Bush: Iraqis Must Help Stem Sectarian Violence
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2007 For the new U.S. strategy in Iraq to succeed, Iraqis must work in concert with American military forces toward ending sectarian violence, President Bush said today during his weekly radio address.
“Their leaders understand this, and they are stepping forward to do it,” the president said. “But they need our help, and it is in our interests to provide that help.”
Bush said ending sectarian violence and providing security for the Iraqi people would help foster a political solution to the country’s problems. During a Jan. 10 televised address to the nation, the president laid out a new strategy to help Iraq's fledgling democratic government. He said 20,000 additional U.S. troops will be inserted into Baghdad and Anbar province, and the Iraqi government will deploy 18 Iraqi army and national police brigades across Baghdad’s nine districts.
Bush acknowledged during his radio address that 2006 was a difficult year in Iraq and ongoing sectarian violence is making progress there difficult. “The terrorists and insurgents fought to reverse the extraordinary democratic gains the Iraqis have made,” he said.
In February, extremists bombed the holy Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra in an effort to provoke reprisals that would set off a sectarian conflict, he said.
The changes in U.S. strategy in Iraq would help the Iraqis in four main areas, the president explained. First, U.S. forces will help the Iraqis secure Baghdad. This is vital because 80 percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital city, he said.
“The new plan to secure Baghdad fixes the problems that prevented previous operations from succeeding,” he said. “This time, there will be adequate Iraqi and U.S. forces to hold the areas that have been cleared.”
Iraqi and U.S. forces will have a “green light” to enter areas that are home to those fueling sectarian violence, he said, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference with security operations will not be tolerated.
Second, U.S. forces will step up the fight against al Qaeda in its home base of Anbar province. Because local tribal leaders in Iraq recently began to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda, U.S. military commanders believe now is a good opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists, Bush said.
“So I've given orders to increase American forces in Anbar province by 4,000 troops,” he said. “America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan, and we will not allow them to reestablish it in Iraq.”
Third, Bush said the U.S. would hold the Iraqi government to benchmarks. “These include taking responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November, passing legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis, and spending $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction projects that will create new jobs,” he said.
He said the Iraqi government must meet these commitments or risk losing the support of the Iraqi and the American people.
Finally, the U.S. will expand its military and diplomatic efforts to strengthen the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East.
Bush also said his administration will address the problem of Iran and Syria allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq by encouraging countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to increase their economic assistance to Iraq.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now traveling in the Middle East to continue diplomatic talks aimed at helping bring peace to the region, he said.
In addition, the president said his national security team is making the case to Congress for troop increases. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that U.S. military commanders in Iraq support the plan to send more troops to there, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he recommends beefing up the active-duty Army by 65,000 soldiers and the active-duty Marine Corps by 27,000 Marines over the next five years.
“We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical. Some say our approach is really just more troops for the same strategy,” Bush said. “In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad. Our plan puts Iraqis in the lead.”
Whatever differences exist regarding strategy and tactics, it is vital that U.S. troops have what they need to succeed in Iraq, Bush said.
“Our brave troops should not have to wonder if their leaders in Washington will give them what they need,” he said. “I urge members of Congress to fulfill their responsibilities, make their views known, and to always support our men and women in harm's way.”