National Security Adviser Says Pakistan Is Top U.S. Challenge
By JOHN D. MCKINNON (Wall Stree Journal, Jan. 7, 2009)
WASHINGTON -- The biggest foreign-policy challenge awaiting President-elect Barack Obama isn't Iraq or Afghanistan but Pakistan, President George W. Bush's national-security adviser said.
In an interview previewing a valedictory speech he plans to give on Wednesday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Pakistan's increasingly turbulent border region poses threats not just to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, but also to neighboring India, as evidenced by the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks, as well as to urban areas of Pakistan itself -- and the world beyond. (Read the full transcript.)
If extremists succeed in destabilizing Pakistan, the resulting chaos will threaten the entire region, Mr. Hadley is expected to say in his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Read the prepared text of the speech.)
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said in an interview Tuesday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could be reached this year.
"You can't really solve Afghanistan without solving Pakistan," Mr. Hadley said in an interview in his White House office Tuesday. "That's why I think Pakistan is at the center" of the challenge for the incoming administration.
Mr. Hadley cited relations with Russia as another challenge facing the Obama administration, highlighted this week by a confrontation between Russia and Europe over natural-gas supplies.
The crisis was touched off by a long-running price dispute over Russia's gas sales to Ukraine. Initially, Russia announced it was cutting shipments to Ukraine in retaliation for Ukraine's failure to agree to a new, higher price for Russia's gas. On Monday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia also would reduce pipeline shipments intended for Western Europe that travel through Ukraine. Mr. Putin said that move was intended to counteract Ukraine's diversion of European gas to make up for its own cuts.
Mr. Hadley said in the interview that the latest Russian move "raises questions about Russia as a reliable supplier" of gas to Europe, and "should be a wake-up call to Europe about the need to diversify" its sources of natural gas. The Bush administration -- like the Clinton administration before it -- wants Europe to invest more in non-Russian gas sources in the Caspian region, and in pipelines that run outside Russia's southern borders.
In his speech, Mr. Hadley also is expected to acknowledge challenges for the U.S. in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as in efforts to curb Iran's apparent nuclear ambitions.
Yet Mr. Hadley, a soft-spoken, silver-haired lawyer who has served Mr. Bush during his entire eight years in office, sounded notes of optimism in both areas as well.
He is expected to say on Wednesday that Iran remains the biggest problem in the Middle East. But U.S. progress in mending fences with Western Europe means that the next administration should be able to enforce tougher sanctions on Iran.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Hadley predicted that a cease-fire will be reached over the embattled Gaza Strip region, but wouldn't predict when, and suggested that the U.S. isn't budging from its demands that a cease-fire be sustainable and durable. The administration also wants security officers of the Palestinian Authority to take over responsibilities for monitoring border crossings around Gaza, a move that could elevate the authority's status in the area, now dominated by the militant group Hamas.
Longer term, Mr. Hadley suggested that -- notwithstanding the Gaza violence -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presents the incoming Obama administration with a genuine opportunity for progress on a peace deal, because of economic and political progress already being made in the West Bank. He held out hope that Gaza's people will increasingly view the progress being made in the West Bank as a reason to turn away from Hamas, which controls Gaza.
It is even possible that a long-term peace agreement could be reached in the coming year, Mr. Hadley suggested. "You can see how it could come about," he said.
On Iraq, he said he hopes the Obama administration will stick to the timetables for withdrawing troops set out in recent strategic agreements with the Iraqi government. "We would hope that the new administration would...make any reduction a reflection of progress that's been made on the ground," he said.