Press Briefing on President's European Trip, Iraq, and IranSteve Hadley, National Security Advisor
James S. Brady Briefing Room, The White House
June 15, 2006
3:28 P.M. EDT
MR. HADLEY: Good afternoon. On Tuesday, June 20, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Vienna, Austria, for this year's U.S.-EU summit. It will be followed by a visit to Budapest, Hungary, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.
The trip is an opportunity to reaffirm the strong relationship between the United States and the European Union. The President has made clear that, in his words, "America supports a strong Europe because we need a strong partner in the hard work of advancing freedom in the world."
This year's U.S.-EU summit will focus on three areas where we can cooperate to make a safer and better world: promoting freedom and democracy, enhancing security, and pursuing greater global prosperity. We are seeking to enhance cooperation in promoting democracy in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America. On the security front, the leaders will set priorities for U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation, particularly countering terrorist financing and efforts to prevent terrorist access to weapons of mass destruction.
Additionally, the President will discuss with his EU counterparts the way forward on Iran. The President believes that a united international front is the best way to encourage Iran verifiably to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities and return to negotiations. And if they do so, the United States will participate in those negotiations.
On the economic agenda, we are initiating a new area of cooperation on intellectual property rights enforcement in third countries [sic]. The President will be discussing ways to strengthen U.S.-EU strategic cooperation on global energy security by promoting a set of international principles and good practices. The summit provides an opportunity for the President to renew his call for an ambitious outcome for the Doha development agenda negotiations of the World Trade Organization, or WTO.
Following their stay in Vienna, Austria, the President and Mrs. Bush will visit Budapest, Hungary. In Hungary, the President will join the Hungarian people in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.
The schedule for the trip over these several days will be as follows: On Tuesday, June 20, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Washington for Vienna, Austria, arriving late in the evening.
On Wednesday, June 21, the President will start his day by greeting the staffs of the various U.S. Missions in Austria, followed by a meeting with the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer. The President will then have a bilateral meeting with Austrian Chancellor and European Council President Wolfgang Sch ssel. Upon conclusion of this bilateral meeting, the President will participate in the formal U.S.-EU summit meetings, and then have lunch with European leaders, Chancellor Sch ssel, and European Commission President Jos Barroso. After lunch, the President will join the EU leaders for a press availability.
Later in the afternoon, the President will participate in a roundtable with foreign exchange students from various nations, to discuss with them the importance of freedom and democracy in advancing the future of their countries. The roundtable will be followed by a tour of the historic National Library, and a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir.
On Thursday, June 22nd, the President will start his program in Hungary by greeting the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. He will then participate in an arrival ceremony at S ndor Palace, followed by a meeting with the president of Hungary, L szl S lyom. The president will then move to the Parliament, where he will meet with Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcs ny. The President will then greet the Speaker of the Parliament, Katalin Szili, followed by a greeting with the leaders of the five political parties represented in Hungary's parliament.
The Hungarian president and prime minister will host President and Mrs. Bush for a social lunch, after which they will lay a wreath at the eternal flame to pay respects to those who lost their lives during the 1956 revolt against communism.
Later that day, the President will deliver remarks commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. He will also highlight the inspiration and lessons offered from Hungary's remarkable transition and will welcome efforts to further advance reform in the region today.
President and Mrs. Bush will return to Washington on Thursday evening. The Press Office, as usual, will inform you of any changes in the schedule. I'd be glad to answer any questions.
Q Can you tell us anything about the huge seizure of documents that was found in Iraq in al-Zarqawi's hideout?
MR. HADLEY: As you know, and as has been reported in the press, there was follow-up operations after the attack that killed Zarqawi, and among a number of different locations, a fair number of documents and other things were seized. Obviously, the military and intelligence officials are going over those materials. I've not been through those materials, obviously, myself. It will obviously take some time to go through and see what's there and authenticate what's there and to know what it means. But, obviously, it's very significant and this will make a contribution to following up on the Zarqawi strike.
Q Is there any way, as you take a look at, say, the seizure of documents, the death of Zarqawi, and the raids that have taken place, can you give us some sense of the damage to al Qaeda in Iraq after the events the last couple of weeks?
MR. HADLEY: Anytime you have an opportunity, obviously, to take from the field a major leader or commander like Zarqawi, it's very significant. And you spoke in terms of Iraq; it's significant for al Qaeda as a whole. Zarqawi was not just al Qaeda in Iraq, he had become the principal and most reliable and effective operator for the al Qaeda organization, and had been increasingly been given responsibility for planning not only in Iraq, but for operations outside Iraq, in the regions and potentially even against the United States.
So, while he was operating in Iraq, it's clear he was part of al Qaeda, was a principal operator for al Qaeda. And therefore, the significance is not just for progress in Iraq, but significance for progress in the war on terror as a whole, because we knocked out one of their premier, if not "the" premier operative. That's a very important thing.
Q Let me just follow on that, if I can. The replacement then for Zarqawi, do you expect the new guy to change how al Qaeda in Iraq or anywhere else would be targeting -- the nature of the targets that they go after? Will Zarqawi out and al-Masri in change the nature of the targets they're going after in Iraq?
MR. HADLEY: Well, obviously, one of the things we're doing is following very closely who's in. And it's not clear at this point who is in. We've seen a number of different reports. I think there is a question of exactly what is the organization going to look like and who are going to be the leaders of that organization going forward. In our view, it's not yet settled. And I think we're going to have to see what the fallout is going to be.
Obviously, as you know, we've had great success at the senior level al Qaeda leadership globally, and also in Iraq, to try and disrupt their operations. And we're going to have to see who really emerges to lead this organization and how it changes operationally over time. It's too soon to tell.
Q Al-Masri is not someone you're just assuming --
MR. HADLEY: That's a name that's come forward. We're not actually certain that he is the person that's going to step forward to lead this organization. There's still some uncertainty on that. That's clearly one of the leading names, but we're going to need a little bit of time to sort out -- and they're clearly needing a little time to sort out where they go after what is clearly a big blow to al Qaeda.
Q Steve, are you surprised that Iran has not yet responded to your offer? How much longer do they have to respond, and what will the President's goal going into the summit be, vis- -vis Iran?
MR. HADLEY: They're clearly considering the proposal. It's clearly taking them some time. They've made some indications that they're taking it seriously; we think that's a good thing. In terms of time, what the President and Secretary of State have said is weeks, not months. But weeks, not days. And we're kind of in that zone at this point in time.
There has been good cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany; good cooperation with Russia and China. And so during the U.S.-EU summit, the President will have an opportunity to talk to the EU leadership on this issue and also Javier Solana, who you know has had a leadership role.
I think what you'll hear is simply an opportunity to assess where we're headed with the EU leadership and a reaffirmation of where we are -- that is to say, there is an opportunity for the Iranians to return to the negotiating table. If they do so, the United States and perhaps Russia and China will join. But of course, they need to suspend their enrichment -- verifiably suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activities first.
I don't expect any news out of this. Remember, this is with the EU leadership, so it will be with Sch ssel and Barroso. You will not have Tony Blair there, or the Chancellor of Germany, or the French President there. So it will be a topic, Iran will certainly be a topic with the EU leadership, but I think it will be simply to review the bidding, where we are, and reaffirm what has been very good cooperation and solidarity on the international community. I don't think you're going to see any news on this issue coming out of the summit.
Q Are you worried about Iranian attempts to crack the immunity on the subject?
MR. HADLEY: Well, this is something, obviously, they've been doing right along, for a long time. I think one of the reasons the President did what he did was to try and bring together and ensure a common approach among the United States, the so-called EU3 -- the U.K., France and Germany -- and Russia and China. And we think we've achieved that and we think that the messages being sent to Iran at this point in time are pretty consistent, and that is, in the President's view, essential in order to make diplomatic progress on this issue.
Q There have been reports that the offer to Iran -- to Ahmadinejad -- was incentives, but didn't include disincentives, or sticks, if you will. Can you confirm that, and does that represent a different approach in dealing with the Iranian government?
MR. HADLEY: It wasn't an offer -- just for the record, it was not an offer to President Ahmadinejad. It was an offer, if you will, to the Iranian government. And what Javier Solana briefed was the outline of an offer that would be the context for negotiations should the Iranian government do what we hope they will do, which is suspend enrichment and reprocessing, and return to the negotiations.
It is obviously well-known and there's been a lot of discussion that while we hope that is the course they will take, if they do not take that course, then there is an agreement among the key parties that we would be proceeding to the United Nations. And there have been some discussion about the kind of things that would be adopted there. But the focus at this point in time, of course, is trying to show to the Iranian regime a positive path that is available to it, and to the Iranian people, if they would be willing to do what has been the position of the United Nations, the IAEA Board of Governors -- the United Nations Security Council, the IAEA Board of Governors, and France, Germany and the United Kingdom; that is to say they need to suspend enrichment and reprocessing and come back to the negotiations.
Q So is it true that it doesn't include the disincentives in that formal package to the Iranian regime?
MR. HADLEY: The emphasis has been on what would be available as a matter of negotiations. I don't think that Javier Solana reviewed a sanctions list. You wouldn't have expected him to. The goal here is to try and show to the Iranians an affirmative path if they will suspend and return to the negotiations. But I think it's also very clear that there is another path if they refuse to do so, and that is a path that will involve consequences for the government.
Q A follow-up. You had said and what the President said on Friday, it's a matter of weeks, not months, for Iran to weigh this offer. So does that mean that we shouldn't look at July 6th as any kind of deadline in terms of Iran has to respond by then?
MR. HADLEY: Look, they're clearly taking a look at this. There has been, obviously, internal discussions about what kind of time is reasonable if Iran is genuinely going to accept this offer. And at this point, let me just sort of -- let me just leave it at that.
Q Will the President be trying to line up EU support for sanctions in case --
MR. HADLEY: Sorry?
Q Will the President be trying to line up EU support for sanctions in case this deal falls through?
MR. HADLEY: Well, in terms of the parties that are involved -- the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China -- as you already know, there has been discussions about the kind of measures that might be adopted if Iran does not make the choice that we hope it will make. That's already been discussed. And at this point, the next step is really waiting for the response from the Iranian regime. There's not a lot more to discuss and negotiate.
Q Wouldn't support from the EU as an entity bolster those other entities?
MR. HADLEY: Well, the expectation is that, I think with the United Kingdom and France and Germany involved, with Javier Solana who, after all, is the foreign policy principal for the EU as an organization, having been involved -- I think this is an understanding that is endorsed more broadly by the European Union. I think we have that consensus on the way forward.
Q The man I understand to be your counterpart in Iraq now says that they would not consider an amnesty for Iraqis guilty of attacking not just Iraqi civilians, but U.S. forces, as well. This despite reports this morning. Can you explain whether there was communication between Washington and Baghdad after this morning's reports; whether you think the Iraqis might have initially floated a trial balloon? How is it there may have been some misunderstanding, or were they persuaded to walk back on this?
MR. HADLEY: I don't think there was a lot of misunderstanding. I know there were some press reports that were out there. But, look, the new government has said very clearly, and I think Tony Snow really laid this out pretty well this morning, they said very clearly that one of their areas of emphasis is going to be reconciliation. Now, that's going to be a complicated process. It's going to have a lot of elements. They've talked -- they, the Iraqi government, have talked about prisoner releases as one aspect, or detainee -- detainee releases as one aspect of that.
And as you know, there has been one already that is underway. They have talked of steps to try and get people into the -- to lay down their arms and come into the political process. They've talked about dealing with the issue of militia. They've talked about a kind of truth and reconciliation commission on the approach of South Africa, and they've talked about amnesty. But that's kind of the level of discussion. It is going to take them some time to work through the details and mechanics of all these things.
And amnesties, as you well know, are tricky business as part of a reconciliation. They're tricky as to when do you offer them, who do you offer them to, and what are the conditions? And one of the issues you always have to address is this issue, well, what about people guilty of crimes against humanity, guilty of crimes, people with blood on their hands? This is an issue the Iraqi government is going to have to talk through, and it's going to take some time to do it. Obviously, a question was raised by the press reports, and some concerns on the Hill, and Dr. Rubaie expressed, obviously, his view as to where Iraq is headed.
But I think this is a complicated business, this reconciliation. I think we need to give them some time and space to think it through. And this is something that we would expect to be giving them our best advice and counsel, as well.
Q So your understanding is that the matter is not settled yet.
MR. HADLEY: We're in the early -- well, I think Rubaie has made a very clear statement today about where they are on that issue. My point is, there's a lot to be discussed as part of this reconciliation process; let's give them a little time to do that.
Q To go back to the documents for a second. Have there been operations conducted as a result of things you've learned outside of Iraq? In other words, has there been useful intelligence gathered through this that concerns people outside of Iraq?
MR. HADLEY: There may have been. It's, obviously, a better question for the Department of Defense and others. What I'm aware of is -- the operations I was referring to were operations inside Iraq, not operations outside Iraq.
Q This is a domestic question. As well as time, date and duration of phone calls made, cellular phone providers also keep permanent logs of the location of wireless phones when they're switched on. What assurance can you give us that these logs have not been turned over, either directly or indirectly, to the government?
MR. HADLEY: Can you give me a little context here? Are we talking about Iraq?
Q We're talking the telephone companies -- I said it was domestic, domestic issue --
MR. HADLEY: Okay.
Q -- here in the U.S., with the phone companies handing over our phone records to the government. And I'm talking about the aspect of the phone company's records, the logs of the precise location of the wireless phones. Those logs that get subpoenaed from time to time in criminal cases.
MR. HADLEY: And what's the question for me?
Q The question is, can you assure us that these logs have not been turned over to the government?
MR. HADLEY: I can tell you my understanding, but it's a very focused, particular question, and we need to get a more particular answer. My understanding is that the kind of records involved are time and duration of phone calls. The question on location, I'll have to try and find an answer for you. I can't answer it as I stand here.
Q One issue that you didn't mention from the agenda next week is renditions and Guantanamo Bay and Haditha. It seems that there's a growing disaffection among European populations with some of the allegations against U.S. forces and intelligence services. I'm curious whether you think that's going to be an issue that will be raised at the summit next week, either officially or unofficially, and what kind of assurances are you guys making to European governments on these matters that might tamp down that public concern?
MR. HADLEY: Well, these -- a number of these issues have been around for some time, so I don't know whether it's growing concern. This has been an issue -- some of these issues -- Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the like have been issues, as you know, for some time. The President has spoken to those issues, sometimes very recently. And this is -- there's -- when questions have been raised, as they have in the press by some of the European leaders, they've been answered.
What the President has made very clear on is, in terms of Haditha, for example, there is at least two investigations underway to get to the bottom of it. And as the administration has done, as the Department of Defense has done in other cases, that will be investigated. If rules and laws were broken, people will be held accountable. That's how we respond to those issues. That's been explained to the Europeans in various forms at various times. They can raise it. There's not a whole lot new to be said on that issue.
Guantanamo, the President has talked about his aspirations in the end of the day to get to the point where we don't need the Guantanamo facility, but a lot of things have to happen and come into place before that can occur. One is, there are a number of people in Guantanamo who we would be very prepared to turn back to country of origin if we can get arrangements with those countries to accept them. That's a process that's ongoing. That could dramatically reduce the population in Guantanamo.
Second, there are people there that for which is believed appropriate to have military commission proceedings. As you know, we cannot move forward on military commissions pending a United States Supreme Court ruling. Once that ruling has occurred, then we will be able to identify portions of that population that can move in the direction of military commissions.
So you can see a way forward that would bring down that population and allow the President to do what he said over the long-term he'd like to do, which is to close that facility, and that's something the Europeans would like to do. But it's going to take some cooperation from a number of different countries. It's going to take some cooperation to get these military commissions going. There are steps that we're going to have to take before we get to that point.
Q Yes, Mr. Hadley. I have a follow-up question. I also wanted to ask you about the opinion polls which have been very negative in Europe and in the world, talking about the United States. In my country, Spain, the situation is very bad. The opinion is one of the worst. Is that the reason why there seems to be like a veto against our Prime Minister, Mr. Zapatero, who is an ally and has been Prime Minister for two years but hasn't come to Washington yet?
MR. HADLEY: He has not come to Washington, that's true. Whether that is a result of bad public opinion polls in Spain about the United States, I don't know. I don't have an answer for that. But there's -- at this point, I don't think there's any plans for a visit.
Q The President spoke yesterday about asking other countries to make good on their pledges for Iraq reconstruction. What specifically are you doing to that? And how much money could you realistically expect to get, and how soon?
MR. HADLEY: Well, our hope is we get all of it. And as the President said, there was about $13.5 billion pledged for Iraq. Only $3 billion or $4 billion of that has been actually paid in. So there's about $10 billion left. There's also -- and people have not focused on a similar situation in terms of Afghanistan, where there have been pledges made and not all of those pledges have been turned into actual dollars delivered to the appropriate funds and governments involved.
So both of those issues are on the agenda. The President has spoken very much publicly about it. He's prepared to make any necessary phone calls to leaders to follow it up personally. In addition, he is dispatching Deputy Secretary of Treasury Bob Kimmitt, who will be supported by Phil Zelikow of the State Department. And they will begin a series of visits to capitals both in Europe and also in the region to raise this issue with countries.
Q Does the President intend to raise this in Vienna?
MR. HADLEY: He has raised with these leaders in the past, and I am quite confident he will be raising it again. What we want to do is get these monies paid in. Iraq and Afghanistan both have governments that want to move forward on reform and reconstruction, and they have a need for these funds.
We need to get these amounts paid in, and then we need to look here in three or four months' time, as part of the international compact, probably in October or November, what additional amounts need to be pledged. But pledging is great, and makes some headlines in the newspapers, but what we need is those pledges to be turned into real dollars that these countries can use to move forward. And that's where we're going to put our promise.
Q What assurance can you offer these countries, which are concerned that their money will be spent on security and not rebuilding, that it, in fact, will go toward rebuilding?
MR. HADLEY: I'm not sure there are -- the way you characterize it is accurate. But the pledges, many times, have been geared to specific programs, projects. Sometimes it is geared to particular funds that are reconstruction funds. That's really, so far as I know, it's not a concern.
You have also what has been called international compacts, that is to say, arrangements where Afghanistan has -- and we hope, Iraq, as well -- will come forward and say, look, this is the money; this is what we want to use; these are our projects; this is our agenda; we need money to do these things. And countries will have an opportunity to pick up and sign up for meeting some of these requirements. So I think that's a problem that is easily worked around.
Obviously though, everybody recognizes that security is going to be a prerequisite to development and to reconstruction. And so I think everyone recognizes that if this process is going to succeed, there are security requirements that need to be met. And obviously, as you know, there are over 30 countries in Iraq with us, to address those security considerations and concerns. NATO and a lot of other countries are in Afghanistan, so I think there's also a lot of support among these countries that we need to get a handle, help the Iraqi government get a handle on the situation.
Q And of the unpaid money, how much of it, if any, is coming from members of the EU, and which ones?
MR. HADLEY: There's some -- I don't have a breakout I can give you. I think we can try and get that information, but a lot of it is also in countries in the region, not just EU. I don't want to give you the suggestion that this is somehow just an EU problem. It's also heavily countries in the region.
Thank you, very much.
END 3:57 P.M. EDT