President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, is warning that failure is not an option in Iraq because, he says, this would turn the country into a sanctuary for terrorists like Afghanistan was under the Taleban regime.
Mr. Hadley told an audience of scholars, diplomats and journalists at the Center for Strategic and International Studies there is a growing consensus, even among critics of the Bush administration's policies, that victory is a necessity in Iraq.
"Failure is not an option in Iraq," said Mr. Hadley. "Defeat in Iraq would create a safe haven for terrorists similar to what Afghanistan was before 9/11, only this time on some of the world's most strategic real estate, with vast natural resources available to fund future terrorist attacks."
Mr. Hadley says the administration is focusing on five main areas in its strategy for victory in Iraq. These include the training of security forces, drawing Sunni Arabs into the political process, strengthening the new constitution, encouraging more international involvement in the country and continuing a reconstruction effort that creates jobs for Iraqis.
The national security adviser says victory in Iraq will have many benefits, both for America and the Middle East.
"It will make America safer by strengthening a new ally in the war on terror," he added. "It will deliver a decisive blow to the ideology that fuels international terrorism. A democratic Iraq will serve as a beacon of liberty, inspiring democratic reformers throughout the Middle East. As freedom and democracy spread, it will ultimately lead to a Middle East that is more peaceful, more stable, and more inhospitable to terrorists and their supporters."
After boycotting last January's elections in Iraq to protest the U.S.-led military occupation, Sunnis went to the polls in large numbers during last week's vote for a new parliament.
Mr. Hadley says when the parliament convenes in January, it should amend the constitution to make sure it is a national compact representing all the major religious and ethnic groups in the country.
"The trick is to get amendments that address underlying concerns, but not create expectations," he explained. "Because the last thing you want is amendments or changes that do not meet Sunni expectations and the Sunnis then come out and leave the political process. This is going to require some deft political work by this new government and it is going to have to require some real statesmanship among the three communities, Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurd."
Mr. Hadley says now that the Sunnis have entered the political process they need to have a role in the new government.
Analysts say if the Sunnis are marginalized, it could reinforce sectarian differences and undermine hopes for a return to stability and the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops.