American Forces Press Service

Cohen Offers to Share Intel with Gulf Leaders


  By Linda D. Kozaryn
 American Forces Press Service

 KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait -- Defense Secretary William S. Cohen met 
 with senior leaders in six Gulf states in early March and 
 offered to share early warning information about missile 
 launches in Iran or Iraq. 
 "We would do this with all of the Gulf states to have a direct 
 link between what our sensors are able to pick up and then 
 communicate that to the Gulf states to keep them apprised of 
 ballistic missile tests taking place in the region," he said. 
 The secretary's offer involves setting up computer terminals in 
 the Gulf to receive real-time, satellite-relayed monitoring 
 data, according to a senior defense official. Along with the 
 computer equipment, Cohen also offered to set up direct 
 telephone lines between his office and Gulf defense leaders to 
 facilitate communication, the official said.	
 Cohen discussed the threat from Iraq and Iran with heads of 
 state and defense officials in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, 
 United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait during a trip through the 
 region March 4 to 10. He also stressed the growing threat of 
 chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missile 
 Throughout the trip, the secretary voiced U.S. resolve to 
 contain Iraq's Saddam Hussein. He said the United States is 
 determined to prevent the Iraqi dictator from threatening his 
 own people and his neighbors and from reconstituting his weapons 
 of mass destruction program. At present, more than 24,400 U.S. 
 troops, 30 ships and 189 aircraft are stationed in the Gulf for 
 that purpose.
 "Since the end of last year," Cohen said, "Iraq has violated the 
 no-fly zones more than 100 times. They have fired more than 20 
 surface-to-air missiles at coalition aircraft and continually 
 fired anti-aircraft guns and rockets in an effort to shoot down 
 our planes." 
 U.S. forces have responded on almost a daily basis, and Cohen 
 said they would continue to "fire back in self-defense and 
 target Iraq's air attack network" as long as coalition planes 
 are threatened. 
 "We are focusing on military, not civilian targets," the 
 secretary stressed. "We have nothing but respect and sympathy 
 for the people of Iraq and the conditions they endure under 
 Saddam Hussein."
 Cohen said Gulf state leaders have expressed understanding and 
 support for U.S. efforts to counter Iraq. He said Saudi Arabian 
 leaders have indicated in public statements that Saddam Hussein 
 is responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people, not the 
 United States. 
 "Iraq invaded Kuwait and sought to destroy that country and its 
 people, in addition to much of its oil production capabilities, 
 just a few years ago," he said. "Iraq used chemical weapons 
 against the Iranians and against its own Kurdish population. So 
 the danger posed by Iraq in the past has been clear. We seek to 
 prevent Iraq from doing similar types of things in the future to 
 the detriment of all in the Gulf region."
 The United States sponsored a program that allows Iraq to sell 
 oil for food and medicine, but Saddam has been slow to 
 distribute goods to his people, Cohen charged. Last month, the 
 U.N. Security Council reported Saddam is storing more than half 
 the medicine and medical supplies purchased. 
 "That he would hold up and store in warehouses almost $300 
 million worth of medical supplies and then complain that the 
 Iraqi people are going without medicine is the height of 
 hypocrisy," Cohen said. 
 The U.N. report also said that only about 40 percent of the 
 equipment received for water treatment and sanitation, and 50 
 percent of the agricultural chemicals, have been distributed. 
 "So the question is, why is Saddam hoarding goods and not 
 helping his people?" Cohen said.
 The Iraqis claim they don't have enough trucks to distribute 
 these goods, but they always seem to have enough trucks to move 
 troops and military equipment, he said. "It is clear that Saddam 
 Hussein cares more about weapons than welfare."
 In each of his Gulf meetings, Cohen said, he denied press 
 allegations the United States is trying to break up Iraq. "There 
 is no basis to that," he said. "We have said time and again that 
 Iraq's integrity must be maintained. Our goal is to one day help 
 bring about a change in regime so that the people of Iraq can 
 join the international community as a full-fledged member." The 
 United States continues to work for an Iraq that is "unified, 
 peaceful and prosperous," he said.
 In Bahrain, Cohen announced that the United States has approved 
 the island state's purchase of 27 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-
 Air Missiles, or AMRAAMs. The missiles will help Bahrain meet 
 force modernization goals and are to be delivered by 2002, U.S. 
 defense officials said. 
 In Saudi Arabia, after touring a U.S. Army Patriot missile 
 battery at Riyadh Air Base and meeting with King Fahd and senior 
 leaders, Cohen said he would recommend that Congress also 
 approve selling AMRAAMs to the Saudis. The details of the sale 
 are yet to be worked out, according to a senior U.S. defense 
 The Gulf states requested these arms sales, Cohen noted. He told 
 reporters that as long as Iraq or Iran pose a threat to the 
 region, the Gulf countries should be in a position to defend 
 themselves. "To the extent that each country feels they need to 
 have measures to protect its population and its military, then 
 certainly we are in a position to, and are eager to, provide 
 whatever equipment that we can," he said.
 Saudi leaders also agreed to form a joint committee to study the 
 chemical and biological warfare threat and to increase the 
 number of joint training exercises held each year in Saudi 
 Arabia, Cohen said.
 The secretary noted the Saudis are pursuing a relationship with 
 Iran's new government. He said the United States also seeks to 
 improve relations with Iran, but that there are certain pre-
 conditions. "They must cease their support for terrorism, stop 
 trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction and stop 
 undermining the Middle East peace process," he said. 
 Some changes are taking place within Iranian society, but not 
 Iran's foreign policies, Cohen said. "It is our hope that there 
 can be changes in the future, but we remain very vigilant," he 
 said. "We've indicated we would like to have a better 
 government-to-government relationship, but that offer has been 
 rejected by Iran."
 In the United Arab Emirates, where the U.S. Navy has a major 
 repair and resupply facility, Cohen said he also discussed the 
 threat Iran's foreign policy poses in terms of its support for 
 acts of terrorism and the acquisition of weapons of mass 
 The UAE-Iran dispute over islands near the Strait of Hormuz at 
 the mouth of the Gulf did not come up during talks with UAE 
 officials, Cohen said. But, he added, UAE ruler Sheikh Zayed bin 
 Sultan Al-Nahayan has taken the lead in calling attention among 
 Gulf Cooperation Council states to Iran's naval exercises in the 
 "It is consistent with his own belief that Iran must be closely 
 watched and that there should not be any sort of fig leaf 
 justifications to hide any secret objective," he said. Sheikh 
 Zayed has been successful in having the gulf council issue a 
 statement to the Iranian government, Cohen added. 
 A senior U.S. defense official said Qatar is building a facility 
 to pre-position U.S. equipment for a heavy armored brigade. 
 Equipment for two battalions is already pre-positioned there, he 
 said. The Qataris have also expressed an interest in building a 
 port facility to accommodate U.S. carriers, the official added. 
 Along with meeting leaders in Kuwait, his final stop in the Gulf 
 region, Cohen also met with some of the Americans who directly 
 counter Saddam Hussein's aggression. With Iraq-bound, F-16 
 fighter jets thundering overhead, the secretary told the men and 
 women of Operation Southern Watch that they are enforcing the 
 nation's "Containment Plus" policy. 
 "We are going to continue to make sure that Saddam Hussein 
 doesn't go north or go south," Cohen said. "He's not going to 
 pose a threat by moving against his neighbors in the region. 
 We're going to continue that policy as long as necessary."