Bright Star Shines in Egypt
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
EL-OMAYID, Egypt, Oct. 26, 1999 Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should pay attention to what the Bright Star exercises here represent, said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen during a press conference Oct. 22.
Cohen traveled here to view an amphibious assault demonstration that kicked off Bright Star exercises. This year's exercise is the largest in the U.S. Central Command region since the Persian Gulf War. About 78,000 service members from 11 nations are taking part.
"Saddam Hussein remains an outlaw in his own neighborhood," said Cohen. "Over his horizon, he should see that Bright Star demonstrates that the countries of the region, backed by the United States, Britain and other European allies, have a different version of the future."
Cohen said the coalition participating in Bright Star is building a long-term relationship "that will provide the security that our people want and the stability that they deserve." He said Bright Star is more than an exercise, that it is a statement the coalition is getting stronger.
"This is a group of nations with leaders interested in building prosperity for their people, not palaces for their cronies," Cohen said. Still, the exercise is not a prelude to operations against Iraq, as Iraqi government spokesmen have said.
"We are training for the purpose of maintaining readiness, interoperability and to prepare for any contingency for the future," Cohen said.
Much of Bright Star, which ends Nov. 2, focuses on aspects of interoperability, which is more than just having the same military equipment, Cohen said. It means, he said, understanding how your allies operate -- their tactics and techniques, their behavior under stress, the way they plan.
"All that builds a web not only of friendships, but of interoperability," he said. "It's essential to deter aggression from wherever it might come."
Earlier in the day, Cohen met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Cohen said they discussed Iraq, Iran and the Cooperative Defense Initiative.
Cohen said the United States would welcome better relations with Iran, but there are three preconditions. First, the Iranians must stop their weapons of mass destruction program. Second, they must stop subverting the Middle East peace process. Finally, it must stop supporting terrorism.
The secretary is winding down a nine-day trip through the Middle East. He visited Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates before coming to Egypt. He will move on to Kuwait, Jordan, Oman and finishes in Israel.