February 12, 2007

tonysnow-press.jpg Tony Snow couldn't give a straight answer today at the presser regarding Gen. Pace not following the company line. These questions must have made Terry Moran nauseated.

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Washington Post:

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that he has no information indicating Iran's government is directing the supply of lethal weapons to Shiite insurgent groups in Iraq.

"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran," Pace told Voice of America during a visit to Australia. "What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows about this."

Pace's comments came a day after U.S. military officials in Baghdad alleged that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government have directed use of weapons that are killing U.S. troops in Iraq. No information was provided to substantiate the charge

(Nicole:)Snow was asked over and over why there was a disconnect between what he was saying and what Pace had said they day before, and yet all Snowjob could do is the familiar Bush logic fallacy of saying "this is undisputed" and "this is undisputed", implying a relationship between the two. I can't believe that the Bush Adminstration is trying the whole "Saddam = Al Qaeda" syllogism again with Iran. They must really think we're all idiots to fall for it again. Then again, considering those right wingers applauding it, maybe they have a point.

Transcripts of the presser below the fold

...in fact, we generally agree on the basics of the situation here, which is there are armaments that have made their way from Iran into Iraq. There are Iranian forces in Iraq. These weapons are being used to kill Americans; we're going to do everything we can to protect our people.
Q Right. But on the substance of it, the briefers over the weekend said that these parts are sent to Iraq with the approval of senior Iranian officials. And the bottom line is he seems to be contradicting that.
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what General Pace may have been saying -- in fact, I know what he's saying -- and this is where we get to the rhetorical question I was asking you before -- do we have a signed piece of paper from Mr. Khomeini or from President Ahmadinejad signing off on this? No. But are the Quds forces part of the government? The answer is yes.
So the question is, I think this ends up being a semantic dispute about senior levels of the government or the government. And the fact is, the government knows about it.
Q Okay. But isn't it really a question about whether or not you have strong evidence? When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seem to be saying something different than the White House, does that raise questions about how solid this evidence is?
MR. SNOW: No, because you've got -- you have explosively formed penetrators. He says they exist, correct?
Q I didn't see that in this particular quote, but --
MR. SNOW: Well, no -- he said that there are weapons --
Q He says that there are projectiles manufactured in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Okay, all right. So, okay, so there's no doubt about that, correct? There are Iranians in Iraq. There's no question about that, correct?
Q Sure.
MR. SNOW: All right, so where's the credibility problem, in terms of -- are you saying --
Q In terms of the Iranian government being behind it. That's not -- nobody's disputing whether it's manufactured in Iran. That's what -- you keep changing what my question is.
MR. SNOW: No, no, I'm trying to clarify your question, because I think this is a --
Q I don't need it clarified, I'm trying to tell you -- I know what my question is, and basically, he's saying that he doesn't see evidence that the Iranian government is clearly behind it. That's my -- I've asked that three or four times. You haven't answered that. You're saying the Iranian government is behind it.
MR. SNOW: Okay, let me put it this way -- I'll say it one more time. The Quds force is part of the Iranian government. The Quds force is behind it, is associated with it.
Q Okay --
MR. SNOW: All right? Thank you.
Q Let me follow up on this, because we have a situation where right now, a lot of the American people are hearing a lot about Iran and whether the government is involved in sending the weapons across or not. And now it would appear that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the administration seem to be on two different pages.
MR. SNOW: We're not. And that's why I'm going to let General Pace speak for himself. We're not on a different page.
Q But you talked to him --
MR. SNOW: I know, and that's why I'm saying, because Ed's question -- Ed is citing a quote that he said earlier. I'm going to let him -- he'll be able to put it all together, because Ed's not going to believe me when I tell him what my conversation was.
Q But he's in the air for 23 hours. And these are the --
Q Let's hear it. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I already laid it out for you, man.
Q But it seems to be a reasonable expectation the American people can have, to get some kind of explanation for how you can have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the administration on two separate pages.
MR. SNOW: We're not on separate pages. The explanation --
Q Certainly, we seem to be, from what was said.
MR. SNOW: I know, because everybody is trying to get into semantic --
Q But yesterday you said the administration is confident the report on Iran is accurate and the weaponry is coming with knowledge of the Iranian government.
MR. SNOW: Of the government. And I still --
Q But now you're saying that the Quds forces, which is part of the Iranian government -- you're sort of parsing.
MR. SNOW: Well, I was parsing yesterday. I'm trying to be careful about how we do this. The question is, do we know that some particular senior official signed off? No, it's an opaque government; it's not a transparent government. But on the other hand, this is part of the Revolutionary Guard, which is part of the government, and therefore you do hold the government responsible.
Q So somebody who reads General Pace's quote, and says, hmm, that's different than what Tony Snow said yesterday -- they're wrong?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes. And I think what's -- again, we'll let General -- here's the --
Q So did Pace retract what he said when he spoke to you?
MR. SNOW: No, he didn't retract because what he said was accurate, as well. What he was thinking is, are you trying to lay this at the feet of members of the Supreme Governing Council; are you trying to lay this at the feet of particular individuals? The answer is, no, we don't have the intelligence that makes it that specific. He was trying to be very precise in how he answered the question. And I was being careful in how I answered it yesterday, as well. We know the Quds forces are involved. They're part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. That's part of the government. Just not going to go any further than that.
Q A deputy assistant undersecretary of agriculture is part of the government. Would you say that that -- if somebody was involved at that level, that that's a top level --
MR. SNOW: If you had somebody who was operating with an elite military unit, operating inside the United States, committing acts of violence, would you say that the sponsor government had some -- bore some responsibility for that elite military unit? We're not talking about deputy assistant secretaries of agriculture -- cute question, but it doesn't get to the point that people have moved armaments into Iraq and are killing Americans.
Q Yesterday you said, "In that regime there are not freelancers."
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Do you stick by that statement, and thereby drawing it to the larger --
MR. SNOW: Again, let me just -- here's your rhetorical question: What's more frightening, the notion that they are freelancing or that they're not?
Q So they might.
MR. SNOW: No, I'm just posing a question for your consideration.
Q But then how solid is the information, though? I think the bottom line question still is if the Chairman --
MR. SNOW: Ed, the information is --
Q He's expressing doubts. He's a General. He knows this better than any of us in this room.
MR. SNOW: There are two things you need to understand. Number one, you guys have been constantly -- I did see what may be the dumbest lead of an editorial I've seen in a long time today in The New York Times, which is, "We need to declare ourselves on Iran." We've declared it over and over -- we're not going to war with them. Let me make that clear. So anybody who is trying to use this as "the administration trying to lay the predicate for a war with Iran" -- no, we're committed to diplomacy with Iran. But we are also committed to protecting our forces.
Let's go back through what we understand. We understand that these weapons came from Iran, no dispute about that. We know that Quds forces have been within Iraq, no dispute about that. We know that the Quds forces are, in fact, part of the Revolutionary Guard; they're an instrument of the Iranian government. Nobody doubts that. So the question therefore becomes, who wrote the orders -- I'm not going to -- we're not going to be able to tell you who signed the orders. But we do know that the Iranian government at that level has been involved.
The important thing is we're trying to do this, and what's interesting is that the Iranian officials -- if they deny it, that's fine. Let's make sure that they, therefore, become engaged in trying to make sure that none of that stuff comes across the border is being used to kill Americans or innocent Iraqis.
Q It's not Iranian officials denying it -- that's not -- again, it's about General Pace --
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, Jessica -- no, Jessica has pinged me many times in the last two days saying they have been denying it on her network.
Q Okay, but, again, when we're talking about -- can you clarify, though, did General Pace -- you said he had a phone conversation with him.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Was he aware that this briefing was going to happen? That his own --
MR. SNOW: I actually -- I did not ask him whether he knew -- I did not ask the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs whether he knew that a Pentagon briefing was going to take place in Baghdad. Forgive me. I didn't ask the process question.
Q Well, he's the one who told reporters that he didn't know about it.
MR. SNOW: Okay. But what I said -- I think -- I asked him about the specific -- he said he wanted to be very precise, because he did not want to be making allegations that could be construed as saying that some senior official within the Iranian government was directly responsible for signing an order. I think that's right. I think he's right about that.
Q Is any of this the reason why the briefing over the weekend became on background, not on camera, because you're concerned about how -- whether --
MR. SNOW: No, what happened was the -- no, the reason it was on background -- the reason it was background -- I'm getting my exercise -- the reason it was on background was that one of the briefers otherwise would not have been able to do it. You guys understand how background briefings work. And that was the ground rule that was laid out. Now, I'm sure that you don't want to rule out background briefings now or anytime in the future. The fact is, we went public with the evidence, and you got the pictures -- again, nobody denies the armaments, nobody denies where they come from, nobody denies the importance of protecting our guys.
Q If I could just come at this one other way. Beyond the evidence of the involvement of the Quds forces, there's no other evidence of ties to the Iranian government?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to lay out -- for one thing, I don't have access to the full chain of intel. But I can tell you the intel community believes that the Quds forces was involved, and I don't want to get into any further characterizations. There I would direct you to the DNI.
Q But as far as you know, when you suggested -- the Iranian government --
MR. SNOW: As far as I'm going to say here, I'm not willing to go any further. I think that's appropriately answered by DNI.
Q Do you think that the off-the-record, low-level Iran briefing has backfired? The reason I ask that is because on the one hand you avoid the comparison with Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations, but at the same time, what you've ended up with is the sense that no one senior in the administration seems to be willing to go on the record. And I understand that one of the people -- not all of the people, but one of the people would have been unable to brief; the other people wouldn't have been unable to brief.
MR. SNOW: No, look, again, I think what's happening is that everybody is trying to create a narrative here of something that's -- look, the problem before, nobody found weapons of mass destruction. You cannot say that nobody didn't -- nobody found explosively formed penetrators. You've got pictures of the things. You know where they came from. There is no doubt about the central fact here: that you have an explosive device that's being used to kill Americans.
So what everybody is trying to figure out now is what General Pace meant -- it's now being devolved into a process argument that overlooks the key fact, which is that weaponry made its way from Iran into Iraq and it's killing Americans, and we're going to try to stop the killing of Americans.
Q Well, isn't the key fact really not only that, but the key fact is, who is sending the weapons into Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, there is evidence that links Quds force to it. Now, again, the question --
Q Direct evidence?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize -- let me put it this way, I will push all the evidentiary questions to DNI, but the finding of the intelligence community is that it's, in fact, linked to the Quds forces.
Q That's kind of a "no."
MR. SNOW: No, it's not. It's one of those -- because what you're asking is for the nature and quality of classified evidence. I get my hands tied when I get -- I don't want to get too far in front of this, trying to give you any kind of characterization beyond what's already on the public record.

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