Monday, June 04, 2007

"The best chance for Iraq is to bring American troops home"

Barack Obama (The Guardian UK):
This war has diverted us from the struggle against terror. We need to refocus on Israel/Palestine, so long neglected by Bush---
At moments of great peril in the past century, American leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F Kennedy managed both to protect the American people and to expand opportunity for the next generation. What is more, they ensured that America, by deed and example, led and lifted the world - that we stood for and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond our borders.
Today, we are again called to provide visionary leadership. This century's threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past.

To renew American leadership in the world, we must first bring the Iraq war to a responsible end and refocus our attention on the broader Middle East. Iraq was a diversion from the fight against the terrorists who struck us on 9/11, and incompetent prosecution of the war by America's civilian leaders compounded the strategic blunder of choosing to wage it in the first place. We have now lost over 3,300 American lives, and thousands more suffer wounds both seen and unseen.

The best chance we have to leave Iraq a better place is to pressure these warring parties to find a lasting political solution. And the only effective way to apply this pressure is to begin a phased withdrawal of US forces, with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31 2008 - consistent with the goal set by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. But we must recognise that, in the end, only Iraqi leaders can bring real peace and stability to their country.

At the same time, we must launch a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative to help broker an end to the civil war in Iraq, prevent its spread, and limit the suffering of the Iraqi people. To gain credibility in this effort, we must make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq.

Changing the dynamic in Iraq will allow us to focus our attention and influence on resolving the festering conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians - a task that the Bush administration neglected for years.

Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region - a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al-Qaida, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hizbullah. Now more than ever we must strive to secure a lasting settlement of the conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security.

Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of American power - political, economic and military - could bring success even when dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria.

Although we must not rule out military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear programme by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran's uranium-enrichment programme and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. At the same time, we must show Iran - and especially the Iranian people - what could be gained from fundamental change: economic engagement, security assurances and diplomatic relations. Diplomacy combined with pressure could also reorient Syria from its radical agenda to a more moderate stance - which could, in turn, help stabilise Iraq, isolate Iran, free Lebanon from the grip of Damascus, and better secure Israel.

Finally, we need a comprehensive strategy to defeat global terrorists - one that draws on the full range of American power, not just our military might. As a senior US military commander put it, when people have dignity and opportunity, "the chance of extremism being welcomed greatly, if not completely, diminishes". It is for this reason that we need to invest with our allies in strengthening weak states and helping to rebuild failed ones.

In the Islamic world and beyond, combating the terrorists' prophets of fear will require more than lectures on democracy. We need to deepen our knowledge of the circumstances and beliefs that underpin extremism. A crucial debate is occurring within Islam. Some believe in a future of peace, tolerance, development and democratisation. Others embrace a rigid and violent intolerance of personal liberty and the world at large. To empower forces of moderation, America must make every effort to export opportunity - access to education and healthcare, trade and investment - and provide the steady support for political reformers and civil society that enabled our victory in the cold war. Our beliefs rest on hope; the extremists' rest on fear. That is why we can - and will - win this struggle.



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