CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired March 28, 2003 - 13:17 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to interrupt Lisa Rose Weaver with the 5th Army Corps to go to the Pentagon briefing. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... now just a little over one week old.
In that brief period of time, the coalition forces have made solid progress. And, interestingly, in that short period of a week, we have seen mood swings in the media from highs to lows to highs and back again, sometimes in a single 24-hour period.
For some, the massive volume of television -- and it is massive -- and the breathless reports can seem to be somewhat disorienting.
Fortunately, my sense is that the American people have a very good center of gravity and can absorb and balance what they see and hear.
Often when General Myers and I go from the building up to the Hill to brief, by the time we get there questions are posed about columns of things flying down someplace and something having happened which is reported by a person who saw it on the ground, which has not even been reported back yet to the Pentagon. So it is a very different kind of a circumstance.
In less than a week, despite high wind gusts and sandstorms that can turn day into night, coalition forces have moved across more than 200 miles of Iraqi territory and are now just some 50 miles south of Baghdad.
They have secured Iraq's southern oil fields, we believe successfully, and have completed the de-mining of the port. The British ship, Sir Galahad, docked there this morning and began off- loading some 200-plus tons of humanitarian aid.
I'm told that in the southern oil fields they found a number of wells with wires and timers, the explosives having not yet been put in place, nor triggered off. Fortunately, the wells seem to have been protected.
The 173rd Airborne has been deploying into the north and coalition forces have launched successful attacks on terrorist targets. In the west, they have had good success dealing with the regime's ability to threaten neighboring countries from that part of Iraq.
Each day more coalition forces flow into the country. Each day more Iraqi forces surrender.
The regime knows this. Already, they have deployed death squads into Iraqi cities to terrorize civilians and to try to prevent them from welcoming coalition forces, to try to compel the regular army to fight by putting guns to their head, because they know that's the only way to force them to fight for Saddam Hussein.
I urge the Iraqi people being threatened in the cities to try to remember the faces and the names of the death squad enforcers. Their time will come, and we will need your help and your testimony.
These death squads report to the Hussein family directly. Their ranks are populated with criminals released from Iraqi prisons. They dress in civilian clothes and operate from private homes confiscated from innocent people and try to blend in with the civilian population.
They conduct sadistic executions on sidewalks and public squares, cutting the tongues out of those accused of disloyalty and beheading people with swords.
They put on American and British uniforms to try to fool regular Iraqi soldiers into surrendering to them, and then execute them as an example for others who might contemplate defection or capitulation.
Their name, Fedayeen Saddam, is a lie, because their purpose is certainly not to make martyrs of themselves, but to make martyrs of innocent Iraqis opposed to Saddam's rule. But we will take them at their words, and if their wish is to die for Saddam Hussein, they will be accommodated.
As the regime deploys death squads to slaughter its own citizens, coalition forces are working to save Iraqi lives. We do this because, unlike Saddam Hussein's regime, our nations and our people value human life. We want the Iraqi people to live in freedom so they can build a future where Iraq's leaders answer to the Iraqi people, instead of killing the Iraqi people.
There are some who suggest that the U.S. and its coalition partners are not destroying Iraqi cities and are not destroying the Iraqi people, and that this somehow could reflect a lack of will or a lack of determination on the part of the coalition.
The opposite is true. It is precisely because of our overwhelming power and our certainty of victory that we believe we can win this war and remove the regime while still striving to spare innocent lives.
Our military capabilities are so devastating and precise that we can destroy an Iraqi tank under a bridge without damaging the bridge. We do not need to kill thousands of innocent Iraqis to remove Saddam Hussein from power. At least that's our belief. We believe we can destroy his institutions of power and oppression in an orderly manner.
The tactics employed by the Iraqi regime, by contrast, hiding behind women and children, murdering civilians, these are not signs of strength. They are signs of weakness and of desperation. The outcome of this conflict is not in doubt. The regime will be removed. But for our coalition of free people, we believe it is important not just to win, but to win justly.
The power of our coalition derives not simply from the vast overwhelming force at our disposal, but from the manner in which we employ that force. The Iraqi people will see how we employ our force and know that we are coming not to occupy their country, not to oppress them, but to liberate their country.
Finally, before I turn to General Myers, a few words of caution.
First, to the officials of the Iraqi regime: Your defeat is inevitable and you will be held accountable for your conduct in this war. The coalition POWs that you are holding must be treated according to the Geneva Conventions. And any Iraqi officials involved in their mistreatment, humiliation or execution will pay a severe price.
And to Iraqi's neighbor Syria: We have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night vision goggles. These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments.
Last, the entrance into Iraq by military forces, intelligence personnel or proxies not under the direct operational control of General Franks will be taken as a potential threat to coalition forces. This includes the Badr Corps, the military wing of the Supreme Council on Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The Badr Corps is trained, equipped and directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and we will hold the Iranian government responsible for their actions and will view Badr Corps activity inside Iraq as unhelpful. Armed Badr Corps members found in Iraq will have to be treated as combatants.
MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Operation Iraqi Freedom continues. More than 270,000 coalition forces are deployed in support of combat operations, with approximately one-third of those already inside Iraq. Our ground operations are continuing to push north with Marine, armored and infantry forces poised near Baghdad.
The slide on the screen shows the now approximately 35 to 40 percent of Iraq, Iraqi territory where Saddam's regime has lost control. In just eight days of operations, coalition forces are located throughout that entire shaded area that you see there on the screen. And while there will continue to be sporadic, even serious engagements in those areas, the regime does not control them. And they're, again, annotated by the highlighted color there. The air campaign continues as well. We flew almost 1,000 sorties over Iraq yesterday, mostly against Iraqi regime, leadership and command-and-control targets, ballistic missile threats and major communication nodes.
As you'll see on the slide now, we have air supremacy over approximately 95 percent of Iraq. The area over Baghdad and just north, we are not yet calling our skies. We have been flying freely over Baghdad. We have some surface-to-air missile systems currently unlocated in that area.
That said, since the beginning of operations, our forces have fired more than 650 Tomahawk missiles and dropped more than 5,000 precision-guided munitions.
Overall, our plans are on track. We are degrading Iraqi forces, particularly the Republican Guard, by air, and that's fixed wing and rotary wing. And we will engage them with the full weight of our combat power at a time and a place of our choosing.
As we have said before from up here, we're going to be engaged in a difficult fight ahead, but the outcome is certain: We will disarm Iraq and remove the current regime from power.
And finally, today, I have three videos and one more picture slide.
The first video is of an F-16 delivering precision-guided munitions against enemy troops in western Iraq that were firing mortars at special operations forces.
The second video is of an AV-8B Harrier dropping a precision- guided weapon on a tank in the open, south of Al Amarah.
And the last video is of a Predator firing a Hellfire missile at an Iraqi communication dish outside the Ministry of Information yesterday in Baghdad. As you'll see when the tape ends and freezes, you'll see that the dish is in a parking lot actually some distance from the ministry building. And the ministry building is there at the edge, off to the right lower edge.
Also in our last picture slide here, the image depicts military equipment dispersed in residential areas. The red dots indicate location of military equipment in this neighborhood, and we've highlighted just four of them in the yellow boxes. This neighborhood is located approximately 30 miles south of Baghdad, in the proximity of the Medina Republican Guard Division.
This image up here is a tank on a transporter that's in the middle of a neighborhood. They have some armored personnel carriers here that are in the neighborhood streets. We have handouts. You can see these better, probably, when we give you the handouts. The upper right is a tank on a residential street. In the lower right are armored vehicles in trees.
And with that, we'll take your questions. QUESTION: General Myers, I'd like to ask about reports that the Republican Guard division, Medina south of Baghdad and Hammurabi west of Baghdad, are perhaps visually realigning themselves for defensive or other reasons.
And do you have any sign at all that these people are beginning to actually don chemical weapon suits? There's been a report...
MYERS: The only thing that I have on the chemical suits are the over 3,000 -- or 3,000 suits -- new suits, that were found, I think, in Al Nasiriyah, I think is where they were found by the Marines when they went in the Baath Party headquarters. And that was also where they found weapons, and they found people, of course; I think 170 of them they rounded up. And they also found uniforms -- Iraqi uniforms they had taken off. That's the only suits that I'm aware of at this time.
And we do have some indications that some of the Republican Guard divisions are relocating. And exactly where, we're just going to wait and see.
QUESTION: Does it appear that it's because they've been hit too hard? Is this a defensive thing, or are they moving the Hammurabi down to support the Medina, or...
MYERS: The Republican Guard has not gone on the offense yet. They are dug in, dispersed. That's quite possibly Republican Guard there in that neighborhood. I've got to be careful if I confirm that or not, but in that neighborhood. So they could be consolidating to make a defense.
It doesn't make any difference: The outcome is going to be certain. As I said, we're making plans right now, and we'll attack when we're ready.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about your statement about military supplies moving across the border from Syria. You described those as hostile acts. Are they subject to military action in response if that continues?
RUMSFELD: There's no question but that to the extent military supplies or equipment or people move across borders between Iraq and Syria that it vastly complicates our situation. And that is why I said what I said.
QUESTION: So are you threatening military action against Syria?
RUMSFELD: I'm saying exactly what I said. It was carefully phrased.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, General Wallace is prominently quoted today saying that, "This may be a longer war than the commanders had thought," and that, "This not the enemy that we war gamed against." Seems to contradict some of the statements that have been made from the podium here and the podium in Doha. Can you reconcile the two views? RUMSFELD: Well, I didn't read the article. I saw the headline. And I've seen a lot of headlines that don't fit articles.
Someone, coming down here, told me that he also said that we're about where we expected to be, which is generally what General Franks is saying. I suppose everyone can have their own view.
QUESTION: Well, I wasn't there, of course. But the article quotes him as saying that this going to be a longer war than had been anticipated.
RUMSFELD: Did it have quotes saying that?
QUESTION: Says, "the enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war gamed against."
RUMSFELD: Well, as far as I'm concerned, seems to me, careful reading of Amnesty International or the record of Saddam Hussein having used chemical weapons on his own people as well as his neighbors and the viciousness of that regime, which is well-known and documented by human rights organizations, ought not to be a surprise.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know, there has been some criticism, some by retired senior officers, some by officers on background in this building, who claim that the war plan that is in effect is flawed and our number of troops on the ground is too light, supply lines are too long and spread too thin.
Would you give us a definitive statement, if you would, to the effect that you agree that the war plan is sound and that this criticism is unfounded, or that there's some substance to it?
RUMSFELD: Well, we're one week into this and it seems to me it's a bit early for history to be written, one would think. The war plan is Tom Franks' war plan. It was carefully prepared over many months. It was washed through the tank with the chiefs on at least four or five occasions.
RUMSFELD: It has been through the combatant commanders. It has been through the National Security Council process.
General Myers and General Pace and others, including this individual, have seen it in a variety of different iterations.
When asked by the president or by me, the military officers who have reviewed it have all said they thought it was an excellent plan. Indeed adjectives that go beyond that have been used, quite complimentary.
MYERS: I have...
RUMSFELD: Go ahead.
MYERS: You know there's that old adage, that you probably know as well, that no plan, no matter how perfect, survives first contact with the enemy. I think some of that was shown in the ways we orchestrated the opening moments of this conflict. I don't think anybody expected it to come out -- be laid out the way it was. And that wasn't exactly according to plan, but it had the flexibility inherent.
So I stand by this plan. I think General Franks put together a good plan. I'll give you a definitive statement: I think it's a brilliant plan. And they'll be -- there's branches and sequels to everything that might possibly happen. But the plan is sound. It's being executed and it's on track.
And that's essentially what General Wallace said too. He said, "We're about where we expected to be"; that's one of his quotes as well.
RUMSFELD: The people that you are talking to haven't seen the plan for the most part.
QUESTION: Could you, General Myers, on that same subject, maybe narrate it for us for what we have seen in the last week from your perspective, particularly on the ground with the fast punch up north, what the purpose of that was, and if it is shaking out the way you thought it would, stringing the Marines out behind to protect the lines of communication, how that's going, and then the effects-based air targeting?
The problem I think we're all running up against is that we have -- we talk to a lot of retired officers who may be Gulf War-focused or Kosovo-focused, and this is very different. And can you explain to us why it's different and how it's different and how that's stacking up against what you expected to see at this point?
MYERS: I guess I can try. And, Secretary, please help me on this as we go through.
But in 36 hours, we're on the outskirts of Baghdad. You know, it took 38 days of air war before for the 100 hours of the ground war to take place last time. So it's a much different objectives, much different way of addressing a much different problem.
QUESTION: Why do you want to be on the outskirts of Baghdad so quickly?
MYERS: Because we could. There has been...
MYERS: Well, that's -- I don't mean it to sound flippant, because we could and it was necessary to try to bring down this regime as quickly as possible.
I didn't say quick, I said as quickly as possible. You've heard us both stand up here and say this is going to take some time. And the tough part is yet ahead of us. Obviously we can measure the miles between the Kuwaiti border and where the Medina Division is right now and where the 1st Marine Division is. We know that's a long way. We know those lines of communication are important to our well-being and that they have to be protected. There has not been a militarily significant assault on those lines of communication since we began.
We knew we were going to bypass Basra. We were not going to stop there and work the Basra problem. That was going to be for the British forces who are in there now, working with some of our SOF and some of our close air support to work the Basra problem.
The air plan has gone as we thought it would, concentrating on regime command-and-control targets and other targets that allow them to communicate either propaganda or with their military. And that continues on beating down the Republican Guard divisions.
QUESTION: Are you able to give us a little bit more of the why's, why you did it that way?
MYERS: No, not yet. I think some of that would give away the whole plan, and it just gets into the operational detail I'd like to avoid.
QUESTION: Did the intelligence revealed at the U.N. about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program, did that at all hinder the military operations now? Did that reveal sources and methods of intelligence that would have been useful in this campaign? Did it make it more difficult?
RUMSFELD: I don't think that I've seen specific pieces of information that would allow someone to come to that conclusion, although I can't say that it's not true.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, last time we met you with you, you were asked if supply lines were stretched or vulnerable, and actually you both said no. And you also said that the Fedayeen Saddam were onesies and twosies. Do you still stand by both those statements?
MYERS: I just said that I think the attacks on the lines of communications inside our forces have not been militarily significant, and we're dealing with the death squad attacks on those lines of communication. There have not been regular army forces, I don't think, attacking those lines, unless it's been close to one of the major population hubs. But they're being dealt with. There have been some battles that have been bravely fought by our folks, and they have dispatched the enemy, in many cases quite quickly.
RUMSFELD: I'll have to go back and see what we actually said.
QUESTION: You said onesies and twosies...
RUMSFELD: Let me respond. I'd have to go back and see what we said and what the context was. But my recollection is we said not that there were only onesies and twosies in terms of the Fedayeen Saddam -- we know of the numbers there; there are somewhere between probably 5,000 and 25,000 in the country, depending on how do you characterize them. But what we said was the attacks outside of cities had been relatively small, as the general said. And I suspect that's what we actually said.
QUESTION: Secretary, you've said that the military outcome of this is certain, and I'm sure that not too many people doubt that. But what does seem uncertain at the moment are the mood of the Iraqi people and whether or not, despite whatever dislike they have for Saddam Hussein, whether they will welcome American and British forces as liberators.
Is it possible that you've miscalculated the desire of the Iraqi people to be liberated by an outside force, and that because of their patriotism or nationalism, that they'll continue to resist the Americans, even after you prevail militarily?
RUMSFELD: Don't you think it's a little premature, the question? We'll know the answer to that. As portions of the country are liberated, we'll have people on the ground, embedded with our forces who will have a chance to see what happens and see how they feel about it. Why do we want to guess?
What we do know is that people behave fairly rationally, and if they have gun to their head and they're told, "Don't surrender," and they're told, "Don't assist the coalition forces coming in or we will kill you," and then they go and kill somebody and execute them in front of everybody else to make sure everyone really got the message, it's not surprising that people's behavior is one of caution.
Now, the other part of the answer to your question, it seems to me, is also self-evident, and that is, there is not an Iraqi people. There are Iraqi individual people, and they're going to be all across the spectrum. The ones who are close to Saddam Hussein and been getting the Mercedes cars and all the good food, they're going to be unhappy. They're not going to prefer that we're there. The people that he's repressed and threatened to kill and whose children have been killed by him, they'll probably have a somewhat different view. Will there be people in the middle who are ambivalent? Sure. They'll be all across the spectrum.
But we don't need to try to answer those questions. We have time. We'll see what happens.
QUESTION: Let me ask you a question about the Fedayeen Saddam. You mentioned that they were in touch with Saddam's family. Can you give us what the sense is of the Iraqi leadership? Is Saddam alive? Is Saddam's family giving orders to these irregulars?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. We do know that historically they've reported up through one of the sons. That is what I had reference to.
QUESTION: And how about the status of Saddam, do you know?
RUMSFELD: Everyone has a different opinion.
QUESTION: I wanted to clear up what you said earlier about the Syrian or the NVGs coming in through Syria. Are you suggesting or is there information that this is, in fact, state-sponsored -- these are state-sponsored shipments of military goods?
RUMSFELD: I don't think I want to get into it. It's an intelligence issue. They control their border. And we're hopeful that that type of thing doesn't happen.
QUESTION: The casualty figures currently officially released by the U.S. military show 28 dead and 40 wounded. Now, the proportion of wounded to dead would seem to be historically way out of skew, because the number of wounded is usually far more than the number killed in action. Can you explain that would be? And is there any effort to either unreport or underreport casualties from the battlefield?
RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness. Now, you know that wouldn't be the case. There's -- no one in this government here or on the ground is going to under-report what's happening. That's just terrible to think that. Even to suggest it is outrageous. Most certainly not.
The facts are reported. When people are killed, they're killed and we say so. When people are wounded, we say so. When people are missing and we know they're missing, we say so. And when we're wrong and they wander back into camp, as several have recently, having been lost or with other units, we say so. Absolutely not.
MYERS: The only thing I would to that is that there can be reporting lags. And with embedded media, you know, you can hear reports. But before the families are notified of either wounded or killed in action or missing, we don't release the figures.
So there could be some lag time. But we're never going to hide those numbers.
QUESTION: Was there a conversation with General Wallace between any of the high command in Washington or elsewhere to tell him what he had said was not helpful? Or do you encourage your major combatant commanders to speak their mind as they see the tactical battlefield, even though it may be slightly different than perhaps it is seen in Washington as a more strategic battlefield?
RUMSFELD: I know of no one in Washington who's said anything to General Wallace.
QUESTION: Or General Franks?
RUMSFELD: The other question, I don't have any idea what kind of guidance they get in terms of what they say.
MYERS: I don't know if they get any. Not from you or...
RUMSFELD: Not from us. They may get guidance from Tom Franks or McKernan, the land component commander, or somebody.
QUESTION: So is this an endorsement of plain-spoken assessment of your battlefield commanders when it may not necessarily agree with the perception that the administration has?
RUMSFELD: But the administration does not have a perception. I have a perception. General Myers has a perception. And we say what we think. There's not some coordinated perception that's being peddled.
People see what they see and say what they say.
My personal view is that their tasks are to do what they've been asked by General Franks to do, and it's to fight a land war in Iraq. And to the extent that includes meeting with the media and saying things then that's General Franks' and General Wallace's concern.
QUESTION: As far as you are concerned, he...
RUMSFELD: I've not read the article. I don't know how I can be any clearer. I saw the headline, and I tend over the years to have developed a certain hesitancy about believing that headlines tell the whole story.
QUESTION: Mentioning the humanitarian effort so far, could you outline how that is going -- there are reports of Iraqi civilians inside Iraq are really beginning to get hungry -- and what the latest is on the movement of the massive supplies? Are you anxious to get that moving quicker?
RUMSFELD: We have not seen any accurate reports or intelligence that suggests that there's a humanitarian crisis in Iraq. We have seen some reporters, and pictures of people hoping to get water or hoping to get food as food has been brought in. Whether that's anecdotal or representative of something is unclear. I suspect it's more anecdotal. There's no question there are people who are hungry and want water.
We do know that water mains were broken, and that there were some fraction of the people down south who did not have good water for a period. We also know that the Brits have got a waterline going in, and people are bringing truckloads of water in. And one would hope that people who are under our areas of responsibility are in fact receiving what they should receive.
We have said repeatedly that the forces going in brought food with them, they brought medicine, and they brought water. So the people in those areas presumably are OK.
We also know that the Iraqi people overall, we were told and estimated, have something like anywhere from two to six weeks of food that had been predistributed in doubled up rations for the period preceding maybe a couple of months, and that therefore the likelihood that they would run out seems not to be great.
But I did mention the Sir Galahad had arrived, and it had, I don't know -- what? -- 200 or 300 tons -- 200 tons of food or something. MYERS: Almost 300.
RUMSFELD: And there are other major efforts that are coming forward.
QUESTION: The World Food Programme...
MYERS: The World Food Programme, as of two days ago, on the 26th of March, says that the food distribution system that had been running there, the Oil for Food is still partially intact in southern Iraq, while some of the rations are being delivered are incomplete, they're still delivering rations to those folks that aren't in -- not affected by the fighting. And they said it's going to be close -- it'll be the end of April before anybody runs out of food. By that time we're already providing some of that food, particularly in the areas there where they're struggling.
QUESTION: Sir, when you came out here last Friday, you described activity was taking place almost as a psychological operation, in terms of the point being to impress on the Iraqis certain idea or attitude, and that perhaps thereby the regime would tip. Yesterday when you described the activity, it was in a much more traditional military sense about the rings around Baghdad and the need to penetrate those.
Have you shifted your thinking in the past week from emphasizing more of a psychological operation to more of a traditional military operation?
RUMSFELD: I don't think so. From the outset, our preference would have been that the diplomacy would work. Our second preference would have been that the ultimatum would have worked and he would have left the country. When we came out at the beginning of the ground and air war, our preference would have been that the Iraqi forces would have thrown in the towel and said, "Fair enough," or that Saddam Hussein would have left. That remains the case.
The conflict has to be pursued. It's going to end. And it's going to end with Saddam Hussein losing. And my hope from then and today remains that it will be done with the least loss of life as possible.
And I don't know that there's any -- I don't feel that there's any change in my perspective.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, for someone who's always advocating private channels of diplomacy, I'd like to go back to a statement about Syria and Iran. To be very precise, what message are you sending the governments of Syria and Iran from this podium? Are the rules of the road for this conflict to other countries the same as they are for the war on terrorism, "You are with us or against us," which is the president's message? Is that what you are saying here, your message?
And for General Myers, if you don't know the mood of the Iraqi people yet and you don't deem it important to know the mood of the Iraqi people, what are the military challenges of operating in the city of Baghdad of 5 million people if you don't think it's important to know the mood of the people before you get there?
RUMSFELD: With respect to the first question, the message is that General Franks has forces in that country. Some are losing their lives, coalition forces are. We don't like having our forces lose their lives. We don't want the conflict prolonged. And we don't want neighboring countries, or anyone else for that matter, to be in there assisting the Iraqi forces.
And specifically with respect to Syria, I've pointed out that we have seen military supplies and materials and equipment crossing the border and we'd like it to stop. And to the extent it keeps on, we have to consider it a hostile act.
We have seen Badr Corps people moving into Iraq. And they report up through the Revolutionary Guard. And they are armed. And there are some additional ones that are close to the border. And my statement I believe and I hope said something like this, that to the extent they interfere with General Franks' activities, they would have to be considered combatants. And therefore, we are suggesting they not interfere.
MYERS: Did I say we didn't care about the mood?
QUESTION: I believe the secretary, well, either one of you that cares to answer it. The secretary said it wasn't important at this point to know the issue of the mood of the people, that it was something you would wait to figure out.
RUMSFELD: You mean in answer to Jamie?
QUESTION: That is correct, sir.
RUMSFELD: No, I didn't say it wasn't important to know, I said it wasn't knowable. I said, my goodness, we will know, we will find out. That real estate will end up being occupied by the coalition forces.
RUMSFELD: Just a minute, let me finish my thought.
It seems to me that I said there are people all across the spectrum. You probably can find somebody who believes or feels or senses or prefers almost any place on a 360-degree curve.
Now, why do we need to try to figure it out now? We'll know. We have people right in there embedded and as they go into a town, we'll find out what they think. And my guess is they'll think things a lot more positive after they see that we have no intention to occupy their country, we have no intention to stay there for long periods, that we are bringing in food and water, that the sanctions will be lifted, that this is not a war against a country or a people or a religion. And in fact, they might even feel a little different if the death squads are not standing next to them with guns to their heads. But why should I try to speculate as to what it will be since we will soon know?
QUESTION: How does that complicate your effort to deal with Baghdad, though, cut off the head of the regime, if you don't have a good sense that there are any significant number of Iraqi people...
RUMSFELD: We do have a sense. We have people inside talking to people, dealing with people, arranging things. We have a good sense, not of everybody because we don't have Gallup polls going on in there...
RUMSFELD: ... but in terms of the limited amount of contact we have with people inside various cities, and my guess is it'll vary from city to city. We're seeing some Muslim leaders issuing fatwahs against the Saddam Hussein regime. Now, we've seen some doing the opposite. So it's going to vary from city to city. Doesn't mean we're not interested, it just means it's not knowable.
QUESTION: Do you have a sense of Baghdad?
RUMSFELD: I bet you that if I did it wouldn't be very useful a day, a week or a month from now, because I suspect it tends to change the closer our forces get to Baghdad. '
This is the last question.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you characterize how extensive the forces with allegiance to the Iranian government may be inside Iraq and how it's affecting the battlefield?
RUMSFELD: How extensive the numbers?
QUESTION: Yes. And if...
RUMSFELD: We know the numbers.
QUESTION: What are they?
RUMSFELD: You know...
QUESTION: No, we don't.
QUESTION: Ten, hundreds, thousands?
RUMSFELD: Hundreds. QUESTION: Hundreds armed. And what do you believe their motivation to be?
RUMSFELD: They are Iraqis. I'm sure that they have been hostile to the regime of Saddam Hussein. They have been housed in Iran. They've been funded by Iran. They've been armed by Iran and sponsored by Iran. And they report up through the Revolutionary Guard.
Again, I don't know each one of them, nor do I know any of them. But how they would behave with a different regime is unclear.
But the issue is not that. It seems to me the issue is that General Franks and the coalition countries are busy. They've got a complicated task. We would prefer it not be more difficult by any of the neighbors.
QUESTION: My point is, have they been hostile to coalition forces?
RUMSFELD: No, not yet.
QUESTION: Which is a greater threat, Syria or Iran?
RUMSFELD: I thought that was the last question.
QUESTION: It was the last answer.
BLITZER: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the chairman of the joint chiefs, Richard Myers, speaking to reporters, briefing reporters, and making significant news in the comments that they made.
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