By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2006 – America will remain on the offensive against al Qaeda and nations that support terror groups, President Bush said here today. Bush met with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Peter Pace and other members of his national security team at the Pentagon and the State Department.
The group discussed progress in the global war on terror and national security transformation during the series of meetings. During a news conference at the State Department following the meetings, Bush said Iran must stop its support for terror. He also said militias and other groups must disarm.
He said the Middle East is at a pivotal moment in history. "The death and destruction we see shows how determined the extremists are to stop just and modern societies from emerging in the region," he said. "Yet millions of people in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere are equally determined to live in peace and freedom. They have tired of the false promises and grand illusions of radical extremists."
He said the United States' "freedom agenda" will advance peace in the region. "We know that free nations are America's best partners for peace and the only true anchors for stability," he said. "So we'll continue to support reformers inside and outside governments who are working to build the institutions of liberty. We'll continue to confront terrorist organizations and their sponsors who destroy innocent lives. We'll continue to work for the day when a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine are neighbors in a peaceful and secure Middle East."
The president called the U.N. Security Council resolution on Lebanon an important step to help bring an end to the violence between Israel and the terror group Hezbollah. The resolution calls for all nations to help Lebanon restore sovereignty through all Lebanese territory. "As well, the resolution is intended to stop Hezbollah from acting as a state within a state," Bush said during the news conference.
He said Hezbollah is responsible for the conflict, but that Iran and Syria share some of that responsibility. "The regime in Iran provides Hezbollah with financial support, weapons and training," the president said. "Iran has made clear that it seeks the destruction of Israel. We can only imagine how much more dangerous this conflict would be if Iran had the nuclear weapon it seeks."
Syria also sponsors the terror group and allows Iranian weapons to enter Lebanon and Hezbollah's leaders to operate out of Damascus, the president said. "Syria supports Hezbollah because it wants to undermine Lebanon's democratic government and regain its position of dominance in the country," Bush said. "That would be a great tragedy for the Lebanese people and for the cause of peace in the Middle East."
America has worked to promote peace, freedom and stability in the region, but terror groups and regimes worked against that ideal, Bush said. "We saw the consequences on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists brought death and destruction to our country, killing nearly 3,000 of our citizens," he said.
Since than day, the United States has worked to put in place the freedom agenda in the broader Middle East. And the terrorists, Bush noted, rightly see this policy as a danger. "They understand that the advance of liberty, the freedom to worship, the freedom to dissent and the protection of human rights would be a defeat for their hateful ideology," he said.
These groups are working to destroy these democracies and they understand that now - when these democracies are still finding their feet - is the time to strike. "It's no coincidence that two nations that are building free societies in the heart of the Middle East - Lebanon and Iraq - are also the scenes of the most violent terrorist activity," he said.
The United States will continue to push the freedom agenda, but it will not be easy, the president said. "The way forward's going to be difficult. It will require more sacrifice," he said. "But we can be confident of the outcome because we know and understand the unstoppable power of freedom."