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Hussein Beware: Zinni's Nearly Ready

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 13, 1998 – U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni said if he were Saddam Hussein right now, he'd be "nervous."

And understandably so, for who knows better than Zinni, commander of U.S. Central Command, the firepower that will be sent Hussein's way if diplomacy fails and the president orders military action. Within a week, Zinni said, nearly 30,000 U.S. troops and about 2,500 British troops will be massed offshore and ready to strike.

"We're ready now, but there's a few more pieces to put in," Zinni told reporters. Those pieces are another 3,000 ground troops and the USS Guam Amphibious Readiness Group, carrying 3,000 Marines.

The ground troops are on alert at Fort Stewart, Ga., and soon will be headed to Kuwait, where they'll draw pre-positioned equipment. The Guam is en route to the gulf.

Zinni accompanied Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who toured six gulf states Feb. 8-11. The two defense leaders outlined action plans with local heads of state and defense officials. They spread the word: If diplomacy fails and military action is deemed necessary, the strikes will be substantial.

Zinni would not discuss how long a campaign against Iraq might last. "We're here for however long it takes," the general said.

Targets will be "the things that allow Hussein to stay in power, threaten his neighbors, threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction, and the things that control those assets -- the things he holds dear," Zinni said.

Even though his force is nearly assembled, Zinni said he would appreciate any contribution other friends and allies make. Germany, Canada and Australia have offered either moral or materiel support. "We certainly will work to integrate them and make sure their contribution is part of whatever we do," he said.

Zinni expressed appreciation for the tremendous support he's getting from the other U.S. unified combatant commands and the services. As for the front-line U.S. troops in the region, he simply said, "I couldn't be more proud."

He said his biggest concern for the moment is ensuring military planners have looked at every possible reaction a strike might cause. He wants to ensure "sequel plans are in place to handle anything that might come up."

Planning for an operation of this nature never ends, Zinni noted. "We like to keep flexibility built in. We have to take into account unpredictables like weather and other things. We're always refining," he said. "Right up to the last minute, you're assessing the situation."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, commander U.S. Central Command, and his staff depart Manama, Bahrain. Zinni and Defense Secrectary William S. Cohen met with local officials Feb. 11 to discuss the standoff with Iraq. Linda D. Kozaryn  
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