NR: "I know General Petraeus wishes he had a happier story to tell the American people, but, unfortunately, he doesn't."
Michael asks General Petraeus about Iranian "agents of influence" within the Iraqi government.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Well, the commander of all multinational forces in Iraq said further troop pull-outs will have to wait. And today, the commander-in-chief agreed. President Bush announced some new deployment and redeployment terms for combat troops in Iraq.
Our Michael Ware spoke about those terms with General David Petraeus in Washington. He joins us again now from Washington.
Good to see you again.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Fredricka.
Yes, sitting down with the commander of the U.S. war in Iraq, General David Petraeus, fresh from his two days of testimony here on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. . The general was sure to remind the American public of some of the grim realities of the war in Iraq.
This is a conflict that, whether you like it or not, is not going away any time soon. The president may have said it is not endless, but that end is not yet in sight.
Now, I know General Petraeus wishes he had a happier story to tell the American people, but, unfortunately, he doesn't.
And as we sat down, we talked about the nature of his testimony and whether he believes his message sank in to the members of Congress or not. He also spoke about the presence of militias in Iraq and how they may just be a political reality whether America likes that or not. And he also talked about America's enemy.
Now whilst he did say Al Qaeda is the wolf that must be watched, it's just one of many enemies. And he also gave us a sense that, indeed, the war in Iraq has really evolved and that the true dynamic of this conflict is now that America's competition with Iran and Iran's influence, perhaps, is much more dug in in Iraq than most Americans would like to think.
Here's what General Petraeus had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: You would know, as well, that many of your intelligence agencies say Iranian agents of influence stretch to the highest levels of the Iraqi government. We've seen the interdiction by the president of Iraq during the detentions of some of the Quds Force operatives.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Yes, and...
WARE: Does that concern you?
PETRAEUS: Again, it's a reality and it is...
WARE: That there is that kind of infiltration and...
PETRAEUS: It's a reality, again. Look, as you pointed out earlier, but, again, for the -- for the listeners, your audience, these parties are products -- many of them -- of time in Iran. It's where a number of the current Iraqi leaders spent their time in exile, where they went when pursued by Saddam's army or his thugs.
So a lot of that is understandable and, again, it is a reality. And it's something that just has to be dealt with.
At the end of the day, though, there is -- as Ambassador Crocker occasionally terms it -- a self-limiting aspect to Iranian involvement in Iraq. And you do see that right now. You see leaders of parties that, again, have benefited financially, physically, all kinds of different ways from their relationships with Iran now being gravely concerned about what the Special Groups and, to a degree, the militias, are doing in Iraq. And they also realize that they have to -- again, this is going to take a very, very comprehensive approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: And that comprehensive approach, like much else in this conflict, is going to take great patience from the American people.
So, it's not a pretty picture that General David Petraeus has to paint, yet it's one he feels he has no option but to show. And it just suggests that there really is quite some distance to go in this conflict -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And, Michael, just earlier we spoke with one Vietnam vet. And he's also an advocate of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan now. And he said one of the stresses brought upon these soldiers is the redeployments. And he said perhaps if there were not the redeployments or perhaps even a draft, that perhaps there might be a more solid endgame to this war.
I wonder if the general has ever made any comments that he's comfortable with saying publicly about the draft issue or about the issue of redeployments. Is that something he was willing to talk about?
WARE: Well, it's certainly not something that we touched upon today and it's certainly not something that he's ever commented upon in the past.
But here's another little reality check for you. America has never really fought this war, certainly not without one arm tied behind its back. The administration that's guided this conflict has wanted to have its cake and eat it, too.
Now, it's gone into Iraq and removed Saddam. It has not filled the vacuum. It's allowed Iran to fill that vacuum. It's allowed Al Qaeda to exist in Iraq where it never used to. And it's delivered a legacy of sectarian hatred that even General Petraeus said did not exist before this war.
Now, to really fight it, we all now know that America does not have enough troops. So if you really did want to occupy Iraq, if you really did want to change the dynamics, then many would say that, yes, you do need a draft. But there's no president, there's no politician in this country who's going to even utter that dreadful "D" word for the sake of their political career. So the fighters on the ground, the commanders, the ambassadors, have to deal with what they've got. And the heavy burden of all that, ultimately, will fall on the ordinary soldiers and their families -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Michael Ware, excellent reporting, as always. Thank you so much.
Well, expect to see and hear much more of that conversation with General Petraeus throughout the day and watch the full interview tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. That will be during "ANDERSON COOPER 360."