President Bush used the State of the Union speech to remind Americans about the progress made in Iraq during the last year under his new surge strategy, what remains at stake there, and the need to finish the job to protect American interests.

A year ago Iraq was threatened by rising sectarian tensions provoked by a massive campaign of terrorism unleashed by Al Qaeda in Iraq and by Shiite militias supported by Iran. Today, the American surge and a surge of Iraqi support in the form of more than 80,000 Concerned Local Citizens who have volunteered to assume security duties and more than 100,000 new members of Iraqi security forces, have helped to turn the tide.

Bush received one of his biggest ovations when he said: “Some may deny that the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated.” But the challenge over the next few years will be to keep up the pressure on the insurgents and resist the temptation to prematurely withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, which could squander the hard-won gains of the surge.

For more information on U.S. policy in Iraq, including links to all of the Heritage Foundation’s publications and events on that critical issue, see Progress in Iraq.