NR: "...the conflict still has a long way to go."
Michael intros a clip from his interview with General Petraeus, concerning Iranian influence in Iraq.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Five years plus of fighting, but the war in Iraq is not endless. Those words today from President Bush speaking from the White House, where he also said there will be an indefinite halt in troop withdrawals after July.
CNN Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware joins us now from Washington. He spoke today at length with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus.
Good to see you, Michael.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Fredricka.
Well, the president may say that the war is not endless, but I can certainly tell you, especially after speaking to the commander of that war, General David Petraeus, that the conflict still has a long way to go. General Petraeus, back in his two days of testimony here before Congress in Washington D.C., went to some pains to point out some of the grim realities of the war that remains.
We discussed the nature of his testimony and how that may have been perceived. The nature of Iraqi reconciliation and what that in fact may truly amount to or not. And we also discussed the nature of Iraqi politics, and that militias may just be a fact of life that America has to live with.
But we also talked about the threats to America in this war. And while he acknowledged al Qaeda remained one of them, they are but one of many. And indeed he made it very clear that the larger dynamic of this war is increasingly becoming Iran, and it's clear that Iran has dug in a lot deeper in Iraq than perhaps many here in America would think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: You touched on the issue of Iran. Let's have a quick look at that, then. Is the threat of Iran overblown?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., MULTI.NATL. FORCES-IRAQ: Well, it's a very significant one. Again, it depends on what perspective one approaches this. But clearly, Iran's level of involvement, and in many respects, malign involvement, is of genuine concern by all Iraqi leaders.
One minister I think put it very precisely during the visit with President Ahmadinejad, and fairly courageously, I guess. He said, "we welcome Iranian religious tourists--" which they very much do, it has spurred the development of course of the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala enormously, a lot of money brought in with that -- "We welcome their goods and services. We welcome their investment money. We don't welcome their bombs." And that does capture it.
And I think the have seen their bombs, their rockets, their mortars, their EFPs, explosively formed penetrators, projectiles in recent weeks in a way that they had not been so clear to them before. And, again, Iran is going to have to come to grips with its conflictions, between wanting to wish us ill and not wanting the first Shia-led Arab country fail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: And well beyond bombs and mortars that are flying from Iran into Iraq to attack U.S. soldiers, the general also made it clear that the so-called ally or partner of America, the Iraqi government, is indeed made up of political parties, factions, and paramilitaries all of whom are linked to Iran. Some of them with long-standing associations with Tehran. Some of whom were actually created in Iran.
So, he made it clear that it's going to take an extraordinarily comprehensive approach from America to protect and further U.S. interests in this war -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And, Michael, we've seen General Petraeus time and again in Baghdad, while you're usually based there as well. Your conversation with him this time, did you feel like this was the same General Petraeus that you've spoken with while in Baghdad, or is he more forthright or more guarded in one place or the other?
WARE: Well, obviously this is a higher supercharged politicized environment. Indeed, on his first day of testimony alone -- and let's remember, he was exposed to well over a dozen hours of grilling by members of Congress. But on that first day, he faced what is going to be the next president of the United States, one of the three candidates still in the running. So, of course, he has to be careful, he has to be measured.
But let's not make any bones about it, the general was not pulling any punches either on the Hill or today. He was making it very clear. Put it this way -- I know for a fact that General Petraeus wishes he had a happy story to tell. He wishes that he could be letting America know that there was an end in sight and that troops could start coming home in a meaningful way.
But the fact is, he does not have that happy story to tell. And he needs that to sink in, both on the Hill, amongst the decision-makers, both within the campaigns that are currently under way, and by and large, among the American people. This war, as I said, is far from over -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Right, nobody knows how it's going to end or if it's going to end. Michael Ware, thanks so much for joining us from Washington. Well, expect to see and hear more of that conversation with General Petraeus throughout the day. And watch the full interview tonight at 10:00 Eastern. That will be during "ANDERSON COOPER 360."