TSR: "Completely baseless."

Click photo to play
Length: 6:10

WOLF BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney telling me earlier in the day in that exclusive interview we had that he has faith in the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his willingness to go after the Mahdi Army, that's the militia loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. I talked about that with CNN's Baghdad-based correspondent Michael Ware. He joined us from New York.

You've been in Iraq ever since day one of this war. You've seen this whole situation unfold on a day-to-day basis, done some incredible work for all of us and especially not only CNN but "TIME" magazine where you worked earlier. What do you make of the optimism of the vice president that Nouri al-Maliki is going to finally get tough with the Shiite militia?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a word, Wolf, baseless, completely baseless. I mean, I-- in all this time, I've yet to see any sign or any indication that prime minister al-Maliki would do as Vice President Cheney says he has faith that he will do. Principally, to move against the rebel anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his massive Mahdi Army militia, and of course its influential political bloc that has put the prime minister in power.

In fact, I found that the tone of the vice president almost contradicts the tone of President Bush's State of the Union speech. I think if you recall the address last night, President Bush, when he's talking about relying on the Maliki government --their so-called partner in Iraq -- he immediately went about and chided that government and said you need to deploy forces.

You need to confront the radicals, and he said, President Bush said they need to remove the needless restrictions on coalition and Iraqi forces. I believe that was specifically a reference about the Mahdi Army and how Prime Minister Maliki has been protecting them to this point.

BLITZER: What would happen to the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, if he did what so many Americans would like him to do, go in there and crush the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and actually arrest this young anti-American Shiite leader?

WARE: Well, it would tear his government apart, it would tear the country apart and quite frankly I don't think it's possible. I think even with the vice president's 160,000 American troops, they cannot crush Muqtada or particularly his Mahdi Army. If you arrest Muqtada now, this rebel cleric who has got American blood on his hands or indeed, if you killed him now he becomes nothing more than a martyr and his Mahdi Army is much more than just a force.

It's a movement, and it has mobilized, the great disenchanted impoverished Shia population. Yhat can't be stopped. Once that genie is out of the bottle Iranian supported as it is, it can't be put back in. So I don't see where Vice President Cheney gets his faith from, Wolf.

BLITZER: I raised this scenario, this nightmare scenario with the vice president. I wondered if he feared that all of this U.S. military equipment, this training, building up this Shiite-led Iraqi army in the end could turn against the United States and be aligned with Iran and Syria. He rejected that as unrealistic. What do you think?

WARE: Well, I think in that assessment, the vice president is either himself being unrealistic or isn't being quite frank enough. Now, whether these forces would physically turn on American forces, I agree that's highly unlikely. That's a battle that the Iraqis would never have a chance of winning.

However, the way they turn, the way they work against U.S. interests is much more insidious. It's much more behind the scenes. It's much more subtle. I mean the -- essentially, what the American troops are doing are training forces who are essentially opposed to American interests, or at the very least, they don't share American interests either within Iraq, with this government, with this so-called democracy, or in the region, and in fact, you'll find that many of these troops have long histories with Iranian forces, or have since developed relationships with Iranian special forces.

BLITZER: Michael Ware in New York for us, getting ready to head back to the war zone. Michael, be careful when you get over there. Thanks again.

WARE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have more of the interview with the vice president coming up this hour.

Among other things, we'll talk about Senator Hillary Clinton, what he thinks about her and whether he thinks she could be a good president of the United States.

All that coming up.

In the meantime, let's check back with Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You should have had Michael Ware do the rebuttal to the State of the Union last night.


CAFFERTY: You know, we get a lot of mail everyday, a lot of mail from a lot of viewers. And over the last month, while Michael Ware has been away on a much deserved and well earned vacation, we have gotten consistent, numerous inquiries on a daily basis -- something that doesn't happen -- I mean we've got a great stable of correspondents, but no other correspondent has triggered the number of inquiries that I've read from viewers who want to know where is he, when is he coming back, we miss him, he's terrific, his journalism is so solid and so sound.

And, you know, just huge bouquets flowing his way, each and every day, that come into The Cafferty File via e-mail. And now the viewers will be happy to know he's back and I assume -- is he going back to Iraq now?

BLITZER: Back to Iraq, and you know, and he doesn't just sit there. He actually goes out with U.S. troops. He's embedded...

CAFFERTY: Oh, I know.

BLITZER: He risks his life on a daily basis to bring us the stories of the men and women fighting this war, which is a lot more courageous than what you and I, Jack, do.

CAFFERTY: Well, no question about that. And it's obvious that he does more than read dispatches because his reportage has a texture and a subtext and a context that's a little tough to come by and is sorely lacking in 99 percent of the other stuff that comes out of there, referring now to the other news media.

Anyway, it's good to have him back and now stop bugging me about where is Michael Ware. He's back.