Wednesday, May 17, 1995 - 2:00 p.m.
(NOTE: Participating in the briefing were Dr. Joseph Nye
and Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA))
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our special Wednesday briefing.
Dr. Joseph Nye will speak on the record about the Department's new strategy assessment for the Middle East.
Dr. Nye: Thank you.
Today we're releasing a report -- United States Security Strategy for the Middle East -- which is the first comprehensive statement of political/military strategy for the region.
When I took over this job as Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, the Secretary asked me to prepare a series of regional reports on the strategy that we were following in the Defense Department to implement the President's strategy of engagement and enlargement. The first of those reports was on East Asian Strategy, and this is the second. The next in line will be Europe.
Let me give you a quick overview of the highlights of the report. Basically it starts with an expression of U.S. interest in the Middle East which, to simplify somewhat, focused on the fact that the world is now a petroleum-dependent global economy and the largest oil reserves are in the Middle East. Also since the creation of Israel in 1948 and the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust, the U.S. still has an unshakable commitment to Israel. Third is that a new element which takes the collapse of the Soviet Union: the concern that Middle East disputes not destabilize the newly independent republics that have ties with Middle Eastern countries. This is in addition to traditional interests which are true in every region: which is, protection of American citizens and maintaining open sea lines of communication and other such normal interests.
Challenges and threats. We often think of threats in terms of hostile states. There's no shortage of these in the Middle East including Iraq, Iran and Libya. But in addition, we're concerned about the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction which we see as more widespread in the Middle East than in any other region -- Iran and Iraq heading the list.
We've put a full court press on this issue. We've had some successes recently, namely in the extension of the NPT and in Yeltsin's agreement to talk further on the Iran nuclear issues, and, in particular, not to go further with the enrichment technologies. But we have to keep pushing on those issues.
There is also a possibility of resource disputes in the future, and there are social trends in the region such as population growth, urbanization, underemployment, which could have a destabilizing effect on the status quo.
Given this situation described in the report, what is U.S. strategy? One thing to notice is that the U.S. strategy is based on the proposition of engagement; and, if you looked at it over a 20-year period, you will notice improvements in American military capabilities which are quite dramatic. If you compared 1980 when we established the predecessor to Central Command -- the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force -- it would have taken three months to get a heavy division to the Gulf. In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, we were able to field seven combat-ready brigades, three carrier battle groups, and 14 tactical fighter squadrons in less than three weeks. Today we're in an even better position. We have up to 20,000 U.S. military men and women, as many as 20 ships, and scores of land-based aircraft in the Gulf at any one time. In addition, we have pre-positioning and other mobility enhancements that have improved over the last few years. And in the VIGILANT WARRIOR case last October, we found that we're able to get a brigade from Fort Stewart, Georgia, to Camp Doha in Kuwait in three days.
So if you think about that -- from three months in 1980 to three weeks in 1990 to three days in 1994 -- this is an impressive improvement in our capabilities in the region.
Initially in the political sense, things are much better than they were 20 years ago. Remember in the aftermath of the Arab/Israeli War the U.S. had bad relations with many Arab states, and Israel was threatened by many. Instead of that, we have Israel with having signed peace treaties with two Arab states and also with the Palestinians.
So in that sense, we have a better situation, but a still complex one, particularly since in the Middle East there are no formal alliances multilateral or bilateral; there's no standing arrangements with our other allies in NATO or the Far East, it's all ad hoc; and there are no permanent U.S. bases.
Faced with this situation, the U.S. strategy has three parts -- engagement, forward presence, and rapid response.
In terms of engagement, the Defense Department creates an environment favorable for peace and stability by carefully structured security assistance, defense sales, military-to-military contacts, and participation in peacekeeping operations.
In terms of forward presence -- the second component of the strategy... We believe that our forward presence -- the 20,000 troops I've mentioned -- are a key symbol of commitment to deter regional aggression.
That sets the basis for the third component of the strategy which is rapid response -- our ability to deploy additional forces rapidly and effectively which depends upon our pre-positioning, our improvements in strategic lift, and exercises with local states that enhance the interoperability that our forces have with local forces.
In that sense, there has been, since 1990, a considerable improvement in their areas with added PRE-PO, strategic mobility improvements, and enhanced combat capability of the early arriving units.
In conclusion, let me say that the U.S. has made remarkable progress in our security in the Middle East. But the Middle East still faces very complex challenges, of which proliferation is probably the most pressing; and the U.S. will continue to use a variety of means to promote regional security and stability, including working with our friends and allies, and ultimately will remain prepared to defend vital U.S. interests in the region -- unilaterally if necessary.
Let me stop there.
Q: There are few surprises in this. It does stress that the end of the Cold War was paramount to U.S. concern in the area, and it points out that virtually all of the coalition with the exception of the United States, France, and Britain have now gone home -- not only with their forces, but with their pocketbooks. How do you plan to address that? And what are these other five navies you're talking about that might take part in the MIF for 40 years?
A: That's a whole series of questions there.
What we are trying to do in this report is pull together the Defense Department's contribution and how we see the strategy for the region -- what we've done. What the report shows is that we've been making very good progress. On the Secretary's recent trip to the region in March, we arranged for the pre-positioning of an additional brigade set of equipment. We have enhanced the ability to have joint exercises with other countries in the region which will increase interoperability. We feel, and assessing the region after that trip, that we are in greatly improved conditions than we were as recently as DESERT STORM. I think that is the big news and the good news.
On specific things such as the enforcement of the oil embargo against Iraq and the Multilateral Intervention Force, we have talked with a number of other countries about possibly contributing, and I think we will see by later this year a number of other countries that will be providing ships to help us tighten up the blockade against the small amounts of Iraqi oils that are being shipped out.
As for the other dimensions... On SOUTHERN WATCH, which is still a very important component of the containment of Iraq, it was interesting when we went there to see British and French and American pilots under common command, flying to a common operational plan in a very effective way out of Saudi Arabia. So it's true that the DESERT STORM coalition has disbanded, but there are still some very important cooperative ventures that are going on.
I've mentioned states from outside the region. This is not to neglect the important contributions of the states in the region which are providing us with facilities, access, and contributions in kind.
Q: How about money? You point out that it's a very costly thing and that the regional states can't afford it, especially with oil prices low.
A: It varies by the state. A state like Kuwait contributed $240 million $226, I guess that was half of the cost of VIGILANT WARRIOR. The Saudis are providing all the fuel for SOUTHERN WATCH. Some of the smaller states like Bahrain, for example, are not in a position to make that type of contribution, but they provide very important access. Bahrain has allowed us to use Manama and to essentially have access to facilities for longer than any other country in the region. So different states have contributed in different ways.
Q: How about the Germans, the Japanese, other people who use this oil and are not putting money into...
A: I think that's one of the things that Ambassador Caldwell, who's the ambassador for burden-sharing, is addressing with these other countries, such as how can they contribute more to reducing the burdens. So it's a continuing conversation for states outside the region.
Q: What is the annual financial burden for the United States in the Gulf?
A: I don't have a summary number. We do have numbers: for example, SOUTHERN WATCH costs about $300 million in incremental costs per year. PROVIDE COMFORT, which is obviously based not in the Gulf but in Turkey, costs around $100 million a year.
Q: And U.S. costs?
A: That's just the U.S. incremental costs.
Q: How much would you like to see other nations kick in?
A: In the case of France and Britain, since we haven't costed their contribution, I think we feel they are doing an important share. When you come to nations outside the region, you have to ask in global burden-sharing, what are they contributing to other concerns that we have as well? So we are discussing this with them. We don't have a set percentage or set bill that...
Burden-sharing has many dimensions to it. One is through military forces. Another is payments in kind such as the fuel that the Saudis provide. Another is payments in cash which the Kuwaitis provided. Another is what countries are doing for overseas development assistance where... For example, Japan is doing more than the U.S. So when one does the equation on burden-sharing, one has to look across a number of variables.
Q: When you say SOUTHERN WATCH, is that just referring to the air operation?
Q: So these two numbers, the 300 and 100, don't include the naval operation? They don't include the Northern Iraq no-fly zone?
A: PROVIDE COMFORT, that's the Northern Iraq one. But I don't think the MIF in the southern... Is not in SOUTHERN WATCH. SOUTHERN WATCH is just air, I believe.
Q: The carrier operations...
A: The carrier part, yeah.
Q: So essentially to protect various peoples from Iraq, we're now spending more than half a billion dollars?
A: In protecting... In Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, we're protecting Kurds. And in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH we're protecting Shiites but also keeping an eye on what's happening in terms of stability in the region. Not quite half a billion.
Q: On a different topic, your report mentioned your concern about Iran buying missiles from North Korea. I wonder if you can elaborate a bit more on the relationship between Iran and North Korea in terms of Iran as a customer, as well as possibly a partner, in development of weapons of mass destruction.
A: We're very concerned about the provision of missiles to Iran. We are also concerned about North Korea's exports of missiles generally. It's one of the subjects that we are raising with the North Koreans.
Q: Can you discuss the specifics about the type of cooperation...
A: I don't think we can go into the details without getting into classified material on the types of missiles.
Q: Does it include weapons of mass destruction besides missiles?
Q: I see that you foray somewhat into North Africa. And I wondered if you could perhaps elaborate a little bit on your reading of the situation now in Algeria. I understand the building's been studying it through NATO -- quite a bit -- and European security.
A: The United States is watching closely Algeria, but we have not been directly involved. We are concerned about any spillover effects that might occur in terms of effects on Europe or other parts of North Africa; so we are, indeed, studying the matter closely. If there were a need to evacuate citizens, obviously, we would have to play a role in that. But short of that, we're not taking actions.
Q: When the Secretary was in the region a couple of months back he set off alarms about the Iranian buildup on the islands near the mouth of the Gulf. Has that buildup continued? What's the status at this point? What is your reading now that we're about two months down the road in terms of Iranian intentions in doing that?
A: The buildup has not changed much. There's been some to and fro -- some units have come in, some have gone out. I think what it represents is an Iranian desire to control the area around the Straits of Hormuz and intimidate the smaller countries, particularly the UAE which also has claims on Abu Musa. I don't think that's changed since the Secretary's trip. Where we discussed it with the UAE...
Q: When Secretary Christopher was in the region, in a joint statement with the Saudis, the GCC, I guess, the U.S. recognized those disputed islands as UAE territory, not as disputed territory...
A: It's not quite that simple. At the end of the British period there was a division of authority over Abu Musa; and, if I remember correctly, the southern part was an area where the UAE would have rights and the northern part was where the Iranians would have rights. But I don't...
Q: And there were fairly elaborate provisions about equal access for people coming in and out of...
A: Right. But it was not... The '71 agreement was not one which assigned the whole island of Abu Musa to the UAE. So it's not a case where the Iranians could be accused of aggression -- of having taken the island from the UAE. It was already an ambiguous situation with rights for each country in the Abu Musa island. What we're concerned about is that the Iranians have been pressing their part beyond what was originally intended.
Q: Are you satisfied with the progress the GCC is making in having a viable military alliance that actually can conduct military operations?
A: The GCC has made good progress. They've carried out a certain number of joint exercises. There were forces that were moved north during VIGILANT WARRIOR. But we think it still has a distance to go to become a viable military organization, and we are encouraging them to take further steps.
In fact, one of the points the Secretary made on his March trip in the region at each of the stops we made was to encourage them to go further in GCC cooperation.
Q: How does this new strategy fit with the dual-containment track -- policy, and what is the interpretation literally of that policy?
A: This report is fully consistent with dual containment. Essentially it identifies the countries that are threats in the region -- Iraq and Iran, though of different types. Iraq because of its land-based capabilities. It has still the largest army in the region, the most armor. It has reconstructed a great proportion of its military production facilities. We believe it still presents a considerable threat. So the report potentially outlines the ways in which -- through engagement and pre-positioning, joint training and so forth that we are prepared to meet that Iraq threat.
We also are concerned about Iran for reasons that have been stated many times, because of the concern of, their desire for, homogeny over the Persian Gulf; their weapons of mass destruction program, particularly their nuclear program; and because of their support to terrorism. The report lays out ways in which, by working with other countries in the region, we believe we can help to contain Iran.
So the report essentially is about -- is fully consistent with -- dual containment and expresses the ways in which we're going about it.
Q: Generally as you look at arms purchases in the area there has been some criticism about over-buying. Is that a concern you find that you share?
A: There was a spurt of purchases after the Gulf War. In addition to that, oil prices have gone down somewhat from their earlier peak. The net result of that is that countries in the region have to be careful not to strain their liquidity. Nobody's worried about their overall solvency, but the problem of making sure that they don't get themselves into a financial bind as a result of arms purchases is a serious problem, and it varies country by country.
We have discussed with each country, according to its financial situation, what we think are the problems that it faces and a reasonable type of schedule for payments of arms.
So yes, it's a problem, we are concerned about it. It varies country by country, and we have talked with each country about appropriate types of payment schedules.