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Bush: Al Qaeda Still Biggest Threat Facing United States Today

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2006 – Al Qaeda is still the biggest short-term threat facing the United States, President Bush said here today, adding that North Korea and Iran pose equal security threats to the U.S.

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President Bush addresses the National Newspaper Association's Government Affairs Conference in Washington, March 10. Photo by Eric Draper

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

"They would like to attack us again," Bush said of al Qaeda at the National Newspaper Association's Government Affairs Conference. "I think about al Qaeda and their potential to attack all the time."

The president also recalled his "axis of evil" remark in his 2002 State of the Union Address, in which he said North Korea, Iraq and Iran were threats to the United States. "I did that because I'm concerned about totalitarian governments that are not transparent, that have stated their intentions to develop nuclear weapons," he said of the speech.

The U.S. invaded Iraq the following year, deposing dictator Saddam Hussein. Today Bush said the remaining two countries in the axis of evil, Iran and North Korea, are roughly equal in terms of the security threat they pose. "Any time there's a nontransparent regime without a free press to hold people to account, it creates unpredictability in the world," he said.

Bush noted Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad has announced his desire to see Israel, a close U.S. ally, destroyed. "So when you start listening to what he has said (and consider) their desire to develop a nuclear weapon, then you begin to see an issue of grave national security concern," Bush said.

Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia stand together with the U.S. in concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions, the president said. "We want the Iranians to hear loud and clear that the world is speaking with one voice when it comes to their capacity to develop a nuclear weapon," he said.

Alliance building is critical in dealing with the nuclear threat posed by North Korea as well, Bush said, noting that China, South Korea, Japan and Russia are now involved in the international effort to engage North Korea through so-called Six-Party talks.

Wherever threats may come, Bush said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, taught the United States several valuable lessons in dealing with them.

"I understand that this is a different kind of war, and there are some in our country that may not believe there is a global war on terror," he said. "They may believe (Sept. 11) is an isolated incident.

"I don't," he added. "I know we're at war with a jihadist movement that has got strategies and tactics to back up those strategies."

Because of this, Bush said, the United States cannot take its security for granted. "We must remain on the offense, and we are," he said. "We're dismantling al Qaeda. It takes time. But whoever is the president of the United States after me must always keep the pressure on al Qaeda."

Secondly, the president said, the United States cannot allow terrorists to find safe haven. "They found safe haven in Afghanistan where they could plot and plan and attack," he said. "And therefore, it's very important for the United States to deny safe haven."

Finally, Bush said, Americans must take potential threats seriously and not allow them to fully materialize. "The first choice of any president ought to be to deal with issues diplomatically, and we dealt with the issue of Iraq diplomatically, (U.N.) Security Council resolution after Security Council resolution after Security Council resolution," he said.

The world gave Saddam a choice to disarm or face consequences with Security Council Resolution 1441, Bush said. "Saddam Hussein chose otherwise. He was removed from power," he said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that the United States is more secure and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power."

Terrorists know they can't defeat the United States militarily, but they're still dangerous, Bush said. "They do not have an ideology that is appealing to people, but they do have the capacity to kill innocent life, and they're willing to do so all attempting to shake our will and cause us to leave the Middle East, so they can find safe haven from which to launch attacks," he said.

"That is what they have said, and as your president, it is important for me to see the world the way it is -- the realities of the world, not the way some would hope it would be."

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