President Bush, addressing the nation with a strategy for a new way forward in Iraq, said he will send an additional 20,000 American troops to the region and outlined his plan for securing Baghdad against sectarian violence.
While he expressed confidence that this strategy ultimately will bring success in Iraq, the president warned that violence is likely to continue even if the strategy works "exactly as planned."
"This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks … [We] must expect more Iraqi and American casualties," Bush said. "The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will."
The president also accepted responsibility for mistakes in Iraq.
"The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me," he said. "Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."
During his primetime speech from the White House library, Bush said he has made it clear to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraq's other leaders that the United States' commitment to the region is not open-ended.
He said the Iraqi government needs to follow through on its promises of benchmarks for success -- or else risk losing the support of the American and Iraqi peoples.
"Now is the time to act," he said.
Bush compared this speech to the one he gave roughly one year ago when the Iraqis went to the polls, a time when he said he thought the elections would bring Iraqis together. He also thought the increased numbers of trained Iraqi security forces would allow the United States to accomplish its mission with fewer troops.
Bush acknowledged tonight that since then the opposite occured.
"The violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause," Bush said.
What is the Plan?
As Democrats and Republicans in Washington debate how to proceed in Iraq, Bush used tonight's speech to outline three key elements for a new strategy to include:
Deploy 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq, including five brigades to Baghdad and one in Anbar Province.
Position an Iraqi military commander and two deputy commanders for Baghdad.
Assign Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts -- once fully deployed there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades as part of this effort.
Why Will This Strategy Work?
The new strategy comes nearly four years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bush said that past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two key reasons:
There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods after they were cleared of terrorists and insurgents.
Too many restrictions were placed on U.S. troops, who were not permitted to go after Shiite militias in areas like Sadr City.
Bush said his military commanders report to him that this new strategy addresses those mistakes and can work to stabilize the region.
But he said he still anticipates criticism and questions on why this strategy will work when previous operations such as the clear, hold and build strategy to secure Baghdad failed.
"This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence," Bush said. "This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."
The president also addressed Democrats who have been criticizing this request for an increase in troop levels and who instead advocate a phased withdrawal in Iraq.
Bush said he carefully considered their proposals but ultimately decided that was the wrong approach.
"We concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home," Bush said.
Iran and Syria
Bush also said it is necessary to stabilize the region around Iraq in order for the country to succeed as a democracy.
The first place to start -- Iran and Syria.
The president said that the two countries are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq, and Iran is providing materials for attacks on American troops. He vowed to stop the attacks and the flow of support from Iran and Syria: "[We] will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."
However, Bush did not indicate that he would engage in any discussions with Iran or Syria on the situation in Iraq, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group.