Good morning. This week, I held important meetings at the White House
about the situation in Iraq.
On Monday, I met in the Oval Office with one of Iraq's most influential Shia
leaders, His Eminence Abdul Aziz al Hakim. We discussed the desire of the Iraqi
people to see their unity government succeed, and how the United States can help
them achieve that goal.
On Thursday, I had breakfast with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. We
discussed the sectarian violence in Iraq and the need to confront extremists
inside Iraq and throughout the region. The Prime Minister explains it this way:
"The violence is not ... an accident or a result of faulty planning. It is a
deliberate strategy. It is the direct result of outside extremists teaming up
with internal extremists -- al Qaeda with [the] Sunni insurgents, [and Iran
with] Shia militia -- to foment hatred and thus throttle at birth the possibility of
The Prime Minister and I also discussed the report I received this week from
the Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and
former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Their report provides a straightforward picture
of the grave situation we face in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group's report also
explicitly endorses the strategic goal we've set in Iraq: an Iraq that can
"govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself."
The report went on to say, "In our view, this definition entails an Iraq with
a broadly representative government that maintains its territorial integrity, is
at peace with its neighbors, denies terrorism a sanctuary, and doesn't brutalize
its own people. Given the current situation in Iraq, achieving this goal will
require much time and will depend primarily on the actions of the Iraqi people."
I agree with this assessment. I was also encouraged that the Iraq Study Group
was clear about the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. The
group declared that such a withdrawal would "almost certainly produce greater
sectarian violence" and lead to "a significant power vacuum, greater human
suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy." The
report went on to say, "If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range
consequences could eventually require the United States to return."
The Iraq Study Group understands the urgency of getting it right in Iraq. The
group also understands that while the work ahead will not be easy, success in
Iraq is important, and success in Iraq is possible. The group proposed a number
of thoughtful recommendations on a way forward for our country in Iraq. My
administration is reviewing the report, and we will seriously consider every
recommendation. At the same time, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the
National Security Council are finishing work on their own reviews of our
strategy in Iraq. I look forward to receiving their recommendations. I want to
hear all advice as I make the decisions to chart a new course in Iraq.
I thank the members of the Iraq Study Group for their hard work and for the
example of bipartisanship that they have set. The group showed that Americans of
different political parties can agree on a common goal in Iraq and come together
on ways to achieve it. Now it is the responsibility of all of us in Washington
-- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to come together and find greater
consensus on the best way forward.
As part of this effort, I met this week with House and Senate leaders from
both parties, as well as senior members of the Armed Services, Foreign
Relations, and Intelligence Committees. We had productive discussions about our
shared duty to forge a bipartisan approach to succeed in Iraq. The future of a
vital region of the world and the security of the American people depend on
victory in Iraq. I'm confident that we can move beyond our political differences
and come together to achieve that victory. I will do my part.
Thank you for listening.
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