AC: Interview preview

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Length: 9:24

JOHN KING (voice-over): Covering the story is dangerous enough, without nearly becoming the story.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These men intercepted my vehicle, and, with grenades with the pins pulled, so that they were live, hauled me from the car, and, with my own video camera, are preparing to film my execution.

KING: The story he lived to tell -- his unequaled view of the war he sees up close every day.


KING: At least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded today in attacks across Baghdad -- the deadliest, a bombing at a pet market in the center of the city.

CNN's Michael Ware, of course, has been covering the war since it began, and has watched the city spin out of control. In September 2004, on Baghdad's Haifa Street, U.S. troops were battling supporters of Ayman al-Zarqawi, former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. They captured a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during the battle. You can see them cheering on top of it in this photo.

When Michael heard that al Qaeda in Iraq had claimed the area as its own, even plastering its banners on the street, he went there to see for himself. And that's when he was caught by al Qaeda insurgents.

Michael was in New York this week. And Anderson talked to him about that terrifying day.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Al Qaeda in Iraq had actually put its banners on a street in Baghdad, in central Baghdad.

WARE: Yes, they did.

And this was a symbolic passing of power here in the center of the capital. These men intercepted my vehicle, and with grenades with the pins pulled so that they were live, hauled me from the car, and, with my own video camera, are preparing to film my execution.

So, as far as we're aware, after that day on Haifa Street, I'm the only Westerner that we know of who's been in the control of Zarqawi's organization, al Qaeda, and to have lived to tell the tale.

COOPER: How did you get out of there?

WARE: Essentially, it was the nationalist insurgents who saved me.

Now, these two groups don't share the same agenda. The nationalists just want to free their country. The Islamists, al Qaeda is fighting -- for them, like the U.S. administration, Iraq is just one field of a global battle.

I was saved by the Iraqi insurgents. I mean, I benefited from the difference between these two elements of the war.

COOPER: So, you were -- you were in a vehicle, and they -- they pulled you out?

WARE: I was in a vehicle with a mid-ranking Iraqi insurgent commander, who told me of Zarqawi's takeover, essentially complained about it. And I said, well, I need to see this.

So, he took me in there to show me that, "these radicals, these foreign Islamists, have taken our territory."

When the foreign radical Islamists, essentially, who became al Qaeda, dragged me from the car, this man was left to negotiate for my life. And this is where we see the difference come into play.

The Zarqawi fighters wanted to execute the Westerner. As they said: "You bring a Westerner in here, and you expect us to let him leave alive? Well, no, it doesn't work like that."

So, even though these Islamists at that time had the upper hand in Haifa Street, they couldn't discount the local fighters. And, essentially, it came down to the local Iraqi insurgents saying: "OK, you can kill this foreigner, but know that that means we go to war, because he has come here at our invitation. And for you to kill him is essentially an insult to us."

And, as much as these foreign fighters wanted to kill me, at the end of the day they knew that, practically, they couldn't, because they could not afford to have this local fight. And it was through gritted teeth that they essentially gave me back to the Iraqi insurgents, who then took me out.

COOPER: What was that feeling like, when you realized you were going to live?

WARE: It took a long time before it actually dawned on me.

I spent many of the following days in my room. I found it very difficult to leave the safety and comfort of my bedroom. It took some time for me to regather myself and to return to the streets. But, in fact, just days later, I did return to this very place.

COOPER: You went back to Haifa Street?

WARE: I went back to Haifa Street.


KING: Chilling account.

Just ahead: more from Anderson's interview with Michael Ware, including why Michael believes Iran is in Iraq.

Plus: what some are calling a legal outrage, a teenager sentenced to 10 years in prison. Wait until you hear what he did -- when 360 continues.


KING: As we reported earlier, President Bush today publicly endorsed the killing of Iranian agents in Iraq. To understand why those agents are there in the first place, keep in mind that Iran is a Shia Muslim nation that saw a giant opportunity when U.S. forces invaded nearly four years ago.

Here's part two now of Anderson's interview with CNN's Michael Ware.


COOPER: How did Iran get involved?

WARE: Iran has been involved from the very, very beginning.

Don't forget, you know, Iran and Iraq share a land border. There's many tribes and families that that live on both sides of this border. In the '80s, Saddam launched a vicious eight-year war against Iran. So, Iran very much has legitimate national security interests in terms of Iraq. And we have seen Iran aggressively pursue those interests.

What happened during the invasion, as U.S. and British forces advanced from Kuwait to the north, clearing Saddam's forces as they went, we saw essentially an Iranian-backed invasion at the same time that filled the vacuum that was left behind. It was extremely well-organized and coordinated. And, in fact, the irony is we saw Iran use the very same successful tactic that the American Green Berets used in Afghanistan to win against the Taliban and al Qaeda, against U.S. interests in Iraq.

COOPER: You mean covert forces...

WARE: Very much.

COOPER: ... small numbers.

WARE: During Saddam's regime, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia fled to Iran. Iran saw many of these people not only as brethren and refugees to be protected, but as an asset.

Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of these Iraqi Shia who were in Iran were mobilized and used by the Iranians within its armed forces. So, what we saw during the invasion of 2003, as American and British forces advanced, these Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia forces entered the country from the east, along the northern, central and southern access.

And what they did is, in the chaos and the vacuum of power that was left behind the advancing coalition forces, they took power. They took the governor's office, the police chief's office, the Baath Party headquarters. And they never really left.

COOPER: And they have given the militias of, like, for instance, Muqtada al-Sadr, they have given them training; they have given them arms and money?

WARE: Yeah.

What we saw with many of these networks and these organizations that were in Iran is that they were kept in place and they moved into Iraq. And with them came what's essentially Iranian Green Beret advisers.

You had Iranian form of CIA advisers all come in with them to guide, direct, to channel them. And even elements within Iraq, like Muqtada al-Sadr, the rebel anti-American cleric, and his Mahdi army militia, Muqtada and his militia were very different to these others.

They never fled Iraq. They didn't go into Iran. They remained in Iraq. Now, in the beginning, that was a great rallying cry for Muqtada. He was able to represent himself as a true nationalist: "I stayed, while these people left. I suffered with you."

That was very persuasive. That drew a lot of people to his cause. But, over time, we have seen Iran not only court Muqtada, but, then, militarily, support him.


KING: Michael this weekend making his way back to Baghdad.