Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

MONDAY, JULY 19, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin




1, 2

Operation Southern Watch aircraft fired upon Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery in self defense. Damage assessment is ongoing.

DPB # 93
MONDAY, JULY 19, 1999 12:55 P.M.


QUESTION: Jamie, do you have anything on the Iraqi claim of 14 civilians killed and 17 injured in these attacks today or yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: On July 18, 1999 Operation Southern Watch aircraft were fired upon by Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery. Responding in self-defense, coalition aircraft used precision-guided munitions to strike an Iraqi surface-to-air missile site approximately 200 miles south of Baghdad near Abu Sukhayr and an Iraqi communications site approximately 150 miles southeast of Baghdad near Al Khidr. Our damage assessment is ongoing. All coalition aircraft departed the area safely.

As you know, in these operations every effort is taken to avoid any casualties to civilians and damage to civilian property. Ultimate responsibility for these events, however, lies with Saddam Hussein. He opted to challenge coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone in the south, putting his own people in harm's way. I don't have any more detail on the specific operation but you're welcome to contact or have your colleagues contact the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Would it be appropriate for the United States and Britain to increase the level of air activity, of attacks, against Iraq, in view of yesterday's attack on Allied planes?

MR. RUBIN: I'm confident that our aircraft and our military is conducting an operation appropriate to the situation as they see it and consistent with the guidelines laid down by the Commander-in-Chief.

QUESTION: These sort of - whatever you call them - bombings or skirmishes, as it were, have been going on just about every other day since Desert Fox. Can you tell us a little bit about, sort of, what's going on with the Iraq policy? Do you expect this to keep up?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we've made clear we intend to continue to ensure the no-fly zones and the integrity of the no-fly zones. Let's remember what they're there for. They're there to ensure that Iraq does not use its aircraft to crack down and kill its own civilians in the south and in the north; that is the purpose of the no-fly zones. We are there because of the demonstrated willingness of Saddam Hussein to brutalize his own population in the south and in the north. If Iraq continues to choose to confront our aircraft through these means, we will respond and we will take whatever measures are necessary to protect our aircraft in furtherance of the policy I just described.

QUESTION: Let me follow up. You or another spokesman have said recently that you don't think that Iraq has reconstituted its WMD program. But do you all believe that Iraq is attempting to or making an effort towards reconstituting its WMD program?

MR. RUBIN: Our position on this is quite clear. There is only one way to know for sure what's going on inside Iraq, and even then one can't be fully sure. So I don't think we've ever pretended we know precisely what's going on in Iraq in my previous statements or my deputy's previous statements. One can't know for sure; these things are not knowable 100 percent.

What we have said is that we haven't seen a massive effort to reconstitute the weapons of mass destruction, knowing of the inherent capability to do so. But the best way to ensure that we do know what's going on inside Iraq, that we have the best possible handle on activities in Iraq is to have inspectors in place. Absent Iraq allowing those inspectors to do its job, we made a decision to destroy a number of weapons of mass destruction facilities to set back their program and made clear that we would be prepared to use force again if they were to reconstitute those programs.

The only way for Iraq to get out of the hole it has dug for itself is to comply with the requirements of the UN Security Council. To that end, we are continuing to review with other members of the Security Council what the best next steps are. There are ongoing consultations in New York to discuss a new resolution to deal with Iraq. But if there are civilians who are dying, it is Saddam Hussein's fault. If there are planes from the United States or our allies using military force, it is because Saddam Hussein has chosen to confront those planes. If there are sanctions on the people of Iraq and the country of Iraq, it is because Saddam Hussein does not care about his people, and he refuses to comply with Security Council resolutions.



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