THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 3, 1996
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Q The Dyersburg memo that he signed off on -- did he
actually physically sign something like a document, orders to the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he knows what happens, because he has
some experience with that. That's a good way to lose aircraft and
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q Presidents don't order military missions on the campaign
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
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
Q What about with General Colin Powell? Any contacts with
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
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
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
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
Q Are you saying they refused to accept it or they just --
MR. MCCURRY: They refused acceptance of it. Is that
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
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
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
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
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