Q Can I also ask you about Iran, as well? Do you have any response to the comments from Iran's supreme leader, talking about attacking interests around the world --
MR. SNOW: I believe the Ayatollah was referring to, if the United States attacked -- let's see, I have said it, the Secretary of Defense has said it, the President has said it: We're not invading Iran. So I think this is -- he's spinning a hypothetical about something that is not contemplated.
Q Why did he have to say it?
MR. SNOW: Why did he have to say it?
Q No, why do you have to say it?
MR. SNOW: Because you guys kept trying to report that we were doing it, and we kept saying, no, we're not.
Q -- forces in your backyard, aircraft carriers, missiles, submarines?
MR. SNOW: Yes. That's correct.
Q Does that give you a little pause --
MR. SNOW: I don't think so.
Q -- as an American?
MR. SNOW: It doesn't give me pause. It gives me reassurance to know that we were able to deploy people.
Q You don't think we should be worried about that?
MR. SNOW: No.
MR. SNOW: Because we quite often deploy carrier task forces all around the world.
Q Two task forces in their backyards?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe it's their backyard. I believe it is the ocean that also encompasses a whole series of other nations. It is not as if they are parking outside of Iranian ports. As a matter of fact, as you know, the area of passage through the Straight of Hormuz is quite narrow -- 21 miles -- and we are talking about deploying through an area where -- that includes a number of key allies, including the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and others.
This blatant insult to the nation's intelligence would be more plausible had Defense Secretary Bob Gates not himself put the naval deployment in the context of Iran at a NATO summit last month:
Q: Mr. Secretary David Cloud with the New York Times.
Just to follow up on Bob's question: there have been calls by the Iraq Study Group and others for more diplomatic engagement with Iran. One of the thrusts of the administration's new Iraq strategy appears to be more confrontation with Iran. You've talked about going after Iranian networks inside Iraq; the Patriot deployments, the carrier deployments, do seem to be aimed, in part at least, at Iran. Is that the case and can you explain the thinking behind that?
Gates: Well I had, as you probably remember, I co-chaired a council on foreign relations study on the United States relations with Iran in 2004 with Dr. Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor, and our conclusion at that time was that it would be useful for the United States to engage with Iran and it appeared to be promising because the Iranians clearly were concerned by the presence of American troops on both their eastern and western borders and there was some evidence they were actually doing some things to be helpful inside Iraq. None of those conditions apply any longer.
The Iranians clearly believe that we're tied down in Iraq; that they have the initiative, that they are in a position to press us in many ways. They are doing nothing to be constructive in Iraq at this point. In addition, they have supported Hezbollah's efforts to create a new conflict in Lebanon and so the Iranians are acting in a very negative way in many respects. My view is that when the Iranians are prepared to play a constructive role in dealing with some of these problems, then there might be opportunities for engagement. Secretary Rice already has said that she would sit down any time, any place with her counterpart from Iran if they would commit not to enrich uranium.
So the opportunity is there for engagement, but I would say that the initiative needs to rest with the Iranians and we are simply trying to communicate to the region that we're going to be there for a long time.