News

USIS Washington 
File

11 March 1998

TRANSCRIPT: PENTAGON SPOKESMAN'S REGULAR BRIEFING


DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, March 10, 1998 -- 1:30 p.m.

Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)


...............


Q: Any news on the possible redeployment of troops that are in the
Persian Gulf now?


A: No. That's a decision the President will make in due course, and
right now the troops are staying there. In fact there's been a rather
significant but temporary surge in the number of troops there. I think
we're up to about 40,000, 44,000 troops there now because the STENNIS
Battle Group has entered the area of operations, and the GEORGE
WASHINGTON has not come out yet. That's the ship that the STENNIS is
relieving -- the GEORGE WASHINGTON. So there's been a temporary surge
in numbers, but that will go down to about the new standard level
which is about 36,000, when the GEORGE WASHINGTON leaves.


Q: With the current violence in Kosovo, is there any consideration to
either deploying or redeploying or returning to their original
deployment any U.S. ships, planes, or troops in order to be in a
better position to deal with any contingencies there?


A:  Not that I'm aware of.  No.


.................


Q: There's a report that Scott Ritter and 50 of his team members have
exited Iraq. They apparently visited eight sites and the U.N. has said
that all sites were searched to the satisfaction of the inspection
team. Is this the readout that the United States government has, that
in fact Saddam is living up to the agreement he made with Kofi Annan?


A: A couple of points. The first is that since the agreement with Kofi
Annan, inspectors have gotten into sites they have never been able to
inspect before and that is a very positive development. It has
expanded the reach of the inspectors and therefore, made it easier for
them to do the job that they set out to do starting in 1991.


Having said that, there are still many unanswered questions because
Iraq has made a number of declarations and has been unable to satisfy
the U.N. Special Commission or UNSCOM that it has in fact lived up to
these declarations. Let me give you an example.


Iraq has declared that it filled 25 SCUD warheads with biological
agents. Under the U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, they're
required to destroy all of their weapons of mass destruction
including, especially, biological weapons. They have provided no firm
evidence to UNSCOM That they have destroyed these 25 warheads filled
with biological agents.


They also declared to UNSCOM that they had filled 50 warheads with
chemical agents, and they have said that they destroyed all those
warheads, but UNSCOM has not been able to confirm the destruction of
more than about half of those warheads.


So, Iraq really faces a responsibility here if it wants to live up to
the terms of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, and that
responsibility is to provide unambiguous proof for the statements it's
made about the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction,
specifically the deadly chemical and biological weapons and the
missiles they have to deliver them.


So the mere fact that the inspectors go in and report that they were
able to inspect fully, or perhaps report that they didn't find
anything doesn't mean that Iraq necessarily is moving closer to
compliance, because Iraq still has a lot of unanswered questions that
it has refused to allow the inspectors of the international community
to sort out at this stage. That's because Iraq has not been able to
provide the information necessary to convince people beyond a shadow
of a doubt that it really has destroyed some of these weapons.


Q: Was Ritter allowed to work unimpeded, without trickery and
harassment? And why is he out? He's not finished.


A: I think he came out, and these are questions you should ask UNSCOM.
This is not a U.S. inspection team, this was a United Nations
inspection team that went in to do the work and these are questions
that you should direct to UNSCOM or to the UN. But my assumption is
that he came out because he had completed the particular task he went
in to do.


He, like many of the inspectors, go in and out of Iraq on a fairly
regular basis. The teams, I gather, are comprised of experts in
certain areas. When a team is going off to look at chemical sites you
have one type of expert. If it's going off to look at biological sites
you have another. If you're going off to look at delivery vehicles or
missiles you'd have experts on missiles on the team.


...........

Q: Have they provided anthrax shots yet to those American forces in
the Persian Gulf?


A: The answer to that is yes, the shots have started. I think they
started today in the theater, and because of the time difference that
means they already have started giving the shots.


I think they started with the Air Force and the Navy people and those
shots will continue.


We anticipate that the first round of shots will be completed by the
end of this month.


Q:  How big is that first round?  Is that for everybody?



A: Well, the first round is the first shot, I guess, and that's
everybody. We're only doing it in theater. The people in Saudi Arabia
and Bahrain began their vaccinations today. The sailors aboard ships
will start their vaccinations on March 15th. The soldiers in Kuwait
will also begin their vaccinations on March 15th. The goal is to have
the first shot given to everybody by the end of this month.


The pilots who fly for the Air Force rotate in and out every 45 days,
so they will, I gather, get their shots when they arrive in theater,
as soon as possible after they arrive in the theater and start their
vaccination programs. Presumably they'll be completed when they come
out, since they won't be there long enough to complete the whole
sequence.

.............


Q: Back to Iraq and this question of the smuggling. Have you got an
answer yet on whether the administration has any military or
diplomatic or other measures under consideration to try to reduce that
smuggling?


A: We are, as a matter of fact, in the middle of working with our
allies, both in the region and elsewhere, to try to reduce the
smuggling. We estimate that about $18 to $20 million a month is
smuggled out of Iraq and we do have a force there to intercept ships
when we can. It's not always easy because they creep along the Iranian
coast in Iranian territorial waters. We try to get them when they dart
out into international waters.


At any given time there are probably three to four ships involved in
the maritime interdiction force. It can go up or down a little
depending on who's there. Usually two American ships, and we're
supported by ships from other countries -- New Zealand, Australia, the
Netherlands, for instance. The English are frequently there with a
ship on station. But we are trying to work with other countries,
basically countries in the area in two ways. One is to find places to
bring in captured ships. One of the problems is that after they
capture a ship they have to find a port to bring it into so they can
seize the goods and get rid of them, and...


Q:  Crude oil?



A: Yeah, it's basically oil. Oil is what's coming out. And so we're
looking for ports in which to bring these ships. Secondly, we're
working with countries in the area to make sure that they bolster
their anti-smuggling defenses so that it will be more difficult for
these ships to find places to unload and sell their cargo. That's what
we're doing.


Q: Are we working at all, you said other countries in the region. Does
Iran come into play in any of these conversations?


A: Iran comes into play in many conversations about the region, but
we're not dealing directly with Iran about the functioning of the
maritime interdiction force.


Q:  What about through Turkey?



A: The main routes for smuggling out of Iraq are principally Jordan,
Turkey, through the Gulf, and sometimes there may be some overland
smuggling into Syria, but we think that's a very haphazard and
generally insignificant basis.


Q:  There's a pipeline through Turkey.



A: I don't know whether there is one or if there is, whether it's
working.


Q: There is one, and my understanding was that they're getting some
through in the pipeline. That's why I was asking.


A:  I'll try an get details for you on that.  I just don't know.



Q: This smuggling concern, is it a two-way concern? Are there things
smuggled into Iraq as well as oil smuggled out?


A: Any attempt by Iraq to violate the embargo against it is of concern
to us and of concern to many other countries as well. You know there
have been some cases where we found them trying to bring in some
gyroscopes which could be used in missile guidance systems which would
have been one, against the economic embargo, economic sanctions; and
two, would have violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 because
it would have allowed them to continue work on their missile programs.
So yes, we and other countries are very alert to attempts to bring in
items that aren't allowed under the economic program.


As you know, the United States has been in the forefront of trying to
get food and medical supplies into Iraq in a way that does not support
Saddam Hussein's war efforts or repression efforts but meets the
legitimate needs of the people of Iraq. It is he that has rejected or
held up the so-called oil for food program for years and years. Now
it's going forward and it's been recently increased by the UN,
although I don't think the new amounts are flowing in yet.


Q: What my question really should have said is, is there new or recent
concern about things being smuggled into Iraq? I know there's a
continuing concern, but...


A:  Not that I'm aware of.  No.



Q: You seem to imply that you (are) increasing the number of ships
trying to interdict the stuff, that you're working with countries in
the area to help.


A: We're working with countries in the area to help in the two ways
that I noted. And in addition, I think the maritime interdiction force
may have just gone up by one because of a Dutch ship in the area, but
Dutch ships go in and out and other allied ships go in and out, but
the Dutch did send down a frigate, as I understand it, or a destroyer,
and that ship is there now participating in the MIF or about to
participate.


Press:  Thank you.



(end transcript)