ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 13, 2008 — -- President Bush, speaking just across the Persian Gulf from Tehran, warned Sunday that the United States is strengthening security pacts in the Middle East and Asia as a counterbalance to Iran.
Describing the Tehran government as the world's leading state sponsor of terror, Bush blamed Tehran for a litany of causes of global instability.
"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere," Bush said in an address at the Emirates Palace hotel. "So the United States is strengthening our longstanding security commitments with our friends in the Gulf -- and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late."
Bush's harsh rhetoric on Iran has shown few signs of softening since the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program three years ago. He seemed instead to sharpen his words following a recent confrontation in which U.S. officials say Iranian speedboats sped menacingly close to three U.S. Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
Bush's latest words came one day after Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told reporters traveling with the president in Kuwait on Saturday that attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by what the U.S. officials call a "signature weapon" of Iran -- powerful mines called explosively formed penetrators -- have increased over the past 10 days.
Iran "sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world -- while its own people face repression and economic hardship at home," Bush said.
"It undermines Lebanese hopes for peace by arming and aiding the terrorist group Hezbollah," he added. "It subverts the hopes for peace in other parts of the region by funding terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. It sends arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Shia militants in Iraq. It seeks to intimidate its neighbors with ballistic missiles and bellicose rhetoric. And finally, it defies the United Nations and destabilizes the region by refusing to be open and transparent about its nuclear programs and ambitions."
The president stopped in Abu Dhabi as part of a weeklong tour that also includes stops in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Bush sounded optimistic about a peace pact between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories, the centerpiece of his Middle East tour.
Describing a future Palestinian state as "the best guarantee for peace for all its neighbors," Bush said, "The talks are just beginning, and our hopes are high."
His next stop is Saudi Arabia, where King Abdullah recently acknowledged he has agreed to host Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinijad during the pilgrimage to Mecca known to Muslims as the Hajj. White House officials sought to minimize the visit.
"We are told that Ahmadinejad, as he has done from time to time, invited himself," a senior administration official told reporters traveling with the president on condition of anonymity. "So I think the Saudis would tell you they did not invite him, he invited himself, and they let him come, as they do generally when Muslims come and want to participate in the Hajj."