Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi warned top US military and diplomatic officials Wednesday night that it is "crucial that we block Iranian aggression." On his first official visit to the United States in his current capacity, Ashkenazi spoke of a "paradigmatic change in the Middle East," where radicals are trying to "install a new order" instead of the national-secular model in place today. He described Iran as being "at the center of this radical axis," adding that its support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear arms were an attempt "to project power within the region and beyond." Ashkenazi argued that checking Iran offered a chance to weaken the process of radicalization. His remarks came at an Israeli Embassy reception in his honor, one of a whirlwind of meetings and photo ops for the general. His schedule included meetings with Vice President Richard Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Pentagon brass headed by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and key members of Congress dealing with defense issues. Iran was the primary focus of these meetings, but Syria, Hizbullah and security coordination with the Palestinian Authority were all on the agenda.