Tuesday, September 3, 1996 - 8:55 a.m.
Also participating: General Joseph W. Ralston, Vice Chairman, JCS and Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)]
Mr. Bacon: Secretary Perry and General Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will each make opening statements and then take your questions. I request that you hold all your questions until they finish their statements.
Secretary Perry: More than five years ago, after Iraq was defeated in DESERT STORM, the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the Shiites in Southern Iraq tried to seize that opportunity to gain their freedom from Saddam's oppression. Saddam Hussein sent his battered, but still large, army to brutally suppress their revolt, killing tens of thousands of Kurds and Shiites, and creating a million Kurd refugees who tried to flee into Turkey.
The UN responded to this humanitarian disaster by demanding that Saddam Hussein end the brutality to his own people, and authorized the United States to organize a coalition to conduct Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, which enforced a no-fly zone north of 36 degrees; and later authorized Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, which enforced a no-fly zone south of 32 degrees.
On the map here you see the northern no-fly zone and the southern no-fly zone. These actions have kept Saddam Hussein from committing further atrocities, and have sustained an uneasy peace these past five years.
The two major factions of the Kurds -- the KDP and the PUK - - have fought among themselves, with the U.S. attempting to broker a peace agreement. Recently, one of these factions -- the PUK -- got some limited military support from the Iranians. The other faction -- the KDP -- then made a strategic blunder by inviting the Iraqis to enter Kurdish territory to attack PUK forces.
Our intelligence disclosed an Iraqi military buildup underway more than a week ago, and on the 28th of August, we warned Iraq not to use military force. The Iraqis, seeing an opportunity to regain control of Northern Iraq at the expense of both the PUK and the KDP, ignored the warning. They employed a force of about 40,000 men, including many tanks and hundreds of artillery pieces, which quickly defeated the few thousand PUK defenders in Irbil.
Now they are pulling their mechanized forces out of Irbil leaving infantry behind, and moving towards two other cities, one of which they have been shelling for the last two days.
Our national interests are not tied to which party prevails in this conflict in Northern Iraq. But we do have vital national security interests in maintaining security and stability in the region. These vital interests include maintenance of stability; protection of friendly nations -- including Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states; and protection of the flow of oil. We believe that the aggressive military action of Saddam Hussein constitutes a threat to that security and stability.
The Iraqis, emboldened by their success against the relatively weak PUK forces, might -- if they saw no reaction from the international community -- move to suppress both the PUK and the KDP; or they might move against their neighbors to the south -- as they did in August of 1990 and again in October of 1994. Without a military response, Saddam Hussein's position in the country and the region would be strengthened and vital interests to the United States could be threatened.
Iraq's use of force in the past has posed a major threat to U.S. interests. The issue is not simply the Iraqi attack on Irbil. It is the clear and present danger that Saddam Hussein poses to his neighbors; to the security and stability of the region; and to the flow of oil in the world.
Even after their defeat in DESERT STORM, the Iraqis still have the largest and most powerful military force in the region. This military force has been held in check these past five years by the military forces of the coalition, buttressing the forces of the regional powers of the Gulf states. Now, Saddam Hussein has demonstrated once more his willingness to use military power recklessly, and we must demonstrate once more our willingness and capability to check that power and deter Saddam Hussein from being the regional bully.
Therefore, last week, the President -- at the same time he instructed Secretary Christopher to send a warning to Saddam Hussein -- instructed me to put the appropriate military forces on alert and to prepare a contingency plan for military action, which we would take if Iraq did not heed the warning. They did not. So the President instructed me last night to execute that plan.
The plan does not involve the United States in the conflict underway in Iraq, but it does make Saddam Hussein pay a price for his aggression, and it does position coalition forces to more effectively deter any further military ventures he might be considering.
We need to act now to ensure that Saddam does not conclude that he can upset regional security with impunity. Our response protects the United States interests by strengthening our ability to contain future Iraqi attacks. We have chosen the time, the place, and the modality of our response to suit our strategic interests and our comparative advantage, not his.
We have extended the no-fly zone in the southern region from 32 degrees to 33 degrees. This will be effective at noon tomorrow. This will substantially weaken Saddam Hussein's ability to pursue military adventures in the south; and, additionally, will weaken his ability to maintain an air force capable of projecting power in any direction.
Last night we conducted strikes against fixed SAM sites and air defense control facilities south of the 33rd latitude. These were targets south of this 33 degree zone. This move, this action will greatly facilitate our ability to enforce the no-fly zone -- particularly this now extended no-fly zone.
I will now turn the podium over to General Joe Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will describe the strikes we conducted and the military rationale for those strikes.
Gen. Ralston: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
First of all, I would like to say how proud I am to represent the men and women in uniform who, over the last few days and this weekend, have worked to plan and to execute this operation. The operation was conducted by the U.S. Central Command, under the leadership of General Binny Peay. General Peay and his component commanders are in the AOR and I want to extend my appreciation to them for the many long hours they have put in in both the planning and the execution.
I'd like to start off with, as Secretary Perry says, with the 33rd latitude no-fly zone. As you notice, there is a major military training area within that zone, as well as two major air bases with airplanes. By denying this airspace to the Iraqi regime, we have given ourselves more warning, should he decide to move to the south against our friends and allies. We have also made a significant impact on his ability to train. The denial of that training area effectively denies him the ability to train his ground forces with their air force.
Now, in order to conduct this no-fly zone, coalition aircraft will have to fly further north into Iraq -- over Iraqi territory -- than they have in the past. The reason for the strike was to take out those air defenses that would threaten the coalition aircraft. These are notional sites that you see here. They are not in the exact location, as you see.
This is a picture of one of those sites, but as you can see, it has a central radar van, it has command and control facilities, it has missile launchers with missiles on them. That is not atypical of the type of targets that were selected.
Our objective was to reduce the defenses that our aircraft would encounter as they enforce the no-fly zone to the 33rd Parallel. Our objective, once again, is to enforce the no-fly zone. Taking out of the targets is a means of facilitating that.
The strikes were conducted using cruise missiles -- both the Tomahawk cruise missiles from the USS CARL VINSON battle group which is located in the Gulf, as well as conventional air- launched cruise missiles, or C-ALCMs, from B-52Hs.
For those of you who are interested, here is a slide on the two types of missiles that were used. This is the Tomahawk. As you see, it is a sea-launched missile with about a thousand pound warhead. The C-ALCM is the conventional version of the nuclear air-launched cruise missile -- and it is launched from the B-52.
That completes what I've got in the way of a briefing. I believe the Secretary and I would entertain your questions at this time.
Q: Can you give us any idea of how effective these strikes were in terms of hitting their targets?
Gen. Ralston: We're still assessing, doing the battle damage assessment. We have not made a determination at this time.
Q: Dr. Perry, could you tell us, is the United States ... if Saddam does not remove his forces from Northern Iraq and stop attacking the Kurds, is the United States prepared to quickly launch more raids? And would those raids be easier to launch now that the missile defenses have been degraded in Southern Iraq?
Sec. Perry: Charlie, you know, we do not discuss future military operations. We certainly reserve the right to conduct further actions, further military actions. Whether or not we conduct them and how we conduct them and against what targets is a matter still to be determined.
One factor which will influence that determination, but not the only factor, will be the actions of the Iraqis over the days and weeks ahead.
Q: Will expanding the no-fly zone require additional U.S. aircraft to patrol that area? Also, are other American forces now being moved into the vicinity by the sea forces and air forces?
Sec. Perry: We do not require additional forces to do that. Let me ask General Ralston to comment further.
Gen. Ralston: With regard to the enforcement of the 33rd no- fly zone, if we require additional forces, they will be minimal. We're assessing that now to make sure that we have adequate forces to protect our personnel.
Q: What about other forces being moved in, such as the carrier ENTERPRISE? Are other forces being moved into the region?
Sec. Perry: The ENTERPRISE is on a tether, and we can move it into the region in a matter of days if we decide we need it in the region. We've not made that judgment at this point.
Q: Have Saudi Arabia and Kuwait agreed that U.S. aircraft based in their countries can be used to monitor or police this expanded no-fly zone in Southern Iraq?
Sec. Perry: We have had extensive consultations with many allies in the region, particularly with Saudi Arabia. I have talked several times on the phone with the Saudi Defense Minister. The President has talked with King Fahd. And General Shali, of course, visited the Kingdom just a few days ago. So we've had extensive consultations.
The most important conclusion from those consultations was their agreement that they would continue to support Operation SOUTHERN WATCH with this extended no-fly zone.
Q: If the problem was in the north, why not extend the northern no-fly zone further south? Why not make that a no-drive zone, as there is in the south? And will this extended zone in the south also refer to the movement of Iraqi troops? That is, will it also be a no-drive zone south of the 33rd Parallel?
Sec. Perry: We have acted on what we thought were our most important national interests. We have seen in the past, and we continue to see, a greater threat of Saddam Hussein to the ... south. Therefore, that's where we concentrated our attention. We are responding to where we see our strategic interests threatened, and that was why we focused on the south.
Q: Will there be a no-drive zone from the 33rd south? Saddam Hussein's not supposed to have any major troops movements below the 32nd. Does that now apply to below the 33rd?
Sec. Perry: That decision is yet to be made as to whether to extend the no-drive from the 32nd to the 33rd. The decision that's been taken was to extend the no-fly zone to the 33rd.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you have in effect spanked Saddam Hussein and made it easier for U.S. and coalition aircraft to fly safely now up to the 33rd Parallel, but you haven't done anything to halt the actual fighting and the aggression against the Kurds in the north. If this aggression continues, as you've said it seems to be, what moves are possible to actually stop that, short of putting ground troops in?
Sec. Perry: We have many other options available to us. I would not describe them at this time, and I would not want to forecast whether we will have to implement them. We would hope this move would be sufficient -- that it will have the desired effect. But we have to watch very carefully what happens in the days and the weeks ahead.
Q: What connection is there between the Iraqi actions in the north and your statement that Saddam could pose a new threat to the south? Is there any evidence that Iraq has been posing a new threat in the southern part of the region?
Sec. Perry: There have been major threats to the south in recent history -- in October of '94, and again in August of '95 - - in both of those cases, sufficient to require us to deploy major forces to the area. We still see that as the principal threat, and our concern is that if Saddam Hussein is emboldened by what he would see as a success in the north, he might strike out in areas which are of greater strategic importance to him, as well as to us, in the south. So we want to keep our focus on where our vital national security interests are.
Q: So what you're saying is there is no new threat in the south.
Sec. Perry: There is a continuing threat in the south. The threat in the south is there every day. Iraqi forces continue to be positioned -- ground forces -- so that they could pose a threat to the south. What is crucial -- to keep that theoretical threat from becoming a real threat -- is curtailing any ability to provide them with air support, and also providing very strong and very rapid coalition air to strike any such moves to the south. So this is very, very relevant to that.
Q: What message is Iran supposed to get out of this? If any.
Sec. Perry: We have separately warned Iran not to meddle in this conflict in Northern Iraq.
Q: General Ralston, can you give us an assessment of what affect the attention of these airstrikes would have on the Iraqis' integrated air defense system? Clearly, it's degraded their ability between the 32nd and 33rd Parallel, but how does this affect its air defenses across the whole country? Is this an integral link, or is there any assessment of that?
Gen. Ralston: Certainly the targets that were chosen were not only surface-to-air missile sites, but the integrated operation centers of his air defense system. These are "internetted" -- tied-in -- to the overall air defense network. When you take out pieces of it, it makes the overall network less effective.
Q: General Ralston, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the raid itself. Several of us were curious why B-52s had to be brought over from the United States, and why the Navy Tomahawks couldn't do the job themselves.
Gen. Ralston: There is what I will call a division of labor. There is a lot of planning that has to be done when you have targets such as this, and so it was appropriate that we have ... The planners for TLAM are working very hard on a set of targets; the planners for C-ALCM were working very hard on their set of targets. I believe the two working together were able to do the job quicker and more effectively than what we could have done with either singly.
Q: Why daytime? Why was this done in the daytime?
Gen. Ralston: I don't want to get into the reasons that we choose particular times of day.
Q: General Ralston, Saddam Hussein, I believe, claimed in a speech this morning that his forces shot down most of our missiles. How would you react to that?
Gen. Ralston: We certainly have no evidence of that.
Q: Has there been any misfiring of the missiles?
Gen. Ralston: We have no evidence that there was any misfiring of the missiles.
Q: General Ralston, it's about 5 p.m., or later, Iraqi time now. You don't have any indication at all whether this raid was successful or whether these missiles hit their targets and destroyed the radars?
Gen. Ralston: What I said was we do not have a complete assessment of the battle damage done as yet. We certainly have indications that, by all means, the raid was effective.
Q: Why did the B-52s have to go the long way around? The last time they shot ALCMs they flew straight from Barksdale across the Mediterranean and shot from a box over Saudi Arabia.
Gen. Ralston: The flight time from CONUS to the target area is approximately the same as from Guam to the target area. We routinely position B-52s in Guam, and other places, to conduct global power missions. This was the route that was chosen this time.
Sec. Perry: I might say that this whole mission could have been done by TLAMs. The whole mission could have been done by B-52s. The whole mission could have been done by Navy-based air. We have many options for how we conduct a mission like this. We considered many of those options. One of the great advantages of the cruise missiles is the minimal risk to the U.S. forces involved. The choice of a combination of TLAMs and B-52s is a choice of convenience, not a necessity.
Q: With the intent of moving the no-fly zone a little farther north and providing more defense against the south, how does that stop Saddam from continuing in the north? What practical effect does it have on that? And number two, what does he actually have to do now to comply with whatever goal you've set down in this latest strike?
Sec. Perry: Do you want to take a stab at the second part of that?
Gen. Ralston: Let me try the second part of that first. We expect compliance with the no-fly zone instructions. That says we expect no flight below the 33rd Parallel. And if there is flight, we will take appropriate actions.
Q: I understand that, but how does this affect what's going on in the north? And what does he have to do in the north in order for you all to be satisfied that he's in compliance?
Gen. Ralston: Let me take the first part of that, if I may. By impacting his training of his forces -- of his air forces -- and impacting the integrated training of his air forces and his ground forces. We believe that is a significant constraint on the training and, therefore, the combat readiness of his forces.
Q: In the north as well?
Gen. Ralston: All over.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how viable is it still to try to maintain a no-fly zone in the north, given, as your map shows, that the KDP controls much of that territory, and they have now allied themselves with Iraq?
Sec. Perry: It is still viable to maintain a no-fly zone in the north. We will watch very carefully what happens politically with the KDP and the Iraqis and the PUK in the weeks ahead to determine the political desirability of doing that.
Q: Can you answer the part of the question about what he has to do in the north? How fast and how extensive do his actions have to be in the north now to comply with what conditions we're [inaudible]?
Sec. Perry: We're not going to make any public declaration of what actions Saddam Hussein has to take at this time. We have sent a very strong message to him. We expect that there will be a change in his behavior as a result of this. We'll be watching very carefully to see what that is. But I'm not going to draw any specific criteria for what ...
Q: What does he need to do, though? Pull back all his troops? What does he need to do exactly?
Sec. Perry: I'm not going to describe any specific set of criteria for him. We have given him a strong message. We expect to see changes in behavior. We will be watching very carefully. We reserve the right to take future military actions.
Q: Since you have this new area of the no-fly zone in the south between the 32nd and 33rd Parallel, has this in the past six months or a year been a site of heavy Iraqi air activity by helicopters and planes?
Sec. Perry: The short answer is yes. Do you want to elaborate on that, General Ralston?
Gen. Ralston: Just to clarify it. Below the 32nd Parallel, the no-fly zone has been very effective. But between the 32nd and 33rd where he has major fighter bases there, there has been significant training activity in that zone between the 32nd and 33rd Parallel.
Q: ...in the north, though, in his move against the Kurds? Has he used air power at all?
Gen. Ralston: He has not used air power north of the 36th no-fly zone.
Q: What does the apparent lack of public support today from Saudi Arabia, from Jordan, from Turkey, suggest about the durability of the coalition to contain Iraq? It seems to suggest that it's fragmented.
Sec. Perry: First of all, let me say that we acted on our own national interests, which is the President's responsibility. We believed we had to act quickly. We did, however, have extensive consultation with allies -- the President, the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser, General Shalikashvili, myself, all have been consulting with our allies.
We expect most of our allies to be supportive. And, most importantly, I would point out we did not need their participation in this strike. We have the national resources to conduct this strike. We do need their continued cooperation -- and in the case of some countries, their participation -- to continue to maintain the no-fly zone, the Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, and the Operation PROVIDE COMFORT. And we have been assured by our allies we will continue to have that cooperation and support. That is the key.
Q: Does that include France? They made very strong reservations about [inaudible]. They will continue to take part in ...
Sec. Perry: We expect France to continue to participate in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
Q: Your reaction to the Iraqi statement that this new no- fly zone is "null and void"?
Sec. Perry: We have never, from the beginning, sought their permission for establishing the no-fly zone. They never concurred or supported the no-fly zone to the 32 degrees. We would not expect them to support the extension of it to 33. This is not an issue in which they have a vote.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what changes in Saddam's behavior do you hope you'll see?
Sec. Perry: What we are looking for primarily is deterrence. Deterrence of future military adventures. This, on the one hand, sends a strong message; but I think, even more importantly, it positions the coalition forces so that, if that message is not accepted, we are in a stronger position to deal with any further military actions he might take.