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Iraq Accepts U.N. Resolution

Aired November 13, 2002 - 12:22   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following two major developments unfolding right now. The Iraqi government has now officially accepted last Friday's unanimously-approved United Nations Security Council resolution, calling for the reintroduction of United Nations weapons inspectors. The official letter delivered to the U.N. today, two days ahead of the deadline.
In addition, we're watching this latest video -- audiotape -- excuse me -- of Osama bin Laden. Is it really Osama bin Laden? And what effect will that threat from Osama bin Laden have on a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq if the war on terror continues?

We'll have much more on that coming up.

We're following all of these developments with reporters around the world. CNN's Kyra Phillips has been reporting from the Persian Gulf Region over the past several weeks. She is joining me now live from Kuwait City, likely to be an important base if, in fact, the U.S. proceeds to go to war against Iraq.

Kyra, we know that a big chunk of Kuwait, the northern part of Kuwait, has effectively been sealed off as a security zone, because of perhaps a buildup of U.S. and Kuwaiti troops in that part of the country. What, if anything, can you tell us about that?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I can tell you a lot about the troops and training, Wolf. We haven't really necessarily seen a tremendous buildup -- lots of airplanes coming in or troops coming in. But I can tell you that training is nonstop. It's going on 24/7.

And military sources do tell me that a war plan for Iraq is ready; it's ready to go. If indeed the president says the U.S. has to strike, it will happen with quick strikes and by huge force.

Also, I want to point out, sort of a duo part to this war plan, Wolf, and I know you're well aware of that, is that it's designed also to encourage Iraqis to revolt against President Saddam Hussein and prevent a massive buildup and action by U.S. military forces.

One official tells me the plan aims to "create the conditions" -- that's the quote -- under which Iraqis can do that. He says that ultimately, there is more of a revolution that's probably going to take place rather than something brought on by military power.

But, as we talk military power, I can tell you in the past four weeks, and even more so in this past week, we have observed the training exercises from the strike fighters over the Persian Gulf enforcing the no-fly zone. They continue to drop bombs. They continue to fly over Iraq. They tell me they also continue to receive fire from Iraqi military in that area.

In addition, this past week for the first time, we were allowed access to observe Special Operations forces training out in the region. We can't tell you where it was specifically, but I can tell you that that naval special warfare is in full force, Navy SEALs and combatant crewmen, training on their water craft; also their weaponry, their machine guns, their grenade launchers.

So, if indeed the inspections don't go as planned and the president decides, yes, he does want to launch an attack on Iraq, troops here say they're ready, and they're ready to go at any moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyra, as the U.S. continues to patrol with its British allies the southern no-fly zone in the southern part of Iraq, has there been any change in Iraqi military posture that you or your sources have been able to discern over these past few weeks?

PHILLIPS: You know, that's a really great question. With regard to the air strikes that are taking place, strike fighter pilots tell me, you know what? It's the same thing they've been dealing with for the past 10 years. They're being fired upon, and they're having to drop bombs in response to that; and also trying to working diligently on their strike fighting techniques, so that those bombs hit perfectly and there's no need to worry about civilian casualties.

But what I experienced in the past week, Wolf, when I went out on the MIO operations -- that's the Maritime Interdiction Operations -- and that's U.S. forces with other coalition forces, particularly the Australians and British right now. They are out there in Iraqi waters enforcing U.N. sanctions, trying to prevent the smuggling that's taking place -- smuggling of oil and contraband coming out of Iraq, being sold. And then that hard currency in turn has been going back and funneling the Iraqi regime.

Well, as you can imagine, that has stepped up. The smuggling has stepped up. And when I was out on one of the patrol boats, something unprecedented happened, and that was we came in close contact with an Iraqi patrol boat. It's a bit frightening, I guess you could say, when you see that coming toward you and seeing that type of asset, and even the command forces responded quickly. The entire battle group out in the region responded quickly, because that's something they haven't seen.

And I asked them why it happened, and they said, well, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi military, all of which are getting more aggressive, and just testing the system and seeing what the U.S. forces will do if, indeed, they come closer to U.S. military assets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyra Phillips reporting live from Kuwait City via videophone -- Kyra, be careful out there. Thanks for that information.

Let's move from Kuwait City to London, where CNN's Sheila MacVicar is standing by.

What's the reaction in London, Sheila, to this Iraqi decision to go ahead and accept the U.N. Security Council resolution?

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're just hearing from Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, a written statement now just in the last minute-and-a-half or so, saying that they, "Welcome Iraq's decision to accept Resolution 1441," but warning that: "We must remain vigilant. Iraq's intentions are notoriously changeable."

A reminder from the foreign secretary that Iraq's next step, as laid out in that U.N. resolution, is to provide an accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programs of weapons of mass destruction no later than December the 8th.

The foreign secretary goes on to add: "Let there be no doubt that any failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations will lead to serious consequences, and it is only the credible threat of force which has brought Iraq this far today." Of course, that from Britain's foreign secretary.

One other reaction about 20 minutes ago just as the oil markets closed here in London as the news broke that Iraq was announcing at the U.N. that it would accept Resolution 1441 and the return of inspectors to Iraq, a sharp drop in the price of crude oil of 53 cents a barrel, an indication that oil traders, at least, think that the prospect for conflict in the immediate future has been pushed back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sheila MacVicar reporting from London -- Sheila, thanks very much.

And for months, you've been hearing lots of what-ifs should Iraq ultimately defy the United Nations, most of them involve military action, which means moving a lot of troops into the Persian Gulf region.

Joining me now for some analysis, our military analyst, the former NATO Supreme Allied commander, General Wesley Clark.

General Clark, thanks for joining us.

Well, let me just get your sense, because I know no one watches this more closely than you. The fact that the Iraqis have met this first deadline, that doesn't mean that the prospects of a war have been eliminated.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FMR. NATO SUPREME CMDR.: Not at all. I mean, this was totally expected. This is a slice-and-dice, rope-a- dope trick. He's going to just hang on here. He's going to try to comply. He's going to see how far he can stretch this out. Maybe he's trying to build something we don't know about. Maybe he just hopes our resolution will break. Maybe he hopes Osama bin Laden will intervene with a strike somewhere and divert us from dealing with Iraq. He doesn't want to face U.S. military power, but he doesn't want to give up his programs either.

BLITZER: So, maybe he feels, if your analysis is correct, that if he seems to be cooperating with the United Nations, with the entire world, he can still get away with it if he's effectively managed to conceal his programs.

CLARK: Well, I think it's going to be difficult if he goes down this route to find the trigger point. What is the point at which the United States is going to say, hey, you didn't put these two sites on the list of information; therefore, you're concealing and therefore, we're going to attack? And they say, said wait a minute, the international community says wait. Two sides -- maybe it was a mistake. You go back to the Iraqis, they say, oh, well, we don't have anything in these sites. You can certainly look at them. And then, you're into this sort of diplomatic dance again. And I think we're going to see several weeks, maybe a month or two, of diplomatic dancing here.

BLITZER: Well, we have a map of the region, and I know you have a Telestration (ph) and you know how to use this machine. As the U.S. has to assume that the Iraqis in the end won't comply, show us the nature of the buildup. What's effectively happening right now and likely to happen in the weeks to come?

CLARK: Well, what you're going to see is first, of course, Kuwait is the center of activity right now. It's close. We have a relationship with Kuwait. We have a camp there, Camp Doha, and we've got a lot of troops and other equipment there. We're also using other facilities in the region.

BLITZER: And if you talk about Kuwait, it's been widely reported now, in the past few days, they have effectively sealed off the northern part of Kuwait's security zone, meaning people can't just freely walk around there.

CLARK: And that's clearly an appropriate precaution to keep our troops from being targeted or another sniping incident, such as happened to the Marines out on the island.

BLITZER: But we've heard a lot about Qatar as well, Doha, where the Central Command may establish a headquarters facility. That's further south in the region.

CLARK: That's right. We're down here at Gutter (ph). Further south down the Gulf, there are other bases in Oman. But this is a matter of getting the logistics ready and moving the logistics forward, the headquarters -- all of the time-consuming steps that don't involve large numbers of soldiers and airmen.

We get everything ready, and then we call it "sling-shotting" the force through the staging area.

BLITZER: And from the north as well in Turkey, there's a huge NATO base, Incirlik. CLARK: That's right. We've got a major air base up here. There are some other Turkish air bases that we might be interested in. There are other bases in the region we could use.

When you go in, in the winter, of course, you've got there mountains there in Turkey and northern Iraq. They make some ground activity difficult. It may be that what we'll want to do is use other means to get into the north.

BLITZER: General Tommy Franks is the commander of the Central Command. He would be the architect of the military operation. But his area, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, is not necessarily the only area from which it would be used. Turkey, for example, is part of the European Command; other states along the Mediterranean are part of the European Command.

Does that mean your successor, the European commander, would be equal with General Franks? How do they divide up that military responsibility?

CLARK: Well, normally the way this would work is General Franks would be the supported commander, and he would be the man in overall charge of the operation.

BLITZER: Like General Schwarzkopf was during the Gulf War.

CLARK: Exactly. And the European Command commander would be one of the supporting commanders. In other words, his job would be, get the forces there if they're going to go through Turkey, stage them, muster them, support them, communicate with them, and release them to the operational control of General Franks when it comes time to move into the country and do the fighting.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, General. I want to get back to you.


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