US Department of State Daily Briefing #35: Tuesday, 3/5/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:14 PM, Washington, DC Date: Mar 5, 19913/5/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Eurasia, South America, Subsaharan Africa Country: Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran Subject: Military Affairs, Human Rights, Development/Relief Aid, Regional/Civil Unrest, Security Assistance and Sales (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Iraq: Civil Unrest]

. MS. TUTWILER: To do a little bit further on what the Secretary had just said to you all concerning the unrest in southern Iraq: As he stated, yes, we do continue to receive numerous reports of civil unrest. He had mentioned, he thought, there may be four or five cities. We believe there may be as many as nine cities mentioned in various different reports. As he stated, our information is still very limited, but we believe that there is indeed unrest in a number of these locations. The Iraqi government has been employing Republican Guards, regular army, people's militia, who are also known as the Popular Army, and police units in efforts to suppress this activity. It may have restored government control in a few of the affected areas. We cannot confirm that there has been any unrest in Baghdad. However, in an unusual development, Radio Baghdad and the Iraqi News Agency, INA, seem to have gone off the air for approximately one hour earlier this morning, but we do not know why. Q Margaret, these reports still make it hard to figure out where the Administration comes down. I mean, you guys have been calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein for weeks now, but the reports are that the people who may be overthrowing Saddam Hussein are possibly Iranian-sponsored fundamentalists. Can you tell me now, or maybe later if you can't now, does the Administration come down on the side of unrest? Are you happy with what's going on, because it may mean the end of Saddam Hussein, or would you like to see order restored and proper elections held as the Ambassador in Kuwait seemed to suggest in that country? Where are you on this? MS. TUTWILER: We're where we've always been. Number one, you said that the Administration has been calling for weeks for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I would characterize it a little differently. I recall the President saying, when asked this question, that he would not shed any tears. Also, the President has said that, as in all countries, this is a decision for the Iraqi people themselves to make. The Secretary of State said to you yesterday that, obviously, it makes it a lot easier on that country if they have a different leadership, but that is up to the people of that country. As far as any Iranian involvement, the Secretary just addressed himself to that We have read these reports, but we have nothing -- or are not in a position to confirm that for you all at this time. Q Well, in your messages to Iran, are you doing anything about this? You've opened almost a regular dialogue. MS. TUTWILER: We don't know if there's anything to do right now, Barry. All we've seen are reports. I mean, what are we supposed to call them about? Q No, I mean -- no. The war has caused the Administration to bring Syria and Iran into its regular cycle now of diplomatic contacts. It's gone past the war now. You immediately send a message to the Swiss for the Iranians to tell them about this, tell them about that. In these exchanges, have you asked the Iranians if they're involved in this unrest, or have you asked them to stop it if they are? MS. TUTWILER: Those messages, as you know, were passed at the beginning of the air campaign and the beginning of the ground war. These reports of Iranian participation or Iranian instigation or Iranian involvement in some of the unrest in some of these locations -- we are not in a position to confirm or deny or verify or tell you that we know this at all. So, no, I do not believe a message has been sent through our third party, the Swiss. That is a question that would be addressed in the future should evidence come in. I'm assuming, Barry, that there is something like that going on, but right now we don't have that evidence. Q Margaret, any further messages with the Iranians since -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me? Q Have there been any further messages to or from the Iranians since the one that was sent at the end of -- with the President's declaration of the end of the war? MS. TUTWILER: I believe that is the last one, Ralph. That is the last meeting that I know of -- when Under Secretary Kimmitt met with the Swiss Ambassador. Q Margaret, how would the United States feel about Iranian involvement with an insurrection in southern Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: We have said that the United States respects and believes in the territorial integrity of Iraq, and we do not believe that other states should involve themselves in the internal matters of Iraq, and that other states should refrain from interfering in Iraq's internal affairs. Q Margaret, do you have anything on the journalists? MS. TUTWILER: No. We're aware of the reports. I don't have anything specific. I've seen various wire copy stories this morning listing various individuals, but I have not officially heard from any news organization; here at the State Department, we have not. I do not know if your organizations are telling the White House or the Pentagon or CENTCOM, but we have not been notified officially this morning by any American news organizations. Q Is the United States doing anything to encourage pro-democracy movements in Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: The United States, as you know, obviously, supports the democratic model throughout the world and in all countries, and the United States also believes it's up to the people of each nation to choose their own leadership and their own type of government. Q Margaret, the President actually said recently that it would be -- he'd like it if the Iraqi people took it into their own hands, I think was his phrase. Does the U.S. believe that what's going on in Iraq now is the Iraqi people taking it into their own hands? MS. TUTWILER: Let me go back to what I said. We crafted it, obviously, very carefully. I said that there are indications of unrest in maybe as many as nine locations. I also said that the Iraqi government has been employing the Republican Guards, the regular army, people's militia and police units in efforts to suppress this activity and may have restored government control in a few of the affected areas that we are talking about. So I think that it is premature, Ralph, to say that the people have taken things into their own hands. Q Margaret, does the U.S. believe that in some of those areas the government had lost control? MS. TUTWILER: We don't have that type of analytical work yet to be able to give you a very good, thorough analysis of it. Q Margaret, yesterday a Pentagon briefer seemed to be indicating that there were Republican Guards fighting regular army units. He determined this by the kinds of tanks that they were using. Your statement seems to indicate that all the Iraqi forces were on one side against some sort of uprising. Is that what you mean to tell us? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not familiar with -- I'm sorry, I missed the Pentagon briefing yesterday -- exactly what they said. I'm telling you -- there's been, what, 12 hours since that briefing -- what our latest assessment is of the situation. I do not have for you who's fighting whom and if tanks are fighting tanks. Q Well, let me just follow up. Do you know of any army or Republican Guards or any other regular units who are fighting the Iraqi government? MS. TUTWILER: Of my own knowledge, no, I couldn't get into that level of detail for you. Q Is Radio Baghdad back on the air? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding, yes, is that they only were off the air for one hour, and we have no explanation of why. Q When was that, do you know? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have the time. Q Can I turn to Kuwait for just a second, Margaret? MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q The situation in Kuwait does appear to be fairly chaotic at the moment. We asked you a few questions about this yesterday. Is the apparent chaos in Kuwait anything for which the United States or a coalition should feel responsible? Does it in any way interfere with Secretary Baker's effort to move quickly to restore stability in the region? Does it send any kind of messages to other Arab nations about how the situation might evolve in the Gulf? MS. TUTWILER: One, I'm not sure that I subscribe to your characterization of the situation in Kuwait City as chaotic. I personally happen to have spoken to our Ambassador, Skip Gnehm, yesterday in Kuwait City. I had a very lengthy conversation with him and that is not how he described the situation, quite frankly. He described more the lack of power, the lack of water, that the jubilation that is still going on in the streets there that I'm sure everyone has seen on their own TV screens. He did not describe this as a chaotic situation to me, to be fair. Also, as you know, the Crown Prince arrived back there yesterday. It is my understanding that the majority of the ministers of the Kuwaiti government have returned. The Crown Prince is there, as you know, acting in his normal capacity as Prime Minister of Kuwait, and the Amir has asked him to take on the new task of being the Military Governor General. All of the key ministers who are involved with security and reconstruction are back in place. And, as I said yesterday and as the Secretary said today, this is going to take some time. Yes, there is devastation. There is a lack of normal communication and lack of facilities, but I am not sure that I would subscribe to the characterization that it's just total chaos there. Q There are some reports likewise, however, though, of groups engaging in revenge killings and seeking out people who might opposed the Amir's government or the form of government that he previously had in Kuwait. What do you make of those reports, and what do you make of the reports about suppression of those attempts to suggest another form of government there? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think that I have anything further or further information to impart today than we had yesterday. And, as we stated yesterday, we have raised the issues of suppression of others with the Kuwaiti government in exile. The Crown Prince, Ralph, upon arrival in his country yesterday publicly addressed himself to this. I'll refer you to his remarks. I also should note today that, as you all know, Kuwait is under a three-month period of martial law while the government re-establishes its civil authority. Security, which you all asked me about yesterday, is presently the responsibility of the Kuwaiti army, with the cooperation of the Kuwaiti police as well as the resistance. This arrangement is a temporary measure until the Kuwaiti police can be fully reconstituted. Q Is it still the U.S. view that the Amir has not come back because his house may still be booby-trapped, or might there be political reasons why he's not returning? MS. TUTWILER: If they're political, I haven't heard those mentioned yet. The last reasons that I've heard are the ones I stated yesterday concerning safety and security. Q Margaret, I think yesterday you spoke of reports of reprisals against Palestinian Arabs in Kuwait. A Yes, a few incidents. Q O.K., a few incidents. Now it sounds like they're more than reports. Are those the people who are being suppressed -- are they among the people? A I thought that's what Ralph was asking me. Q No -- all right, I know, and I'm trying to pick up where Ralph left off because yesterday you spoke in terms of reports. To me, when you say reports, it may mean you read it in a newspaper. Now that you've spoken to the Ambassador, can you verify that the monarchy -- you know, the ousted people who you've helped back into power -- are beating up on Palestinians for allegedly being sympathetic or maybe even really being sympathetic to the Iraqis? MS. TUTWILER: This is certainly not something that was raised in my conversation with the Ambassador there on the ground, and our views are the same as the ones we expressed yesterday. And, again, I would also point out that it is my understanding -- I don't have the text with me -- that the Crown Prince himself, upon arrival back in his country, spoke to this very issue. Q Not to beat it to death, but yesterday you spoke of reports of reprisals. Does the State Department -- MS. TUTWILER: That's still what I have today. Q Does the State Department know only -- MS. TUTWILER: No. Q -- only of reports or does it know of actual reprisals? MS. TUTWILER: I do not know myself of an actual reprisal, actual suppression, actual incident. Q Nor was it raised with the Ambassador to do something -- to counsel them not to do this, if this is true. MS. TUTWILER: In my particular conversation yesterday, it did not have anything to do with this subject. I am (inaudible) Assistant Secretary for this bureau; I was discussing other matters. Q (Inaudible) the whole building, not just you. MS. TUTWILER: Well, I'm not the only person that he talks to. Q I'm just wondering -- he made a nice pro-democracy speech yesterday -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q -- we see in the papers. And I just wondered if the State Department has asked its man on the scene to see that Palestinians aren't beaten up in Kuwait. MS. TUTWILER: Of course. I said that yesterday. I said we had discussions. He's been our Ambassador, Barry, as you know, living both in Riyadh and Taif, for many, many weeks and months, as I remember -- and so I had said yesterday that these conversations had gone on with the government in exile. So that's prior to their getting here. Now, what I cannot answer -- I think he's only been back -- what? -- two and a half days -- if there has been a reason for Skip to raise this since he's been on the ground. Q Can I just ask a question of representation to the Kuwaiti government? The U.S. Ambassador is now in Kuwait City. Presumably, his contacts are with the Crown Prince -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q -- and the other ministers who are present in Kuwait City. Does that mean that the United States now essentially is conducting its business with the Government of Kuwait through those officials of the Government of Kuwait who are present in Kuwait City, and could we then draw the conclusion that Secretary Baker would likewise conduct his business with those who are present in Kuwait City? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have an answer for you concerning Secretary Baker, if you're asking me about a scheduling question concerning his trip. But, yes, you can assume that our Ambassador there on the ground is certainly dealing -- in fact, I think he had a very public meeting yesterday -- with the Crown Prince. And he has continued throughout this week, when different ministers get back and their staffs get up and running, to meet with them there in Kuwait City. Q And to follow that then, who, if anyone, from the U.S. Government is maintaining relations with the Amir of Kuwait who is not in Kuwait? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have an answer to that, Ralph, but I assume, just like in our government, if Secretary of State Baker is traveling and the President is here or the President is traveling, there are ways that bureaucracies and staffs and individuals can communicate. So if we have a message for the Amir, I'm sure that our Ambassador there either calls the staff that is with the Amir in Taif or passes it -- whatever the message is -- through one of the ministries that he is dealing with. That's not that unusual. Q Do you have anything on the Iraqi annulment of the annexation of Kuwait, which occurred a few minutes before you came out here? MS. TUTWILER: I saw the one wire copy -- correct -- a few minutes before I came out here, and we don't have any comment yet -- Q Margaret -- MS. TUTWILER: -- other than, George, I would say -- speaking speculatively -- if it is the same group that passed the one in August annexing Kuwait -- if it's the same group, if it's doing or has done what the United Nations called for, then obviously we would welcome it. Q Margaret, I wasn't here yesterday, so -- MS. TUTWILER: It's O.K. Q -- if this covers that, skip it. Can you tell us how active the Soviets have been in securing the release of American POWs, and also outline for us the contacts between the U.S. and the Soviets -- if there are any -- in an effort to find out who is in charge in Baghdad and just the status of the government there? MS. TUTWILER: As we've said all week long, we assume that Saddam Hussein is in charge in Baghdad. There have not been any Soviet contacts at the Secretary of State level. And the first part of your question was concerning POWs? I'm not aware of anything specific that we have done, Mark. I think that any number of nations throughout this entire thing, if you go back to -- remember human shields and hostages? -- have all been using any avenue of influence that they have to get Saddam Hussein to release people. But I'm not aware of some specific message that we've recently sent concerning POWs. You know yourself the Soviets have been out on the record saying so, that they raise this issue of POWs in every one of the meetings they had with Tariq Aziz in Moscow. Q Margaret, can you give us an update on the subject of incubators? The reason I ask is that you remember reports from very early on that many incubators have been taken by the Iraqis -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q -- then later you called on them to return incubators -- MS. TUTWILER: And airplanes and other things. Q -- and airplanes and other things. And then some people have said, when they've gotten back into Kuwait, that there are incubators in the hospitals; but now, sadly, there has been the discovery of a large mass grave of very young infants. So I wonder: What do you think happened with the incubators; and do you think, indeed, those early reports were true that many of them were just -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. I haven't heard about a mass grave. I know it's not only -- we have called for, the United Nations has called for -- it has said so in their most recent resolution, 686 -- that they must return the property that they took from Kuwait to Iraq. I guess that includes airplanes, incubators, et cetera. I haven't heard that any of that, (l) that the Iraqis have accepted and said they're going to do that; or that any equipment or material in their possession is moving back. I just don't know. Q But the U.S. Government then did not ever really verify these reports that many, many incubators were taken away? MS. TUTWILER: As I remember it, I believe it was the people who were in Kuwait City at the time who were saying this. I'm not sure that at the time we had ways and means to verify it, and I have to assume we had no reason to doubt it. But I will be happy to see if there's anything else we know further about it. Q Margaret, on the trip, can you say whether the Secretary, when in the Soviet Union, will meet with Baltic leaders? Are there any plans? MS. TUTWILER: No. We're still working on any number of details. In fact, to be honest, when we're leaving, that's back up in the air -- what order we're going in, who we're going to see -- so I just have to ask you to bear with us a little bit longer. We're still working on the details. Q And this won't be settled after the briefing, I take it. This is not like yesterday. I mean you don't have a tentative reschedule --? MS. TUTWILER: No. I don't have any firm answers to give when we finish. Q They were tentative yesterday, but do you have any today? MS. TUTWILER: They were tentative yesterday. They're even more tentative today. Q I'm ON BACKGROUND, by the way! MS. TUTWILER: That's O.K., Barry. (Laughter.)

[US Supplementary Aid for Israel]

Q Has the Department made a decision on a supplemental aid request for Israel? MS. TUTWILER: No. Those discussions, in fact, are continuing today. Those discussions have been going on since we received the request. The discussions continue, but none of the details am I at liberty to divulge. We have been going back and forth on this. As many of you may or may not know, the Secretary of State had a meeting here Saturday with the Israeli Ambassador. Deputy Secretary of State Eagleburger has had a number of phone calls with the Israeli Ambassador since the Saturday meeting, which he too attended, as did OMB Director Dick Darman. Q Does that mean you deny today's story in The Post? MS. TUTWILER: The parts of the story -- I can't remember which parts you're asking me; I can't deny or confirm an entire piece. But the parts of the story, as I remember reading it very early this morning concerning a Saturday meeting, I've just confirmed for you. I've confirmed the participants in that meeting. What I'm not going to do is confirm any of the substance of those conversations. Q Margaret, do you have anything on the elections in Bangladesh? MS. TUTWILER: No. Unfortunately, I don't. Sorry. Q Can you take the question? MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thanks. (The briefing concluded at l2:35 p.m.)