THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND MARK PARRIS, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR NEAR EAST AND SOUTH ASIAN AFFAIRS
The Briefing Room
11:54 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Here's what I want to do. This is a tick-tock briefing because I think that's probably, from us, the most useful thing you can get right now. You've got good briefings from the Pentagon on the military operation. You've heard from the President directly. What I want to do is go back and just set the context for the President's decision, beginning -- really beginning with the week of August 18th, which is the week in which the President first started getting intelligence information about the nature of the fighting between the Kurdish factions and the possible calls for some type of involvement by Iraq, although far from clear at that early point, and the assessment that we made of the likelihood of Iraqi involvement.
All that was far less than conclusive, because, as is often the case when you're analyzing information, you have to weigh and debate and look and examine what the different possibilities might be.
Beginning on the week of August 26, Monday, August 26, it was very clear that a buildup of Iraqi forces had commenced, including Republican Guard armor, and that those units, those divisions were being moved within striking distance of Irbil. The President got regular intelligence briefings, I'd say, beginning that Monday, and we also convened an interagency working group within our government with affected national security agencies that we could assess the situation and also consider appropriate responses.
We have been throughout most of the last year, as many of you know, been working very strenuously to bring these two Kurdish factions, the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, together so they could present a common front in defiance of Saddam Hussein. That has been a difficult and obviously, somewhat tragically, an impossible process because of their own rivalry, their own friction. But we, nonetheless, continued during the course of that week of August 26, we continued to attempt to bring the two sides together through talks that were held in London. We also -- we were immediately trying to bring about some type of cease-fire to halt the fighting between the KDP and the PUK.
On that day, the interagency working group recommended at the deputies level --
Q What day was that? I'm sorry.
MR. MCCURRY: That was Monday, the 26th -- they recommended at the deputies level within the National Security Council begin receiving formal briefings. That then happened the following day, Tuesday, the 27th.
The deputies that day approved yet another meeting in London related to the cease-fire. There had been some preliminary agreements on cease-fire at that point, but no formal agreement to London talks.
Q Who was the U.S. person who was at the London talks?
MR. MCCURRY: Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He had contact both with Barzani and with Talabani, the leaders of the two rival factions.
Q Where was he?
Q They were in London?
MR. MCCURRY: This was telephonic, right?
MR. PARRIS: Northern Iraq, both of them.
MR. MCCURRY: Northern Iraq. Mark, why don't you come up and you can help out on some of that.
MR. PARRIS: Let me give you the sequence. When the fighting broke out again early last week, Bob Pelletreau was authorized to call Talabani and Barzani, they each being in northern Iraq. He invited them to come to London or to send representatives to London for discussions that we would mediate to try to achieve a permanent cease-fire and, in the meantime, to establish a cease-fire in place with a few looking towards a permanent resolution of the problem.
The talks actually began in London on Friday after the two parties agreed about mid-week that they would send representatives, and were underway when the first Iraqi forces entered Irbil.
Q And who was doing that negotiating in London? Did Pelletreau then go to London?
MR. PARRIS: We sent an interagency group led by Robert Deutch of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs at the State Department. He works for Bob Pelletreau.
Q Is anything going on with those talks now, or is that all over with?
MR. PARRIS: They concluded Saturday morning.
Q Had they already picked sides of Iraq and Iran as their mentors?
MR. MCCURRY: There's been some pattern of involvement with the KDP and with the PUK, with the PUK getting some level of support from Iran for some time.
On Wednesday, the 28th, the consensus within our own intelligence community was that the buildup that we had been watching very closely and monitoring could presage some type of offensive move against Irbil. And the President approved as a result of that analysis, approved in a very strong demarche to Iraq that was joined by the United Kingdom -- it was delivered through our U.N. Mission in New York and also relayed the Algerian Embassy where the Iraqis have an interests section here in Washington.
Q In whose name was that done? Was that done in the President's name or was it done in the name of the --
MR. MCCURRY: It wasn't specified, but it was a high- level communication from our government.
Q Would you read us a text of that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I won't. That was a private --
Q What was that date again?
MR. MCCURRY: Wednesday the 28th.
Q Without giving us the details, then, did it warn of grave consequences for Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: It warned of consequences if there was any incursion into any hostile behavior that would be designed to violate the rights of the Kurdish minority population in the north.
Q Did it warn of grave consequences?
MR. MCCURRY: I know what your question is driving at. There could have been absolutely no doubt in Saddam Hussein's mind that there would be serious, grave consequences for launching any type of offensive maneuver against Irbil. That was communicated strenuously, and there was no doubt that that communication came in the name of the President with the full support of the President.
Q And that was on the 28th?
MR. MCCURRY: That was on August 28th, Wednesday.
Q Would you again tell us if the phrase "grave consequences" was --
MR. MCCURRY: Just go get it and we'll look it up, and we'll just dispense with it that way. Will someone --
MR. PARRIS: I know what it said.
Q Well, say it.
MR. MCCURRY: Did it say it?
MR. PARRIS: It didn't use that precise formulation, no.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, it didn't use that precise formulation. Go get it and we'll give them the precise formulation.
Q I guess the question here, Mike, is whether any -
Q Well, if you know what it said you could save time by just telling us.
MR. MCCURRY: I'd say again, there was absolutely no ambiguity in the demarche that was delivered. Saddam Hussein was on notice that this was not an action that he could take without paying a price.
On Thursday, August 29th, the President's foreign policy advisors met here in Washington. The President, of course, was at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. They began considering the possibility of military options that would be necessary if there was further action by Saddam. They also, at that time, enhanced some of the no-fly zone enforcement missions that we are flying both in the north and south Iraq.
They also put U.S. based forces on a different status in a way that the Iraqis would detect so the Iraqis would know that there was serious purpose attached to some of our increased military activity in the region. Secretary Christopher on that day began consultations with the Russians, the French and the Turks, urging them all to use their own influence in the region to back up the warning that had been delivered by the British and U.S. governments.
Q He did that while he was on vacation in California?
MR. MCCURRY: He did that from Santa Barbara, I gather. Was he in Santa Barbara? He did that from California, yes. The President, that day during the course of the day while he was working on his acceptance speech, got a briefing by phone from National Security Advisor Tony Lake. The President, of course, approved some of the various messages and the various diplomatic activity underway. Tony also had good contact during that day with his counterpart, John Holmes, in the United Kingdom.
Friday morning --
Q Mike, back to Wednesday the 28th when the President approved this demarche, where was he? Was he still on the train trip, or had he arrived in Chicago by then?
MR. MCCURRY: He was -- during the day was still on the train trip and received in his national security briefing in the morning, and then I believe in a subsequent phone call with Tony information and analysis of the situation and authorized at that point the demarches that were sent.
Q So he was still riding the rails?
MR. MCCURRY: He was on the train, right. Friday, August 30th, the President begins the day in Chicago after his triumphant speech at the Democratic National Convention. He had a lengthy briefing by telephone that morning from Tony that brought him up to date on the state of the play, the analysis of the Iraqi buildup and the results of some of the diplomatic consultations we had at that point.
We left for the bus trip that many of you were on. He continued to receive during the day from time to time updates from Joyce Harmon. Joyce was the National Security Council representative who was on the trip traveling with the President on the bus ride. And then, that evening when the President arrived in Paducah, he received a fairly lengthy written summary of the situation report.
We also, if you will recall, that evening issued a fairly strongly worded statement in my name that indicated that we had made very clear to the Iraqis the seriousness with which we viewed the situation, and also indicating that the President had ordered that steps be taken to insure the United States be prepared for any contingency.
On Saturday -- by the way, you can hear from other agencies -- there was extensive work being done by some of our other national security officials on that day. We sent a second private message that day to the Iraqis through the U.N. warning them of serious consequences should their buildup be followed by any military action.
Q This is Saturday?
MR. MCCURRY: This is Friday, August 30th.
Q The second message through the --
MR. MCCURRY: Through the U.N. -- same channel, through the United Nations.
MR. PARRIS: Mike, I don't want to mislead them -- it wasn't through the United Nations as the United Nations -- it was mission to mission.
MR. MCCURRY: It was mission to mission, that's correct. It was not -- what Mark is saying is that we did not relay that through the United Nations, it was a contact as we often have contact done from permanent mission to permanent mission at the United Nations. Sometimes we have to deliver them by fax when they don't answer the door when we knock.
Q Was that the case, it was delivered by fax?
MR. MCCURRY: That was the case today -- correct?
MR. PARRIS: Yes.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll get to that later in the chronology here. Secretary of Defense Perry on Friday, that same Friday, also had a good review of the situation in Iraq with King Hussein of Jordan. On Saturday --
Q Was he in Jordan, or where was Perry?
MR. MCCURRY: Perry was, I believe in Washington, or was he still -- he was here?
Q That was telephone?
MR. MCCURRY: That was telephone. Saturday, August 31st we began -- where were we, Paducah -- Saturday morning?
Q Saturday morning, yes.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. So we begin the day, the President begins the day in Paducah. He gets an NSC update from the folks traveling with us. Back here in Washington, Tony Lake convenes a principals meeting to consider options to reach some consensus on what type of recommendation to make to the President. They -- as a result of that meeting, prepared a decision memorandum for the President which was then sent to us as we were traveling on the road on the bus. The President received that decision memo on Dyersburg. Dyersburg, Kentucky or Tennessee?
MR. MCCURRY: Dyersburg, Tennessee.
Q And what was the physical form which this took, and how was it delivered?
MR. MCCURRY: It was a four-page summary memo of the discussion by the principals. It recommended military action of the nature that has now been taken. It recommended the President's announcement today concerning the disposition of 986 oil sales, it also developed the argument for our general strategic approach that we're using here, rather than responding tactically to a move by Saddam in the north to pick the time and place of our own choice for an adequate and measured response.
Q I'm sorry, was this faxed to him on the bus?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Faxed to him and then personally delivered by his NSC aide. He then, on the bus trip between Dyersburg and Covington, Tennessee, reviewed that memo. You will recall those of you who were on the bus trip at one point, we stopped in the middle of the road where there were no crowds. That was for the purpose of having the Vice President join him on his bus, and because the President wanted to talk the situation through with the Vice President.
And then, as we arrived on Covington on Saturday evening, the President approved the recommendations from the National Security Council. That made it then possible for the military to be tasked with the mission that they were to be given; it also made it possible for General Shalikashvili and Ambassador Pelletreau to leave on their trip to the region for purposes of consultation with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
Saturday night, of course the President spoke in Memphis, concluding that, and then went on to Little Rock. He did get just a very brief update Saturday night from our NSC rep, and we then go to Sunday.
On Sunday, as you all know from the briefing I did in Little Rock, the President placed calls to several world leaders. He spoke to Prime Minister Major, he spoke to King Fahd, he spoke to King Hussein, and he spoke to President Mubarak of Egypt. He also placed a call to President Chirac.
Q Sunday morning.
MR. MCCURRY: This is Sunday morning.
Q Did he call the Israelis?
MR. MCCURRY: He did not, but we had very close contact through the embassy and others with the government of Israel.
Q On Sunday morning it's Fahd and Mubarak?
MR. MCCURRY: Right.
Q And a call placed to Chirac, which came back later, right?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. I would say in some cases, the purpose of these calls were for consultation, in some cases to inform those governments of likely course of action and in some cases, to ask them to receive Ambassador Pelletreau and General Shalikashvili for the purposes of further briefing.
Q Can you tell us which was which with Fahd and Mubarak?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll decline to do that. I will say, obviously -- it's obvious in the case of the United Kingdom we would have the closest consultation on the course of action.
The President then took the afternoon off. He played a round of golf, he came back and did his big rally that some of you attended at the Old State House in Little Rock. After he had worked the ropeline and shook hands of those who were volunteers at the event, he then retired to a private holding room in the Old State House, where he met for about an hour with Tony Lake and Lieutenant General Peter Pace, who is the Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs, J-3. They talked for about an hour.
Q Is he an Army general or Air Force?
MR. MCCURRY: He's Marine Corps. They reviewed the military mission that the Pentagon was being tasked for and got a preliminary assessment from General Pace on how to best execute the mission that the President had requested. The President also got from Tony an update on some of the consultations taking place while we were waiting for the President. Tony also took calls from Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili to get reports in on some of their activity, which Tony added into the briefing he gave to the President.
The President talked through the various military options, the various resources available to conduct the mission. It was clear from that conversation that the Pentagon thought it would be in a better position to conduct the mission that is now executed if it had an additional 24 hours. The original preparations that were made were for a strike as early as Sunday evening -- would have been actually on East Coast Time very early Monday morning.
But the President, based on the briefing he got from General Pace and also from Tony, felt it was advisable to move the schedule forward 24 hours.
Q Did the President order any changes in the plans that his advisors had recommended?
MR. MCCURRY: He asked very detailed questions about it. He was specifically interested in collateral damage. He looked at nice pictures of some of the sites that were being targeted. He asked for information about how those sites were likely staffed, what type of military personnel would be present. He then asked for a fairly detailed discussion of what steps would follow, what different contingencies would present themselves, depending on permutations from the original strike, all of which I think had been very carefully considered both by the President's senior foreign policy advisors and by U.S. military planners.
Q Did he make any changes?
MR. MCCURRY: He did not at that time. It's best to say that they were in the process of making some changes. As you know, they were moving B-52s to Guam so that they might conceivably be in a position to deliver conventional air-launched Cruise missiles. And as you now know from the Pentagon, that was one modification in the plan that became available during the course of the day yesterday, which the President approved using.
The President then I guess wrapped that conversation up, went back to Mrs. Rodham's residence and visited with some friends, and then we got up yesterday morning for our trip to Wisconsin. He, of course, got an update on the way. He talked yesterday extensively, as you know, during the course of the day with both Chief of Staff Panetta and National Security Advisor Lake. He also had a lengthy conversation with the Vice President during the course of the day to review the situation. And as you know from my briefing, he also talked with French President Jacques Chirac.
When the President was in DePere, Wisconsin, yesterday, during our hold time, he approved a second memoranda that had come as a result of National Security Council discussions that made some modifications to the decision that he had taken on Saturday. They were just adjusting some of the parameters of the mission and its objectives.
Q The instructions he'd given or just a new set of recommendations?
MR. MCCURRY: His set of recommendations really grew out of the consultations that were going on in the region and further consideration by the National Security Council, in what I've described in some -- not any modifications in key elements, but just some tailoring of the recommendations to fit the circumstances we were looking at.
Q You mean the NSC staff?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the principals. The principals had met and presented some additional recommendations during the course of the day yesterday.
Q The Dyersburg memo that he signed off on -- did he actually physically sign something like a document, orders to the military?
MR. MCCURRY: He did business in the way he usually does it when recommendations come from either the National Economic Council or the National Security Council -- he's presented with a series of questions for decision; he can check boxes yes or no, or make some modifications in them.
Q He did both, I take it. He checked boxes, I take it.
MR. MCCURRY: You would check boxes.
Q What does that do, just set portions into motion?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the decision on Saturday really set out the policy we would pursue, structured the framework for our response to the military action taken by Saddam , making it clear that, one, we would expand the no-fly zone to further restrict Saddam's use of his air power in the region, and quite frankly, to humiliate him in front of his own military. He's had a valuable resource, in a sense, taken out of his arsenal now for all practical purposes since this further restricts the ability of that air force to train or to conduct itself as a credible military force. That serves the strategic interests of the United States by reducing the threat that Saddam presents in the region.
One of our goals here was to not be fixated on responding to his tactical moves, nor towards the Kurds. There are a lot of practical and geopolitical reasons for that, but our interests were, first and foremost, to restrict his ability to pose further threat to international peace and security, consistent with U.N. Security Council resolutions, and also pose a threat to longtime allies of the United States in the region.
Let me just -- can I finish off the tick-tock and then we will go to your questions.
So the President had a call with Chirac, made some adjustments in the final decision in DePere. That set in motion then a series of events that prepared for the attack that was launched in the early hours of this morning. The President needed to give a final authorization for the execution of the mission; he did so.
While returning last night to Washington aboard Air Force One, he called Tony Lake and Leon Panetta at 8:11 p.m. Eastern Time, and said to them, "We have to go forward. This is the right thing to do. This is a measured, very disciplined and firm approach." Those were the words necessary at that point to tell the B-52s to proceed to targets.
All right, today, you've all heard the President speak. He has completed calls with all four congressional leaders. I will let them speak for themselves, but the President was encouraged by the support he got from the Speaker, the Majority Leader, and the two Minority Leaders. And the President, just about a half hour ago, finished a very good telephone conversation with Bob Dole.
Q Now, did the President sign something on Air Force One? Did he actually have to sign the --
MR. MCCURRY: No, he did not. The authorization for the planning and the confirmation of the orders came in the verbal call he made back.
Q Mike, the plane took 19 hours to get there. Then the planes must have been at least halfway there by the time he did the final authorization.
MR. MCCURRY: I won't dispute your assessment. I think it might be somewhat less than 19 hours; maybe like 16. But they were at a point -- they needed final authorization by sometime after the time that the President called in. You can check with the Pentagon at where their real "go-no go" point was for the B-52s. But the President made that call at 8:11 p.m., well in advance of that point.
Q Did the President initiate the call to Dole --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- well, I'll let the Pentagon -- the "go-no go" point was probably around 9:30 p.m., so the President made the call at 8:11 p.m. and they called him back.
Q The decision to delay for a day on Sunday, was the reaction of the allies and some of the ambivalence that some of them have about this a factor in that decision to delay?
MR. MCCURRY: Not directly. I think that there were two large factors at play: one, what force would you array to accomplish the mission assigned by the President; and then, two, what would be the most effective way to execute the orders that the President gave. It was a combination of practical reasons based on some of the consultations we have, what resources we could bring to the fight versus -- and complementing that, the desire of our own military planners to ensure that they had the right amount of time to maximize the prospects for success.
And the President, based on that, was very quick to say it made much more sense to go ahead and delay 24 hours, rather than to artificially do it.
Q What effect did the allies' ambivalence have on this?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not going to detail that, but you've seen their public statements now and you can suggest that we structured the force to accomplish this mission, recognizing the disposition of attitudes in the region.
Q Mike, did the President at any time feel that, or was concerned about being out on the campaign trail while an attack was underway and wanted to be back at the White House when it happened?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that was not a factor. The President fully believed that he had the capacity to carry out his duties as Commander-in-Chief while on the campaign trail. And indeed, as you can tell from the scenario I just gave you, that's exactly what he did.
I will say, by the way, on the subject of politics, the President made it very clear to everyone traveling with him and made it clear to everyone here in Washington that no one was to discuss the political merits, pro or con, of this decision because that was not a factor in his decision-making what so ever. I can also tell you, having talked to the President's pollster, that the President's pollster hadn't even asked a single question about this prior to the President's decision last night.
Q Is there over-flight problems? You talk about attitudes in the region.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into anything related to that.
Q Can you characterize the conversation with Dole and how long it went?
Q And who initiated it.
MR. MCCURRY: The President initiated the call earlier in the day. Senator Dole is getting ready to speak I believe in Utah at the American Legion. The President thought it was a very good call, but I'll let Senator Dole characterize the call himself.
Q A couple of questions about the Kurds. The fact is we've done nothing -- in effect, it sounds as if we're sending a message that you're on your own, you did this to yourselves, we're not going to do anything or get involved.
MR. MCCURRY: Let's just review the record here. We have done an extraordinary amount for the Kurdish population of north Iraq. They were facing humanitarian disaster in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. The United States took the lead in assembling the resources of Operation Provide Comfort. We've provided over $300 million worth of humanitarian aid to the Kurdish populations, and we have worked strenuously to bring these rival factions of two political parties representing the Kurdish population together so that they could attend to the needs of their civilians. It is a tragedy that the leadership has taken a walk on the civilian population of northern Iraq that needs help.
Q But wouldn't it have been just as easy to impose, for example, a no-drive zone above the 36th --
MR. MCCURRY: If you think it is "easy" to impose a no-drive zone above that parallel you should go visit with some folks at the Pentagon who will tell you otherwise. That would require us to amass a force and introduce ground troops most likely into northern Iraq in order to patrol, monitor and effectively enforce a declaration of a no-go zone.
We relied, by the way, on authority for our no-fly zone on our interpretation of U.N. Security Council resolution 688, using the enforcement mechanism that was available in U.N. Security Resolution 678, and our interpretation of those two resolutions as a basis for the no-fly zone has not been challenged. But there have been legal questions suggested about that interpretation from time to time. Those legal questions in our view would be much more strenuous if there was any suggestion that there was some type of no-go zone.
Q Mike, to get back to something you just said -- how did the President make it clear and in what format that no one was to discuss the political implications of this? Did he tell Leon this? Did he tell the staff? How did he do it?
MR. MCCURRY: He told those of us traveling that and then told Mr. Panetta to convey that to those back here.
Q What's the link between -- I'm trying to figure out the link between the north and the south. Perry and Ralston were fairly clear in their interpretation of the impact on national interest as far as striking the south was concerned. I don't think I understand what you expect this is going to do as far as the north is concerned.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not suggesting that these are directly related. The incursion into the north against the Kurdish population of the north on behalf, allegedly, of one of the faction is a tragic development in what has become for all practical purposes a civil war going on between two rival factions in the north. To dispel that force from that location would require the use of resources, a commitment of resources that is well beyond the geopolitical reality that exists here.
As a practical matter, it would be very difficult to do. The United States would clearly have to do that entirely on its own, and that was not an option that was seriously considered. What was considered is acting in a way that maximized our own strategic interests in the area, and our strategic interests in the area are served by clipping Saddam Hussein's wings, making it clear he cannot use his air power further to threaten other neighbors or threaten his own people, effectively making it possible for him to operate south of Baghdad in any fashion by air, which is a very -- if you've studied recent political military history in Iraq, you know that that has some very serious consequences for Saddam Hussein. In short, we made him pay a price for what he had done in north Iraq.
Q I'm sorry. Do you expect any impact or any effect from this action in the north?
MR. MCCURRY: We expect him to take great heed of the consequences of his actions and to adjust his behavior accordingly. That's the purpose of the action that we've launched today. Our goal is to ensure that he no longer represses or threatens his own civilian population, and certainly that he doesn't misinterpret the lack of response to be some type of willingness to abide by behavior that threatens his neighbors or threatens other parts of his population.
Remember, there is a pattern here; it's not just the Kurds in the North, it's the Shiia in the Marshes in the south. It's minorities everywhere in Iraq, which he has brutally repressed. And left unchecked, we know from history what Saddam Hussein's interpretation of that is. He believes he has, then, a green light to conduct himself further in an aggressive fashion, as he did in October of 1994 when he again made a feint toward Kuwait, certainly as he did when he invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Q But he now says he's no longer going to abide by the no-fly zones.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he knows what happens, because he has some experience with that. That's a good way to lose aircraft and pilots.
Q Mike, how can U.S. unilaterally extend the no-fly zone when it's actually an allied imposed restriction?
MR. MCCURRY: The United Nations Security Council has required in U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 that Saddam refrained from repressing minorities in the Iraqi civilian population specifically the Kurds, because that type of repression represents a threat to international peace and stability in the region.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes all member states of the United Nations to conduct all necessary means to effectively protect international peace and security in the region.
By the way, I would stress that is not a legal interpretation, that's just a factual matter that we have got the authority under 678 to protect international peace and stability in the region, and the repression of civilian populations, specifically the Kurds, as seen in Resolution 688 as a threat to international peace and security.
Q The question was unilaterally.
MR. MCCURRY: We created the no-fly zones in the north and the south, and we've had support from other coalition partners, and we've never had an objection raised about the no-fly zones in the U.N. Security Council.
Q But some of our allies help patrol the no-fly zones, correct? And have they signed onto this idea of expanding it?
MR. MCCURRY: Certainly, the United Kingdom statement speaks for itself. We will have strong support from them in enforcing the no-fly zone, and the French -- I have to let the French speak for the French.
Q Well, has there been any indication that they would withdraw from participation in those air patrols?
MR. MCCURRY: I will leave that to the French government to answer. They have to describe what their own participation is. They have been a very highly valued participant, not only in Operation Provide Comfort, but also in the enforcement of the no-fly zones.
Q Mike, what are Iraq's troops doing today, and are they moving any closer to Sulaymaniyah?
MR. MCCURRY: The latest Sit report I have -- and, Mark, jump in if you want to -- is that they continue to be arrayed in and around Irbil, that there is -- there have been some indications that they have got a capacity to stroke at Sulaymaniyah. I haven't heard anything further about shelling at Chamchamal today.
MR. PARRIS: And some shelling on approaches to the Sulaymaniyah area, but not in Sulaymaniyah proper.
MR. MCCURRY: Mark says that there have been some indications of shelling along the approach road that goes in and kind of curves into Sulaymaniyah, kind of cutting down south and then moving east to Sulaymaniyah. There have been some indications that they are consolidating positions along that road.
Q If that's the case and your goal is to stop Saddam Hussein from repressing any minorities, how has this strike accomplished that goal?
MR. MCCURRY: As the President suggested earlier today, we'll see, through the actions of Saddam Hussein.
Q You don't know if you've accomplished your goal?
MR. MCCURRY: First and foremost, our goal with the mission last night was to establish the expanded no-fly zone. We will measure the success of our military mission by the creation of a no-fly zone. We have made it very clear that that no-fly zone is scheduled to go into effect during the course of the day tomorrow. That's how we measure military success of the mission that was launched last night.
Now, this also is designed to force Saddam to pay a political and military price that we hope will deter further aggressive behavior both in the north and perhaps elsewhere. And that, of course, we will monitor very effectively and very closely.
Q But you don't know whether -- you said the goal of the policy was to stop him from repressing minorities; that you have seen no --
MR. MCCURRY: The goal of our policy is to deter aggressive behavior by Saddam Hussein, which is contrary to the interest of the international community. That is our strategic goal in the policy the President has approved. We have humanitarian concern for the Kurdish population of the north. We cannot effectively remove Saddam's force from the north, but we believe it would be good if that force was dispelled and in any event, not used to repress the minority population of the north, which would be in direct contravention of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
There is no practical, effective way for us to remove that force from the north, but we can affect Saddam's behavior when it comes to judging how he would use that force. Our strategic goal and our long-term and short-term goal is to deter aggressive behavior by Saddam and to make it very clear to him that he cannot use that force with impunity in the region. That protects our strategic interests in the region, it protects our vital interests with respect to our long-term allies in the region, our economic interests, and the commerce of oil and the other vital strategic interests we have in the region that has long been of great concern to the United States.
Q Mike, why is today's military activity in the north -- the shelling or whatever's going on there -- any less provocative or aggressive than it was over the weekend? And why would that not require another U.S. military response?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't suggested anything to the contrary.
Q Mike, then what has been accomplished here? I mean, if the object is to deter aggression by Saddam Hussein and it continues today --
MR. MCCURRY: As the President said, we will see. We'll see and we'll see what the disposition of the forces are, what happens to them in coming days and what Saddam Hussein's behavior is.
Q Aren't you concerned you may have left him in a situation where he doesn't know what he has to do to get well here: You don't seem to think you can get his force out of the north, so that doesn't seem to be an objective of the action. There's no indication from what you've said that any course of conduct with him would amount to the withdrawal of the combat -- of the no-fly zone back to the 32nd Parallel. What are his options here as you presented them to him?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he well knows that the use of this force to intimidate and harass the minority population -- the Kurdish population in the north -- is a violation of his obligations to the international community. He knows the use of his secret police to round up and perhaps murder leaders of rival Kurdish factions is against both international law and humanitarian law. And he knows that he has obligations with respect to the territorial integrity of his neighbors and his conduct with respect to other minority populations throughout Iraq.
Those obligations have been clear to him since he lost a war in 1991. He has no doubt about it. He just continues from time to time to test whatever limits might exist in his own ability to maneuver. And what we've done today is effectively tell him that he cannot use that force in a fashion that threatens and intimidates neighbors. And he should stop further aggressive behavior with respect to the Kurdish population in the north.
Q Mike, can you give us more details on the second memo where he apparently revised the scope and parameters of the operation?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'll just say that he made some adjustments in the structuring of the no-fly zone and some sequencing of things that happened diplomatically. Beyond that, I don't have any other details.
Q But did he, in effect, narrow the scope and the mission in light of the allies' resistance or objections?
MR. MCCURRY: I've just declined comment on that.
Q Mike, can you give us the precise language of the first memo -- the warning?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q I thought you had Colonel Fetig go out and get it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not going to -- that's a top secret document; I'm not going to do that.
Q Where does this leave the U.S. attitude --
Q The demarche.
MR. MCCURRY: The decision memo -- oh, oh, oh.
Q How hard can that be?
MR. MCCURRY: All right. We'll just see if we can get it.
Q What is the state of the U.S. attitude towards the Kurdish populations? Because we do have Kurds in conflict with the Turkish government. We have Kurds now backed by Iraq, Kurds backed by Iran. Do we have any allies up there and are we going to get involved in their civil war?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the thrust of the answers that I've given you today indicate that we are not planning to introduce ground troops in north Iraq in support of one faction or another. The President did not seriously consider that as one of options available.
Q Do we see any allies among the Kurds at this point? I mean, do we have any friends there?
MR. MCCURRY: We have had contact, as you can tell from the diplomatic work that we've done with both the PUK and the KDP. We would like to continue to have contact with them in furtherance of their work together in a climate of peace to advance the interests of a long-suffering civilian population in the north. It is tragic at the same time that they have chosen a different route, which is fighting each other instead of joining with us in the interest of peace and in resistance of Saddam Hussein.
Q Why did we not impose a no-drive zone between the 32nd and 33rd Parallel? And are we considering doing that as the next step?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not seen that seriously considered.
Q Is the President satisfied with the response of the Saudi Arabians to this?
MR. MCCURRY: We've had good contacts with the Royal Kingdom.
Q Well, does he feel that it was the right thing to do not to let any U.S. --
MR. MCCURRY: The President, as he had suggested earlier in his remarks, understands the different perspectives that different governments bring to analysis of the situation. Certainly, we respect the Royal Kingdom's.
Q To go back to the decision to wait another day and the decision to deploy from Guam -- was this a question of air space, a question of who we would want to fly over depending on the allies?
MR. MCCURRY: I can -- there were some military aspects to that decision. I best leave it to the Pentagon to describe those.
Q Can I ask what about Senator Dole's assertion that presidential weakness brought on Saddam Hussein's action?
MR. MCCURRY: I already responded to that, and let's just see what he has to say now.
Q Did the President discuss that with Senator Dole at all?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I was not privy to that private conversation.
Q Mike, you just said --
Q -- haven't asked him a single question about this prior to his decision. Is that something he asked them not to do? And will they ask questions now that he's made the decision?
MR. MCCURRY: The President's made it clear to his political advisors that when it comes to foreign policy, politics is off-limits.
Q So that means that the President's pollsters will not be asking any questions in their nightly surveys about this?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to say that -- I don't want to say that for a simple reason, which is, as the earlier question indicated, the President's been attacked by his opponent now on that subject and I won't rule out the they would do that. But the point I would stress is that prior to the President's decision on this matter, he hadn't done any polling, he had not considered the political merits pro or con.
Q You said that the President did not rush back to the White House in order to conduct this mission or to direct it, but you know that the perception would have been very bad had he been on the campaign trail and he's ordering people into a --
MR. MCCURRY: That's to the contrary -- to the contrary. The President felt very strongly that Saddam Hussein had no right to hijack America's democratic process, and getting candidates for national office to run around at his whim is not the way that our republic functions.
Q Presidents don't order military missions on the campaign trail.
MR. MCCURRY: Presidents serve as Commander-in-Chief no matter where they are anywhere in the world.
Q Were there contacts with the Dole camp and Republicans before today?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Were there contacts between the White House staff and-or top officials, the President included, with Dole and his camp, or Kemp?
MR. MCCURRY: There was a contact, but I don't think an opportunity to provide any extensive briefing, as best as I can understand.
Q What about with General Colin Powell? Any contacts with him?
Q What do you mean by "contacts"?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.
Q Do you mean a heads-up, or what kind of --
Q Mike, can I follow up just on the question of his being where he was? I remember when the Gulf crisis -- Bush took his vacation, the idea of being we don't want Saddam Hussein to feel that he can cancel our vacation. May I take it that this is in the same idea? You don't want him to cancel your bus trip or whatever because --
MR. MCCURRY: No, Brit. Don't trivialize it. The people of the United States of America are involved in selecting a President of the United States. The current President of the United States is a candidate for office, and we don't reward or give satisfaction to Saddam Hussein and let him think that by his own behavior he can affect that process which is so vital to our own republic.
Q Mike, finishing up the tick-tock, it appeared last night on Air Force One the President went back and was chatting with the galley crew. Was that after the 8:11 p.m. phone call? Was that his way of sort of relaxing after the decision having been made?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just trying to remember whether it was before or after. I believe it was after, and I can tell you that the President was very confident in this decision and was at peace with himself for having made it.
Q Mike, as you know, the President was supposed to be in Pittsburgh today, but he cancelled that trip.
MR. MCCURRY: That was unrelated to this, Wolf. Again, that was a decision made by our campaign staff. It had to do with the general state of exhaustion by the President, his traveling party, and the press corps, when it came to the trip that we were on, and because of our strong belief that we could reschedule a stop in Pittsburgh sometime soon and make up the date. I think just a lot of us felt that one more day of that trip would have been one day too many.
Q And when did he get his first briefing today on the results of the missile attack?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not received a complete PDA briefing at this point.
Q Nobody woke him up in the middle of the night, though -- Q What time did he go to bed and what time did he get up? MR. MCCURRY: He went to bed, as far as I understand, not
long after returning here, 10:30 p.m. or so, and didn't get up much before 7:00 a.m when he got his first summary briefing this morning.
Q He slept through it?
MR. MCCURRY: There was no need to awaken him because he knew exactly what was going on, having given the orders.
Q Mike, it seems to me you could have done a lot more in northern Iraq if you had had permission from Turkey to use bases to launch manned aircraft, quite apart from the issue of a no-drive zone, using manned aircraft. Did you ask -- did the U.S. government ask at any time during the last two weeks --
MR. MCCURRY: I will leave that to the Pentagon to address in greater detail, but to my knowledge, that was not part of any of the original options package presented to the President.
Do you know other -- I didn't see anything to indicate that.
Q Mike, on Saturday in Dyersburg, what else was in that policy memo? You said, set forth the motions to expand the no-fly zone, but what else was in there?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd say the two principal decisions related to, one, the military action which has now been taken and what are the consequences of that and what are the follow-up that might be necessary. So there are a chain of things related to that.
Second, the economic measures related to the 986 oil sales. But more importantly, the advisors asked the President whether he concurred with their general assessment of how to structure the response and whether their recommendation about how to respond fit with his own judgment. So it was more of a conceptual memo about how to structure the response that we then began to tailor and shape over the course of the weekend.
Q Does the package that the President approved include follow-on steps if you don't get the desired result with the bombing that has already taken place?
MR. MCCURRY: In taking action such as this you don't place down the right foot without knowing where you'd place the left foot if necessary.
Q So if their provocative actions continue --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate, Susan.
Q To follow on Mark's earlier question, talk to us about the process and whether it was at all complicated by being on buses and trains and so on? There weren't inconveniences, improvisations, anything you wouldn't have had by being here?
MR. MCCURRY: A lot of the lengthy discussions the President had on this subject -- at one point I asked him that -- I said is it harder to deal with this being here. He said, no, frankly, it's easier, particularly because of the structure of the trip we had. You will recall that we were on a bus trip and we had intervals of time between stop and stop. The President told me at one point, he said, you know, I probably devoted more time to this problem than I would have been able to if I'd been back at the White House maintaining a regular schedule. For obvious reasons, we would have continued with -- if the President had working days during -- here at the White House, he would have had a regular schedule and a lot of people in and out that he would have pursued. And he most likely -- I mean, I think it's fair to say he had somewhat greater periods of time to consider and deal with some of the complexities of this problem because we were on the bus and had intervals of time in between stops.
He didn't exactly have to practice that speech every time before giving it, since he gave it so often. (Laughter.)
Q What's his schedule today for getting briefed and for following up --
MR. MCCURRY: He'll get, as necessary, updates from Tony Lake. He had an update from Mr. Panetta just a short while ago. He'll get an update from Tony later on today. This was a scheduled day off for the President, so we are respecting that and giving him some time off. He'll have an update briefing probably very late in the day before he goes to give his speech tonight.
Q In the conversation with Senator Dole, did Senator Dole promise the President that he and --
MR. MCCURRY: Again, I was not privy to that conversation and I'll leave it to him to characterize his response.
Q Did you ever explain the reference to faxing messages?
MR. MCCURRY: We have sent another message to the government of Iraq today indicating that there would -- again, that any further behavior of the nature we have seen over the last couple of days would be a serious mistake. My understanding is that we faxed that message because there was no one at home to receive it. Is that correct?
Q Are you saying they refused to accept it or they just --
MR. MCCURRY: They refused acceptance of it. Is that correct?
MR. PARRIS: They refused to accept it, and so we faxed it.
Q They accepted the first -- did they accept the first --
Q Which one?
Q They accepted the first --
MR. PARRIS: The first one, they, if I recall correctly, did accept, but indicated that the appropriate address was their interests section here in Washington. The second one, they declined to accept. We faxed it and provided a copy to the interests section here in Washington. The one we delivered today, which essentially told them that we were proceeding and that further serious consequences would follow on further threats to the regional peace and security -- we sought to contact them. They declined to see us. And so we faxed this message as well.
Q Did you get the usual fax message that says fax received. (Laughter.)
MR. PARRIS: That's normal. Yes, we have it.
Q You're talking about Iraqi officials --
Q That's important.
MR. MCCURRY: In a variety of ways today, they've gotten the message, and apparently they're a little out of sorts about what's happened to them.
Q Are we going to see you again and, if not, what's the President going to be doing tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Down day tomorrow. I don't have anything else to add today.
Q What about tonight?
Q Is Iraq part of tonight's speech, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I expect he will say something about today's events during his remarks at the National Guard tonight, yes.
Q Well, Mike, is there any way you might come out and give us a little sort of chat late in the afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: If there is anything to report like late in the day before some of you have to wrap up for the evening, I'll come out and maybe do a quick gaggle around 5:30 p.m., maybe quarter to six, if that will help people. I don't -- based on the way I see the President's calendar, I don't think there will be much to report in about at that point.
Q Did he smoke a cigar, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Did he smoke a cigar?
MR. MCCURRY: He doesn't smoke cigars.
Q When Senator Dole made critical comments on Sunday, this was at a point when this was obviously long underway and, in fact, you were kind of poised to deploy the forces. Did that -- was that galling?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Was it galling to the President at that particular point to have those kind of critical comments?
MR. MCCURRY: The President was concentrating on other matters, and I responded on his behalf.
Q I just want to make sure -- the oil sale is suspended, not cancelled, right?
MR. MCCURRY: In the words of the President, it cannot go forward.
MR. PARRIS: I think you need to make a distinction between the expansion of the no-fly zone, which was undertaken at our initiative for the reasons that Mike explained, the operation undertaken this morning, which was designed to protect our air crews carrying out the mission of expanding the no-fly zone, and the effect of Saddam's actions on the implementation of Resolution 986, which is something that has occurred at his initiative, not ours.
We were sponsors of 986. We worked very hard to ensure that it was an airtight mechanisms to ensure that the supplies that would go into Iraq would not be exploited by Saddam for his own purposes.
That system that was developed after considerable, difficult negotiations, assumed that Iraq would not be able to control the distribution of goods in the north to the Kurds, and obviously that assumption has been deeply called into question by what's happened in the last week, and we're going to have to revisit this and work our way through how it's going to work. As the President said, until we're convinced that this will go to the people who need it without being manipulable, it can't go forward.
Q Is it suspended, or is it cancelled?
MR. MCCURRY: It's neither.
MR. PARRIS: It's going to be revisited at the U.N., and we will discuss it with other members and we'll satisfy ourselves that it will work the way it was designed to work.
MR. MCCURRY: It is not proceeding.
Do you have any other thing that you want to clean up or add, or whatever?
Q Mike, both Dick Lugar and Congressman Livingston this morning say that more needs to be done, that these Iraqi troops essentially need to be driven from the --
MR. MCCURRY: Apparently, some members of Congress are suggesting that the Iraqi force in the north needs to be forcibly evicted. The question back from the White House to those members of Congress would be: What size force would you prepare to array for that? Given our own firm belief that that cannot be done through air power alone, what size force would you propose introducing on the ground, U.S. troops on the ground in northern Iraq to accomplish that mission?
The President has made very clear the nature of the response he's developed. We believes it serves the strategic interests of the United States. The President believes it's the right response to the behavior we've seen by Saddam Hussein.
Yes, just one other point here.
MR. PARRIS: I think there is another dimension here which people need to look at, which is, what does Iraqi withdrawal from Irbil or from the north mean? They're saying they're withdrawing now; they are repositioning forces, that's clear. But at the end of the day, there's no question who is controlling Irbil or the areas that they've moved into.
So you need to be careful of getting into a definitional problem which allows Saddam to manipulate circumstances against a backdrop of a very complex political situation on the ground, against a geographical set of circumstances that works against our being able to influence it directly.
These are not small factors to weigh when you're trying to decide what to do, and they were critical in the President's decision to adopt the course of action that he has.
Q What is your title?
MR. PARRIS: Special Assistant to the President.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, thanks. I will, as I say, be back and gaggle, end of the day and very short, if there's nothing to add. But I'll dispense with any other daily briefing today.
END 12:54 P.M. EDT