For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:26 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: First, one little readout. The President had a secure video teleconference this morning with Prime Minister Maliki. It lasted from about 7:05 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. They discussed progress in implementing the Baghdad security plan and positive indicators that the plan is coming together and beginning to have an impact in Baghdad. The Prime Minister again affirmed that no one is going to be above the law, regardless of religious affiliation or social status.
The two leaders also talked about the budget that was just passed by the Iraqi parliament, and in particular, the importance of executing the $10 billion that had been set aside for capital and infrastructure expenditures, and to make sure that they're also allocated equitably around the country.
They talked about the situation in Anbar province. They noted that there are opportunities for the Iraqi government to reinforce Iraqi citizens and the citizens of Anbar who are actively opposing al Qaeda in Iraq. They talked about progress on political issues, including an oil law; a final draft of that could be ready very soon.
And they throughout the meeting affirmed the strong relationship between the two governments and the need to continue their progress in political, economic and security realms.
Q Did they also talk about the non-binding resolution that the House --
MR. SNOW: No.
Q There was no political discussion? Well, let me ask you, the President seems resigned to the fact that the House is going to pass this today. What is his position on the conditions on funding that the Democrats -- House Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha -- are beginning to outline?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, I would not characterize the President's mood in anything as "resignation." That's not the way he approaches things. But he understands that members of the House are moving forward. And right now everybody is playing with numbers about how big the margin is going to be -- we've heard everything from 12 to 60; we'll find out.
What the President is insistent upon is that our forces have the funds they need and the flexibility required to continue to execute not only the Baghdad security plan, but the way forward that's designed to secure the situation in Iraq. And, therefore, anything that is going to tie the hands of military commanders and deny both the funds and flexibility they're going to need, he will take a dim view of. But at this point, we're just going to have to see what Congress proposes. I'm not going to get into particulars, because while a lot of stuff has been floated, nothing has yet been proposed or dropped in the hopper.
Q There are some particulars out there that Congressman Murtha has talked about, like a year's rest between tours --
MR. SNOW: I understand that --
Q Do you think that's tying your hands?
MR. SNOW: As I said, we'll wait until -- as you know, there were also -- I remember giving similar answers when a whole series of resolutions were posed, some of which never came to votes on the House and Senate floor. We know what Representative Murtha has said, but we're just not going to get into trying to characterize a specific position about a bill that has yet to see the light of day.
Q So, Tony, the President talked about this resolution Wednesday. Is the overall feeling that it doesn't make a difference, and what makes a difference is the funding that's pending down the road?
MR. SNOW: I think, again, we've said all along that people do have to ask whether they think this is going to -- what impact this is going to have not only on force morale, but also on the views of people in the region. On the other hand, it is also absolutely critical -- and we're going to be defending it -- that the forces in the field, the five brigades that are going in, the 4,000 Marines into Anbar, the forces necessary to execute the plan, they need to be funded, they needed to be supported, and the people in the field now deserve to have the reinforcements necessary to be able to carry on their mission.
Q So in the President's conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, there was no concern expressed by the Prime Minister about the lack of political will shown in Congress?
MR. SNOW: No, the Prime Minister and the President were talking about what's actually going on, on the ground. And this is something that would behoove members of Congress to keep an eye on, as well. It's very interesting because for all the talk about benchmarks, the Prime Minister is not getting credit for a lot of things that are happening. It looks as -- as I said, I think there's going to be news in the very near future about a final draft on the oil law. It is very clear that there has been aggressive and effective action against Shia and Sunni actors who have been trying in the past to disturb the peace. It is clear that the Baghdad security plan not only has been signed off upon, but that Iraqi forces have made their way into Baghdad and they are now working in concert with U.S. forces.
General Abud, who is the chief commander in Baghdad, is working with General Petraeus, and you do have the kind of military cooperation and interaction. When it comes to Anbar province, you're seeing progress there. You've seen the Iraqis step up with a quarter of their budget this year being set aside specifically for reconstruction. That was something members of Congress had asked for. In other words, a lot of the things that people have been citing as benchmarks are taking place. And, therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the realities on the ground. But to get back to your question, Bret, no, believe it or not, they were more concerned about success in Iraq than the debate on Capitol Hill.
Q Last one for me. Was there a mention of this announcement by the Interior Ministry about the wounding of al Masri, and do you have any update on that?
MR. SNOW: Nothing. Nothing.
Q What about al Sadr --
MR. SNOW: It was not brought up, and it was -- poor Kelly. We're going to have -- chivalry is going to have its moment. (Laughter.) And in any event, no, there was no discussion of al Masri. Again, we've had so many of these reports in the past. When we have something factual for you, we'll pass it on. We don't yet.
Kelly, and then James.
Q On behalf of both Jim and myself -- (laughter) -- did the President talk about al Sadr at all with Prime Minister Maliki? Any discussion of his whereabouts or the impact of the changes?
MR. SNOW: No, none of that.
Q None at all?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q That seems surprising, doesn't it, since that --
MR. SNOW: Well, it seems surprising to you guys, but -- again, for the Prime Minister, here's a guy who has already made the step of staying -- both to the Mahdi army, to Sunni insurgents, to people who have been misbehaving -- we're coming after you. If you are trying to bring this government down through acts of violence, if you're operating -- his phrase is "outside the law" -- we are going to apply the law, no matter who you are. And we have seen evidence of that in new Baghdad, which is a Shia neighborhood. We've seen it in Haifa Street. We've seen it in operations that are ongoing in Baghdad now.
So I really think -- and the Prime Minister has made it very clear that people who are on board with the unity government need to get on board and stay on board.
Q Wouldn't the Prime Minister be a good source of information on what al Sadr may be up to?
MR. SNOW: I just -- you know what, right now the most significant political figure in Iraq is not Muqtada al Sadr, it's Nouri al Maliki.
Q Kelly and I have a follow. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: See, and you guys thought kumbaya was dead.
Q That said, have you learned -- never mind this phone call this morning, what have you learned in the last 24 hours since we've spoke about al Sadr and whether he's in Iran -- his being in Iran, if he's there, is a good thing or a bad thing?
MR. SNOW: Since we've spoken -- no, we haven't actually heard -- we've got nothing new for you.
Q There's been no intelligence, there's been no questions, you haven't followed up --
MR. SNOW: Not really, no. The President may have gotten something in his intel brief today. It didn't come up. Shock-shock, it didn't.
Q And when you say, "shock-shock," that's --
MR. SNOW: I think you've got to understand that Muqtada al Sadr is one factor who belongs to a party that has 30 members of a parliament of 250 members, and that what you have seen -- if you want to look at the significant players, take a look at what's gone on in Baghdad, and take a look at the fact that you've got a security plan that's operating in districts, including Shia districts, where, at least according to reports, members of the Mahdi militia put down their arms, and in some cases are saying, okay, let's let the Baghdad security plan succeed. That is the significant factor.
Q But that is related to al Sadr -- if they're doing that, that's an important, significant point.
MR. SNOW: I just -- I've got nothing to give you on that. I mean, we don't know where he is. We don't know where he is. The reports are that he's in Iran, but don't know.
Q Tony, we've heard from a number of Americans who are deeply offended by comments Karl Rove made in defense of the President's immigration policy, when he told a luncheon, "I don't want my 17-year-old son to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas." Does the President want to apologize to Americans who pick crops --
MR. SNOW: You'd better run that -- I think Karl has argued to others that that was taken out of context. And rather than --
Q Can you describe what kind of context in which that was --
MR. SNOW: Why don't you give Karl a call.
Q You mentioned the margin of the vote, 12-6. In the end, does it matter what the margin is, Tony?
MR. SNOW: The question is what the margin is; does it matter. I don't know. Again, members -- it's going to be interesting, because members of Congress have taken their own gamble here. They're gambling on failure -- some members, at least. The President has a plan for success. It's all aimed at success. And there's going to be a vote before long where they're going to have to vote about whether they are going to supply the funds and the flexibility necessary for success. And, remember, in the case of the Senate, the success as defined by the guy that they've just appointed as a top general and the CENTCOM commander, who was also approved, and the man who is now the Chairman -- the Army Chief of Staff, who also approves of the plan, there are a whole series of folks who they, in fact, approve for their new offices who believe that this is vital.
And so, ultimately, members -- this is "a non-binding resolution." But what we're afraid of is that this is, in fact, going to serve as a precursor for cutting off our troops.
Q What do you mean, "gambling on failure"?
MR. SNOW: I mean because all of a sudden, it's -- suppose suddenly that you start to see signs of success. Then are these members going to come out and say, you know what, we were wrong -- they're going to have another resolution?
Q Has the President listened to any of the debate? What does he think?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. He's had a very busy schedule. I'm not sure that -- the President doesn't have to park in front of C-SPAN and watch the debate all day. He knows what the views are. And in point of fact, we had an interesting conversation with members of the Black Caucus yesterday. We've had discussions this week with the bipartisan leadership, the bicameral leadership.
The President gets plenty of opportunities to hear the views and also solicit the views of members of both Houses. He was at the Democratic retreat, so I don't think there are a whole lot of surprises in terms of the nature of the debate. And, again, he continues to consult with both parties.
Q Can you go any further on being a junior constitutional lawyer and say where you draw the line?
MR. SNOW: No, because, again, you're asking me to draw the line on legislation that does not yet exist.
Q But it's a pretty simple line to envision in principle. You can --
MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not going to -- I'll deal with things that appear in reality.
Q Tony, Afghanistan is again in the news, and the Afghans are happy with the President's efforts -- he liberated them. But they're not happy with their President Karzai because Taliban and al Qaeda are trying to bring his government down. And --
MR. SNOW: They ought to be mad at al Qaeda and the Taliban, is who they ought to be mad at.
Q (Inaudible) in the area long ago, and he has this very vast experience of the region. And he was recently in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. And I understand according to the news report that he also -- you know, Musharraf to do more on the efforts. But my question is that was he carrying, really, any special message from the President in the region?
MR. SNOW: Goyal, I will say it for not the first or the last time: When you have communications between the President or his designees in confidential meetings with foreign leaders, we let those remain confidential.
Q Second question is on immigration. Small businesses are under pressure, and they have no workers because legal workers are not available to do those jobs, like in restaurant and odd jobs. And they cannot hire the illegals. How far do you think President will push this new immigration law in the Congress?
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, your question -- and for those who didn't hear it, it was that some small businesses are complaining now that they don't have workers because they're not getting illegal labor. That indicates a couple of things: number one, that the border security plan is, in fact, working, that we have greater border security. And we certainly have indications out of the Department of Homeland Security that that's true. Number two, interior enforcement -- in other words, saying to employers, if you're knowingly hiring illegals, we're coming after you. That is working. It now means that -- so we've demonstrated not only the possibility of good, sound border security, but also the importance of having a temporary worker program, because there are jobs, as you can tell, that are not being filled by Americans, and so you do need to move forward as a next step, once you develop these things, toward a temporary worker program.
So what you're really seeing, I think, Goyal, played out in real life is some of the rationale behind the President's proposal, which involves border security, it involves employer verification, it involves having a tamper-proof ID card, which may be the pivot on which everything turns, so that you know who's here, who came here illegally and who is here now legally, you're able to track them, you're able to make sure that employers are following the law. This allows you to create an immigration system that is credible and, at the same time, is humane in bringing in people who want to work in America and, over time, also those who want to join the line to become American citizens, they will have the opportunity to do so, as well.
Q Thank you, Tony. A few inquiries about the reported dissent on the North Korean treaty within the administration. You spoke yesterday about Elliott Abrams' emails when I asked you about it. Now, I am told that there are at least two people within the Executive Office of the President, one at the same level as Mr. Abrams, one a step higher, who also have the same questions and doubts about the North Korean treaty.
MR. SNOW: Who are they?
Q Well, I'm not going to say the names -- (inaudible) that there were others.
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of.
Q All right. Do you expect any resignations over this?
MR. SNOW: No. Again, you talk about an over-hyped story. Elliott asked the question: Do we have credibility when it comes to -- to make sure that the North Koreans will earn it if they are delisted as a terror state? And the answer is, yes, they're going to have to earn it. There is a process by doing it, and you have to go through certain things, such as, stop being a sponsor of terrorism.
This was not a political accommodation; this is not a political deal. They're not going to get it without having gone through -- having performed precisely the kinds of activities -- whether it be in terms of nuclear arms and proliferation, or also conventional weapons and sales -- they don't get delisted until they've done what everybody else would have to do -- for instance, in the case of Libya. And Elliott made it perfectly clear that his concerns were satisfied.
This was not a dissent against the proposal. As a matter of fact -- I've talked to Elliott about this, and I talked to him again this morning about it. And this has been spun up in the press as Elliott opposing a treaty. He hadn't even seen it, and he said as much. He said, look, I do the Middle East. This is not what I do -- this is not my area of expertise, but I think it's important to know. And once that question was answered, he was satisfied.
Q All right. Well why do his emails -- his inquiries, wind up in the newspaper, then?
MR. SNOW: Because somebody broke the law.*
Q Okay. Who?
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Can you recall any other case in American history where the United States Senate unanimously voted to approve a general to top command in a war zone and then passed a resolution opposing what that general has stated that he has been ordered to be there to do?
MR. SNOW: Les, I'm unaware of that, but I don't want that to be definitive because I don't have full knowledge.
Q You don't know any other generals?
MR. SNOW: No, unless George Washington, I don't know.
Q George Washington was --
MR. SNOW: He ended up paying expenses out of pocket, as you recall. The Continental Congress, lacking the funds for fulfilling, I believe George Washington, if you go back and look, was paying for clothing and supplies for his own men out of his own pocket.
Q But he was reimbursed.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, he took a dollar a year, I believe.
Q No, no, I think you're wrong. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I am wrong. He took no pay. That's correct.
Q No, he just filed expenses, that's what he did. Speaker Pelosi has said in no uncertain terms that Congress is sending a message to the President with its debate on the Iraq war. And could you tell us, what message is the President receiving?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. We get lots of communications from Capitol Hill. What the President understands is that the war is unpopular, and people don't like the progress or lack of progress they saw in the latter stages of last year, where you had 100 American servicemen dying a month, and you had increased -- much increased violence in Baghdad and the environs. That's the reason why the President decided to act. So if the message is, aren't you concerned about what's going on, the answer is, you bet.
And as a result, the President demanded an exhaustive review, not only to what was going on, but also of possible ways of addressing that, not merely to tamp down in violence in Baghdad proper, but to create conditions where the Iraqi government would have the ability to do all the associated things necessary to have a stable state, which includes political accommodation, economic growth, and so on. So the President gets that message.
But the President also understands that as Commander-in-Chief it is his job and his obligation to keep Americans safe, and also to support the people who are fighting there right now. The way forward is a matter of providing reinforcements to people on an entirely different kind of mission, where their hands are no longer tied by outmoded rules of engagement or political rules of engagement, but instead are going to be able, along with the Iraqis, to do the job. So the message he is sending is that he has got a plan that is designed to secure victory, in terms of an Iraq that is able to stand up as a democracy and stand strong, and is willing and eager to move forward with that.
Paula, and then we've got the love birds up here -- (Laughter.)
Q The love birds. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Paula.
Q Congress said it's planning to spend a lot of time on the alternative minimum tax, and the President has said in the past he wants to look at it, too, but in the context of revenue neutral tax reform measures. Would the White House be willing to explore proposals on this that could include higher taxes to pay for it?
MR. SNOW: The President doesn't believe in tax increases, but here's what we have with the alternative minimum tax. For the last six years, Congress has put in a one-year patch. We put in a one-year patch that was more generous than the ones in the past, because somebody who has not previously been subject to the alternative minimum tax is not going to be sucked into it this year. For each of the last six years you've seen people who, in the past, were not subject to the alternative minimum tax suddenly getting hit with it. So we've prevented additional people from having to pay it.
We also have created the situation now where members of Congress have 20 months -- 20, two-zero months. This is the most ingenious country on the face of the earth and, surely, we can find a way to do it.
But the alternative minimum tax is -- it's a cruel tax and it's an unacceptable tax. It needs to be fixed. We have 20 months to do it. And I certainly am not going to negotiate against myself or against anybody else in talking -- the question may be for you to ask, to turn back to those who are advocating tax increases is, would you consider not raising taxes on people?
Q May I ask you a question, though -- may I ask a question on your definition of a tax increase?
MR. SNOW: Yes. It's something where you change the rates on people.
Q Oh, all right. So then the fact that you proposed raising targeted taxes to pay for your health care standard deduction --
MR. SNOW: We didn't. Again, what -- no, you didn't have targeted taxes. What you're assuming in that particular case is that people do not ever respond. What we've said is, what you're going to have under the tax deduction plan is, you're going to have full tax deductibility up to $15,000. It means that more than 100 million Americans like that get a tax cut. It also means that for a slice of maybe 20 to 30, they're going to have to make a choice about whether they stay in a plan that costs more than $15,000 a year, but also the people who provide those plans are going to have to make a choice about whether they think they're going to make profits by having plans that are subject to taxes, or whether they're going to be able to get business by coming up with more finely crafted plans that are going to appeal to people who have now so-called gold plated plans, and are willing to pay -- to do that $15,000 a year so that they get a full tax deduction and still get the services they'd received previously.
The fact is, the markets do tend to adjust, as we've seen already with the prescription drug benefits, where immediately the costs have gone down, and the number of people who have enrolled are wildly exceeding prior expectations. Why? Because the market is responding to what they want.
So keep in mind, that is -- that's a different situation, and that's one that also has a strong element of choice on the part of consumers, and also on the part of insurance companies.
Q To follow up on the AMT, there was a report in The Wall Street Journal this morning. Part of the story suggested -- quoted blind officials, administration officials --
MR. SNOW: Blind officials? (Laughter.)
Q Blind sources -- (laughter) -- sorry. People who weren't named, saying that --
MR. SNOW: Send the letters to -- (laughter.) Go ahead.
Q -- the President would not object to a tax increase on the wealthy to help pay --
MR. SNOW: Look, again, the President is not for tax increases. And so what we've said all along is, you've got 20 months to figure this out. What happens a lot of times is that people try to do preliminary negotiations through the press by characterizing what they think the President may or may not do. It's always interesting, because they never tell you what they're going to do. The fact is, both sides have an opportunity, so let's see what people have to propose.
And there have -- we have certainly been having -- we've been having conversations with people on both sides of the aisle because it is a problem. Democrats realize it, Republicans realize it, and they want to fix it. And I think we do have enough time right now where people don't have to rush and get themselves into a political fight. They've got an opportunity to try to come up with a calm and rational way to do it. We don't think it needs to involve tax increases, but we're certainly open to hearing what other people have to say.
Q Can I just follow up on Jim and Kelly's question about al Sadr? I mean, wouldn't you concede, Tony, that the skepticism about -- some of the skepticism about the President's Iraq plan centers on the Prime Minister's ability to reign in militias, including those followers of Muqtada al Sadr. So you're saying it should not be viewed as any kind of glaring omission that the President and the Prime Minister did not talk about al Sadr or his whereabouts?
MR. SNOW: Yes, because they're talking about success. Am I reading this wrong? It did not seem to me that the recent stories about al Sadr were designed to demonstrate strength on his part. I don't -- maybe I read them wrong, but without getting into the merits of them, the fact is that the Prime Minister is succeeding and the Iraqi public is building confidence because he's delivering on what he said.
And all along -- look, everybody -- we've been through this before. It's as if you want to say, al Sadr is the bad guy, go get him. Al Sadr -- Muqtada al Sadr is somebody who has got to make a choice. He has got to make a choice whether he wants to follow a path of peace and accommodation, and to become a political player, or whether he is going to be somebody who is part of violent factions outside the government, in which case, the government, with U.S. help, is going to have to come after him. Those are choices he has to make.
And so when you're trying to sort of portray this as al Sadr versus somebody else -- look, this is a guy who is still trying to make choices, I think, and has to make a choice about where he's going to be.
Q Is he still a significant player?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know how you assess that. It's a good question. I'm not sure I have an answer.
Q I just want to follow a little bit on the discussion about messages being sent with this debate. I was talking to a Democratic staffer today who said that Republicans and the White House have been skillful in maneuvering the conversation to supporting the troops, which actually presents a false choice, because -- or it obscures the more important underpinning, which is, Democrats are saying bring the troops home now, or short-term, the next four to six months, and that the White House -- the President's sense is, no, send more troops as a way to win, that it's no longer about victory, that there's actually two different discussions going on.
MR. SNOW: So you're saying Democrats are -- that supporters of the resolution don't believe in victory?
Q No, that they say that -- yes, that that is -- that you're at the wrong end of public opinion.
MR. SNOW: Oh, I see. So they think that the public thinks -- I just -- I'm a little confused --
Q I will clarify this.
MR. SNOW: Please do.
Q The Democrats' point is that victory is no longer what's being talked about, it needs to be -- the question is, can we bring the troops home.
MR. SNOW: No, no I --
Q The American people are not as concerned about victory in Iraq as they are about bringing the troops home; that's a more pressing issue.
MR. SNOW: Ask the following poll question -- first, ask your Democratic source: Do you believe if the United States leaves Iraq there will be a power vacuum, and do you believe into that power vacuum al Qaeda will try to take over Anbar and it will involve adventurism from abroad, whether it be from Iran, or elsewhere. If you do have that, and they have access to billions of dollars a year in oil revenue, and they have the ability to intimidate neighbors in the Gulf states, does that make us more or less secure? And, if that is the case, is it worth withdrawing before you have victory? The President is very clear about this. The stakes of losing and the stakes of leaving before you have secured victory are simply unacceptable. And if you ask the American public if they were willing to accept that, they would say, no.
Q The source says that that -- the American public actually has seen what's going on as a Civil War, and says that that places the White House at the wrong end of public opinion.
MR. SNOW: The President understands public opinion and public impatience. The President also sees intelligence every day, and he has to assess what the long-term costs are going to be. It is significant to me that you have a Democratic source who now says it's all about getting out, and not about success. If that's the case, that is -- it's going to be interesting to see if that continues to be the way Democrats want to frame this up, because it will make for a very important and interesting debate. The fact is, success is absolutely necessary.
And I've heard a lot of Democrats say this. Democrats understand that to create a vacuum in Iraq would be to invite dangers that are simply unacceptable to the American public. Let me add further -- when you're talking about bringing forces in -- but it is an interesting switch. So what you're saying is, it's no longer support the troops, it's just get them out.
Q The question is, does the debate about supporting the troops obscure the real debate that Americans want to have, which is, increase the number there, or start to bring them home?
MR. SNOW: You know what, we'd love to bring them home. We'd love to bring them home. We'd love to -- no, let me continue. But what you have is somebody framing a debate as if the rest of the world didn't exist -- as if Iran didn't exist, as if al Qaeda didn't exist, as if the terror network didn't exist, as if the oil fields did not exist, as if this could not set -- as if Israel didn't exist, as if Hamas, Hezbollah did not exist.
Q His point was that, yes, they understand all that.
MR. SNOW: No, the source -- no, the source's point is to ignore all that and not --
Q Well, actually, I had the conversation with the source, so the source's point was -- the source's point was, yes, they're aware, Americans are aware of all of that; they're looking at it and saying, you know what, we still want to bring the troops home.
MR. SNOW: You know what, the President -- the President understands that to operate under those circumstances is to invite bloodshed on a level that is absolutely appalling, not only in Iraq, but possibly in the United States of America. And if this offends your source, okay. Your source, I'm sure, means well, but the President also is absolutely determined to keep this country safe and do what's best for Americans. That is his job.
Q Tony, one other thing. At the news conference the other day, the President talked about the Iraq Study Group Report, eventually trying to get there. What piece of it does he want to --
MR. SNOW: What he was talking about --
Q -- and it talks about talks with Iran and Syria. Is that what he's talking about?
MR. SNOW: No, what he was talking about is -- he's referred to this on a number of occasions -- the "over the horizon" force. In other words, at some point, when you've got a situation in which the Iraqis are able to take care of the security situation in Baghdad and Anbar and Diyala and Kirkuk and elsewhere, then you have an opportunity to focus on something that the Iraqis are doing right now, which is border security, and deal with the integrity of the borders and use that as a way, ultimately, of being able to pull out of areas that right now are combat areas, and so let the Iraqis handle it. That was one of the key findings of Baker-Hamilton.
When it comes to Iran and Syria, look, we continue to have diplomatic relations with Syria, and the Iranians absolutely know what they need to do -- to reiterate, we love the Iranian people, and the Iranian people love the United States. And what's really interesting about this is that we're offering their government a chance to give them prosperity and a connection with the international community that they crave but do not presently have.
And the approach that this President has taken is certainly one of trying to send a strong signal to the Iranians that the international community really isn't divided here. You've got a Chapter 7 resolution through the U.N. Security Council. And the better part of valor on the part of the Iranian government would be to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, come back to the table, become a partner in fighting terror rather than fomenting it, and there would be enormous good consequences that would flow from that.
Q Could I just follow up on what you said a moment ago about the alternative minimum tax? Are you saying that you're not setting any preconditions with Congress --
MR. SNOW: Yes, members of Congress are free to come up with whatever proposals they want, and we'd like to hear them.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Whoa, one more. To just not leave hanging, you said that someone in the Executive Office of the President, presumably, broke the law. Does the President share your view on that?
MR. SNOW: I'm just thinking, if you leak an email. I'll have to go back and double check.
Q But you made a very clear statement that someone in the White House broke the law.
Q Do you stand by it?
MR. SNOW: That's actually an appropriate question. I'll get back to you. I'll get you a straight answer on it, Kelly.
Q Tony, can you please clarify about immigration, about what message does the President have for the small businesses --
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Goyal, I've already said it. I mean, it's, you know, temporary worker program.
END 1:00 P.M. EST
* The Press Secretary was in error. This instance was not a violation of the law.