Administration Turns Up Psychological Heat on Saddam
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration intensified psychological as well as military pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Friday, hinting U.S. diplomats in the Persian Gulf may be reviving a war coalition against him.
``There is no alarm, but there is concern with what we see,″ said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili. Referring to U.S. actions, including the movement of warships and supplies closer to the Gulf, he said, ``Hopefully, they will signal sufficiently to Saddam Hussein that we are aware of what he is doing and secondly that we will not sit idly by.″
The Pentagon said it would move up a scheduled exercise in Kuwait, which Iraq annexed in 1990 and surrendered in 1991 under a U.S.-led bombardment, while Assistant Secretary of State Robert H. Pelletreau and Mark R. Parris, director of the Middle East desk at the National Security Council, held talks in Egypt.
All this echoed pre-Gulf War preparations, with the clear intention of rattling Saddam, from whom two sons-in-law and a contingent of other military officers defected last week to Jordan.
U.S. officials said earlier Friday that the decision to bolster American forces in the Middle East was based in part on indications from the two men that Saddam had contemplated attacking Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.
``What we’re doing now is we’re taking our own steps, working with our friends and partners in the area, acting prudently and out of an abundance of caution,″ David Johnson, a State Department spokesman, said.
``Actions in the past have led us to believe that this is a very unpredictable regime which is capable of some things which are inimical to our interests,″ Johnson said. ``We have tried to be very cautious and prudent and make sure that we are not caught unawares, and that’s exactly what we’re doing now.″
Iraq, meanwhile, denied that troop movements seen as suspicious by the United States, have any bad purpose.
Shalikashvili, watching international exercises at Ft. Polk, La., told reporters: ``I think it is important to understand that what we have seen are activities and movements that cause concern.″
The military exercise in Kuwait had been scheduled for late October or early November. A senior military official said at the Pentagon it was a U.S. idea to move it up. He also told reporters under rules that shielded his identity that there were no Iraqi combat operations or major troop movements under way.
Called ``Intrinsic Action,″ the exercise will involve about 1,400 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. It is due to start in a few days and continue for up to six weeks.
Apart from military moves and military rhetoric, the Clinton administration has tried to pressure Saddam with further blows to his economy. It is reeling already under the weight of U.N. economic sanctions, imposed under American leadership.
Jordan, which tilted toward Iraq in the Gulf War, gets most of its oil for Iraq. But State Department officials said a search was on to replace that with other suppliers. Saudi Arabia is a possible substitute, though the oil-rich kingdom resented King Hussein’s stance during the war.
``We’re looking for ways that we can help support the Jordanians in light of the very courageous decision the king made,″ Johnson said, referring to his sheltering of the Iraqi defectors. ``And among the issues we, of course, are addressing are a range of economic issues, including oil. The objective is to ensure that Iraq complies with all of the Security Council resolutions, and we’re pushing in every way we can to put pressure on Iraq to do so.″