TWAW: "There's a lot of stuff that has to be sorted out, and it's not going to be to an American timetable."
TOM FOREMAN: The U.S. Congress and the Iraqi parliament are taking the month off but that isn't stopping the speculation about what may happen in September when General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crawford issue their much-anticipated progress report on Iraq. Will there be any significant movement toward political reconciliation by then?
In Baghdad, CNN's Michael Ware is standing by and with me here Rend al-Rahim. She served as Iraq's acting ambassador to the United States under the country's first interim government. She's also a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. Let me start with you here in the studio. There's been much scorn here about the Iraqi parliament taking the time off. Does it really make a difference in terms of solving the political problems there?
REND AL-RAHIM, FMR. IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Absolutely not, Tom. The fact is they were supposed to take July off. They did not. They stayed, but they weren't able to achieve anything because the decisions they have to make and the legislation they have to pass are political issues that have to be determined by political leaderships and not just by votes in parliament. So the fact that they're not there doesn't make very much difference to political progress in Iraq.
FOREMAN: So it's sort of like our Congress here. The deals are actually made in offices and hallways. By the time it gets to the vote, everybody knows what's been done.
AL-RAHIM: Indeed that's true. And in fact I would say the deals are made outside of parliament by political leaders who may not be part of the parliamentary process. Having said that, we should also remember that parliament has said that they were on standby as it were if anything urgent comes up but that is meaningless. The fact is the issues are much deeper than parliament right now. They are on a national scale. They're on a political scale and they're not just an issue of this legislation or that legislation.
FOREMAN: All right. Michael, is there any sense in the street then that these issues, these deeper issues are being addressed while parliament is out?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not really. I mean, I'm sure there is some discussion behind the scenes but let's face reality. These are American benchmarks. They're not Iraqi benchmarks. The Iraqis view this very, very differently and indeed, on many of the issues that the Americans are expecting success or demanding success on, the Iraqis don't share American interests here or Iraqi end states. De-Baathification? I'm sorry, this government is just not even vaguely interested in it. Dividing up the oil evenly, that's going to be a hard sell at the best of times. There's a lot of stuff that has to be sorted out and it's not going to be to an American timetable.
FOREMAN: Rend al-Rahim, here is what I don't understand about that, though. Not settling the issues brings continuing battle upon the country of Iraq. Do not the Iraqi people see that and say, "whether we want to or not we must settle this?"
AL-RAHIM: Yes, but what we're talking about is specific legislation as Michael Ware has said, about the oil, about de-Baathification. There are deep divisions inside the country about the utility of these laws and how to approach those laws, and the divisions are not just about the framing of the laws or the phrasing but about what kind of Iraq you need to see. What are the relationships within Iraq of the central government and the federated regions or the other regions? What is the power sharing relationship between the different communities of Iraq? Those are what is going to determine these laws and how we pass those laws rather than simple phrasing or articles in those laws.
FOREMAN: If they can't work that out, however, it would seem from this shore that they're opting for civil war, that that's what they want. Is that the truth?
AL-RAHIM: No, absolutely not. In fact, everybody is not only against civil war, but everybody says there is no civil war and I would actually say that sectarian conflict has dropped somewhat in the last few months. I know this is a contentious issue but I have just been in Baghdad and my sense is that sectarian fighting has certainly abated in the country. So on a sectarian level, the temperature is lower and nobody but nobody is interested either in civil war or in partitioning Iraq, but they just don't know how to move forward on these very important issues.
FOREMAN: There's a sense in the latest polls here and I want to look at these quickly, "USA Today"/Gallup poll, that Americans think the surge overall is getting better. Back in July they thought the surge -- making it better, only 22 percent thought that, now about 31 percent. The surge, back in July people said not making much of a difference, 51 percent, now 41 percent. The surge making things worse, people said it was about 25, now about 24. That hasn't changed much. Michael, there is a sense of hope certainly among some Americans that maybe it can get better, but what do you think is going to move people off the dime here and make them work out these differences?
WARE: Well, nothing really is going to make them come to these decisions at a western behest and let's look at it. Yes, there are some of these successes but why are they happening? Well, a lot of the west of Iraq has dampened its levels of violence because the Americans have done a deal with the Sunni Baath insurgency and unleashed them on al Qaeda. This also is proving politically to be a handy balance against what the Americans see as the unchecked power of the government-linked Shia militias, most of whom American intelligence says has links to Iran. And we're also seeing reconciliation among the people really isn't happening. Most of Baghdad is now divided by sectarian enclaves. In the villages I've just come from in Diyala province, they're now all 99 percent to 100 percent Sunni or Shia, Sunni or Shia.
FOREMAN: Michael, can that work, however? One notion is, go ahead. Let the country divide upon some sort of stasis where they're just not fighting all the time and that's okay.
WARE: Well, they will be fighting all the time and what we'll see is a situation akin to Lebanon in the '80s and '90s. That's what's shaping up now, very powerful militia blocs of different variations and different kinds. We've seen America choose its side in terms of this militia competition. They're backing the Sunnis and the government's been screaming about that, claiming this is America overstepping their authority and backing anti-government forces against the very government America created. So this is how America is bringing down the violence. By cutting these deals and to some degree turning against the government that it forged.
FOREMAN: There is so much more we could talk about but we're out of time. Michael Ware, thank you, Rend al-Rahim, we'll return to the subject many times I'm sure and see where we wind up in all of this.