The top priority for the United States and the coalition in Iraq is to help the Iraqi government protect the Iraqi people from attack. It is also important to help the Iraqis build a society that respects human rights, upholds the rule of law, and is an ally in the war against extremism.
To do that, the U.S.-led coalition is employing a new strategy. This strategy has been used in the largely Sunni Anbar province. Anbar had been al-Qaida's chief base of operations in Iraq. But Iraqis from Anbar province, with the help of U.S. troops, have driven al-Qaida terrorists from Anbar's capital city, Ramadi. Attacks in Anbar are sharply down from a year ago.
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In and around Baghdad, the Iraqis and the coalition have launched Operation Phantom Thunder. The military operation focuses on denying safe haven to al-Qaida terrorists, insurgents, and militias, and breaking up their supply and communications lines. U.S. and Iraqi troops recently seized twenty-five thousand gallons of nitric acid, a critical ingredient for car bombs.
But it will take more than military successes to bring peace to Iraq. Iraqis have to choose reconciliation over violence. Key legislation has yet to be passed, including laws to hold provincial elections and bring more Iraqis into the political process.
President George W. Bush said Iraqis are beginning to understand that al-Qaida is the main enemy of all Iraqis. The stakes for Iraq -- and for the whole Middle East -- are high.