Vice President Dick Cheney says a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be dangerous for the United States and for the entire Middle East. His comments came in Washington Monday in a speech to a gathering sponsored by an influential lobbying group. VOA's Stephanie Ho has more on the story.

In a speech to a friendly audience, Vice President Cheney said pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq before Iraqis could defend themselves could be disastrous.

"Shi'ite extremists, backed by Iran, could be in an all-out war with Sunni extremists, led by al Qaida and remnants of the old Saddam regime," said Dick Cheney.

He added that chaos in Iraq is likely to spark greater instability around the world.

"Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look abroad for new missions," he said. "Many would head for Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taleban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments."

Also speaking at the conference, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged other Middle Eastern governments to join Israel in opposing Iran, whose president has called for Israel's destruction.

"The Iranian threat is clear, not just to Israel and the Western world, maybe Arab and Gulf states feel it too," she said. "They also cannot afford a nuclear Iran, and believe me, love for Israel has nothing to do with it. They know, as we do, that even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict magically disappeared, Iran's radical ideology would remain."

She also urged Arab and Muslim countries that condition their relations with Israel on the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to move quickly and establish relations with her government.

"You have the power to change reality and to encourage Palestinians to embrace co-existence," she said. "Do not wait for peace to come before you normalize relations with us. Normalize relations now, and peace will come."

Livni is in Washington for talks with U.S. officials on the Arab peace plan, known as the Saudi initiative. It calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories seized during the 1967 Six Day War, in exchange for normal relations from all Arab countries. A Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.