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Iraqi People Share U.S. Expectations, Bush Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2007 – The people of Iraq are aligned with the United States in expecting the Iraqi government to do its part in moving the war-torn country forward, President Bush said here today.

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research that also detailed progress in Afghanistan, Bush said the new policy he’s pursuing in Iraq places more demands on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government, and that the Iraqi people want it that way.

“Not only do we demand more from the Iraqi government, but so do the Iraqi people demand more from the Iraqi government,” he said. “They want to live in peace. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand a mother in downtown Baghdad wants her child to be able to walk the streets peacefully, just like mothers here in America want their children to be able to go to a playground and play peacefully.”

Bush said he spoke yesterday with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new multinational force commander in Iraq, who reported that coalition troops are arriving on schedule and that Iraq is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades in Baghdad.

“Prime Minister Maliki has said part of our strategy is to put more Iraqis in the fight in the capital city to achieve our objective, and he's doing that,” Bush said. “So far, coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces has been good -- they are beginning joint operations to secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, and insurgents, and the criminals, and the roaming death squads. They're doing what the Iraqi people want in Baghdad -- they want a peaceful life.”

Central to the president’s new Iraq strategy is sending more troops into Baghdad to help Iraqis secure their capital.

“I made Baghdad the top security priority,” he said. “In other words, it's important, in order to achieve our objective, that the capital city of this grand country be secure. And I sent reinforcements to our troops so they can accomplish that mission.”

Bush said the course of action he chose provides the best chance for success in Iraq among all the options he considered.

“It's important for us to succeed,” he said. “It's important for us to help this young democracy fight off the extremists so moderation can prevail. It's important for us to stand with this young democracy as they … try to build a society under the most modern constitution written in the Middle East, a constitution approved by millions of their citizens.”

Though opinions differ on how to go about succeeding in Iraq, the president said, people recognize it’s important not to fail.

“One of the interesting things that I have found here in Washington is there is strong disagreement about what to do to succeed, but there is strong agreement that we should not fail,” Bush said. “People understand the consequences of failure.”

If the U.S. effort in Iraq fails, he said, extremists seeking safe haven would fill the ensuing power vacuum.

“If we were to leave Iraq before the job is done,” he said, “the enemy would follow us home.”

Bush said he’s encouraged by the initial progress of the new Iraq strategy, but he cautioned that the way ahead won’t be easy.

“It's important for us to recognize that this is the beginning of what will be a difficult operation in the Iraqi capital,” he said. “Our troops are risking their lives. As they carry out the new strategy, they need our patience, and they need our support.”

The president often has referred to Iraq as the central front in the larger war on terror, and he cited successes in other fronts of that war, noting that the United States is not alone in the struggle.

“Recently in the Philippines, that country's special forces conducted raids in which they killed two top leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization -- a group that we believe was responsible for kidnapping four American citizens and killing two of them,” he said. “In Tunisia, authorities recently broke up a terrorist cell that was planning to attack the American and British embassies.

“In Spain,” he continued, “police captured several fugitives wanted for aiding the escape of terrorists responsible for the Madrid train bombings. And in the past year, nations including Denmark, Italy, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, Canada, and Britain have broken up terrorist cells.”

While the enemy is active, Bush said, so are those who value freedom. He pledged to continue encouraging freedom-loving nations to keep up the fight.

“It's in the interests of the United States to encourage other nations not to relent and not to give in, but to keep the pressure on those who try to have their way by murdering the innocent,” Bush said. “And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.”

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