President George W. Bush says that since the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq last year, substantive progress has been made in Iraq’s security situation, as well as in its political development.
Among other measures, Iraqi forces have been trained, and, at the direction of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are confronting al-Qaida and extremist Shiite militias that are being armed and financed by Iran. Laws have been passed that will help foster reconciliation in Iraq. A budget has been enacted that increases spending on security-related capital reconstruction projects and provincial governments.
But, says Mr. Bush, while progress has been real, it is also reversible. Calls for premature retreat by the U.S. from Iraq are misguided and dangerous because, says President Bush, they fail to recognize that a stable and democratic Iraq is in America’s interests:
"If America’s strategic interests are not in Iraq - the convergence point for the twin threats of al-Qaida and Iran, [Iraq,] the nation that Osama bin Laden’s deputy has called ‘the place for the greatest battle,’ the country at the heart of the most volatile region on earth – then where are they?"
The reality, says Mr. Bush, is that a retreat from Iraq "would carry enormous strategic costs for the United States":
"It would incite chaos and killing, destroy the political gains the Iraqis have made and abandon our friends to terrorists and death squads. ... It would increase the likelihood that al-Qaida would gain safe havens that they could use to attack us here at home. ... It would signal to Iran that we were not serious about confronting its efforts to impose its will on the region."
In contrast, says Mr. Bush, helping the Iraqis defeat their enemies and build a free society would be a victory that "would resound beyond Iraq’s borders": it would be a powerful blow to al-Qaida and the global terrorist movement; it would be a setback to Iran’s ambitions to dominate the region; it would mark a decisive break from the long reign of tyranny in that region. "And," he said, "if the Middle East grows in freedom and prosperity, the appeal of extremism will decline, the prospect of peace will advance, and the American people will be safer here at home."