THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Sun City, Arizona) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 11, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Sun Dial Men's Club Sun City, Arizona
2:44 P.M. MST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Q What's so good about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I've got B-32, B-32. (Laughter.)
Q And what does Saddam have?
MR. MCCURRY: I just wanted to answer any questions you've got before we take off for Fresno.
Q Has the President given the Pentagon any instructions, orders, in terms of a response in Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been very closely following developments in Iraq, is in very close contact with his national security team; I'm not going to specify what he may or may not have requested or ordered.
Q Do they have standing authority to do what Secretary Perry indicated would be a response not commensurate with the provocation?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has looked at and prepared for contingencies and is prepared to do what we've indicated we will do: protect our pilots who are flying risky missions over Northern Iraq in support of our enforcement of the no-fly zone.
Q Is the insertion of that line in the speech this afternoon intended to send a message to Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: It makes public what we have made absolutely clear privately, that we intend to fulfill our obligations to the international community by enforcing the no-fly zone, and we will take those precautions necessary to protect our pilots.
Q Yes, but the international community doesn't support the extension of the no-fly zone -- or not all of it, anyway.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not necessarily true. We've got support from the British and the French flying with us to enforce those zones, and we are flying -- the French are flying no-fly zone enforcement missions even today.
Q In the extended no-fly zone?
MR. MCCURRY: They're not flying from the 32nd to the 33rd Parallel, but they continue to fly in support of our enforcement of the no-fly zone, and they fly from Saudi Arabia and from Turkey.
Q Does the U.S. continue to seek permission from other Gulf area states to base U.S. aircraft in their countries, or is that --
MR. MCCURRY: We have a significant force based in the region, and we have cooperative relationships with governments in the region and, as you know, we've made an additional request of one Arab country, which has been grated, for some additional aircraft.
Q Mike, with the movement of the planes into the region and the stepped-up comments by Perry, which are a lot stonger than they've ever been, is it a fait accompli now that the military action will take place eventually?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate as to time and place or what we may or may not consider doing. But I will say and reiterate that we will take steps to protect our pilots as they enforce the no-fly zone in the north and the south of Iraq.
Q Mike, it's not clear. Does the President --
Q Mike, which Kurds are we protecting in the north of Iraq? Are we protecting the group that's allied with Iran or are we protecting the group that's allied with Saddam Hussein?
MR. MCCURRY: We are flying flights over North Iraq in support of the no-fly zone, which has been in place since passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution #688.
Q Which was intended to protect the Kurds. Which Kurds are we protecting there?
MR. MCCURRY: The requirements of Saddam Hussein, with respect to the Kurdish population, relate to all civilian populations and minority populations, specifically the Kurds. It does not specify which factions of the Kurds are protected, nor should it.
Q Does the President have to issue any additional authority to carry out whatever missions are being contemplated?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is well aware of the requirements associated with use of U.S. power in that region, and as he has done and would continue to do will be in close contact with his senior military officials as we monitor the situation and, of course, would be involved as Commander-In-Chief in specific actions if any specific actions occur.
Q In terms of defensive actions, the U.S. military already has that authority.
MR. MCCURRY: The U.S. military has rules of engagement that apply with respect to any provocative or hostile acts that they may face in theater, as you would imagine.
Q Mike, defining those terms, though, Iraq continues to rebuild or reconstitute those, the permanent installations, would that also be reason for military action?
MR. MCCURRY: We've made it clear that we would consider that a risk to our pilots enforcing the no-fly zones, especially in the south, that we would need to address to ensure the safety of our pilots.
Q But that already has happened, hasn't it, and no action has really been taken?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we took steps to ensure that the risk to our pilots would be lessened as they enforce the newly expanded no-fly zone in the south.
Q What does that mean?'
MR. MCCURRY: We lost some cruise missiles, if you will recall.
Q But I'm talking about after the second wave of cruise missiles; they began to reconstitute those, didn't they?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are monitoring what they are doing. They've done some things in and around some of those strikes we've struck, but as Secretary Perry said today, they've not activated any of those radar, and we're watching that very, very carefully.
Q Mike, is the White House concerned at all that this whole Iraqi business seems to have moved into the political area, especially today?
MR. MCCURRY: We are aware of some comments that were made by Mr. Kemp. I'd say, as we've said in the past, that in facing provocative behavior by Saddam Hussein, the United States will fulfill its mission in the region best when we speak with one voice and not with discordant voices.
Q Could you explain how Saddam Hussein is worse off now than he was, say, two weeks ago?
MR. MCCURRY: We've answered that question repeatedly in several respects in recent days. Among the most important changes in his life is that he has effectively lost the ability to use air power anywhere in that region to threaten either his own populations or neighboring countries.
He has, for all practical purposes, lost the ability to train and exercise his air force, he has lost prestige in the eyes of his senior military commanders because of the restrictions that now exist. He faces, no doubt, some criticism internally for some loss of sovereignty over Iraqi air space, and he's seen once again that there are consequences for his provocative behavior.
In our judgment, he is in less of a position now to conduct any hostile acts against his neighbors and against our closest allies in that region.
Q How do you know he's lost prestige within his commanders?
MR. MCCURRY: I said one would clearly imagine that that is the case.
Anything else? Schedule information? A lot of people have asked. I think Monday -- Joe can tell you more -- I believe Monday is going to be a day trip out and back to Ohio, so we'll be back overnighting in Washington Monday night.
Q Is there a reason for that?
Q If we took up a collection -- buy some new suits and spend some money --
MR. MCCURRY: We are actually -- well, let me have Joe -- I'm going to take off. Anything else for me? I'll let Joe continue, because I'm going to -- we're doing a little OTR and I want to make sure I'm with the pool when we do it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:00 P.M. MST