Michael Ware


TSR: "Something radical has to be done."

Click photo to play
Length: 4:00

WOLF BLITZER: We want to get some more now about the Iraqi government and what it's doing. Are some of the people who pledged to protect Iraqis actually imposters bent on killing them?

And joining us now in Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware. What do you make of these reports, Michael, that there are now these death squads that have infiltrated the Iraqi police force potentially causing all sorts of havoc?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this has been the way it has from the beginning. The death squads have been a part of the Iraqi security apparatus that has been propped up by the U.S. forces. In fact, the death squads, certainly on the Shia side, have become institutionalized in the sense that the government themselves, or factions within it, I should say, are running or operating these death squads.

Indeed, the U.S. military intelligence says, for example, Ministry of Interior commanders will rent out official government vehicles at night to death squads to allow them to operate. Iraqi security force units patrolling the streets at night or manning checkpoints allow the death squads through. And then let them come back.

It is a pattern of the style of government that is dominated by very particular Shia blocks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you see the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shia, as having the determination, the will, the guts to deal with these militias, these death squads that have infiltrated the police and other establishment forces in Iraq?

WARE: Well, this is what the U.S. is banking upon. They are putting all their eggs in the Maliki basket at the moment. This is a man who is relatively powerless. He was a compromise candidate for the prime ministership. All the big players saw him as relatively neutral or manageable. He doesn't have a militia of his own. He's a fringe player within a broader powerful Shia block.

So the U.S. is attempting to prop him up. By delivering security to Baghdad, they want him to take the credit and develop a popular base, according to State Department officials and U.S. military intelligence officials I talked to, that would give him a wedge against these all-powerful militias who actually run the key elements of this government, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld want the U.S. military, the U.S. policy to stay the course, if you will, to continue doing what it has been doing. Colin Powell is quoted as saying today, "Staying the course isn't good enough because a course has to have an end."

Does staying the course based on everything you are hearing from U.S. military commanders and others, that strategy, have an end?

WARE: Listen, Wolf, this is the way to put it in a nutshell: if the U.S. continues its policy and operations as they are now, the situation will worsen and the enemies of the U.S., principally al Qaeda and Iran, will continue to strengthen.

There's a number of options that are presented to Washington at the moment. They either do this or they don't do this. They either need to get serious about the battle here on the ground, physically against al Qaeda and the insurgency, and commit the troops that the commanders need, or they need to look for alternative solutions.

At the end of the day, what they are facing is potential by most of this country being subsumed by a Shia-led theocracy-style government, with other parts of the government left as western al Qaeda desert training camps and facilities. To avoid that, something radical has to be done is the consensus.

So Colin Powell is right. Staying the course will only further strengthen America's enemies. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Michael, thanks very much. Michael Ware is our correspondent in Baghdad.