President Bush insisted Wednesday that the Iranian government is providing deadly weapons to insurgents in Iraq, though he couldn't confirm whether the order to do so came from Iran's highest offices.
Referring to a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard known as Al Qud, Bush said, "whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Qud's Force to do this, I don't think we know. But know that they're there. And I intend to do something about it. And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops."
In his first news conference of the year, Bush called the idea that the United States is manipulating information to suggest that Iran is supplying the weapons as "preposterous."
The president said the reason the nation isn't engaging in direct talks with Iran is because he doesn't think it would achieve success.
Bush also addressed the current congressional debate over a resolution which the House will vote on later this week. The resolution opposes the increase of U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Bush called on Congress to pass spending legislation needed to finance the war.
"Our troops are counting on their elected leaders in Washington, D.C., to provide them with the support they need to do their mission," the president said. "We have a responsibility, all of us here in Washington, to make sure that our men and women in uniform have the resources and the flexibility they need to prevail."
When ABC News' Martha Raddatz asked the president if he agreed with the national intelligence estimate that Iraq was in a civil war, Bush did not say yes or no. He responded instead that the people whose judgment he trusts would not qualify it that way.
"[N]o matter what you call it, it's a complex situation, and it needed to be dealt with inside of Iraq," Bush said. "We've got people who say 'civil war.' We've got people on the ground who don't believe it's a civil war. But nevertheless it is -- it was dangerous enough that I had to make a decision to try to stop it."
Bush made his first on-camera statements on the North Korean nuclear agreement, calling it "good progress" and "a good first step."
"There's a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become reality. But I believe it's an important step in the right direction."
The president took issue with comments from his former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, saying he strongly disagrees with Bolton's assessment that the deal rewards North Korea for bad behavior.
"[T]he assessment made by some that this is not a good deal is flat wrong," he said. "This is a good first step. It will be a great deal for the North Korean people if their government follows through with the agreement."
The president also laid ground rules with the press corps for the 2008 presidential campaign. He said definitively today that he will "resist all temptation to become the pundit in chief."
"As much as I like politics and I'm intrigued by the race … I won't comment," he said in response to a question from ABC News' Ann Compton on whether the election season debate on Iraq will hurt his progress there.
The relationship between Bush and Russian President Putin has come a long way from the days when Bush said he looked into Putin's eyes and "was able to get a sense of his soul."
Today the president was asked if U.S. and Russian relations were deteriorating in light of recent comments from Putin that the United States is undermining global security.
"I think the person who I was referring to in 2001 is the same strong-willed person," Bush said. "He is a person with whom I have had agreements and disagreements throughout the course of my presidency and his."
The president said the two leaders have common interests -- global security, proliferation concerns. But he also said it's a "complicated relationship," one in which there are disagreements.