Return of Sovereignty Means 'Hopeful Day' for Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 28, 2004 The dedication and sacrifice of the U.S. military "has brought us to this hopeful day" of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq becoming a sovereign nation, President Bush said today during a short speech in Istanbul, Turkey, where he is attending the NATO Summit.
Sovereignty transferred to the interim Iraqi government from the Coalition Provisional Authority, which has run the country for 14 months, two days ahead of schedule in a brief ceremony today.
Bush said this is a day "of great hope for Iraqis, and a day that terrorist enemies hoped never to see."
The president said the battle for Iraq is the front line of the war on terrorism. He stressed that the return of sovereignty is a major step along the road to democracy and freedom in Iraq, and that Iraq can serve as an example to the rest of the world.
White House officials said Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi asked for the date to be pushed up from June 30. Authorities said this shows the interim Iraqi government is strong enough to take the reins of government and ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
Bush said terrorist attacks against coalition forces and the Iraqi government have been aimed at preventing the return of sovereignty. "The terrorists are doing all they can to stop the rise of a free Iraq, but their bombs and attacks have not prevented Iraqi sovereignty, and they will not prevent Iraqi democracy," the president said.
He said the return of sovereignty is a tribute to the will of the Iraqi people, and a moral victory for the coalition in Iraq. "We pledged to end a dangerous regime, to free the oppressed and to restore sovereignty," Bush said. "We have kept our word."
Iraq still faces many challenges, Bush said, but it has come a long way from the Saddam's regime of terror, murder, oppression and savagery.
The president thanked the men and women of the American military. "From the first hours of Operation Iraqi Freedom and to this very hour, America's men and women in uniform have been unrelenting in the performance of their duty," he said.
Bush said the "courage of our military has brought us to this hopeful day, and the continued service of our military assures us of the success of our cause."
America is in Iraq fighting for liberty Bush said, "and liberty is always worth fighting for." He said the coalition is working to further the cause of peace in the region by promoting progress and hope in the Middle East. He said this is the alternative to stagnation, hatred and violence-for-export.
He said the coalition forces will help Iraq as it moves toward democracy. In conjunction with the Iraqi government, "we are moving forward with every element of our five-part plan for Iraqi self-government."
Iraq's interim government endorsed by the United Nations has gained broad international support. U.S. and coalition partners are training Iraqi security forces to assume the defense of their own country. "We appreciate NATO's decision to approve Prime Minister Allawi's request for assistance in training the Iraqi security forces," Bush said.
Bush said that as the allies train Iraqi security forces, they will help those forces find and destroy the killers who have plagued the country. The allied forces will protect infrastructure from attacks, and will provide security for the upcoming elections, he added.
"Operating in a sovereign nation, our military will act in close consultation with the Iraqi government," Bush said. But coalition forces will remain under coalition command.
"Our military will stay as long as the stability of Iraq requires, and only as long as their presence is needed and requested by the Iraqi government," the president said.
"All this progress is being attacked by foreign terrorists and the thugs from the fallen regime," Bush said. "Terrorists know they face defeat unless they break the spirit and commitment of the civilized world. The civilized world will not be frightened or intimidated."
Bush said the allies recognize that ultimately the struggle in Iraq belongs to the Iraqis. Allawi said his people are prepared to fight and if necessary die for these objectives. "America, Great Britain and the coalition respect that spirit, and the Iraqi people will not stand alone," Bush said.