Iraqi Crisis Easing, Not Over
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, April 20, 1998 The crisis with Iraq has eased, but it is not over, U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told U.S. service members here April 18.
It remains "an open question" whether Saddam Hussein will fully comply with the agreement he signed with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Cohen said. Only full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions will lift sanctions imposed by the international community.
"It's not enough to say Saddam has opened his presidential palaces and the inspectors have found nothing, so the sanctions should be removed," Cohen said. "He has an obligation to show proof positive of where, when, how and under what circumstances the [chemical and biological] materials were destroyed. Until he does that, Saddam Hussein should expect no relief."
The defense secretary addressed American active duty and reserve component members here during the second stop of five-day trip to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Greece, April 17 to 21.
In Ankara, April 17, Cohen hailed Turkey as a strong strategic partner in promoting stability in the Middle East. He said the United States strongly supports Turkey's proposal for a multinational Balkan peace force, which is "one more sign of the important role Turkey plays as a force for stability."
Cohen urged Turkey and Greece to resolve their longstanding dispute over Cyprus. Responding to press queries about selling arms to the two nations, Cohen said Turkey and Greece are both NATO allies. "We obviously support individual members modernizing their systems to make sure they not only are capable of defending their own security interests, but can carry out their Article V, collective security obligations [as well]."
Requests for U.S. assistance are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Cohen noted. "It is our hope and expectation that the tensions that currently exist between Turkey and Greece will be will be negotiated and settled in a way that is responsible as members of the NATO alliance."
Cohen visited coalition forces supporting Operation Northern Watch. About 1,300 U.S., 200 British and 100 Turkish troops deployed at this Turkish facility near Adana enforce the northern "no-fly" zone in Iraq and monitor Iraqi compliance with U.N. security resolutions.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, accompanying Cohen during the first part of the trip, said the vital enforcement and surveillance operation helps cement U.S. military relations with Turkey.
"Turkey is an absolutely critical ally," Ralston said. "It is in a unique geographical position. It's in the long-term interests of both of our nations that we continue to have a very strong military-to-military, as well as strategic, relationship."
The U.N.-Iraq agreement which eased the recent crisis "would not have been possible without you," Cohen told about 300 service members assembled at the base community club. "Without the strength of our military, the commitment, dedication and sacrifice every one of you make day in and day out, no such agreement would have been possible."
When Annan returned from Iraq, Cohen recalled, the U.N. negotiator told President Clinton and other top U.S. officials, "not only the threat of force, but the reality of force," helped ensure his success.
The allied forces protect vital national security interests by maintaining stability in the Middle East, Cohen said. "As a result of the contribution you make, we're able to strike these agreements which [not only] preserve the peace, but also send a very strong signal: In the absence of compliance, we are there at the ready, to take whatever action might be necessary."
Hailing the troops for their patriotism, Cohen said: "I know it's hard to be out on the front lines, away from your families. I want you to know the American people truly appreciate what you are doing on behalf of your country."