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U.S. Deploys More Forces to Gulf

WASHINGTON-- 12 Nov 1998--

The United States is once again ready to take military action if Saddam Hussein refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions. For the third time in 12 months, Hussein in late October defied the international community by suspending all dealings with U.N. weapons inspectors. President Clinton responded by approving Persian Gulf deployment orders for an air expeditionary force with 84 combat and 45 support aircraft; more Patriot missile units; a light infantry battalion; and 3,000 more soldiers. The units have been on alert for several months, Pentagon officials said, so the entire deployment is expected to take only about two weeks. About 23,500 U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines and 170 U.S. aircraft are currently in the Persian Gulf region. The 23 ships of the USS Eisenhower carrier battle group and USS Essex amphibious readiness group are also on station. The USS Enterprise carrier battle group, scheduled to replace the Eisenhower group, is on its way to the area. Sending additional forces enhances the capabilities of the U.S. forces already on duty in the region and provides more military options should force become necessary, Pentagon officials noted. "A failure to respond could embolden Hussein to act recklessly, signaling to him that he can with impunity develop these weapons of mass destruction or threaten his neighbors," Clinton said during a Veterans Day speech here at Arlington National Cemetery. Failure to act also "would permanently damage the credibility of the U.N. Security Council to act as a force for promoting international peace and security," he said. "We continue to hope, indeed pray, that Saddam will comply, but we must be prepared to act if he does not," Clinton said. "We have gone the extra mile to obtain compliance by peaceful means," he said, stressing diplomacy is always preferable to the use of force. Hussein has failed to comply with post-Gulf War U.N. Security Council resolutions that require him to disclose and destroy his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities. Despite tough U.N. economic sanctions imposed to ensure compliance, Hussein has repeatedly defied the international community by denying U.N. weapons inspectors access to suspect weapons sites. Over the past year, the president continued, Iraq has intensified efforts to end the U.N. weapons inspections. Iraq threw out American inspectors in fall 1995 and in January denied U.N. inspectors unfettered access to all suspect weapons sites. "Both times we built diplomatic pressure on Iraq, backed by overwhelming force, and Baghdad reversed course," Clinton said. Clinton called in the nation's security advisers and military leaders Nov. 10 to discuss the Iraqi dictator's latest violations. Following the private meeting, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said, "Time is running out on this; it can't go on forever." If Hussein continues thwarting U.N. inspectors, the United States is determined to prevent the Iraqi leader from reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction program. "We certainly would consider the possibility of degrading his capability of manufacturing these weapons of mass destruction or the means of delivering them and posing a threat to the region," Cohen said. He would not discuss military plans or the possibility of air strikes. The secretary said, however, if military action is ordered it would result in "significant degradation" of Hussein's capacity. A few days earlier, after returning from a trip to the Persian Gulf and Europe, Cohen said he was confident the United States will have the support it needs to take appropriate action to uphold the U.N. Security Council resolutions. "World sentiment now recognizes that [Hussein] appears intent on not complying with the Security Council resolutions," he said.

By Linda D. Kozaryn American Forces Press Service