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Bush, Blair Affirm Commitment to Victory in Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2006 – Victory in Iraq requires doing all that’s necessary to support the country’s newly elected government, ensuring its regional neighbors do the same, and promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today.

Bush and Blair addressed the White House press corps following a White House meeting that focused on Iraq and recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report, released yesterday.

Bush said success in Iraq hasn’t come as quickly as he expected, and he acknowledged that the United States and Great Britain are facing “a difficult moment” as they consider new approaches. While they consider options, including those recommended by the Iraq Study Group, Bush said, he and Blair continue to share a fundamental belief in the importance of victory in Iraq.

“It’s important for the Iraqi people,” the president said. “It’s important for the security of the United States and Great Britain. It’s important for the civilized world.

“We agree that an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself as an ally in the war on terror is a noble goal.”

Bush called the rise in sectarian attacks in and around Baghdad “unsettling” and blamed Sunni and Shiite extremists within Iraq, as well as foreign terrorists, for using them to derail democratic progress.

“We’ll support the democratic government of (Iraqi) Prime Minister (Nouri al-) Maliki as he makes difficult decisions and confronts the forces of terror and extremism that are working hard to tear his country apart,” the president said.

The U.S. and British commitment to support Maliki’s government transcends the two countries’ longstanding alliance, Bush said.

“We’re standing together because our two nations face an unprecedented threat to civilization,” he said. “We’re standing together to prevent terrorists and extremists from dominating the Middle East. We stand together to prevent extremists from regaining the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan, a safe haven from which they launched attacks that killed thousands of our citizens.”

By standing together with Iraq, the U.S. and Great Britain are protecting their own countries, Bush said. “We know the only way to secure peace for ourselves is to help millions of moms and dads across the Middle East build what our citizens already have: a society that’s based on liberty, that will allow children to grow up in peace and opportunity,” he said.

Blair noted that the direction Iraq takes will have longstanding regional and global consequences. He pointed to the history of instability in the region and emphasized that a big part of resolving it boils down to promoting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Ultimately, the situation in the Middle East will go only one of two ways, Blair said. “Its people can either be presented with a choice between a secular or a religious dictatorship, which is not a choice that any free people would ever choose,” he said. “Or, alternatively, they can enjoy the same possibilities of democracy that we hold dear in our countries.”

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