a reference in this resolution
to these letters -- they will have seen the letters, but you don't need to put
all that exquisite detail from the letter into the resolution.
Q: -- you expect approval in the next few days, or -- did you say you expected
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm always reluctant -- I'm sure -- but I didn't say how many
few days. (Laughter.)
Q: But does the Security Council --
SECRETARY POWELL: We're moving along well.
Q: -- Security Council approval?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. The Security Council, I think, is moving well. The number
of outstanding issues has been declining every day. We're getting into exquisite
technical issues now. And so I'm confident within a few days we'll be there. We
are in end game.
Q: When did the letters go --
SECRETARY POWELL: The letters -- Mr. Allawi, Prime Minister Allawi looked them
over -- looked at them again overnight, and communicated to Ambassador Bremer
today, this morning, that he is satisfied with the letter. And the letter is now
-- has now been communicated back to us. I've got a copy and there's a copy now
available to Ambassador Negroponte for his use. Ambassador Negroponte also has
access to the return letter, the letter I send back, which really, technically,
will go through the President of the Security Council, the Filipino Foreign
Q: As he pointed out, it's 10 days, which is, I think, very fast for the
SECRETARY POWELL: Fourteen days on -- Monday will make the 14th day since we
tabled the first version.
Q: And do you think the difference this time, perhaps compared to the last
round's Security resolution for Iraq is that there was just more willingness to
move on the other side, or you had more latitude to meet the concerns raised by
other Security Council members?
SECRETARY POWELL: We wanted to meet the concerns raised by all of our colleagues
in the Security Council, as long as they were reasonable concerns. We were
looking for a good resolution that accomplished the purpose we set out to
accomplish -- full sovereignty, but a clear understanding of the relationship
between the military and the new sovereign government. And everybody wanted to
be forthcoming. There was never -- in the last three weeks, since I met with the
G-8 ministers on the 14th of May, and all through the three drafts that we
tabled, never a suggestion that anybody wanted a veto. I did not have a single
veto threat out there. The only question was, can we get it unanimous. You know,
we won't know that until they vote. But I'm very encouraged. And the four
resolutions we've taken to a vote have all been unanimous. I leave aside the
resolution we didn't take to a vote.
Q: There was talk about a fixed date for withdrawal, the French, the Russians,
the Chinese wanted. Have you beaten that back?
SECRETARY POWELL: We have arrived at a language that deals with this. And it
picks up from the earlier Resolution 1511 that essentially says the mandate will
be reviewed in a year, or earlier, and it is anticipated that the mandate will
go through the end of 2005, which is the end of the political process. And that
picks up from 1511.
Needless to say, a sovereign government can choose to say, we're fine, we've got
all of our own troops up now, thank you very much, would you think about leaving
now, or, hey, look, we need you to stay longer, in which case, we can consider
that. But the political process, as we know it, in terms of 1511, is through the
end of 2005. And at that point, we expect decisions to be made. But it's a
sovereign government, so we want to leave it in their sovereign hands as to
whether they will continue to need help, or not. But I think the language you
come up with should satisfy what my permanent members -- colleagues were asking
Q: I wonder if on the Tenet resignation, in your judgment, do you think he did
the right thing in stepping down, given the apparent intelligence lapses of his
tenure, particularly on Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: George stepped down for personal reasons. I think he did a
tremendous job over a long period of time. He's a close colleague. I will miss
working with him. He will always be a close friend. And he stepped down for
personal reasons, and I have no reason to believe anything other than that.
Q: Do you think the CIA needed a change in leadership about now?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think if George had decided to stay on, it would have
certainly been the President's desire, and I would have enjoyed continuing to
work with him.
Q: But you do think there needs to be some accountability for what are apparent
intelligence lapses? You've, I think, said that publicly.
SECRETARY POWELL: I think Director Tenet believes that we should find out what
lapses existed. He had launched inquiries. And as you know, the President has
launched an inquiry with Mr. Silberman and Mr. Robb. So we should always find
out where we didn't get it right, where there were weaknesses, not overlooking
all the times we do get it right and all the successes that we do have from time
But in the case of Mr. Tenet, the President would be pleased if he had continued
to serve, and I know I can say that in the President's name because he said it.
And I would have liked to see George stay.
Q: Back to the resolution, was there any single event that caused everything to
fall into place, or was it just simply a lot of hard work that eventually --
SECRETARY POWELL: There was a lot of hard work, and what you have to do with one
of these resolutions is you throw out a version, you put out a version, knowing
that it will be modified as you go along. And then you seek to gain from that
first draft what the points of disagreement are or what the needs are from
others for more. And you try to narrow it down to some key issues.
And we were able to do that within a few days. We knew that they wanted a firm
date of the end of December, 2005, and not just -- not touching on that. So we
knew that had to be dealt with. We knew that there would be a desire to make
sure there was no confusion about full sovereignty. And we thought we had dealt
with that, but there were others who wanted stronger language, and we put that
It's always presented as concessions given, but really, it is the process of
negotiating a resolution. I've been through a number of them now and they all
tend to follow this pattern. Sometimes they're very hard, like 1441, which took
seven-and-a-half weeks. Sometimes they're very easy, like 1483, 1500 -- 1511
took a bit of time. And this one -- it isn't passed yet, but I expect that it
will -- it will pass in the not too distant future.
Q: Do you know anything about --
Q: -- recently reported -- I think it was The Post -- that you had requested an
intelligence review particular to the information you used in your U.N.
presentation. Have you gotten answers back on that yet?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it was the New York Times, and I don't know what
they're referring to. I didn't ask for that. I don't know. It was a New York
Times story, if I'm not mistaken.
Q: And you didn't ask for any review of the information --
SECRETARY POWELL: I know -- I know that the information is being reviewed by
Director Tenet's own investigatory committees, and I know that Mr. Silberman and
Senator Robb are conducting an inquiry. But I did not ask for a specific
inquiry. Of course, I am constantly interested and curious as to what we might
have done better. But I did not ask, as the reporter said -- I think it was a
New York Times story -- I did not ask for a specific inquiry, and -- even though
that's what the reporter wrote.
Q: Do you know any -- do you know anything about President Reagan's condition?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I do not. I just hear the rumors that everybody hears. But
I don't know anything and I have nothing to say.
Q: One last process thing. So do you expect, if the headline out of today, from
your point of view, is about the Allawi letters coming in, you really think that
this is the final push to get the resolution, should resolve the outstanding --
SECRETARY POWELL: I would say that with the receipt of the Allawi letter, this
pushes us much closer to the finish line with respect to the resolution. But
with a resolution, like with a football game, it's -- or basketball game, it's
not over until the buzzer goes and we watch the last ball --
Q: -- it's come up, will the President deal with this, you think, in this level
of detail, about the letter? Will he confer with President Chirac about this
this afternoon, do you think?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure it will be a subject of discussion, but I wouldn't
expect them --
Q: You wouldn't expect it to be definitive, you'll wait for the --
Q: They're not going to negotiate, in other words?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, no, the letter's finished. There's nothing to be
negotiated. It's the letter from a sovereign prime minister. And I'm sure
Foreign Minister Barnier might have some opportunity to discuss it. But I'm sure
the two Presidents will certainly note it. It's a major step forward toward
getting the resolution. I'm sure they'll welcome it warmly. And I sense the
French are anxious to bring this to -- anxious to bring this to a closure.
Q: You view this as a real opportunity to put U.S.-French relations back on a
more consistent and friendly course?
SECRETARY POWELL: We had a big disappointment last year on the Iraqi matter, but
I think things have been improving once we came together after the war and
realized that we had a common obligation to work together to help the Iraqi
people. So I think relations have been improving. The President indicated such
when he gave an interview last week that you all have seen. And I'm sure that
today's meetings, as well as the -- just the pageantry of Normandy tomorrow,
will remind everybody of the shared values we have with our European friends,
especially our French friends, one of our oldest friends in the world, and the
first friend we had in the world, that came to our help. So there are ups and
down in relationships, but we have shared values, and now we have a common
interest to help the people of Iraq.
Q: Thank you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks.