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Curbing Saddam's Military Adventures
Briefing As Delivered By Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and Gen. Joseph Ralston, USAF, vice chairman of the Joint Chie, Pentagon, Tuesday, September 03, 1996

The Iraqi leader sent his army north to attack a Kurdish safe haven. The United States responded with a hard line and dozens of cruise missile strikes to let him know, once again, he miscalculated the situation.

Volume 11, Number 79

 

Curbing Saddam's Military Adventures

 

News briefing and question and answer session by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and Gen. Joseph Ralston, USAF, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, Sept. 3, 1996.

Perry. More than five years ago, after Iraq was defeated in

Desert Storm, the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Shiites in southern

Iraq tried to seize that opportunity to gain their freedom from

Saddam's oppression. Saddam Hussein sent his battered, but still

large, army to brutally suppress their revolt, killing tens of

thousands of Kurds and Shiites, and creating a million Kurd refugees

who tried to flee into Turkey.

The U.N. responded to this humanitarian disaster by demanding

that Saddam Hussein end the brutality to his own people and authorized

the United States to organize a coalition to conduct Operation Provide

Comfort, which enforced a no-fly zone north of 36 degrees, and later

authorized Operation Southern Watch, which enforced a no-fly zone

south of 32 degrees. ... These actions have kept Saddam Hussein from

committing further atrocities and have sustained an uneasy peace these

past five years.

The two major factions of the Kurds -- the KDP [Kurdistan

Democratic Party] and the PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] -- have

fought among themselves, with the U.S. attempting to broker a peace

agreement. Recently, one of these factions, the PUK, got some limited

military support from the Iranians. The other faction, the KDP, then

made a strategic blunder by inviting the Iraqis to enter Kurdish

territory to attack PUK forces.

Our intelligence disclosed an Iraqi military buildup under way

more than a week ago, and on the 28th of August, we warned Iraq not to

use military force. The Iraqis, seeing an opportunity to regain

control of northern Iraq at the expense of both the PUK and the KDP,

ignored the warning. They employed a force of about 40,000 men,

including many tanks and hundreds of artillery pieces, which quickly

defeated the few thousand PUK defenders in Irbil.

Now they are pulling their mechanized forces out of Irbil,

leaving infantry behind and moving towards two other cities, one of

which they have been shelling for the last two days.

Our national interests are not tied to which party prevails in

this conflict in northern Iraq, but we do have vital national security

interests in maintaining security and stability in the region. These

vital interests include maintenance of stability, protection of

friendly nations -- including Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and

other gulf states -- and protection of the flow of oil. We believe

that the aggressive military action of Saddam Hussein constitutes a

threat to that security and stability.

The Iraqis, emboldened by their success against the relatively

weak PUK forces, might, if they saw no reaction from the international

community, move to suppress both the PUK and the KDP or they might

move against their neighbors to the south -- as they did in August of

1990 and again in October of 1994. Without a military response, Saddam

Hussein's position in the country and the region would be strengthened

and vital interests to the United States could be threatened.

Iraq's use of force in the past has posed a major threat to U.S.

interests. The issue is not simply the Iraqi attack on Irbil. It is

the clear and present danger that Saddam Hussein poses to his

neighbors, to the security and stability of the region and to the flow

of oil in the world.

Even after their defeat in Desert Storm, the Iraqis still have

the largest and most powerful military force in the region. This

military force has been held in check these past five years by the

military forces of the coalition, buttressing the forces of the

regional powers of the gulf states. Now, Saddam Hussein has

demonstrated once more his willingness to use military power

recklessly, and we must demonstrate once more our willingness and

capability to check that power and deter Saddam Hussein from being the

regional bully.

Therefore, last week, the president -- at the same time he

instructed Secretary [of State Warren] Christopher to send a warning

to Saddam Hussein -- instructed me to put the appropriate military

forces on alert and to prepare a contingency plan for military action,

which we would take if Iraq did not heed the warning. They did not. So

the president instructed me last night to execute that plan.

The plan does not involve the United States in the conflict under

way in Iraq, but it does make Saddam Hussein pay a price for his

aggression, and it does position coalition forces to more effectively

deter any further military ventures he might be considering.

We need to act now to ensure that Saddam does not conclude that

he can upset regional security with impunity. Our response protects

the United States interests by strengthening our ability to contain

future Iraqi attacks. We have chosen the time, the place and the

modality of our response to suit our strategic interests and our

comparative advantage, not his.

We have extended the no-fly zone in the southern region from 32

degrees to 33 degrees. This will be effective at noon tomorrow. This

will substantially weaken Saddam Hussein's ability to pursue military

adventures in the south and, additionally, will weaken his ability to

maintain an air force capable of projecting power in any direction.

Last night, we conducted strikes against fixed SAM [surface-to-

air missile] sites and air defense control facilities south of the

33rd latitude. These were targets south of this 33-degree zone. This

move, this action will greatly facilitate our ability to enforce the

no-fly zone -- particularly this now-extended no-fly zone.

I will now turn the podium over to Gen. Joe Ralston, the vice

chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will describe the strikes

we conducted and the military rationale for those strikes.

 

Ralston. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. First of all, I would like to

say how proud I am to represent the men and women in uniform who, over

the last few days and this weekend, have worked to plan and to execute

this operation.

The operation was conducted by the U.S. Central Command, under

the leadership of Gen. [J.H. Binford] "Binny" Peay. Gen. Peay and his

component commanders are in the AOR [area of responsibility], and I

want to extend my appreciation to them for the many long hours they

have put in in both the planning and the execution.

I'd like to start off with, as Secretary Perry says, with the

33rd latitude no-fly zone. ... There is a major military training area

within that zone as well as two major air bases with airplanes. By

denying this airspace to the Iraqi regime, we have given ourselves

more warning, should he decide to move to the south against our

friends and allies. We have also made a significant impact on his

ability to train. The denial of that training area effectively denies

him the ability to train his ground forces with their air force.

Now, in order to conduct this no-fly zone, coalition aircraft

will have to fly further north into Iraq -- over Iraqi territory --

than they have in the past. The reason for the strike was to take out

those air defenses that would threaten the coalition aircraft. These

are notional sites that you see here. They are not in the exact

location, as you see.

This is a picture of one of those sites, but as you can see, it

has a central radar van, it has command and control facilities, it has

missile launchers with missiles on them. That is not atypical of the

type of targets that were selected.

Our objective was to reduce the defenses that our aircraft would

encounter as they enforce the no-fly zone to the 33rd parallel. Our

objective, once again, is to enforce the no-fly zone. Taking out of

the targets is a means of facilitating that.

The strikes were conducted using cruise missiles -- both the

Tomahawk cruise missiles from the [aircraft carrier] USS Carl Vinson

battle group, which is located in the gulf, as well as conventional

air-launched cruise missiles, or C-ALCMs, from B-52Hs. ...

That completes what I've got in the way of a briefing. I believe

the secretary and I would entertain your questions at this time.

 

Q. Can you give us any idea of how effective these strikes were

in terms of hitting their targets?

Ralston. We're still assessing, doing the battle damage

assessment. We have not made a determination at this time.

Q. Dr. Perry, could you tell us, if Saddam does not remove his

forces from northern Iraq and stop attacking the Kurds, is the United

States prepared to quickly launch more raids? And would those raids be

easier to launch now that the missile defenses have been degraded in

southern Iraq?

Perry. We do not discuss future military operations. We certainly

reserve the right to conduct further actions, further military

actions. Whether or not we conduct them and how we conduct them and

against what targets is a matter still to be determined. One factor

which will influence that determination, but not the only factor, will

be the actions of the Iraqis over the days and weeks ahead.

Q. Will expanding the no-fly zone require additional U.S.

aircraft to patrol that area? Also, are other American forces now

being moved into the vicinity by the sea forces and air forces?

Perry. We do not require additional forces to do that. Let me ask

Gen. Ralston to comment further.

Ralston. With regard to the enforcement of the 33rd no-fly zone,

if we require additional forces, they will be minimal. We're assessing

that now to make sure that we have adequate forces to protect our

personnel.

Q. What about other forces being moved in, such as the carrier

[USS] Enterprise? Are other forces being moved into the region?

Perry. The Enterprise is on a tether, and we can move it into the

region in a matter of days if we decide we need it in the region.

We've not made that judgment at this point.

Q. Have Saudi Arabia and Kuwait agreed that U.S. aircraft based

in their countries can be used to monitor or police this expanded no-

fly zone in southern Iraq?

Perry. We have had extensive consultations with many allies in

the region, particularly with Saudi Arabia. I have talked several

times on the phone with the Saudi defense minister. The president has

talked with King Fahd. And Gen. [John] Shali[kashvili, chairman of the

Joint Chiefs of Staff], of course, visited the kingdom just a few days

ago. So we've had extensive consultations.

The most important conclusion from those consultations was their

agreement that they would continue to support Operation Southern Watch

with this extended no-fly zone.

Q. If the problem was in the north, why not extend the northern

no-fly zone further south? Why not make that a no-drive zone, as there

is in the south? And will this extended zone in the south also refer

to the movement of Iraqi troops? That is, will it also be a no-drive

zone south of the 33rd parallel?

Perry. We have acted on what we thought were our most important

national interests. We have seen in the past, and we continue to see,

a greater threat of Saddam Hussein to the ... south. Therefore, that's

where we concentrated our attention. We are responding to where we see

our strategic interests threatened, and that was why we focused on the

south.

Q. Will there be a no-drive zone from the 33rd south? Saddam

Hussein's not supposed to have any major troops movements below the

32nd. Does that now apply to below the 33rd?

Perry. That decision is yet to be made as to whether to extend

the no-drive from the 32nd to the 33rd. The decision that's been taken

was to extend the no-fly zone to the 33rd.

Q. Mr. Secretary, you have in effect spanked Saddam Hussein and

made it easier for U.S. and coalition aircraft to fly safely now up to

the 33rd parallel, but you haven't done anything to halt the actual

fighting and the aggression against the Kurds in the north. If this

aggression continues, as you've said it seems to be, what moves are

possible to actually stop that, short of putting ground troops in?

Perry. We have many other options available to us. I would not

describe them at this time, and I would not want to forecast whether

we will have to implement them. We would hope this move would be

sufficient -- that it will have the desired effect. But we have to

watch very carefully what happens in the days and the weeks ahead.

Q. What connection is there between the Iraqi actions in the

north and your statement that Saddam could pose a new threat to the

south? Is there any evidence that Iraq has been posing a new threat in

the southern part of the region?

Perry. There have been major threats to the south in recent

history -- in October of '94 and again in August of '95 - - in both of

those cases, sufficient to require us to deploy major forces to the

area. We still see that as the principal threat, and our concern is

that if Saddam Hussein is emboldened by what he would see as a success

in the north, he might strike out in areas which are of greater

strategic importance to him as well as to us, in the south. So we want

to keep our focus on where our vital national security interests are.

Q. So what you're saying is there is no new threat in the south?

Perry. There is a continuing threat in the south. The threat in

the south is there every day. Iraqi forces continue to be positioned -

- ground forces -- so that they could pose a threat to the south. What

is crucial to keep that theoretical threat from becoming a real threat

is curtailing any ability to provide them with air support and also

providing very strong and very rapid coalition air to strike any such

moves to the south. So this is very, very relevant to that.

Q. What message is Iran supposed to get out of this, if any?

Perry. We have separately warned Iran not to meddle in this

conflict in northern Iraq.

Q. Gen. Ralston, can you give us an assessment of what effect the

attention of these air strikes would have on the Iraqis' integrated

air defense system? Clearly it's degraded their ability between the

32nd and 33rd parallel, but how does this affect its air defenses

across the whole country? Is this an integral link, or is there any

assessment of that?

Ralston. Certainly the targets that were chosen were not only

surface-to-air missile sites, but the integrated operation centers of

his air defense system. These are "internetted," tied-in, to the

overall air defense network. When you take out pieces of it, it makes

the overall network less effective.

Q. Gen. Ralston, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit

more about the raid itself. Several of us were curious why B-52s had

to be brought over from the United States and why the Navy Tomahawks

couldn't do the job themselves.

Ralston. There is what I will call a division of labor. There is

a lot of planning that has to be done when you have targets such as

this, and so it was appropriate that we have ... The planners for TLAM

[Tomahawk land attack missile] are working very hard on a set of

targets; the planners for C-ALCM were working very hard on their set

of targets. I believe the two working together were able to do the job

quicker and more effectively than what we could have done with either

singly.

Q. Why daytime? Why was this done in the daytime?

Ralston. I don't want to get into the reasons that we choose

particular times of day.

Q. Gen. Ralston, Saddam Hussein, I believe, claimed in a speech

this morning that his forces shot down most of our missiles. How would

you react to that?

Ralston. We certainly have no evidence of that.

Q. Has there been any misfiring of the missiles?

Ralston. We have no evidence that there was any misfiring of the

missiles.

Q. Gen. Ralston, it's about 5 p.m. or later Iraqi time now. You

don't have any indication at all whether this raid was successful or

whether these missiles hit their targets and destroyed the radars?

Ralston. What I said was, we do not have a complete assessment of

the battle damage done as yet. We certainly have indications tha by

all means, the raid was effective.

Q. Why did the B-52s have to go the long way around? The last

time they shot ALCMs they flew straight from Barksdale [Air Force

Base, La.] across the Mediterranean and shot from a box over Saudi

Arabia.

Ralston. The flight time from CONUS [continental United States]

to the target area is approximately the same as from Guam to the

target area. We routinely position B-52s in Guam and other places to

conduct global power missions. This was the route that was chosen this

time.

Perry. I might say that this whole mission could have been done

by TLAMs. The whole mission could have been done by B-52s. The whole

mission could have been done by Navy-based air. We have many options

for how we conduct a mission like this. We considered many of those

options. One of the great advantages of the cruise missiles is the

minimal risk to the U.S. forces involved. The choice of a combination

of TLAMs and B-52s is a choice of convenience, not a necessity.

Q. With the intent of moving the no-fly zone a little farther

north and providing more defense against the south, how does that stop

Saddam from continuing in the north? What practical effect does it

have on that? And No. 2, what does he actually have to do now to

comply with whatever goal you've set down in this latest strike?

Perry. Do you want to take a stab at the second part of that?

Ralston. Let me try the second part of that first. We expect

compliance with the no-fly zone instructions. That says we expect no

flight below the 33rd parallel. And if there is flight, we will take

appropriate actions.

Q. I understand that, but how does this affect what's going on in

the north? And what does he have to do in the north in order for you

all to be satisfied that he's in compliance?

Ralston. Let me take the first part of that, if I may. By

impacting his training of his forces -- of his air forces -- and

impacting the integrated training of his air forces and his ground

forces, we believe that is a significant constraint on the training

and, therefore, the combat readiness of his forces.

Q. In the north as well?

Ralston. All over.

Q. Mr. Secretary, how viable is it still to try to maintain a no-

fly zone in the north, given, as your map shows, that the KDP controls

much of that territory, and they have now allied themselves with Iraq?

Perry. It is still viable to maintain a no-fly zone in the north.

We will watch very carefully what happens politically with the KDP and

the Iraqis and the PUK in the weeks ahead to determine the political

desirability of doing that.

Q. Can you answer the part of the question about what he has to

do in the north? How fast and how extensive do his actions have to be

in the north now to comply with what conditions we're ...?

Perry. We're not going to make any public declaration of what

actions Saddam Hussein has to take at this time. We have sent a very

strong message to him. We expect that there will be a change in his

behavior as a result of this. We'll be watching very carefully to see

what that is. But I'm not going to draw any specific criteria for what

...

Q. What does he need to do, though? Pull back all his troops?

What does he need to do exactly?

Perry. I'm not going to describe any specific set of criteria for

him. We have given him a strong message. We expect to see changes in

behavior. We will be watching very carefully. We reserve the right to

take future military actions.

Q. Since you have this new area of the no-fly zone in the south

between the 32nd and 33rd parallel, has this in the past six months or

a year been a site of heavy Iraqi air activity by helicopters and

planes?

Perry. The short answer is yes. Do you want to elaborate on that,

Gen. Ralston?

Ralston. Just to clarify it. Below the 32nd parallel, the no-fly

zone has been very effective. But between the 32nd and 33rd, where he

has major fighter bases there, there has been significant training

activity in that zone between the 32nd and 33rd parallel.

Q. ...in the north, though, in his move against the Kurds? Has he

used air power at all?

Ralston: He has not used air power north of the 36th no-fly zone.

Q. What does the apparent lack of public support today from Saudi

Arabia, from Jordan, from Turkey suggest about the durability of the

coalition to contain Iraq? It seems to suggest that it's fragmented.

Perry. First of all, let me say that we acted on our own national

interests, which is the president's responsibility. We believed we had

to act quickly. We did, however, have extensive consultation with

allies -- the president, the secretary of state, the national security

adviser, Gen. Shalikashvili, myself, all have been consulting with our

allies.

We expect most of our allies to be supportive. And most

importantly, I would point out we did not need their participation in

this strike. We have the national resources to conduct this strike. We

do need their continued cooperation -- and in the case of some

countries, their participation -- to continue to maintain the no-fly

zone, the Operation Southern Watch and the Operation Provide Comfort.

And we have been assured by our allies we will continue to have that

cooperation and support. That is the key.

Q. Does that include France? They made very strong reservations

about ... . They will continue to take part in ...

Perry. We expect France to continue to participate in Operation

Southern Watch.

Q. Your reaction to the Iraqi statement that this new no-fly zone

is "null and void"?

Perry. We have never, from the beginning, sought their permission

for establishing the no-fly zone. They never concurred or supported

the no-fly zone to the 32 degrees. We would not expect them to support

the extension of it to 33. This is not an issue in which they have a

vote.

Q. Mr. Secretary, what changes in Saddam's behavior do you hope

you'll see?

Perry. What we are looking for primarily is deterrence --

deterrence of future military adventures. This, on the one hand, sends

a strong message, but I think even more importantly, it positions the

coalition forces so that if that message is not accepted, we are in a

stronger position to deal with any further military actions he might

take. Thank you.

 

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