Tuesday, September 3, 1996 - 10 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: Good evening.
At the direction of President Clinton, the Department of Defense has launched a second cruise missile attack against selected air defense targets in Iraq. Tonight's attack is designed to complete the suppression of air defenses that could potentially remain in operation after the first attack.
President Clinton announced an expanded no-fly zone in response to an Iraqi attack against a Kurdish faction. The larger no-fly zone in Southern Iraq will make it easier for the U.S. and coalition partners to contain Saddam Hussein's aggression. The attacks are designed to reduce risks to the pilots who will enforce the expanded no-fly zone, which will go into effect at noon Wednesday.
No further details about the second attack are available now. General Joseph Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will hold a press conference here in the DoD Briefing Room at approximately 7:10 tomorrow morning, for more details. Thank you.
Q: Ken, how many missiles were fired in this attack, and I understand they were fired by four ships and not bombers this time?
A: This attack is about half the size of yesterday's attack... of the early morning attack, going against about half the number of targets. They were fired entirely from sea.
Q: Were these repeat targets, or were any of the targets...
A: This is what we would call a "mop-up" operation. There aren't new targets that were not on the earlier list. It's an effort to go in and assure that we've done everything possible to suppress air defenses before we start enforcing the expanded no- fly zone. As I said, that's supposed to take effect at noon tomorrow, and we want to guarantee that our pilots have every opportunity to fly safely over the expanded no-fly zone.
Q: Did this require addition approval from President Clinton or was this part of the original planning?
A: It required additional approval. He granted that this afternoon.
Q: If this strike is successful, will this grant you air impunity over Iraq; and why wasn't a larger attack mounted in the first night with more missiles?
A: Well in the Defense business I don't think there's any such thing as impunity. We will always fly with great caution, and after taking all proper precautions. This is one of those precautions we're taking.
Thank you very much. We'll have more tomorrow. The White House has a statement that's being released at about this time. Thank you.