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U.S. Department of State
96/09/15 Interview on CBS "Face the Nation"
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release September 15, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
CBS-TV - "FACE THE NATION"
BOB SCHIEFFER AND DAVID MARTIN
September 15, 1996
MR. BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, we turn now to you --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good morning, Bob.
MR. SCHIEFFER: -- and I want to ask you a little bit about that
evacuation up there in just a minute. But let me ask you a couple of
other questions first.
Number one, this stunning development, I think, from Kuwait this
morning. The Secretary of Defense, Mr. Perry, is there. He comes out
of a meeting with the Emir of Kuwait and says that in fact Kuwait has
not given permission for the U.S. troops that we have been planning to
send there -- some 3,000 troops -- has not given permission. He's put
the whole operation to move those troops into Kuwait on hold until he
gets permission from the Government of Kuwait to do that. Could you
give us some response to that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Bob, I heard from Secretary Perry this morning,
and I don't think it's all that unusual. What happened was, Secretary
Perry told me he had had a good meeting in Kuwait this morning, that
they wanted to take the decision to their Ruling Council, and they
expected to hear quite soon.
Part of this, of course, you'll have to understand -- a couple of days
ago, Kuwait gave us permission to move eight F-117 Stealth fighters into
Kuwait, and so they've shown their willingness to do that.
This is part of a broader repositioning of assets that President Clinton
is doing in order to insure we can protect our strategic interests
there, interests particularly in protecting our neighbors, keeping them
from being attacked by Saddam.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, with respect for what you have just said,
this sounds like a rebuff to me. I mean, the troops -- the spokesman at
Fort Hood says this morning -- where the troops are based -- the
original plan to send them off this weekend has been delayed. Mr. Perry
says that the decision now will be made after Kuwait's Supreme Defense
Council discusses this issue.
This is a country that we went to war to save from Saddam who are now
saying, "Well, wait a minute. We've got to think about this."
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Bob, I wouldn't jump to any conclusions on this
subject. Let's wait a little while and see what happens in the next few
hours. I think it's not unusual for that country to take this decision
very deliberately. As I said, they took the decision to let the F-117s
in without any substantial delay.
But the importance of this, I think, in an overall sense is that we are
protecting our strategic interests there, protecting the neighbors,
protecting our access to resources in that area. So, as I say, I
wouldn't jump to any conclusions as to how this is going to turn out.
The President has authorized the moving of those troops, and I suspect
they'll move in due course.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But let me ask you this, Mr. Secretary. Why would the
United States announce they were going to send the troops there before
the host government had given its permission? Doesn't that just sort of
in the beginning put us in an embarrassing position?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We have to begin to have those troops ready to
move, and I think what was done was an indication that the troops should
be ready to move. Secretary Perry, I think, will get that permission,
and then I think he'll move forward. That would be my prediction in
this situation, Bob.
What we've done there is to reposition a number of our different forces
in Kuwait. We have equipment enough for an entire brigade. We're now
going to fill out that brigade, bring the men together with their
equipment -- the men and women together with their equipment -- and I
think this will proceed in due course.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. David Martin, our Pentagon national security
correspondent, is with us also this morning. David.
MR. DAVID MARTIN: Mr. Secretary, why don't our allies in the region --
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular -- seem to share the same sense of
urgency as the U.S. over this whole confrontation with Saddam Hussein?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think they do. As you know, we're continuing
to fly "Operation Southern Watch" from Saudi Arabia. As I say, Kuwait
has accepted those Stealth fighters. I think they want to proceed in a
very deliberate way within their own governments, but I think they're
very concerned about it. They ought to be because Saddam Hussein is a
very unpredictable character. He's very reckless.
MR. MARTIN: There's no evidence -- is there any intelligence to suggest
that he is mounting a threat to either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia? Now is
there any evidence that he is thinking of coming south again?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Just the other day his Foreign Minister, Tariq
Aziz, said that the positioning of the Stealth fighters in Kuwait was an
act of war. Now that's a pretty good threat. The history is, as you
know, five years ago he invaded Kuwait. During the course of our
Administration he rolled his tanks up again to Kuwait, and we had to
move in a number of our forces to force him back.
Yes, there's good reason for them to be concerned about his attitude.
The whole recklessness of this man is one thing that's really part of
our current history.
MR. MARTIN: But it is a fact, is it not, that the Saudis would not
permit U.S. planes based in Saudi Arabia to take part in those strikes
that used cruise missiles, and that's why there were only cruise
missiles used in that attack?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We never had to get to that point because our
military found that they had an adequate way to approach it without
having to ask the Saudis' permission.
MR. MARTIN: A lot of people will tell you that the Saudis' real
position on this is: "Don't come to us with these plans for pinpricks.
If you're going to conduct strikes and you're going to ask us to help,
then come with a plan that will do some real damage." They sound very
much like some of the Republicans do right now. Is that, in fact, their
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Secretary Perry is in the region. He's having
conversations probably as we speak here; certainly tonight he'll have
conversations with the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia. They'll discuss
that whole range of issues.
I'm not going to try to speculate on what our next moves might be.
We're going to protect our strategic assets there. Part of doing that,
of course, is being prepared to take further action, if necessary.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about taking further action. Our
reporter Adam Rafael in Kuwait City just reported, just a few minutes
before we went on the air here, that the United States has told Saddam
Hussein he must remove his air defenses from the new "no-fly" zone to
prevent an attack by the United States. Can you tell us if that is so?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We've given certain warnings to Saddam Hussein.
I'm not going to be specific as to what they are. But what we have made
clear to him is that we're going to go ahead and continue flying
"Southern Watch." We're going to fly in the expanded "no-fly" zone, and
we're going to protect our pilots within that zone.
The way we protect our strategic interests there is to have that
"Southern Watch" in the "no-fly" zone. We have more strategic depth
now. We'll have more warning time if he begins to come south.
As part of that, we need to fly regularly -- a hundred sorties a day --
and we're going to protect those pilots.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But until now the suggestion or the impression has been,
don't shoot at our airplanes. This seems to go a step further, if
indeed this is correct, that you're now telling Saddam he has to remove
his air defense systems from that area.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm not going to get into specifics on that.
But we want to make sure that our pilots are not at unnecessary risk.
There are always risks in operations of this kind, but we're going to
minimize the risk to our pilots to ensure that they can carry out that
MR. SCHIEFFER: You're not denying this. You're just saying "no
comment" on this?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm saying that we have given him some warnings.
I think he knows what he has to do. He has to comply with the U.N.
resolutions, but he also has to avoid taking actions that put at risk
the coalition forces that are operating in that "no-fly" zone.
MR. MARTIN: Mr. Secretary, there's one specific warning that is on the
public record because the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it
publicly, which is, "Do not repair or reinforce your surface-to-air
missile sites in the south." On Tuesday of this week, the Pentagon
said, On-the-Record, "Saddam Hussein is repairing those sites."
The work apparently has ceased but whatever repairs he made stand. Does
he have to undo those repairs in order to avoid strikes?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: David, you're getting more refined than I really
want to get. I think it's unwise for me to get into that kind of
I will say in an overall sense we're watching him very carefully. We're
going to ensure that our pilots can operate there and the British pilots
and the French pilots who are flying with us can operate there without
undue risk. That's a judgment that General Shalikashvili and his
colleagues have to make on a day-to-day basis. As I say, we're going to
be observing it very, very carefully.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk in a broader sense. What exactly is
the United States policy toward Iraq right now and toward Saddam
Hussein? Do we want him to leave? Do we want him to be quiet and
somehow get along with him and live with him? What is the objective of
our policy right now?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Our objective, Bob, as it has been, is to
contain Saddam Hussein, to keep him from threatening his neighbors, to
keep him from threatening to the south and taking away the access we
have to the resources of that area, to destabilize the area.
Our aim is to constrain and restrain him. That is why we extended the
"no-fly" zone. We want to keep him in the box, to keep him from moving
south. That's our overall goal.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So we're happy to have him in the box? He doesn't have
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think that we've long said that we think the
people of Iraq would be better off if Saddam Hussein was gone, but our
present policy is to restrain and contain him.
MR. SCHIEFFER: One more question along that line. He is saying this
morning that he thinks dialogue is the only way to solve this problem.
Do we have anything -- the United States, does it have anything to talk
to Saddam Hussein about? And would you like to have some sort of talks
at some level with him?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: He knows what he needs to do. He knows he needs
to comply with the U.N. resolutions. He knows he must not interfere
with the coalition aircraft. I don't think there's any doubt in his
mind as to what is required of him in order to cause us not to take any
further action against him.
MR. SCHIEFFER: What about some kind of talks with Saddam Hussein
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't see that there would be anything to be
gained by that. We have ways of communicating with him. When we want
to send messages to him, we can do it through their representatives in
New York. We also have a contact with him through the Polish Embassy in
Baghdad. We don't lack channels to talk with him, Bob; but what we do
lack is a reaction on his part that would show that he will comply with
MR. MARTIN: That sounded like a "no" to the suggestion of any talks.
Is that correct?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't see any prospect for them, David.
MR. MARTIN: In your description of U.S. policy toward Iraq, there was
absolutely no mention of northern Iraq. Have we simply written off the
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Not at all. First, we continue to have very
strong humanitarian interests there. We continue to be concerned about
It's true that this particular episode was started by fights between the
Kurds in the north -- one of the segments having brought in limited help
from Iran, the other segment having invited in Saddam Hussein. A real
mistake on both of their parts. They're going to find in the long run
that their long-term interests are not involving in either Saddam or
But we still have a very strong humanitarian interest. We're working
with the International Red Cross and the U.N. Commissioner on Refugees
to see if we can't be helpful there.
In addition to that, I think we'd like to get back in some kind of
dialogue with the Kurds. In the last few days I've heard from Mr.
Barzani whose proposed conversations will respond to that in an
appropriate way. We have a continuing interest -- a humanitarian
interest in the Kurds in northern Iraq.
MR. SCHIEFFER: We have to ask, before you leave, about Bosnia and the
elections, and I think the question, Mr. Secretary, that most people
want to know right now is, will American troops be in Bosnia next year?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Bob, let me first say that the election that was
conducted yesterday I think turned out quite well from the standpoint of
how it was conducted. Seventy percent of the people voted. Apparently
it was orderly and calm compared to other elections. There were no
fatalities. So I think this is a step forward, a step toward peace.
We've gone here on a step-by-step basis. First, we got a cease-fire
about this time last year. A year ago now there was still fighting
there. There's a cease-fire. And then IFOR went in, and they conducted
a very, very effective operation with, I think, no losses at all of
Now, despite all doubters, this election has been held. Of course, we
await the outcome of the election. I don't want to try to foreshadow
how it will come out.
The next thing to do after the election is to put into place the
national government that can unify that country. It will have a
national foreign policy. It will have national financial policies.
That's the next step.
It appears that IFOR will be able to leave at the end of the year.
MR. SCHIEFFER: That is the current operation. But everybody is talking
all over town, Mr. Secretary, about there's going to be a need for
another presence. Certainly, you'll have an American economic presence
there. You'll have a trade presence. Is it going to also be necessary
to have American troops in there?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Bob, the step-by-step process that we're
undertaking here, I think, means that we're going to work on the
national government next. NATO planners will be considering whether or
not some force is necessary to follow the IFOR force. I think that's
something that will have to be discussed during the course of the fall.
But right now it's premature to make that decision. People keep wanting
to jump ahead.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. We have to leave it there, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you very much.
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