WASHINGTON – Seeking to allay fears that the Iraq situation is spiraling out of control, President Bush will tell Americans and the world Monday night that he has a blueprint to create a democratic nation out of the Arab country.
Five months before the presidential election, and just five weeks before the June 30 hand-off of political power in Iraq, Bush will travel late Monday to the Army War College (search) in Carlisle, Pa., to give the first in a series of speeches about the future of Iraq.
The speech begins at 8 p.m. EDT and can be watched on the Fox News Channel.
Worldwide attention is focused on the transfer of sovereignty next month, but the president was expected to lay out a timeline in Iraq that extends until elections are scheduled to be held early next year.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Monday afternoon that the president would not present a timetable for the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq. McClellan did say that even after the transfer of sovereignty on June 30, U.S. troops would still be under American command.
Bush's prime-time speech was expected address five steps toward a free and democratic Iraq:
— the creation of a new Iraqi interim government, the leaders of which are to be announced within days;
— efforts to move toward the election in January;
— ways to eliminate the security threats in Iraq;
— efforts to reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure;
— and diplomatic activities, specifically actions to internationalize the security effort and give the United Nations a leading role on the ground.
McClellan said the coalition was making strides helping to train and equip the Iraqi security forces and had had other successes leading the country toward self-government.
"We have already turned some 12 ministries over to the Iraqi people," he said.
Bush reviewed drafts of his speech over the weekend while traveling to Texas and Connecticut to attend parties celebrating his daughters' college graduations. McClellan said a Monday run-through of the speech lasted about 30-35 minutes.
Bush's message will focus on the "absolute necessity of us to be victorious in Iraq," Suzy DeFrancis, White House deputy assistant for communications, told Fox News.
"If the terrorists succeed in Iraq, it will be a major blow in the War on Terror," said DeFrancis, who added that Bush would speak about how Iraq would move forward with a level of detail that the American people have not yet heard.
"He needs to demonstrate an appreciation for the hole we're in," said Ivo Daalder (search), a foreign-policy analyst at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution (search). "He shouldn't minimize the problems that we are confronting. He can't give the same speech that everything is going fine and 'I'm committed to seeing it through.'"
Sen. Joseph Biden, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday that the president must get NATO, other major powers and the Security Council to support the new acting government, provide security and find a peacemaker for the "inevitable disputes" that will take place between Iraqi demographic groups.
"This may be the president's most important speech to date. I believe history will look back on the plan he announces and judge it as one of the most decisive moments in the history of modern Iraq," Biden, D-Del., said in a statement.
In his speech, Bush will talk about the new unelected, interim Iraqi government that will guide the country until elections can be held by Jan. 31, 2005. He has lauded the work of U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (search), who is hand-picking an Iraqi prime minister, president and two vice presidents to work with a cabinet of ministers in running day-to-day operations until elections can be held.
Bush will also discuss work on a new U.N. Security Council resolution draft, which among other things asks for recognition of the new interim government in Baghdad and authorization of a U.S.-led multinational force to keep the peace.
An earlier U.N. resolution gave legal authority for a multinational force to stay in Iraq after June 30.
It's a pivotal time in Iraq and in the president's re-election campaign. Bush's approval ratings have sunk, according to some polls, to the lowest point of his presidency. Skepticism, mixed with fear of moving down an untraveled path in Iraq, is rising among Iraqis and Americans.
The setbacks in Iraq keep stacking up:
— U.S. troops continue to have deadly clashes with insurgents. Nearly 800 American servicemen and -women have died since the beginning of military operations last year.
— The current president of the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council — the position circulates every month among the 15 council members — was assassinated last week.
— A homicide car bomber killed four people Saturday and wounded a deputy interior minister in charge of security in Baghdad.
— U.S. lawmakers on Sunday vowed to investigate allegations that Ahmad Chalabi (search), a Shiite member of the governing council who was once a darling of Pentagon officials, gave Iran sensitive information about U.S. activities in Iraq.
— Abuse of inmates at a U.S.-run prison in Iraq continues to provoke outrage in the Arab world.
"There's a lot that's come out in the last few days that's very disturbing," David Gergen, former adviser to President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, told Fox News.
"He has got to do more than just repackage the rhetoric of the last few weeks. He has got to do more than just say stay the course. He has got to come up with some bold initiatives of his own," Gergen said. "The facts on the ground are driving people away. The facts are not very good for him."
The president is expected to discuss the prison abuse, but will not mention the problems surrounding Chalabi or discuss a date in which all American troops will be out of Iraq.
Some of Bush's fellow Republicans are calling on him to seek more outside advice to solve the problems in Iraq.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who has urged Bush to get the United Nations more deeply involved in Iraq, criticized the president on Sunday, saying he was running Iraq policy in a vacuum.
"At a time that's as complicated and dangerous as any time in modern history today, a president of the United States needs to hear other opinions," Hagel said in a televised interview.
"He must reach out. He must understand a bigger view, wider-lens view of the world," Hagel added. "To essentially hold himself hostage to two or three key advisers and never reach beyond that is very dangerous for a president."
Fox News' Peter Brownfeld and The Associated Press contributed to this report.