News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, July 29, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenter: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, DASD PA


Q: So were you planning to tell us about the latest airstrikes in Iraq today?

A: Sure. There were, in the last couple of days, there were instances in both Operation NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH. They engaged sites that were, AAA sites in the North -- let's take one at a time.

In the NORTHERN WATCH activity, anti-aircraft artillery sites in the vicinity of Mosul fired at coalition aircraft patrolling the Northern No-Fly Zone. When that happened, the aircraft returned fire in the form of laser-guided bombs.

In the Southern No-Fly Zone there are two separate violations in the last couple of days. One was a pair of MiG-23s a couple of days ago penetrated the No-Fly Zone. There was also illumination of coalition aircraft patrolling the No-Fly Zone in the South. There were attacks then made against the air defense system (sic) [three Iraqi military communications sites and one military radar site] in that vicinity in the Southern No-Fly Zone within the last 24 hours or so.

Q: Can we get cockpit video of any of these recent strikes?

A: I'll see what I can do.

Q: None has been released, while we had loads of video every day from the war in Yugoslavia. We're not seeing anything from what's going on in Iraq. I'm just wondering if that's a conscious decision not to release that video or can we get it? If not, can we get an explanation for why it's okay to release it in one conflict and not another.

A: One way or the other. Yes.

Q: Is there a -- are the airstrikes against these targets when the U.S. feels it is threatened, are they preventing Saddam Hussein from rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction?

A: It's a different issue, John. We have a valid mission to patrol the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones. The attacks in each and every case are a reaction to provocation by the Iraqis against the aircraft patrolling those no-fly zones. No provocation, no attacks.

So the aim point in each and every case is the source of the provocation -- whether that's a radar, an anti-aircraft artillery, a surface-to-air missile site or what have you. So the no-fly zones were put into place originally, to go back to 1991 and 1992, to prevent Saddam from suppressing and oppressing his own people -- Kurds in the North and the Shiites in the South. So it's a little bit different mission there in both regards.

Q: So he could be rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction and you're doing nothing about that?

A: Say that again, I'm sorry.

Q: He could be rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction and the U.S. and its allies are doing nothing about that.

A: Not in regards to any strikes from the aircraft that are patrolling the no-fly zones. That's correct.

Let me go back one second to a slightly different subject. We'll come back to that.

Ivan, you asked about burials at sea. The Navy tells me that there are only three sets of remains in the Pacific area of responsibility that are awaiting burial at sea.

Q: Thanks, can I do a follow-up on the current line of questioning?

A: Let me come back here and kind of pick up where I left off. But that takes care of the question on the burials at sea.

Q: Forty-nine in Norfolk and three sets in the Pacific.

A: Yes.

Q: I'm just trying to understand where the Pentagon believes the world or Iraq is on the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

It was described prior to the cessation of hostilities that every day that passed Saddam Hussein was one step dangerously closer to developing weapons of mass destruction. It's now been months since the last hostilities, which one could derivatively project that Saddam Hussein now has those weapons, because the Secretary of Defense said, every day that passes we're in danger of him doing it. Where are we?

A: Let me take that question.

Q: I have another one for you to take unless you happen to have the figures handy.

A: Okay.

Q: Can we get some sort of release on the number of strikes, the number of bombs dropped, the number of targets hit in Iraq since the end of Operation DESERT FOX in December?

A: Yes. Would you like them now or do you want them later?

Q: Now.

A: Okay. I don't have numbers of weapons dropped, but this is coalition responses to Iraqi provocation for all of 1999. Do you want it for all of 1999?

Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, let's start there. January, five. February, 12. March, 6. April, 7. May, 4. June, 7. July, 2.

NORTHERN WATCH. January, 12. February, 8. March, 8. April, 8. May, 10. June, 9. July, 10.

Q: What happened to the MiG-23 that penetrated the no-fly zone, and why do you never shoot down those aircraft?

A: What happened to them is they returned to their base and they were coming south as our aircraft were leaving the area. Clearly, we think as an attempt to try to get our aircraft to turn around and engage those aircraft, set up what I'm sure you've heard the term SAM-bushes all the time, and have the aircraft used as bait to bring them back into the envelope of a surface-to-air missile system or anti-aircraft artillery or what not. We didn't do that.

We have said many times that we'll reserve the selection of the time and place to respond to provocations.

Q: Taking a question from John McWethy. I would just ask for clarification as to whether the United States Air Forces currently deployed or others that could be deployed in the Persian Gulf could take action against weapons of mass destruction sites as called for if they could strike, or if they would have to receive... Do they have permission to do so? Or would they have to receive an order from the President to do so?

A: Let me answer that one as part of the overall effort to answer his. I'll take that and incorporate that aspect of the answer into both questions.

Q: Can you also just, [take] the parts of the question of mine that you didn't answer, the number of bombs and the number of targets in Iraq since the end of DESERT FOX, can you take that and see if we can get an answer to that?

A: I'll try. Most of them are posted every day on the Central Command and European Command Web Sites.

Q: The number of weapons used? They don't give the number of targets.

We have this information, for instance, for Operation ALLIED FORCE. We have it for Operation DESERT FOX. We don't have it for this ongoing enforcement effort that's continued after it. I'm just -- if we can't get the information, if we can get an explanation why.

A: Okay.

Q: Given the (unintelligible) something of a (unintelligible) since the conflict in December, I wondered if perhaps the Administration was engaged in any kind of review of a defense strategy towards Iraq?

A: No. The operations in both NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH continue.

Q: You gave us a response, but not the individual aircraft. I assume those were just a response that involved one aircraft or multiple aircraft, is that what you're saying?

A: Yes.

Q: The second part is, based on that, do we see any increase in their activity in both no-fly zones since the end, say, of the Bosnian situation or the Kosovo situation? Has it stepped up at all? It seems to be fairly constant by the numbers you've given us here.

A: I'd say it's a fairly constant level.


Press: Thank you.