Cohen Says Iraqi Compliance is Bottom Line
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK NAVAL BASE, Va., Nov. 12, 1998 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told sailors here an air campaign against Iraq would be "significant, and not a pinprick."
"Compliance is the bottom line," he said. Cohen said the United States would rather have U.N. arms inspectors back to work in Iraq peacefully, but it will use force if necessary.
One pilot told Cohen he believed the United States was being "jerked around" by Saddam Hussein. "When are we going to stop being the puppet?" the sailor asked. "Last deployment, we spent five months in the Gulf doing the same thing."
Cohen said he understood the sailors were frustrated by the situation. But, he said, their very presence in the Gulf meant that earlier confrontations were resolved peacefully.
"You're like the cop on the beat," Cohen said to sailors aboard the amphibious landing ship USS Bataan. "The 'bad guys' are not going to attempt something if the cop is there."
Earlier this year, Saddam Hussein saw the force arrayed against him and gave in, allowing U.N. inspectors to do their jobs, Cohen said. Hussein faces the same situation today -- he must comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions before sanctions are lifted.
"[Hussein] agreed in February 1991 [at the end of the Gulf War] to allow U.N. inspectors to oversee the dismantling of his weapons of mass destruction and his means of producing them," Cohen said. "He must comply with U.N. resolutions. If he does not, and we do nothing, the United Nations will lose all credibility."
Cohen said during a press conference on the Bataan's hangar deck that there is no timetable for force. He said the United Nations will give time for diplomacy to work. In the meantime, the United States and its allies will be ready in case force is needed.
Cohen told aviators the threat of force is real. He said "pinprick attacks" won't work on the Iraqi president. "He is more than willing to kill his own people," Cohen said. He said any use of force must be sustained and aimed at driving Iraq back to cooperating with the United Nations.
He said U.N. inspectors must have Iraq's cooperation and detailed the difficulty inspectors face in ensuring Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program is ended. About 100 inspectors have to cover an area the size of California.
"They have to find documents, computer discs, production points, ammunition areas in an area that size," he said. "Hussein has said, 'We have no [weapons of mass destruction] program now.' We're saying, 'Prove it.' He says he has destroyed all his nerve agent, we're asking 'where, when and how?'
"The onus for this is firmly on Saddam Hussein," Cohen continued. This is not a case of the United States making a unilateral decision to persecute Iraq, he said. Rather, the entire world wants Hussein to honor his agreements.
Cohen said his recent 11-nation trip to the Gulf and Europe to give the U.S. position on the situation was fruitful. He said recent decision to send service members to the region just gives more options.