Foreign Press Center Briefing Transcript
The Situation in Iraq
Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC,Commander, U.S. Central Command
Thursday, January 7, 1999, 1:00 P.M. (EST)
GEN. ZINNI: Thank you, Marjorie. I thought I'd just take a brief period of time to update you on some events since Desert Fox and then open it to questions. We are still in the process of assessing the battle damage assessment from Desert Fox. I will tell you, to this point we feel that this was a very successful operation. We feel that our objectives were achieved.
The damage to the weapons-of-mass-destruction industrial targets that we hit, our ability to degrade certain capabilities that we were after, we feel we've achieved a very high degree of success. Also our objectives in this mission were obviously to minimize any civilian casualties. We're again very pleased that we have seen that this has been minimal, and we have not seen any significant civilian casualties. And we are pleased, of course, that that has taken place, and obviously our own forces in not suffering casualties.
In addition to that, we have followed events since Desert Fox in Iraq. And I think all of you, too, have. And based on the reports that we received, the reports in the open press and the reports that I know some of you have published, or your organizations, we're seeing things that are, to say the least, unusual.
I think, to begin with, the Army Day speech by Saddam Hussein where he, in effect, turned on all the leaders in the region, trying to provoke some sort of reaction from the people in the region, I think, speaks to what he's attempted to do to continue to stir problems and trouble in the region. We see internal problems. Obviously there's been a number of executions reported, not only in the military, senior military leadership, but we've also heard reports, and I think that's also been in the open press, of some executions of civilian leaders, especially in the southern region. Obviously these things tend to signal to us that there's some degree of internal unrest.
The no-fly-zone violations continue. Right now we have tracked over 40 no-fly-zone violations. These seem to be attempts to shoot down one of our aircraft. It seems to be, by our estimation, a desperate attempt to get some sort of event, to claim some sort of victory, or to use the event for some sort of propaganda advantage.
My overall assessment would be that since Desert Fox, there's been what we feel are some significant internal problems in Iraq and on his control, ineffectiveness of his propaganda efforts in the region, and these are fairly desperate attempts to try to regain some of that position he held before, or thought he held before.
We continue to monitor the situation. We've obviously taken measures to protect our forces that enforce the sanctions, not only the no-fly, no-drive zones, but the maritime intercept operations and all the sanctions that we enforce under U.N. sanctions in the region. We try to monitor as best we can the internal situation in Iraq. Again, we're seeing signs. I wouldn't want to overstate what we're seeing or make any predictions, but we are seeing things that do indicate, as I've said, that maybe his grip on control and the ruthlessness with which he attempts to maintain control may be slipping.
I'll be glad to take your questions. Yes.
Q I'm Halab Masul (ph) with the Middle East News Agency. There have been several calls for a change on the U.S. policy towards Iraq, either from the far left, by lifting economic sanctions and keeping only military, or from the far right, by overthrowing Saddam Hussein. As the commander of the U.S. forces in the area, do you think that the current containment policy is feasible and sustainable, or do you think changes are in order now, and (where to?)?
GEN. ZINNI: I think, Halab, if you take it from my position, obviously I have responsibilities in the region, military responsibilities. I see our role militarily as one of stability. I would not be in favor of anything that destabilizes the situation in the region.
I think when we look toward a post-Saddam Iraq and one in which the Iraqi people would regain the position they've held before, I would want to see anything that occurs be done in a way that the territorial integrity of Iraq is maintained, that whatever government follows would be one that would be representative of all the ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. And I think that any efforts in this direction should keep those kinds of principles in mind, because the stability of the region is critical here.
And I view our role in this containment, although obviously it's very (difficult?) and it could take time and it does involve at times events like we've seen in Desert Fox in eight years of these kinds of events, it's important that we do it in a way that ensures the stability of the region. We shouldn't only focus on Iraq, but we should focus on the effects and how it affects everything in this region.
This is an important region. The United States and all the countries of the world have vital interests in this region, many of them. And I think we ought to take a regional perspective. And for that reason, I think these principles ought to be kept in mind in anything we pursue in the way of looking at a post-Saddam region or change.
Q The next question is on the right.
Q Yes, good afternoon. Carolyn Olsen (sp) with TV Asahi of Japan. Might you give us some information as to the cost or the estimated cost of the Desert Fox operation, and also an estimated cost of what it takes to maintain the current forces in the Persian Gulf?
GEN. ZINNI: Yeah. I don't have a figure for the cost of Desert Fox. We're still in the process of gathering that. And as you can imagine, immediately after Desert Fox, with the no-fly-zone violations, we've really been focusing on events in the region. We do gather that. Obviously, after each operation, we try to estimate the cost.
I would say one thing about cost. There are many ways to measure cost, and we have to be careful. I've heard extreme cost estimates out there, in the tens of billions of dollars. Our command owns no assigned forces. The forces that I have in the Gulf deploy from other commands to us. So they're forward-deployed forces. They're not permanently based in the Gulf, if you will. We have some headquarters in the region and some bases that we share, but not any of our own bases.
A great deal of what we do in the Gulf day to day to enforce the sanctions and our presence there, to ensure stability, is done in a way that the burden is shared by other countries in the Gulf. Our friends in the Gulf pick up a large portion of the expense of our presence out there. So the first part of your question, I don't have the answer yet. We're still compiling the data, and I wouldn't want to give you a rough estimate until I can be completely accurate.
And again, how you measure the cost of this, whether you take, say, the pay of every soldier, sailor and Marine out there, might be a wrong interpretation since they would exist and do their job somewhere else. And again, when you say cost, cost to whom, because a lot of this is shared by our friends in the region. Thank you.
MS. RANSOM: A question here.
Q Haran Kazaz (ph) with Turkish Daily News and Turkish (Probe?) Magazine. First of all, Happy New Year, General.
GEN. ZINNI: Thank you.
Q I have two questions. Number one, how do you define no- drive zone? And where does it apply? Because lately it has started being mentioned.
GEN. ZINNI: Yes.
Q And the second thing is, some analysts suggest that there was a coup attempt in the south during the Desert Fox. Can you confirm that possibility?
GEN. ZINNI: On the first question about no-drive zones, we have areas in the country, for example, in the south, where we do not permit additional military forces to come into what already might be present for the security of Iraq. So we have military forces in the south, but no-drive zone limits their ability to reinforce these forces; for example, to bring forces down to threaten Kuwait again, as they did since the Gulf War a few years ago, or to bring additional forces down to further punish the (Marsh?) Arabs.
So in certain locations of the country, we have limited their ability to bring additional military equipment in on the ground, in addition to no-fly zones, of course, where we enforce and prevent their ability to bring down the kinds of attack helicopters and fixed- wing aircraft that they used immediately after the Gulf War, both in the north and the south, to punish their own people, the Shiah in the south and the Kurds in the north.
The second part of your question was --
Q Some analysts suggest that there was a coup attempt during the Desert Fox in the south. Did it take place?
GEN. ZINNI: We didn't -- I don't know of anything that was -- we had no special reports about a coup attempt. We did get reports that I know have been reported about executions in some of the military units by Chemical Ali (ph). You may not know who Chemical Ali is. Chemical Ali Hussein, who got his name by his brutality in use of chemicals against the Kurds in the north and for his punishment of the Shiahs in the south, was placed in charge of this region.
This structure that was put in place by Saddam right prior to Desert Fox had nothing to do with the military chain of command. It superseded that, and it was sort of a personal kind of ruthless way for internal control, by our estimate. This had no effect on countering our operations or brought no additional military command- and-control utility. And we feel it was geared toward internal control.
Our reports are that Chemical Ali had overseen some of these executions, and also reports that we have received and have heard through open press reporting of these went beyond just military personnel and even to some of the tribal leaders and civilian leaders in the region. So, again, I don't have any way of giving specifics on this. A lot of this has been reported through many sources, much of which has been open press reporting, like your own.
MS. RANSOM: The next question is here on the right.
Q Laura Myers (sp) with the Associated Press. You described these no-fly incidents as desperate acts by Saddam Hussein.
GEN. ZINNI: Yes.
Q At the same time, you also say that despite indications he may be losing control, there's no way to predict how long he may stay in power.
GEN. ZINNI: Yes.
Q Given that, how long can the U.S. put up with these sort of cat-and-mouse games that are going on right now that could, you know, end up with fatalities in a worst-case scenario? I mean, do you see the U.S. striking air fields or taking some sort of action to make him stand down?
GEN. ZINNI: Well, first of all, obviously every time we fly or have flown into Iraq, either in the north or in the south, for now a period that stretches from 1991 in the north and '92 in the south, we have sent our planes into that area assuming it was a hostile area. We have adequate rule of engagement that allow us to defend ourselves and enforce the no-fly zone.
We go in with the kinds of aircraft, packaged in certain ways, the tactics we use, where we fly, the kinds of procedures we use that are designed to make sure that our pilots are well-prepared for any eventuality. And throughout the past seven or eight years, we have had instances before. We have made adjustments based on this situation -- adjustments in tactics, adjustments in procedures, in the way we do things. I won't go into detail on that, because obviously there's operational security issues involved.
We feel we can handle what we're facing right now. I think that's been evident. You are correct. It is dangerous. Any time we go up there, we assume the risk and danger because of the unpredictability. We do have contingency plans to react if that decision were made to a number of possibilities, and I believe the chairman made that point the other day in his testimony before Congress.
When a decision is made to take further action, of course, that's the president's decision. We feel confident that we're prepared to handle what we have. But I think your point is a good one. This is risky for our pilots. And we do everything to minimize that risk and to make sure they're well-prepared and have everything they need.
MS. RANSOM: Next question is here.
Q Jim Flanagan (sp) with the Kuwait News Agency. I have a double-edged question here. First of all, do you have an assessment of damage from today's incident, which I know took place in the European Command sector? And also, could you tell me why we were unable to hit aging Soviet MiG planes that we intercepted the other day?
GEN. ZINNI: Yes. I'll take the first one. Of course, I think you know that the planes in the north, after being illuminated by radar, returned fire and fired HARM missiles. When I left my command this morning -- and obviously this is European Command, as you accurately pointed out -- we were still assessing the -- (inaudible) -- first reports. The pilots felt that they had, in effect, a strike on the target. But again, I want to emphasize, we're still assessing that. We don't want to make any reports of success before we are absolutely sure. So we'll look at what may have happened to our intelligence sources and assets and through their tapes.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. ZINNI: I'm not sure. I can't recall right off the top of my head. I don't want -- (inaudible) -- answer. But we were still assessing it when I left.
Q Okay, I still have that second question about hitting the --
GEN. ZINNI: The tactics that we have seen in the planes that come south, they do a number of things. They try to come at us in a way to lure us into missile engagement zones or they try to come at us in a way to put us in a position where other planes can attack us. Needless to say, our pilots are, you know, well-trained and prepared to understand what kinds of tactics are being used against them. We brief our pilots thoroughly.
If we see something like a changing set of tactics and we see something that is an attempt to entrap us, what's been known now as SAM ambushes or "SAMbushes" on the ground, tactics that we're seeing from air to either pull us into a missile engagement zone or to put us into a position where another plane can attack us, we obviously don't fall for that. I mean, we certainly -- our pilots are trained not to do that.
We engage these planes at a distance. I mean, obviously before we chase planes into something that we're unsure of or we know is a trap, we're not going to do that. When you engage planes at a distance, it's more difficult, you know, in terms of range, and in terms of the ability of the missiles to do what they have.
And without getting into more detail on procedures, methods and tactics, I would leave it at that. Pilots did the right things and engaged at the right places, and didn't fall for some of the tactics that were attempted to be used against us. And that made it more difficult for the missiles to engage.
Q Thank you.
MS. RANSOM: Next question is over here.
Q Tom Bowman (ph), Baltimore Sun. You said the casualties among civilians were not significant. Can you give us a number on that?
GEN. ZINNI: We don't have a specific number. And of course, it's been difficult for us to follow this, so we follow obviously some of the things that are reported. There have been -- I know the U.N. had asked to put teams in to look at some of the alleged collateral damage, if you will. That was denied by the Iraqis. I believe there is still a U.N. request to send teams in to look at these, and some of the things we've seen obviously on television, or we've heard reported from various sources.
So, we have no specific information.
Q If I could just follow up on that, please.
GEN. ZINNI: Yes. Sure.
Q UNICEF issued a survey saying that a number of hospitals and schools had been hit. And again, this is preliminary . The government really hasn't allowed a full review. But they said that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs took a direct hit, a school of agriculture in Qirkuk (ph), a direct hit; and also, a water pipe outside Baghdad.
GEN. ZINNI: Yeah.
Q Do you have any information on those?
GEN. ZINNI: And again, we look very hard, you know. And when we look at our battle damage assessment, and when we use our intelligence sources, the pictures you see, and everything, we have not seen any of this.
Now, some of this could possibly have been damage from shock effect. I mean, we've seen some broken glass and ceiling tiles. We look at where we might have struck, where that might have been the possibility that that kind of effect might have taken place.
As you mentioned, UNICEF, even though it's been an initial report, they haven't seen teams that have been able to go in and verify this. We have no specific knowledge of this. So, we're unable to tell. We have seen nothing like a quote, "direct hit" -- I mean, we would see a direct hit. That would be, you know, extremely unusual for us. We've looked very hard through our intelligence and haven't seen it. So, we haven't seen the proof or evidence for any of this.
Q And one last follow-up. The Republican Guard casualties. Any estimate on that?
GEN. ZINNI: There have been a series of reports. They range from the hundreds to the thousands. And we are unable, you know, to give you an accurate number on that. And, you know, an opinion would be it's somewhere in-between.
Q Didn't General Shelton say 1200?
GEN. ZINNI: I have seen reports as high as 2,000, and I've seen them probably bracketed from 600 to 2,000. And those reports have come from many different sources, many of which have been open press reporting, opposition groups in London and elsewhere, on their estimates. We have no way of verifying that number, you know, whether it's the high end or the low end, or somewhere in- between.
MS. RANSOM: Next question, here to the right.
Q Mike Lavalli (ph), Tokyo Broadcasting.
GEN. ZINNI: Yes.
Q I was just wondering. When we're looking at these planes, just about every day now, they're getting illuminated, or painted. You, probably more than anybody, know the capability of the Iraq military. Is the probability greatly increasing that eventually, one of our planes is going to get hit, since just about every day, we're getting painted? Or do you feel that they are doing it just as a cat- and-mouse game, and they're really not trying to hit our planes? And on the other end of that, if we do get hit, if one of the American planes does go down, or if there is an American force targeted, how does that change the equation, if something is hit on the American side?
GEN. ZINNI: Well, on the very first part of your question. Obviously, the number of these things increases the risk, just by numbers. I feel we certainly do have a qualitative edge, comparatively, with our forces and their forces. And again, as I've said before, I think we've taken additional measures, and we've taken measures every time we've gone into the no-fly zones for the past seven or eight years, to make sure that our forces were prepared.
That still doesn't mean that even though that it might not be a probable event, it's certainly a possible event. And there is risk. I wouldn't want to minimize that.
I do feel, to answer another part of your question, they are trying to get one of our airplanes. I don't feel these are attempts -- that we have sometimes seen in the past them maybe make a political statement, where we've seen their planes race in, maybe tuck their nose in one to two to three nautical miles and then run back out, some of which have run back out a little faster than they thought. Maybe they didn't count their fuel too much, and they didn't quite make it back.
But despite that, you know, these attempts we really feel are serious attempts to try to get a plane. And any time someone's trying to do that, even if you have the superiority in equipment and everything else, it still presents a danger. It still means that we have to be obviously on our toes and take advantage of all our advantages, not only in what I think is superior skill of our pilots, the superior skill of our technology, but making sure we're coordinating everything from our intelligence, our command-and- control, and how we send these assets in, where we send them what procedures we use, and all the things that give us the edge up there.
I think your question is, at what point does this change the equation, or what act could change this?
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. ZINNI: Well, I think you know, these events that are increasing in size and scope, you know, where do we go from there, will be a decision that, you know, will have to be a decision that obviously the president will make in where we go. We feel confident in our ability to handle the situation, and handle their forces, and the events that we currently have now.
Whether additional action is taken, or there is a different response, that's something for our national command authority.
MS. RANSOM: The next question is from the back.
Q I'm Jim Raddle (ph), with VOA. Nice to see you again, sir. You're getting an awful lot of advice from members of Congress, newspaper editorial pages, those kinds of things, on "bomb airfields," take this action, take that action. And you and others have been very reluctant, for obvious reasons, to explain what you would do. Let me ask the question a different way.
What would you rule out? For example, Senator McCain was suggesting attacking airfields the other day. Can you rule out attacking air fields? Can you rule out attacking dual-use facilities, where there might be an increased risk of collateral damage? Can you rule out further attacks on Republican Guard, or Special Republican Guard units?
GEN. ZINNI: I think the chairman answered this question very well, in response to Senator McCain's question, when he said that we have a number of contingency plans and plans on the shelf which can be used. And when and under what conditions, again, that's a decision for our national command authority to make. My job is to develop the plans, and to make sure that we have the confidence that we could execute them, and get them done.
And I will tell you, in all the plans that we have, I have the same confidence that I had in Desert Fox, that we can do it in a way that achieves our objectives. And again, that we look carefully at civilian casualties and our own casualties in the process.
Q Just a follow-up with one short one. Could you capsulize, summarize, the long-term strategy? There's a good bit of criticism inside the Beltway that it hasn't been effectively articulated. Could you, in 25 words or less, just summarize where it is where we're going with this?
GEN. ZINNI: Yeah, I think I can do it in less than 25 words. You know, my mission is to maintain stability in the region. My mission is to ensure the hegemons in the region, including Saddam Hussein, not be allowed to pursue their hegemonic designs. And that can be described in their ability to punish their own people, no-fly, no-drive zones; their ability to threaten their neighbors, move forces to the Kuwaiti border; develop weapons of mass destructions and delivery systems and shoot them.
My mission out there, is to ensure that energy flows, we have access to the region, that our friends in the region are protected and enjoy the stability that we're there as long as there is a threat to preserve.
And what it takes to do that, you know, we are prepared to do it. Is this a short-term, one event, one-threat kind of mission and solution? I think not. I mean, I think that this is an important region of the world. I think we have important friends in this region. I think there's global reliance on things like energy and the markets and access. It is the hinge point of three continents. This will be important for a long period of time.
There is not just one threat out there, or one potential threat. I mean, we see the terrorist and extremist threat out there. We still are wondering which way Iran is going, whether there's moderation or not. I mean, I know you know all the issues and concerns.
Our job is stability. It's easy to look at Iraq, and look at one problem, and look at a short-term solution. And, as you said, everybody in this town and elsewhere in the world, has a short-term solution, which is about one paragraph and sounds easy on paper. As the guy that might have to execute it, it ain't that easy. And containment is hard. It could be long term. But if in the end it's stability and it keeps all the global interests in there protected, and our friends protected in the region, and the people in the region protected, then I think it's worth the price.
MS. RANSOM: I'm sorry. The next questioner is over here.
Q Thank you, General. Rob Schroeder (ph) from Bridge Financial News. A few weeks ago, a former U.N. official, Denis Halliday, told reporters in a speech that the younger membership of Saddam's Baath Party view Saddam and Tariq Aziz and other senior officials, as actually too moderate, and that the younger folks in the party are more radical, and more anti-U.S., and so on.
I'm wondering if you agree with the assessment, number one. And number two, what that says for containment long-term if that's true -- more of a military commitment, and so forth?
GEN. ZINNI: You know, if I were a member of Saddam's inner circle, I'd worry. Last night, I looked at a tape that was given to me, "Saddam the Butcher of Baghdad." It was an A&E special, I think, a documentary. And it was one of it when he took over, when he called in all the members of the government into this big hall and filmed it, and actually began to mention names of traitors, and then had guards come down and yank 'em out and haul them away.
That's been his hallmark. And the executions have been many since then, even within his own military circle, in his own governmental circle. We just mentioned that -- I think we're all fairly certain there have been some military executions and officer executions.
I've had the ability to talk to some defectors from the military especially, that have given me their stories about the executions that have taken place, and the personal threats to them that caused them to leave.
I would think the reason you may see so many young radicals, is because the older radicals all seem to go away. There aren't too many pensions in -- (laughter) -- the military or elsewhere in there. So, it might be in your interest to be about as radical as you can to have appeal, because should you show less radicalism, it might not be good for your health in that region.
I would tell you, I think that the day that Saddam passes from the scene, there isn't anyone who's going to be building monuments to him, or mourning the day that he left. And I think the people of Iraq will be better off, and they're the ones we ought to look toward and concern. I don't think they want to see a more radical government.
MS. RANSOM: The next question.
Q Hi. I'm Tony Capassio (ph) with Bloomberg News. When Desert Fox concluded, you and Secretary Cohen said that the preliminary evidence showed that the U.S. set back Iraq's capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction by about a year.
General Shelton yesterday or two days ago, said it was now two years, it looked like. What evidence have you developed in the last couple of weeks, that allows you to make that extension, in terms of the damage?
GEN. ZINNI: Yes. That's a good question, and we have actually upped it from the one to two years. And we've done that by, again, through our intelligence, looking at the assessments of the missile production facilities, the machinery that was destroyed, the kinds of unique capabilities he had that were in the onesies or twosies that we were able to eliminate. And now we have evidence of destruction or significant damage.
The infrastructure damage, and the time it will take to repair and rebuild that -- again, the unique kinds of facilities that he would have to replace from outside Iraq, that don't exist in duplicate somewhere else, and could be easily reestablished.
So, in doing further, more detailed analysis of all these sorts of things, we made the estimate that the initial cut had been one year, and now we feel it's more one to two years.
Q Let me ask a follow-up.
GEN. ZINNI: Sure.
Q Dual-use facilities: you made a conscious decision not to target those, because of collateral damage concerns. What's your level of concern that his capability to actually manufacture chemical and biological material will go unabated, and he may come up with other delivery means, besides rockets and drones?
GEN. ZINNI: Yeah. Well, I think obviously, we went after the major delivery means we knew, kind of the Scuds and the potential to build those sorts of rocket delivery means. When you start talking about biological and some other agents, I mean, I think you've heard a lot of talk recently about the terrorist with the suitcase, and those sorts of things.
Some of these things, the delivery means could be very simple. And it really takes law enforcement and intelligence effort to work. There isn't going to be anything militarily, necessarily, that you can prevent that sort of thing.
There are a lot of simple dual-use facilities that could easily be retooled to produce biological agents. You know, agricultural, pharmaceutical -- all sorts of things that could easily turn toward producing chemical or biological agents very easily. These things are difficult to locate. It's difficult to pick out a dual-use facility that may be dormant right now, but is a potential -- or had been in the past but could potentially reestablish itself as producing these sorts of agents.
So, therein lies the difficulty. It's not only the collateral damage issue, it's the issue of what they're doing now, what they could potentially do, the difficulty of me being able to say that we can eliminate or significantly degrade these kinds of capabilities if they're that easy to maybe establish, and then maybe to transport, and maybe to deliver. You know, the Japanese situation with the Sarin gas in the subway -- that isn't too sophisticated a delivery means. And so it's difficult to track. It may be more a law enforcement and intelligence effort than a military effort.
MS. RANSOM: The next questioner is on the right here.
Q Hello, general. My name is Ron Lorenzo (sp) from Defense Week. Returning to -- (inaudible) -- no-drive zone, could you explain in as far as you can how that's enforced? How do we keep track of that? Is that a J-STARS mission? And what is the reaction if they do see a column of tanks going somewhere it's not supposed to go, would that elicit airstrikes from our side to stop it? How is that enforced? Thank you.
GEN. ZINNI: We monitor through a number of intelligence means. I won't get into the specifics of that for obvious reasons -- and we have used J-STARS in the past. But if we detect violations of the no- drive zone we report those -- unless the violation presents a direct threat to us. I mean, there is an immediate response -- those are reported. A decision to act again is a national command authority decision.
MS. RANSOM: The next questioner is in the back.
Q Hi, General Zinni, Greg Siegel (sp) with Jane's Defense Weekly. I'd like to follow up with the question about weapons of mass destruction. You mentioned the unique facilities that would have to be replaced outside Iraq. Could you specify what those are? And the second part of my question would be: Could you tell us what kinds of new weaponry was used during this operation, in particular the so- called bunker-busting bombs, the new fuses and censors?
GEN. ZINNI: To answer your first question, there's certain types of machinery and certain types of facilities for testing, without getting into specifics that we feel could not be replace, were either unique or would have to go with external support or replacement from outside the country.
In terms of your other question, obviously we used the B1 bomber for the first time in combat. In terms of the specialized munitions beyond that, nothing that hasn't been used before.
Q You didn't use any of the new censors or fuses associated with it?
GEN. ZINNI: We used systems that had been used before, and I'll leave it at that -- nothing that was unique to this operation besides the B1 bombers employment.
MS. RANSOM: The next question is from the gentleman in the back row there.
Q My name is -- (inaudible) -- in Qatar. Iraq claims that you are participating in imposing an illegal fly zone -- it hasn't been sanctioned by the United Nations. Do you have any answer to that claim?
And once again a question about the Arab states: Have they been dragging their feet? Did you get the level of cooperation, or would you like to have seen more cooperation from Arab states surrounding Iraq?
GEN. ZINNI: In the first part of the question, we draw the authority to enforce the no-fly/no-fly zones from the U.N. resolutions that prohibit Saddam Hussein from punishing his own people and threatening his neighbors. I think those resolutions are pretty clear. And we have drawn what we feel is a legal basis for these implementation and enforcement of those resolutions.
On the second part of your question, I felt we had a great deal of cooperation from our friends in the region. I don't like to get into specifics about that for a couple of reasons -- that leads you down the trail to tell you where certain assets are located, what certain kinds of assets are in certain places, what may be used, what limitations may or may not have been placed on us by these countries. Am I satisfied? I am satisfied that we had everything we needed to accomplish the mission then and to accomplish the mission now.
MS. RANSOM: We have a question from --
Q Campion Walsh (sp), Dow Jones. There have been a number of stories recently on the relationship between U.S. intelligence on Iraq and UNSCOM. Can you say if data gathered through UNSCOM was used in selecting sites to be in the military strikes?
And secondly I'm wondering if you can comment on Iraq's ability to smuggle oil following Desert Fox.
GEN. ZINNI: On the first part of your question, on the issue that is now in the press about UNSCOM spying, I have no personal knowledge of anything like that or anything that's going on. The targets that we used and the intelligence we used to gain on these were from a variety of sources, fundamentally our own. Obviously just in UNSCOM's routine work we are aware of what UNSCOM does, I think as much as anybody else on the Security Council is aware of what UNSCOM does and goes and what they do and what they attempt to do. Could any of that been part of the targeting? I can't say that it has been directly, but I wouldn't want to say that everything UNSCOM has ever seen or does we have completely no knowledge of. Just by following UNSCOM like any other members of the Security Council we certainly do.
And the second part of your question had to -- I'm sorry?
Q Iraq's ability to smuggle oil. I understand one of the strikes was on the refinery.
GEN. ZINNI: We struck their oil facility in Basra. We did it in a way that we knew would at least for a period of time prevent the ability of gas oil smuggling. We know that facility was used for that. It was not an oil-for-food facility. We know they are in the process of trying to repair that. We know the damage has stopped the gas and oil flow, or part of it or a portion of it from that. It's nothing that we had felt we were going to take out permanently. We had environmental concerns and collateral damage concerns on that target, and we tried to do it in a way to prevent that also. So I think over a period of time that we'll probably get that back up, be able to do it again. For now I believe it has hindered and delayed and prevented to some extent their gas oil smuggling.
Q Can you say how long it will take?
GEN. ZINNI: My estimate would be a month or two.
MS. RANSOM: The next question is from back here.
Q (Inaudible) -- with Agence France Presse, French news wire. General Shelton said on Tuesday that Saddam Hussein has taken some security steps which he said would indicate that the stability of his regime is in danger. Could you elaborate on that?
GEN. ZINNI: Well, I think one we've already mentioned: there has been some executions and changes in military leadership. He took measures to establish a different set of controls in four regions -- broke the country down into four regions. He already had a military command and control structure. These were superimposed over the top of that. I think that would tell you he didn't trust the existing structure. The people he put in charge were very close to him and known for their ruthlessness, and obviously none of that was geared to counter Desert Fox or our military effort. They did nothing, so -- and they did nothing militarily certainly. So those were obviously for internal reasons by our estimation we have seen additional actions taken against not only military leadership, but as I mentioned before some civilian leadership, particularly in the south. So these are the -- these are some examples of what we are seeing, and I think what General Shelton was making reference to.
MS. RANSOM: The next question is on the right here.
Q General, Rick Marshall (sp) from the Washington File. I've been always a little puzzled at the scope -- the limited scope of Desert Fox. I think the country -- clearly the United States is quite slow to anger in Iraq, so I am not really questioning that at all. I am more questioning why once it was started more wasn't done. It seems I guess eight or nine of Saddam's palaces were hit out of a number something like 60 or 70 of them, certain number of Republican Guard units were hit clearly, and yet not more. If our goal is -- well, I ask you why limited goals and perhaps not a larger strike to take out to really destroy Saddam's power base.
GEN. ZINNI: Well, first of all, I think some of what you are sort of getting at has to do with policy questions, and I'm not -- certainly I wouldn't attempt to answer that as to whether the policy should be longer sustained strikes taken to a certain point or whether Desert Fox was sufficient. There are others who have said everything we did before Desert Fox were pinpricks and not enough. Some that have now said that Desert Fox was greater than a pinprick but not far enough. You know, so I think it was mentioned before you are going to hear all different sorts of views.
From my point of view I think given the mission to degrade the WMD and what we knew of it, and to diminish his ability to attack his neighbors, we accomplished what we set out to do. I think -- go back to the question here about Iraq, it's territorial integrity, order within the state. I think stability in the region -- all of those things have to be taken into consideration when any of these judgments are made as to how much military action you would take and to what you attempt to accomplish with military action. Given the mission we had I felt Desert Fox was highly successful. And I think we will continue to see more and more after effects of Desert Fox in terms of what we did within the mission, and although not in the mission what Desert Fox may have been a catalyst for in terms of his own internal control. I would be hesitant to say that anyone should look toward military action as an ultimate solution, you know, and implying that you know you could just continue on indefinitely, and that would eventually bring you to the conclusion you would want. That might even be more dangerous in the end.
MS. RANSOM: The next question is from -- (inaudible) -- Egypt. General, you and others mentioned that Saddam is isolated and he is doing desperate acts. How do you see it from your perspective -- is this a plus or a minus for the question of stability of the region, because you know better than me probably that how he is using and abusing this being isolated or being a wounded tiger?
GEN. ZINNI: Well, first of all, I would be very careful not to overstate. I would not want to overstate his position. I certainly would not want to give the impression that I feel we have Saddam on the verge and he's going to tip over any day or anything like that. First of all, we don't know exactly how much he may be wounded. I do think we see clear signs that his internal control has been affected. I do think we see clear signs that he's worried about it. I think we see clear signs that he's doing things that are desperate. I think the lashing out and the statement on army day to the leadership in the region was obviously he crossed a major line there and alienated others in the region. I think the executions and other drastic measures that he has taken show that.
Whatever we do in Iraq, wherever this goes, if he gets to a point of desperation he obviously becomes danger. He is dangerous now, he could become more dangerous if he is desperate, and use your term, become a "wounded tiger." I wouldn't give him that much credit of being a tiger, but wounded at least. That could be -- and our actions, his actions, actions in the region -- obviously could affect stability in the region, which I said is our most important mission and our most important goal. So that presents a more significant problem.
How we react to his actions, what kinds of actions he conducts, what our friends and others in the region do in reaction to this are going to be key. I think all of us would like to see this resolved, and we would like to see an Iraq, a post-Saddam Iraq occur and come about in a very orderly way -- again, territory of Iraq intact, the people, the representative government and the Iraqi people allowed to flourish again like they have in the past -- and do it in a way where we minimize destruction or casualties or anything else. And that's the concern, that anything that occurs from here on out as a result of acts of desperation, whatever, that it's done in a way that prevents that kind of instability or disruption. And there is a danger to that when someone is backed against the wall.
MS. RANSOM: We have time, general, for two more questions. I believe Howard -- do you still have a question? You're okay. All right.
Q Getting back to the no-fly zone, and you mentioned that he seemed serious about taking out an American airplane or British or American airplane, if that's -- and you mentioned there are various options, military options from here on in. But if that's the case, if he is serious about taking out a plane, then why not recommend to your bosses that you take out his airfields?
GEN. ZINNI: Well, I'm not going to discuss here what I recommend to my bosses and what my recommendations might be or what possible decisions or options that are out there.
Q Haran Kazazi (sp) from Turkish Daily News again. General, you eloquently express your objective to the answer of my VOA colleague. My question is: professionally do you honestly believe all that wonderful objective can be achieved from the air? Don't you think at one point there is some kind of ground troops needed to do something -- not necessarily from America, but some kind of ground troops? Obviously they cannot do it all by themselves what they have to do.
GEN. ZINNI: I didn't want to give the impression that I thought something could all be done by one means -- by air or ground or sea, whatever. As a military man I need all those dimensions in my AOR. I mean, I -- and I could bore you with all the different component parts of everything we do there and how it involves all these forces. We are very careful to state what our capabilities are and very careful to state what our mission is and our tasks are and how well or how not so well we may achieve that. We have emphasized that through these attacks, air attacks, that we could degrade and diminish. We never said words like "eliminate." We've been very careful to say that these attacks, the mission was not, nor could I make any guarantees that through an airstrike you could change a regime or anything like that, although people have tried to infer that or tried to push us to at least even implying that. We have been very careful not to say that. There are limitations on military power, and there's limitations on certain parts of military power. There are certain types of military capabilities that bring more to the table. I think anyone who studies the military art knows that to achieve certain things you might have to walk the ground and be there -- you have to occupy ground and you have to control the situation directly, and you might not be able to do that indirectly through the air.
So from my professional view I am always careful to give the limitations and make sure that when I am given a mission that I interpret that into military tasks that are achievable, and that my political masters understand certainly what I can achieve and what I can't achieve. I would not make the case for any one kind of capability achieving anything, and I would not overstate what that capability could achieve.
MS. RANSOM: General, thank you very much --
GEN. ZINNI: Thank you, Marjorie.
MS. RANSOM: -- for being with us today. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
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