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03-19-06, 11:34 AM
Cheney: Success in Iraq Critical to Overall Terror War
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2006 – Vice President Dick Cheney said today the evidence that Iraqis and the coalition will succeed in Iraq "is overwhelming" and that it's important, when assessing the situation there, to keep perspective of its impact on the global war on terror.

Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," on the third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the vice president said terrorists recognize what some others don't: that what ultimately happens in Iraq will impact the entire region.

"There's a lot at stake here. It's not just about Iraq...[and] today's situation in Iraq," Cheney said. "It's about where we are going to be 10 years from now in the Middle East."

The outcome will determine "whether or not there is going to be hope and the development of governments that are responsive to the will of the people, that are not a threat to anyone, that are not safe havens for terror [and] manufacturers of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

On the other hand, if terrorists succeed, there's a very real danger that Iraq will become "a failed state," Cheney said, just as Afghanistan was several years ago under Taliban rule. That environment offered a safe haven to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a base for launching terror attacks against the United States and its allies around the world, he noted.

By going after terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere around the world, the United States is ensuring its own long-term security, the vice president said. "That kind of aggressive, forward-leaning strategy is one of the main reasons we haven't been struck since 9/11--because we have taken the fight to them," he said.

Violence continues in Iraq because terrorists recognize what's at stake, Cheney said. "They know that if we're successful in establishing a democratic government in Iraq, that's going to put enormous pressure in that part of the world...[because] it offers a counter to the bloody ideology that the al Qaeda organizations have tried to perpetrate," he said.

Recent efforts to incite sectarian violence show terrorists have "reached a stage of desperation," the vice president said. "It's a reflection of the fact that they are doing everything they can to stop the formation of a democratically elected government," he said.

Cheney noted that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was quoted two years ago saying that if the Iraqis ever achieved that goal, "that he would have to pack his bags and go elsewhere."

"And I think that's absolutely the case," the vice president said.

Media reporting underplays progress being made in Iraq, Cheney said, "because what is newsworthy is a car bomb in Baghdad, not all the work that went on that day in 15 other provinces in terms of making progress toward rebuilding Iraq."

"But the facts are pretty straightforward," with solid progress taking place on the political and security fronts, the vice president said.

"The Iraqis met every single political deadline that's been set for them," he said. "They have not missed a single one." And while progress might not be as speedy as many people would like, Cheney noted that the United States had its own share of difficulties establishing its government more than 200 years ago.

"It is remarkable, when you think about a group of people who have been under the heavy hand of oppression for 35 years under Saddam Hussein-one of the bloodiest dictators in modern times [who] slaughtered thousands of his own people, started two wars, used weapons of mass destruction against his own folks-to emerge as effectively as they have in as short a period as they have," Cheney said.

He cited similar progress on the security front. "We've seen major progress in terms of training and equipping Iraqi security forces," he said. "They've been very successful...and it continues to improve day by day."

Cheney said he's confident that this progress will continue and that the Iraqis and coalition will ultimately succeed in Iraq. "I think the evidence is overwhelming," he said.