Tony Snow – Blogger Teleconference

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and Brett McGurk, Director for Iraq, National Security Council held a teleconference with invited bloggers this afternoon on the topic President Bush’s speech tonight on the way forward in Iraq. Following is a summary, not a transcription, of major points unless indicated by use of quotation marks.

Snow provided a “cook’s tour” of the plan:

Premises:

    1. Essential to succeed in Iraq.
    2. What we’ve done so far hasn’t worked.

Principles:

    1. Security – especially Baghdad and Anbar– topic concerns.
    2. Iraqis in lead in security, economics, and politics.
    3. Iraqis don’t currently have capacity to do themselves.
    4. Isolate extremists and enable those on sidelines to choose government.

Other points:

  • Debaathifation reform. Allow teachers and others who were mere card-holders in Baath party to go back to work.
  • Diversity efforts to provincial level beyond Baghdad and Anbar to help build up court system and other institutions and infrastructure.

The Q&A:

NZ Bear, Truth Laid Bear: To what degree can Congress stop?

Snow: Legal question beyond expertise. Also presumes Congress would attempt, which we hope they won’t. It’s just part of a supplemental spending package.

Eric Errickson, RedState: Falling back on defensive posture vice offense?

Snow: ROE’s are being changed to prevent politicians from foiling missions. No restrictions (?!). No safe haven for any militias operating outside the law. Do more to ensure Iraqi forces have necessary equipment.

McGurk: More Marines into Anbar to consolidate recent gains.

Lorie Byrd: Will President spend any time setting record straight on perception mission a total disaster?

Snow: President shares your frustration. Only 3 of 18 provinces substantially violent. Still, the public perception is what it is. Hopefully, outlining clear steps to victory will help regain public confidence.

John Hawkins, Right Wing News: CNN reporting that total security responsibility will be shifted to Iraqis by November?

Snow: Yes. This is Maliki’s benchmark and his plan. We’re working with them to build better professionalism, discipline, and experience in their forces.

Rob Bluey, Human Events: How to deal with Congressional Democrats?

Snow: We want full and healthy debate.

Austin Bay: How much are we getting non-DoD agencies on board to do their part in helping win neighborhoods.

Snow: I don’t have that level of detail but we’re working to do just that.

McGurk: Provision Reconstruction Teams embedded with military. 400 more federal civilians outside Green Zone, replicating success in Mosul.

Steve Shippard(?): Are we doing anything to shore up Iranian and Syrian border security?

Snow: We’re “being deliberately vague” on this. The President is not going to talk tonight in detail about border security but he’ll mention the issue. Iran is a longer term threat.

Mark Danziger, Winds of Change: European press talking about Iraqi oil law.

Snow: “I’m not even going to fake it. Brent?”

McGurk: Central ownership of revenues with distribution as per constitution the key. It’s come a long way. “Iraqis are going to have to close the deal.”

Rosemary Esmay, Dean’s World: Why letting the press downplay our successes?

Snow: “Trust me, it’s not a matter of ‘letting.'” “It’s the unusual and the gory that attracts the most attention,” not just among journalists but readers.

I wasn’t able to get through to ask a question but sent a couple of follow-up questions in by email:

  • Tony said ROE’s are being changed to prevent politicians from foiling missions and that there would be “no restrictions.” What does that mean, exactly? Surely, there will still be civilian control of the military?
  • Are we seriously preventing teachers from working four years into this? Anyone who has read a book about post-WWII occupation–or, hell, seen the Patton movie sequel–would have known that lower level bureaucrats with party affiliations are simply essential to the success of the government.

More if I get a response.

UPDATE: None has been forthcoming and it’s been 18 hours.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, OTB History, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The teacher comment is most interesting–and depressing. I will be interested to hear if you get a response.

    One thing is for sure: I have come to the conclusion that we massively screwed up the immediate post-invasion period. If we purged even nominal Baathist from low-level civil service jobs it is no wonder that nothing is working.

  2. carpeicthus says:

    This exchange is a masterpiece of tragicomedy. I’d love to hear the answers to your questions.

  3. steve says:

    Rosemary Esmay, Dean’s World: Why letting the press downplay our successes?

    Snow: “Trust me, it’s not a matter of ‘letting.’” “It’s the unusual and the gory that attracts the most attention,” not just among journalists but readers.

    Seems the “gory” is the “usual” in Iraq.

  4. Rick DeMent says:

    Seems the “gory” is the “usual” in Iraq.

    While the “gory” may not be the “usual” in Iraq, it is that which is driving the situation on the ground. It matters not a wit if a billion schools are painted and a trillion miles of electrical wire are strung if the violence manages to undo the government. It’s not that successes aren’t happening, it’s just that they don’t matter unless your one of the dead enders trying to spin the administrations policy into a some kind of success.

  5. LJD says:

    not that successes aren’t happening, it’s just that they don’t matter

    Huh? Successes don’t matter?

    I would say what is driving the situation on the ground is the effect that terrorists can get from creating gory incidents.
    If they thought their attacks would be met with resolve, that the Iraqi people would continue to grow and develop regardless, their attacks would no longer have the desired effect. Hell, some might even start thinking about how they might get involved before their gory demise.

    I won’t even start with the media.

  6. legion says:

    John Hawkins, Right Wing News: CNN reporting that total security responsibility will be shifted to Iraqis by November?

    Snow: Yes. This is Maliki’s benchmark and his plan. We’re working with them to build better professionalism, discipline, and experience in their forces.

    Ummm… didn’t Maliki say just back in November that Iraqi forces would begin doing this in June ’07? Has he been talking to Friedman again?