What Bush Says When He Talks About Security

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NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr remarks on the rhetoric coming out of the White House on Iraq and the war on terrorism.

SIEGEL: The relationship between Iran and Iraq is just one of a number of foreign policy challenges facing the U.S. in the region. NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr, has been taking note of some of the others.

DANIEL SCHORR: Nothing better illustrates the tense state of flux in the Middle East than what happened in Damascus this week. For years, Syria has been listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism. On Tuesday, Syrian guards fought off a terrorist attack on the American embassy, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed America's appreciation to Syria.

It becomes increasingly difficult to determine when we are dealing with state-sponsored terrorism, like the Libyan bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, and when we are dealing with states controlled by terrorists, such as the war fought by Hezbollah, a state within a state that is now permitted conditional observance of the cease-fire by the Lebanese government.

Similarly, in Gaza the militant group of Hamas has now given President Mahmoud Abbas limited permission to talk to Israel, whose economic stranglehold threatens Gaza and the West Bank.

In Iraq, teetering on the edge of civil war, efforts to stabilize the beleaguered government by establishing a federal system of autonomous states appears to have foundered. It has not been possible to overcome the basic fact that the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north have the oil and the Sunnis in the center have the sand.

It is a situation made to order for Iran, with its aspirations to dominate the region in a new caliphate, or empire. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes in the Washington Post that everything returns to the challenge of Iran. As we've heard, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has played host to his fellow Shiite, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, promising him aid in unspecified forms.

The Bush administration, apart from military support to Iraq and backing for the Lebanese cease-fire, has played little visible role in trying to counter Iran's drive to dominate a largely Muslim region of the world with command over its vast energy resources. And meanwhile, the threat of weak governments and strong militants hangs over a troubled Middle East.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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