Israel and militant Palestinians are locked in deadly battle in the Middle East, but Iran poses the biggest foreign policy challenge in the region to the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama, the national security adviser for US President George W. Bush says.
At the same time, the Middle East offers Obama the greatest opportunity to put his imprint on world affairs, Stephen Hadley said, referring to the need for a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that eluded both Bush and former US president Bill Clinton.
Outside the Middle East, it is Pakistan that should command Obama’s keen attention, said Hadley, who has been a senior foreign policy adviser to the president for eight years.
He said the Taliban remains a serious threat in Afghanistan where the US is getting ready to dispatch at least 20,000 extra troops.
Hadley said the US needs to continue to provide equipment, training and greater intelligence to the Pakistani security forces there so they can better police the mountainous border, where insurgents cross into Afghanistan.
On Iran, Hadley said more leverage — in the forms of sanctions — is needed to force Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions and support of extremists. He said the Bush administration has been trying to “shore up and store up leverage” to bequeath to the Obama administration.