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Perry: Iraq's action was 'clear and present danger'


September 3, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said Tuesday that Iraq's attack on the northern Kurdish city of Irbil threatened vital U.S. interests and Iraq's neighbors. (242K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

"The issue is not simply the Iraqi attack on Irbil, it is the clear and present danger that Saddam Hussein poses to his neighbors, the security and stability of the region and the flow of oil to the world," Perry said at a Pentagon briefing on the U.S. missile strike against Iraqi military targets.

The U.S., Perry said, was closely watching Iraq's continued military activity, and "reserves the right to conduct future military operations" against Iraq if necessary.

Perry said Iraq was warned on August 28 not to use force to aid a Kurdish faction in northern Iraq. Iraq moved on Irbil last weekend to aid the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in its fight against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which receives limited military support from Iran.

Perry said Iraq used about 40,000 troops plus tanks during the operation in Irbil, and continued to shell another city in the area.

No fly zone map

In announcing the expansion of the no-fly zone in southern Iraq (to begin at noon Wednesday), Perry said that Washington considers Saddam's action in the north to be a potential threat elsewhere in the country, as well.

"Our concern is that if Saddam is emboldened by what he would see as his success in the north, he might strike out in areas which are of greater strategic importance to him as well as to us in the south," Perry said.

The U.S. targeted military and communications sites, south of the 33rd parallel -- the new northern border of the southern no-fly zone.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said expanding the southern no-fly zone would deny Saddam a major training base and two other air bases.

"By denying this air space to the Iraqi regime, we have given ourselves more warning should (Saddam) decide to move to the south," Ralston said.

The air strike was also intended to remove Iraqi air defenses, to protect allied aircraft enforcing the expanded no-fly zone, he said. (141K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

"Our objective was to reduce the defenses our aircraft would encounter," Ralston said.

Ralston described the Tomahawk and Cruise missiles used in the strike, and said that the Pentagon was "still doing the battle damage assessment" and could not say how many of the missiles hit their targets.

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