President Barack Obama says the United States will work with Iraq to push back a resurgent al-Qaida.
Mr. Obama held White House talks Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is struggling to hold his country together as violence between Sunnis and Shiites threatens to turn into civil war.
Pro-Sunni al-Qaida terrorists are aggravating the situation and Mr. Obama says al-Qaida threatens the entire region and the United States itself.
Mr. Maliki said Iraq is committed to holding elections on time next year because he says strengthening democracy allows the government to fight terrorism.
The prime minister's visit comes two years after U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq, in part because of Mr. Maliki's demand that they leave.
The White House has said continued assistance to Iraq is necessary, including next year's planned delivery of F-16 fighter jets. But some in Congress are questioning the wisdom of such military aid.
They say the Sunni-dominated Iraqi government has refused to share power with and is ignoring the needs of the Sunni minority.
The United Nations says violence between Sunnis and Shiites has killed more than 7,500 people since April, when government forces stormed a Sunni protest camp near Baghdad.
Also Friday, about 200 demonstrators outside the White House protested the alleged deaths of 52 people from an Iranian dissident camp north of Baghdad in September.
The dissidents accuse Iraqi security forces of carrying out the killings, but Baghdad denies involvement.
The demonstrators urged President Obama to cut aid to the current Iraqi government.