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AP Fact-Checks Bush Iraq Speech

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

AP Fact-Checks Bush Iraq Speech

Article excerpt

Political realignment in Iraq's volatile Anbar province was Exhibit A for President Bush's argument Thursday that Iraq is a fight that the United States is winning.

A look at some of Bush's assertions.

BUSH SAID:

"Anbar province is a good example of how our strategy is working," Bush said, noting that just last year U.S. intelligence analysts had written off the Sunni area as "lost to al-Qaida."

FACT CHECK:

Early Thursday, the most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed by a bomb planted near his home.

The killing of a chief Anbar ally hours before Bush spoke showed the tenuous and changeable nature of success in Anbar and Iraq at large.

Although Sunni sheiks have defied al-Qaida and largely allied with U.S. forces in Anbar, the province remains violent and al-Qaida remains a threat.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha died 10 days after he met with Bush during a surprise visit the U.S. leader made to highlight the turnaround in Anbar. The charismatic young sheik led the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening - an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

The Sunni revolt against al-Qaida led to a dramatic improvement in security in Anbar cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi. Iraqis who had been sitting on the sidelines - or planting roadside bombs to kill Americans - have now joined with U.S. forces to hunt down al-Qaida in Iraq, whose links to Osama bin Laden's terror network are unclear.

Anbar is not secure, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. deaths in Iraq so far this year - making it the second deadliest province after Baghdad.

Bush's top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, told Congress this week that Anbar's circumstances are unique and its model cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, but "it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens."

BUSH SAID:

Progress in Iraq, including improvement in the performance of the Iraqi army, led to Petraeus' recommendation that "we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces."

Bush said there is still work to be done to improve the Iraqi national police.

FACT CHECK:

A new White House report on Iraq shows slim progress, moving just one more political and security goal into the satisfactory column. …

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