It has been five years since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S.-led military campaign that brought an end to the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. In a speech marking the anniversary, President George W. Bush said the fall of Saddam’s brutal dictatorship did not mark an end to the fight against extremist forces now intent on crushing a nascent Iraqi democracy. Those forces include al-Qaida and Shi’a extremists, “many of them,” said Mr. Bush, “backed and financed and armed by Iran.”
The United States, said Mr. Bush, will not allow extremist elements to succeed in plunging Iraq into chaos. The consequences of that, he said, are unacceptable:
“The terrorist movement could emerge emboldened – with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al-Qaida with access to Iraq’s oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations. Iran would be emboldened as well – with a renewed determination to develop nuclear weapons and impose its brand of hegemony across the Middle East.”
In an interview with VOA’s Persian News Network, Mr. Bush had a message for those in Iran who are supporting destructive activities in Iraq:
“Stop importing your weapons, your sophisticated I-E-Ds [improvised explosive devices], or there will be consequences inside of Iraq. And when we find people transporting weapons that are aimed to harm innocent people or to arm militias that are aiming to harm innocent people, then they will be brought to justice.”
Mr. Bush said he fully understands that Iraq and Iran will have relations with one another. They are neighbors who share a long border. “But there is a better way to deal inside Iraq than the [way the] Iranians are now dealing,” he said.
President Bush said that the U.S. will continue to fight extremist forces in Iraq and will continue to help the Iraqi people establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. By so doing, he said, “We will show that the future of the Middle East does not belong to terror -- the future of the Middle East belongs to freedom.”