06 March 2007
Bush Cites Progress in Iraq
Iraqis meeting the challenge of countering extremists, building democracy
Washington –- Iraqis and coalition allies are making “gradual but important progress” in securing the country and building democracy, President Bush said March 6.
“The Iraqis are standing up for the democratic future that 12 million of them voted for,” Bush said at the annual convention of the American Legion, the largest military veterans’ organization in the United States, in Washington.
The struggle in Iraq, Bush said, is part of a larger regional conflict against the forces of extremism that, if left unchecked, would overthrow the moderate governments of the region and plot future attacks against the United States and its allies.
“The goal of the enemies in Iraq is power, and they're willing to kill themselves and innocent men, women and children to achieve that goal,” he said. “People like these can't be satisfied by negotiations or diplomatic concessions.”
For example, Bush said, when al-Qaida and Sunni extremists failed to stop the Iraqi people from holding successful democratic elections in 2005 to approve a constitution and elect a government, they struck back with attacks calculated to provoke reprisals from militant elements within Iraq’s Shia majority, such as the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. (See related article.)
“This changed the nature of the conflict in Iraq,” Bush said. “We still face the threat from al-Qaida, but the sectarian violence was getting out of hand and threatened to destroy this young democracy before it had a chance to succeed.”
Amid this devastating cycle of Shia-Sunni violence, nearly 120,000 Iraqis have joined their new army, thousands more have joined the police force and citizens across the country risk reprisals to help coalition and Iraqi authorities by providing tips about illegal activities, Bush said.
Today, he said, Iraqi forces are stepping up to the challenge of stabilizing the capital, Baghdad, under a new strategy developed by U.S. and Iraqi authorities, Bush said. (See related article.)
Three Iraqi army brigades have arrived to join 21,500 coalition reinforcements in establishing 40 security stations across the city from which they will direct joint 24-hour operations to root out Sunni and Shia extremist networks. The joint Iraqi-U.S. teams also will work with area residents to prevent extremists from coming back while continuing to train a new generation of soldiers and police officers to protect the Iraqi people.
Since the arrival of the new coalition forces commander, U.S. General David Petraeus, troops have expanded their presence in Baghdad, detained hundreds of Sunni and Shia extremists and seized several large caches of weapons and bomb-making materials.
But Bush said the strategy is still in its early stages of implementation, and he predicted extremists would continue attacks in an effort to derail the stabilization plan.
Improving security in Baghdad will set the stage for continued political reconciliation among Iraq’s leaders as they struggle to build democracy. On this front, Bush cited the Iraqi government’s progress toward sharing energy revenues equitably and a new budget pledging $10 billion toward reconstruction and investments in infrastructure across the country. (See related op-ed article.)
Bush said Iraq’s future also will depend on continued support from the international community. To this end, he said, the United States supports Baghdad’s plans to bring together Iraq’s neighbors, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference and others in a series of conferences to build political, economic and security support for the new Iraq.
These meetings, he said, will give nations a chance to join the United States in expressing support for Iraq’s young democracy. They also will give Iraq’s neighbors Iran and Syria, which actively support extremist groups, a chance to become constructive forces in Iraq’s future, Bush said. (See related article.)
For more information, see Iraq Update.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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