BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq’s prime minister Friday asked Americans to be patient and, for the first time, acknowledged a clear connection between the Iraqi insurgency and the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
"Terrorism is terrorism," said Ibrahim al-Jaafari (search) in an interview with FOX News.
"You cannot separate it by region, or divide it into different parts of the world. Defeating terrorism now will benefit all democracies. Failing to defeat it will put all democracies in peril. It will come back to America as it did on Sept. 11."
Al-Jafaari spoke in the Jordanian capital, Amman, after a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II (search), less than a week after Iraqis approved the country’s new constitution. Nationwide elections are set for Dec. 15.
Al-Jaafari said he recognized there was growing unease in the United States about the war in Iraq, which has claimed 2,000 U.S. military dead since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (search) in 2003.
"It’s understandable that the American people want their children back home," the prime minister said. "But I think and I hope that they understand that the presence of American troops on Iraqi soil is not just for the benefit of Iraq (search). What the Americans faced on Sept. 11 in New York and Washington, they are now facing in Iraq. There is only one enemy – terrorism – whether it takes place here or America, or London or anywhere in the world."
Al-Jaafari’s linkage of the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq mirrored President Bush’s repeated contention that the Iraqi conflict is part of the ongoing war on terror that began when America was attacked in 2001.
While he offered no estimates of when U.S. troops might be able to withdraw, al-Jaafari said, "Iraqis want to be independent of America and able to defend themselves."
A Shi’ite Muslim whose Dawa (search) party is included in the pro-Iranian Islamic Alliance in Iraq, al-Jaafari took care not to criticize Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmanadinejad, who earlier this week called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
"Since he’s the president of the country, he can say whatever he wants," al-Jaafari said. "My personal opinion is that such a policy must be made by the people and the parliament." Al-Jaafari’s non-comment on the Iranian leader’s speech was in contrast to other world leaders, who denounced it as blatantly racist.
John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Vatican correspondent and Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books, including "Pope John Paul II : Biography."