Bush vows action on Iran, Syria; beefs up defense in Middle East
by P. Parameswaran
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush vowed to crack down on Iranian and Syrian meddling in Iraq and boost defense measures in the Middle East to promote stability throughout the region.
Announcing his latest strategy to tame Iraq, Bush said he had ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group and Patriot anti-missile systems in the Middle East to beef up regional security.
He warned Middle East nations that an American defeat in Iraq would create a "new sanctuary for extremists" and be "a strategic threat to their survival."
As he ordered more than 20,000 additional troops into Iraq and unveiled a last-ditch 6.8 billion dollar plan to curb chaos in the war-torn nation, Bush said a key to the success of his new strategy was cutting off Iranian and Syrian support to "terrorists" in Iraq.
"These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq," Bush said in a prime time television address to an American public fed up with the nearly four-year war that has left more than 3,000 US troops dead.
He accused Iran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to disrupt these raids.
"We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq," he said.
The US leader also announced other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East.
"I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing -- and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies," he said.
The United States has rapidly upgraded the capability of the Patriot systems which provide air and missile defence following their relatively little success in the first Gulf War.
Washington is now trying to market the weapon to several Middle East nations increasingly worried about their security.
Bush also said the United States would work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.
It would also help the governments of Turkey and Iraq to resolve their border problems, he said.
"We will use America¬s full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East," he said.
Citing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States, he said they needed to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would "create a new sanctuary for extremists -- and a strategic threat to their survival.
"These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors -- and they must step up their support for Iraq¬s unity government," he said.
"From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children," he said.
"And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists -- or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?"
Bush also said that the United States endorsed the Iraqi government¬s call to finalize a so called "International Compact" that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will leave for the Middle East to build support for Iraq, and continue "the urgent diplomacy" required to help bring peace to the region, he said.
"The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict," he said.
"It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time," he said, likening it to a fight between "those who believe in freedom and moderation" and "extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life."
In the long run, he said, the most realistic way to protect the American people was to provide a "hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy -- by advancing liberty across a troubled region."
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