AC: "America has a lot of tough decisions to make right now."

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Length: 3:57


GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: There has been progress, and that is in the reduction in sectarian murders in Baghdad which is about one-third now of what it was in January. That's an important development, because the sectarian murders can be a cancer in a neighborhood. It is something on which our commanders and the Iraqi commanders have focused quite a bit.


COOPER: General David Petraeus shortly after briefing congressional leaders on the situation in Iraq, and arguing against setting a timetable to pull troops out.

It turns out it wasn't enough to stop the House from doing just that, narrowly approving a war funding bill that calls for combat forces to start leaving Iraq by October 1, and sets a non-binding goal to complete the pullout by next April. The Senate vote is expected tomorrow. And if it passes there President Bush promises a veto.

Earlier, with a debate still going on, we sat down with CNN's Michael Ware, just back from spending time with American forces on the ground in Iraq.


COOPER: Michael, you literally just got back from Iraq. You were recently embedded in Diyala Province.

How does the situation on the ground compare to what we're being told over here?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, having just arrived back in the United States today, Anderson, I'm struck by the almost delusional nature of the debate that's under way.

I mean, what we're hearing, in the wake of General Petraeus's briefing to Congress, I mean, it's so out of touch with what's actually happening on the ground. I mean, the truth is, America has a lot of tough decisions to make right now. It needs to define for itself what success really will be.

COOPER: We heard today, after meeting with General Petraeus, John Boehner, the House minority leader, said that -- he was saying, a lot of the sectarian violence is being backed by Iran, has been caused by Iran.

WARE: Old, old story. The sectarian...


WARE: Absolutely.

The sectarian violence is two things. One, it is the ultimate legacy of former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Now, he was assassinated by the U.S. using a precision bomb that blew him up in a house. He said from the very beginning -- he wrote it: My plan is to create sectarian violence, a civil war, because that will feed al Qaeda's aims.

That also feeds Iran's aims. The more that these two halves of this society go to war, the more it feeds America's enemies.

And to hear American politicians talking about putting pressure on Maliki, a lame-duck prime minister who has no authority with his own people or his government, to force a reconciliation -- that reconciliation is in nobody's interests.

COOPER: Well, if not Maliki, what are the other options? Are there other options?

WARE: A great question, Anderson.

The alternatives that are being considered are non-democratic. They point specifically to places like Pakistan and Egypt, where you have military strongmen with a quasi-democracy who first deliver security, and democracy comes after that.

COOPER: Where does the so-called surge -- others say just escalation -- where does it stand? How is it going? Too soon to tell?

WARE: Oh, way too soon to tell.

But what I can tell you right now, that, in terms of Baghdad, if you want to look at it through a microscope, without looking at the rest of the country, the surge will have an impact.

But, at the end of the day, if America wants to win in Iraq, it would need to surge the whole country. But it can't. So, what it's done, in Baghdad, you're seeing changes in the violence.

You hear these politicians saying, sectarian murders are down.

Yes, that's true, but at what cost? American deaths are up.

COOPER: Michael Ware, thanks.

WARE: Thanks, Anderson.