Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a White House press briefing conducted by Tony Snow: The White House James S. Brady Briefing Room 12:32 P.M. EDT MR. SNOW: Good afternoon all...


MR. SNOW: I'm not -- I'm going to leave that to experts, including Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus. What you're talking about is chin-pulling on the part of the opinion class. In fact, what you have seen in Iraq is something that is less de facto partitioning than, in fact, de facto fighting back against the forces that have been trying to blow apart a democracy that millions of Iraqis voted for not so long ago.

Q -- a reflection of what's going on there.

MR. SNOW: No, I think it's people trying to do their own analysis at a distance. I would defer to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, who spend all their time there.

Q General Petraeus said he'll reevaluate the troop levels in March. Is the President asking lawmakers and the American public to give his strategy six more months before he'll decide whether there needs to be a change in strategy?

MR. SNOW: Well, what we have here is we have what appears to be trend lines that are pointing to success. Now, it seems to me if you've got something that is succeeding, you want more of it. And what General Petraeus is arguing for -- and, again, I will -- please do not read this as an endorsement or an early preview of what the President may say, but I will try to interpret what General Petraeus has been saying, which is that you have had -- you have the ability -- you've had success on the ground so far, not only in terms of building greater capabilities with the Iraqis, but also in seeing these significant changes that I've talked about in terms of hearts and minds in Iraq .

He also has said, as a result of that success, we're going to be able to bring, at least in his opinion, several thousand Americans home. Whether the President agrees or disagrees, we're going to find out. But General Petraeus's view is that that has yielded the kind of success that is going to make it possible to hand over more day-to-day responsibilities to the Iraqis in places like Anbar and, therefore, give you two things that Americans want: One is returning some American forces home and, at the same time, have greater security and success within Iraq .

So, I mean, I think any questions about precisely what General Petraeus had in mind are probably best addressed to him. When the President has made any of his comments about the testimony that takes place this week, then I'll be happy to give you interpretations.

Bret.

Q Can you provide any more details about this afternoon's meeting? Is this a preview of the President's national address?

MR. SNOW: No, this is -- we have regular meetings with bipartisan, bicameral leadership.

Q But this is specifically on Iraq ?

MR. SNOW: I think Iraq is likely to be the dominant topic. Quite often, other things will pop up. There are -- you've got intelligence reform and education and so on. But I honestly don't know exactly how it's going to break down, but I would expect Iraq to be the dominant topic.

Q So after almost two days of testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, is there a growing confidence in this building that Democrats do not have the votes to force the President's hand on a change in Iraq ?

MR. SNOW: Again, what you're trying to do is to get me to sort of wink, nod and show a little ankle --

Q Valiant effort.

MR. SNOW: It was valiant, and it was very clever. He is a professional. Laughter.)

Helen.

Q This is not a hypothetical question. Does the President feel that he has the

right to attack any country without going first to Congress?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q He does not feel he has -- he can't attack Iran , for example, without first asking permission?

MR. SNOW: We are not getting into hypothetical questions about Iran .

Q It's not hypothetical. I'm asking you if he has the authority.

MR. SNOW: Excuse me, it absolutely is hypothetical.

Q Does he have the authority?

MR. SNOW: Again, what you're asking is -- what the President did, for instance, in Iraq was pursuant to United Nations resolutions, many of them, including Resolution 1441.