Michael Ware


AC: "...they have no intentions of sharing power..."

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ANDERSON COOPER: Joining me now from CNN headquarters in Baghdad, CNN's Michael Ware, and John King in Washington.

Michael, General Petraeus talked about bringing 30,000 troops home by next summer. The president is expected to formally announce the plan Thursday night in a speech. Everyone seems to be acting like this is some sort of strategy.

Correct me if I'm wrong. This is really nothing new.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you're correct entirely, Anderson.

In no way is this a new direction or a policy shift by the U.S. Essentially, this was going to happen anyway. The surge was comprised of 30,000 extra troops sent as shock forces to Iraq. A surge, by definition, implies something temporary, a short-term impulse.

Well, we now know that that was an escalation for one year, borrowing troops from here and there to send them to, principally, Baghdad. Well, the end of that year is up by the summer of next year anyway. The money starts running out in the beginning of next year, and the Army has already said it can't continue to keep sending these 30,000 troops. They can't maintain those forces.

So, no, this is no new direction. This is not a grand policy announcement that America is drawing down. It's just the end of the surge, Anderson.

COOPER: John, the White House, some in the media in the last couple months acted like this Petraeus report was really going to be a watershed event, after which there would be serious discussions about what to do next. In truth, isn't this largely political theater? I mean, has the White House known all along what they planned to do?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the Democrats certainly hoped it would be a watershed event, and they hoped it would be a watershed event that got them more votes to force the president to change his hand.

The White House, all along, has wanted one thing. Beyond any specific day-to-day tactical or strategic decision, they want control over this war. And that means no timeline forcing a troop withdrawal, no strings attached on the money for the war.

Will the president get all that? It appears at this moment the Democrats are still short the votes to force a timeline. That skepticism in the Senate today, though, does tell you that many Republicans still want to do some things to restrict the president's ability to keep the troops there past next summer in the numbers the president wants to do that.

But, certainly, the White House still has the commander in chief. And the attitude, the political climate, was not as foul yesterday and today that many thought it would be when they were awaiting this day back in, say, July or even early August -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker talked today that -- you know, admitting that there hasn't been much progress on national reconciliation in Iraq from the central government since the so-called surge. But they said there were signs of improvement across the country that bode well for the future.

Do you see those signs on the ground, out in various provinces?

WARE: To be perfectly honest, I would have to say, by and large, the answer to that is no.

Are the elements for real reconciliation present here in Iraq? I'm afraid to report that I certainly can't see them. I mean, it's one thing to have a pastiche of Iraqi politicians do a photo opportunity and say we're ready to work towards reconciliation. That's just so cosmetic.

I mean, even if this government managed to introduce a de-Baathification law, for example -- a key sticking point -- I mean, there's no Sunni who's going to be able to go and work for a ministry controlled by the Badr militia or by the Jaish al Mahdi militia, like the Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Health.

And we heard that the ambassador and the general talk about already there's, like, forced de-Baathification. Well, yes, it's being forced as America is imposing these tribes upon the Iraqi government. And the Iraqi government essentially has a political gun to its head, being forced to absorb these people.

And, finally, when you talk to these tribal forces that are now the bedrock of America's strategic policy, like we have, they make it very clear, they hate this government, and they have no intentions of sharing power with this government. And the power brokers of this government never intend to share power with what they call terrorists. And, by that, they mean Sunni.

So, no, there's no real sign of reconciliation forthcoming.

COOPER: It's interesting, Michael, because I was down in south Baghdad today, talking to Sunni tribal leaders there, who are trying to get their concerned citizens -- the volunteers, who they have now armed and are working in conjunction with the U.S. -- they want them to become part of the Iraqi police. They say they want to work with the central Iraqi government.

A, do you believe them? And, B, is the problem with the central Iraqi government not wanting to work with them?

WARE: It is, in fact, both.

And we have to be careful about what we hear Iraqis say when we're surrounded by American soldiers. If we're on an embed and we're dealing with these Iraqi forces, they're going to be very careful in what they say, because their American paymasters essentially are standing around.

When you talk to these groups in their undiluted state -- we were with those groups, not with Americans, and to be honest, I have known many of these organizations for years -- they hate al Qaeda, no problem. That's a shared American agenda. They are vehemently anti-Iranian, which also makes them vehemently anti-Maliki government. They believe this is essentially Iranian influence. So, no, they don't want to work with this central government. And this central government is working with them under great sufferance, being forced by the U.S. -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting.

John King, I want to play you something that Senator Barack Obama said today in the hearings.


OBAMA: I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12, because I think it perpetuates this notion that, somehow, the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11.


COOPER: Who was responsible for the timing of this, the fact there's testimony about Iraq on the anniversary of 9/11?

KING: Well, Anderson, if Senator Obama is frustrated, he has only his own Democratic leadership to blame.

The September 15th deadline for a report from the administration was actually recommended by a Republican -- Senator John Warner -- but that was passed, of course, with the blessing of the Democrats.

Now, September 15 is this coming weekend, so they wanted to have the testimony in advance of that deadline. But the latter half of this week is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and the House and the Senate will not be in session. So, they were left with September 10 and September 11 to have this testimony.

So it is the Democrats, by not paying close enough to the calendar a few months ago, who put themselves in this position. But Senator Obama, in that hearing, bringing back the constant criticism of this administration. There are many -- especially Democrats -- who believe the president has always tried to make this war about more than toppling Saddam Hussein and about more than those weapons of mass destruction, that, of course, were never found.