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Hadley says US still has more work to do in Iraq in stemming Iran
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    WASHINGTON — With al-Qaida’s influence diminishing in Iraq, U.S. troops have much work to do in stemming Iranian support for militias, President Bush’s national security adviser said Sunday.
    ‘‘Iran is very active in the southern part of Iraq. They are training Iraqis in Iran who come into Iraq and attack our forces, Iraqi forces, Iraqi civilians. There are movements of equipment. There’s movements of funds,’’ Hadley said. ‘‘So we have illegal militia in the southern part of the country that really are acting as criminal elements that are pressing the people down there.’’
    ‘‘Al-Qaida, they’re on the defensive,’’ he added, citing the illegal militias as an emerging threat. The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, ‘‘decided it was time to take control of the situation down there. ... He’s had some success. He’s taken control of the port (in Basra). But there’s more work to do.’’
    Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. will be as aggressive as possible to counter the increase in Iranian support for militias. He said the Iraqis ‘‘are in a position themselves to bring some pressures to bear on Iran.’’
    ‘‘I think that one of the interesting developments of Prime Minister Maliki’s offensive in Basra is that it has revealed to the Shia, particularly, in the Iraqi government, the level of Iranian malign influence in the south and on their economic heartline through Basra,’’ Gates said in an interview aired Sunday.
    ‘‘And so I think what has happened is that the hand of Iran has been exposed, in a way that perhaps it had not been before, to some of the Iraqi government,’’ he said.
    Gates also has acknowledged that future troop withdrawals will go more slowly than he had initially hoped last year. He told a Senate panel he expects Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in the war, to be able to make an assessment of further drawdowns by mid-September.
    In the broadcast appearance, Gates said ‘‘extremism’’ was the biggest threat in Iraq.
    ‘‘The reason you don’t hear much about al-Qaida is because our soldiers have been very successful, our soldiers and our marines, in taking them on, as have the Sunnis in Iraq, themselves,’’ he said.
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized the administration’s strategy of taking a ‘‘pause’’ before deciding whether a major drawdown was warranted. She noted that the U.S. has been in Iraq for more than five years and she blamed Republicans for not working with Democrats to change the course of the war.
    ‘‘We have not been successful, because what we found out, really, is it’s not just the president. It’s the Republicans in Congress who are committed to this course of action, which I believe is a wrong course of action, and it will keep us in Iraq for many years to come, instead of taking us out, strengthening our military, regaining our reputation for security in the world.
    ‘‘I’ve always said it was a mistake,’’ said Pelosi, in comments aired Sunday. ‘‘Sadly, it’s now a mistake that is five years old.’’
    Hadley noted that the Iraqi government has been putting more diplomatic pressure on Iran, which he called a ‘‘good thing.’’
    ‘‘We will continue to do with Iraqi security forces what we’ve been doing for some time. We will go after their surrogate operations in Iraq that are killing our forces, killing Iraqi forces,’’ he said. ‘‘We will disrupt their networks by which they move fighters, weapons and funds in and around Iraq. And we will cut off as best we can the flow of fighters, weapons and arms into Iraq.’’
    Regarding troop drawdowns, Hadley reiterated that Bush will give Petraeus the time that he needs to assess the security situation in Iraq.
    ‘‘What we hope is that conditions on the ground will permit continuation of what we call return on success, and more U.S. forces will come out,’’ he said.
    Bush ‘‘has told them very clearly their only consideration is what they need to do to succeed in Iraq. And his objective is to leave Iraq in a situation at the end of his term where we have a strategy that is succeeding, that the American people can see progress, and to hand it over to the next administration, whether Republican or Democrat, so that they will inherit a strategy ... that is working,’’ Hadley said.
    Hadley spoke on ‘‘Fox News Sunday,’’ while Gates and Pelosi taped interviews Friday that were broadcast Sunday on ‘‘Face the Nation’’ on CBS.

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