Press Secretary Joe Lockhart briefed.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
January 13, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
The Briefing Room..........
Q: There's now -- we have daily skirmishes now with Iraq. Is the United States effectively at war with Iraq?
LOCKHART: No, the United States is continuing to follow a policy they followed since the end of the Gulf War (inaudible) containing the threat of Saddam Hussein.
Q: I mean, we're having these daily --
LOCKHART: My first answer was really good.
Q: I didn't hear it.
LOCKHART: Okay. Trust me. Let me go through the answer and then you can follow up. We've had a policy of containing Saddam Hussein since the end of the Gulf War, and that policy is based on crippling economic sanctions that have cost him $120 billion at least since the end of the war; degrading his ability to threaten his neighbors and to reconstitute or deliver weapons of mass destruction. And that's the policy we're going to continue to pursue until we see some positive change and some indication that Saddam Hussein is willing to disarm.
Q: But we're seeing it going in the opposite direction, aren't you? Every day he is sort of escalating what is -
LOCKHART: Well, I think the policy towards Iraq has moved back and forth over the last six or seven years. That doesn't mean we're any less resolute. There's a credible and robust threat of force in the region; should we determine that that needs to be used, where our pilots vigorously enforce the no-fly zone and take the necessary steps in order to protect themselves to do that -- it's important work that they do in the region; it's important to the neighbors that are threatened by Saddam Hussein, and to his own people, and we'll continue to do it.
Q: You're going to continue this back and forth where they shoot at a plane, we fire back -- you're going to let that go on without taking any further action?
LOCKHART: You can fully understand why I'm not going to get into what options may or may not be available to our force there. But what I will say is that we will continue to pursue a policy that contains the very real threat in the region and to the world of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Q: Well, Joe, has Saddam been put on notice that if he continues to paint and target American pilots that he will face serious repercussions for that, or are we just going to wait until a pilot gets shot down and then try and figure out what to do?
LOCKHART: Again, I'm not going to get into what options are before us or not, but he should understand that the risks he takes in violating the no-fly zone or violating any of the agreements that he made at the end of the Gulf War.
Q: Joe, as the limited response the US has taken -- there have been several incidents in the past few weeks -- does this have anything to do with the fact that were still in the period of Ramadan?
LOCKHART: No, I think what's happened here is the fact that Saddam Hussein has chosen to test our resolve in enforcing the no-fly zone. So I think you should ask him about --
Q: Every time he does we give him the same response.
LOCKHART: Well, that may be your view.
Q: I think the question that he is asking is, is the US holding back from resuming sustained air strikes because of Ramadan?
LOCKHART: We will respond as we deem appropriate to the threat; the pilots in the region will enforce the no-fly zone vigorously; they will take the steps they need to take to protect themselves. And I'm not going to get into what options may or may not be available to us in the future.............