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02 August 2002

Defense Department Report, August 2: Sinai Peacekeeping, Iraq

(U.S. seeking to streamline Middle East peacekeeping) (830)
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith says the United
States is not seeking to end its participation in the Multinational
Force and Observers (MFO) Mission in the Sinai, but is looking to
improve its efficiency.
"We're talking about looking at the whole MFO, how it can reconfigure
itself, how it can continue to fulfill its mission more efficiently,"
he told reporters at an August 2 Pentagon briefing.
His comments followed a trilateral meeting of U.S., Egyptian and
Israeli officials held in Washington at the invitation of the U.S.
All sides agreed, Feith said, that even after 20 years the MFO must
continue its mission "in the most efficient manner possible."
Both Egypt and Israel, he said, understand that the United States is
facing competing military requirements around the world, especially
since the September 11 attacks and the initiation of the war on
terrorism. This is why the United States is sounding out other
countries about the possibility of contributing to the MFO by assuming
some of the functions it has handled, he said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made clear early in his tenure that
he wished to cut back some U.S. commitments overseas and would be
looking closely at the Sinai. "We're looking at whatever makes sense,"
Feith said.
The under secretary indicated that no decision has been made yet "on
the exact nature of the cut." He stressed that the United States is
not considering ending its participation, but is keen to make a
substantial cut "if we can." He also reaffirmed the strong U.S.
commitment to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Feith made his remarks following meetings August 1 with Egyptian Major
General Abou Bakr and retired Israeli Major General Amos Yaron. He
said there will be a follow-up meeting of experts, probably in a
matter of weeks, to "rationalize" U.S. participation. "We're trying to
do this rationally, in consultations with the Egyptians and the
Israelis," the defense official said, and to figure what is still
required for the mission.
Right now the U.S. military is supporting a headquarters element, a
support battalion, and an infantry battalion with 830 personnel
Feith noted that much of the mission is political, rather than
military in nature. He described it as more confidence-building than
peacekeeping between Egypt and Israel. These two countries are at
peace, he said, and the MFO functions in a monitoring role. He said
the observation force contributes to confidence in a peace treaty that
has lasted for 20 years, adding that "a substantial amount of
confidence has been built up in that period."
Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa says the Iraqi military is
working constantly to improve its air defense system and that it is
his "gut feeling" that the system has been improved.
The Deputy Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff was
responding to questions from reporters August 2 when he said Iraq's
system is viewed by the U.S. military as "very capable" and "one of
the toughest, most complex systems that we see in the world."
Iraqi artillery periodically fires against U.S. and British aircraft
patrolling the No Fly Zones designated under U.N. Security Council
resolutions in the north and south of Iraq. Comparing the level of
shooting in the past few years to this year's level, Rosa said the
sheer numbers are about the same, but media and public awareness about
the exchanges have become greater. The U.S. responded 16 times this
year to Iraqi provocations in the southern No Fly Zone and eight times
in the northern No Fly Zone, according to the Pentagon official.
Rosa and Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke, who briefed reporters
with him, were also asked about Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's
confidence in General Tommy Franks, who is in charge of prosecuting
military operations in Afghanistan and who would be in charge if
operations were initiated against Iraq at any time in the future.
Clark said the secretary has "full and total confidence" in Franks,
who leads the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for
operations in the Middle East and South Asia. "He has done an
extraordinary job of prosecuting what has been a very unconventional
war," she said, and Rumsfeld is "very confident that the performance
will be terrific going forward."
Without commenting on an August 2 Washington Times report suggesting
that Rumsfeld thought Franks may be overly cautious, Clark said, "the
secretary wants everyone to understand the sense of urgency about what
we're doing ... that the threats ... are ... very real." Rumsfeld, she
continued, "is always communicating to ... the senior military and
civilian leadership the sense of urgency...."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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