THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
6:07 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: All right, I promised everyone kind of a close of the business day update, and I'll do that very briefly. Not a lot to add to our briefing earlier.
A couple of points on the President's day. He obviously had been given this day as a day off by his staff and he got to spend some of it off, but a considerable amount of it on. He talked twice this afternoon to Tony Lake, just requesting updates, situation report on the ground; twice to Mr. Panetta, checking in both on Iraq, congressional consultations and other subjects, as well -- just domestic matters.
The President, just after 4:00 p.m., spoke to Secretary of Defense William Perry. The Secretary provided the preliminary assessment they have on damage inflicted on targets struck in the attack. As the Secretary has already said publicly, they inflicted significant damage on those targets, but they're finishing -- they've not finished conclusively their complete damage assessment.
The President plans to go on to the National Guard speech this evening at 7:35 p.m. I expect him at the top of that address to address the situation in Iraq. As to what we are currently seeing in our assessment of the disposition of the Iraqi force in Kurdish controlled territory, there has been some movement of units. We are still analyzing those movements. It is premature for us to make any conclusive judgments about what Saddam Hussein's intentions might be.
Q I'm sorry -- movement of units -- Iraqi troop movements, is that what you're saying?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been movements in and around Irbil and in the corridor extending to the southeast along the lines toward Chamchamal and Sulayamniyah.
Q -- would they be considered aggressive movements?
Q Do you expect the President to make any news when he speaks?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have an assessment of what those movements are. They do not appear -- we don't see any indication of a buildup that would indicate a strike or an offensive intention, but we're still analyzing the movements.
Q Do you expect the President to make any news at 7:30 p.m., or will it just be a restating what he said --
MR. MCCURRY: I expect him to this group to reiterate some of the points he's made today about the necessity of this operation, the necessity of requiring a price for the behavior of Saddam Hussein, a great deal of respect for the very brave people who carried out the President's orders overnight, and the work that's being done by a wide variety of people in the United States government to analyze and understand both the current situation and the likely future intentions of Saddam Hussein.
Q This morning President Clinton said that the Iraqi troop movements were not encouraging. Is that the assessment you're going to continue with?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not encouraging to us that he continues to possess a large force that is in a position to damage the civilian population of north Iraq.
Q Mike, just so I'm sure of what you're talking about when you say troop movements, you're not talking about troops pouring in from Baghdad, right? You're just saying --
MR. MCCURRY: No, no, no. He has a main body of three armored tank divisions and they are doing some deployment and jiggering of their deployments. And we're trying to understand better what that's about.
Q Earlier today whatever troop movements there were seemed to leave you with concern they might be massing for a movement into another area, another aggressive act. I take it from what you're saying here that these movements do not point to that conclusion and could -- could -- be the beginning of a withdrawal. It's too early to say, but not inconsistent with that -- is that what you're saying?
MR. MCCURRY: It is too early to have any definitive judgment of those movement. However we've seen nothing to heighten our concern about further offensive activity.
Q Mike, is the President going to talk to any members of Congress tomorrow or in the near future about this and other subjects with them coming back into session -- the legislative agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: He will very well -- as the Congress comes back in session, he will have contact with members of Congress, as he did earlier today with the leadership. I expect he will discuss this and other matters with members of Congress in coming days.
Q But not here -- not a special meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: Not at a special meeting. In fact, the President -- we are trying to preserve the President's down day tomorrow. And I haven't heard of any public schedule for tomorrow.
Q Mike, are you all concerned what this military action has done to oil prices today?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has to protect the national security interests of the United States and he's got to do what he believes is necessary, right and in our strategic interests. And the effect on the commodities markets is the effect that the commodity markets has. He's aware that that had some -- would have some impact. There was impact when the 986 oil sales were approved earlier in the year. That had a price impact, too. But he did not act with respect to the likely impact in the commodities market.
Q Until you get a definitive assessment of what the Iraqi troop movements mean one way or another, is the operation over? the military aspect of this over with?
MR. MCCURRY: No. They -- this is an ongoing military operation. It is assessing, obviously, the damage inflicted by the Cruise missiles launched today. They are in active preparation for the establishment of the newly expanded no-fly zone. That requires a great deal of hard work principally by aircraft and by those who analyze the information that can be made available to the United States government. All of that activity is ongoing.
Q So that it could be, even if the Iraqis do withdraw from Irbil and these other parts in northern Iraq, there could still be more Cruise missile launches if the military planners think that would help protect the U.S. planes protecting the expanded no-fly zone.
MR. MCCURRY: As Secretary Perry said today, we reserve the right to take those military actions that will further our objectives. That doesn't necessarily rule in, rule out any specific action, and I'm not going to speculate on what action might be taken.
Q When does the expanded no-fly zone actually go into effect? When does the enforcement start?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it was Wednesday -- Fetig -- it was scheduled for tomorrow.
MR. FETIG: That's right, tomorrow.
MR. MCCURRY: At noon Greenwich Mean Time. I'm not actually sure.
MR. FETIG: I don't recall the time, I'm sorry.
Q Is 4:00 a.m. the time?
MR. MCCURRY: It's scheduled to be operational as of sometime tomorrow. But we are already, suffice to say, conducting significant air activity in preparation for the responsibilities we'll have to enforce that zone.
Q Mike, can you say anything more about what "significant damage" means?
MR. MCCURRY: Negative. I don't do BDA. Go to the Pentagon.
Q Is it any clearer what Saddam Hussein has to do to get this American military threat off his back?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, remember that part of what we are doing here is forcing him to pay the price for the miscalculation and misbehavior he has already committed. The establishment of this zone further restricts his operational capacity. It reduces his ability to threaten and intimidate his neighbors and his own population. This is not being done with anticipation of him doing anything but honoring his obligations to the international community.
Q Mike, is it fixed-wing only, or helicopters, too?
MR. MCCURRY: The no-fly currently is anything that flies -- including helicopter, fixed-wing.
Q Are you sure about the helicopter?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Because when they attacked the Shiites in the south it was with helicopters.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the no-fly is no-fly. Right? That's my understanding.
MR. FETIG: It's my understanding no-fly is no-fly in the zones.
MR. MCCURRY: Right.
MR. FETIG: It's noon Baghdad time, 4:00 a.m. our time.
MR. MCCURRY: Noon Baghdad time, 4:00 a.m. our time.
Q 4:00 a.m. our time?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Will the President in his remarks tonight mention bomb damage assessment -- give an assessment of the operation?
MR. MCCURRY: He won't provide anything newsworthy on that subject. He'll say that the folks who planned and executed this mission at his instructions and command did a superb job, and he will thank them for it.
Q But will he say that there was significant damage?
MR. MCCURRY: Say it again.
Q Will he say there was significant damage?
MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Perry has already said that.
That's all you want to know?
Q Have you got anything else to tell us?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that's it, pretty much. Okay?
See you all tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 6:17 P.M. EDT