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Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.


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Recall key dates, browse defining photos from six weeks of combat in Iraq. (Requires Flash)


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Tuesday, October 28

Bush plan in Iraq faces critical months ahead

By John Yaukey | GNS

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday sought to cast the recent wave of violence in Baghdad as a futile attempt by ``suiciders'' to thwart undeniable progress in rebuilding Iraq.

``They're not going to intimidate America, and they're not going to intimidate the brave Iraqis,'' Bush said defiantly in a hastily called news conference at the Rose Garden.

But that assessment may well face some of its severest tests over the coming months.

In the near term, the insurgents in Iraq appear to be trying to exploit the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Monday, to enforce the fear among Iraqis that nothing is sacred and anyone cooperating with coalition forces is a potential target.

That strategy was driven home by a car bomb that exploded near the International Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad, killing 12 people and injuring at least 10. It was one of four car bombings Monday that killed at least 35 people and wounded more than 230. Another car bomb killed at least four people Tuesday west of Baghdad, and loud explosions were heard in the area after sunset.

It was all the latest in an increasingly aggressive bombing campaign that included a catastrophic attack against the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19 that killed 23 people, including the chief U.N. envoy in Iraq.

Not even mosques are off limits.

An Aug. 29 bombing outside the Imam Ali mosque in the holy city of Najaf killed 90 people, including a leading Muslim cleric whom American intelligence officials considered a possible ally.

Schools and hospitals remain some of the only high profile ``soft targets'' that have not yet been directly attacked.

Bush, often criticized for concentrating on the positive in Iraq, acknowledged Monday that, ``what they (the insurgents) are trying to do is cause people to run - they want to kill and create chaos.''

The danger with a continued campaign like this, say security experts, is that it could begin to attract support from otherwise law-abiding Iraqis as they lose faith that security can ever be restored while American troops roam the streets.

According to a report commissioned by the Defense Department, the next several months will be critical in retaining the confidence of Iraqis.

"The Iraqi population has exceedingly high expectations, and the window for cooperation may close rapidly if they do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, opportunities for broad political involvement, and economic opportunity," said the report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The report calls for quickly increasing funding and personnel for reconstruction, involving substantially more Iraqis in rebuilding, and improving communication with Iraqis.

"The enormity of the task ahead cannot be underestimated. It requires that the entire effort be immediately turbo-charged by making it more agile and flexible,'' the report recommended. ``We owe it to our people in the field, and to Iraqis, to provide everything necessary to get this right. U.S. credibility and national interest depend upon it."

Back home, as the election approaches, Bush will face mounting pressure to draw down the 132,000-troop American contingent in Iraq as a sign that the coalition has turned a corner in Iraq.

More days like Monday will make that all but impossible.