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Media Availability on Arrival in Kuwait

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 09, 2002

(Media Availability on Arrival in Kuwait)

Rumsfeld: We're in Kuwait City in case you didn't know and we have a very good relationship with Kuwait. We will first have a brief visit with the Minister of Defense in the lounge and then we go to Camp Doha for meetings with the troops.

Q: With the presence of thousands of American troops in Kuwait and tens of thousands in the general area, what does Kuwait and the smaller countries have to fear from Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Well I suppose you'd have to ask Kuwait that question. There is no question but that the record that Iraq has in this area is one of aggression, externally and internally.

Q: (Inaudible)

Rumsfeld: Well, we have Operation Southern Watch in major part thanks to nations here in this region, and Northern Watch as well. So that has been helpful over a period of years.

Q: Will you be sounding about on possible action against Iraq in the months to come?

Rumsfeld: If I were I wouldn't discuss it.

Q: Sir, this spring during the Arab Summit, Kuwait and Iraq had a very formal reconciliation. I'm wondering if you are concerned that Kuwait is moving closer to Saddam Hussein's (audible)?

Rumsfeld: Not at all.

Q: And the level of threat in the no fly zones now -- [British Secretary of State for Defense Geoffrey] Hoon talked several days ago about an increased confidence on the part of Iraq. Have you seen a similar pattern in the last several days? Has there been any change?

Rumsfeld: I haven't seen anything in the last several days but certainly in the recent months there's been continuous activity by Iraq on the ground in the north and the south and there have been firings on our aircraft -- coalition aircraft -- and we've successfully dealt with some ground fire as well as with some radars.

Q: Will you share the threat that you believe Iraq poses to the region with Kuwait? Will you lay out the intelligence?

Rumsfeld: Well, they live in the neighborhood. They're aware of what Iraq's doing.

Q: Do you think Iraq has improved its ability to target U.S. aircraft in the no fly zone in the recent months? Have they made technological improvements?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't know about recent months but certainly in recent years they have. They have been able to bring in fiber optic and various communication systems that enable them to better cue their radars and their ground fire.

Q: Then why haven't we struck them?

Rumsfeld: We have wherever we can find them.

Q: Would you say it's still operating?

Rumsfeld: Well, we keep degrading it and it keeps getting improved.

Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could follow up on that question about the Arab League Summit? It was more than a reconciliation. They passed a resolution that in exchange for Iraq's recognition of Kuwait sovereignty, all the Arab states said they would view an attack on Iraq as an attack on any of them. Given that resolution should the decision be made to move against Iraq given evidence of weapons of mass destruction? Can you count on the support of these important allies?

Rumsfeld: Well first, I'm not going to get into the subject of an attack on Iraq. That's not why I'm here. That's not a subject that's appropriate for me, that's appropriate for presidents and leaders of countries. The cooperation we have been receiving, we are currently receiving, and I have every reason to say we will be receiving from the nations -- these countries in the region that we're going to be visiting today and tomorrow -- has been terrific and we have a very close relationship that is as strong today as it was yesterday and I suspect it will be the same tomorrow.

Q: Mr. Hoon said the other day that he saw very aggressive postures -- the Brits have -- in recent weeks from the Iraqi's. Painting their aircraft is what he meant. Does the U.S. share that assessment -- a much more aggressive Iraq in the last few weeks?

Rumsfeld: As I answered, it's not clear to me I could calibrate a difference in the last few weeks. There's no question but that Iraq continues to be aggressively attempting to not be constrained by the UN Resolutions and by the northern and southern no fly zones.

Q: He said that they've been improving their technology or their capabilities. Is that primarily through duel use technology or...?

Rumsfeld: Well there's an awful lot that comes in illegally as well.

Q: What is your message going to be to these Gulf countries?

Rumsfeld: Well, these are countries that are very close to the United States. We have excellent relationships with them. We have a lot of folks in the region. With Kuwait obviously you will see the relationship there. In Bahrain, we've had a relationship for 50 years, we have had ships located there and in Qatar we've got a very good relationship as well. So I'm looking forward to being here and it's been too long for me as Secretary of Defense to not have been here. I've just been so busy with other things but I'm very pleased that I can be here now.

Q: What do you want these troops to know sir?

Rumsfeld: I'm going to go tell them right now.

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