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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 15, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

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12:29 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Questions.

Q Have you been able to reconstruct the transcript of the briefing in Baghdad on Sunday?

MR. SNOW: No, but I think the general purpose of the briefing in Baghdad was to outline Iranian activities in terms of supplying weaponry, or weaponry that had made its way from Iran into Iraq that had been used to kill coalition forces, among others.

One of the most prominent parts of the briefing were the EFPs, the explosively formed projectiles, which are a new form of IED. And so that's basically what was laid out at the briefing. I have not been able -- we're still working on trying to come up with some sort of rendering so that we can find out precisely what the briefer said.

Q Why wouldn't you offer a transcript?

MR. SNOW: Because it wasn't transcribed at the time. People are looking for a tape to see if they can rebuild it just for you guys.

Q There seems to be some conservative push back, I guess, about the North Korea deal. Wall Street Journal editorial page called it the "faith-based nonproliferation." What's your sense about that?

MR. SNOW: Our sense is that as people become more familiar, they're going to become more confident in what we've done. What we have done is put together an agreement that in fact is not faith-based, it's performance-based. And that's the most important thing to understand. The Koreans don't get anything for free -- the North Koreans don't get anything for free. At each and every step along the way they have to meet performance standards. For instance, at the beginning, they've got to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and they've also got to declare all their activities. In reaction to that, the South Koreans will give them 50,000 tons of heavy oil.

Beyond that, each and every one of the steps in the process, they have to deliver in order to get economic aid, diplomatic recognition, and a number of other things they want.

Q I guess the faith is being placed in Kim Jong-il, as I guess the school of thought, or school of criticism goes. So you do have a wildcard there, don't you?

MR. SNOW: Well, of course. Look, the ball is in his court. There are a couple of significant differences between this and prior agreements. Number one, it is based upon his performance. Everything -- there are basically benchmarks for the North Koreans. They have to meet certain standards before they become eligible for the kind of aid and support they want. Number two, you have a number of other parties who are involved. I just mentioned the South Koreans, for instance, providing heavy oil. The Chinese have a direct -- have direct responsibilities here, as do the Japanese and the Russians.

In other words, in this particular case, the North Koreans are no longer going to be able to pit the United States against regional powers. Everybody is knitted together in this. And therefore, you have much more credible enforcement. The North Koreans, if they are to step away from one of the elements in the agreement, they're going to risk having to deal with the other five -- the other four parties to the talk.

Q So just to follow one more time on this, what happens when you reach out to some of these folks -- some of the critics, and make these arguments? I'm sure there's been some outreach.

MR. SNOW: I think a lot of times people feel reassured. I've made a couple of calls. You know, for instance, there was some concern, are you going to delist the North Koreans as a terrorist state? And the answer is, not for political reasons. They've got to earn it. It has to be based on facts and performance.

Those are the kinds of concerns that you can expect people to raise. But on the other hand, as we have an opportunity to discuss more fully and frankly, as people at State can walk folks through the various steps in the process, they're going to find out that this is not something for nothing. And that's the most important thing, that the onus not only is on the North Koreans, but also the people who have enforcement responsibilities and opportunities now are more than just the United States. You also bring into it the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Russians, and the Chinese.

Q Tony, in September, the President stood by Pakistan President Musharraf. As he said, he gave responsibility in that tribal region to tribal leaders for security. Now, fast forward to today, and there are twice the amount of cross-border attacks. Can you, essentially, say that that effort has failed by President Musharraf --

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize it, but we're certainly concerned about it. And so is President Musharraf. It is very important to try to deal with the violence coming across the Pakistani border into Afghanistan for the purposes of supporting those who are trying to bring down the government of Afghanistan.

We also understand, Bret, in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in this war on terror, 2005 was a very successful year: standing up a democracy, getting the international community behind it; 2006 was a year of reaction on the part of terrorists. And now, we are getting ready for a season where we expect there to be violence as the Taliban and its supporters try once again to assert themselves.

Meanwhile, the government of Afghanistan, NATO forces, allied forces, are preparing for vigorous activity, as well, and that includes dealing with border incursions, and it also includes taking on expected Taliban assaults in the south and elsewhere.

Q The question always comes back to, is President Musharraf doing enough?

MR. SNOW: You know, again, we continue to work with President Musharraf. It's -- I'm not even sure that's an answerable question, to be honest, because you figure out -- it implies a standard of perfection. In a time of war, you constantly have to be dealing with unknowns, you have to deal with a series of shifting challenges.

President Musharraf, whose life has at least twice been threatened by al Qaeda, certainly understands the danger of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-related terrorists, including those who operate on behalf of the Taliban. And he has risked his life to fight these forces and continues to be a valuable asset. So I'm not going to hand out a report card, but we do know that it is very important to continue to fight against those forces and to frustrate their aims to try to come across the border. He and President Karzai discussed that with the President when they both met last year. And it continues to be a source of concern.

Q One last try. Without giving it a grade on the report card, is it fair to say that White House officials are not happy with the results they've seen from the Pakistan --

MR. SNOW: Again, I think -- I avoid characterizations like that because I think it creates an impression of political conflict between states. We understand that a war is hard, and we understand that you constantly have to shift and adjust to changing realities and to respond as vigorously as possible.

Part of what the President talked about today is not only increase U.S., but also NATO presence in Afghanistan, and taking significant moves to build up the Afghan police and military forces in response to this challenge. So I'm afraid I'm going to sort of waltz around what you're trying to get me to do. But on the other hand, we are certainly not blind to the challenges in the region. We continue to assess and reassess and to work with our allies and our partners in trying to deal with it.

Jessica.

Q Slides from a pre-war briefing show that by this point, the U.S. expected that the Iraqi army would be able to stabilize the country and there would be as few as 5,000 U.S. troops there. What went wrong?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure anything went wrong. At the beginning of the Civil War, people thought it would all be over at Manassas. It is very difficult -- no, Jessica, the fact is, a war is a big, complex thing. And what you're talking about is a 2002 assessment. We're now in the year 2007, and it is well-known by anybody who has studied any war that war plans immediately become moot upon the first contact with the enemy.

For instance, a lot of people did not think that we would have the success we had moving swiftly into Baghdad. All I'm saying is that -- what happens is, you're looking at a pre-war assessment, and there have been constant assessments ever since. A war is not a situation where you can sit down and neatly predict what exactly is going to happen. You make your best estimates, but you also understand that there are going to continue to be challenges, there are going to be things that you don't anticipate, there are going to be things that the enemy doesn't anticipate. And the most important task, frankly, is to continue to try to assess near-term and mid-term to figure out how best to address the situation.

Q But this estimate was monumentally wrong. So would the President, knowing what he knows today, still have decided to go into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes. The President believes that we did the right thing in going into Iraq. The question is, should you saddle any military planner with an expectation that they're going to have perfect insight into what happens five years later? And the answer is, of course not. And I think if you talk to military planners, they do their very best under a situation. As you know, many reporters who were in the field then probably had different views about how things might be today.

The fact is, the war is -- I know it's becoming a cliché, but it's true -- it's a highly complex enterprise. What you end up doing is you make your best guesses going in. It turns out, for instance, their assessment that they would be able to move swiftly into Baghdad was absolutely right. But you have -- it is pretty clear that some of the other assessments were wrong, and you deal with it.

Q Is the President being equally unrealistic about his current assessments of Iraq and Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: No. And the President is also not making a five-year assessment. What he's talking about is a highly specific plan that deals with Baghdad security, it deals with Anbar, Diyala, and a little bit up north. It is being done not only with military planners, but in concert with the Iraqis. If you take a look at the Baghdad security plan, it is something that, to use a term of art in the military, it's highly granular; it's very detailed in terms of trying to develop strong and credible forces in nine separate districts within Baghdad. There is a parallel operation in Anbar province, which, incidentally, has been highly successful, and I believe your colleague who has just come back will be able to tell you about that.

And so what you have here is it's still a war-time situation. Nobody is going to promise that you're going to have a specified result within a period of weeks or months, but you have to make your best guess about what is required to achieve success. And after a very considerable period of study and consultation with people in all -- sort of all walks of life when it comes to dealing with these issues, including the Iraqis, we've come up with a joint plan for trying to deal with Baghdad security first, and also security in other areas. Let's remind people that about 80, 85 percent of the country is relatively peaceful at this juncture.

And therefore the real challenge is to focus forces, credible forces on the places where violence persists, and to try to deal not only with violence, but also some of the causes, including sectarian violence, unemployment, and so on. And therefore we've got an integrated strategy that deals not only with the military piece, but we're bringing in provisional reconstruction teams to try to provide economic opportunity. When you've got places with high joblessness, you've got to deal with that. When you have to build credibility with the public, you're not going to do it if you leave every night and come back in the morning. So we're there 24/7.

This is a plan where people have given it their very deepest thought, and this is their best judgment on what's necessary to succeed.

Q Tony, going back to President's global war on terrorism. Today and yesterday he was speaking about that. As far as these two leaders are concerned from Pakistan and Afghanistan, they were here at the White House on the invitation of the President, and he told both of them to work together, especially President General Musharraf, that you have to stop and help Afghanistan, and this leader, to succeed democracy in Afghanistan. And today the situation is same. Afghanistan's President complained then and now the same situation. As far as General Musharraf is concerned, he's not very popular at home, and many people in Pakistan believe that those attacks on or against him were creation to get U.S. sympathy and money, which he has not helped the U.S. in this war. So does the President trust him?

MR. SNOW: Goyal, you have just given a sermon against President Musharraf.

Q Not against him.

MR. SNOW: Yes, it is --

Q He's my friend, I know him personally, and he has --

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: I can't respond -- you've now concocted a theory where there are fake attacks on him, and I can't help you out.

Q But does the President trust him today? Are the two leaders, as far as global war on terrorism --

MR. SNOW: The President understands that the two leaders sometimes clash, but on the other hand, they've got a common interest in dealing with the problem of terror in the region. and they're going to continue to -- they're gong to work together. There are going to be some challenges in the bilateral relationship, but in the end, having a large and vigorous terror network is in the interests of neither.

John.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. First, a follow-up on the earlier question about conservative disagreement with the President on the North Korean agreement. Elliott Abrams, last time I checked, was still working for the National Security Council when he sent out emails that, from published reports, sound like a disagreement with administration policy.

MR. SNOW: I'm glad you raised it, because I talked to Elliott about that today. Now what he did is he raised a question about how does the piece work when it talks about delisting North Korea as a terrorist state. And based on responses he got within NSC -- you've got to keep in mind, Elliott does the Middle East, and the people who are involved in Northeast Asia responded, and he is satisfied. He had the same concern that many people have had, which is, is this a political deal; are you trying to offer a political deal to the North Koreans, saying, if you come to the table, all is forgiven, we'll delist you. And the answer is, no; just as we have done with other states, you still have performance requirements before you get delisted. And I talked with Elliott about that this morning, and he says this has, in fact, satisfied his concerns, and he does support it.

Q My other question is, yesterday Major General Bill Caldwell, who is the spokesman for the multinational force, said on the record that the surge of 21,000 troops into the Baghdad area won't be complete until the end of May, and that Congress and the American people can be expected to measure the success or failure of the mission by then. Why the slow roll in getting the troops there?

MR. SNOW: It's not a slow roll. When you're talking about moving battalions, it does take time to move them. And as a matter of fact, we've let this be known. This is not news, John. We've talked for some time about the fact that this gets staged basically one battalion a month making its way into the region. We had one prepositioned in Kuwait, but you have the business of figuring out which forces you're going to need, getting them equipped, getting them ready, getting them into theater, and prepositioning them so that they can be ready to move wherever they need to move. This is not new. This has, in fact, been part of the plan all along.

Roger.

Q The President spoke about the security gaps in the speech this morning. I was wondering what kind of follow-up is being taken with countries such as Germany on loosening their restrictions on the movement of --

MR. SNOW: Well, this is -- the President first raised -- not first, but he did raise this at last year's NATO meeting. You had Secretary Rice in Brussels last month. You had Secretary Gates in Spain last week. So this is a matter of continuing consultation.

Q Is there any progress on it?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I don't want to try to characterize our conversations with allies. But we appreciate the fact that this is the first time NATO has gone off European soil for an operation of this sort. And they're playing not only a valuable role, but have been very successful in fighting back against the Taliban. They were extraordinarily capable in their battles last year, and they're going to face it this year.

We also note that some of the NATO allies have made public commitments to increase force there. But as far as behind the scenes discussions, I'm not at liberty to go into detail of it.

Q Tony, Speaker Pelosi made a number of statements in a TV interview last night. I was wondering if you could respond.

MR. SNOW: Okay. Tell me which ones you'd like me to respond to.

Q Well, she said the White House is working very hard to stop Republicans from voting for the House resolution.

MR. SNOW: I don't think -- no. I mean, we've certainly had -- look, we have conversations, but we've also made it clear that members -- members are going to vote whatever way they think they need to. I think that there's been vigorous debate in the House of Representatives, but we're not whipping the vote.

Q And secondly, she says the fact is we've had four surges, none of them have worked; in fact, they've made matters worse, they've only escalated the violence in the region.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure she has it quite right. For instance, as far as surges, really, this particular strategy is new. And it also -- it not only involves bringing in more forces, but an entirely new approach to how you address the situation, not only in Baghdad, but in other areas.

For instance, change rules of engagement, we've talked about that a lot, but it's very important that you don't tie the hands of the people who are trying to chase down the bad guys. The other thing is, that this is being done at a time when the Iraqi government itself has made it clear that it is no longer going to permit militias -- Shia militias to operate outside the law, the same thing with Sunni insurgent groups. And there has been tough action on the ground in recent weeks to make it clear that that's not only words from the government, but in fact, it's basically the orders. As a matter of fact, as you know, the new orders have been cut for the Baghdad security plan.

The other thing is that there have been a series of reinforcements, and they were followed by success. For instance, the transition to sovereignty from the CPA in June of 2004; a second time that we plussed up was to help in the national election. You may recall that there were widespread predictions of high levels of violence, and also voter suppression. They did not come to pass, in part because there was a credible show of force -- and similarly, in October through December of 2005, when you had the ratification of the constitution and the first national election.

You've got to keep in mind, we are not causing the violence, we are responding to the violence. You have al Qaeda and others who have been able to use IEDs as a way of trying to shape opinion to weaken will in the United States and in Iraq. And it is our commitment not only to fight back against the causes of violence, but more importantly, build that capacity on the part of the Iraqi government where they can stand up and stand tall and take primary responsibility for what's going on.

But, please, let's not try to get into the business of pointing a finger toward the U.S. military when it comes to things like the IEDs and other devices. And I don't think Speaker Pelosi meant to draw that kind of a conclusion. But the fact is, again, when we have had -- when we have used increases in forces, it has usually been in a targeted way. And a matter of fact, if you take a look at our record, this ought to build confidence in the fact that when you do have focused application of force, it does create results, and good results.

Now, I don't want to be accused of putting on rose-colored glasses. It's going to be tough. And there are going to be times when people do commit acts of horrifying violence, where they kill people on a large scale. We wish that were preventable. It's not entirely preventable. But what we also see is renewed commitment on the part of the Iraqi people, not only in terms of developing and turning over intelligence about these matters, and therefore, making it possible to go after bad actors, but also to be more assertive in doing the military activities, but also understanding that it requires more than that.

Which is why, for instance, we have been pushing hard on the political front. And I know Speaker Pelosi talked about that, as well, in the interview. We have been in the forefront of saying to the Iraqis, you need to do political reconciliation; you need to amend your constitution; you need to adopt an oil law. And in point of fact, the Iraqi government is moving forward on all those things. They're in a recess, a legislative recess until the beginning of next month.

So a lot of those things -- I think when Speaker Pelosi gets an opportunity to match up her critiques with what's going on, I think she's going to find that a lot of those things are being answered on the ground.

Sheryl.

Q Tony, the President has said repeatedly that he is not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. Given those numbers he outlined today in Afghanistan -- the number of roadside bombs doubled, direct attacks increased three times, suicide bombs increased five-fold -- is he satisfied with the situation in Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: No, because you want to make sure that you're addressing violence. But again, the President understands that what you have is a reaction in 2006 and early into 2007 to the successes that I think rocked the terrorist world in 2005, when you had democracies taking root in those countries. And we're now responding to them.

What the President understands is that groups, like the Taliban and al Qaeda, are going to do whatever they can. They're going to do their best to use terror as a way of preventing democracy from flourishing in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it is the commitment of allies in both countries, along with the host government, and increasingly -- again, you heard today, building greater capacity on the part of the host government, to make sure that they've got the ability, ultimately, to stand on their own.

Q And just to follow on that, critics of his policies have said that had we not been so deeply engaged in Iraq and tied up there, that we might not be having these problems in Afghanistan. How do you respond?

MR. SNOW: You know, I don't want to get into relitigating the last year. But again, if you take a look at what happened at the end of 2005, you had -- the situation was looking up in Afghanistan, and if you take a look at the response last year, there was a vigorous pushback to attempts by the Taliban to reconstitute and fight.

The President early on was talking with Presidents Musharraf and Karzai about the importance of working together and dealing with issues of border security. We certainly -- we're taking a look at everything from poppy cultivation to the importance of trying to put an end to, or at least slow down cross-border incursions.

So the fact that a war is difficult is something we know, and we try constantly to respond.

Q Tony, Congressman Murtha says he would like to attach certain conditions to the supplemental. He says troops will need to be certified as fully combat ready, training, equipment, before they can go back to Iraq; deployments can't be extended beyond one year; troops have to have at least one year at home between deployments; and the stop-loss program would be prohibited. What is your --

MR. SNOW: You're reading it off your Blackberry because it's just come out, and we, frankly, are doing the same thing. We're not reading it off our Blackberries, but we're trying to assess what Congressman Murtha has had to say.

The one thing that we can assure the American people is that people who go into combat are going to be ready. And we are committed to the effectiveness and the safety of our forces.

But I think rather than -- this is really pretty fresh. I think he went and gave the speech about an hour ago. So if you'll give us a day's forbearance to get it, because I don't feel comfortable commenting about the details. I got a very quick summary of the comments just as we were coming over, and I don't even have time to --

Q Can I ask about what you think the motives are? Do you think these are --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't want to assign motives. I mean, the President has said that we accept the patriotism of everybody who's involved in this debate. We think it's essential to make sure that we give the troops what they need to succeed. He also noted that if people were to cut off support and funding for the troops, it would mark the first time in American history that you had a Congress that supported a commanding general and then turned around and denied him what he had said explicitly was necessary to succeed.

Q Is this a way of doing that, do you think?

MR. SNOW: Again, ask Congressman Murtha. When it comes to motives, what he hopes to achieve, I think he's a more effective spokesman.

Q The last one -- I'm sorry, the last one. Does the White House believe that Congress has the authority under the constitutional system to do these types of decisions?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to get in -- at this point, let's wait and see what Congress does. We're deep into levels of -- we're into hypotheticals right now. What we think is that Congress ought to be prepared to support the troops.

General Petraeus has made it clear that he thinks you need these extra forces to reinforce the people who are already there. The other thing that you've got to keep in mind is there's a lot of talk about armor and all that sort of thing -- if you don't, in fact, fully fund the troops, you also don't fully fund that kind of support and that kind of protection.

So as this debate moves forward, I think we'll have an opportunity to look into the fine details of what people have to propose. Our view is, give the forces what they need, give them the support give them the reinforcement, but also give the plan an opportunity to work.

Q Can you speak broadly about what you think Congress' role is and what powers it does have on this?

MR. SNOW: Well, Congress clearly has appropriations power; it's got the power of the purse.

Q But how do you use that? How deeply can it micro-manage?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's -- you want me to play junior constitutional lawyer, and I'm not going to do it at this juncture.

Q You can be senior, as far as I'm concerned. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I'm flattered, thank you.

Q Tony, one more on the House resolution. You say you're not using -- not trying to whip count this one. Does that mean that this is a foregone conclusion, the result tomorrow? And also, will you be using -- will you be whipping the vote when it comes to the appropriation resolution?

MR. SNOW: When it comes to financing the troops, you better believe it. We think that it's absolutely necessary for Congress to fund our troops.

Q Does that mean the President will veto anything that ties his hands in any way?

MR. SNOW: At this point, I am not going -- that's a classic invitation to negotiate against ourselves. Congress has to decide what it wants to do when -- when there is a real proposal before us, then we will go through the normal routine of filing a statement of administration policy and telling you whether we intend to veto. But I'm not going to issue a veto threat on a hypothetical at this juncture.

Q Back to the first one, though. Is tomorrow's vote a foregone conclusion?

MR. SNOW: Well, it seems to me it's pretty clear what the outcome is going to be.

Q Tony, it has been suggested that Iraq begin to draft young males for its security forces. Would the President endorse such a plan?

MR. SNOW: Would the President endorse --

Q Endorse a plan --

MR. SNOW: Iraq -- Iraq is a sovereign government. They don't have to seek the President's endorsement for how they deal with their military needs.

Q To draft the young people, the young males to --

MR. SNOW: I'm just -- I'm not going to comment on a rumor about what the Iraqis may do. But it's important to realize that Iraq is a sovereign government, and we respect its sovereignty.

Q I have a follow up on delisting North Korea. You said it's not a political deal, and to delist they must meet the performance requirements. What are the U.S. requirements?

MR. SNOW: Well again, these are things that are going to be spelled out in future rounds of conversations with the North Koreans. If you take a look at the statement that came out, the way this is set up is you've got to build -- basically, you've got to build confidence. The point has been often made that these guys have cheated before. How can you trust them, we're asked. And the answer is, you've got to take small steps. You've got to lay out benchmarks. For instance, early on, shut down Yongbyon, declare all your nuclear facilities, all your nuclear materials, and so on. That's step number one.

They are now breaking up into working groups, and there are working groups on denuclearizing the Peninsula, providing safety and security within northeast Asia, there is an economic energy piece, and there are also working groups, one, on bilateral relations between the United States and North Korea, and another between Japan and North Korea.

So there is not -- you are not going to find a highly detailed checklist because you move from one stage to the next. You have to -- you have to be able to assess the reliability of the North Koreans on the little matters. And so we're really going to be working those out in future rounds.

Q Is it fair to say that the U.S. told them if they move along that they will be delisted?

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- you have to stop -- to be delisted as a terrorist state, you have to stop being a terrorist state, which means proliferation, supporting terrorist organizations, and so on. I mean, there are a whole series of things that are standards, and those standards will still apply to North Korea. There's no change in the way we evaluate these things.

Paula.

Q The Vice President yesterday said there's a veto threat out on the Employee Free Choice Act. He mentioned specifically it was because of a provision on ending secret balloting. But I wondered about the other provisions that are aimed in retaliation by employers against workers that try to organize --

MR. SNOW: Again, the veto threat was focused on the secret ballot provision.

Q What about the other provisions that do not --

MR. SNOW: We did not issue a veto threat on that.

Q Are you willing to work with Congress?

MR. SNOW: Well, let's see where we stand as we continue to negotiate. We're certainly against violence.

Q Thanks Tony. Yesterday Chrysler announced that it's cutting 13,000 jobs, about 16 percent of its work force, shutting down all or part of four plants by 2009. Since the President had that highly publicized meeting with the leaders of the big-three automakers late last year, what steps has the President taken to help Ford, GM, and Chrysler out?

MR. SNOW: Well, among other things -- are you talking about specific actions? There has not been -- we have not targeted specific actions at this juncture. On the other hand, if you take a look at things like the health care plan, that certainly does offer some opportunities because if you look at some of the real burdens being borne right now by the auto makers, the combination of a defined benefit retirement plan and defined benefit health plans have imposed crushing burdens on them.

We've also been in a period where each of the big three have been through some pretty significant restructuring -- Ford, Chrysler and GM all have. They've been in periods where they haven't been making money, and these are tough decisions.

What the President said yesterday is, they need to take care of them. One of the things we're trying to do is to make sure that workers are going to be able to have help when it comes to everything from job training, future education, existing unemployment insurance and job programs -- all of those we think ought to be made available to them. Ultimately, the automakers are becoming more competitive. They need to; they understand that.

And what we have seen in recent years is an improvement, both in productivity and efficiency within the automakers. And you've seen a rapid closing of the gap between them and some of their competitors. It's a tough industry. Manufacturing in the United States remains strong and it has continued to grow in recent years and it has been a source of increased wealth in the United States. But the auto industry has been through a tough few years.

Q At one point are these issues, these financial issues just strictly a private sector issue and at what point do you the think the government, the administration should get involved and help them out?

MR. SNOW: Well, the administration, again, in trying to deal with competitive situations, does help them out. A strong economy certainly is always going to be a helper to the auto industry in the sense that the more disposable income you have -- for instance, more opportunities you have for people to go out and buy new cars -- so there are any number of ways where we can help them. But at this point I'm not going to be talking about any potential actions that the administration has made -- nor am I aware of anybody having proposed anything specifically.

Q Tony, I wonder if you could help me parse some of the things that the President said yesterday about Iran, or clarify. From what I read, he said that the IEDs have their source in Iran, that the Quds organization is involved in that, that the Quds organization is a part of the Iranian government, and that we will act to protect our troops. The question is, the question remains the ambiguity -- what, exactly, are we going to do? Does the President feel that that means that the Iranian government is somehow involved in this and, in such a case, what does the U.S. do?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the Quds force is part of the Iranian government and it is involved in distributing weaponry, including these EFPs. What we're going to do is we're going to protect our forces. You probably noticed that yesterday the Iraqi government made moves to try to close off the Iranian and the Syrian borders. What we're going to try to do is to interdict, intercept and prevent the transmission and use of any kind of weaponry against U.S. or other forces from outside the country.

So at the border, we're going to try to get them; along the roads, we're going to try to intercept up; in the theater, if we find somebody, we're going to get them and we're going to stop them. We're going to do everything we can to protect our forces. This is an issue of force protection and we're going to be as aggressive as possible in trying to find out the networks, the way they travel, the way they distribute, the way they deploy -- and at each and every juncture along that process, try to stop it. That's what you do.

Q Well the President indicated, he said it doesn't matter who -- where they're getting a call from, saying, go ahead -- whether that's from the government or somebody else. I mean, doesn't it make a difference? I mean, isn't that of interest whether or not the government is involved? Or is it indifferent for the President, he will act the way he feels --

MR. SNOW: Certainly it's of interest. But on the other hand, on the ground, the most practical thing you're dealing with here is who's coming across the border? Ultimately, you've got to figure out not who signed the paper, but who's in the car and who's got the bombs, and where do you stop them, and who's got the tail pieces for the mortars, and who's got the mortars, and who has the other ordnance, and where are they coming from, and where are the safe houses. Those are the practical questions that our military commanders are dealing with.

Q And secondly, on another note, Saudi Arabia took the initiative to call together a meeting between Hamas and Fatah -- obviously not so much with the blessing of the U.S. I wonder if it has the blessing now, if the United States would be prepared --

MR. SNOW: Well, I think at this point -- at this point, we've never -- as far as I can tell, and I'll have to double check -- I'm not sure we ever got paper on it. As you know, there has been some friction between Hamas and Fatah in the last couple of days. Our condition always remains the same, which is, you want a two-state solution. The Palestinians deserve a state. They deserve a state living side-by-side in peace with Israel. Israel needs a negotiating partner that acknowledges Israel's right to exist, renounces the use of violence against Israel, and also abides by previous international agreements involving the Palestinians and Israel. Those are the basic conditions. And we certainly hope that Israel will find that partner. We have worked with President Abbas, and we continue to do what we can. Secretary Rice is going to be in the region next week.

So this is a source of constant concern and negotiation, and we appreciate the efforts of anybody to bring that to a peaceful conclusion.

Q Tony, question on the United Nations. New Secretary General of the U.N. is trying his best to reform the U.N., and also making some changes at the highest levels. Indians in India are saying that India has been helping the U.N. and the U.S. on global war on terrorism, and the world's largest democracy deserves to have the U.N. Security Council seat. What President's -- where does he stand on it?

MR. SNOW: Goyal, I'm not aware that we have an official position. That is not meant to be a snub. That is meant to be a flat statement that the Press Secretary is not aware.

Thank you.

END 1:06 P.M. EST