Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, and esteemed colleagues. I am pleased to be here this afternoon to discuss developments on the military side of our Iraq policy.
As my colleagues from the State Department have noted, we have three primary objectives in Iraq: containment, humanitarian relief, and regime change. Of these three areas, the Department of Defense contributes primarily to that of containment, by enforcing the no-fly zones (NFZs) in northern and southern Iraq, enforcing the UN economic sanctions through the operations of the Maritime Interception Force (MIF) in the Gulf, and maintaining a credible force in the region, which can be quickly reinforced if necessary, to deter and if necessary respond militarily to Iraqi aggression or provocations.
The no-fly zones are a necessary measure to contain Saddam Hussein’s aggression against the people of Iraq and the region. They were established to support UN Security Council Resolution 688, which required the Iraqi regime to cease repression of Iraqi civilian populations, repression that the Council determined was a threat to international peace and security. Operations Northern and Southern Watch have ensured that Baghdad is unable to use fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters against the populations of northern and southern Iraq, a limitation that sharply reduces the effectiveness of regime operations. In addition, Operation Southern Watch also ensures that Iraq cannot secretly reinforce or strengthen its military forces in southern Iraq in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 949.
For most of the period since the no-fly zones were established, our patrols were carried out without serious Iraqi attempts to interfere. In the past 15 months, however, Iraqi air and air defense forces have begun regularly challenging the NFZs. Iraq publicly announced its intent to shoot down coalition aircraft, and it violated the no-fly zones over 600 times in 1999, either by sending aircraft into prohibited airspace or firing on coalition aircraft with anti-aircraft artillery or surface-to-air missiles. We have taken prudent steps to ensure the safety of coalition pilots despite these challenges. These steps have included giving operational commanders additional flexibility in responding to Iraqi actions. Coalition pilots may respond to such provocations not only by defending themselves but also by acting to reduce the overall air defense threat, making the area safer for pilots performing future missions. Though Iraq tries to paint the United States as an aggressor, the ongoing conflict in the NFZs is entirely Iraq’s doing. We would welcome an end to Saddam’s provocations. In fact, we have stated repeatedly that we will stop bombing Iraqi military facilities if Iraq stops threatening coalition aircraft.
Our operations in the no-fly zones also provide other operational military benefits. Coalition responses have caused a significant degradation of Iraqi air defense capabilities in the zones, a development which will minimize the threat to our forces if more sustained military conflict in Iraq is ever necessary. Furthermore, our control of over sixty percent of Iraq’s airspace permits us to assess Iraqi military movements and other developments that might threaten Kuwait or Iraq’s other neighbors. Enforcement of the no-fly zones thus provides us with critical early warning of any Iraqi aggression toward its neighbors to the north or the south.
A second element of the military contribution to containment is the conduct of maritime interdiction operations in the Persian Gulf. These operations are conducted by a Multinational InterdictionMaritime Interception Force, or MIF, established in 1990 to support UN Security Council Resolution 665. That resolution grants authority to UN member states to halt all inward and outward maritime traffic to Iraq to ensure compliance with the sanctions regime. Though the MIF cannot possibly intercept all illicit goods that go in and out of Iraq, it inspects oil-for-food shipments into and out of Iraq in a search for contraband, seizes a significant amount of unlawful trade, and serves as an important deterrent to other potential smugglers. Its efforts are even more important now, with oil prices rising, as Saddam only has a greater incentive to try to smuggle illicit oil now that the potential financial returns are higher.
The MIF also plays an important role in maintaining international support for the sanctions regime. The MIF’s interception of ships smuggling oil and food out of Iraq—including the re-export of food and medicines that could benefit Iraqi civilians—irrefutably demonstrates that Saddam and his cronies regime are manipulating the welfare of the Iraqi people for their own personal gain. The multinational character of the MIF also tangibly demonstrates the international community’s resolve to ensure that the sanctions are maintained. Eight countries (Argentina, Australia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UAE, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have participated in the MIF with either ships or boarding parties during the past year. Nine other countries have participated in the past, and several additional countries have expressed an interest in participating in the near future. Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE regularly accept vessels diverted by the MIF, sometimes at the cost of public criticism.
This international support is critical to our larger efforts to deter and respond to Iraqi aggression. We work closely with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states on a wide range of programs designed to promote regional security, and many of these regional partners host U.S. forces. At any given time, the United States has in the region some 17,000-25,000 personnel (most of those afloat), about 30 naval vessels, and some 175 aircraft. We have also taken a number of steps in the past 10 years, including a substantial prepositioning program, that will permit the rapid flow of additional forces to the Gulf region in a crisis. We maintain such a robust capability for a variety of reasons critical to U.S. national security:
Though Iraqi forces continue to possess the ability to threaten regional security, particularly if US and coalition forces were not involved, Iraq’s overall conventional military capabilities have continued to decline since Operation Desert Fox. Desert Fox was conducted in December 1998 after UN Special Commission Chairman Richard Butler reported that Iraq was preventing UNSCOM from carrying out its mandate in violation of Security Council Resolution 687, the resolution that terminated hostilities in 1991. Desert Fox was accordingly intended to degrade Iraq’s WMD programs and related delivery systems, as well as its ability to threaten the region and coalition forces. We focused the strikes on military targets related to WMD and on the military forces, including air defenses, that protected WMD facilities.
Our assessment is that the operation was a success. We believe we set Iraq’s ballistic missile programs back by one to two years, degraded the infrastructure that Saddam used to conceal WMD programs from international exposure, and reduced the regime’s ability to exercise effective command and control over its forces. Naturally, in the fifteen months since Desert Fox, Saddam has begun to rebuild some of the facilities damaged in Desert Fox, including facilities that were related to Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In addition, we also know that Saddam does try to procure WMD-related equipment and materials through a variety of illicit means, including front companies and sham oil-for-food contracts, but, as far as we know, these efforts have produced little or no fruit.
Of course, inspectors on the ground are an important factor in assuring whether Iraq has reconstituted its ability to manufacture or deploy WMD. The establishment of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the resumption of weapons inspections is therefore important, as it will give us a sense – should Baghdad permit them to return – of what Iraq has done during the absence of international monitors.
That said, we remain convinced that it is preferable to have no inspections at all than to establish a weak, easily manipulated political organization that provides Iraq with propaganda victories by issuing rubber stamp endorsements of Iraq’s misleading assertions. That is why it is so important that UNMOVIC be a tough, professional, and competent organization. We are confident that the newly-appointed executive chairman of UNMOVIC, Hans Blix, is committed to developing that kind of UNMOVIC and we look forward to the deployment of UNMOVIC inspectors to Iraq.
Containing Saddam Hussein requires the continued commitment of the United States and others in the region. Our efforts to enforce the sanctions regime and no-fly zones, the maintenance of credible military capabilities to act quickly and effectively when necessary, and our cooperation with our regional partners and allies are all key components of this important international effort. We will continue to contain Saddam Hussein until a new regime comes to power in Baghdad that will work with the international community to seek a better future for the people of Iraq.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
QUESTION: WE’VE HAD AN ENORMOUS MILITARY PRESENCE IN THE GULF FOR YEARS, YET SADDAM IS STILL IN POWER. IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?
Approximately 17,000 to 25,000 troops are deployed in the Gulf at any given time to enforce the southern no-fly zone, participate in MIF operations, exercise interoperability with Kuwait, and undertake a range of other initiatives designed to enhance the security of the region.
Our military presence helps us accomplish many of our objectives in Southwest Asia. Foremost among them, it enables us to ensure regional stability and defeat aggression. It also helps us to:
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QUESTION: HAVE WE SEEN A CHANGE IN SADDAM’S ACTIVITIES SINCE DESERT FOX?
Saddam did, in fact, become more bellicose in the immediate aftermath of Desert Fox, as he found himself increasingly isolated diplomatically and with fewer and fewer prospects of relieving the economic despair into which he forced his country. In an Army Day speech last year, he called for the overthrow of Arab governments; his foreign minister walked out of an Arab League meeting the month following the air strikes; and he made repeated threats against Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Iraq also embarked on a strategy of confrontation, challenging coalition aircraft in the no-fly zones much more aggressively. Baghdad publicly announced its intent to shoot down coalition aircraft, offered bounties for shooting down a U.S. pilot, deployed additional SAMs to ambush sites in the NFZs, and fired regularly on coalition aircraft.
These more aggressive tactics failed to win Saddam any support. He remained as isolated as ever.
Saddam continues to renege on the obligations imposed upon Iraq. We recently saw Iraq lobby hard against the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1284, which established a new arms control monitoring and verification regime to replace the agency (UNSCOM) that Saddam expelled. Iraq went all out to push for the resolution to be defeated, even offering Security Council members more oil-for-food contracts and future oil deals if they voted against it. Once the resolution passed, Iraq stated repeatedly that it would not abide by its provisions and that it would refuse to admit weapons inspectors back into Iraq, as called for by several UNSC resolutions.
So while we did see some more aggressive behavior by Saddam in the immediate aftermath of Desert Fox, Saddam eventually reverted back to his typical pattern of behavior: work to undermine international consensus, try to create a crisis when that fails, and renege on his commitments in the end.
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QUESTION: IN LAUNCHING DESERT FOX, WE TRADED AN INTERNATIONAL WEAPONS INSPECTION REGIME FOR A FRENZY OF BOMBING IN THE NO-FLY ZONES. WAS THAT A GOOD TRADE?
Despite concerted efforts by the Iraqi government to deceive it, UNSCOM uncovered evidence of some of the most advanced and most dangerous biological and chemical weapons capabilities in the world. However, by late 1998, Saddam refused to cooperate with the Commission at all. After creating incident after incident, repeatedly preventing inspectors from accessing suspected WMD sites, he was ready to spark a bigger confrontation. Operation Desert Fox was meant to degrade the WMD facilities that Saddam was trying to protect and to which he was repeatedly denying UNSCOM access.
We hardly "traded" weapons inspections for bombing in the no-fly zones, as the two were not interchangeable. Saddam decided not to comply with the no-fly zones just as he decided not to comply with UNSCOM. The response options executed by ONW and OSW pilots are simply responses to Iraqi provocation, and they will stop as soon as Saddam stops threatening coalition aircraft and violating the no-fly zones.
No-fly zone enforcement will continue to go on even after UNMOVIC inspectors begin their operations in Iraq, and coalition aircraft will continue to respond to Iraqi provocations as they do now. The two operations are not linked.
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ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS HAVE CLAIMED THAT DESERT FOX SET BACK IRAQ’S WMD CAPABILITIES BY ABOUT A YEAR. WELL, IT’S BEEN A YEAR. HAS SADDAM RECONSTITUTED HIS WMD CAPABILITIES? ARE WE BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM, ONLY WITHOUT UN WEAPONS INSPECTORS?
We launched Desert Fox in response to Iraqi actions which prevented UN weapons monitors from carrying out their mandate. Desert Fox was accordingly intended to degrade Iraq’s WMD programs and related delivery systems, as well as its ability to threaten the region and coalition forces. We focused the strikes on military targets related to WMD and on the military forces, including air defenses, that protected WMD facilities. Our assessment is that the operation was a success. We believe we set Iraq’s ballistic missile programs back by one to two years, degraded the infrastructure that Saddam used to conceal WMD programs from international exposure, and reduced the regime’s ability to exercise effective command and control over its forces.
Naturally, in the fifteen months since Desert Fox, Saddam has begun to rebuild some of the facilities damaged in Desert Fox, including facilities that were related to Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In addition, we also know that Saddam does try to procure WMD-related equipment and materials through a variety of illicit means, including front companies and sham oil-for-food contracts, but, as far as we know, these efforts have produced little or no fruit.
Without inspectors on the ground, however, we are unable
to determine for sure whether Iraq has reconstituted its ability to manufacture
or deploy WMD. The establishment of the UN Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the resumption of weapons inspections
is therefore important, as it will give us a sense of what Iraq has done
in the absence of international monitors. We are confident that the newly-appointed
executive chairman of UNMOVIC, Hans Blix, is committed to developing UNMOVIC
into a tough, professional, and competent organization, and we look forward
to the deployment of UNMOVIC inspectors to Iraq.
QUESTION: HOW MANY TROOPS DO WE HAVE IN THE REGION? HOW MUCH DO OUR IRAQ-RELATED DEPLOYMENTS COST?
We maintain a forward-deployed presence in the Gulf of 17,000-25,000 personnel, 30 naval vessels, and 175 aircraft. CENTAF forces deployed at Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Air Base, carrier-based aircraft, and aircraft based at Kuwait’s Ali Al-Salem and Al-Jaber Air Bases perform Operation Southern Watch. Bahrain-headquartered NAVCENT forces and coalition partners enforce UN sanctions as part of the Maritime Interception Force. ARCENT forces in Kuwait exercise pre-positioned equipment on a nearly continuous basis under Operation Desert Spring. We have three Patriot batteries deployed in Saudi Arabia and two in Kuwait.
Our forward-deployed presence helps preserve regional stability by deterring aggression and by providing a credible threat of force should deterrence fail. The value of such a presence to America’s security is worth far more than the dollar figure attached to it.
Though it is impossible to separate out our Iraq-related
deployments from our broader presence in the region, our deployments in
the Gulf cost about $1 billion/year. However, significant portions of these
costs are defrayed by host nation support and assistance in kind from Kuwait,
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
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QUESTION: WHY IS DOD NOT ASSISTING THE OPPOSITION AS CALLED FOR BY THE ILA?
Senior Administration officials have made the provisions of assistance to the opposition under the Iraq Liberation Act a top priority, and in fact we are already providing some assistance.
After close consultations with the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), we have begun to develop a comprehensive training plan that will help the opposition become an effective political advocacy group and demonstrate to the people of Iraq that alternatives to Saddam’s tyranny exist. Three oppositionists have already received training in civil-military relations at the USAF Special Operations School.from one of our DoD training schools.
(IF ASKED): Training will be focused in areas that will help the opposition disseminate its messages to the Iraqi people and demonstrate that it represents a credible alternative to Saddam’s tyrannical rule. Specific training areas will include public affairs; strategic planning; international law; the provision of medical assistance and health care; humanitarian assistance management; and the provision of basic services, such as water and power, in the north.
(IF ASKED ABOUT EQUIPMENT): We are also working to
identify non-lethal equipment that the opposition can make use of to support
its political objectives. The INC leadership has turned down our offer
of office equipment, preferring instead to buy newer equipment commercially
(though they have yet to do that either). The leadership has also informed
us that they do not have an adequate system in place to receive, safeguard
and distribute the humanitarian supplies we have offered. We cannot provide
any materiel until the opposition proves itself willing or able to accept