President Bush has launched a new campaign to win support for the Iraq war at, what he calls, "a difficult time." VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House he is urging Americans to look beyond the images of violence coming from Iraq and see the progress that is being made.
President Bush says the situation in Iraq is still tense, and the work ahead will be hard. But he says the stakes are high, and urges patience on the part of the American people.
"The terrorists are losing on the field of battle so they are fighting this war through the pictures we see on television and in the newspapers everyday," he said. "They are hoping to shake our resolve and force us to retreat. They are not going to succeed."
The president says the February 22 bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Iraq could have led to civil war. He says Iraq's leaders, its people and its fledgling security force were all tested, and displayed a strong will to move forward.
In the first of a series of speeches linked to the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Mr. Bush said Iraqis have learned the only path to peace is through unity. He said that is a lesson that must come into play as the heads of various political factions seek to form a new government in the wake of the mosque bombing.
"Iraq's leaders know that this is not the last time they will be called to stand together in the face of an outrageous terrorist attack," he said. "Iraq's leaders know they must put aside their differences, reach out across political, religious and sectarian lines and form a unity government that will earn the trust and confidence of all Iraqis."
The president said the Iraqi police and military are also seeking diversity, and are trying to recruit more Sunnis. He said training has also been stepped up, and he praised the Iraqi security forces who acted to quell violence and keep tempers in check after the mosque attack.
"In the weeks since the bombing, the Iraqi security forces turned in a strong performance," he said. "From the outset, Iraqi forces understood that if they failed to stand for national unity, the country would slip into anarchy."
The president acknowledged that some Iraqi units did not perform as well as others, but he appeared confident that with time Iraq will be able to meet its own security needs.
He said one of the biggest challenges facing coalition and Iraqi troops is dealing with the home-made explosive devices used by terrorists and insurgents that can be detonated from a safe distance. He said some of the most powerful ones encountered by coalition forces were made in Iran.
"Such actions along with Iran's support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats," the president said.
This new series of speeches comes at a time of low public approval ratings for the Bush presidency in general, and his Iraq policy in particular.
But critics were not to be found in the university auditorium where the president delivered Monday's address. His audience was chosen by members of a private organization friendly to the White House: the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.