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Hamre: Trouble Brewing in Gulf

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

KUWAIT CITY, Dec. 3, 1997 – The latest crisis with Iraq is not over, John Hamre told U.S. military men and women during a three-day visit to the Persian Gulf. The deputy defense secretary warned of difficult days ahead.

"We're not out of the woods on this," Hamre told sailors aboard the USS George Washington. "Saddam Hussein is intent on breaking out from the international inspection regime so he can continue to build chemical and biological weapons."

The Pentagon's second-in-command spent the Thanksgiving holiday visiting units in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait and aboard several ships among the USS George Washington and USS Nimitz carrier battle groups now in the gulf. Throughout his trip, he told service members their presence in the region is indispensable to maintaining peace in what is currently the most dangerous part of the world.

Hamre said military members' skill, professionalism and dedication give President Clinton and Defense Secretary William Cohen the confidence to tell Hussein, "You are going to comply with the U.N. inspections, and if you don't, we know how to take care of that."

Hussein's government gassed its own people, Hamre remarked during an interview with an Air Force base newspaper reporter in Saudi Arabia. "Can the world put up with that?" he asked. "No. Somebody is going to have to do something."

Throwing U.N. weapons inspectors out was clear and compelling evidence the Hussein regime does not intend to comply with international standards, Hamre said. "Unfortunately, the Iraqi people are suffering, not because of our embargo, but because their own government refuses to meet minimum standards the international community has set."

Iraq has violated U.N. resolutions for the past six years, and there's no indication of a let-up, Hamre said. As a result, for the foreseeable future, the United States will maintain its deterrent posture in the region.

The recent crisis also highlighted Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction program, Hamre said. "Forcing the international inspectors out gave that regime three weeks to hide things. We're confronting a more dangerous, a more desperate future. It's hard enough to be prepared ... for conventional warfare, now add to that the prospect of weapons of mass destruction -- [this] is very worrisome."

Hamre predicted American troops will most likely encounter chemical and biological weapons in the future. "I think our overwhelming tactical capabilities will deter that, but we have to be ready."

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