President Bush said, ”We can expect they’ll do everything in their power to try to stop the march of freedom. And our troops are ready for it.”
The president’s pledge comes as American forces claimed a key success in their war against insurgents in the war-torn country.
On Tuesday, Iraqi and U.S. forces announced they killed Abdullah Abu Azzam, the top lieutenant of al-Qaida’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, during a gun battle in Baghdad on Sunday. American officials called Abu Azzam al-Qaida’s Baghdad commander and the mastermind of a rise in suicide bombings that have killed around 700 people in Baghdad since April.
Many of those attacks have targeted Iraqi police and Iraqi army recruitment centers. On Wednesday a suicide bomber killed six and wounded 20 at an Iraqi police recruiting center in the city of Tal Afar, an insurgent stronghold where coalition forces have conducted a major offensive this month.
President Bush warned of a likely surge in violence before Iraqis head to the polls on Oct. 15 to vote for a referendum on a new constitution.
“As these milestones approach we can expect there to be increasing violence,” he said. The failure of Shiite and Sunni leaders to reach a consensus on the draft constitution has raised fears of a sectarian split possibly leading to a civil war.
President Bush’s remarks come after tens of thousands of antiwar protesters marched over the weekend in Washington demanding that the United States withdraw from Iraq. The Department of Defense has confirmed the deaths of 1,912 Americans since the war began in March 2003.
President Bush’s approval ratings have dropped to the lowest point of his presidency due to ongoing struggles in Iraq and the government’s sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll showed a majority of Americans now believe the war was a mistake with only 37 percent approving of how President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq.