Gates has not said whether he will recommend a short-term increase in U.S. troops, one option Bush is considering.
Gates said whatever strategy is decided upon, the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government must take the lead in curbing sectarian violence between minority Sunnis and majority Shi'ites.
Bush is expected to launch a new Iraq strategy in a speech in January. The U.S. military reported on December 22 the deaths of five more soldiers, bring the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 2,960.
Revenge was on the minds of angry residents of Haditha northwest of Baghdad the same day.
They called for the death penalty for four U.S. Marines charged on December 21 by the U.S. military with murder in the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha in November 2005.