President George W. Bush says the United States is engaged in "a great ideological struggle -- fighting Islamic extremists around the globe." A key aspect of the struggle is the fight for the future of the Middle East. The Middle East, says Mr. Bush, is imperiled by men seeking to exploit religion as a path to power and domination:
"The violent Islamic radicalism that inspires them has two main strains. One is Sunni extremism, embodied by al-Qaida and its terrorist allies. . . .The other strain of radicalism in the Middle East is Shi'a extremism, supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran."
Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region, says Mr. Bush:
"It is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran backs Hezbollah who are trying to undermine the democratic government of Lebanon. Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent, and target Israel, and destabilize the Palestinian territories."
Mr. Bush says Iran is also sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to Shi'a extremists in Iraq, despite pledges to help stabilize the security situation there:
"And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late."
Mr. Bush says the future course of the region will turn heavily on the outcome of the fight in Iraq:
"Iraq is at the heart of the Middle East. And the two dangerous strains of extremism vying for control of the Middle East have now closed in on this country in an effort to bring down the young democracy."
Mr. Bush says the most immediate way to counter the ambitions of al-Qaida, Iran, and other forces of instability and terror in the Middle East is to win the fight in Iraq. "Either the forces of extremism succeed, or the forces of freedom succeed," he says. The last few months have shown promise, said President Bush. "The local Iraqis, given a chance, are turning against the murderers and extremists."