March 31, 1806, Birth of U.S. Senator John Hale (R-NH), early leader of Republicans’ anti-slavery movement in Congress.
April 1, 1846, Born into slavery on this day, Jeremiah Haralson (R-AL) served in state legislature before being elected to U.S. House in 1874.
April 2, 1855, Republican John Langston becomes nation’s first African-American elected official, in Brownhelm, OH; later served as U.S. Rep. (R-VA) and as diplomat in Republican administrations.
April 3, 1944, U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Texas Democratic Party’s “whites only” primary election system.
April 4, 1887, Republican Susanna Salter of Argonia, KS is first woman elected mayor in nation.
April 5, 1839, Birth of African-American U.S. Rep. Robert Smalls (R-SC), who escaped slavery by commandeering a Confederate gunboat.
April 6, 1869, Republican Ebenezer Bassett is first African-American presidential appointment, as President Ulysses Grant’s Minister to Haiti.
April 7, 1862, President Lincoln concludes treaty with Britain for suppression of slave trade.
“I believe the time will come when the sense of justice of this nation, when the enlightenment of this century, when the wisdom of our legislators, when the good feeling of the whole people will complete this grand work by lifting up out of degradation a race of men which has served long and faithfully by placing it, so far as the laws are concerned, upon an equal footing with all other classes. I have faith in this country.”
Rep. Joseph Rainey (R-SC), the first African-American in the U.S. House of Representatives (1870-79)
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Saturday, March 31, 2007
March 31, 1806, Birth of U.S. Senator John Hale (R-NH), early leader of Republicans’ anti-slavery movement in Congress.
Posted by sookietex at 6:28 PM || ||
Presidential Podcast 03/31/07 . In Focus: Defense and In Focus: Budget Management , Subscribe to Our Odeo or podnova Podcast Channel and receive the weekly Presidential Radio Address in English and Spanish with select State Department Briefings. Featuring real audio and full text transcripts, More content Sources added often so stay tuned.
Technorati Tags: President Bush and White House radio address or Congress and military commanders or emergency war spending bill and entitlement programs or House of Representatives and Attorney General or Federal budget and PODCAST
Posted by sookietex at 6:01 PM || ||
|bush radio address 03/31/07 full audio, text transcript. PODCAST and, President's Radio Address . In Focus: Defense and In Focus: Budget Management|
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. In recent days, the House and Senate each passed emergency war spending bills that undercut our troops in the field. Each of the Democrats' bills would substitute the judgment of politicians in Washington for that of our generals on the ground. Each bill would impose restrictive conditions on our military commanders. Each bill would also set an arbitrary deadline for surrender and withdrawal in Iraq, and I believe that would have disastrous consequences for our safety here at home.
The Democrats loaded up their bills with billions of dollars in domestic spending completely unrelated to the war, including $3.5 million for visitors to tour the Capitol, $6.4 million for the House of Representatives' Salaries and Expenses Account, and $74 million for secure peanut storage. I like peanuts as much as the next guy, but I believe the security of our troops should come before the security of our peanut crop. For all these reasons, that is why I made it clear to the Democrats in Congress, I will veto the bill.
Democrats in the House and the Senate also recently passed their annual budget resolutions. Their budgets would raise your taxes and raise government spending in Washington. And their budgets fail to address the most serious challenge to our Nation's fiscal health: the unsustainable growth in entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare.
Overall, the Democrats would raise taxes by a total of nearly $400 billion over the next five years. To put this in perspective, this would be the largest tax increase in our Nation's history, even larger than the tax increase the Democrats passed the last time they controlled Congress.
Let me explain what it will mean for your annual tax bill if the Democrats get their way. If you have children, the Democrats would raise your taxes by $500 for each child. If you're a family of four making $60,000 a year, the Democrats would raise your taxes by more than $1,800. If you're a single mother with two children working to make ends meet, the Democrats would raise your taxes by more than $1,000. If you are a small business owner working to meet a payroll, the Democrats would raise your taxes by almost $4,000. And more than five million low-income Americans who currently pay no income taxes because of our tax relief would once again have to pay. Whether you have a family, work for a living, own a business, or are simply struggling to get by on a low income, the Democrats want to raise your taxes.
The Democrats plan to spend all those extra tax dollars. In the Senate, Democrats have passed a budget that would spend $145 billion more than I have requested over the next five years. In the House, Democrats have passed a budget that would spend even more -- $213 billion above my request.
With their budgets, the Democrats have revealed their true intentions. During the last campaign, Democrats said that under their "pay as you go" approach, they would pay for their new spending. Now we see what they meant by that. The Democrats have chosen a "tax as you go" approach that requires you to cut your spending to pay higher taxes. And Democrats will use these higher taxes to spend more of your money on their special interest projects.
Our Nation cannot afford such reckless taxing and spending. Under my Administration, we have kept your taxes low and restrained government spending in Washington. Now, America's economy is leading the world, with an economic expansion that has produced 42 months of uninterrupted job growth and created more than 7.5 million new jobs. The fastest way to stop this growth in its tracks would be to allow the Democrats in Congress to impose higher taxes on you so they can spend more of your money.
I believe there's a better way to balance our Federal budget. Last month, I sent Congress a plan that would eliminate the Federal deficit in five years, without raising your taxes. In the months ahead, I will work with Republicans and responsible Democrats in Congress to pass a disciplined budget and to stop the Democratic leadership from taking our Nation back to tax-and-spend policies of the past. By setting clear spending priorities and keeping taxes low, we can keep our economy growing, support our troops in the war on terror, and ensure our children and grandchildren inherit a more prosperous and hopeful America.
Thank you for listening.
END For Immediate Release, March 31, 2007
Technorati Tags: President Bush and White House radio address or Congress and military commanders or emergency war spending bill and entitlement programs or House of Representatives and Attorney General or Federal budget and PODCAST
Posted by sookietex at 5:44 PM || ||
|forre el audio de la dirección de radio 03/31/07 por completo, transcripción del texto. (nota de los redactores: ninguna lengua española mp3 lanzó esta semana, apesadumbrada) PODCAST|
Discurso Radial del Presidente.
Buenos Días. En los últimos días, la Cámara de Representantes y el Senado ambos aprobaron proyectos de ley para gastos de guerra de emergencia que perjudican a nuestras tropas en el terreno. Cada uno de los proyectos de ley de los Demócratas sustituiría el juicio de políticos en Washington por el de nuestros generales en el terreno. Cada proyecto impondría condiciones restrictivas sobre nuestros comandantes militares. Cada proyecto también fijaría un plazo arbitrario para rendirnos y retirarnos de Irak - y yo creo que eso tendría consecuencias desastrosas sobre nuestra seguridad aquí en casa.
Los Demócratas inflaron sus proyectos de ley con miles de millones de dólares en gastos domésticos completamente no relacionados a la guerra, incluyendo 3.5 millones de dólares para que turistas visiten el Capitolio, 6.4 millones de dólares para la Cuenta de Salarios y Gastos de la Cámara de Representantes y 74 millones de dólares para asegurar el almacenaje de cacahuates. A mi me gustan los cacahuates tanto como a cualquier persona, pero considero que la seguridad de nuestras tropas debería venir antes de la seguridad de nuestra cosecha de cacahuates. Por todas estas razones es por eso que dejé en claro a los Demócratas en el Congreso, que vetaré el proyecto de ley.
Los Demócratas en la Cámara y el Senado también aprobaron recientemente sus resoluciones presupuestarias anuales. Sus presupuestos les aumentarían a ustedes sus impuestos y aumentaría los gastos del gobierno en Washington. Y sus presupuestos no enfocan el desafío más serio a la salud fiscal de nuestra Nación: el crecimientos insostenible en programas por derecho reglamentario, tales como el Seguro Social y Medicare.
En su conjunto, los Demócratas aumentarían los impuestos en un total de casi 400 mil millones de dólares en los próximos cinco años. Para poner esto en perspectiva, sería el aumento tributario más grande en la historia de nuestra Nación - aún más grande que el aumento tributario que los Demócratas aprobaron la última vez que controlaron el Congreso.
Permítanme explicar lo que significará para su factura anual de impuestos si los Demócratas se salen con la suya. Si usted tiene hijos los Demócratas aumentarían sus impuestos 500 dólares por cada hijo. Si usted es una familia de cuatro personas ganando 60,000 dólares al año, los Demócratas aumentarían sus impuestos en más de 1,800 dólares. Si usted es una madre soltera con dos niños que trabaja para llegar a final de mes, los Demócratas aumentarían sus impuestos en más de 1,000 dólares. Si usted es dueño de un pequeño negocio trabajando para poder pagar a sus empleados, los Demócratas aumentarían sus impuestos en casi 4,000 dólares. Y más de cinco millones de estadounidenses de bajos ingresos que actualmente no pagan impuestos sobre el ingreso debido a nuestro alivio tributario tendrían que pagar nuevamente. Ya sea que tenga familia, que trabaje para ganarse la vida, que sea dueño de un negocio o simplemente esté luchando para vivir con un ingreso bajo, los Demócratas quieren aumentar sus impuestos.
Los Demócratas planean gastar todos esos dólares extras provenientes de los impuestos. En el Senado, los Demócratas han aprobado un presupuesto que gastaría 145 mil millones de dólares más de lo que yo he solicitado para los próximos cinco años. En la Cámara de Representantes, los Demócratas han aprobado un presupuesto que gastaría aún más - 213 mil millones de dólares por encimo de lo que yo he pedido.
Con sus presupuestos los Demócratas han revelado sus verdaderas intenciones. Durante la última campaña los Demócratas dijeron que bajo su enfoque "pague a medida que gasta", ellos pagarían sus nuevos gastos. Ahora vemos lo que quisieron decir con eso. Los Demócratas han escogido un enfoque "imponer impuestos a medida que gasta" que requiere que se rebajen los gastos para pagar impuestos más elevados. Y los Demócratas usarán estos impuestos más elevados para gastar más del dinero de ustedes en sus proyectos de intereses especiales.
Nuestra Nación no puede darse el lujo de tributación y gastos tan imprudentes. Bajo mi Administración, hemos mantenido sus impuestos bajos y hemos limitado los gastos del gobierno en Washington. Ahora, la economía de Estados Unidos es la primera en el mundo - con una expansión económica que ha producido 42 meses de crecimiento de empleos sin interrupción y ha creado más de 7.5 millones de nuevos empleos. La manera más rápida de frenar a raya este crecimiento sería de permitir que los Demócratas en el Congreso le impongan a usted impuestos más elevados para que ellos puedan gastar más del dinero de usted.
Yo considero que hay una mejor manera de equilibrar nuestro presupuesto federal. El mes pasado envié al Congreso un plan que eliminaría el déficit federal en cinco años, sin aumentar sus impuestos. En los meses venideros yo trabajaré con Republicanos, y Demócratas responsables en el Congreso para aprobar un presupuesto disciplinado - y evitar que los líderes Demócratas regresen nuestra Nación a las políticas tributar-y-gastar del pasado. Fijando prioridades claras para los gastos y manteniendo los impuestos bajos, podemos mantener creciendo a nuestra economía, apoyar a nuestras tropas en la guerra contra el terror y asegurar que nuestros hijos y nietos hereden un Estados Unidos más próspero y optimista.
Gracias por escuchar.
Para su publicación inmediata, Oficina del Secretario de Prensa, 31 de marzo de 2007
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Posted by sookietex at 5:09 PM || ||
Friday, March 30, 2007
|Missile Defense and Europe, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency; FULL STREAMING VIDEO, Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Foreign Press Center Briefing, Washington, DC. March 28, 2007, 11:15 A.M. EST. PODCAST OF THIS ARTICLE|
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Hello, everyone. Good to be back here in what I don't doubt will be a continuing series of discussions about missile defense and the politics and debate surrounding missile defense. I've been -- I was in Europe last week in Warsaw, Copenhagen and The Hague. Missile defense was a common theme in all three stops and I wanted to mention this and discussion my views and answer your questions about the way the debate is shaping up.
And I want to start out by saying that there needs to be a discussion of missile defense and the strategic problem and challenge that missile defense in its current iteration is designed to address. But I want to stress from the start that this debate needs to be grounded in the reality of the threat, the potential threat, and the reality of the strategic context that we all face, the "we" in this case being the transatlantic community and the "we" in this case also being Russia because it faces the same threats that we do or similar threats.
The debate should not be, in my view, about issues of 20 years ago and issues of a so-called arms race, and in this context I was struck that today, today in Berlin as a matter of fact, the Americans and Russians are sitting down to discuss post-START issues and transparency issues for the post-START regime after the START Treaty expires. I mention this because the transparency and confidence-building measures which we're going to be discussing are a part and an illustrative part of the developing good strategic relationship between the United States and Russia as we address the new world that we face together.
It is also true that the Treaty of Moscow, which reduced arms, reduced warheads on both sides, is being implemented. To remind you, it calls for massive reductions in warheads on both sides, down to between 1,700 and 2,200 by the end of 2012. The United States is on target to meet reductions. Russia is well on target to meet reductions.
So the notion that somehow missile defense has to be seen as part of an emerging arms race between the United States and Russia, which is some of the odd commentary I hear from some Europeans, has no relationship to reality and the debate about missile defense ought to be conducted in a way, it seems to me, that reflects reality.
Second point is that NATO has, in fact, addressed missile defense issues, and read paragraph 25 of the Riga summit declaration, which refers to a threat, a threat to which missile defenses can provide an answer. The NATO study that the summit declaration refers to was a study of short- and mid-range missile defense systems. In theory, it's determined that the systems have the theoretical possibility of being effective. NATO has called for more work on this.
In our view, the more NATO is involved in this, the better. And the bilateral systems which the United States is preparing to discuss with the Poles and the Czechs could be -- and in fact we would all benefit if they were -- integrated with national systems and linked up with some sort of NATO-integrated system. It's early to discuss specifics. I'm not announcing anything. But in terms of our -- the general American view of the way ahead, it certainly includes a role for NATO.
I would also add that we look forward, we look forward to discussions with our Russian friends about missile defense issues, both to ease their concerns -- of course, we've had multiple high-level discussions with the Russians before, but if we have to keep explaining this, we are happy to do so; and to the degree to which the Russians are ready, I certainly think that cooperation with Russia is something we would be interested in.
So I found the European debate to be a mixture of genuine interest in this new strategic challenge that Iran poses, genuine interest in discussing how missile defenses can play a stabilizing role, how missile defense will avoid a situation in which Europe and the United States enjoy different levels of security. In fact, the NATO area should have the same level of security, in the American view.
But laced in with this were some concerns which I felt unfounded, so I've tried to address these here today.
It is also true that politics may play a part in this, which is always -- which is both inevitable dealing with democracies, but it's the job of officials such as myself to try to bring the discussion back to the actual issues, not to the politics and meta-issues which can cloud more than they obscure.
I found specifically that the Poles, Danes, Dutch had different kinds of questions. The Poles were obviously interested in the bilateral relationship with the United States. They expressed concerns about any additional insecurities or pressures from the Russians. They want to deepen their cooperation with the United States, but they want to -- the Polish Government is quite clearly going to negotiate based on its own national interests, and I expect they will negotiate strongly, as is the Polish habit.
The Danes and the Dutch were interested in the larger strategic issues and I found my conversations there to be actually quite hopeful because we were getting into the issues of reality, not the issues of the meta-reality that so often characterized the European -- some of the European debate.
I will be happy to answer any questions about this. I gather that running on the wires now is a reference to a phone call between Presidents Putin and Bush in which missile defense came up. I heard that from Reuters, and as far as I know, that is an accurate account. But I think the way forward lies through continued consultations with the Russians. We've had a long track record of consultations with them on this issue. We intend to continue those. And I look forward both to answering your questions and to working with European governments.
Now my colleague and collaborate, General Obering, is welcome to say a few things, and then we'll both happily take your questions.
LTG OBERING: Thank you very much, Ambassador Fried. Well, good morning. I want to also provide a little context for some questions that may be generated as a result of our meeting this morning, also bring you up to speed a little bit on my activities since I last addressed you in February.
First of all, a little bit of the context. Again, for the last two and a half years, the United States has been fielding a system that has been aimed toward defending the United States, our deployed forces, our allies and friends, against what we see to be threats that are emerging from North Korea as well as Iran. We initially turned our attention to North Korea because we felt that that had the highest sense of urgency and we believe that that was somewhat justified by the activities last summer.
We have since begun to turn our attention to Iran as well. Modifying radar in United Kingdom is one of the first steps of that and then being able to provide and extend this coverage to our allies and our deployed forces in the European theater against an emerging Iranian threat is clearly what we are geared toward.
We have had very good success in the past two and a half years with respect to testing of this system. We have come a long, long way from the failure-ridden program back in the '90s and we've built a lot on the investments in the technologies since then. In fact, we have now had 24 successful hit-to-kill intercepts in about 32 attempts since 2001, and that includes though that we've had successes in the last 14 to 15 flight tests over the past two, two and a half years. So this program works. It is a capability that does work and that we will rely on as we move into this 21st century.
Just a couple of quick points on the elements that we're talking about, of course, are being able to provide up to ten interceptors in a site in Poland, to provide a midcourse radar in the Czech Republic and a transportable radar that we would locate later on because it's very -- it's highly transportable and easily fielded.
I want to remind everybody that these are defensive assets. These are not offensive missiles. They do not even carry warheads. There are no explosives on these missiles. We operate on, as I said, a hit-to-kill technology, which is we actually drive a very small kill vehicle into an enemy warhead to destroy it. And the reason it is so effective is because the speeds that we do this at are so great it basically destroys the warhead from a kinetic energy perspective. In fact, the kill vehicles that we're talking about that would be placed on the interceptors in Poland are no more than about 70 to 75 kilograms. They're very small and they operate, as I said, on the hit-to-kill technology.
I have personally traveled to brief the NATO-Russia Council since I last met with you. I also traveled to Berlin, met with the Germans; to Paris, met with the French; and to Kiev with the Ukrainians. We've also had discussions with delegations from the Czechs and the Poles here and we have folks that are there this week that are going through discussions with those countries as well.
We have plans to visit, in the coming weeks, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, and then going back to the NATO-Russia Council for further discussions at a more technical expert level. Now, in those discussions there's a theme that I picked up that I just want to emphasize and I think it's very, very important. In fact, I think it's one of the most important themes that we can concentrate on. And I get asked -- well, first of all, doesn't this upset the balance that we've achieved in the past between deterrence and what about arms control? Doesn't this contradict arms control measures?
And what I want to put this in the context of is that is -- missile defense is part of a spectrum. It's part of an entire toolbox that we try to use to address the ballistic missile threat. At one end of that spectrum, of course, you have deterrence and we believe that that is still a very viable concept and we've relied on that from the United States' perspective for many years. And we believe we will continue to rely on that deterrent factor for those nations and those organizations that can be deterred.
There are other nations and organizations in which arms control measures are very effective, both positive and negative aspects of that and we believe very strongly in that. And we also believe, though, that we may come into contact with nation states or non-state actors that are deterrable, that are not affected by arms control measures. And when you have warheads flying in the air, it is a moral obligation to do something about that for the population, not just turning around and just saying, sorry, we can't do anything about that.
So we believe missile defense fits into a spectrum that includes deterrence and arms control measures. And the other reason why we believe it's so important, and this is what I think it's fundamental, the reason that we've had a proliferation of ballistic missiles around the world for these past many years is because they are highly valued. Why are they highly valued? Well, historically, because there has been no deployed defense capability against these weapons. Well, if you begin to deploy defensive capabilities to where you can negate these missiles, it begins to devalue them. And so we believe that it will begin to have a tremendous effect on the proliferation of these missiles because they will lose their value to the nation or to the organizations because we believe we can render them ineffective.
And so that puts hopefully some of the -- some of what we're doing in context and I'll be happy to answer any questions that you may have along with the Ambassador.
MODERATOR: If you would state your name and organization, please wait for the mike when you have a question.
Yes, sir. Just wait for the mike.
QUESTION: Okay. Jedrzej Bielecki from Rzeczpospolita Polish daily. First of all, if you could elaborate about the discussion today between President Bush and President Putin, what was the message of the American leader?
And secondly, on Monday Congress adopted a resolution concerning the invitation of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO. Don't you think that this could be -- could make you more difficult to convince Russians about the good intentions of the United States? And what is the position of the Administration on this? I mean, do you want really to -- did you take -- took any decision on the Georgian issue -- inviting Georgia to NATO?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, I have nothing further about the discussion between the two presidents. You can check with the White House about that, but I really don't have anything more.
With respect to NATO membership, I'm curious to take a question from a Polish newspaper about the allegedly destabilizing effects of NATO expansion on Russia. I thought we were pretty much past that particular debate. I've always thought that NATO enlargement was immensely stabilizing. Can you imagine a Europe today with 100 million Europeans between Germany and Russia that were kept out of Europe's chief security and integrative institutions? That would indeed be destabilizing. We believe that NATO enlargement is a good thing because it extends security and stability to countries which could use it. It doesn't threaten anyone. The notion that NATO poses a threat to Russia is simply wrong.
But with respect to Georgia and Ukraine, no, our country has not made a decision about whether they should be offered NATO membership. In the case of Ukraine, Ukraine itself has not decided whether it seeks NATO membership. As declaratory government policy that's one thing, and the Ukrainian Government is itself divided, but the Ukrainian public is very much divided. So the first thing we look for is for a Ukrainian national consensus.
In Georgia there is a consensus. They do want NATO membership. We welcome the progress in their reforms -- their peaceful deepening of their democratic institutions, of constructive resolution of some of their regional conflicts. And let's take this a step at a time. Too early to make that decision, but we welcome Georgia's forward progress.
Again, NATO is -- no matter how many times the charge is made otherwise, it remains a false charge that NATO is an aggressive or anti-Russian organization. It is an organization that extends security and stability, and an organization which is working to help the Afghan people, which is working to promote stability in Kosovo. This is an organization that Russia -- that we hope Russia will learn to work with even more in the future.
QUESTION: Mario Bardazzi, ANSA Italian News Agency ANSA. A question for General Obering. Yesterday in a hearing in Congress, you said that you already have some NATO countries that are sharing technologies with you and you mentioned an agreement with Italy on technology sharing. Could you elaborate on this? And can you tell us if Italy and other southern European countries will be full covered by the system?
LTG OBERING: Sure. We have recently signed a -- what we call a framework agreement with the Italian Government that basically outlines some of the mechanisms and processes by which we will collaborate on missile defense. So we're at just at the beginning of that. This framework agreement basically outlines the general way that we will approach the agreements and the projects, and then we list projects underneath that agreement that we decide to pursue. And I won't be any more specific on the projects because that's just beginning in that process, but it was a major milestone that we were able to sign that agreement with Italy.
They joined, by the way, other nations like United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, Japan and others that have signed an agreement with us. We also have, by the way, relations and ongoing discussions with a whole variety of countries around the world with respect to missile defense. It is becoming more and more of a concern.
With respect to coverage, the nation of Italy is covered. In fact, all of the nations that would be threatened by a long-range missile or what we call a higher-end intermediate-range missile, the system covers those countries. The countries that are very close in to an Iranian threat, such as Turkey, for example, portions of Greece, they would not be threatened by the long-range missiles. They would be threatened by the shorter-range missiles and you have other defenses that can be brought into play to address that.
In fact, that's one of the areas that we believe is very much within a NATO context because NATO has stood up a active layered (ph) theater missile defense program office that is managed by a French -- has a French program manager and an American deputy program manager. That office is concentrating on the shorter-range missile defense capabilities that could be brought to bear within NATO. We believe that that would fit a -- that'd be a nice dovetail, so to speak, to the longer-range umbrella that could be provided between the United States, Poland and the Czech Republic. So we believe that this fits very nicely into that NATO type of context.
MODERATOR: Yeah, right here.
QUESTION: I'm Katja Gloger, Stern Magazine from Germany. Ambassador Fried, good morning. You just said that missile defense could play a stabilizing role in the relations also to Europe. At least for Germany and at least for the time being, the opposite is true. Our magazine will publish a poll tomorrow where Germans have been asked about the threat for world peace. 48 percent of Germans believe that the United States is a bigger threat to world security than Iran and 72 percent are against missile defense. So how will you convince Europeans and especially Germans that your position is the right one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, I'm aware of the polls. I wonder how comfortable Germany would be in a bilateral security relationship with Iran, okay? So I don't entirely take -- I don't even think that many people who say that really mean it. They're saying something else, but this is not for me to say what they think. The -- I understand the politics in Germany about this issue are -- is, to my mind, somewhat exotic. It reminds me of the debate in the 1980s about the Pershings. At a time when the Soviet Union was run by Leonid Brezhnev, Germany was divided, Berlin was divided, this was a nasty period in the Cold War and yet, hundreds of thousands of Germans regularly demonstrated against the American military presence.
The way the Cold War ended, I thought, was pretty good. It ended peacefully, it ended with your country united. I don't think, therefore, we need to look back with great anxiety over how we worked together in those years, nor do I think that the debates and the political slogans of that period need to be readapted currently.
When I said missile defense could be stabilizing, I meant in a strategic context and I think General Obering explained it. I think it would be profoundly destabilizing, for example, if we were to find in 15 years that Iran had a handful, a dozen or so ballistic missiles capable of striking Europe and nuclear warheads to put on top of them. Imagine that kind of a situation where Europe was completely vulnerable to these weapons, put yourselves in the position of Germany if there were a crisis in the Middle East. Threats to Israel; is that really the position that would serve Germany security or European security if there were a well-developed, limited, and very modest missile defense system in Germany? It would be profoundly stabilizing because there would no longer be the sense of imminent and massive vulnerability. That's what I meant.
LTG OBERING: Could I add something to that, please? Polls are important to understand public attitudes, but they're not everything and they change very rapidly. In fact, I think if you went back and took a look in this country before September 11th, you wouldn't find a large percentage of the population that would even recognize a threat from a terrorist group like al-Qaida. Of course, that changed overnight. You can also see what happened here last summer when we were inundated in the Missile Defense Agency with dozens and dozens and dozens of phone calls from the media, both broadcast and press, about what can you do about these North Korean missiles.
And in a case of missiles, you can't affect the defense overnight. It's not something you can turn the way public opinion can turn overnight. You can't do that overnight. It takes time to build these defenses. So what may be true today with respect to popular opinion or support can change very dramatically and rapidly tomorrow as world scenes unfold. So what is responsible for -- or responsible leaders is to try to understand that direction and try to do something about it before you try to connect the dots after the fact.
MODERATOR: Yeah, we have a question from New York. If you would go ahead, please, and ask the question.
QUESTION: Hi. I'm Adrian Novac from Antena T.V. Channel One. And my question is a follow-up. Lately there were a lot of reports in Romania media that shields (ph) will not cover Romania. And my question is: How do you respond to these concerns? And also are you afraid that there will be a division among NATO members because of this problem?
Thank you so much.
LTG OBERING: Well, as I stated, for those countries that would be threatened from a long range weapon they are covered. So countries that are inside of what we would consider to be the range for the longer range weapons, they would be covered against the shorter range threats with protection that could be generated from NATO. We have capabilities today within the U.S. military with our Patriot system, with our sea-based interceptors that could provide that coverage. And we have a capability that will be coming out in the next two years or so, which is our Terminal High Altitude Area Defense weapon which is a very highly mobile land-based system as well. So there are systems to be able to cover that.
I think what's important is for NATO to decide how they're going to approach that. Like I said, they've stood up a program to do that. They need to come to grips with that and then we need to make sure we can marry that together with the long range capabilities.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Let me add something there. The question also addressed a principle that General Obering and I have been talking about, which is that there should not be two levels or multiple levels of security within the transatlantic community and the NATO alliance. There should be one level of security and it is not right that some countries be vulnerable while other countries are covered. So what General Obering was saying is that we -- there are multiple ways to cover countries, but there is a single principle that we need to respect which is that there should not be in the end multiple levels of security. There should not be class A and class B allies. And it does the United States, frankly, little good if we are secured from ballistic missile attack but our European allies are completely vulnerable. That also is a strategic problem for us.
MODERATOR: Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Alexander Panov, Russian Television International. And my question is a very (sic) question. Why not invite Russia to participate in this program? You said you are ready for cooperation. For example, if Poland and Czech Republic have something against Russian militaries participate in this program on their territory, why not to find some common base in Azerbaijan, for example, or -- well, why not to make invitation and the problem with Russia will be solved? Or this propaganda war will be -- on your side you will win in this case? Very naïve question, sorry for this.
LTG OBERING: No, it's a very straightforward question and it's one that we are very interested in answering, which is yes. We are very open to Russian participation and invitation into collaboration on missile defense in the broader sense and on any level, all the way down to specifics in terms of potentially sharing data and radar data information. We will be collecting data from the radars that I talked about. The Russians have radars as well that could be very useful to the defense of Russia, obviously, and the European theater. We would love to share that data and collaborate in that. And hopefully what this will do is it will spark those discussions that have stalled in the past with respect to Russian collaboration so that we can actually welcome them as a full partner in this collaboration as we go forward.
MODERATOR: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Marcin Gadzinski, Gazeta Poland. A question for Secretary Fried, a NATO question, you said more NATO involvement the better, so what is the difference of opinion? Could you specify what you want to do and Germans and other NATO members don't want to do and what they want to do and you don't want? Could you specific more on that? What is the difference of opinion?
Also if I may, a question for General Obering, do you have a specific location in Poland that you have selected and could you name it? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: We all agree that NATO should discuss matters of common NATO security. We all agree that missile defense is an area that ought to be discussed. There is agreement at NATO that short and mid-range theater systems should be discussed and there is, as General Obering said, a NATO program office helping develop these systems. Where there needs to be more discussion is how the programs that may come into existence between the United States, Czech Republic and Poland can be fit into an all NATO system, what kind of integration and, of course, how possible collaboration with Russia would work. So these things could be -- need to be fit together and there needs to be a discussion.
But at the official level there is far more understanding, far more commonality of views than you would ever dream from reading some of the European press.
LTG OBERING: If I could -- feedback on that and then I'll answer your other question. We believe that there is a growing recognition within NATO of the threat as Ambassador Fried stated. That came out of recent communiqués. But even in our ongoing discussions with our NATO partners, both in the NATO context as well as bilaterally, we see a growing alarm over what is happening in Iran and that is being shared by the NATO partners.
To your specific question about location, we actually looked at three different locations in Poland that were nominated by the government. We have visited those sites. We will continue that evaluation. But no, we haven't specified a site. There's a preferred site but that would be up to the government of Poland to be able to announce that.
MODERATOR: Yeah, right here, the mike's coming.
QUESTION: Thanks. Tomas Zalewski Polish Press Agency. Sorry to be so repetitive, because we keep asking these questions again and again. But shouldn't the United States deploy these Patriot missiles in Poland and possibly Terminal High Altitude Defense system, as some people say, to better convince Poland that it's really in the interest in Poland and that we have some security -- additional security guarantees?
And secondly, has the chief negotiator been actually nominated after all? And when do negotiations start with Poland? Two questions, actually, or three.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, you've asked a couple of different questions buried in that. One of them is we have -- we should have with Poland a serious discussion of the additional threats, if any, that would have to be addressed if this facility were actually established. The Poles will want to have that discussion. That was clear from my talks in Warsaw. And we look forward to having it.
So we need to have a serious discussion of the threat and then the measures taken to counter that threat. There's also another question, which is what my friend and colleague Eric Edelman referred to today as ancillary benefits to Poland. Those were his words. he did some press earlier today in Berlin and I think he used that phrase. I don't know what they would be, but obviously, as our bilateral defense relationship with Poland deepens, we will be discussing a lot of thee issues.
The question though is how this benefits Polish national security. Poland will make a national decision. We will have some intensive discussions over quite a period of time to resolve these issues and share ideas, listen to Polish concerns. I look forward to those.
MODERATOR: We'll go to George (Geddes AP).
QUESTION: Also about these negotiations --
MODERATOR: One second.
QUESTION: Who the (inaudible) negotiations (inaudible) American (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: The American side?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I don't know. I don't know precisely when the negotiations will begin. We're waiting -- we're going to be talking with the Polish Government about that, and there will be -- you know, doubtless there will be a team of folks from the uniformed military, Defense Department policy side, State Department, but I don't have a name for you yet.
QUESTION: George Gedda, AP. Dan, you've mentioned two or three times the possible threat that the Poles could face, presumably from Russia. Won't the Czechs face the same threat level as the Poles? Isn't there a bit of parallelism here?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Yes, and what I said with respect to Poland applies equally to the Czech Republic. I mentioned Poland because I was recently in Warsaw, had that much on my mind. And yes, of course the remarks of a Russian general a few weeks ago about attacking these countries if they dared develop these systems was, let us say, unfortunate, of course.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) This is question for General Obering. What difference does it make for you now that the Czech Government just today agreed to start a negotiation? Does that mean you can start some other screening of the sides, some measurement, or does it make any difference on a technical level?
LTG OBERING: First of all, it represents good progress in the discussions with the Czech Republic. It also means that we can expand some of the survey work that we're doing and make sure that we fully understand the environment and do more of what we call the technical site survey work that you just described. So that is a very good sign, a very positive sign. In fact, overall, I think we're getting positive signs from both Poland and the Czech Republic with respect to collaboration and moving ahead.
MODERATOR: One right here.
QUESTION: Jim Wolf, Reuters. I wondered if I could draw you out on how possible collaboration with Russia might work. Is there any prospect for extending missile defense against long-range threats to Russian territory?
LTG OBERING: There certainly is the ability, the technical ability, to do that and we would welcome those types of discussions with the Russians. There's also capabilities that the Russians themselves have that could be incorporated, I think, into a larger system, a larger capability. Those are the types of discussions that we would like to re-engage our Russian partners on and to determine how we could move ahead in this. And like I said, it could run everything, sharing the gamut from data and information exchange all the way to potentially the interaction of systems themselves and technology exchange. It just depends on how we can characterize this and how we can move it forward.
MODERATOR: Okay, we'll take one last one from New York. Thanks.
QUESTION: Hi. Ambassador Fried, I'm Mario Calabresi from La Republica, Italy. May I give you a question about NATO and Afghanistan in the context of the future cooperation of NATO? Because yesterday the Italian parliament approved the renewal of the mission in Afghanistan and I would like if you can give us a comment on that. And also your position (inaudible) by Mr. Berlusconi (inaudible), do you have any comment on that?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We welcome the Italian parliament's decision to support its Afghanistan mission. We welcome the Italian participation and contribution to NATO's Afghan mission. I'm not going to comment on the debate except to say I'm glad it ended with an affirmative vote. And again, we very much appreciate what Italy is doing and we appreciate Italy's commitment to keep working in support of the Afghan people.
MODERATOR: Ambassador Fried, General Obering, thank you very much.
Technorati Tags: State Department and Secretary of State or Lieutenant General Henry Obering and Condoleezza Rice, or U.S. Missile Defense and U.S. State Department or NATO and Daniel Fried or European and Eurasian Affairs
Posted by sookietex at 8:38 PM || ||
|R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Washington, DC March 29, 2007. PODCAST OF THIS ARTICLE|
INTRODUCTION - Thank you, Chairman Biden, Ranking Member Lugar, and distinguished Members of the Committee.
Since that time, however, the United States – in concert with an ever-widening coalition of concerned states – has taken significant steps to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions, contain its regional trouble-making, and intensify Tehran’s isolation. We have coordinated a series of diplomatic initiatives with allies across the world to knock Iran off its stride, and I believe, put it on the defensive for the first time.
Just this past weekend, the U.S. led the Security Council in a 15-0 vote to condemn and sanction Iran for the second time in three months.
Despite the fulminations of President Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran is not impervious to financial and diplomatic pressure. It is clear to us that concerted international pressure is helping to undercut the Iranian regime’s sense of ascendancy, unnerve its overly confident leadership, and clarify to it the costs of its irresponsible behavior. Indeed, although the Iranian regime remains obstinate and we have not yet succeeded in either stopping altogether its nuclear research programs or blunting its support for terrorism, we are making progress. I believe that this active and focused diplomatic strategy is the best way forward for our country.
As you know, we face a complex, interconnected set of four crises in the Middle East: the need to achieve a stable and more peaceful Iraq; to strengthen the democratically elected government of Lebanon against Iran’s, Syria’s, and Hizballah’s attempt to unseat it; to block Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions; and to establish the foundations for peace between the Israeli and the Palestinian people. The Middle East is now the region of greatest importance for the U.S. worldwide, and our critical interests are engaged in all of these areas. But beyond our responsibility to help stabilize Iraq, nothing is more vital to the future of America’s role in the Middle East than addressing the challenges posed by the radical regime in Iran, whose public face is the vitriolic President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
For nearly three decades, dealing with Tehran’s confrontational ideology and strident anti-Americanism has been a persistent dilemma for our country. But never have the concerns regarding Iran’s intentions been more serious, the intricacies of Iranian politics more significant, or the policy imperatives more urgent than they are today. Under President Ahmad-Nejad, Tehran has embarked on a dangerous course—repeatedly defying its obligations under international law and appalling the world with the most abhorrent, irresponsible rhetoric from a world leader in many years. Ahmadi-Nejad has declared that Iran’s nuclear program has “no brakes,” and the Iranian regime has brazenly disregarded demands from both the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council for a full suspension of its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. We have created a coalition of all the leading countries of the world who are concerned that Iran’s so-called peaceful nuclear program is actually designed to produce a nuclear weapon.
Beyond its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran has endeavored to sow chaos and instability throughout the region, particularly in the precarious democracies of Iraq and Lebanon, where Iranian-funded militants seek to thwart the democratic will of the Iraqi and Lebanese people. And as the regime has escalated its long-standing and violent rejection of a Middle East peace settlement between the Israeli and the Palestinian people, its human rights record at home has once again taken a dismal turn.
In order to deal with the challenge that Iran poses, we have a policy of applying multiple points of pressure against the Iranian regime. First, we are working at the United Nations and bilaterally to increase pressure on Iran to abandon its apparent quest for a nuclear weapons capability. As a result, there is now a major international coalition of countries asking Iran to abandon a nuclear weapons capability. This coalition includes all of Europe, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Egypt, and now Indonesia and South Africa. Second, we have applied U.S. financial sanctions on Iran’s leading banks. Third, we have used our influence to convince leading European banks to stop all lending to Iran. We have convinced European governments and Japan to begin reducing export credits. Fourth, we continue our efforts to discourage the Iranian regime’s support for terrorism and extremism, while expanding engagement with the Iranian people. Finally, we have stationed two carrier battle groups in the Gulf to reassure our friends in the region that it remains an area of vital importance to us and we have taken steps to counter the destructive activities of Iran in Iraq itself. All of these points of pressure have had an impact on Iran, which is now essentially without friends on the nuclear issue.
Diplomacy is our best and preferred course of action in blocking and containing the Iranian regime. I do not believe a military confrontation with Iran is either desirable or inevitable. If we continue our skillful diplomatic course and have the patience to see it play out over the mid- to long-term, I am confident we can avoid conflict and see our strategy succeed. Our strong hope is that Iran will accept the offer to negotiate with the U.S. and our P-5 partners so that we can achieve a peaceful end to Tehran’s apparent nuclear weapons ambitions.
Any effective diplomatic strategy must provide one’s adversary with exit doors when, as Iran has certainly done, it paints itself into a diplomatic corner. We have offered the regime a path for direct dialogue, and with the passage of the new UN resolution we will reaffirm that this path remains open. We hope the Iranian regime will seek a constructive end to its isolation and choose to meet us at the negotiating table. Javier Solana has begun, on behalf of the P-5 countries and Germany, an active effort to convince the Iranian government to reconsider our negotiating offer.
We are responding to the challenge of a nuclear-armed Iran with a comprehensive strategy that relies on American diplomatic leadership and the creation over the last two years of a robust multilateral coalition. First and foremost, we have made clear to the Iranian regime that its provocative and destabilizing policies will entail painful costs, including financial hardship, diplomatic isolation, and long-term detriment to Iran’s prestige and fundamental national interests. Secondly, and equally important, we have worked to alter the regime’s actions and behavior and convince it that another, more constructive course is available to it.
We have seen both elements of this strategy play out over the past week at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where we joined our European partners—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—as well as Russia, and China in putting forward a robust new sanctions resolution that was adopted by the full Council on March 24. Iran must now face the fact that it is isolated nearly without friends in the world. In last week’s vote, the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, one of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) leaders, South Africa, and an Arab neighbor, Qatar, all voted against it. This second Chapter VII resolution in three months was a resounding repudiation of Iran’s radical nuclear course. This resolution builds on the elements of Resolution 1737, which was a significant milestone following two full years of patient diplomacy among the United States, our European partners, Russia, and China, and represented a crucial turning point in international willingness to pressure the Iranian regime to comply with its obligations.
In addition to reaffirming the requirements set out in UNSCR 1737, the new resolution is substantially stronger than the first in establishing new sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Command (IRGC), on Iran’s fifth largest bank, Bank Sepah, and on introducing for the first time, measures to reduce countries’ export credits made available to stimulate trade with Iran. The resolution establishes additional travel restrictions for Iranians involved in nuclear and ballistic missile programs; expands the number of individuals and organizations subject to travel restrictions and assets freeze; imposes a ban on Iranian arms exports (including to Hizballah and Hamas); urges countries to limit transfers of some weapons to Iran; and encourages both states and international financial institutions to halt new financial assistance agreements and loans with the Iranian government. All of these measures are carefully targeted to isolate the Iranian regime and make clear to it that it will face increasing costs for its continued defiance.
While we are acting vigorously to isolate the Iranian government, we are also offering to it a diplomatic way forward by seeking engagement with Iran. Secretary Rice and her P-5 Foreign Minister colleagues issued a statement just after the UN resolution passed last week reaffirming our strong desire to find a way to the negotiating table. Javier Solana has reached out to the Iranian government on our behalf to attempt once again to convince Iran to join the talks. For this reason, Secretary Rice has agreed to join her P5+1 colleagues in direct discussions with Iran regarding the nuclear and other issues “at any place and at any time,” provided Iran verifiably suspends its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. This avenue continues to represent the best path for Iran to satisfy the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program, and for Iran and the United States to move toward resolving our differences.
Iran must know that the world is united in our aim to deny it a nuclear weapon. Our coalition is diverse and robust, and it has only grown stronger as Iran’s defiance has persisted. Leading states across the globe – including India, Egypt, and Brazil – supported this effort at the International Atomic Energy Agency. The governments of Russia, China, Japan and our many European allies are committed to our joint effort to thwart Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. The Iranian government finds itself in profound isolation on the nuclear issue.
Outside of the Security Council, we have worked cooperatively with major governments to curtail business transactions tied to Iran’s nuclear activities and support for terrorism. Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), we have sanctioned Iran’s Bank Sepah and cut off Iranian state-owned Bank Saderat from all access to the U.S. financial system. As my colleague, Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey and I discussed with the Senate Banking Committee last week, these steps have had a snowball effect, as banks and businesses worldwide are recognizing the serious risk associated with Iran and are beginning to scale back their Iran activities. In 2006, several leading European banks reduced lending to Iran. I expect international financial institutions will make this same choice now that we have passed a second Chapter VII resolution.
We have also acted to blunt Iran’s regional ambitions. In Iraq, Iran continues to provide lethal support to select groups of Shia militants who target and kill U.S. and Coalition troops, as well as innocent Iraqis. We have made clear to Tehran that this is absolutely unacceptable, and our troops on the ground in Iraq are acting to disrupt Iran’s networks in Iraq that provide deadly weapons to Iraqi groups. These actions are consistent with the mandate granted to the Multi-National Forces in Iraq by both the United Nations Security Council and the Iraqi Government to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of Iraq’s security and stability. We have an absolute and indisputable obligation to defend our soldiers from such attacks.
At the same time, we are supporting the Iraqi Government’s efforts to solicit international support for stabilizing Iraq. To this end, the United States joined representatives of Iraq’s neighbors and the P5 in Baghdad on March 10 as part of an Iraqi-led effort to discuss strategies to end bloodshed and sectarianism. We hope Iran will commit itself to a constructive and positive role in Iraq as a result of those discussions, and along with other neighbors it will work for peace and stability in the region. We expect these discussions with all of Iraq’s neighbors and other concerned countries to resume in the near future.
We are also working with France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and others to signal our strong support for Prime Minister Siniora’s democratically elected government in Lebanon, to enforce the arms embargo imposed by Security Council Resolution 1701, and to prevent Iran and Syria from rearming Hizballah. We have stationed two carrier battle groups in the Gulf, not to provoke Iran, but to reassure our friends in the region that it remains an area of vital importance to us. And at the regional level, Secretary Rice last autumn launched a series of ongoing discussions with our Gulf Cooperation Council partners, as well as Egypt and Jordan, regarding issues of shared concern, including most especially the threat posed by Iran.
Combined with our long-term efforts to promote peace and stability in the region and reassure allies, including Israel, these steps mark the natural evolution of our efforts to demonstrate international resolve against Iran’s disregard for international law and its aspirations to dominate the region. And they have all had an impact. Iran is now more isolated and under more intense international scrutiny than ever before.
Part of charting a new course for U.S.-Iranian relations is intensifying our engagement with the Iranian people. While it is now not feasible for us to have formal diplomatic relations with Iran, it is within our grasp to bridge the divide between our peoples. So in addition to our diplomatic efforts to persuade Tehran to alter its foreign policy, we have launched a program to increase contacts between the American and Iranian peoples. We sent the U.S. National Wresting Team to compete in Iran in January; we are also bringing hundreds of Iranians on exchange programs to the United States. These efforts have been helped tremendously by Congressional support for the Administration’s 2006 supplemental funding request. In the long-term, assuaging the separation between our peoples is critical to overcoming the nearly 30-years estrangement that currently divides the U.S. from Iran.
Our diplomatic success vis-à-vis Tehran, and the endurance and vitality of our international coalition, are no small achievements. They reflect the leadership of President Bush and the sustained efforts of Secretary Rice, the State Department, and contributions from other government agencies. As the President and Secretary Rice have reiterated—and I cannot emphasize this enough—we seek a diplomatic solution to the challenges posed by Iran.
Today, I would like to provide some details on the additional steps we are pursuing at the United Nations and bilaterally to increase pressure on Iran to abandon its quest for a nuclear weapons capability. I will also touch briefly on our continued efforts to discourage the Iranian regime’s support for terrorism and extremism, while expanding engagement with the Iranian people.
IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION - The greatest immediate threat posed by the Iranian regime is its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. For some 18 years, Iranian leaders pursued a clandestine enrichment program and other undeclared nuclear activities in violation of their international obligations. It is this continued abuse of the world’s trust that is at the heart of the international community’s impasse with Iran.
The United States and the entire permanent membership of the UN Security Council recognize Iran’s right to peaceful, civil nuclear energy under relevant articles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, that right comes with responsibilities, paramount among them a legal obligation to forgo the pursuit of nuclear weapons and to subject all nuclear activities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. As IAEA Director General ElBaradei’s most recent report to the Security Council makes clear, the Iranian regime remains in noncompliance with its international obligations and has been anything but transparent. Despite multiple requests over more than three years, the regime has yet to clarify several outstanding issues and the IAEA is unable to verify that Iran’s program is solely peaceful.
A review of Dr. ElBaradei’s report is instructive and alarming. Iran has repeatedly failed not only to meet the IAEA’s requirements; it has also failed to even have the courtesy of responding to many of the IAEA’s direct questions on behalf of a concerned international community.
The regime has refused to enable the IAEA to clarify the past history of its P1/P2 centrifuge work, plutonium separation experiments, and uranium contamination. It has refused to agree to IAEA requests for access to Iranian officials and documentation, including a 15-page document that describes the procedures for casting and machining uranium into hemispheres, for which the only plausible purpose is manufacturing nuclear weapons. And it has refused to accept and implement the safeguards measures that the IAEA believes are necessary to ensure non-diversion of enriched uranium at the Natanz enrichment plant.
The Iranian regime has, of course, had sufficient time to clarify questions regarding its nuclear activities. Since 2003, the IAEA Board of Governors has called on Iran to meet its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The UN Security Council called on Iran several times—both in March 2006 and again in July 2006—to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and to cooperate with the IAEA’s ongoing inspections. Iran, however, ignored these requests as well as the generous P5+1 incentives package offered last June. Faced with the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for its international nuclear obligations, the UN Security Council had no choice but to unanimously adopt Resolution 1737 on December 23, 2006, and 1747 on March 24, 2007. If Iran does not comply with UN Resolution 1747 by May 24, it will be subject to even stronger sanctions in a third resolution. And in the face of Iran’s continued defiance, we expect that the Council will continue to incrementally increase pressure on Iran.
While President Ahmadi-Nejad continues to scorn the Security Council’s efforts and declare its Resolutions “torn pieces of paper,” we have observed that the international community is increasingly determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. We see evidence of this in our unprecedented cooperation with our European partners at the UNSC—cooperation one country recently described as “the best in more than a decade.” We see evidence of this in Russia’s decision to suspend cooperation on the Bushehr reactor until Iran complies with its international obligations. And we see evidence of this in the international community’s concerted efforts to implement these two Chapter VII sanctions resolutions and cooperate on other financial measures outside of the UNSC framework.
FINANCIAL PRESSURES - Over the past several months, Treasury Department Under Secretary Stuart Levey and I have engaged with foreign governments and private firms, reminding them of the financial and reputational risks of doing business with Iran. Iran is one of the largest beneficiaries of official export credits and guarantees, with $22.3 billion in exposure reported by OECD countries as of the end of 2005. Noting that a number of major international banks have now reduced their business with Iran, we are also encouraging governments in Europe and Asia to reduce the official export credits they provide to Iran. Governments should not take on the financial risk that private companies are facing in that country. Europe should now repudiate a business as usual approach with Iran. Many countries share our concerns and are starting to decrease their official lending.
Some countries have capped their exposure at current levels, while others have begun scrutinizing Iranian credit applications to ensure they comply with the strict, nonproliferation guidelines contained in Resolution 1737. France, Germany, and Japan have reduced export credits limits sharply for Iran, while others have committed privately to doing the same, and especially, reducing the medium and long-term credits that Iran uses for capital goods and project finance.
Under domestic legal authorities, we have designated Iranian entities associated with Iran’s weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, effectively denying them access to the U.S. financial system. Termination of Iran-based Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat’s ability to conduct transactions in dollars has further limited that access and we are asking other nations to follow our lead.
We also worked last year with Congress on the reauthorization and amendment of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) which, thanks to the success of our diplomatic and economic efforts with respect to Libya, is now simply the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). ISA has been valuable in emphasizing to foreign government our concerns about Iran and highlighting the risks of investing there. Indeed, we attribute the continued lack of investment in Iran’s oil and gas sectors, in part, to ISA. We could not support, however, modifications to this act now being circulated in Congress that would turn the full weight of sanctions not against Iran but against our allies that are instrumental in our coalition against Iran.
We will continue to engage relevant companies and countries regarding their potential investment in Iran’s oil and gas sector. In making clear our opposition to such deal, we have emphasized how they would undermine international efforts to resolve the nuclear issue, as well as the legal implications of future investment under our law. Most of these deals remain in the negotiation stage. Our discussions are intended to diminish the likelihood of seeing them finalized. More broadly, Iran continues to encounter great difficulties in attracting foreign investment to its hydrocarbon sector and few foreign companies have committed to developing Iranian oil and gas fields. Iran’s own behavior and policies have contributed to this situation, but ISA has also helped.
The net-effect of these efforts, along with those at the UN, has been to make it more difficult for the Iranian regime to funds its illegal nuclear efforts.
CURBING IRAN’S DESTABILIZING ACTIONS ABROAD - Looking beyond its nuclear aspirations, the Iranian regime’s aggressive foreign policy and hegemonic aspirations constitute an increasing threat to regional security and U.S. interests.
I noted in my opening remarks our serious concerns regarding Iran’s lethal support to Iraqi militants, and the steps we are taking to counter thee destructive activities in Iraq. But Iranian interference is also evident in Lebanon, where its efforts to rearm and financially bolster Hizballah threaten to set back the democratic progress of the past two years. President Ahmadi-Nejad’s repeated threats to “wipe Israel off of the map,” and the regime’s internationally condemned Holocaust denial conference in December, highlight regime hostility toward a major U.S. partner and a United Nations member-state—as does continued Iranian financial and military support to Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
As Secretary Rice noted during recent testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, we are intensifying our efforts to lay the foundation for a Palestinian state that can exist peacefully alongside Israel. We have also enhanced our support to Lebanon’s democratically elected government, and will sustain our efforts to enforce all applicable UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to the rearmament of Hizballah. Secretary Rice’s trip to the Middle East this week sought to achieve these important objectives.
More broadly, we are enhancing our security cooperation with longstanding partners throughout the region. The deployment of a second aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf reinforces these efforts, reassures our allies, and underscores to Tehran our commitment to protect our vital interests.
BLOCKING IRAN’S SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM - No discussion of Iran would be complete without mentioning the regime’s long and established record of supporting terrorism.
Tehran has long been the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism; the regime sponsored and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in the 1980s and 1990s. Through its efforts to rearm Hizballah, the Iranian regime has violated its obligations under UNSCR 1701 and it has violated UNSCR 1267 and successor resolutions by failing to impose sanctions on al-Qaida and continues to refuse to bring to justice or confirm the whereabouts of senior al-Qaida members it detained in 2003.
Recognizing Iran’s role as the central banker of global terrorism, the Departments of State and the Treasury have enlisted foreign support in efforts to deny suspect Iranian individuals and entities access to the international financial system. The termination of Iranian Bank Saderat’s “U-turn” authorization effectively prohibits one of Iran’s largest banks from conducting business in U.S. dollars.
Utilizing E.O. 13224, Treasury has also designated two entities (Bayt al-Mal and the Yousser Company for Finance and Investment) that have functioned as Hizballah’s unofficial treasury by holding and investing the group’s assets and serving as intermediaries between the terrorist organization and international banks. Additionally, we have disrupted Hizballah’s financial support network by designating and blocking the assets of individuals and two entities affiliated with Hizballah in the Tri-Border region of South America.
EMPOWERING IRANIAN CIVIL SOCIETY - Before I conclude, I would like to discuss briefly the Iranian regime’s repressive treatment of its own people. The regime recently celebrated the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution. But the history of the past 28 years has been a betrayal of the aspirations of the Iranian people.
The regime’s record of human rights abuse remains among the worst in the world. As our recently released annual Human Rights Report emphasizes, this record has worsened over the past year. The regime denies its people freedom of expression by cracking down on journalists and bloggers, closing independent newspapers, censoring internet use and blocking satellite dish ownership—all in an effort to control its citizens’ access to information. These actions prompt a basic question: why is this regime so afraid of its own people?
We believe the Iranian people deserve better from their leaders. To counter the regime’s abuses, we are promoting greater freedom in Iran by funding a variety of civil society programs.
As a result of the generous $66.1 million in funding from Congress in the FY 06 Supplemental, we have implemented a wide range of democracy, educational, and cultural programs, as well as significantly expanded our efforts to improve the free flow of information to the Iranian people. $20 million of these funds are going to support civil society, human rights, democratic reform and related outreach, while $5 million was given to the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) for increased Persian language electronic and speaker programming about American society, institutions, policy and values. An additional $5 million was allocated to the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) for new cultural and educational exchange programs to increase mutual understanding between our two peoples. The Congress allocated the remaining $36.1 million of FY 2006 supplemental Iran funds directly to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for media programming into Iran, including our VOA Farsi television service and Radio Farda.
Our programs are open to all who are committed to peaceful, democratic progress in Iran. Their goal is to support different parts of Iranian society by promoting basic human rights and religious freedoms; building civil society; improving justice, accessibility and the rule of law; and promoting a deeper understanding of our culture, values, and ideas.
Given Iran’s restricted political climate, progress toward our goals has been predictably difficult. But we are moving forward, and many brave men and women are helping promote basic civil rights and the necessity of political dialogue. In the long-term, we hope that a more open political climate that encourages, rather represses, dialogue, will stimulate a change in the behavior of the Iranian Government.
ENGAGING THE IRANIAN PEOPLE - State Department officials are also reaching out to the Iranian people to convey our policies. Secretary Rice and I have given interviews on Persian language media highlighting the Iranian people’s aspirations for increased respect for human rights and civil liberties, as well as a more democratic, open government.
With the recently appropriated funds, the United States has resumed official educational and cultural exchange programs between the United States and Iran, which the U.S. Government suspended at the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. In late 2006, a group of medical professionals were the first Iranians to visit the United States as part of this reinvigorated effort. Their non-political visit brought them in contact with medical professionals from the Centers for Disease Control, Harvard Medical School, and other major medical institutions. Several professional, athletic, and cultural exchanges are planned for 2007, with the goal of building greater understanding between the people of the United States and of Iran. Additionally, we are encouraging American athletes, artists, religious leaders and others to visit Iran, as well, to help promote greater mutual understanding. It is our hope that increased exchanges will provide the Iranian people with a clearer and more accurate understanding of American society, culture and democratic values.
For FY 2008, the President has requested over $100 million in Iran funding, including roughly $20 million for VOA’s Persian service and $8.1 million for Radio Farda, as well as $5.5 for consular affairs, and $75 million in economic support funds to civil society and human rights projects in Iran. We appreciate the Committee’s continued support of efforts in these areas which are a vital component of our comprehensive Iran strategy.
CONCLUSION - The United States is committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution to the challenges posed by Iran and we are making every effort to improve U.S.-Iranian relations. But that cannot happen without a change in the Iranian regime’s actions and policies.
Secretary Rice offered the Iranian Government an extraordinary opportunity, in June 2006, when she pledged to engage in direct talks alongside Russian, China, and our European partners if Iran verifiably suspends enrichment and cooperates with the IAEA. This offer remains on the table, and we will continue to make clear to the Iranian regime that the best to way to ensure its security is by complying with, not ignoring its international nuclear obligations and by seeking peace through negotiations with the U.S. and our partners. As the President has stated, we look forward to the day when the Iranian people live in freedom and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.
Released on March 29, 2007
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Posted by sookietex at 6:17 PM || ||
Thursday, March 29, 2007
|Press Briefing by Dana Perino, White House Conference Center Briefing Room, FULL STREAMING VIDEO, Dana M. Perino Biography, 12:30 P.M. EDT . PODCAST OF ARTICLE|
MS. PERINO: Just a couple of announcements, and then we'll go to questions. You heard the President this morning.
There is one new data point on this today that I want to make you aware of. As we've said, there are very real consequences for delaying action on the emergency spending bill. The President spent his urgent request for funds to support the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan 52 days ago. Our troops are in harm's way and engaged with the enemy, and they need the funds. Just this morning the Department of Defense notified Congress that in order to meet the force protection needs of the Marine Corps and the Army we are borrowing funds from other important Marine and Army procurement programs. That is taking funding intended for medium tactical vehicle replacement, Humvees and Humvee equipment, the tactical communications modernization program, and upgrades to other vehicles.
This reprogramming will then accelerate delivery of nearly 300 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles that were included in the President's supplemental request and are needed by our troops on the ground. This reprogramming of funds is only necessary because Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the President's emergency funding request. And so this, again, underscores the need to get this show on the road, get the bill to the President, he will veto it, and then we'll take it from there.
In addition today, the President talked to the members about the 2008 budget resolution. So a couple of comments on that. As you've heard the Democrats say that they campaigned on fiscal discipline, that they embrace the goal of a balanced budget, but unfortunately the substance of their bill does not match that rhetoric. Their path is so-called fiscal discipline, but it's paved with tax increases, spending increases, and then it ignores our biggest budgetary challenge, which is entitlement spending. Make no mistake, failing to extend tax relief is a tax increase, period.
And by contrast, the President's budget balances the budget without raising taxes. The Democrats' budget also increases day-to-day government spending by nearly $213 billion over five years. That is not offset. And the President talked with the House Republican members today about that as they continue debate throughout the rest of this week.
Q Kyle Sampson testified today, as you know. He said, "I don't think the Attorney General's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate. I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign." What's the White House reaction to that? Do you feel like Attorney General Gonzales needs to get up to the Hill much more quickly to explain himself?
MS. PERINO: Well, he's said, as the President has said since we were in Mérida, Mexico, that, yes, the Attorney General has some work to do up on Capitol Hill; that he wasn't satisfied with incomplete or inconsistent information being provided to Capitol Hill. I personally did not get to see Kyle Sampson's testimony. I take your word for it that those are his words, but, yes, the Justice Department has work to do. I think that that is underway. The Attorney General has been not only traveling the country talking to the U.S. attorneys offices to let them know that they have his full faith and confidence, and to keep open lines of communication, and talk with them about how to better improve communication within the department.
Q But if this right that the Attorney General actually was involved in the process, which is different from what he has said, would that change the President's support for him?
MS. PERINO: I think the key to that is "if," and I know that the Attorney General is going to be testifying in front of Congress, and I think it's best for me to allow the Attorney General to either explain further today, if they choose to, or to wait for his testimony.
Q But would the President not want to get in touch with him before April 17th and say, what's the real story here?
MS. PERINO: I will find out if they're going to talk beforehand. Obviously it's kind of a long way away, a little bit more than three weeks.
Q It's a little longer than you want it to hang there, right?
MS. PERINO: Correct, and so I think that we need to -- I'll need to find out if the President is going to talk -- be talking to him beforehand. I'm assuming that they probably would, whether it be specifically about this, or in the context of other meetings.
Q Have they had any conversations since the one conversation the President said he's had with the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: Not one that I was made aware of or that I could tell you about. I don't know if they've had any other communication, no.
Q Can you sort of characterize -- because this really, this morning, brought into very sharp focus a dispute -- I mean, essentially, the Attorney General's former chief of staff is calling into direct question the crux of what the Attorney General has said about having never had any conversations. He's counting at least five conversations they've had. So how can the Attorney General, in your opinion, continue to be effective if, apparently, he stood up and said something that was categorically false?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to let the Justice Department and the Attorney General speak for himself. And, obviously, I understand how people can have different recollections, and I'm going to have to let the Attorney General speak for himself. And I do understand that --
Q He doesn't seem to have any great urgency to do that. He's going to let this hang another three weeks.
MS. PERINO: I disagree. I think that the legislative calendar and his request for testimony is not made on the AG's timetable, it's made by -- it's at the request of members of Congress. I believe they set the date. Democrats run the Congress, they run the scheduling, so I think that wasn't the Attorney General's choice.
Q So the delay between when the President asked him to get up to Capitol Hill and explain himself and April 17th is entirely the Hill's making?
MS. PERINO: No, I think that you can talk to the Hill -- you can talk to the Hill in a variety of ways. That doesn't necessarily mean a hearing. You can go up and have --
Q And has the Attorney General chosen to do that?
MS. PERINO: I don't keep track of the Attorney General's schedule. I know that the department has been in contact with Capitol Hill. Obviously the Attorney General has had some travel. And our staff also has been up on Capitol Hill, letting people know that the Attorney General has the confidence of the President, and also reminding them that the President has said that he wants the Justice Department to be fully responsive to the Congress's requests. And that remains true today.
Q Dana, does the President's support of Gonzales remain contingent in some way on how Gonzales performs during his testimony on Capitol Hill?
MS. PERINO: I don't know if I would put it that way -- it's that the President wants the Justice Department to be fully responsive. And I think that the Attorney General, when he goes up, will have that opportunity to talk to the American people and the --
Q The President said that he's got work to do; others in the White House say he's got to go up there and adequately address these concerns. And so that leads to the question of whether or not the President is looking for results out of that testimony.
MS. PERINO: I would say that it's not just testimony. I think that there's a lot of things that you can do -- we're in regular contact with members of Congress all the time. And so there's -- testimony is one aspect of many different ways that you can talk to Congress and talk to your department and making sure that they understand where your head is.
Q But if Congress remains dissatisfied, both Republicans and Democrats, with the competency and credibility of his Attorney General, are you saying today that the President will continue to stand behind him?
MS. PERINO: Yes, the President has confidence in the Attorney General. And if that changes for any of us that serve at the pleasure of the President, if we fail to continue to keep the President's pleasure, then we no longer work here.
Q Let me switch to Iraq. You say that these bills will be vetoed, and then you want a clean bill out of Congress. The reality is the Democrats who run Congress have registered a very serious challenge to the President's war strategy. So where do -- where does the White House go from here in terms of negotiating with Congress in a way that can actually absorb the statement the Democrats have made about the desire to set a date certain to end the war? Or is there zero room for compromise in this --
MS. PERINO: I wouldn't say there's zero room. I think that obviously in our legislative system, as wonderful as it is, there is this give-and-take. The President has been clear that he does not want to tie the hands of our generals and he does think that having a date certain for when you would have to withdraw is a signal to the enemy for when they just need to lie in wait, regroup, and then come -- and sit ready to disrupt the sovereign government of Iraq.
If they want to compromise -- and I understand that the Speaker and the Majority Leader said that they do -- then we're willing to talk to them on ways that their bills can be changed in order to get to the President's desk so that it doesn't meet his veto.
Now, their proposal is well outside of the mainstream. This is not a moderate bill. It is contrary to the Baker-Hamilton report. It's contrary to the judgment of the President's military advisors, and it's contrary to the unanimous judgment of our intelligence community. So as I've said before, they've cobbled together a bare majority, using extra domestic spending for spinach and peanuts, and we've said it many times, tropical fish. They've used all of those tactics in order to get the bare majority. They're not going to be able to sustain the President's veto. And so I think that the best thing for everyone to do is if they really want to get this bill to the President's desk, let's do that, let's get it over with and get the veto done.
Q But can the President support anything that approaches, whether it's -- if not a time certain, a desire, a kind of time line, can he abide by any kind of goal for the withdrawal of troops, even if it's non-binding?
MS. PERINO: I think I will decline to negotiate from here. I think that those are important conversations that need to happen between our members -- members of our administration, especially our Legislative Affairs staff, talking with members of Congress and the Hill about where they might be able to reach some sort of common ground.
Now, an arbitrary time line for withdrawal is what the President said that he would not accept. And so I don't believe there's --
Q But there are other ways to get at that -- that's what you're suggesting? There's room for discussion on that?
MS. PERINO: I'm just not going to rule it out. I won't rule them out.
Q I have two questions on the Middle East. Has the President been in touch with King Abdullah on his critical comments that we're wrong to be in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm -- no. The President only spoke to President Roh this morning, of South Korea. There have been no other calls that I know of.
Let me just remind you of something I said this morning, which is the United States and Saudi Arabia cooperate on a wide number of issues. It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq. We are there under --
Q It is not right to say we're occupying Iraq --
MS. PERINO: That's right.
Q -- with 150,000 troops there?
MS. PERINO: Helen, we are there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq that was democratically elected --
Q Did we invade that country?
MS. PERINO: We were there under the U.N. Security Council resolution, and we are there now at the -- I think one of the things to point out -- and I think somebody brought up the Talabani comments this morning -- is that he was talking about the initial when we -- initially when we went in, of establishing a coalition provisional authority, rather than an Iraqi provisional authority. And we were there --
Q Did we have a right to go in?
MS. PERINO: We were there under a U.N. mandate, yes.
Q I have another question then. Does the U.S. take any responsibility for the reign of terror in Tal Afar yesterday between the Sunnis and the Shiites, where the Sunnis were killed, execution style, about 70 or so?
MS. PERINO: It was a horrible and atrocious day. I think that the people --
Q Well, do we take any responsibility for that?
MS. PERINO: I think the people who committed those atrocities are the ones who are responsible. And I know that the United States forces, the coalition forces that are there, who are working alongside the Iraqi security forces, are working to bring security to the region.
This is exactly what we're talking about --
Q We had nothing to do with their killing each other?
MS. PERINO: The people who commit atrocities are the ones who are responsible for committing atrocities.
Q But, Dana, what about the apparent situation where the revenge killings were conducted, at least in part, by Iraqi police officers? We're talking about Iraqi police actually trained by the United States, by the coalition.
MS. PERINO: I've seen parts of those reports. I don't have a full report in terms of all that happened there. Clearly, it's very disturbing if there are police officers that people are supposed to be able to trust committing such atrocities. I did hear also a report -- and I hesitate to say it because I don't have all of the facts -- but that the Iraqi army went in and tried to help secure the situation. And that's what we need, is that the Iraqi forces there being able to take over their own security. And if there are problems with the police forces, and clearly this would be one of them -- that they need to go in there and purge those individuals from those positions of authority and the positions of trust that the Iraqi citizens should be able to have, and get them out of there, and allow for the peace to take over. And that's what General Petraeus is working on.
It's a serious situation. We've got a lot of work to do.
Q What are you doing to help Britain get freedom for the 15 sailors in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: As I told you yesterday --
Q Are you working at the U.N.? are there any activities at the U.N. to try to work on that?
MS. PERINO: I don't know if there's any activities at the United Nations. I do know that the President spoke to Tony Blair yesterday; we are fully supportive of Tony Blair and we want Iran to heed the calls of Tony Blair to release those soldiers immediately and unconditionally.
Q And on the Saudi, are you seeking any -- were you surprised by the King's comments, and are you seeking any clarification?
MS. PERINO: I'm sure that we're in communication with the Saudis. I don't know if we're seeking clarification. In terms of his comments about Iraq, or the other?
Q Yes, about occupation.
MS. PERINO: I don't have an update for -- I don't know if we're talking to them.
Q Dana, back on the British-Iran issue, what are the thoughts of the White House officials about the fact that Iran is reneging on letting the female sailor go?
MS. PERINO: Again, the President backs Tony Blair, and Tony Blair has said that Iran should unconditionally and immediately release all of the prisoners -- all of the soldiers -- sorry, I didn't mean to call them prisoners.
Q Is this indicative of Iran -- of Iranian policies or strategies, how they turn back on what they say?
MS. PERINO: You can be the judge of that. I think it's pretty clear.
Q Dana, the President's meeting today with House Republicans, it was the first time, you said, that the full conference --
MS. PERINO: Had come down to the White House. He had met with the full conference up on Capitol Hill, but this is the first time they've been down to the White House.
Q And afterwards he came out and made a 90-second statement, basically reiterating his veto threat.
MS. PERINO: We're counting?
Q Well, it was short, very brief, as promised. But is the President trying to demonstrate that he is still carrying out the nation's business, even as this investigation is going on on Capitol Hill?
MS. PERINO: Well, the fact is that we are. And the President was there to talk about the two major issues that are happening on Capitol Hill right now, which is the debate on the Iraq war supplemental and fully funding our troops, and the debate on the 2008 budget resolution.
Q But is it a distraction as the President tries to --
MS. PERINO: He's not distracted. There's a lot of people here in the administration to work on all of these different issues, and that includes the -- other issues that came up today are immigration, and education, health care, trade. And there's a lot of issues going on, and we're marching forward on all of them.
Q But I've asked this before, I mean, on all those issues you just mentioned, is it getting stepped on, what the President wants to do now in his remaining time in office --
MS. PERINO: This administration, since September 11th, has been no short -- not short of any major issues happening all at one time. And so we're quite used to being able to handle multiple issues at the same time. We have to, it's our responsibility to the American people.
Q The President's call to South Korea this morning, who initiated that call?
MS. PERINO: I don't know. Our President. Gordon helps from the side.
Q Thank you. Did he make any headway in the talks, trade talks?
MS. PERINO: I don't have any specifics on that. They did talk about the free trade agreement, among other things.
Q I was wondering if he had any further details --
MS. PERINO: No update.
Q And also, on the immigration, can you give us a readout on what they talked about in the GOP conference this morning on immigration policy?
MS. PERINO: Part of the House Republican Conference was a chance for members and the President to have a give-and-take and for the members to ask questions. And so there was just additional conversation about immigration. And we've been working hard to make sure that we can get a bill passed by August, which is what the President called for.
Q You said that the congressional war resolutions are inconsistent with the Iraq Study Group. Do you include the Senate plan, which, as I understand it, asks for a goal, but not a firm deadline, of removing them by March 2008? How is that different from the --
MS. PERINO: Well, the one thing I understand about the Senate bill is that it calls for troops to start withdrawing in 120 days, with the goal of being out March of 2008. And I think the President sees that as an arbitrary timetable.
Q But that's meant to be a goal as opposed to a firm --
MS. PERINO: The goal is to get American troops home as soon as possible, but to do it in a way that is one where they can complete the mission.
Q How is that different from what the Iraq Study Group said?
MS. PERINO: Well, the Iraq Study Group --
Q They also said that they would like a goal of removing combat troops by March 2008.
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that the piece that I would point to in the Senate bill is where they say that troops need to start leaving within 120 days.
Q Well, to get out by March 2008, you logistically have to, so that's not really all that --
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that that's just signaling -- I mean, that's like this is the bill for our defeat, this is the bill that mandates our failure. You start walking away in 120 days, and what does that do for the Iraqis that we promised we'll be there and we'll be able to help them secure their country?
Q That may or may not be. That's not my question. My question is, how is that inconsistent with the Iraq Study Group?
MS. PERINO: Regarding the Senate bill? I'll take a look and get back to you.* (see footnote)
Q Dana, could you reflect on the White House and the President's feelings before he attends, about the Tuskegee Airmen receiving the Congressional Gold Medal today? One hundred sixty black World War II aviators were not given their just deserves back then, and now they're being recognized. Many of them have passed away.
MS. PERINO: Of course, the President is really looking forward to going up to Capitol Hill today. He's going to be with -- this is one of those great things about our country, that we can fight about the Iraq war supplemental and the budget in the morning, then we can come together in the afternoon in a really special ceremony for the Tuskegee Airmen. And all of them deserve the special honor that they're getting today. And, of course, it's tragic that some did not live to get that honor.
Q Does this come full circle for many in the service right now, fighting the war on terror? Because many say that those in the infantry that are fighting, it's a disproportionate number of minorities fighting, blacks and browns. What does this say to those that, years ago in World War II, blacks, African Americans were not recognized for their valiance and valor in the war, now that this is happening now during the time that they are fighting valiantly in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I think the President could not have any stronger feelings about how grateful he is to each and every one of the soldiers that is fighting for us. They are amazing and that goes to their families, as well.
Let me go over here, to Olivier.
Q Dana, right before your briefing, Nick Burns came out and said the United States is looking for clarification on that Saudi comment. You have a disagreement about that, a pretty firm one. I assume you don't agree with the Saudi Foreign Minister saying that Israel basically never wants peace in the region. You have two big breaks -- you said the United States and Saudi Arabia are cooperating on a number of issue. We have two major breaks on two major American priorities. How can you give Saudi-American relations a clean bill of health under those circumstances?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that in any relationship, there is ebbs and flows. We have been close and cooperative with the Saudis, especially in regards to the war on terror, since 9/11. We appreciate those efforts. Clearly, in any type of relationship, especially between powers, when all of us as a world, we're under a lot of pressure -- we all want to see peace in the Middle East, and I certainly -- I include Israel in that camp. And we're going to continue to work hard. I will check on the -- what you said where Jonathan Burns of The New York Times is telling us what we're doing.
Q No, no, Nick Burns.
MS. PERINO: Nick Burns came out.
Q Nick Burns, yes.
MS. PERINO: Nick Burns came out. Oh, I thought you said, Jonathan Burns.
Q Would it be fair, then, to call this one the --
MS. PERINO: Nick Burns would probably know. (Laughter.)
Q So this would be one of ebbs, rather than one of the flows? Is that a fair characterization? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Yes. Go ahead.
Q Dana, going back to the 2008 budget resolution, when you were talking about an increase of taxes, which I guess -- are meaning it doesn't extend the Bush tax cuts --
MS. PERINO: Correct. And so it will end up being the largest tax increase in American history.
Q If the GOP, when it was in control of Congress, couldn't extend them either, what could the President expect to get from a Democratically-controlled Congress?
MS. PERINO: Well, fair point. Obviously, our system of -- we would have liked to have seen a budget passed last year. That didn't happen. A continuing resolution had to be passed in February. And so we expect to see tax relief for the American people, because -- especially because it's not just tax relief for tax relief's sake, it's because it has results. We've had a strong and growing economy because of the President's tax cuts early on, and that's one of the things that the President wants to keep going throughout his administration. We've got 22 months left, or so.
Q Can he get that from a Democratically-controlled Congress?
MS. PERINO: We're going to work on it.
Q Thank you. Welcome again.
MS. PERINO: Thank you, Sarah.
Q Yesterday and today, you said the President will negotiate with the Congress to get a military spending bill that he can sign. There are no indications the Democrat-controlled Congress is going to budge. So where is he going to get the billions he needs to fund the war?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think you have to take Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi at their word when they say they want to work with the President. And so we have an open door.
Q When does the money issue become really critical? You said there -- already, the Pentagon is beginning to take steps. But when does this become something that's actually going to --
MS. PERINO: Secretary Gates -- Secretary Gates said last week, April 15th.
Q But when does it begin to affect our troops in Iraq? I mean, April 15th, we start moving -- I mean, how -- when do we hit kind of a crisis situation on war funding as a result of this --
MS. PERINO: Secretary Gates was going to be testifying on Capitol Hill today. I know this was going to be a topic. If I can refer to that for now, and then we'll see if we can get you some more. I'll work with OMB on that.
Q Congressman Murtha was very firm on saying that the testimony today was about the budget, the OA budget, not the supplemental.
MS. PERINO: I wonder if Secretary Gates will be able to get a word in. (Laughter.)
John -- let me go to John.
Q Back on the Attorney General for a second. Is the White House going to encourage the Attorney General to try to bring some further clarity to this situation before the middle of April when it's -- you've got a long stretch of time in front of you where his -- you know his public position on his previous statements is not going to be --
MS. PERINO: I would think so, but I'm not -- I don't have a crystal ball to tell you exactly what the Justice Department is going to plan to do in terms of their PR schedule. If we get more on it, we'll let you know, but I'd refer you over to Justice Department. I agree three weeks is a long time.
Q Dana, thank you. Two questions.
MS. PERINO: Quickly. Quick questions? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q More than half of page two of yesterday's Washington Post, under the headline, "Defender of the Second Amendment, if Not His Aide," reports how Senator Webb's aide Phillip Thompson was held for 28 hours in jail because he inadvertently walked into the Russell Senate Office Building with Senator Webb's loaded gun and two loaded magazines in his briefcase.
MS. PERINO: And your question is?
Q And my question, you have no doubt in your mind, do you, Dana, that the President would immediately intervene on your behalf, rather than leave you in jail for 28 hours, in the event you inadvertently carried his gun and ammo in a briefcase into the Russell Building? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: I'm not so sure. I'm not so sure I have that much -- the President has that much confidence in me.
Q Oh, you know he does.
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to comment. What's your next one? Hurry up. (Laughter.)
Q Your flight is leaving. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: The doors are closing. (Laughter.)
Q Vermont's Senator Leahy, in reference to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys said, "Not since the Saturday night massacre when President Nixon forced the firing of the Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox, have we witnessed anything of this magnitude." Question, does the President believe that Senator Leahy has somehow forgotten how Bill Clinton and Janet Reno fired 93 U.S. attorneys in one day?
MS. PERINO: I hope not. It was a long time ago, but there seems to be a lot going on on Capitol Hill where people, both testifying and asking questions, seem to not have good recollections.
Goyal, can we do quick?
Q Yes, quick.
Q Why is the quickness now, instead of for the front row here, Dana?
MS. PERINO: They're pretty quick.
Q First of all, you are really representing our dear friend Tony, and the President well in this briefing room. My Question is, quick, that when the international community, especially the United States, got freedom for the millions of Afghans, they had faith and trust in the United States. Today, they have no faith in NATO and in Karzai government, and what they are saying is really, where their future is going. As far as my question is concerned, is this because of the money problem, or some kind of coordination of -- they're not united in the area as NATO is concerned. What's the problem?
MS. PERINO: I think, Goyal, that it just takes a while. And these things don't happen overnight, and it just takes sustained effort and patience and commitment.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: In the back.
Q Thank you, Dana. President Bush called South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun this morning, and discussing on the FTA issues. Can you read out the conversation between President Bush and South Korean --
MS. PERINO: Well, what I know is that they spoke for a few minutes this morning. They spoke about the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations. We remain hopeful about getting that done, and then they also spoke about the next steps in implementation of the six-party talks, and then the February 13th agreement regarding North Korea.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: You're welcome. Thank you.
END 12:56 P.M. EDT
* Footnote: The Senate bill calls for an arbitrary retreat beginning in 120 days after passage of its legislation. This is not a goal, it is a rigid and arbitrary deadline. The bill states: "The President shall commence the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act." Baker Hamilton explicitly rejected this approach, saying: "The point is not for the U.S. to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose."
That the Senate bill also sets as a "goal" the completion of this withdrawal by March 31, 2008, does not change the mandatory requirement that withdrawal begin by a date certain -- regardless of facts on the ground or the views of U.S. military commanders in the field
For Immediate Release, Office of the Press Secretary, March 29, 2007
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