- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

UPDATED:

Stephen J. Hadley, President’s Bush’s national security adviser, on Wednesday warned President-elect Barack Obama away from a toothless approach to Iran, during a speech intended to present the full range of foreign policy challenges awaiting the next administration.

“For the next Administration, the biggest challenge in this region is Iran,” Mr. Hadley said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Negotiations with Iran, as some have proposed, without leverage on Iran will not produce a change in Iranian behavior or advance U.S. interests,” Mr. Hadley said, in a subtle swipe at Mr. Obama’s talk in the past of meeting Iranian leaders without “preconditions.”

Mr. Hadley argued that the Bush administration has increased cooperation with European countries that will give Mr. Obama “significantly increased leverage on Iran.”

“The issue is how the new team will use this leverage to produce a different Iranian policy on its nuclear program, terrorism, and Middle East peace,” he said.

“Working with our European partners, the next Administration should be able to enforce tougher sanctions on Iran.”

Mr. Hadley also warned of Russias “aggressiveness and uncertain intentions,” and signaled that Mr. Obamas relationship with the Kremlin will require special attention and a delicate touch.

The speech was a sweeping defense of Mr. Bush’s foreign policy by the soft-spoken, even-mannered national security adviser, who has served Mr. Bush for all eight years of his presidency.

The president, Mr. Hadley said, pursued a principled and idealistic vision in the Middle East and elsewhere that has been often criticized but will be respected over the long run.

“Few presidents have faced more challenges,” Mr. Hadley said of Mr. Bush.

Yet the address was also a sobering catalogue of the many foreign policy challenges that await Mr. Obama, who has been accused by some conservatives of wanting to focus more attention on healthcare and energy.

Mr. Hadley said Mr. Obamas biggest challenges besides Iran will be stabilizing Pakistan, denuclearizing North Korea, winning the war in Afghanistan, and finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Loose ends is putting it mildly,” Mr. Hadley said during a question-and-answer session after his speech. “Rarely has there been an incoming president that has as many challenges and opportunities as President-elect Obama.”

Mr. Hadley mentioned “increasing concerns” in the intelligence community “that North Korea has an ongoing covert uranium enrichment program” that would supplement their plutonium-based weaponry.

And he said that if Pakistan is destabilized by Islamic militants and terrorists, it “will threaten peace and progress throughout the region.”

“So stabilizing Pakistan must be a first priority for the new administration, as it has been one of ours.”

Mr. Hadley revisited the skepticism that greeted Mr. Bushs decision in 2007 to send a surge of 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, but said that “events have vindicated the president’s decision.”

“Today, violence is down across Iraq. The Iraqi people govern themselves under one of the most progressive constitutions in the Middle East. And for the first time in the regions history, Sunni, Shia, and Kurds are working together within a democratic framework to build a more hopeful future for their country,” he said.

“The success of that experiment is terribly important if the issue of tensions in the Middle East is going to be resolved,” he said.

Mr. Hadley also defended the Bush doctrine of preemption, including unilateral action.

“Our preference is always to work with allies and partners,” he said. “Yet international partnerships are not self-justifying. They must produce results. And when necessary, like every modern President before him, President Bush has been prepared to act alone to defend Americas security.”

Despite the violence in the Gaza Strip over the last 10 days, Mr. Hadley said that “perhaps surprisingly, the biggest opportunity for the new Administration may be Middle East peace.”

He argued that the Annapolis Conference process launched by Mr. Bush in November 2007 has created a process that does not require Mr. Obama to “reinvent the wheel.”

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