President Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley today labeled Iran "probably the No. 1 supporter of terror in the world today" and claimed a growing consensus between the Bush administration and its critics on the way forward in Iraq.
Iran has been blamed for sending equipment to terrorists operating in Iraq and for supporting terror groups like Hezbollah. Iran has reportedly also been seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Hadley said Iraq's recent parliamentary election is one way to offset Iran's influence in the region, claiming the high turnout on Sunday could help trigger democracy throughout the region.
"That is why it is so important that the terrorists be defeated in Iraq, and that Iraq be a showcase, in some sense, of a competition between the ideology of the terrorists and the ideology of freedom and democracy," Hadley said.
Hadley said he hopes that ideological struggle will spread to Iran. "One of the questions we keep asking is, when are the Iranian people going to begin to ask themselves, 'If Iraqis in Iran can participate in a free election in Iraq, why not us?'"
On Iraq, Hadley said critics of the war are reaching common ground with the administration in terms of how Iraq can succeed. He outlined five elements: Continuing to train Iraqi forces, the involvement of the Sunni Arab population in the political process, support for Iraqis as they shape their constitution, the rebuilding of Iraq to provide employment for Iraqi citizens, and expanding international aid to the country.
"We've listened to our critics and are already pursuing many of their proposals," he said.
But Hadley took issue with some Democrats' recent proposals arguing the United States should pull its troops out of the country immediately or set a timeline for withdrawal.
"This strategy has been rejected by the bulk of opinion in both American political parties, and for good reason," he said. "First, no one has explained how this policy would improve the situation in Iraq. Second, advocates of withdrawal fail to explain how abandoning Iraq to the terrorists and Baathists would make Americans more secure."
Hadley wouldn't comment on why the administration bypassed the federal courts to seek approval for the domestic wiretapping program that targeted international calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the United States with suspected ties to al Qaeda.
"I'd really like to talk about Iraq," he said. "It's so important that we try and come together on the way forward in Iraq. There's so much at stake."