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Threats to U.S. security growing: claim

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Threats to U.S. national security around the world got worse last year, a Washington think tank said Wednesday.

"By President Bush's own admission, over the last year, 'the violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made' and the administration's policy unraveled as a 'slow failure,'" the Center for American Progress, a think tank headed by Democratic President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta, said in a new report Thursday.

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"The chief beneficiary of the war on terror -- Iran -- grew more belligerent, while administration allies continued to make the case for ignoring diplomacy and embracing military confrontation with Iraq's powerful neighbor. Sensing an opportunity in the midst of growing instability in the region, Hezbollah provoked Israel into a month-long bloody struggle," the report said.

Also in 2006, "North Korea accelerated its build-up of nuclear weapons. The Taliban continued its resurgence in Afghanistan. America's capacity to respond to these threats -- militarily, financially, and diplomatically -- were further strained due to the mounting costs of the U.S. occupation of Iraq," the CAP said.

Domestically, "the United States still has not adequately adapted to the new post-9/11 security environment, aggressively mobilized its defenses at home, or closed known vulnerabilities," the report said. "The recent midterm elections have brought hopes for change, instilling a Congress that has pledged to challenge Bush's policies on Iraq, conduct more oversight of his national security strategy, and take action where the Do-Nothing 109th Congress failed," the CAP said.

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However, "Rather than embrace the need for a phased redeployment from Iraq, Bush will use the State of the Union to dig in his heels and sell an escalation plan that elicits fears that 2007 could simply be more of the same," it said.

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