Los Angeles Times: Warning that a premature American departure from Iraq would create turmoil throughout the region, President Bush said Wednesday that his determination Los Angeles Times
The president says that unless Tehran suspends its nuclear program, direct talks are unlikely to benefit the U.S.
By James Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
LANCASTER, PA. — Warning that a premature American departure from Iraq would create turmoil throughout the region, President Bush said Wednesday that his determination to stand firm in Iraq would send a crucial signal to Iran.
“There would be nothing worse for world peace, if the Iranians believed that the United States didn’t have the will and commitment to help young democracies survive,” Bush said. “If we left before the job was done, there would be chaos. Chaos would embolden not only the extremists and radicals who would like to do us harm, but it would also embolden Iran.”
The president’s remarks reflected his view that, beyond establishing order in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. mission is to create fertile ground for democracy throughout the region.
Speaking to an audience assembled by the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bush also said that he saw no likelihood that direct negotiations with Iran would produce a successful outcome for the United States. And he again warned about the dangers of Iran developing nuclear weapons.
The business group assembled an overwhelmingly friendly audience of about 400 people, who lobbed questions — none with sharp edges — toward the president: How will the farm bill help local farmers? Do you have plans to prevent illegal immigration? Are you supporting any of the current presidential candidates? (That one received a brusque: “No.”)
Such sessions present Bush with the opportunity to work through his talking points before an audience that is a 20-minute flight from Andrews Air Force Base and in a Republican community in quilting-and-corn country, where the air is heavy with the odor of manure.
Bush spoke in the warehouse of a marketing and distribution company. The only sign of dissent — a rarity for such carefully screened, invitation-only audiences — was a woman who sat not far from the president wearing a T-shirt that read: “George Bush, your war killed my friend’s son.”
The president did not call on her.
As Bush approached the warehouse, he passed about 100 people holding antiwar signs. One read: “Worst President Ever.” Nearby, another group held signs supporting him.
Bush and Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were both in New York last week for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly session. Ahmadinejad was in the audience for Bush’s speech; Bush did not stay to hear the Iranian president’s address.
When a 10th-grade student asked him why he would not negotiate directly with Iranian leaders, Bush said, “For diplomacy to work, the other side needs as much or more from you as you need from them.”
Bush says he will not negotiate with Iran until it suspends what the United States maintains is a program to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is aimed at civilian nuclear power development. He said it was Ahmadinejad’s choice, not his, about the prospects for negotiations.
The president cited the current experience with North Korea as evidence that standing firm in the face of pressure to negotiate can pay off.
He insisted that the United States would sit down with North Korea to discuss its nuclear weapons program only with Russia, China, Japan and South Korea also present.
And Bush said this approach made clear to North Korea that, with diplomats from Moscow and Beijing there, it was up against traditional allies, as well as Washington, and would face consequences if it did not negotiate.
“Negotiations just for the sake of negotiations oftentimes send wrong signals,” Bush said. “Negotiations to achieve consequences are worth doing.”