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Background: Threat and Response

August 7, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT

TERENCE SMITH: Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, said Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein posed enough of threat to justify an attack.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: What we know now from various sources is that he has continued to improve, if you can put it in those terms, the capabilities of his chemical and biological agents, and he continues to pursue a nuclear weapon. He sits on top of 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves. He has enormous wealth being generated by that. And left to his own devices, it’s the judgment of many of us that in the not to distant future he will acquire nuclear weapons. And a nuclear armed Saddam Hussein is not a pleasant prospect, I don’t think, for anyone in the region or anyone in the world, for that matter.

Sooner or later the international community is going to have to deal with that. But again, I think it’s important for us to remember that the transgressor here, the one who’s not complied with the UN Security Council resolutions and has not lived up to the commitments that were undertaken at the end of the Gulf War is Saddam Hussein. And I think the burden ought to be on him to prove that he is in fact in compliance. And I’m not sure at all that that’s likely to happen, so the international community will have to come together in some fashion and figure out how we’re going to deal with this growing threat to the peace and stability of the region, and obviously, potentially even the United States itself.

TERENCE SMITH: The Vice President said international weapons inspections alone were not sufficient to deal with the Iraqi threat.

REPORTER: If Iraq agrees to international weapons inspections, would we call off the war, would we not move forward in that effort?

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Well, let me emphasize that the President has not made a decision at this point to go to war. We’re looking at all of our options. It would be irresponsible for us not to do that. But the issue here isn’t inspectors; that’s a secondary item, if you will. The issue is the fact that he’s required to dispose of his weapons of mass destruction, and the inspectors are merely the device by which the international community can assure itself that he’s done so. So many of us I think are skeptical that simply returning the inspectors will solve the problem.

TERENCE SMITH: But if the U.S. does launch strikes on Iraq, one ally in the region apparently won’t cooperate. In an interview with the associated press, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud said, “We have told them we don’t want them to use Saudi grounds” for any attack on Iraq. That would seem to rule out the use of Saudi air fields. Today at a Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about the Saudi position.

DONALD RUMSFELD: I have not seen the comments. I have been told that such a statement was made. You asked what my reaction is. The President has not proposed such a thing. Therefore, I don’t find it really something that has been engaged as such. We have had a long, close relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have a good number of troops stationed there. We have an ongoing political and economic and military-to- military relationship which is constructive and helpful to both countries– has been for a long time.

TERENCE SMITH: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers was asked about a “Washington Times” article which reported the chiefs had reached a consensus to use military means to oust the Iraqi leader.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS: From where I sit and the people that I talk to on a daily basis, meaning the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other senior military officials, the things that are said and portrayed in the article simply aren’t said or said to me; they are not accurate portrayals of what I see on a daily basis and what I hear. And beyond that, the kind of advice that the military provides to Secretary Rumsfeld and the President and the rest of the National Security Council is certainly privileged communications, and I’m not going to share that with you here.

TERENCE SMITH: Meanwhile, in Baghdad, in an emergency session of the Iraqi parliament, legislators vowed to stand as one united army against a potential U.S. strike.

SADOUN HAMADI, Assembly Speaker, Iraqi Parliament (Translated): The Iraqi people are not frightened by the United States’ evil threats, which are doomed to failure. Our spirits and capabilities are high and the enemy will bear the consequences of this aggression.

TERENCE SMITH: Saddam Hussein will address the Iraqi people on national television tomorrow.