Zoellick at a Press Roundtable in Baghdad, Iraq
Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
May 19, 2005
MR. ERELI: Welcome, everybody. I'm honored and pleased and happy to have Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick visiting Baghdad. We wanted a chance to meet with you to give you just an overview on his trip and our dealings with Iraq and our approach to the relationship. This is on the record, obviously off-camera, not for broadcast.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Okay. Well, thanks for coming. I was going to start out and give you a little sense of the purpose of my trip and some of the things I talked about. And I might go a little longer than some people normally do, but I normally feel it's better for you and for me to give you a better sense of what I was trying to do here.
First, with each of the leaders that I met, and I've had a chance to meet -- let's see, Speaker Hassani first, Prime Minister Jafari and then I had a chance to meet Minister of Finance Allawi, Minister of Oil Al-Ulum, Minister of Electricity Shash, and then Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi, and I'm going to meet Deputy Prime Minister Shaways. The meeting with the Minister of Finance, Oil, and Electricity was shorter than I would have wished. They were headed off to Turkey, but we did get some chance to discuss some of the topics.
And with each, I emphasized something that I feel quite strongly, which is that these are people of some special courage and conviction. And they are people who are putting their lives at risk to build a new country. And we, as the government and I personally, are very committed to try to help them. As some of you may know, I was here in mid-April, but the reason I wanted to come back was, on that visit, I had a chance to meet the Speaker, the President, the then-Prime Minister designate and Prime Minister Allawi. But I wanted to meet some of the ministers in the new government, because we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us. Their success is very important. I expect to be working closely with them and I expect to have discussions on the phone and here, and when I get back in Washington, I'm going to meet Minister of Planning Barham Salih. I've had a chance to meet a number of them before, in one capacity or another, but a number are new. And I also wanted to listen to them so I could get a better sense, coming out here, what their sense is of what's happening.
For me, the organizing concept is one that I had when I came the last time, but I had confirmed last week in of all places, Malaysia, because I saw Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on a trip through Southeast Asia and we were talking about the issue of Malayan emergency, which as some of you know ran quite a number of years. And he played an important role in that, and I was asking him some questions about his experience with that. And the core concept that I think will drive the remaking of a new Iraq and defeating the insurgency is combining the elements of political, economic and reconstruction, as well as the military. And all three elements have to be integrated and aligned and so, with some people, I focused more on one than another.
On the political side, I was trying to learn more about the constitutional process, and clearly, as Secretary Rice did a few days ago, to urge the focus on having a credible participation of all groups, an inclusive process. I tried to get some sense of some ideas on how that might be done. And to make sure that -- to look towards that constitutional process, towards the August 15th deadline, then the referendum, but then also -- and this, I talked about particularly with Speaker Hassani, the electoral preparations. Because the last time that I was here, he said that as Speaker of Assembly, there were two real issues he wanted to focus on: the constitution and the electoral preparations.
I also tried to talk somewhat about the importance of provincial and local authority, which is more than a decentralization issue. I think it's also an issue of people feeling locally empowered, and I also apply this to the private sector as well. And I tried to learn some more about the -- sort of the recent upsurge in sectarian violence and their assessment for it and relayed some of the impressions that I picked up from kind of the global community in which -- kind of, I operated on, how people are reacting to it and a key -- and emphasized the importance of political leadership and religious leadership to make a statement about this.
Now, there's obviously also work that's going to have to be done on the ground, but when you have Zarqawi, a non-Iraqi, who is basically saying, "All Muslims, women, children, whatever, are fair game as part of this," then you have a real sense about the nature of your enemy and what length they will go to. And it's important that the leaders of the country stand up together and communicate that, and I'm -- tomorrow, I will be in Jordan at the World Economic Forum, where I'm talking about, sort of, our broader Middle East policy, but this is a point I will also make because I think it's more than a case for the Iraqis to handle.
On the economic side, as some of you may know, June is going to be a busy month in terms of the international engagement process. There is an IMF review in the middle of the month. There is the conference that the EU is hosting in Brussels with the United States and others, which is partly political, but we're also focused on some of the reconstruction. That's June 21st, 22nd. And then we have a joint economic commission that will be meeting with Iraqi counterparts later in the month.
We talked about some of their ideas for the new government -- developing a plan that can interact with others in the international community and issues or items that they may want to highlight, the need to have coordination of -- on the development aid side, to hear the Prime Minister mention his intention to have this begun by a committee that the Minister of Planning Barham Salih will chair, but also actively involved with the Finance Ministry to help them. And as I said, I'll meet Barham Salih when I get back to Washington.
I also talked about what might be some of the headline priorities that we've been working on and to try to compare notes with them. First and foremost is, sort of, electricity and energy issues and here -- I won't get too technical unless you want me to, but there's some -- there's short-term questions for the summer and there's some medium-term and longer-term issues.
I talked about the agricultural sector, which I think could be very important, in part, in creating jobs in rural areas. And then in general, developing the private sector that's at the local level, And here going beyond just government employment, but some programs we have at the micro-loan level and others since there's generally not seems to be credit availability for trying to start a small business here.
We talked about other issues, too. So for example, as part of the IMF program, you're probably aware there's EPCA, the economic plan that has been, in a sense, the preliminary for the IMF standby relationship. And this is linked to the second stage of debt forgiveness.
And then I also talked somewhat about the judicial or legal system. And this is important in terms of dealing with the detainee issue and being able to strike the right balance between the rule of law and security. This obviously includes topics like safety of judges. I was very pleased that I -- even if it was brief -- that I had a chance to meet with the Finance and the Oil and Energy Ministers together because I think there's a need to make sure that some of the economic ministers coordinate with the technical ministers. And a good example of this will be to deal with some of the electricity needs over the summer. There will have to be some additional imports of diesel fuel, which we know may not be an efficient way to do this, but you've got so many small generators, and there will be the need. And so, that has to be something where the Ministry of Finance works with people on the funds.
And then with the Prime Minister, I also talked a little about the third leg -- the security issues. But there are others here in the military that are in a better position to talk about that than I am, But what I emphasized was our ongoing support for the training effort. The fact that we need to have a joint planning effort with the need for our commitment to the follow-through in the transition going forward.
And with some of the ministers also we talked a little bit about the corruption issue and the importance of dealing with that. So what I also told them was that at a personal level that I -- it's my second visit here in about four or five weeks shows that I intend to stay personally involved. We've got a great team here, and that's one of the other reasons I want to come. Unfortunately this morning, I had a problem with a plane. I wanted to go to Basra as well as Baghdad. Last time I was here, we went to Fallujah as well as Baghdad. So I didn't make it to Basra, but I do want to thank the people here, whether they're in uniform or civilian. They're putting an awful lot out, and I want to let them know that this is a top priority for the President and the administration.
So that's kind of what I covered. And I got sort of one more meeting left with the Deputy Prime Minister and then tomorrow, I'm at the World Economic Forum, where I will also meet the Foreign Minister and may see some of the people that I met here as well.
So. Open. Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Your name and company.
QUESTION: Sure. Kevin Flower from CNN. You mentioned the sectarian strife. I wonder if you -- if the administration believes that the current government is doing enough to be inclusive and to send the right signals to those who make the (inaudible) fact that there are going to be Sunni Arabs or whoever it is. There's been a lot, as you mentioned, sectarian violence, a lot of killings recently that are being -- how can you describe this as sectarian in nature? Once you talk about in that regard and how is this government --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first -- yeah -- I want to -- the question has an implicit hypothesis that I just want to differ with but then I'll return to it -- in that I don't believe that the killing is because of what the government hasn't done. I believe the killing is because of what the government has done, in that the insurgents strived to stop the election and they failed. The insurgents strived to stop the formation of a government and they strived to stop the inclusion of Sunnis in the government and they failed.
And now there's a constitutional process. And so it is -- it's my view and this is not -- it's my view, okay -- is that they're seeing the progress of building a democracy in Iraq and they're pulling out the violent stops by trying to divide the communities. And I think the government is keenly aware of this. I think the statements of the Prime Minister and others reflect this, that, you know, that they want people to be seen as all Iraqis and they're trying to reach out in lots of different ways.
Everybody that I met with, you know, some were Shia, Sunni; I'll meet the Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister I haven't met the Kurds yet, but I have no reason to believe the contrary--share this view. Now the question is how. I think the government is doing some things in terms of -- in how it related to the constitution. The Prime Minister discussed with me some things that -- I don't know if they've announced yet, but they will relate to their own government effort to support the constitutional process in a way that adds to the inclusivity.
And there's other ways in which people are discussing adding input to the constitutional committee process. So I think people are well aware of it and I think, you know, you who go about here know this better than I do, there's going to be -- every time that people are starting to make progress, you know, those that want to destroy this and fail are going to show their bloodthirsty side. And you know, what some of them said to me -- and I think this is a good point to remember -- is Zarqawi is not an Iraqi. He's not fighting for Iraqis.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: It's up to them, they have to decide how much time you get.
QUESTION: Be that as it may, does it -- there is a perception problem, or at least one that I would pick up on the ground when a certain, you know, Sunni clerical leaders like Harith al-Dari, who are only criticizing the government for -- to the interior ministries saying that you're bringing in the, you know, these militias with the Badr brigade. You're, you know, you're going down the path that we fear, you know, (inaudible). So reality aside is that how do you, you know -- the perception's out there --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yeah. That's a good question is that one of the things that I discuss with people is, you know, in any environment, but particularly one that's under the stresses here, you get the rumor mill, you know, the rumor on the street, okay. And then you get the conspiracy theories, which you get in America or Iraq. And therefore, it struck me that it's important for the leadership to emphasize the principles that they are governing under and in which they say to me in which they need to communicate and I think they are communicating, I think that's true.
And a point of particular emphasis is, this is a newly elected government. It has legitimacy as an elected government. And I think there's a role for the leaders of elected government to stand up. Then there's the other -- other parts of communities here that have legitimacy, including different religious communities and there's an opportunity for them to speak up.
And frankly, as Tom Friedman wrote in The New York Times today, there's a need for other people in Islamic communities to speak up about these topics. Because you read Zarqawi's statements and they're just bloodthirsty and people ought to point those out. So that's one level in which you have to deal with it, because you're never going to totally be able to dispel rumors or conspiracy. And the other level is to combat it on the ground, you know, which our forces and the Iraqi forces are also doing and there are some other ideas that I heard about ways to sort of try to counter that as well.
So it's, you know, when you deal with -- it goes to the heart of where I started. This insurgency can't win militarily. Its goal is to disrupt and to try to take apart. And therefore the response has to be one that is a combination of political, economic and reconstruction and military in combination. And I certainly got a good sense that there's a widespread agreement on that is to go forward.
QUESTION: Sir, I'm Rich Oppel with The New York Time. We heard yesterday --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You can tell Tom I mentioned his column. I almost hesitated --
QUESTION: We heard yesterday from the American military that they have intelligence from a number of different sources, that there was a meeting a month ago in Syria where perhaps Zarqawi, but certainly his lieutenants and followers organized this latest and planned out this latest car bomb wave that has occurred here in Baghdad in the last month. Can you tell us what more the government knows about that and what sort of -- how the government -- how the State Department is dealing with Syria and what, you know, what we may see in the future on it?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, as to the report, since at least most of the sources were sort of unnamed sources, you know, I'm not in a position to comment on the intelligence reports, but you know, they have what they have out there today. I think the -- it would -- it certainly fits the general description, and I'm not confirming or denying it, of what you see here. And I'm telling you honestly, I don't know about the particular intelligence report you gathered or referencing. But you know, whether it's that focus or in others, one sees the effort of the insurgency to try to do the things that I just described in the answer to the other question.
As for Syria, you know, Secretary Rice made it quite clear that, you know, we and others are watching how Syria behaves itself. I discussed this with Prime Minister Jafari, and he was quite strong in his statements about the need for Iran's neighbors and particularly -- or Iraq's neighbors and particularly Syria, you know, not to undermine stability here.
There are other issues with Syria -- about $2 billion of assets that the Syrians still hold. So -- and there's sharing of information about some of these groups. And so I got a sense that the government here is very much focused on those topics, and we certainly endorse and affirm that.
And we've made quite clear to the Syrians that, you know, there are a number of actions that Syria needs to take. It needs to complete its withdrawal of its intelligence sources out of Lebanon. But, you know, good news is an election is going forward there. It needs not to support groups that undermine either the Palestinians or the Israelis in a peace process and it needs to be supportive of the efforts to deal with insurgency threats in Iraq and hope Syria takes the message.
QUESTION: Speaking of Iraq's new neighbors, Iran's Foreign Minister is here this week on and he's still going to be finishing a three-day visit. He had very close meetings and very high-level meetings, including with Grand Ayatollah Sistani. What is your sense about the -- how would you characterize Iran's current role in Iraq at the moment and does that worry the United States or not how close Iran is to the current leadership?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The sense that I've gotten is that while a number of members of the government, you know, or the parliament have had, you know, ties with Iran over the years, that they are Iraqis, first and foremost. And they're proud of what they're trying to achieve in terms of a democracy here. One might turn the question on its head, as democracy succeeds in Iraq, a true democracy, what effect it might have on Iran?
So there's undoubtedly influences, as one would have a lot of ties in the culture or religion and geography. And I think, you know, the Prime Minister, at least according to the accounts that I read, spoke to the Government yesterday about its relations with Iran. But I think, you know, coming back to the other question, I think the greater concern would be of the aiders of the insurgents.
QUESTION: Now, but just to follow-up on that. I mean, would you say, though, considering past accusations about Iran letting militants cross the border or otherwise, using its influence in a negative way, I mean, is there a way to characterize a little bit Iran's (inaudible)? Is it more of an element than it's been in the past or not or is (inaudible)?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I really won't go beyond what I've said. And look, what Iraq is doing is urging all its neighbors to be supportive of the development of the democracy, the reconstruction of the country and its reintegration in the international economy. The Prime Minister was kind enough to delay his departure for Turkey, so -- which is another neighbor, so that we could have a chance to talk at greater length. And I think this is some of the efforts that Dick Jones and others have taken to heart in the region. It is, in other words, as Iraq returns to self-government, a government of democracy, others around the world are determining how to engage with it.
As I mentioned when I was in Southeast Asia, I was pleased about the level of interest, you know, in Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore and the desire to be supportive. And I'm very pleased that this conference in Brussels, I think, shows the support that will come from the European Union, as well as Japan. And one of the aspects of my job is I spend a lot of time traveling to lots of different places, so I can kind of cross-reference different things. And people are very interested when I travel about hearing about the new Government of Iraq. And I start out with them the way I started out with you because I am continually impressed, you know, not only with the capabilities of the people that I meet, but with the courage and conviction of what they're trying to establish here.
QUESTION: Ashraf Khalil with the LA Times. You've mentioned that the Constitution writing process came up a couple times today. What's your sense on the timing of that? There's a August 15th deadline and they're already getting a bit of a late start. Well, I guess the question will be how important do you think it is that they hit that deadline? They have the option of extending it.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I urged them, as others have urged them, to hold to the deadline. That was your last question. But then the prior part was that -- went back to the question or one earlier question. I think right now what they have to do is expand the participation of that group so that you'd have an inclusive group of people, particularly with adding to the Sunni community. And there are ideas that people are discussing about how to do that.
So I would encourage them to reach some agreement on that soon and then the speaker -- as you know, in a sense, the parliament has a special role in this -- has already asked for some technical help from the UN. They have to talk about setting up various committees within that structure. The good news is there's a general sense of everyone - with everyone that I've talked to about using the TAL -- Transition Administrative Law -- as the cornerstone.
And I think that's a -- that's very, very important because it obviously was a hard, thought-out document. But it's reached some very sort of balanced and sensitive compromises. And so there will, undoubtedly, be debate about some of the topics that were probably debated then. But at least there's a structure that people are starting from. So if I compare it with 1787, there was less of a -- the Articles of Confederation weren't as good a structure.
MR. ERELI: We have time for just a few more -- a couple more.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. Just a sort of slightly different angle on the question about Iran. When I've asked around the region what people know about Shiite Muslims in the Sunni Muslim countries and with the regimes, how they might look at it sort of ranges from uninformed to maybe strategic phobia, that they look at this as an Iranian -- somehow playing into Iranian hands, maybe shifting the balance of power in the Middle East for a little bit, especially in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah made those comments a few months ago about the Shiite crescent. Are you picking up any of this and what do you tell them? Did you hear about any of this or do you know --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I really don't. And there's been some subsequent writing, I think, even the you know, King Abdullah sort of adjusted his comments, I think, on some of that afterwards, you might recall that Look, I don't claim to be an expert on this, but I've read enough to know -- and again, as some columnist had pointed out recently that the position of the Shia in the Islamic world is one that has led to a lot of biases and perhaps hypersensitivity, as you mention. But what I see among the people that I meet with but, you know, recognize I'm not meeting insurgents either, is that these are people that want to create an Iraq and their focus is on democracy and improving the life of their people.
And what I see with other countries that I visit, you know, whether it was Egypt, where the Prime Minister was in Washington and I attended a lunch for him right before getting on a plane, to Jordan where I've spoken to King Abdullah about this, is the desire to be supportive because they know the larger stakes. Because, look, what could the insurgency stand for? The insurgency isn't standing for the Sunnis of Iraq, for goodness sakes. I mean, Zarqawi isn't even an Iraqi. What the insurgency is standing for is trying to pull the country into a destructive conflict and nobody wants to see that.
And I guess also if -- also to give you a Southeast Asian example, which share a very small number of Muslim Sunni -- is this: that there was a great sense of association for what is happening here, sort of wanting people to succeed. But as you know, the nature of Islam in Southeast Asia is a much more syncretic sort of history.
MR. ERELI: Let's take two more.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yes.
QUESTION: Farnaz Fassihi with the Wall Street Journal. It was mentioned a few times that Zarqawi is not Iraqi and that --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm sorry --
QUESTION: that Zarqawi is not Iraqi and the insurgency somehow is led by the foreigners. Yesterday, General Abizaid kind of (inaudible) and told our reporters there that they will be -- that the role of foreign fighters is overstated and it's mostly led by Sunni-Arab Iraqis. I wanted to know what is your political understanding -- the administrations of that and what is the Iraqi Government saying about that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well I think, you know, there's been a lot written on the nature of the insurgency, you know, and I wouldn't -- again, I'm not, I'm qualifying this. When I really know something, I'll let you know. When I have a sense, I'll try to just give you a flavor. You get different levels here. You got foreign fighters and, you know, who I think, you know, have been driving particularly the suicide campaigns which is not something you would have normally seen here before. And -- but then you have other layers of association. Some were clearly tied in with Saddam Hussein's regime. And one of the ministers again told me that in one of the areas how he sort of saw it as part of Saddam Hussein's sort of original defensive strategy, related to Baghdad.
Let's say you've got groups like that. And then I think you have others that, you know, that for one reason or another sort of joined in a sense of conflict. Now, I think what is happening is the -- you pick up this from people here and some other context -- is that obviously the Sunni turnout in the election wasn't nearly what it was for the other communities. And many of them have felt they've missed the boat and they want to get engaged in the process and that's why it was important for the government to create additional balance to Sunni ministers and that's why, I think, the government is trying to deal with this issue with being in the constitutional context.
You know, under the procedures, they know that if they -- if they get -- is it the two-thirds vote in three provinces -- fail to get a two-thirds vote, that -- so they know they've got to bring people along, which is a good incentive. And so I think that, again, what I sense of -- as insurgents whether sort of unreformed Baathists, Saddam Hussein or whether they're foreign fighters --is that they realize the political process is working against them. And so their viciousness is designed to try to thwart it.
QUESTION: How is the U.S. -- (inaudible) follow-up -- do you think they've threatened the political process?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Pardon?
QUESTION: Did they really threaten the political process? Do you think that if this insurgency is just created (inaudible) it could it could seriously harm or bring down the Iraqi government or weaken it?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think it's a question -- look, the Malayan emergency lasted until the '80s from the '60s, okay. But I don't -- you know, each one you'd have to take on its own face and context. And I think in this case, what it does is that it tries to damage -- they're trying to split communities, so that's one strategy.
Another strategy is to disrupt the reconstruction so that people start to lose confidence in the future. And so in a sense if you take what I said about the political economic military and put a "reverse" sign in front of it or a "negative sign," that's the strategy. So will it be successful over time? No, I don't believe it will. But I also believe it's going to take a lot of work and effort by the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi people, and the coalition forces and that's another reason that I'm here is to let them know that, you know, we're committed to the task.
QUESTION: Peter Kenyon, NPR. If the constitutional referendum has to be delayed six months, is that a serious problem?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, as I said, we're urging them to try to move toward the August 15th deadline. Obviously, there are procedures, but you know, when you look at it in the historical context, an awful lot has happened here in a relatively short period of time, but I think it's important to try to maintain that momentum and that's what we're urging.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: There's been reports.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You got to give me your name and the place.
QUESTION: I'm Liz Sly with the Chicago Tribune. You seem quite confident that --
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'm from Chicago and you don't sound like anyone from Chicago. (Laughter.) Not anybody I knew.
QUESTION: Far East side.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yeah. Far East side. (Laughter.) Lake Michigan and further east, right.
QUESTION: Very far east. They -- yet you seem actually confident at the beginning that there were no Shiite Muslims (inaudible) and that their (inaudible?) You know, any men (inaudible.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You said I seemed confident?
QUESTION: Yes. I thought people should (inaudible) that you were (inaudible) not.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I don't know. I don't know. I mean.. So, I didn't say that. So I mean Hey, watch what I say. But I mean, and what I said is that, you know, why I thought this fit into the insurgent strategy. But you know, I don't know all the details about, you know, what might have been. You know, we are in the efforts of obviously trying to find out and the government has. I've seen no information, absolutely no information of that (inaudible) so -- of that source. But you know, I wouldn't -- as I said I'm careful to explain what I know and what I don't know. I mean that is a question that I can't totally answer.
QUESTION: And (inaudible) and (inaudible) some of the -- (inaudible) but they say they want (inaudible)? And have you had a chance to meet with any (inaudible) and would you meet with any of them and what's your attitude to talking with them (inaudible) Palestinians?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: There -- again, this starts to get to be a spectrum and, I -- I can't do a spectrum analysis for you. But I'll say that people that fit that sort of category have reached out to both U.S. and Iraqi Government and we're trying to talk to them and trying to see whether we can end the violence and support the democratic political process.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Richard Beeston from the Times. Is it possible that in a police state like Syria that you could have meetings of lieutenants from Zarqawi's organization or that you could have -- the number of foreign fighters that appears to be cropping over judging from the fighting over in (inaudible) recently throughout the Iraqi-Syrian border. And yet, the authorities there didn't know they were unable to (inaudible?)
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first off, you're building on a presumption that may not be accurate. I just -- I honestly said I don't know, okay. And then you're asking if -- you're asking a hypothetical, you know, if they were there, would they likely know? I don't know. I mean, I suppose, you know, it depends on where they held it and other aspects. But regardless, countries are responsible for what occurs on their territory. And so you know, if -- the message that I delivered and the Secretary delivered before me about the importance of Syria, you know, not doing anything that leads to threats in Iraq is the message.
MR. ERELI: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yes. We'll take one more. She's been waiting.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Fine.
QUESTION: Nancy Youssef, Knight Ridder. My question was about the TAL and in particular, has the government given you any indications about things that they would change in the TAL, if they plan to change? Specifically, whether they've proposed having multi-states within Iraq and maybe giving (inaudible) and making some sort of (inaudible) separate state? DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yes. Well, since the process will be driven by the parliament and the parliamentary committee, as opposed to the government--with the government, it was more just a discussion of some of those issues. And I think what you -- the category you identify is a category that will certainly be subject to a strong debate, which is the role of central and regional and provincial authority. And I think one can see some trends that will support more decentralization than had occurred in the past. And here I don't only mean the Kurds, but I mean coming back to some of the Sunnis, some of the Sunnis -- this point was made that some of the Sunnis recognize that there may be benefits of more de-centralized authority from their perspective. And depending on how the Shia look at the past, versus the present, whether they have that sense. So that is one of, I think, the issues that will be, you know, most challenging as far as debate. But again, the TAL starts out with some structure on it.
MR. ERELI: Well, we'll see you when we're back.
QUESTION: Thank you. 2005/547
Released on May 24, 2005