America, U.K. Stand United
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 1998 When Defense Secretary William S. Cohen needs advice, counsel or support, he said, he often turns to George Robertson.
One of America's staunchest allies, Robertson is the United Kingdom's secretary of state for defense. The two defense leaders met with reporters Nov. 19 at the Pentagon and talked about the united front they presented during the latest crisis with Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"The resolve of the United States and the United Kingdom caused Saddam to back down," Cohen said. American and British forces remain poised in the Gulf "should Saddam fail to live up to his word," he added.
The United States and the United Kingdom are prepared to work together to bring about democratic change in Iraq, Cohen said. "We believe that new leadership will be the best way to end the suffering of the Iraqi people."
Robertson said the two nations' united front resulted in a significant success for international law and order and a humiliation for Saddam. "Not a shot was fired and yet he was forced to climb down with no conditions and no negotiations," Robertson said. "Diplomacy was backed up by the significant threat of force."
If Hussein fails to comply with U.N. resolutions, Robertson added, the United Kingdom, along with the United States, is ready willing and able, to take action.
"Saddam Hussein seems to think that he can [dismiss] the international community ... ," he said. "The resolution and commitment shown last weekend shows that he is wrong in that respect. He now knows significant force will be used against him if he again tries to block cooperation with the [U.N. weapons] inspectors. If necessary, we are here for the long haul."
Both nations are encouraging external and internal opposition to Hussein, Robertson said. "The vast majority of people in Iraq must know that the problems they face in their daily lives today are a result of Saddam's policies. The sanctions that remain in place are there because he refuses to comply with the cease-fire resolutions."
Cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom also extends to other defense issues. During earlier meetings with his British counterpart, Cohen said, the defense leaders reviewed a program for enhancing NATO's capabilities, reiterated mutual commitment for NATO enlargement, and discussed the current situation in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Robertson told reporters his nation is sharing information about Year 2000 computer issues with the Pentagon as well as other partners and allies. He said the United Kingdom has invested 200 million pounds [about $300 million] to tackle problems that might arise at the double zero turn of the century.
"It's going to be a Herculean task to get every system compliant," he said, "but we're perfectly conscious of just how important that is, and we're putting the resources and the drive and the energy into it. And, [we're] making sure we share the experiences and lessons we learn with close allies like the Americans."