Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley

WASHINGTON , May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following in a transcript of a press briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley : Continental Garden Reef Resort Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt 11:30 A.M. (Local...


MR. HADLEY: I'm not sure I'd accept your characterization. I think the President has been talking for a long time about the struggle against extremism, which Iran is behind a lot of. It was going to take a long time. He has talked about, in the way he does today, that what we were able to do with the people of Europe and with the people of Japan at the last half of the 20th century is something we can do with the Middle East in the first half of the 21st century.

Recognition of -- as he had said many times, we've been engaged in Europe and Japan for a long time in that process. Now, our role changed over time. The Middle East is very different than Europe or Japan , so the role is going to look differently. But this is a long-term challenge, very much comparable to the challenge in terms of difficulty and complexity and the time it's going to take, to the challenge the President -- to the challenge the nation faced at the end of World War II in Japan and Europe .

And with respect to Iraq specifically, we've been saying for a long time now that Iraq will not be done on the President's watch, and our goal is to give to the next administration an Iraq project that has a sound strategy, that we're succeeding in that strategy, and that a next administration will stay with the project until the Iraqi people are able to bring success.

Michael.

Q Could I follow up on your comments on Iran ? Can you point -- what progress can you point to in the effort that you outlined to confront Iran's effort to spread its influence in the region? In Lebanon and in Palestine, to take the two examples, it seems from people in the region that Iran is actually strengthening its position. So how can you really point -- can you point at any success on the part of the U.S. strategy to confront Iran ?

MR. HADLEY: Yes, I think I can, though I would say that this is also going to be a long and difficult problem, and that Iran has over the last several years gotten much more active, and it needs to be understood. The fact that the Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has decided to take on the problem of illegal militia in the south is a major development. It's been a problem for at least two years.

I've said many times that we're three security challenges in Iraq : sectarian violence, al Qaeda, and the illegal militia. And the first two have been -- we've been actively dealing with over the last couple of years. This was the sort of third one that was still open. And Maliki has taken the leadership to deal with that problem. That's a good thing, because it shows the confidence of the government and their forces capable to do it. They are, as you know, making progress in Basra against the illegal militia. The government is now in control of the port. So I think that is a place where Iran has chosen to support forces against freedom and against progress, and that we have a strong ally with our support that is confronting those forces backed by Iran , and is succeeding.

Lebanon , obviously Hezbollah, made a move in the last 10 days, and at one level it had tactical success that you have spoken about in their ability to terrorize the Lebanese people and threaten the government, and that looks like a tactical success. One of the things that's interesting is that people in the region and people in Lebanon are now suggesting that it perhaps was a strategic failure, because it stripped away the rationale that Hezbollah has used to protect its militia from being disbanded and brought under the authority of the government.

And that rationale was, the militia was needed to defend Lebanon against Israel , and what we saw in the last 10 days, and what the Lebanese people are beginning to say is, hey, this militia was used against us and against our duly-elected government. And that is an opportunity for the Lebanese forces of democracy and freedom, and for those in the region that support it, to hold Hezbollah to account and hopefully to clip its wings a little bit. We will have to see. This is a story very much in progress.

And finally, in terms of Hamas -- yes, Hamas is in control of Gaza . Its administration there I don't think is bringing hope, optimism, and confidence to the people of Gaza . And what we hope, of course, is to, through this negotiation and what the President has said many time, is have a vision for a Palestinian state; that President Abbas can then go to the people in the West Bank and to the people in Gaza and give them a choice: Do you want to continue life under Hamas or do you want to come and join the prospect for a peaceful Palestinian state?