Reasons for War with Iraq

Enforcement of No-Fly Zones and Economic Sanctions against Iraq

On March 28, 2001, General Tommy Franks gave a report to the House Armed Services Committee. General Franks reported that during the prior year coalition forces had flown more than 19,000 sorties in support of Operation Southern Watch (enforcement of the Southern Iraq no-fly zone), with almost 10,000 of those sorties being in Iraqi airspace. During that one-year period, coalition forces were engaged by surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft fire more than 500 times and coalition forces responded to these provocations on 38 occasions. No-fly zones were established in both northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to protect the Iraqi Kurds and Shiites from Saddam's forces.

General Franks reported that naval forces were maintaining a continuous presence in the Persian Gulf. During the prior year, naval forces had intercepted 610 ships in support of Maritime Interception Operations (the enforcement of U.N. sanctions designed to limit Saddam Hussein's ability to smuggle oil out of Iraq). Since the beginning of Maritime Interception Operations after the 1991 Gulf War, naval forces had searched almost 13,000 ships bound for or departing from Iraq, with more than 760 diversions.

Franks reported that on a given day U.S. Central Command operated in the region with some 30 naval vessels, 175-200 military aircraft, and between 18,000 and 25,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines.


Commander in Chief U.S. Central Command

House Armed Services Committee

March 28, 2001

- Excerpted -

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee.

U.S. Central Command's (USCENTCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR) includes 25 nations, extending from Egypt and Jordan to the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan in South Asia, and Central Asian States as far north as Kazakhstan. Included are the waters of the Red Sea, the Northern Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf, with maritime chokepoints of the Suez Canal, the Bab el Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz.

The current National Security Strategy specifies that our core objectives in this vital region are to enhance U.S. security, promote democracy and human rights, and bolster American economic prosperity. To meet these goals, USCENTCOM promotes regional stability, ensures uninterrupted access to resources and markets, maintains freedom of navigation, protects U.S. citizens and property, and promotes the security of regional friends and allies.

As we work with policy makers to define USCENTCOM's approach in the AOR, we address our objectives and goals in light of the political- military dynamics of the region. The Middle East Peace Negotiations (MEPN) and U.S. relationships with Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey influence our relations with Egypt, Jordan, and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Pakistan is important to the U.S. because of regional tensions and its proximity and relationship to Afghanistan. U.S.-Pakistan relations continue to be influenced by these issues and by progress toward a return to civil, democratic government. Transnational issues including humanitarian disasters, refugees, international crime, drug smuggling and terrorism, and state-to-state conflicts such as the Eritrea-Ethiopia War, will continue to define our tasks in the Horn of Africa. Our relations with the Central Asian States will be influenced by their relationships with Russia, their concern about extremism generated from Afghanistan, and our efforts and commitments to help the Central Asian states in maintaining their independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity through democratic and defense reform.

Natural resource distribution will continue to influence regional dynamics. Control of water sources and uses downstream may heighten existing international tensions, particularly along the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, and Jordan Rivers. And, competing claims over the control and distribution of energy resources will continue to influence relations between states, particularly around the Caspian Sea.

On a given day, USCENTCOM operates in the region with some 30 naval vessels, 175-200 military aircraft, and between 18,000 and 25,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines. Activities range from missions such as "Operation SOUTHERN WATCH" enforcement of the No-Fly Zone (NFZ) over Southern Iraq, to Maritime Intercept Operations (MIO) in the Northern Persian Gulf, to Security Assistance, to International Military Education and Training (IMET), to Joint and Combined Exercises, and Humanitarian Demining (HD). Our military men and women continue to do a remarkable job across the board in enhancing U.S. relationships in the region, in promoting stability, and in supporting diplomatic efforts aimed at securing America's vital and enduring national interests.

There is, however, a price for America's visibility in pursuit of our interests. Some, opposed to the values for which our country stands, have determined to take direct and violent action against our presence in the region. The terrorist bombing of the Office of Program Management for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM SANG), the Khobar Towers bombing, the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and last October's attack on USS COLE continue to demonstrate that our opponents are dedicated, determined, and resourceful. Our clear task is to remain resolutely committed to the principles we stand for while we provide the best possible protection for our people. Efforts to counter the terrorist threat are ongoing, but much remains to be done as our men and women in uniform daily go "in harm's way." I will now describe our AOR in greater detail, highlight our ongoing challenges and opportunities, and identify our essential requirements.



The Central Region is of vital interest to the United States. Sixty- eight percent of the world's proven oil reserves are found in the Gulf Region and 43 percent of the world's petroleum exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz. The developing energy sector of the Central Asian States, with the potential for discovery of additional oil reserves, further emphasizes the importance of the Central Region to America and the world.

The words that best describe the AOR are "diversity" and "volatility." The region is home to more than 500 million people, three of the world's major religions, at least eighteen major ethnic groups, and national economies that produce annual per capita incomes varying from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

Portions of USCENTCOM's AOR are characterized by instability. We find social volatility due to pressures created as governments transition toward democracy, and we find additional social, economic and military stresses from humanitarian crises, the strains of resource depletion or overuse, religious or ethnic conflict, and military power imbalances. While national instability is not uncommon, the volatility of USCENTCOM's AOR is particularly significant because of its geographical and economic importance. The natural resources of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others have provided extraordinary opportunities for these nations, but also have given rise to a range of socio- economic problems and rivalries. States such as Egypt and Jordan have compensated to a large extent for their lack of mineral wealth through positive use of their human resources. Yet, there are nations in the region that have not generated the will, resources, or organization to move ahead. These factors will not be easily overcome, and portend potential regional challenges for the future.


Ten years ago, American leadership produced a coalition that defeated Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Despite victory, we remain engaged in current operations in the Gulf because of Iraq's refusal to abide by the terms of a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).

In the past year, coalition forces flew more than 19,000 sorties in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (enforcement of the Southern Iraq NFZ), with almost 10,000 of those sorties being in Iraqi airspace. The purpose of these missions in support of United Nations (UN) Resolutions remains the protection of Iraqi civilians (Kurds in the north/Shia in the south) from Saddam Hussein and the prevention of Iraqi aggression against its neighbors. Our forces have been engaged by surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft fire more than 500 times during the period, and coalition forces have responded to these provocations on 38 occasions. Enforcement of the NFZ will remain dangerous but necessary business as long as the Iraqi regime continues to threaten its neighbors and its own people.

Similarly, our naval forces maintain continuous presence in the Persian Gulf, and have intercepted 610 ships in the past year in support of MIO, enforcing UN sanctions designed to limit Saddam Hussein's ability to smuggle oil out of Iraq. Iraqi oil smuggling provides uncontrolled revenues, which could be used to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and rebuild his conventional forces. Sixty-five of these ships have been diverted to Gulf coalition partners where contraband oil has been confiscated and sold. Again, necessary but dangerous business.

As allied forces continue to enforce the resolutions, Iraq has become more aggressive in attempts to circumvent them. As the second largest producer of oil after Saudi Arabia, Iraq has attempted to manipulate the UN Oil-for-Food (O-F-F) program. Because of Saddam's obstruction, not all revenues and supplies intended for the direct relief of the Iraqi people under the O-F-F program, have found their way to the population. Additionally, by halting and restarting crude oil exports of up to 2.3 million barrels per day, Iraq has attempted to establish leverage that it can use to end sanctions. Saddam's ability to circumvent UN sanctions leaves little incentive for him to accept UNSCR 1284 or permit the resumption of UN inspections.

In the absence of inspectors and a long-term monitoring program, we cannot verify that Iraq is not continuing research, development and production of WMD and ballistic missiles.

Despite the overwhelming defeat of Iraq's conventional military force, it remains a threat to its neighbors and has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to project force as evidenced by significant deployments to western Iraq in October and November/December 2000. Iraq continues to challenge coalition aircraft in the NFZs despite the effects of ten years of sanctions on its air force and continued attrition of its air defense forces. And, despite the degradation of Iraq's military capability, our regional partners do not yet possess the capability to deter Iraqi aggression without our assistance.

Saddam is as secure now as at any time in the past decade. Iraqi participation in the 21-22 October 2000 Arab Summit and the 12-13 November 2000 Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) signals his attempt to reenter the Arab fold, and renewed contacts between Baghdad and a number of moderate Arab countries following the breakdown of the MEPN make the U.S. leadership role critical as we work to rebuild the Gulf War coalition. USCENTCOM operations and military-to-military relationships remain key to this effort.


Iran's future is an enigma in the question of stability in the AOR. Since 1997, President Khatami has attempted to change the image of Iran by initiating diplomatic rapprochement with Europe and the Gulf States. Domestically, moderate legislators have the majority in the parliament and have attempted to reform the system by introducing greater transparency and accountability within government. However, conservative hardliners have closed Iran's free press, blocked reform legislation, and intimidated and jailed moderate legislators and popular figures, effectively maintaining an atmosphere of social and political repression.

Iran faces severe internal challenges including domestic political and economic problems, massive unemployment, and increasing drug use. While a majority of Iranians, especially the young, demand change, they find themselves virtually powerless. President Khatami has not succeeded in changing the system while Supreme Leader Khamenei and the ruling conservatives have clearly demonstrated that they will not accept change, nor will they share the principal elements of state power with an increasingly restless population.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to improve its conventional and nonconventional military capabilities. Tehran's ability to interdict the Strait of Hormuz with air, surface, and subsurface naval units, as well as mines and missiles remains a concern. Additionally, Iran's asymmetrical capabilities are becoming more robust. These include high speed, fast attack patrol ships; anti-ship missiles; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); and hardened facilities for surface-to-surface missiles and command and control. WMD programs and the Shahab-3/4 Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) also continue to receive priority funding. And, although President Khatami is attempting to change Iran's image, sustained hostility of conservative hardliners is evident as we see continued support of terrorism aimed at derailing efforts for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

As Tehran deals with the stresses of a growing and increasingly discouraged population, internal political volatility could result in diplomatic, military, or asymmetric attacks on Iran's neighbors or American citizens and our interests. If we factor Iran's burgeoning WMD capability into this equation, the risks increase significantly and Iran becomes the greatest long-term threat in our AOR.

Gulf States

Increased revenues from high oil prices have benefited Gulf oil producers. This financial shot in the arm has reduced budget deficits and reactivated previously stalled infrastructure projects. However, socio-economic problems, such as increasing population, high unemployment, declining public services, and a depressed worldwide financial market, have focused the nations on the Arabian Peninsula on economic reforms that are intended to diversify and stimulate their economies.

Regional stability was recently enhanced through the resolution of long-standing Saudi-Yemeni border and Kuwaiti-Saudi maritime boundary disputes. But, unresolved United Arab Emirates (UAE)-Iran and Bahrain- Qatar territorial disputes, and Kuwait-Iran maritime boundary disputes remain.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence is of continuing concern in the Gulf region. This violence has increased internal pressures on moderate Arab governments who must balance responses to public opinion with the value placed on their relationships with the West. If the Peninsula states begin to distance themselves from the U.S., their inability to face the dual threats of Iran and Iraq will leave them vulnerable to intimidation by these aggressive powers.

Northern Red Sea

The Northern Red Sea sub-region (Egypt and Jordan) is on the front lines of the MEPN and has the most to gain or lose from the process. Peace would usher in the prospect of economic development, a stable financial environment, and social stability. Continued conflict encourages extremism, deters economic investment from outside the region, and inhibits tourism, a major source of income in both Egypt and Jordan. President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan have walked a fine line on the issue despite domestic difficulties, calls for breaking diplomatic relations with Israel, and for boycotts of Israeli and U.S. goods.

Economically, Egypt's move toward privatization is hampered by concerns about unemployment and the expected economic downturn that would initially follow. As Egypt's major source of hard currency is tourism, its economy reacts dramatically to advances or setbacks in MEPN.

Jordan suffers from water shortages, high unemployment, deficit spending, and a stagnant economy hampered by sanctions imposed on Iraq, Jordan's largest trading partner and its sole supplier of oil. Jordan's economic prospects are limited by the region's instability, magnified by the fact that 60% of the population of Jordan is Palestinian. King Abdullah has managed to support the Palestinian cause while maintaining ties with Israel, and dealing with the economic impact of sharing borders with Syria and Iraq.


Proliferation of WMD

Russia, China and North Korea remain the primary external suppliers of WMD and missile-related technology to countries in the AOR, and some regional states with maturing WMD programs have joined the ranks of potential suppliers. As proliferation in the Central Region accelerates, coalition partners feel mounting pressure to offset the WMD threat with comparable weapons of their own.

As mentioned previously, Iraq's WMD capabilities have been degraded but not eliminated. The reconstitution of key weapons programs may have begun, facilitated by the long absence of UN arms monitors. The two-plus year gap in the UN disarmament presence makes it difficult to verify the current status of biological, chemical and prohibited missile capabilities.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to place a high priority on developing WMD, specifically chemical weapons (CW), ballistic missiles and possibly biological agents. Tehran is aggressively pursuing nuclear technology and is progressing in its development of a large-scale, self- supporting CW infrastructure. Additionally, they have pursued the development of the Shahab-3 medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) to augment existing SCUD-B and SCUD-C systems. Two Shahab-3 flight tests were conducted in 2000 and, despite a failure on the last attempt, this system may now be available for use. Additional programs and capabilities can be expected in the future.

In South Asia, the missile and nuclear race between Pakistan and India continues. Both States are developing and testing a variety of technologies capable of delivering nuclear devices out to ever-greater ranges. Although the Central Asian states neither produce nor store WMD on their territories, given the geopolitical situation, WMD could transit their borders. DoD's WMD Customs and Law Enforcement programs support nonproliferation efforts in Central Asia.

Environmental Security (Water)

Water will dominate the environmental factors that pose the greatest threat to regional stability. The combination of water scarcity, water contamination, the lack of equitable watersharing agreements, population growth, and exponentially increasing demand for water will exacerbate an already challenging and volatile situation in the Central Region. While environmental factors can easily trigger conflict, cooperation on these issues can promote regional stability and contribute to the ongoing process of conflict resolution. As such, environmental security remains an important element in shaping a future made complex by competition over natural resources. USCENTCOM- sponsored environmental conferences will continue to provide a valuable forum for the region to discuss environmental issues.


Operational Activities

The focus of our day-to-day operations in the Gulf region remains Iraq. Iraq's long-term intransigence and non-compliance with UNSCRs has resulted in continued NFZ operations in both northern and southern Iraq, and our naval forces continue to conduct maritime intercept operations to limit Iraq's ability to smuggle oil outside the Oil-for- Food Program. Additionally, we maintain a rotational ground task force in Kuwait to assist with initial defense of Kuwaiti should Iraq attempt aggression.

USCENTCOM's Joint Task Force - Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) conducts NFZ enforcement, along with our UK partners, in order to monitor Iraqi compliance with UNSCR 688 and deter enhancement of Iraq's military capabilities in violation of demarches and UNSCR 949. Despite the resumption of both international civilian flights to Iraq and intra- Iraq flights, JTF-SWA remains capable of effectively enforcing the southern NFZ.

One of the most visible examples of our commitment to the region is the presence of Naval Forces U.S. Central Command (NAVCENT) in Manama, Bahrain, the only component headquartered in our AOR. Operating with other coalition members, NAVCENT enforces UN sanctions against Iraq and protects our interests in the Gulf. Along with containing Iraq and ensuring freedom of navigation in shipping lanes critical to world commerce, NAVCENT operations serve as a constant reminder of U.S. commitment to stability in the Gulf region and Strait of Hormuz.

Since the beginning of Operation DESERT SHIELD (August 1990), Maritime Intercept Operations (MIO) have resulted in the search of almost 13,000 ships bound for or departing from Iraq, with more than 760 diversions. Support for MIO has been significant with ships from Kuwait, Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, and the Netherlands, and boarding teams from Argentina and Poland having participated. Additionally, our naval units ensure freedom of navigation, execute maritime rescue missions, and conduct directed contingency operations.

USCENTCOM provides ground presence in Kuwait with Operation DESERT SPRING (ODS). This ongoing operation, under the command and control of Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)- Kuwait, is built around a mechanized infantry or tank battalion task force, an Apache helicopter company, and a Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS) battery. The units which rotate on 120-day tours come from both the active and reserve components with a deployed strength of just over 2500 personnel. This force level has been present in Kuwait since October 1999.

These on-going operations promote stability in this volatile region, acting as a deterrent to potential crises. However, the destabilizing influence of Iraq, Iran and failed states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia, require us also to maintain Operational Plans (OPLANs) and Contingency Plans (CONPLANs) to respond to a variety of crises when directed.


Reasons for War: Things you might have forgotten about Iraq.