Cohen Calls for More Allied Support
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 10, 1998 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen called on world allies to help enforce U.N. resolutions against Iraq. Failure to do so, he said, undercuts U.N. credibility.
"The best way to avoid any need to resort to military action is for all of our NATO friends and U.N. members, those in the U.N. Security Council in particular, to reaffirm their commitment to their own resolutions," Cohen said. The secretary was here Feb. 6-8 for an annual European security conference. It was his first stop on a seven-day trip to Europe and the Middle East.
Responding to Cohen's rallying cry, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl offered his nation's political support during an address Feb. 7. "For me it is fully clear that our air bases will be available to U.S. forces, if needed," Kohl said.
Following Kohl's announcement, German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said there is "clear political support" in Germany for U.S. and British efforts to prevent Iraq from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction capabilities. "It is clear that everybody cares in the same way about the dangers of these weapons and the situation in Iraq," Ruehe said.
Cohen told reporters he believes other NATO members also will support efforts to enforce the resolutions. "It remains to be seen what that will be in terms of military support or moral support," he said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the United Kingdom will send another eight Tornado aircraft to marry up with the carrier HMS Invincible, about 2,500 troops and six Tornados now in the Persian Gulf.
Cohen's call for unity came at a point when the United Nations was at a standoff with Iraq over Saddam Hussein's refusal to give unfettered access to U.N. weapons inspectors. While French, Russian and other international officials were making a last ditch effort to reach a diplomatic solution, American and British warships and combat aircraft were assembled in the Persian Gulf and more were on the way.
A week earlier, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to the region to explain diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Cohen's goal was to reassure the gulf states the U.S. was prepared to make a substantial military strike if no diplomatic solution was found. No more "pinpricks," Cohen stressed, but rather a "serious effort."
U.N. Security Council members should support enforcing the resolutions they passed to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, Cohen stressed. "Members who refuse to insist upon full compliance give "comfort to those who would undermine the process," he said.
Saddam Hussein is interested in dividing the Security Council, Cohen said. "That works to his advantage." Members who refuse to acknowledge Hussein has breached his obligations undermine efforts to reach a diplomatic solution, he said.
There has been sufficient opportunity for a diplomatic solution since the crisis began last fall, Cohen noted. Although the United States would still like to see a diplomatic solution to the standoff, he said, the window of opportunity is closing.
"Saddam Hussein holds in his hands the key to that [diplomatic] solution -- simply open his facilities for inspection as he is required to do," Cohen said.
Because the Iraqi leader continues to defy the United Nations, President Clinton may have to turn to a military option -- something the president is "seeking to avoid if possible, but will not walk away from if necessary," he said.