Wednesday, September 11, 1996 - 1 p.m.
[This media availability followed an address by Secretary Perry to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Washington, D.C.]
Q: ... will the U.S. take action if Saddam continues to rebuild those anti-aircraft batteries in Iraq?
A: We were fired at this morning by two SA-6 air defense batteries -- they fired at two F-16s. Both shots missed, neither of them was even close to their targets. The air defense crew only had their radars turned on for a few seconds -- that was a very wise decision on their part, because if they'd had it on any longer than that, they would have had an anti-radiation missile down their throats.
On the other hand, it was a very foolish decision on their part, because there is no way of guiding the missile without having the radar on -- that's why they had such a wild shot. Iraq's air defense crews were playing some kind of a game. They will very soon learn that we are not playing games.
We have both the ability and the resolve to protect our interests and to protect our flight crews.
Q: Should we assume then that Iraq firing two missiles at US aircraft is not going to go unpunished?
A: Let me simply say again: We have the resolve and the ability to protect our interests and to protect our air crews. And the responses that we make will be disproportionate with the provocations which were made against us.
Q: Isn't Saddam trying to drive a wedge between our allies -- as well as Arab allies -- by playing this cat and mouse game, and we're just playing into it.
A: I think the answer to your first question is, "Yes." I think he is trying to drive a wedge between us and our allies. The answer to your second question is, "No;" I don't think he is being successful in this. Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and Operation PROVIDE COMFORT -- the air operations in the south and air operations in the north -- are both being done with our allies: the British, the French, and Americans are flying the airplanes; the Turks are providing the bases on the north and the Saudis are providing the bases in the south. So, the coalition is alive and well and, I might say more importantly, is functioning and functioning effectively.
Q: Some of the other Arab countries in the region are not letting US planes be based there, have the Saudis changed their minds? Are we going to send the 117s there?
A: We did not request the Saudis for permission to base the F-117s. We requested another country, that request has been granted and we will be sending the F-117s. They already have the deployment order.
Q: Is General Shalikashvili going to be talking to the allies on this matter?
A: General Shalikashvili met yesterday in Portugal at a meeting of the chiefs of defense staff of NATO and on the margins of that meeting, he did have discussion with his British and French counterparts about the situation in Iraq. In the meantime, I have had numerous telephone discussions with my counterparts in Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait -- we are staying very, very close together, keeping ourselves well informed about what's going on on the ground in Iraq, what's going on in the air and what our responses are going to be.