Good morning. I returned home this week from a visit to
the Middle East. On my trip, I met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq to discuss
how we can improve the situation on the ground in his country and help the
Iraqis build a lasting democracy.
My meeting with Prime Minister Maliki was our third since he took office six
months ago. With each meeting, I'm coming to know him better, and I'm becoming
more impressed by his desire to make the difficult choices that will put his
country on a better path. During our meeting, I told the Prime Minister that
America is ready to make changes to better support the unity government of Iraq,
and that several key principles will guide our efforts.
First, the success of Prime Minister Maliki's government is critical to
success in Iraq. His unity government was chosen through free elections in which
nearly 12 million Iraqis cast their ballots in support of democracy. Our goal in
Iraq is to strengthen his democratic government and help Iraq's leaders build a
free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself -- and is
an ally in the war on terror.
Second, the success of the Iraqi government depends on the success of the
Iraqi security forces. The training of Iraqi security forces has been steady,
yet we both agreed that we need to do more, and we need to do it faster. The
Prime Minister wants to show the people who elected him that he's willing to
make the hard decisions necessary to provide security.
To do that, he needs larger and more capable Iraqi forces under his control,
and he needs them quickly. By helping Iraq's elected leaders get the Iraqi
forces they need, we will help Iraq's democratic government become more
effective in fighting the terrorists and other violent extremists, and in
providing security and stability, particularly in Baghdad.
Third, success in Iraq requires strong institutions that will stand the test
of time and hardship. Our goal in Iraq is to help Prime Minister Maliki build a
country that is united, where the rule of law prevails and the rights of
minorities are respected. The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his
country into parts is not what the Iraqi people want and that any partition of
Iraq would lead to an increase in sectarian violence.
Security in Iraq requires sustained action by the Iraqi security forces, yet
in the long term, security in Iraq hinges on reconciliation among Iraq's
different ethnic and religious communities. And the Prime Minister has committed
his government to achieving that goal.
The Prime Minister and I also discussed the review of America's strategy in
Iraq that is now nearing completion. As part of this review, I've asked our
military leaders in the Pentagon and those on the ground in Iraq to provide
their recommendations on the best way forward.
A bipartisan panel, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former
Congressman Lee Hamilton, is also conducting a review. And I look forward to
receiving their report next week. I want to hear all advice before I make any
decisions about adjustments to our strategy in Iraq.
I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq has been unsettling. Many people
in our country are wondering about the way forward. The work ahead will not be
easy, yet by helping Prime Minister Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic
institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and
diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy. The
decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader Middle East.
Failure in Iraq would embolden the extremists who hate America and want
nothing more than to see our demise. It would strengthen the hand of those who
are seeking to undermine young democracies across the region and give the
extremists an open field to overthrow moderate governments, take control of
countries, impose their rule on millions, and threaten the American people. Our
Nation must not allow this to happen.
Success in Iraq will require leaders in Washington -- Republicans and
Democrats alike -- to come together and find greater consensus on the best path
forward. So I will work with leaders in both parties to achieve this goal.
Together we can help Iraqis build a free and democratic nation in the heart of
the Middle East, strengthen moderates and reformers across the region who are
working for peace, and leave our children and grandchildren a more secure and
Thank you for listening.