|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 1, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:46 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Before we get to it, just one quick announcement. Secretary Margaret Spellings is at a higher education forum in North Carolina State University. Today she will announce that the President's 2008 budget will include some significant increases for Pell Grants, as a matter of fact the largest increase in more than three decades. The budget would raise the Pell Grant maximum for students to $4,600, and increase that maximum over a five-year period to $5,400. That is the largest one-year increase and also the largest five-year increase in the history of the program. As you know, it's a program that makes college available for many low-income students who otherwise could not afford to go to college, and right now they're helping more than 5 million full and part time low-income students afford higher education each year.
Q Does that mean the President's cool with the adjustments that Democrats have proposed for, I believe, the current fiscal year?
MR. SNOW: The President is laying out -- I don't -- the current fiscal year, that would be in the CR.
Q And I believe it is in the CR.
MR. SNOW: That I don't know. I'll find out. But I think what you can say is, whatever it is, this is -- the President is, in fact, proposing ambitious increases in Pell Grants.
Q What classifies -- their adjustment was about at a $4,600 level.
MR. SNOW: Well, then my guess is they would agree with this.
Q General Casey testified today that securing Baghdad would take fewer than half the additional troops that President Bush has proposed, and he said that he had asked for two brigades, based on the recommendations of his subordinate commanders. So how did we wind up with five additional brigades?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President has talked with -- you also know that General Casey supports the plan. And the plan is to bring in five brigades into Baghdad, and also another 4,000 Marines into Anbar, not only to take care of immediate security concerns, but to make sure that we have adequate force structure as the Iraqis begin bringing brigades into each of the nine districts of Baghdad, and the Americans also into those nine districts, in support, that we have adequate resources and forces to deal not only with immediate, but also potential threats to security.
Q But why the disparity in numbers? When he's talking on the Hill about asking for two, and the President asked for five?
MR. SNOW: Well, there were a number of conversations, and the President, after talking with General Casey and other commanders, came to the conclusion that he preferred to have five brigades into Baghdad and 4,000 Marines into Anbar. And again, what General Casey was talking about is some suggestions he'd made earlier. The President has made his decision, and it does reflect the wisdom of a number of combatant commanders. And again, it does have the assent of General Casey.
Q Let me get one more. General Casey, do you think that he's kind of been all over the park on this? He's first of all, said that additional troops weren't warranted, and then he went along with the President, and now he's saying this?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what you've had is you had a shifting series of circumstances within Baghdad. Keep in mind the assumption originally of Operation Together Forward was that we would not need extra forces. But it became obvious that we did need more simply because we did not have the capacity to put in grounded forces and to leave them 24/7 within the districts of Baghdad.
Equally important we needed significantly more Iraqi forces on the ground. And that really is the key element in this plan. It's one that we tend not to stress because we're thinking about our troops. But the Iraqis are going to be putting significantly more forces, additional forces into Baghdad, as, indeed, already they have more forces in the city, as well.
Q Tony, on that -- the resolution. So you've got more Republicans and Democrats coalescing around some language which at its core opposes the troop increase. You've made the argument about what message that kind of resolution would send. That's an argument. People will agree or disagree with that. What will the President do when there is an actual resolution?
MR. SNOW: The President will continue to exercise his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief and do what he thinks is going to be best for American security.
The other thing he will do is what he's done already, which is to encourage people to give the plan a chance. It has not yet begun to take effect. The Iraqi forces are not yet into Baghdad, they're on the way. The U.S. brigades are not yet deployed, they're on the way. What you have seen already, however, perhaps as a result of -- signals of American determination, are real signs on the ground, again most recently, Muqtada al Sadr telling his people, lay down your arms. You have seen a move back into the political process of members of al Sadr's party. You have seen open attempts by Shia and Sunni groups to try to figure out how to create the basis for political reconciliation. You've also seen tough military action against Shia and Sunni groups that were operating outside the law. The Prime Minister has given a series of speeches about what he intends to do.
So what you are seeing, David, is many of the actions that members of Congress say they want to see are beginning to take place already. We think it's important, because, again, as you know and everybody else knows, the money is in the budget now for the five brigades into Baghdad and the 4,000 Marines into Anbar, and we would encourage everybody to take a look at what happens.
Q But isn't there -- when this resolution comes to pass in whatever form is final, isn't there a realization on the part of the President that he's effectively lost the public and then lost Congress, and so the answer to the question of, give it more time, is essentially, why should we trust you, Mr. President, to mend this thing?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't, because, again, there are a number of things being floated around, including language that says the finances to support troops in the field. There is a general recognition among members of Congress that we can't afford to fail in Iraq. And there is fairly significant agreement that that means Iraqis able to handle their own security. So I think there's still a basis for further discussion on this.
Also, Americans want to see results and they do want to see an improvement in conditions in Baghdad. I don't think you should take public opinion as something that is chiseled into stone. This is something that can change, based on the realities on the ground. As a matter of fact, the President -- he's made the point a number of times, if somebody were polling him on the situation right now, he would not approve of what's going on, which is precisely why we've come up with a new way of deploying forces, new rules of engagement, new strategies involving such things as much greater presence of provisional reconstruction teams, economic development teams within Baghdad. All of these are a recognition of what was going on before didn't work, and we need to succeed.
Q Fair enough. But there's still a realization that if his request was for patience and allow this to work, the answer, at least where public opinion is today and where congressional opinion is -- if we get this resolution, is, we don't trust you to carry it out.
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that's right. I'd take a look -- well, well, based --
Q You can make an argument, but I mean based on what? What would you --
MR. SNOW: Based on -- for instance, if you take a look at when people got a chance to listen to him at the State of the Union address. You've seen the flash polls, and they indicated the people did think, okay, we get it. I think that there is still a basis for the public wanting to see success in Iraq.
I think to the extent that the public doesn't like what's going on, we agree with them. And as I would suggest again, facts on the ground are going to shape opinion. We know that. The President has an obligation as Commander-in-Chief to do what he thinks is necessary to keep this country safe.
And one of the things vital to keeping this country safe is to prevent the creation of a vacuum in Iraq that could create conditions of terror that certainly could influence this country, not only our safety but our economic security.
Q Just one final one on this. You make assertions about the public gets it, the public wants this based on I don't know what --
MR. SNOW: No, I mean, we've done --
Q And what I'm -- the question is, do you think the American people and Congress trust the President to fix what's wrong in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I think the American people want to see results. I think -- I don't know how you say -- let me explain why I think trust is a little loaded. The President is a man of his word, and he's a man of honor. And trust is often associated with that. Do Americans have absolute confidence that what we have laid out is going to have 100 percent chance of success? No, they want to see results. So I think the reason I'm reluctant to answer the trust question is that that bears on character. And I think people do, in fact, trust the President's character.
Q I'm using it in terms of track record.
MR. SNOW: Well, that's why I'm -- I'm taking issue only with that particular term. But the fact is, you got a skeptical public. Absolutely. And it's got a right to be skeptical. They want to see results. And what we're saying is we want to see results, as well. That's why we have changed a whole significant number of the elements of our force structure, the way they operate, the way they interact with the Iraqis and all that. And therefore, I think it is important to let the public see what this program can achieve.
Already a sign of American determination has changed behavior for the better, it appears, on the ground in Iraq. But certainly that is only a very, very, tiny, modest down payment on what we all want and need to see.
Q Tony, you talk about progress over there with the Iraqis. And on the surface it appears that way. But General Casey in his testimony said some of the ministries are so corrupt, they won't make any progress. You talk about al Sadr telling his followers to lay down their arms. He's done that so many times before. And whenever he wants them to pick them up again, they do.
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, and that bears on what I was just talking about, Martha, which is there's a different approach. In the past, you would have forces going in by day and out by night. And that's not a very effective way to deal with militias that are gathering up arms. The Prime Minister has made it real clear that anybody who is trying to build up armaments on the sly is going to be operating outside the law. The difference now is that you're going to have Iraqi brigades with U.S. battalions in support in each of the nine districts.
Q In Sadr City.
MR. SNOW: In Sadr City.
Q Including patrolling, and how big a presence?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I don't know exactly how the map carves up Sadr City, but it's certainly going to be at least one of the districts and perhaps maybe even falling within more than one district. And so you're going to have an Iraqi brigade and you're going to have U.S. support.
In addition, as you know, part of the deal is, you go door to door. You build confidence with the forces. And by the way, this bears on your corruption question, which I'll get to in a moment, and you also try to collect intelligence. It is absolutely vital to get real-time intelligence. The Iraqis are going to be better at it than we are. Also to try to force people to make choices -- are you going to do the political path, or are you, in fact, going to try to operate outside the law?
There have already been operations within Baghdad in recent days that have made it clear that the Prime Minister is not only willing, but understands the necessity of using force against those who are trying to amass arms to weaken him in his government. So the fact is, you have a different approach. You have different rules of engagement. Nobody can call off an engagement because they're afraid some political ally might get into harm's way. And there is a determination on the part of the Iraqi government not merely to move forward, but to have a 24/7 presence in those districts. I will not give you --
Q But you've got 2.5 million people in Sadr City.
MR. SNOW: I know.
Q And you're talking about a brigade with support from Americans?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Again, I'll have to go back -- and you've probably seen the maps, as well. Let's go back. We'll take a look at -- if you want an operational description, it's where I talk about --
Q I don't want an operational -- but when you come up and you say, it's great, he's going back to the political process, he's asking people to lay down their arms. But you've got 2.5 million people and you've got a brigade, and you've got somebody who has broken their promise a zillion times.
MR. SNOW: I believe also that I have said that it's a very tiny down payment on progress that people expect to see. You've also seen one of his key lieutenants arrested -- not released. These are signs that something different is going on.
Now, I trust that you and everybody else will keep a watchful eye on what goes on in Sadr City. And I think if you want to get into operational detail, it's probably better to talk to the Pentagon about that.
Q I'm not getting into operational details.
MR. SNOW: Let me -- well, you were asking an operational question, how are you going to deal in Sadr City. Now as for the corruption question --
Q But that's the way you answered it, so I get to ask the questions.
MR. SNOW: Well, the corruption question is also very important because absolutely it's a problem. You've seen another shake-up in the police this week. We have made no bones about it, there have been corruption problems. And they have to be addressed and addressed aggressively because if you've got that kind of corruption, especially the situation where people don't know if police are there to save them or kill them, that is not the way to build confidence. You have to have a government that creates confidence among those who are the governed.
And we made it clear to the Iraqis that that is going to be vital for their success. So on that front, I agree with you. Corruption has been a problem. And, yes, we've talked about addressing it before. What we did didn't work as well as it needed to, and obviously, there needs to be more aggressive efforts there.
Q Can I just go back to the question about General Casey and the brigade, saying he felt fewer than half of what the President has planned were needed. You say he supports the plan now. He says he does, but it seems like a very diplomatic way to say, not really, and I don't have to be there to carry it out. So who did the President rely on heavily when he made these decisions? The commander on the ground did not, it appears, agree with the President's bigger, larger plan for more brigades. The commander of Central Command apparently did not. So the President relied mostly on outside people, or the people who he was trying to get to go in --
MR. SNOW: I've often been asked about internal deliberations, and I've always given the same answer, which is, I'm not going to characterize them. It is worth noting that General Abizaid and General Casey, both of whom you've described as being in opposition to the plan, publicly have supported it. And so I'll let you --
Q But what he said today didn't quite fit that, Tony.
MR. SNOW: I'd refer the questions back to him and I let him clarify.
Q How much responsibility do you think General Casey bears for a failed plan?
MR. SNOW: The President has made it clear that if anybody bears responsibility, it's the President. And he does not want people second-guessing commanders who have been acting on his orders.
Q Is the President disappointed that some key Republican allies like Senator Warner have been instrumental in pursuing this resolution?
MR. SNOW: Again, let's see where these things go. Even this issue is in considerable flux. And we're aware of the conversations that have been going on on Capitol Hill; we've been monitoring them. But as I said also, we're not going to get into the business of writing resolutions. As David has pointed out, we've laid out benchmarks about what we think people ought to consider, and they'll do that.
The other thing is we've got a way forward that acknowledges all the faults and defects of previous plans that you have noted and others have noted. This is not an attempt to ignore problems, it's a commitment to address them. And so, as Congress thinks about this, we also would expect members to take a very careful look at how this programs proceeds -- not expecting overnight results, because nothing can yield overnight results, but the problems we have are significant. But we also believe that we have the force structure and the doctrine in place, as well as the commitment on the part of the Iraqis, that will get us to the situation where the Iraqis, as quickly as is feasible, assume lead positions on security and other functions within their government so that they are going to have that free-standing democracy.
Q Tony, back on the issue of Iraqi brigades that you mentioned. What is their status? They're not all there yet, obviously, but --
MR. SNOW: Well, we're talking about five brigades, and as you know, it takes time to get there. What the Iraqis have talked about is within the next four to five weeks trying to get three deployed within Baghdad. So we'll see.
Q Because one of the things that a senior official said on January 10th, when the President was going to deliver his Iraq address, was that the American people are going to have these signs --
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q -- very quickly they'll be able to see whether or not the Iraqi government is coming through. And one of the things that was talked about as an example of that was this move to get Iraqi brigades in -- and it's February 1st now, and --
MR. SNOW: Go back and look what the senior official said, too, it will be mid to late February. So it's still within the time frame I mentioned to you.
Q Well, I believe one of the dates was February 1st there would be at least one Iraqi brigade --
MR. SNOW: No, I think -- go back and take a look. I think it was 15, one; 30, two. But go back and check. The point is we're still within the time frame of that. The other thing is that people have always said, look, you may have a day or two here -- I know you've got the stopwatch going, today is February 1st, but there's progress on that. And, yes, there will be an opportunity to see how quickly people -- how quickly the Iraqis get their forces into Baghdad. So we're taking a look at it. But I don't think that there's any sign right now that indicates that they're not capable of meeting this.
Q Back to Casey and his questioning today. Senator McCain was pretty scathing in questioning Casey's credentials and saying all these mistakes were on his watch and he should take responsibility for them. You're just saying that you think the President takes responsibility for that --
MR. SNOW: I know he does.
Q -- does that mean Casey is off the hook?
MR. SNOW: No, look, the President is not in the business of putting his commanders on the hook. He's the Commander-in-Chief, and he has said -- he said it yesterday with The Wall Street Journal -- I'm the Commander-in-Chief; I do not want you second-guessing people who have been carrying out my orders.
And so the President says he takes -- the President takes full responsibility for what has not worked, and he understands that he is going to be held accountable for what happens in the way forward. That's what happens when you're a Commander-in-Chief, you have to make decisions.
Q So Senator McCain was off base --
MR. SNOW: No, don't try to -- Senator McCain is -- in the process of advising and consenting on a nomination, is certainly free to ask tough questions and to express his opinions. I'm telling you what the President's view is. I am not going to try to get caught in a fight with Senator McCain, whom we respect and who has been very supportive of the President on the way forward.
April, you had a question earlier and I jumped -- do you want to go back and get that?
Q Yes, please. Could you articulate how you're connecting -- how the White House will connect the Pell Grant issue being increased to helping to keep the economy resilient?
MR. SNOW: Yes. If you take a look yesterday at the remarks the President made on income inequality, which gathered a significant amount of attention, it is obvious that there is a significant income gap in this country based on educational attainment levels. It's one of the reasons why we want to make sure that high schools provide better education -- actually, K through 12 -- but also that more people have access to a college education, because in the kind of economy we have now, education matters.
You've got an economy where there is an enormous amount of transition within industries. As I pointed out before, in any given month we create millions of new jobs. The economy sheds millions, but creates even more. And many people go through a variety of careers. What is the best way to be able to cope with an economy like that? The answer is the kind of intellectual, skills, tools, and creativity and inquisitiveness that allow you to adjust, adapt, or even simply pick up and change careers on various occasions based on what you want to do.
That's a strict byproduct of education. In a global economy, education really is going to matter. And it is important that people at all income levels have the same ability to learn, to get first-class educations. That is the thought behind No Child Left Behind, and it is the commitment embedded also in the Pell Grant program.
Q Can I follow up on something else. Is the President going into the lion's den tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: No -- are you talking about when he's speaking -- he's actually -- no, he is speaking to Republicans tomorrow. He will speak to Democrats on Saturday.
Q Well, the Democrats Saturday.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Is he going into the lion's -- forgive me for --
MR. SNOW: No, it's -- actually, it was intriguing and pleased to be invited. And I think this is going to be an opportunity for the President once again to repeat things that he has said on a number of occasions, which is, there's an opportunity to work together, and the State of the Union had a series of four big areas of stated concerns of Democrats and Republicans.
And this is, incidentally, not a way of saying, I just want to work with Democrats. The President wants to work with Democrats and Republicans in both chambers to address educational performance -- again, No Child Left Behind, going ahead and renewing No Child Left Behind; a health care proposal that offers not only lower health care costs to 100 million Americans, but also the prospects of private insurance to millions who either can't afford it, or go uncovered today. He believes that it's very important to have an energy policy that provides the energy we need and cleans the environment at the same time.
These are a series of initiatives -- and on immigration, something that not only respects the rule of law when it comes to people who are trying to cross the border, people who are trying to exploit cheap labor by employing people illegally, and knowingly so, but also, at the same time, realizing that this is a nation that grows stronger when we have the rule of law and we also create opportunities for everybody.
So all of that -- all of those are themes that I think are profitable and fruitful to discuss before Democratic and Republican audiences.
Q But there's just so much strong disagreement on Iraq, and then there's so much strong disagreement on the health care proposal, particularly saying that people who don't have insurance now don't have it for a reason. If they have a chance to pay for a house, versus insurance --
MR. SNOW: But that's precisely why we're talking about innovative ways to make insurance available for those who can't afford it. Furthermore, the tax credit is available to anybody who works. So this is really a two-part program. It's not merely -- not the tax credit, but the tax deduction. You've got the tax deduction, plus you also have a supplementary program that's designed to address the poor and the uninsurable. So those are all parts of it.
But, look, they can talk this back and forth. If you listened to Speaker Pelosi yesterday, she, in fact, talked about wide areas of agreement when she came back from a trip to Iraq. She's had critical comments, but she also came out when she was at the sticks -- all of you freezing out there yesterday waiting for her -- got to hear the Speaker say that there's a lot they have in common. I think there's an opportunity for both sides to examine where they can work together.
And both have said they think that it's vital for the credibility of this Congress to demonstrate that it can get the job done. And the President is committed to getting things done. He's a man of action.
Q Thank you so much. Do you have any reaction to this alleged terrorist arrest, series of arrests in Great Britain? They were pretty horrific. Is there any lesson in this for the U.S.? And did the U.S. intelligence have any input in arresting these men?
MR. SNOW: The first part is no comment. And the second is, come on, of course, no comment.
I really don't have anything to say about the British arrests. And we would never talk about intelligence cooperation. You know that.
Q Do you see similar dangers from the community here in this country, based on the U.K.?
MR. SNOW: Again, I don't want to start -- what you're talking about is -- I'd rather not try to make broad brush characterizations of any community in the United States. What we have tried to do is to make it possible for law enforcement authorities to do everything they can to give them the tools they need to try to figure out who is trying to kill Americans. A lot of them are Americans, perhaps. A lot of them may have come here from overseas. But the fact is you need the surveillance tools. You need the law enforcement tools. You need the intelligence tools. And most importantly, you also need to be able to deal with the threat overseas to try to deal with many of the sources, financially, inspirationally and otherwise, for terror around the world. So that's the most important thing for this government to do.
And obviously an essential part of that is dealing with foreign governments. We have a lot of cooperation at the strategic and tactical level, as well in intelligence-sharing. But for obvious reasons, we don't want the bad guys to figure out what's going on. We're not going to talk about it publicly.
Q Do you know if President Bush had any contact with Prime Minister Blair in the wake of this?
MR. SNOW: The President talks to Prime Minister Blair very regularly.
Q Democrats next week are going to make a big deal about the cost of the war. And so I'm wondering what you can say about how the budget is going to address the costs of the war. And just what did you say --
MR. SNOW: Well, as we've said, we're going to try to be much more transparent in the costs of the war. I will let all that come out at the beginning of next week when the President releases the budget. But you'll see that in the budget. And Democrats will have an opportunity to respond to what they see in that budget.
Q Tony, I have a question on the influence of presidential appointees on regulatory and environmental policy. There is an executive order that came out a few weeks ago that's drawn criticism because it would require all policy, regulatory review officers to be presidential appointees. And I just wondered your response to a concern that this will have a chilling effect and slow down the process --
MR. SNOW: I don't buy it. You have political appointees. You also have an administration -- and, Paula, we'll be happy to do chapter and verse with you -- where not only on regulation but also environmental issues, we've spent more money on environmental research than all the other governments of the world. This is an administration that actually has a better performance in terms of CO2 emissions. It is an administration where the President in the summer of 2001 was talking about man-made global warming and the need to address it through innovation, and created a panel that involves key Cabinet members in going after the sources of pollution and emissions.
So the fact is, we do have an aggressive set of regulations in place. And the other thing is, the process here is one that always ends up, in scientific peer review -- I would encourage people, rather than looking at whether somebody is a political appointee, to look at the process that has been laid out for reviewing regulations, because it's designed not to chill, but in fact to invigorate a process to make sure that you have thorough scientific review of all these things, as well as cost benefit analyses.
Q The other question, though, related to influence on environmental policy. There was a hearing a few days ago in which government scientists have said that their works have been either edited or censored if it does not support administration policy on climate change. As far as peer review, too, it's been a criticism that some of these boards are made up of somewhat industry-friendly members.
MR. SNOW: What's also the case is that some of the people who have been at the lead of making these allegations are not, themselves, scientists. I would just point to the fact that, for instance, the IPCC report, which will be coming out, makes use of U.S. scientists and U.S. scientific data. The largest source of scientific data on climate change comes from the United States. The incremental improvement in our ability to understand what's going on with climate change is a result of research that has been funded through the United States government.
So I understand that there will be people who say their voices are not heard, but we will be happy to provide you in great detail -- because I now have a stack that is about this thick -- that goes through the processes and the data that have been gathered. But no administration in American history, and none on the face of the Earth, has been more aggressive in trying to do sound science on this than this administration.
Q But the survey that was cited at that hearing was based on the respondents, who are all government scientists.
MR. SNOW: I understand that. As I said, I will be happy to provide you -- without getting into the vagaries of one survey, we'll be happy to swamp you with data so that you will be in a position to assess fully and completely the varying claims.
Q You were just mentioning cooperation with foreign governments on your fight against terrorism. Is the administration going to cooperate with the German government after the German justice has issued mandates against a dozen of the CIA operators?
MR. SNOW: We'll continue to do security and intelligence cooperation with allies. We do not discuss particular operations or allies. But let me just say that we continue to work with people who have been helpful in the war on terror.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Since the President told Fox News yesterday that he is "impressed" by Senator Obama, who he finds "attractive and articulate," surely you can tell us, Tony, what the President thinks of a widely reported page 1 quote of Senator Biden that Senator Obama is "clean"?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't. But thank you. I haven't talked to him about it. It's just -- I don't know.
Q Well, Senator Obama said yesterday that "Senator Biden certainly didn't intend to offend. And I'll leave it at that."
At which Senator Biden called Obama "a superstar, the most exciting candidate from either party in decades, he's fresh, he's new, he's smart, he's insightful, a very special guy, who is like catching lightning in a jar. I think he's great. I think I'm better."
And my question, does the President --
MR. SNOW: Whoa, wait a minute -- all that, and he's better?
Q Yes, right, right, and he's better.
MR. SNOW: Wow. Well, you need to call him and ask him how he'd describe himself.
Q He says he's better.
MR. SNOW: But what's better than lightning in a jar? (Laughter.)
Q Fireflies in a jar.
Q White lightning in a jar. (Laughter.)
Q White lightning in a jar. Does the President recognize this hilarious contradiction as the indication of a preface to another Biden withdrawal, as he did in 1988?
MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness. Let the candidates make their cases to the public. The public will decide.
Q Tony, yesterday Dana said these resolutions send mixed signals to our troops and our enemies. Should we really be so concerned that the misunderstanding of the exercise of our form of government by the enemy would cause us to not pass resolutions?
MR. SNOW: Well, if one came to the conclusion that it emboldened an enemy and placed people in harm's way and increased the risk. It's something -- look, the thing is, when you talk about this, you're trying to read states of mind. And these are things that are important to keep -- at least to consider when you're doing these things. As you know, and I've said many times, Osama bin Laden thought the lack of American resolve was a key reason why he could inspire people to come after us on September 11th. I am not accusing members of the Senate of inviting carnage on the United States of America. I'm simply saying, you think about what impact it may have.
But we also -- look, they're a separate and co-equal branch of government. And they will do what they think is appropriate. The most important thing to do is for everything to realize -- I'll finish up and then you can come back at me.
Q All right.
MR. SNOW: The real challenge before members of Congress who say they do not like the idea of putting in another 21,500 forces is, okay, then what other path to success in Iraq? That is one of the things we would love to hear.
Rather than trying to get into these debates that sort of try to paint one side into a corner, this is an opportunity for people to try to step up and work together.
Q It seems as though you're suggesting that the Senate should not pass this kind of resolution because in fact it would somehow embolden the enemy.
MR. SNOW: I just don't know. I don't -- I'm saying that that is something that they'll have to consider. And I'm sure they are.
Q Tony, what's the earliest date on which it would be fair to gage whether the new way forward is working or has worked?
MR. SNOW: It's a tricky question and I can't give you an answer. I'll tell you why it's tricky. One of the reasons we have resisted strict timetables is because you do then create sort of an invitation for those who would undermine the government to kind of sit it out, to melt away to the periphery, to try to build strength and organization. That's something you have to be concerned about.
So -- but what we have said is that people are going to need to see progress. I won't give you an absolute timetable, but obviously the next six to eight months are going to be times when people expect to see something happening. But I would be very wary about trying to assign a specific date to it.
Q And what will the administration do if, after eight months, it's not working?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you don't talk about "what if" -- what you're asking is, what happens if a program that hasn't even begun doesn't work? We spent a lot of time thinking through this program precisely because we thought it did work. And we hope we will never get to the point where we have to ask the follow-up.
Q Is six to eight months the timetable the administration is working with on when another look at it might have to be taken?
MR. SNOW: You take a look at it every day. This is not something where -- look, we want to see results, but the other thing that's going to happen is that there will be constant communications on the ground. How do you see it? What's going on with the Iraqi forces? What's going on inside the country? What does intel tell us about -- are people filtering out to the north, are they filtering to the south? It's a war-time situation. So real-time intelligence and nimble response on the basis of that intelligence is always going to be important.
Getting back to what Terry said, there may be the need -- part of what's built in here is the ability to respond to some of those shifts in the landscape so that you don't find yourself in a position of saying, oops, we need another thousand forces. At that point, you're not going to have the political capital to do it because the American people then will come back and say, why didn't you, and fill in the blank.
Q One way or the other, when people start voting roughly a year from now in the presidential primaries and caucuses, is Iraq going to look a lot different than it does today?
MR. SNOW: Sure hope so, but we don't know. I mean, the thing is what you're asking for -- General Petraeus and others have said, don't expect instant results. We're -- it's not something that changes overnight, but on the other hand, I think what we do hope that Americans will certainly see is much enhanced Iraqi capability -- we're talking about the Iraqis a year from now being in control of security operations in each and every one of the 18 provinces. That will be significant.
We are talking about significant economic development efforts; we're talking about significant political reconciliation. Those are the kinds of things that we would expect to see. There is no guaranteeing a complete and total end to violence, because, as we've seen, a small number of people who are determined to commit mass murder by packing themselves with dynamite, or loading up a car and driving by somebody -- that's almost impossible to stop. What you do have to do is create the conditions where the public is pushing back hard enough within Iraq, itself, that it decreases the ability of such people to organize themselves and to carry off missions, but also, that there's going to be a much stronger commitment to the success of the government because people are feeling a greater sense of security and also greater sense of economic security.
One of the big contributors to what's going on right now is high unemployment and a considerable amount of criminal activity that's made possible by the fact that people don't have other things to do. And therefore, you have to address all those. I know it's a long, sprawling answer, but that's -- those are the kinds of things that we take into account when we start assessing the situation in Iraq.
Q Eight months from now would put us at October, and that would --
MR. SNOW: Okay, nine months -- then we get to November.
Q Wait a minute. But you're saying, between six and eight months we can kind of gage to see if it's working. And then in November, that's a month away -- do you have enough time to change -- to put the Iraqi security in total control within that small window?
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, what I'm saying is this is a time for -- between now and then, April, in the next few months we're going to see increasing numbers of provinces going over to Iraqi control. This is not something where everything gets stacked up with November 1st as sort of the beginning date. A lot of these transfers of authority are going to be taking place during the course of the year.
Q Tony, Senator Bill Nelson was one of the Senators that visited Damascus some months ago with Senator Kerry, Senator Dodd, and has been talking to the Council on Foreign Relations about his discussions with President Bashir Assad, where he indicated that, although Assad was saying many of the same things he's been saying on a lot of topics, with regard to the over-the-border operations that were being conducted from Syrian territory, he was willing to talk with either the United States or with the Iraqi government to do something about this. And Nelson indicated that from past experience when there were moves made by the Syrians to try and deal with this, they did show an indication that they would work on this.
The question is, would the United States be willing to talk with Syria about these issues and somehow try and engage in a dialogue with them on the situation in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I think the better way to think of it is if the Syrians want to demonstrate goodwill -- because Senator Nelson has also been the recipient of broken promises on prior trips to Damascus. He's come back, said, I was promised this, and it didn't happen. So probably the best thing to do is for the Syrians simply to go ahead, step up and go ahead and take action against cross-border incursions.
As you know, the Iraqis have decided to do so themselves. That was one of the things that they've announced in the last days. So certainly the Syrians can make that a lot easier by striking a cooperative pose and doing what they can to try to prevent the shipment of arms, and also people coming across the border. They don't need our permission. We would love to see this. As a matter of fact, what we've said all along is one of the conditions in the future for having negotiations with the Syrians is for them to demonstrate good behavior.
Q Prime Minister Maliki seems to resent the new order to kill, capture Iranian agents in Iraq. And how is the President respond or react to Maliki when he talks about the United States -- with the regime of Iran, and he literally said, take your issues and fight outside Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure he resents.
Q He literally said that, we know there are issues between the United States and Iran, and they shouldn't be solved on the ground of Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Right, but -- and we agree. But when there are Iranian agents trying to destabilize the government of Iraq, I believe that the Prime Minister also believes in protecting his own government from foreign incursions, and he's talked about foreign fighters. I believe he's talking about something far different.
Let me -- there has been so much speculation about the United States crossing the border and invading Iran. And everybody keeps trying to create this narrative. The President has said it, and I've said it three or four times from the podium, let me reiterate, we're not invading Iran. What we are doing is force protection within Iraq, which is something that is done with the cooperation and support of Prime Minister Maliki, because quite often arms that are smuggled in are designed not only to kill Americans, but quite often to kill larger numbers of Iraqis. And as the head of a government that needs to reduce the level of violence and increase the level of cooperation across sectarian lines, it's certainly in his interest to do so.
Q Tony, Vice Admiral McConnell was up on the Hill for his confirmation hearing today. The criticism up there is that the DNI just created another level of bureaucracy, and that now the guy who set up the bureaucracy and at least knew about it is heading over to State. What's your response to that --
MR. SNOW: Well, the response is that John Negroponte is the Director of National Intelligence -- he's not created another bureaucracy, but what he's tried to do is to assemble a new institution that is able to do what a whole series of sometimes competing bureaucracies in the past could not do, which is to try to find a coherent way to assemble and make use of intelligence gathered by various parts of the United States government.
Now you're bringing in Admiral McConnell, who not only has intelligence and military background, but private sector experience that gives him management skills that are going to enable him creatively to handle some of the challenges at the Department of National Intelligence.
So one of the reasons, in fact, we chose him is that he's somebody who has experience and he knows how to use intelligence, and at the same time, he also knows how to manage.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: All right, thank you.
END 1:29 P.M. EST