DoD News Briefing

Thursday, June 19, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD(PA)


Q: In view of the continued buildup and deployment of the Chinese cruise missiles by the Iranians, does the Defense Department or did the Secretary in his trip see any positive signs regarding Iran in the change of government to Mr. Khatami? Is there anything there that would say that relations might improve between the U.S. and Iran?

A: Of course he has not, the newly elected President has not taken over yet, as I understand it. We are waiting to see if there is any change in Iran's policies. We hope there will be changes. But I think we have to pay attention to actions, not to words. Our primary concern right now is that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. I think that was clear in the Mikonos bombing trial, the verdict that was handed down in Germany recently. There's a trial going on, I believe, in France that also looks at state-sponsored terrorism by Iran in France. So the first sign is, are they willing to stop sponsoring terrorism? That would be a very, very good sign that they want different and improved relationships with the United States, and indeed, with Europe as well. Because as you know from your reading about this, the verdict in the Mikonos bombing trial has very much disrupted relationships, economic relationships, and diplomatic relationships, not only between Germany and Iran but also between members of the European community and Iran.

The second issue is the military buildup in the Gulf. The question that was discussed during Secretary Cohen's trip to the Gulf was why is Iran continuing to build up its naval and other forces in the Gulf? What are they up to? What are their intentions? What are their goals? Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council are quite concerned about this continuing military buildup by Iran in the Gulf. A cessation of that would also send a very positive sign that Iran is interested in new relations not only with us, but more particularly with its neighbors in the area.

The third is the Iranian program to build weapons of mass destruction. Why are they doing that, what are their goals, what do they have in mind? Do they want to intimidate their neighbors, do they want to intimidate other nearby countries maybe out of the area such as in Europe and other places. An Iranian initiative to stop its program to develop weapons of mass destruction would send a very clear and convincing sign that they're interested in new, improved relationships with the West.

Until we begin seeing evidence that they want a new relationship, I think we have to be careful about predicting that there can be a change. I don't think there can be a change until we see new actions by the Iranian government.