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"We began with this basic proposition: Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to develop nuclear arms, poison gas, biological weapons, or the means to deliver them. He has used such weapons before against soldiers and civilians, including his own people. We have no doubt that if left unchecked he would do so again... So long as Saddam remains in power he will remain a threat to his people, his region and the world. With our allies, we must pursue a strategy to contain him and to constrain his weapons of mass destruction program, while working toward the day Iraq has a government willing to live at peace with its people and with its neighbors."

President Clinton
The White House
December 19, 1998

Meeting the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and protecting U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf has been a high priority of President Clinton's Administration. The Administration has pursued a policy towards Iraq that rests on three pillars: containment of Saddam Hussein to prevent him from rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs or threatening his neighbors; humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people to minimize their suffering at the hands of Saddam Hussein; and supporting regime change to remove Saddam Hussein from power so that Iraq and its neighbors can live in peace. This policy has successfully prevented Saddam Hussein from again attacking his neighbors as he did during the Persian Gulf War and increased pressure on his regime through international isolation. The Clinton Administration remains committed to working with U.S. allies to maintain the United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iraq, while looking to a future with a new Iraqi leadership, where the United States and its allies can support the removal of sanctions and offer assistance to bring Iraq back into the family of nations.


  • Kept in place the most stringent multilateral sanctions regime the world has ever seen, to prevent Saddam Hussein from rebuilding Iraq's pre-Gulf War military machine. These sanctions, set in place in 1990 for what was believed to be the short term goal of getting Saddam to comply with the UNSCR, were never expected to last for more than a few months. The Clinton Administration worked with its UNSC colleagues to adapt these sanctions over the years so that they have remained viable for over ten years.
  • Ensured the stability of the Gulf region. The Clinton Administration repeatedly forced Saddam to back down from threats to Iraq's neighbors.
  • Helped pass United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1284, the omnibus resolution on Iraq, on December 17, 1999. The omnibus resolution restored Security Council consensus around a robust disarmament program, additional humanitarian measures to ensure the well-being of the Iraqi people within the existing oil-for-food system and greater attention to the plight of Kuwaiti prisoners of war still unaccounted for by Iraq.
  • Launched Operation Desert Fox in December 1999, a four-day air assault on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, air defense and regime protection forces that successfully degraded Iraq's conventional and non-conventional arsenal and diminished the Iraqi threat to the region.
  • Forcefully maintained no fly zones over Iraq and ensured that coalition pilots were able to defend themselves as necessary against constant Iraqi threats.
  • Supported the Iraqi opposition by signing Presidential Decision Directive 99-13 on February 4, 1999, to provide non-lethal assistance to Iraqi opposition groups and signing into law the Iraq Liberation Act on October 31, 1998.
  • Further assisted the Iraqi opposition to broaden and deepen its political appeal, including organization, financing and other support to Iraqi leadership conference in May 1999 and a meeting of the Iraqi National Congress National Assembly in October 1999.
  • Initiated a campaign to indict Saddam Hussein as a war criminal and provided support to various groups, including the Iraqi Opposition group INDICT, working toward the same goal.
  • Responded to Iraq's seizure of Irbil in August 1996 with Operation Desert Strike and the expansion of the southern No Fly Zone from the Kuwait border to the southern suburbs of Baghdad. These actions forced Saddam to pay a strategic price for his action. It changed the strategic equation, making it more difficult for him to threaten his neighbors and easier for us to stop him if he does.
  • Co-sponsored UNSCR 986 in 1995, to allow Iraq to sell oil to purchase food and medicine to ease the suffering of its population under strict UN supervision to prevent manipulation of this program by the regime. Under the oil-for-food program, the UN has approved over $12 billion in food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people.
  • Provided financial, logistical and diplomatic aid to UNSCOM in its efforts to root out Iraqi programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.
  • Responded to the threat of a renewed Iraqi invasion of Kuwait by deploying nearly 30,000 U.S. troops to the Gulf in October 1994. Additionally, worked within the UN Security Council to pass UNSCR 949 on October 15, 1994, condemning the Iraqi deployments and demanding that Iraq withdraw its forces. Intelligence reports subsequently showed that Saddam's threat to Kuwait was real and that this rapid, forceful response caused him to back down.
  • Led the international effort to maintain economic sanctions against Iraq aimed at compelling Baghdad to comply with all UNSC resolutions.
  • Destroyed Baghdad intelligence headquarters in July 1993 in retaliation for Iraq's assassination plot against former President Bush.


February 4, 1999 President Clinton signs Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 99-13 to provide non-lethal assistance to Iraqi opposition groups.
December 19, 1998 President Clinton speaks to the role of American and British troops fighting to generate Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The President announces that U.S. policy toward Iraq would seek the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power.
December 16, 1998 President Clinton orders air-strikes against Iraq in response to Iraq's lack of compliance with UN inspectors, as outlined in UNSCOM Chairman Richard Butler's report to the UN Secretary General. President Clinton describes Iraqi actions as a failure in their "last chance" to prove willingness to comply.
November 15, 1998 President Clinton announces that Saddam had agreed to full compliance with all UNSC resolutions.
November 5, 1998 In a statement President Clinton makes clear that Iraq must stop blocking inspectors and come into compliance with all UNSC resolutions or face consequences.
October 31, 1998 President Clinton signs into law H.R. 4655, the "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998."
April 28, 1998 Provides assistance to Americares humanitarian mission to Iraq, and calls upon the Iraqi regime to cooperate with UN Security Council Resolution 1153, which authorizes increased humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq.
February 17, 1998 President Clinton makes remarks on Iraq at the Pentagon to delineate the threat by the present Iraqi regime to the future of regional security.
November 12, 1997 In a statement President Clinton strongly supports UNSC resolution condemning Iraq for obstructing the work of international weapons inspectors and defying the will of the international community.
September 3, 1996 President Clinton orders air strikes in response to Iraqi attacks on the Kurdish town of Irbil in northern Iraq.


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