17 March 1998
(Cites growing threat from weapons of mass destruction) (720) By Jacquelyn S. Porth USIA Security Affairs Writer Washington -- Defense Secretary Cohen says the burden of proof is on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to show that he is in full compliance with all relevant United Nations resolutions concerning the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "The key measure of success is not simply the access granted by Iraq nor the discoveries made by the (U.N.) inspectors," Cohen said March 17, but the type of evidence and proof that the Iraqi president "offers that he is being truthful." The secretary told members of the National Press Club that Saddam Hussein "must, once and for all, make a full, final and complete declaration about what he has and what he has destroyed," reconciling "his declarations with his deeds." After seven years of deceit, deception and delay, Cohen said, Iraq cannot be trusted. "The world agrees that Saddam must fully comply with these inspections" by the U.N. Special Commission "or else" he faces the severest consequences, Cohen said. The international community must remain vigilant, he stressed, because Saddam Hussein "still has many promises to keep and the inspectors still have miles to go before Iraq can insist on sanctions relief." In response to questions, Cohen said Saddam Hussein must demonstrate what happened to all Iraqi weapons systems. "If he's able to do that, then I think there's an opportunity to provide sanctions relief," he noted. "Absent that, the burden remains upon him." The secretary defended the level of support in the Gulf from U.S. allies, noting that 25 nations were lined up "to be with the United States should military action become necessary." He named Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom as examples. He also said Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries in the region had been asked to share the burden of the U.S. military presence. While the expressions of support by some nations in the region may not have been as vocal or visible as members of Congress may have wished, Cohen insisted that support for U.S. policy was still strong. Many regional countries still fear Saddam Hussein, Cohen explained. They have seen what Saddam Hussein has done in the past in terms of using chemical and biological weapons against Iranians as well as Iraqi Kurds, Cohen added, and they realize what he might be able to do in the future. While the U.S. presence in the region benefits a number of Gulf countries, Cohen stressed, "it's really primarily in our interests." Although members of Congress have been critical of the level of allied burdensharing there, the secretary pointed out that it is the United States that really benefits from stability in that region. Cohen's concerns about weapons of mass destruction go well beyond Iraq. There are about 25 nations, he said, that already possess such systems or are developing them. And, with the rapid spread of technology, the secretary said, more state-sponsored and transnational groups will be able to acquire weapons of mass destruction at low cost. This is a reality and not "a scare tactic," Cohen emphasized. As evidence of the seriousness of the issue, the secretary said he had just taken the second in a series of inoculations against the anthrax virus. And, he said, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has also begun his vaccinations. "The levels and volume of chemical and biological munitions is spreading rapidly," Cohen warned, which is "one of the reasons we have tried to work cooperatively with so many countries in terms of the Chemical Weapons Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention to try to persuade countries to open up their systems so that we can really have a serious reduction in these very deadly kinds of systems." The secretary also announced the establishment of 10 Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection (RAID) units to enhance the Defense Department's ability to respond to domestic incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. Each RAID team will be made up of 22 National Guards with the mission of providing early assessment, initial detection and technical advice to local civilian authorities responding to a domestic biological and chemical attack.