President Bush seeks to build support for his Iraq policies Monday with a speech on the political process in that country. Mr. Bush will deliver the address in Philadelphia just three days before Iraqis go to the polls to elect a new parliament.
President Bush says victory in Iraq will depend on progress in three areas. In recent speeches he has talked about moving forward on security and the economy. Now, with a major election just days away, he focuses on the political process.
In interviews Sunday on several television news programs in the United States, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq offered a bit of a preview of that address.
Zalmay Khalilzad told ABC's This Week program that he expects a good turnout for Thursday's Iraqi election, noting that for the first time Sunni Muslims are likely to participate in large numbers. He said the election is likely to mark another turning point for Iraq.
"Politics will become more important," said Mr. Khalilzad. "And our hope and expectation is that violence and use of the military means will become less important, although I do not anticipate that change will move very quickly. In the best of circumstances it will take time and will change incrementally."
The president is expected to promote this progress in his speech, as he makes the case for a continued strong U.S. presence in Iraq.
But critics charge he is presenting a far-too-rosy picture of the situation there. On NBC's Meet the Press, former Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she found the current round of presidential speeches on Iraq to be helpful, but added she does not see the same signs of progress.
"Every day, as we see reporting on this, there are Americans dying, Iraqis dying, a variety of terrible things happening in terms of the security, no reconstruction," she said. "And President Bush in his speeches is telling us something that I do not see."
The debate in Washington over Iraq has become increasingly bitter in recent weeks, with Republicans and Democrats accusing each other of misrepresenting the situation and seeking only political gain. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, appeared with Ms. Albright on NBC and urged both sides to cool their rhetoric.
"I wish we would quit running ads against each other and try to find consensus," he said. "Maybe this would be one of the things we could agree on: what happens in Iraq matters to the region and to our own national security, [let us] come up with a plan that will allow us leave honorably and give these people who are dying in droves in Iraq for their own freedom a reasonable chance to be successful."
The president's final speech on Iraq will be Wednesday, one day before the crucial elections for a new Iraqi government.