Q Tony, I’d like to follow up on the al Hakim meeting, if I can, for just a second.
MR. SNOW: Yes, sure.
Q U.S. intelligence and military sources have him intimately connected to death squads, he is closely tied to Iran —
MR. SNOW: "Intimately connected" with death squads? In what sense?
Q Well, that he was responsible for the —
MR. SNOW: That he was giving orders?
Q Yes, it could be giving of — when death squads began to emerge, there are intelligence sources that say he was if not running the show, very closely connected with the policy of implementing it. So that’s number one. Number two, he’s closely tied to Iran. So what’s a guy like this doing in the Oval Office?
MR. SNOW: Well, there are a couple of things — and we addressed the Iran question in the gaggle this morning. This is a man who spent 20 years in Iran when Saddam Hussein was in power, but he’s also made it clear that he sees himself as an Iraqi leader, not somebody who is beholden to Iran.
As regards the issue of militias, certainly they’re going to be discussed in the meeting with the President. What Mr. al Hakim has also done is he has talked about the importance of reconciliation within Iraq. He leads a parliamentary bloc that includes 128 members of the Iraqi parliament. And what the President is going to talk about — I believe the meeting ought to be starting any moment now, and that’s why we’ll give you a readout on it — is the importance of reconciliation, of finding people who will be moderates — Sunni, Shia, and otherwise — who are going to be able to work constructively toward a government that’s going to be operating in conditions of peace.
What you have is a man who has had a number of discussions with this government and continues to, and the President has had conversations with him, and has met with him once before, who represents the largest single — I believe it’s the largest single Shia bloc within the Iraqi parliament. He is a significant force in Iraqi politics, and he’s somebody who can play a very constructive role, and we hope he will.
Some background on today’s White House guest.