US reaction to Iraq reconciliation conference on resistance, troop withdrawal
Iraq-USA, Politics, 11/23/2005
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was asked yesterday about the US reaction to the resolution as adopted by this meeting in Cairo of the Iraqis "basically demanding some sort of timetable for the withdrawal of US troops and also basically legitimizing the sense of resistance to the occupation, using the word 'resistance,' which is pretty loaded?"
MCCORMACK said: I think that, first of all, I think that it is a positive development that you have Iraqis from different parts of the political spectrum, different ethnic groups coming together to talk about ways that they can end violence in Iraq, ways that they can resolve any political differences that they may have through peaceful dialogue. I think that that is certainly very positive.
I think it's also very positive that the Arab League during -- as part of this meeting -- they were host of it in Cairo made -- the Arab League made a commitment to expand their diplomatic support and contact with Iraq, as well as to expand their financial support for Iraq. So I think those are two very positive things that came out of this meeting.
Now, as to your questions about the statement, let's go -- as I have seen some reporting on this, let's take a look at exactly what it is that they said and we can talk a little bit about the language. I have a copy of it and I'd just like to read a couple of things I think that address your point about timetable -- timetable language and then this idea of resistance. This is from the communiqu:
"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day in which foreign forces would leave Iraq and to build their military and security forces in order to enjoy peace and stability and get rid of the terrorism that targets Iraqis and Iraqi infrastructure and destroys the national wealth and the state's apparatus."
I think that is perfectly consistent with where the multinational forces and the United States Government are. You know, as Iraq -- Iraqi forces are more capable and stand up and the institutions get stronger, then of course, the multinational force presence will be reduced. So I think, again, perfectly consistent with where we are, as the international community, along with the Iraqis.
Getting to this point about resistance:
"Although resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance. Accordingly, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping that target Iraqi citizens, civilian, humanitarian, governmental institutions, national wealth, places of worship and we call for confronting terrorism immediately."
Again, I think that, you know, inasmuch as this statement talks about the right -- the legitimate right to peaceful protest, peaceful expression of differences -- absolutely, the United States has no quarrel with that idea. And here, they talk about condemnation of terrorism. You talk about condemnation of violence. They call -- and they also call upon -- call all to confront terrorism immediately. Again, something that we are all working for in Iraq. So Iraqis and the multinational forces, the United States, again, on the same page with respect to confronting violence and confronting terrorism.
So again I don't see any sort of difference there. If you actually read through all the language -- I've seen some selective quoting in some of the news stories on this and I think it's important to actually take a look at what all of the language that they in fact agree to in this communiqu.
So there -- there are passages, you know, I'll be happy to --
QUESTION: .. One is that -- does the United States or do you -- I remember during the war, there was a distinction made between acts of terrorism against civilians and attacks on US troops, which were considered then invading forces, now occupying forces. When we have the notion of resistance, this is a notion that does not necessarily mean peaceful protest. It also encompasses the idea of potential attacks on what is seen as an occupying force.
MCCORMACK: Well, I think if you, again, if you look at the language that they actually wrote down here, you know, it leads in with this idea, although resistance is a legitimate right for all people, they go on to say "terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance. Accordingly, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence." So again, this encompasses violent acts, you know. They condemn violent acts. They condemn terrorism. Again, something that we're all fighting together with the Iraqis on, so I don't see -- they exclude in terms of this idea of resistance any sort of terrorism or acts of violence, so -- again --
QUESTION: What about the statement that is encouraging more active resistance to -
MCCORMACK: Again, I think if people read the statement and take a look at exactly what it is that they're doing, they're coming out against violence. They're coming out against terrorism and they're calling on people to confront terrorism, so I think that is certainly very positive.
QUESTION: Okay. If I can respond to the first part about the timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, I know that one of the State Department people responded, saying that the US troop presence is set by the UN Security Council Resolution, I think, 1546 which was just extended for another year. But that resolution also says that it can be abrogated at any moment under demand of the Iraqi Government.
MCCORMACK: That's right.
QUESTION: So the question is -- as there seems to be at least some concern about the presence of US troops that is being expressed through this resolution and elsewhere, is the United States ready to entertain the idea, with the Iraqis, of negotiating some sort of departure?
MCCORMACK: Well, --
QUESTION: A date or timetable or framework.
MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think again when we take look at -- take a look at the statement -- if you look further down in the statement, it does talk about the UN Security Council resolutions which make it very clear that the multinational forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government, and I think that that is a very clear understanding between the Iraqi people and the multinational forces.
In terms of working with the Iraqis to increase their security force capabilities, something that we are working very hard -- very hard to do. I mean, you've heard the President talk about it. You've heard Secretary Rice talk about it. And as those capabilities increase, then our commanders on the ground are going to look at the capabilities of those Iraqi forces and take a look at what multinational forces are needed in order to accomplish the missions of security in Iraq, so there's going to be this sort of shifting balance. And those decisions are going to be made by the President with the recommendation of his commanders on the ground. Those commanders on the ground, of course, are going to be working very closely with the Iraqi Government, consulting with them about the capabilities of those Iraqi forces.
So again, what they're talking about here in this statement I think is a perfectly consistent restatement of what we and the Iraqis have said all along -- they, of course, want to take responsibility for their own security, take responsibility for security in their own country. And as they become more capable, then there's less need for multinational forces, but we're all focused on this being conditions based, you know, what are the conditions that will allow multinational forces to reduce their presence in Iraq because the conditions are such that the Iraqi force is more capable of carrying out these missions.
QUESTION: ..who makes that decision then? I guess my bottom line question is if the Iraqis want a timetable, the Iraqis themselves, or they want a firm date for withdrawal, is the United States going to feel obliged and entertain that idea?
MCCORMACK: Well, again, the Security Council resolution I think speaks for itself. You know, again, it's in black and white and I think it speaks for itself. But the important point is that the Iraqis actually are -- you know, our forces as well as the multinational forces are in Iraq right now at their invitation. We consult closely with them. We work closely with them on missions, on planning missions, on the execution of those missions. And I expect in -- as we move forward, that that consultation is going to continue and that those discussions will be had between our commanders, with commanders from the Iraqi forces, as well as the Iraqi Government.
And you know, our commanders are constantly making decisions about force levels in Iraq. They make those recommendations to the Secretary of Defense who, you know, of course, gets -- provides that input to the President who is the final -- has the final say about force levels in the United States. But those decisions are based upon the recommendations of the commanders on the ground working with the Iraqis, which also includes an assessment of the capabilities of the Iraqi forces.
QUESTION: So just to sum up, there's nothing in the Cairo statement you disagree with?
MCCORMACK: I think that what you have when you read through the statement, you know, take a look at it, I think what you see in terms of these questions that have been brought up today, that the statements in the Cairo communiqu or whatever it is that they're referring to it as, are perfectly consistent with previous Iraqi policy as well as the policy of the United States.
QUESTION: But my question wasn't about the questions brought up today. My question was is there anything in the statement you disagree with?
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