Zinni: U.S. Prepared for Action Against Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 1997 If the situation in Iraq warrants military action, it will not be a pinprick, Central Command Commander Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni said Nov. 26.
Zinni, speaking at a Pentagon news conference, said Saddam Hussein remains a grave threat, and while the United States hopes diplomatic efforts will work, the allies in the gulf region are prepared to deliver devastating attacks.
The Iraqi president's refusal to allow U.S. inspectors to participate in U.N. weapons inspections and his threat to shoot down U.S. U-2 spy planes precipitated the crisis. He has since allowed the U.N. teams to resume work.
Zinni said no further U.S. forces are set to deploy to the region. "We do have forces that are ... 'earmarked' should certain ... trigger events occur," he said. Central Command would move those forces to the region if they are needed, but right now the forces are adequate for the missions Central Command officials foresee.
Zinni said any strike against Iraq would be targeted at things that mean the most to Hussein. "The Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War, all the other things indicate that he doesn't much care if you strike a unit, a surface-to-air missile site, a division," he said. "What means most to him are things like the special Republican Guard and other Republican Guard units that keep him in power, his own infrastructure and command and control systems."
Zinni said Iraq's forces have been greatly reduced since the Gulf War -- but also streamlined. He called the Iraqi air force "capable" and the air defense system "pretty robust."
Chemical and biological weapons concern Zinni, he said. "I spent seven months in northern Iraq. I went into the Kurdish villages that [Saddam] gassed. ... He used [chemical weapons] in the Iran-Iraq War. He's used them against the marsh Arabs [Shiite muslims living in southern Iraq].
"So he's used chemical weapons against brother Arabs and brother Muslims. If he has them, it's clear he will use them."
Zinni said the potential exists for Iraq to launch chemical strikes into neighboring countries. Protecting U.S. and coalition forces in the region -- and the civilian populations of the neighboring countries -- becomes an important mission for the coalition. He said Central Command will respond to Saddam's capabilities and not his intentions.
"I could not predict Saddam Hussein's actions and would never intend to do so," he said. "I think we have to fully expect that it could be a possibility that [a military confrontation] could occur. I am not sure how desperate he is. He is a man who doesn't act rationally. I have seen the results of his handiwork. It's sickening, and it seems to me he has little value for human life. And if it's a question of being in power, I think he'd resort to any act."