US President George W. Bush embraced the new leadership in Iraq as a turning point in the war but claimed only gradual progress in years of fighting and acknowledged that Americans are uneasy about the outcome.
"I can understand why people are concerned about whether or not our strategy can succeed because our progress is incremental," Bush said on Monday in his first speech since the swearing in of a new Iraqi government over the weekend.
"Freedom is moving but it's in incremental steps, and the enemy's progress is almost instant on their TV screens," he said.
Bush acknowledged the American lives lost in Iraq, past mistakes and tough days to come. He repeatedly returned to the word "incremental" to describe progress there.
But he grabbed onto the political news coming out of Iraq as a way to support his mission in the unpopular war and declare a measure of victory over terrorists.
"The progress we've made has been hard-fought, and it's been incremental," Bush said in remarks to the National Restaurant Association.
"There have been setbacks and missteps, like Abu Ghraib, that were felt immediately and have been difficult to overcome. Yet we have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror," he said.
"The terrorists fought this moment with all their hateful power, with suicide attacks and beheadings and roadside bombs," he said. "And now the day they feared has arrived. And with it's come a moment of great clarity: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom."