Deployment Frozen for Gulf-bound Troops
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 1998 Service members who have deployed in response to Iraq's refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors will remain where they are. Units that have not deployed will stay in the United States but be on a high state of alert.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said the United States was "very close" to launching an attack on Saddam Hussein when the Iraqi dictator caved in to U.N. demands.
Some aircraft have deployed to Spain, Italy and Diego Garcia on their way to the Gulf and will remain where they are, Cohen said. Other aircraft will remain at their home stations. Army personnel from Fort Stewart, Ga., and Fort Bliss, Texas, will not deploy.
He said he does not foresee any need to maintain two carrier battle groups in the region. The USS Enterprise battle group is scheduled to relieve the USS Eisenhower shortly.
Cohen said the international community is united in condemning Hussein. The presence of a "strong and credible force focused his mind wonderfully," he said.
Now Hussein must comply fully with U.N. resolutions calling for the destruction of all weapons of mass destruction, Cohen said during a news conference Nov. 16 following the swearing-in of Richard Danzig as secretary of the Navy. "Full compliance and unfettered access are key for Saddam," he said. "Everyone understands that this is the last go-around."
Cohen said inspections are the best way to determine if Hussein is complying with U.N. resolutions. The U.S. contention through the latest crisis was that if Saddam agreed to cooperate with inspectors and gave them unfettered access, then the United States would not launch attacks. "Saddam simply had to say 'yes,'" Cohen said. Saddam did, and that's why the United States canceled the air strikes, he said.
He said the Iraqi dictator has not honored past formal treaty obligations to cooperate with the United Nations so there is no guarantee he'll follow through on his newest promises.
"We will see if he means to follow through," Cohen said. In the meantime, the United States has enough power in the region to launch strikes if need be, he added.