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Press Gaggle by Dana Perino

August 15, 2007

Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas

11:06 A.M. CDT

MS. PERINO: Good morning. The President today had his normal briefings. He also did some tree cutting this morning, and then either -- I think is right now on a bike ride. Today I want to start off by saying that we join with the Iraqis who are grieving after yesterday's suicide bombings. We condemn the barbaric attacks on the innocent Iraqi citizens who lost their lives, and for the hundreds who were wounded. It's difficult for those of us who live in peace and freedom to understand what possesses people to take a suicide truck bomb and blow it up in the middle of a highly populated area. This is an enemy that has no heart, they have no conscience, and what they are trying to do is break our will and the will of the Iraqi people.

But it has the opposite effect. And we are determined, more than ever, to stand with the Iraqis and support them as they work to protect their young democracy from being attacked by a determined enemy. I would remind you that the President said back in January that even if the surge was successful in pushing back al Qaeda, and providing security in the capital so that the political process could move forward, that suicide bombings wouldn't necessarily go away. This is a tactic where they use $100 bombs to blow up very expensive equipment, or as we saw yesterday, take 200 lives and wound 300 people.

What I would like to do is make sure that you take a look at Brigadier General Kevin Bergner's briefing from Baghdad today. It's available online. He provides an update on the surge, and he has updates on the three fronts -- political, military and economic. One that I would point you to is on the security side, is one example where the Iraqi security forces being in the lead were able to show some progress over previous years.

On the pilgrimage last week, that is the same pilgrimage where two years ago there was a rumor of a suicide bomber, and it caused a stampede, in which thousands of people ran to a bridge and the bridge collapsed, and over 1,000 people died. Last year snipers attacked pilgrims there, and about 30 people died. This year there was not one incidence of violence, and the Iraqi security forces were in the lead. He also has other examples on the political and military fronts, and economic fronts, as well, in terms of money getting to the provinces, so that they can pay for the services that they need. So I would point you to that online.

I'd be happy to take other questions.

Q: Dana, is the administration going to name Iran's military, or elements of it, a terrorist organization?

MS. PERINO: I know that there's a lot of interest in that subject, given this morning's stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any possible actions that may or may not be taken. I would point you to the State and Treasury Departments for anything further. If any actions were going to be taken, it would be done out of those agencies.

Q: Would it not be a presidential decision?

MS. PERINO: On those designations, as you might have known from the past, those come from Treasury and the State Department. While the President -- hypothetically, if there were to be anything to happen, he doesn't have to actually take any action. Of course he's informed of any such discussions whenever such designations would be made, but I have nothing concrete for you now, and I would point you to Sean McCormack, he's briefing in about 20 minutes out of D.C.

Q: Can you say if it's under consideration?

MS. PERINO: I cannot.

Q: Does the U.S. believe the United Nations Security Council is dragging its feet on further sanctions against Iran?

MS. PERINO: I'll let the State Department characterize that. I think that we all have known that this is gradual work, slow work, and we have been working with the P5 plus one to make sure that Iran is held to account. And they have an opportunity to come forward. And we would like Iran to behave in a way that the rest of the world could embrace them. Unfortunately for the people of Iran, they continue to defy the international community.

Q: Is there a sense in the administration, Dana, that sanctions already in place and other financial restrictions are having an impact on the regime in Iran?

MS. PERINO: I believe so. I'm not an expert in that. I think that the Treasury Department has made comments on that in the past. Stuart Levey might be somebody that you all should try to talk to; Molly Millerwise is his press aide.


Q: Dana, there's a report out today that the September Iraq report will be written by the White House, and not by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus. Is that accurate?

MS. PERINO: Well, let me remind you of a couple of things. The Congress asked for these reports from the President; they asked for the President to report to the Congress. And so the July 15th report will be no different to the September 15th report, in terms of how that works. And the President has said that he's going to take the recommendations from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and then he will consult further before deciding on any possible next course of action.

Q: Dana, there's a report of a U.S. military offensive underway in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. Do you have anything on that?

MS. PERINO: That is the first I've heard of that. I wouldn't be surprised, since we are taking the fight to the enemy, but I'd have to refer you to the NATO forces there about that.

Q: So the President hasn't been briefed on this?

MS. PERINO: On what?

Q: On the operations in the Tora Bora region.

MS. PERINO: It is the first I have heard of it. Whether or not the President -- if there is an operation ongoing, I can assure you that the President is advised about those things. And he got his normal briefings yesterday and today, and he keeps in close contact with DOD.

Q: Dana, the promotions -- or the appointments that were announced this morning, three of those are domestic policy. Are those in any way an attempt to spread around the responsibilities from Karl Rove? Are these --

MS. PERINO: No, no, they're separate, they're separate. One of the things that happened last week before Congress left was Tevi Troy, who was the Domestic Policy Council Deputy, he was named -- finally confirmed as the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, which meant we needed to fill his position and then -- with Jess Sharp, who is now going to take that position, and then people fill in under that, as well. But it's not a part of Karl Rove's operation.


Q: Why would the President decide not to announce Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation until two days after he received the letter of resignation from the Defense Secretary?

MS. PERINO: I actually have never seen that letter myself. I would need to go back and look at that. I know that one of the things that the President wanted to avoid was the appearance of trying to make this a political decision. And that was very important to him, and I think that the American people can appreciate not playing politics with such an important decision.

Q: Not commenting on the substance of the reports about the Revolutionary Guard being possibly declared a terrorist organization, can you talk with us about what the White House accused the Revolutionary Guard of doing in the realms of terrorist --

MS. PERINO: Look, I think it's no secret that Iran is a state sponsor of terror. They have been designated as a state sponsor of terror for a long time. And I would refer you to reports from Department of Defense and the multinational forces in Iraq talking about weapons that are coming into Iraq that are used to kill our men and women in uniform, as well as innocent Iraqis.


Q: Dana, just to clarify on Iran and kind of the last couple days of reports, the administration still -- this is still a fully diplomatic effort? You're going to get a lot of questions about military action. Where is the focus -- the focus is now completely still diplomatically? What do you say to those --

MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, I can barely hear you.

Q: What do you say to those who might see this as a preparation for some sort of military anything with Iran?

MS. PERINO: Yes, all of our efforts are focused on the diplomatic actions that we are working through, in terms of the United Nations Security Council. Military action is not being contemplated. As the President has said, no President should ever take that option off the table. But diplomacy is what we are aiming towards, and what we are working on in terms of the Security Council. And regarding these stories this morning, as I said, I'm not commenting on them, but there's nothing in those stories that would lead -- I don't see how anyone could be led to believe that that is a military action. That's diplomacy, as well.

Q: And to follow, so when the President said there will be a price to pay, or there will be consequences, is that kind of a diplomatic reference? Or what kind of price is to pay or consequences is he referring to?

MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, when did the President say that?

Q: He said this in the last press conference, on Thursday.

MS. PERINO: At the press conference? Yes, he's talking about diplomacy. And I think one of the things that he said is that it's really unfortunate for the Iranian people, who have a very proud culture, a proud history. They want to be a part of the international community. They want to be able to trade with other countries. And unfortunately, their government is just stamping all of that out. And I think what the President says, that the consequence is further isolation.

All right, thanks.

END 11:15 A.M. CDT

George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Dana Perino Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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