TSR: Sadr City violence

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WOLF BLITZER: Violence raged across Iraq today. The worst of it came when a car bomb blew up in Sadr City, a mostly Shiite area of Baghdad. Place say at least 10 people were killed, 28 others were hurt.

As sectarian slaughter rages, we turn to someone who's gone behind the lines of the insurgency.


BLITZER: And joining us now is Michael Ware of "TIME" magazine.

Michael, the goal of the insurgency right now, is it to create a civil war in Iraq or to drive the American forces out?

MICHAEL WARE, "TIME": Well, according to U.S. military intelligence -- and I've spoken to their upper echelons, Wolf -- and according to the insurgents themselves -- this is both the Sunni insurgents and the Shia militias -- no one wants civil war. And a senior U.S. military intelligence officer told me it's not in anyone's interest except Zarqawi's right now. And by and large, for what it's worth, that's what the mainstream of the insurgency is also saying.

They are saying, "the Shia, the Sunni are not our natural enemies. We need to focus on the main fight, which is that against the common enemy, the U.S. soldier."

BLITZER: But there seems to be a war, in effect, under way between the largely Sunni-led insurgents and these Shiite militia groups that operate on their own. One thing they both have in common is seemingly their anti-American stance, even though they may hate each other.

WARE: Absolutely. It seems that there's a certain level of violence here that, you know, U.S. officials will say, 25 bodies are found each day, former prime minister Ayad Allawi says between 50 and 60 a day. That seems to be almost not tolerated but bearable.

The insurgents themselves say they do not believe, despite this violence, that right now they're in civil war. However, they say, should it spark, they are all ready to fight it.

But they want to avoid this. They, like U.S. military intelligence, say it's the extremists on each end who are trying to drag the middle into a civil war.

BLITZER: You've met with some of these Sunni insurgents, these Saddam loyalists. Talk a little bit about their motivation. What's driving them right now? Where they get their money, where they get their equipment, what their zealotry is all about.

WARE: All right. Talking about the Sunni insurgents, the mainstream, the main body, by and large, these are former military officers, former Ba'athists, members of the intelligence service, the secret police. These are relatively well-trained individuals. Many of them, the U.S.' former allies from the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

These guys are essentially jockeying for some kind of power, some kind of a carve-up at the political table. It's very Clausewitzian. For them the military action is really just an extension of the politics.

They believe that by putting military pressure on, that gives them a stake that they didn't otherwise have in the military game. Unlike the al Qaeda extremists, unlike the Islamic militants, they are not fighting a global holy war. They are not fighting to create an Islamic state, like the Sunnis on one side and the extremist Shia on the other.

They want largely a secular society. They've said they're prepared to host U.S. bases, akin to Germany and Japan. "Let's normalize relations. We share common enemies, Iran and al Qaeda. How did we end up on the wrong side of this?"

BLITZER: It's really an amazing situation when you look at it. Now, you've also met with some of these Shiite militia groups, those loyal to the anti-American young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, among others. What's motivating them?

WARE: Well, there's a great feeling of disenfranchisement among these men, these very impoverished, largely poorly educated and poorly serviced men from the slums and ghettos of Baghdad and beyond. The infrastructure in their neighborhoods is appalling, Wolf.

I was there with the army of Muqtada al Sadr's men on Sunday when there was a torrential downpour. Sadr City, home to 2.5 to 3 million people, flooded with raw sewage up to your knees.

These men, these women, these families had very little delivered. So there is a lot of anger there. And they follow the cleric, the anti-American firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr religiously, devotedly. Anything he says, they take as an order.

For now, he says, "hold back, we're gaining at the political table." But the Sadrists have been the kingmakers. They're the ones who have kept Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in power for now.

As we have seen with Secretary Rice's visit, there's a move perhaps afoot to shunt him aside. If that happens, if Jaafari loses, the Sadrists lose.

Goodness knows what will happen then. They are threatening another war with the American soldiers.

BLITZER: Michael, this is one of the most dangerous stories ever for journalists to cover. You're one of the most courageous journalists on the scene right now. Talk a little bit about how you do it, how you go out there, you meet with insurgents, you meet with Shiite militia factions, you go about doing the job of being a reporter under these incredibly dangerous circumstances.

What's it like?

WARE: Well, Wolf, we all live with a certain level of stress: from the fear of kidnapping when you step outside your front gate, to the fear of car bombs when you are inside your gate, to the fear of mortars or rockets raining down on your compound, to the fear of an IED as you're driving or being caught in a firefight at a moment's notice, or running into the wrong checkpoint. Goodness knows all this stress just adds up on you. And it plays like a steady white noise that every now and then breaks into your daily transmission.

It's a lot to live with day to day. Security is your waking concern.

Now, to get out and about, you can't do that in an armored convoy heading into insurgent-controlled territories. The only way to do that is to place yourself in the hands, in the custody of these very insurgents.

That's a very, very difficult and complicated thing to do. You need to take out insurance, you need to test the waters, you need to have a certain kind of faith and hope that they will bring you home safely.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, be careful over there. We will check back with you in a few days. Thanks very much for joining us.

WARE: My pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.