There is no one for whose health the Bush White House prays harder than Ayad Allawi's.
It is not an idle request of providence. Allawi says he receives a death threat a day and that in the last month his security people have uncovered four assassination conspiracies against him.
Allawi is the 58-year-old doctor and former Baath party official and later exile whom the Bush administration singled out last June to be Iraq's interim prime minister. On a visit here that featured an address to the United Nations, a speech to a joint session of Congress and a White House press conference with President Bush, it was clear that the administration had anointed him as its best, and perhaps only, hope for bringing peace and stability to Iraq.
"Mr. Prime Minister, America will stand with you until freedom and justice have prevailed. America's security and Iraq's future depend on it," said the president. Strong stuff.
Bush stressed that progress was being made in Iraq: the interim government taking over more and more functions from the coalition; schools being built; lights coming on; more police and border guards being trained and the training of the Iraqi army over halfway complete; and "over 100 companies are now listed on the Iraqi stock exchange."
The prime minister was in harmony with the president. He repeated the list of improvements, adding that "Iraq's economy, freed from the stranglehold of a failed Baathist ideology, has finally started to flourish."
Allawi said he wanted to address a point the media overlooked. In 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces, "there are no problems. It's safe. It's good." In the other three provinces, there are problems, especially in Fallujah, but Fallujah is only a small part of a big province, and, says Allawi, its people don't want the insurgents there. He's said he's trying to talk the more reasonable insurgents into laying down their weapons and those who don't will be taken care of by the new Iraqi army.
Many have questioned whether the country will be stable enough to hold the scheduled January elections for a permanent government. " . . . (L)et me be absolutely clear that elections will occur in Iraq on time in January," Allawi said. The Bush administration is betting the store on it.
And on a flawless September day in Washington, that was the view of Iraq from the White House Rose Garden.