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IN THE NEWS - After Three Years, Iraq Still a Major Issue in American Politics

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I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Three years ago, on March nineteenth, President Bush ordered American-led coalition forces to invade Iraq. One goal was to free the Iraqi people. The other was to prevent Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from using weapons of great destruction. The United States believed Iraq had such weapons.

The coalition forces gained a quick military victory and the Iraqi government was ousted. But weapons of great destruction were never found.

More than two thousand three hundred American troops have died in Iraq in the past three years. The Bush administration says at least thirty thousand Iraqis have also died. Some reports say many more have been killed.

Today, President Bush says the goal of the military operation is to protect American security by turning Iraq into a democracy. He adds that Iraq has gone from dictatorship to freedom, to self-rule, to a constitution, and to national elections.

But gaining a secure peace in Iraq has been difficult. Deaths and injuries to American troops continue. So do attacks against Iraqi civilians and violence among religious extremists.

The United States has been training the Iraqi military and police so that they could accept more responsibility for security operations. But some experts say training alone is not enough to provide security. They say Iraq needs a government that is both effective and permanent.

Shiite and Kurdish coalitions won the most seats in parliament in the Iraqi elections last December. But the coalitions lack the clear majority needed to govern. The United States ambassador in Iraq has proposed creation of a national unity government that would include Sunni representatives. But this proposal has been met with resistance.

President Bush has spoken around the country to increase support for his policy in Iraq. Last month, Mister Bush said his administration is fixing what has not worked. He said the administration would take necessary steps to make Iraq able to defend itself, and serve as a strong ally in the war on terror.

But recent public opinion studies suggest that American support for the effort in Iraq is decreasing. Several opinion studies show that most Americans now oppose the war in Iraq. They do not believe the war effort was worth the cost. And, they fear Iraq may be close to civil war.

Iraqi and U.S. soldiers exit a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in support of Operation Swarmer, near Samarra
Iraqi and U.S. soldiers exit a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in support of Operation Swarmer, near Samarra

Experts say Iraq is still the most important issue in American politics today. This could affect the final three years of Mister Bush's presidency. Political experts say the public's concerns about Iraq have raised questions about the president's leadership. The president's Republican Party hopes the situation in Iraq will become more secure before the American congressional elections in November.

Experts say they expect the opposition Democratic Party to gain seats in the elections, at least in part, because of public dissatisfaction about the situation in Iraq.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Steve Ember.

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