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Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

IRAQ
1-5 Interpretation of UN Security Council resolution calling for Iraqi compliance
1-3 UNSC authorization useful but not necessary for potential use of force
3-4 No timeframe for early test of Iraq's compliance with UNSCOM inspection agreement
3 UN SYG Annan's assurance that UNSCOM retains control over inspection process
4-7 Requirements for lifting sanctions; peaceful intentions
6,8 No USG intent to conduct bilateral US-Iraq meetings
6 Reported Iranian military incursion into eastern Iraq
7 Trigger for military action


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 28
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 1998, 12:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today is Tuesday. Tomorrow the Secretary will be testifying; we will not be briefing. And on Thursday, as you know, she will leave on her trip to Ukraine.

Mr. Schweid.

QUESTION: It may be worthwhile, I think, to go into the Security Council resolution again. In at least one newspaper's headline, the Security Council has not authorized using force against Iraq. Richardson says he's happy with what they did. Is this authority to use force? Is that what severest consequences could mean, if Iraq reneges?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm going to break my rule about not reflecting on particular newspapers or media organizations, in this case. The actual headline in the newspaper is much worse than the one you read.

QUESTION: This is the web site headline.

MR. RUBIN: Right. The actual newspaper headline suggests to me that that headline writer should go into fiction work, rather than nonfiction work. The United States did not seek authorization to use force, and any suggestion that we did is based on fiction, not fact.

This resolution was the clearest possible threat to use force that the Security Council has taken since this crisis began last year. The words "severest consequences" is diplomatic code for military action. As you know, the United States has said for some time that we do not believe we need Security Council authorization for the use of military force, and that is why we did not seek Security Council authorization.

So those who suggested that we didn't get what we sought were writing fictional work. We wanted something different, and we got what we wanted. What we wanted was the clearest possible message to the Iraqi regime that a failure to comply with this agreement would lead to worldwide condemnation and increasing support for the US determination to use military force, if necessary.

I can only say that I remember sitting in this room just a couple of weeks ago - standing in this room - and hearing from all of you about the lack of support for the threat to use military force from countries around the world. This Security Council resolution now unanimously puts the Security Council on record -- and therefore, by implication, the world on record -- supporting the strongest possible threat language you can use in diplomacy.

I was in New York for four years. I never saw the word "severest," the superlative form of the word, used. I often saw "grave"; I often saw "severe"; I often saw "serious". But "severest" means there is no more severe consequence, which makes quite clear that what we're talking about here is military force.

It is true that some countries did not want this resolution to authorize the use of force, but they were arguing against a phantom. We did not seek authority to use force. So what's changed here is the fact that the world is now supporting a strong, clear threat that military force will ensue if Iraq violates this agreement. And that's why we think this resolution was so important.

QUESTION: If this is the strongest language that you've seen after your experience there, why stop short there? You have severest consequences; why not just spell it out once and for all for Saddam to see and really have that to be the icing on the cake? Why not just make it plain?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as is normal in the world of diplomacy and the resolutions of the Security Council, even Resolution 678 - the Gulf War Resolution - did not spell it out to the satisfaction of some people, if they wanted to see the word, "military force" or "ground invasion" or "air power." Those are not words that are used in Security Council resolutions.

That resolution, 678, authorized all necessary means to be used. We have said for some time that our view is that if Iraq violates this agreement, it will be in fundamental violation of Resolution 687, the Cease-Fire Resolution, which will then give rise to Resolution 6878, which authorizes the use of military force. So in our view, a new authority to use force is not necessary. What was useful was a clear threat from the international community directed at the leadership in Iraq that a failure to comply would lead to the severest consequences. That's what the resolution says. That is a marked shift from the international lay of the land that existed just a couple of weeks ago, and that's why this resolution is so important.

QUESTION: Does this in any way - some might look at this and see the UN once again backing away from something and giving Saddam higher ground, even yet again.

MR. RUBIN: All I can say is you'd have to use an awful powerful microscope to find anything in this resolution other than a clear threat to use military force - the same threat that the Security Council obviously did not make two weeks ago.

QUESTION: You call this a useful resolution. Why has it been, from this podium and elsewhere the last week or so, there have been statements, repeated statements that no resolution is necessary at all?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that's the difference between the word "useful" and the word "necessary," Roy. We've made clear that a resolution is not necessary, from our standpoint, in terms of international legal authority. We believe the international legal authority exists, based on the fact that Iraq, if it violates this agreement, will be in fundamental violation of the cease-fire, and therefore the underlying authority to use force will pertain. So that is what is necessary.

What is useful is a signal from the entire world that a failure to comply with this resolution would lead to the most severe consequences.

QUESTION: My question is why, then - why not strive for what you now say is a useful resolution? Why not have said this would be a useful thing to have a resolution doing the following things?

MR. RUBIN: I think I just said that it was useful.

QUESTION: Yes, but why not - in other words, you've been taking such a neutral stance on the value of a resolution for the last week or so.

MR. RUBIN: I think if you look back at the words that we've used - and I know you do that on a regular basis - we've said that a strong message from the Security Council would be welcome.

QUESTION: What about the Russians this morning were talking about the issue of an automatic recourse to force. And their interpretation was that, if there was a breach, that it would return to the Security Council, and you wouldn't have - you wouldn't automatically --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a breach, the Security Council would talk about it. What I am saying is that, from the standpoint of the United States -- the country that has gathered the military force in the Gulf and is prepared to use that military force -- we believe the authority exists; the warning has now been issued; and Saddam Hussein should be put on notice that the President of the United States has the power, the will and the authority to use military power, if he violates this agreement.

QUESTION: One of the things that the United States was looking for was an early test. Do you have any assurances now from UNSCOM or anybody else that there will be an early test of the Iraqis' willingness to cooperate?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have a time frame for you. I believe that those who have been in contact with UN officials are reasonably confident that they are working assiduously on developing a program for going back into Iraq and seeing whether Iraq is going to move from a pattern of non-cooperation to a pattern of cooperation. And they are working assiduously on such a program, but they would be the ones to describe the time frame.

As I indicated yesterday, Chairman Butler - and I will also point, by the way, to another statement here for those of you who seemed also interested in taking your microscope out when this agreement was put forward. Secretary General Annan, the signer of the agreement, makes clear in his statement that the agreement ensures that UNSCOM, the UN Special Commission, "remains in full operational control of the inspection process." Secondly, Secretary General Annan makes clear that, according to the agreement, Iraq has to provide immediate, unconditional, unrestricted access to those teams to every area, facility, piece of equipment, individuals and means of transportation.

So for those of you who were so anxious to find holes in this agreement, or those outside this room who might have done so prematurely, let me point out that the two principles we went in - and I know these words are going to sound familiar to you - total access and operational control for UNSCOM were preserved and strengthened, and those are the words of the Secretary General.

QUESTION: Jamie, on the issue of sanctions relief, there is a provision in this resolution that talks about fulfillment of Resolution 687, I think it is. And I'd like to know, is there some light at the end of the tunnel, as some of the other countries have talked about it, for the Iraqis, should they comply with the Annan agreement?

MR. RUBIN: If Iraq complies with this agreement -- and that's a big "if" -- in other words, if Saddam Hussein acts like a wise man not a wise guy and implements this agreement, then the UN Special Commission will be in a position to make judgments that they have been unable to make -- namely, whether Iraq is in compliance with Resolution 687's provisions on destroying weapons of mass destruction; whether they can certify that the Iraqis have eliminated all of their weapons of mass destruction; and whether they can certify that the long-term monitoring regime is in place that will prevent them from ever building weapons of mass destruction or missiles over 150 kilometers. When that is in place and when Iraq is in compliance with other relevant provisions of UN resolutions, then it's possible to think about lifting sanctions.

We are not sanguine about that prospect. We have grave doubts that Iraq has changed its behavior. We have doubts whether Saddam Hussein has changed his stripes. Will he move from a pattern of non-cooperation across the board with the United Nations to a pattern of cooperation is a question that, at this point, it's hard to answer yes to.

With regard to the resolution, it merely points out what every resolution points out, which is that Iraq is not in compliance with those provisions and that if it were, that would be a different situation. So that's, as far as we're concerned, a statement of the obvious.

QUESTION: Does the fulfillment of Paragraph XXII of that resolution satisfy the obligations? Or are there a whole series of other obligations that have to be carried out by Iraq in connection with other resolutions?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's been our view that Iraq has to comply with all relevant resolutions. And that goes beyond simply the question of weapons of mass destruction. I would caution you against tossing around the word "Paragraph XXII." There is a preamble to the Resolution 687 that talks about Iraq's peaceful intentions. The point there is, if Iraq has not changed its pattern of behavior, and it were to temporarily comply with weapons of mass destruction provisions, but demonstrate flagrant abuse of all the rest of the Council's demands, one would have justified doubts as to whether the moment they had oil to export and money to import and pour into its weapons of mass destruction, whether they would just kick the inspectors out and the long-term monitoring system out and begin building weapons of mass destruction in earnest.

So our view has been based on the rather straightforward premise that we are looking at Iraq's peaceful intentions. We're looking at a pattern of compliance with UN resolutions across the board; and that one shouldn't over-interpret these things when one's dealing with a dictator as dangerous as Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: What are the other relevant resolutions - other relevant things that Iraq must do in order --

MR. RUBIN: Well, there is a list, and I will get that for you. But there are more than one, and I will try to get you a considered legal judgment on this. But they include things like accounting for Kuwaiti prisoners of war that are still missing - cooperating in that effort, which they have not done so to date. They include returning Kuwaiti property that was stolen in the invasion that the Security Council authorized a force to reverse. And there are other provisions, but those are two examples.

QUESTION: You've spent a lot of time today talking about the technicalities of the agreement and how it was negotiated and what it means. The Iraqi deputy prime minister, who signed the agreement yesterday said, "We will live up to this agreement. It is our agreement; it was not imposed upon us." My question to you is, does the US see anything qualitatively different about the nature of this agreement as distinct from all the other resolutions which it embodies and so on? And is there, in your view, any more hope that because of the way this agreement was reached, that perhaps it has more success at security compliance?

MR. RUBIN: Let me answer it this way - Iraq is a dictatorship, and Saddam Hussein has been in charge of that country all along. And if Saddam Hussein wanted his people to comply with UN resolutions all along, I am confident they would have followed his orders, lest they suffer the fate of those who have not.

So we do not think that the simple fact that Saddam Hussein had a discussion about this necessarily leads us to be more optimistic about their intentions. But frankly, it's not intentions, with regard to this agreement, that matter. What matters is whether Iraq lives up to the agreement, and the proof of that will come in the testing.

Saddam Hussein has had numerous opportunities to live up to the resolutions of the Security Council over the last five and a half, six years. He's failed to capitalize on those opportunities. If he does so this time, that's fine and good. That is the best way for the United States and the international community to combat the threat he poses from maintaining weapons of mass destruction. But we have no illusions about who this man is and what his pattern of behavior has been. If he decides to change that pattern of behavior, we will be pleasantly surprised.

QUESTION: And if I can just follow up, in light of the comment by Tariq Aziz -- and also in light of your comment about the fact that Saddam Hussein had a discussion about this agreement -- is there any consideration being given in the Administration now to having any kind of discussion with the Iraqi Government; that is, the US having such a discussion with the Iraqi Government, or perhaps the US in conjunction with others on the Security Council -- the P-5 or any other combination the US might want to suggest?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding, the existing pattern has been as follows, is that we do not have bilateral meetings with the Iraqi leadership. We have met for what we in the diplomatic business call demarches, where a specific message is delivered. Ambassador Albright - or Secretary Albright, when she was Ambassador Albright, in New York, has done that in the past with Iraqi Ambassador Hamdoon. That kind of contact has existed, so it's not that there has been no contact.

But what we want to focus on -- and the reason why we do not believe it's appropriate to change that pattern -- is the fact that Iraq is in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions. Iraq's complaint has often tried to direct itself at the United States, but it's not the United States that passed this resolution demanding compliance and making clear that military force was a realistic threat if they did not comply; that was the United Nations Security Council.

So we think that so long as Iraq is not in compliance with UN resolutions, there is no point in having meetings. I am not aware, therefore, that there's been any rethinking of that position in a comprehensive way.

QUESTION: Also on Iraq, have you heard of an Iranian incursion into what would be Eastern Iraq, in which there were reported scores of casualties?

MR. RUBIN: I've heard some reports and rumors about that, but I have no details about it.

QUESTION: Could you look into that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Jamie, going back, you were just saying, in answer to Ralph's questions, that Iraqi intentions did not - it's not the intentions that matter in the carrying out of the Annan agreement. But when I was asking you about sanctions, you were saying what we want to look at is the intentions - the peaceful intentions.

MR. RUBIN: Boy, you really can work the nit-picking, Roy, go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, it may sound like nit-picking at the podium, but it sounds awful like an inconsistency to my ears.

MR. RUBIN: No, it's not an inconsistency. In the one case, what we are dealing with is a regime that has shown a pattern of disregard for the international community; that has violated resolutions, invaded another country, failed to comply with the resolution setting forth the cease-fire. In the other case, we are having our doubts about the intentions of Iraq, and waiting to see its pattern of behavior.

So I really don't understand the inconsistency. I mean, it's useful, perhaps, in argumentation to note the inconsistency; but I don't see the inconsistency.

QUESTION: Well, it's very simple. If you are looking for compliance, according to a written agreement, then there's a way to measure whether there's compliance. But if you're going to try to read people's intentions by overriding other measures, then --

MR. RUBIN: But, Roy, if you listen to what I said, what I said was that we're not - the words "peaceful intentions" are significant, and we are going to measure them by actions, Roy. I said actions in the case of Kuwaiti prisoners; actions in the case of Kuwaiti equipment. In other words, I said that peaceful intentions can be measured by actions, just the way intentions, in the case of this agreement, can be measured by actions in its implementation.

QUESTION: Well, doesn't compliance - just to finish up, doesn't compliance with this agreement -- and this is a hypothetical, to say the least - constitute a demonstration of intentions?

MR. RUBIN: The Iraqis have a long, long way to go to build back the confidence that was lost by the international community on the day they invaded Kuwait and the day that they ravaged the country of Kuwait; the day that they burned oil wells; the day that they slaughtered their own people in the Kurdish areas. They have a long, long way to go to build back confidence by the international community in their pattern of behavior.

QUESTION: -- back to the next phase, the testing of the accord. Does the United States feel, then, that military action might be warranted at the first glitch?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll make that judgment at the time and place of our choosing. But we are making clear the principle underlying our policy, which is that a violation of this agreement is one that will, in our view, justify the use of military force.

QUESTION: Could you comment on a report that the FBI has been made aware that an Iraqi spy passed information from the Pentagon to a senior intelligence official in Baghdad? And has this individual been captured or --

MR. RUBIN: I'm smiling because I think I counted the word "FBI" once, the word "intelligence" three times in the question, and I just wondered what your hopes were in terms of me answering the question.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, you know what my hopes are; you know I have to ask the question.

(Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: We also know that you do occasionally address all of those issues from this podium.

MR. RUBIN: Never when they're combined like that. No, no comment.

QUESTION: Never say never.

MR. RUBIN: When they're combined in that particular way, it's a standard I don't think we'll meet in the next three years.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about the report that the leader of Jordan, who is coming here shortly, has suggested that what is needed is a dialogue between the United States and Iraq directly now. In the last 25 years, we've only had normal relations with Iraq, I believe, about five years. You can blame that on them, of course, but what is your attitude on that? Secondly, would you comment on the report in Maariv this morning that there was a mission by Ambassador David Newton, a fairly senior Department of State official, to Damascus, probably in connection with the possible withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon?

MR. RUBIN: The first question I believe I gave an extensive answer that required me to stop myself and drink water twice to that question when Ralph asked it to me. The short answer is, I don't believe there's any consideration being given to changing our view that Iraq should meet with the United Nations and answer the concerns of the United Nations, not the United States.

With regard to the second issue, I believe the ambassador that you're referring to was not on a diplomatic mission, but was on a mission to explain our policy to various governments and officials and journalists and other interested figures in the region, and was not engaged in any diplomatic exercise along those lines.

QUESTION: I'm tempted to ask you, did they clap him on the back and say, atta boy, that's the way to go?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that.

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