Michael Ware


TSR: " 'We just want to free our country.' "

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Length: 5:29

WOLF BLITZER: Dozens of people died in bombings and shootings today in Iraq and police found at least 26 more bullet riddled bodies in the capital alone.

But are Iraqi insurgents now offering to talk with the United States?

CNN's Michael Ware is joining us now live from Baghdad.

He's got some -- an exclusive report. Michael, you've been in correspondence, shall we say, with a leader of these Iraqi Sunni insurgents and he responded in an extraordinary way.

Tell our viewers what has happened.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Islamic Army of Iraq is part of the -- one of the largest and most powerful factions within the Sunni insurgency. These are the people who are responsible for the bulk of the day-to-day attacks against U.S. forces, from roadside bombs to deadly sniper attacks to all manner of ambush and roadside bombings.

These people offered us an opportunity to forward questions to their leadership, which we did in writing.

They responded to those questions in videotaped answers, putting forward their official spokesman, Ibrahim al-Shimary, to answer and respond to CNN.

And what he outlines is fascinating. He renews the insurgency's long-running offer to negotiate with U.S. forces. We've seen covert negotiations underway since the beginning of last year. We've seen U.S. officials go public with them at the end of last year.

It's interesting that now they're renewing that offer so publicly, so directly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael, are these the same insurgents who were responsible for blowing up the Samarra mosque earlier in the year, which has caused, at least in part, this escalation, this explosion of violence?

WARE: No, Wolf, this is not believed to be that group. That group is believed to be al Qaeda in Iraq or one of its affiliates.

This group represents a large bloc of homegrown Iraqi insurgents. The Iraqis insurgency falls into two big camps, Wolf. One are the nationalists and former Baathists. The other are Iraqi Islamists, more moderate than al Qaeda and more politically motivated and focused solely on Iraq, as this spokesman from the Islamic Army makes very clear. He goes out of his way to assure the people of Iraq that, "we are no threat to U.S. homeland security. We just want to free our country."

So that's markedly different from the people who blew up the Golden Dome in February, which essentially was al Qaeda -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that was an attack on the Shia.

Michael, what about the tortured bodies that are popping up over Baghdad and other Iraqi cities?

Horrible, horrible gruesome details are being told. The bodies are found. Clearly, these people were first tortured. They used electric drills to torture these people. Various parts of their body were severed.

Which group is believed to be responsible for the mutilation, the torture, the random assaults, as you will, on these Shia?

WARE: Well, that's occurring on both sides, Wolf. Now, as was explained to me recently by one Shia here in Baghdad, the Sunnis -- led by Zarqawi and the extremist al Qaeda fringe of the Sunni insurgency, the hard line Islamists -- have provoked this civil war or this sectarian violence. They went out targeting the Shia in particularly provocative ways -- suicide car bombs into marketplaces and places of worship and the beheading of Shia.

So the Shia have responded in kind. And now that they have entered the ranks of the government, it's the security forces who are operating or assisting many of these death squads.

Now, it's the Shia who are using the drills and who are doing the torturing. The Shia here in Baghdad explain that as, "the Sunnis attack us with mutilated beheadings. We must respond in kind and send a strong message back." Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael, stand by for a moment.

Jamie McIntyre is still at the Pentagon for us -- Jamie, what's the likely response that the U.S. military or the political leadership would give to these Iraqi Sunni insurgents, who are now effectively reaching out in this dramatic video that Michael has, asking for direct negotiations, if you will?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, Wolf, it's a tricky situation.

On the one hand the U.S. has a clear policy. It does not negotiate with terrorists. On the other hand, the U.S. has a clear policy that it needs to bring the Sunni factions into the government and give them a reason to believe that they have a future.

So, while they don't negotiate with terrorists, there have been -- there's been a lot of contact over the years between the U.S. military and the insurgents, as Michael Ware notes -- he's reported on this last year.

But one big thing has changed now with the elected Iraqi government, that the U.S. military believes that any negotiation with, perhaps not the insurgents who have blood on their hands, but others, to try to end this fighting, has got to be something that's done by the Iraqi government, not the U.S. military. And as part of that, then the U.S. military would be able to withdraw as the violence goes down.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre and Michael Ware, thanks to both of you.

And we're going to have a lot more on this story coming up in the 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.