Public Papers - 1990
Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait
The President. I listened to Marlin's briefing, and I know most of your questions have been handled. And I don't intend to have a major question and answer period here; but I wanted you to know that, first off, we view this situation with gravity. We view it as a matter of grave concern to this country, and internationally as well. What Iraq has done violates every norm of international law.
I have been meeting this morning with my top security experts from the defense side, the economic side; and I'll have another such meeting tomorrow at Camp David. I've been talking to some of the world leaders, and one of the reasons for the delay is I've just hung up from talking again to Margaret Thatcher, informing me of steps that the United Kingdom has taken. We are moving with them and many other countries in terms of how we view these international sanctions -- tightening that up along the way.
I talked also to another staunch friend of the United States just a few minutes ago: President Ozal of Turkey. Turkey, as you know, is in a very strategic location of geographical importance -- importance as a steadfast member of NATO. I think it's fair to say that President Ozal and I look at this matter with the same sense of urgency and concern.
So, we're following it closely. We've got many diplomatic channels open. I will be making several other calls to world leaders before I go to bed tonight, and I expect over the weekend. But before I left here, I wanted to make very clear to everybody how strongly I feel about the nature of this uncalled-for invasion and our determination to see the matter resolved.
Q. They're only 5 miles from the Saudi border.
The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]?
Q. What can you do if Iraq decides to expand into Saudi Arabia?
The President. I'm not discussing options, but I would simply say the status quo is unacceptable, and further expansion would be even more unacceptable. There are a lot of options. I'm not going to discuss what they are. We've already taken economic steps, and all options are open -- economic and otherwise.
Q. Mr. President, do you feel your hands are tied until these Arab meetings conclude and they decide what they're going to do?
The President. No. I support the fact that Foreign Ministers have met in Cairo. I am very pleased that there is active diplomacy going on in Saudi Arabia -- high-level official from Iraq meeting today, as I understand it, with the top officials in Saudi Arabia. All that is good. But my hands aren't tied in terms of having to wait for somebody else in any way. But there's a certain complication to all of this that requires a certain amount of time. It's not an easy matter in any sense -- economically, militarily, anything else.
But I want to just make clear here how strongly we all feel about it. And I'm not just talking about the United States; I'm talking to every leader I've talked to.
Q. Mr. President, it's been reported that Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] has informed the Soviets that he was going to pull his troops out of Kuwait in a few days.
The President. Well, let's see him haul them out right now, then. I saw that report. And very candidly, let me say something about the Soviet Union. I am very, very pleased with the cooperation that we're having with the Soviet Union on this important question. If you go back a few years, that would have been a very different ingredient, a different part of the equation. So, because the Soviet Union has had in the past reasonably good relations, let us hope that Saddam Hussein will do what that report indicated. But I can't comment, Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News]. I don't know how accurate it is.
Q. Mr. President, economic sanctions have not had a very good history of effectiveness. Why do you think they will work in this case?
The President. I didn't say I thought they would work. But we're putting them on there, and we're going to go and do everything we can to see that they do work. But, yes, you're right, there's been a spotty record of economic sanctions working. Iraq, in spite of its underground wealth, has some big economic problems. We have taken the lead, and I think properly so, in slapping an embargo on those. And then we're also talking at the United Nations about chapter VII action. But you're right; you put a finger on what's happened to some of them in the past, and I think we have to consider that as I review all options.
Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News]?
Q. Mr. President, you said yesterday morning in the Cabinet Room that you would not discuss intervention. Now you're saying, and have been saying since yesterday afternoon, that all options are open. What, if anything, has changed, sir?
The President. Nothing has really changed. I perhaps was inaccurate in answering the question. What I thought I was doing was waiting until the briefing was over.
Q. Are you committed to defending Saudi Arabia if the Iraqis cross the border?
The President. The integrity of Saudi Arabia, its freedom, are very, very important to the United States; and I've made that clear to King Fahd in a very long conversation with him yesterday. General Scowcroft met with the Saudi Ambassador today, and I think he's had other meetings with government officials. And we're making sure that the Saudis know that. When you look at vital interests of the United States, the relationship with Saudi Arabia and its independence and its freedom come under the heading of very, very important.
Q. Did the Saudis ask for anything specifically? And I'd like to ask you about the Turks as well.
The President. I can't divulge the details of the conversations I've had with King Fahd; but if they ask for specific help, it depends, obviously, what it is. But I would be inclined to help in any way we possibly can. It's that serious. All you have to do is look at the energy requirements of the world plus the direct violation of international law by Saddam Hussein to understand why I feel so strongly about it.
What was the second part?
Q. Will the Turks cut off the Iraqi pipeline? Did you ask them to?
The President. I'm again not going to go into details. But clearly, a good deal of that oil goes out through Turkey. And that will be an option I'm certain.
Q. But if he's in accord with you, doesn't he need to do this?
The President. I'm not discussing the details of these conversations. One of the difficulties is there's a lot of questions that the American people would like to have the answers to. But I have got to go forward with a reasonable degree of confidentiality so that I work in concert with our allies. And then, sometimes, maybe we'll have to work on our own. In this question, clearly, we need to have cooperation of allies.
Q. They just asked mine.
The President. Did they? Good. Well then I'll go to Camp David. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Q. Mr. President, there's some talk of a meeting in Jedda. Do you see the diplomatic efforts getting better at all within the Arab League?
The President. I'm encouraged when I see diplomatic efforts. But, no, I can't tell you I see the results of those any better today than I did yesterday.
Q. What about the effect on our energy supply, sir?
Q. What about the missing Americans, Mr. President? How concerned are you about them?
The President. We have no reports of Americans being held against their will, because as I indicated yesterday, that is a matter of importance to us.
Q. What about the effect on our energy supply, sir, and the ramifications about the price situation and the supply situation?
The President. The economic aspects of this are well-known to the American people. And fortunately, right now there's a bit of an overhang of surplus crude, but that's short-run. And long-run economic effects on the free world could be devastating, and that's one of the reasons I'm as concerned as I am. And that's one of the reasons, incidentally, I've been talking about having a strong defense in this country. And it's time some of our Congressmen wake up to the need to have a strong defense.
Thank you all very much.
Note: The exchange began at 3:15 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, prior to the President's departure for Camp David, MD. In his remarks, the President referred to Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President; King Fahd bin `Abd al-`Aziz Al Sa`ud of Saudi Arabia; Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Ambassador from Saudi Arabia.