US President George W. Bush renewed his administration's strike-first policy against terrorists and other US enemies and rebuked Iran over allegations it is secretly amassing nuclear weapons.
The White House said that by reaffirming the pre-emptive policy, the US was not targeting Iran. Yet the National Security Strategy includes harsh words for the Iranian government, which Bush says may pose the greatest challenge to the US.
"The president's strategy affirms that the doctrine of pre-emption remains sound and must remain an integral part of our national security strategy," said Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser.
"We do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack," Hadley said.
The 49-page report also said North Korea poses a serious nuclear proliferation challenge; expresses dismay at rollbacks in democratic reform in Russia; brands Syria a tyranny that harbors terrorists and sponsors terror; and warns China against denying personal and political freedoms.
"China's leaders must realize, however, that they cannot stay on this peaceful path while holding on to old ways of thinking and acting that exacerbate concerns throughout the region and the world,'' Bush wrote.
The report accuses Iran of meddling in Iraq and equipping the insurgency, which is threatening a fragile democracy in Baghdad. The report was released as US and Iraqi forces launched the largest air assault mission against insurgents and terrorists in Iraq since the US-led invasion in April 2003.
The administration is working to persuade Russia and China to support a proposed UN Security Council resolution demanding that Iran end its uranium enrichment program.
"This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided," Bush said. He did not elaborate on what would happen if international negotiations with Iran were to fail.
Hadley said the international effort must speak with one voice if diplomacy is to succeed in getting Iran to curb its move toward nuclear weapons development.
"We are, I think, beginning to get indications that the Iranians are finally beginning to listen," Hadley said. "There is beginning to be a debate within the leadership -- and I would hope a debate between the leadership and their people -- about whether the course they're on is the right course for the good of their country."
The report is an updated version of one Bush issued in 2002 that outlined the pre-emptive policy, marking an end of a deterrent military strategy that dominated the Cold War.
The latest report makes it clear Bush has not changed his mind, even though no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. Susan Rice, a national security expert at Brookings Institution, said the report echoes the 2002 version "by reaffirming the discredited doctrine of pre-emption, while shifting the presumed target of that doctrine from Iraq to Iran."
"This shift is ironic since the administration's all-encompassing, four-year preoccupation with Iraq afforded Iran the time and space to pursue its nuclear ambitions and undermine US security interests in the Middle East," Rice said.
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