The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 25, 2007

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kansas City, Missouri

10:42 A.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Welcome, everybody, to this morning's gaggle. I have with me Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, and Kate Baicker from the National Economic Council.

Before we begin, let me just -- a couple of comments on developments in Iraq. The Prime Minister today has given an address -- we don't have a full translation yet, but as you probably know from your own reporting, at least three basic and important points:

Number one, he has once again made it clear that there's going to be no safe haven for those committing acts of terror within Baghdad, regardless of whether they're Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Arab, you name it.

Secondly, he has told the Council of Representatives that he wants the Council, during its current legislative session, which just has a couple more weeks to run, to pass a hydrocarbon law and also de-Baathification reform. As you know, those are two hugely important political benchmarks.

Number three, he also talked about the fact that in certain neighborhoods within Baghdad people have been pushed out of their homes, quite often by advocates or practitioners of sectarian violence. He says that the government is determined to allow those people back into their homes, and to push out what he referred to as the squatters.

So you had a very assertive address on the part of the Prime Minister. We certainly welcome that, because it demonstrates the kind of vigor we've been talking about and that the American people expect, and also responds specifically to concerns members of Congress have been expressing, in terms of the aims of and the determination of the government of Iraq.

And with that, I'll take questions.

Q Tony, could you talk about the Post support today on possible $7 billion to $8 billion increase for Afghanistan money?

MR. SNOW: Secretary Rice will be talking about it tomorrow, but we are, in fact -- and the President has discussed previously that we may be increasing our commitment in Afghanistan, and we will be.

Q Is that amount correct?

MR. SNOW: I think the amount is basically correct. Again, I'll let the Secretary confirm it tomorrow. But it's certainly in the ballpark.

Q It's for a wide -- not just military, it's for a wide range of initiatives, across a bunch of fronts, right?

MR. SNOW: Correct, but it will have a military component.

Q Do you have a comment on the resolution that got passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday?

MR. SNOW: No real surprises. Senator Hagel was the only Republican to vote for it. He was a co-sponsor, however, so you expect him to sign on to his own resolution. The President understands that people have political concerns. What he has said is, let's give this chance -- this plan a chance to work. You've already seen significant action, I think, since the President -- well, significant action since the President announced the way forward in the sense that Muqtada al Sadr has told members of the Mahdi army to stop wearing black and to put their arms down, and he's also instructed members of his political party to return to the political process.

We have seen assertive action on the part of Iraqi forces and joint Iraqi-U.S. forces within Baghdad taking on terror. You've seen what the Prime Minister had to say today. I don't want to attribute that specifically to the President's announcement of a way forward, but it is clear that a sign of American determination not only builds confidence but also activism on the part of the Iraqi government. And we continue to believe that it's important to make it clear to the Iraqis that our job is to help them build capability, and we'll do it.

Q Republicans on the panel were critical of the plan, like Voinovich and Lugar. Are you worried about the party splitting over Iraq?

MR. SNOW: No. What we want to do is, again, let members of the party -- and we know they will -- take a look at what happens as we proceed with the way forward. They know that five brigades are going into Baghdad, they know that 4,000 Marines are headed to Anbar, they know that there has been significant military improvement within Anbar, and they have all said things that we agree with: Number one, we cannot fail in Iraq. Number two, they support the troops. Number three, they want Iraqis in the lead.

We believe that the President's plan is the best way to achieve those objectives. We've also said, if you've got a better proposal that will achieve success in Iraq, help Iraqis get swiftly into the lead, and will demonstrate support for American forces, let us hear it. You have a patriotic obligation and you can do the whole nation a service.

Q Do you expect Iraq will dominate the meeting tomorrow with the House Republicans?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. In fact, I don't expect it at all. I'll be talking to the House Republicans before the President does, but I think what House Republicans are looking for is they're going to want to talk about issues that came up in the State of the Union address, too, because that is going to play a significant role in politics over the next few months. So we'll talk about health care, we'll talk about immigration, we'll talk about energy, we'll talk about education, and we will talk about working together on Iraq, as well.

The fact is everybody in both Houses knows that we are going to proceed with the way forward, and they will have an opportunity to see results on the ground. And we also have no delusions, Americans want to see results on the ground, as well.

Q As the debate unfolds, though, are you hearing anything on Capitol Hill that you see as responsible -- you said that you'd be open to the debate -- anything that you can latch on to and perhaps move on yourselves?

MR. SNOW: I think at this point I really would resist talking about "latching on to," because it gives a sense of a sense of desperation, where, in fact, the President approaches this as a Commander-in-Chief. And as a Commander-in-Chief, it is his obligation to figure out how to succeed in Iraq. This is not a political exercise, this is an exercise in leadership.

To the extent -- we continue to look for each and every avenue towards success -- diplomatically, economically, politically and militarily. I think at this juncture, what we have are members expressing concerns -- perfectly understandable. We expect that. But also we understand that members of Congress will keep a keen eye out for what happens in the region and how events continue to unfold.

Q How aggressively is the White House lobbying members, particularly Republicans, on the resolutions?

MR. SNOW: Not particularly. We're talking with them, but we understand that members have concerns and they want to express them.

Q Have you asked Warner whether he will withhold negotiation with Democrats for a united resolution? Are you speaking with him about limiting any changes he might make to his resolution that might be more attractive to other Democrats?

MR. SNOW: No, certainly we've had conversations with Senator Warner. We're trying to take his temperature on what he intends. But I think any conversation about what he intends to do you probably ought to leave up to him. I'm certainly not going to speak on his behalf.

All right, thanks.

END 10:49 A.M. EST

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