Bush Urges Patience with Iraq Plan

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Following a briefing by top U.S. military and civilian leaders at the Pentagon, President Bush urged patience to allow sufficient time for the Iraq strategy to succeed.

Not all of the additional troops that are part of the surge to enhance security in Iraq have arrived yet, Bush said. With all the additional troops expected to be in place in June, the president said the plan for Iraq “ought to be given a chance to work.” (See related article.)

Bush made his comments during a May 10 Pentagon news conference.

The president also endorsed the need for clear benchmarks that Iraqi leaders must meet in the coming months, including the adoption of a law on distribution of oil revenues, a review of Iraq’s Constitution, measurable progress on a new policy for allowing political participation by former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and preparations for upcoming provincial elections.

Iraqi leaders already have expressed determination to U.S. and international leaders to meet a series of political benchmarks, Bush said, during the recent Iraq Neighbors’ Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (See related article.)

Conference participants pledged to support Iraqi requests for help in such matters as political reform, rebuilding the economy and border security.  “As we help Iraqis bring security to their own country, we’re also working with Iraqi leaders to secure greater international support for their young democracy,” Bush said. 

Bush also said Iraqi leaders must understand that there are two clocks ticking - one in Iraq, but another in Washington where members of Congress increasingly are expressing impatience with the pace of Iraqi progress.  Vice President Cheney traveled to Baghdad May 9 and 10, he said, delivering a message to Iraqi leaders “that they have got to speed up their clock.” (See related article.)

Bush has emphasized in recent meetings with congressional leaders seeking to pass a bill to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that they need to give coalition forces time to implement the military strategy for Iraq before they try to mandate a reduction in the number of troops.

“Let’s give this plan a chance to work.  Let’s stop playing politics,” Bush said.

Success in Iraq is vital, he said because failure only would embolden al-Qaida and create a political vacuum in the Middle East that likely would be filled by extremists and radicals opposed to greater regional stability.

Bush said he expressed concern to Congress about what might happen to U.S. credibility if the United States does not bring stability to Iraq, or if it does not keep its commitment to millions of Iraqis who want “to live in a stable, secure, [and] free society.”

Bush said success in Iraq is also important to efforts on Iranian nuclear issue.  During his further travels in the Middle East, the president said, Cheney will be setting out the U.S. strategy to persuade nations to join the Chinese-Russian-U.S. diplomatic front on Iran.  “We’ve got to work to keep it together,” he said, “to send a focused, concerted message.” (See related article.)

Bush also said he is looking forward to working with new government leaders in the United Kingdom, France and elsewhere “to not only achieve success in Iraq, but also … in Afghanistan, another theater in the War on Terror.

A transcript of President Bush’s comments is available on the White House Web site.

For more information, see Iraq Update and Response to Terrorism.