President Bush Discusses Iraq Security, Iran
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GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for coming in on an icy day.
I have just finished a conversation with General David Petraeus. He gave me his first briefing from Iraq. He talked about the Baghdad security plan. It’s the plan that I described to the nation last January, and it’s a plan that’s beginning to take shape.
There’s an active strategy to undermine the Maliki government and its Baghdad security plan. And our generals understand that. They know that they’re all aimed at, frankly, causing people here in America to say it’s not worth it.
I concluded that to step back from the fight in Baghdad would have disastrous consequences for our people in America. And the reason why I say disastrous consequences: the Iraqi government could collapse, chaos would spread. There would be a vacuum. Into the vacuum would flow more extremists, more radicals, people who have stated intent to hurt our people.
North Korea agreement
I'd like to comment about one other diplomatic development, and that took place in the Far East. At the six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea agreed to specific actions that will bring us closer to a Korea Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons.
This is a unique deal. First of all, unlike any other agreement, it brings together all of North Korea's neighbors in the region, as well as the United States.
The agreement is backed by a United Nations Security Council resolution. That resolution came about -- or these sanctions came about as a result of the resolution because of a unanimous vote on the Security Council.
This is good progress. It's a good first step. There's a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become reality, but I believe it's an important step in the right direction.
Addressing Iran intelligence
JOURNALIST: Critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq, specifically about WMD, that turned out to be wrong, and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I can say with certainty that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops. And I'd like to repeat: I do not know whether or not the Quds force was ordered from the top echelons of government.
JOURNALIST: Mr. President, on the North Korea deal, the former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, yesterday said, quote, "It's a bad, disappointing deal, and the best thing you can say about it is that it will probably fall apart." How do you respond to that?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I strongly disagree, strongly disagree with his assessment. I have told the American people, like the Iranian issue, I wanted to solve the Korean issue -- the North Korean issue peacefully, and that the president has an obligation to try all diplomatic means necessary to do so.
And so we had a breakthrough as a result of other voices in the United States saying to the North Koreans, "We don't support your nuclear weapons program, and we urge you to get rid of it in a verifiable way." So the assessment made by some that this is not a good deal is flat wrong.
JOURNALIST: I want to follow up on Iran one more time. What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Ed, The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs is preposterous, Ed. My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it, pure and simple.
Now, David says, does this mean you're trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I'm trying to protect our troops. That's what that's means.
JOURNALIST: You spoke positively about the role of diplomacy in North Korea. And you, obviously, gave it a long time to work. Where does diplomacy fit in, in terms of Iran?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I can't think of any more robust diplomacy than to have more than one party at the table, talking to the Iranians. If they want us at the table, we're more than willing to come, but there must be a verifiable suspension of this weapons program that is causing such grave concern.
We'll continue to work with other nations. As a matter of fact, I believe that it is easier for the United States to achieve certain diplomatic objectives when we work with other nations, which is precisely why we adopted the strategy we did in dealing with the Iranians.
House Iraq resolution
JOURNALIST: Mr. President, it seems pretty clear where this Iraq vote in the House is headed.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Your press secretary has said repeatedly that members of Congress ought to watch what they say and be concerned about the message that they're sending to our enemy.
I'm wondering, do you believe that a vote of disapproval of your policy emboldens the enemy? Does it undermine your ability to carry out your policies there? And, also, what are you doing to persuade the Democratic leadership in Congress not to restrict your ability to spend money in Iraq?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I understand the Congress is going to express their opinion, and it's very clear where the Democrats are, and some Republicans. I know that. They didn't like the decision I made.
And, by the way, that doesn't mean that I think that they're, you know, not good, honorable citizens of the country. They just have a different opinion.
My hope, however, is that this nonbinding resolution doesn't try to turn into a binding policy that prevents our troops from doing that which I have asked them to do. That's why I keep reminding people, on the one hand, you vote for David Petraeus in a unanimous way and, on the other hand, you say that you're not going to fund the strategy that he thought was necessary to do his job, a strategy he testified to in front of the Senate.
Secondly, I find it interesting that there is a declaration about a plan that they have not given a chance to work.
JOURNALIST: Do you have to support the war to support the warrior? I mean, if you're one of those Americans that thinks you've made a terrible mistake that's destined to end badly, what do you do? If they speak out, are they, by definition, undermining the troops?
GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I don't think so at all. I think you can be against my decision and support the troops, absolutely. But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission.
JOURNALIST: You spoke hopefully about your ability to work with Democrats, their willingness to work with you in this new world. I wonder how that's going so far, what you've learned about how they think. And does the current debate constitute grounds for divorce?
GEORGE W. BUSH: First of all, I think they're patriotic people who care about our country. My hope is, is that we can get, you know, positive pieces of legislation passed, because I think there's a lot of expectation that the difference of opinion on Iraq would make it impossible for us to work on other areas.
I disagree with that assessment, and I hope I'm right. And the best way to determine whether I'm right is: Will I be able to sign legislation that we have been able to work on?
And as I told the Democrats, and as the Democrats have made clear to me in my visits, that neither of us are going to abandon our principles, that I don't expect them to change their principles, and they shouldn't expect me to.
But there's ways for us to work together to achieve legislative successes for the common good. That's what the American people want to see, and that's what I believe we can do.