Michael Ware


AC: "It's wafer-thin, the situation right now."

Length: 5:35

LARGE (65.4 MB) ----- SMALL (6.6 MB)

Anderson talks to Michael (it's morning in Baghdad!) and David Gergen about Senator Obama's stated intention to listen to the ground commanders about ending the war.

ANDERSON COOPER: Up next, we'll dig deeper with our Michael Ware on the ground in Iraq and former presidential advisor David Gergen.


BARACK OBAMA: My commitment to end the war is one that dates back to 2002. Senator Clinton's commitment to end the war dates back to her decision to run for president. And I think the American people can make a decision in terms of who they really trust to want to bring this war to an end.


COOPER: A common theme from the candidate, using Senator Clinton's vote for the war as a reason to trust him to end the war. Of course, Senator Clinton says she didn't vote for the war; she voted to give George Bush the authority. Anyway.

Senator Obama told me today the strategy in Iraq continues to be a failed one. He believes U.S. forces should be redeployed, in some cases places like Afghanistan. And Senator Obama questions how the fight in Iraq has really made any of us safer.

A lot of ground to cover. We're digging deeper. Joining us again is CNN's David Gergen. Also with us tonight from Iraq, CNN's Michael Ware, who is embedded with U.S. troops in Baghdad.

Michael, Obama's call for a withdrawal over 16 months, one to two combat brigades each month in consultation with ground commanders -- the ground commanders you talk to, what do they say about that? I mean, what do they say would ensue during and after those 16 months?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the key phrase in that sentence is "in consultation with ground commanders." If, indeed, a President Obama were to listen to his ground commanders, right now as the situation stands, without dramatic change, they would not be recommending withdrawal, certainly at a pace like that or within that time frame. Or they would not be looking for withdrawal at all.

We hear General David Petraeus right now saying we need to pause. This is so tenuous. It's wafer-thin, the situation right now. And General Petraeus has said that we need to keep these troops here and assess and see how we go forward.

You start pulling troops out, once you drop down to a level where there's only enough American soldiers to defend their rear as they pull out, you will see bloody mayhem strike out in this country, Iran press its advantage, and al Qaeda will reignite -- Anderson.

COOPER: David, Clinton's arguing the Democrats can't believe Obama is going to follow through on his promise to withdraw troops based on a former aide's comments. We just heard his response.

Does this, I mean, have any impact on voters? Basically, Obama says, "Well, look, Senator Clinton and I basically say the same thing. We're going to consult with ground commanders on a withdrawal timetable."

GERGEN: I don't think it has much impact on the nomination fight, Anderson. If anything, there are -- in some states, Barack's, you know, continuous opposition to the war has helped him a little bit versus Senator Clinton.

But in the general election, this is going to be a hard-fought issue, because Senator McCain has staked out a position. However wrong it may have been to get into Iraq, he's been proven prophetic and right about the need for a surge and what it might do. You know, to have him stand up against either Democrat is going to provide a sharp cleavage.

And I must tell you, if the Democrat wins the White House, to go to Michael Ware's point, the Democrats are going to have a real dilemma, because he will have promised the country that he's going to get out, or she's going to get out rapidly. But yet, the reality on the ground is, you start pulling the plug, you could also unleash chaos, and then you would be the president who lost Iraq. And if you lose Iraq, your whole presidency could come unraveled.

So it's going to be a dilemma that the Democrats will need to think through carefully and be very careful what they promise in the campaign. Because, as Michael says, when they get in there, they may find, if they do, the reality is very, very tough about getting out too quickly.

COOPER: Well, Michael, let's talk about the reality of political pressure. Senator Obama and also Senator Clinton talk about, you know, the need to put pressure on the Iraqi government in order to try to force reconciliation, in order to try to get them to meet the political benchmarks that President Bush had set. Is that even possible? I mean, does pressure work? And if so, how?

WARE: Well, I wish it was that easy, Anderson. No one wants to see the bloodshed here stop anymore than I or the Iraqis that I live with. But it just simply isn't that formulaic. You don't think there's pressure on the Iraqis already?

The Iraqis -- this government is in a position to be able to stonewall or deny America its interests and Washington's own agenda and timeframe. Why? Because many of these things are not interests that this government serves.

And it has another backup, flush with cash, ready with military support, all set to step in. And that backup is Iran. Worst-case scenario: this government does not need America.

So America can apply all the pressure it likes. The only pressure that this government or any other would adhere to is military kinds of pressure. Really pressing an administration here.

And so far the most effective tool that the Americans have used is these U.S.-sponsored Sunni militias, putting the insurgents who were killing Americans in government uniforms and using that program as a stick with which to beat this government -- Anderson.

COOPER: Our conversation we will continue further on later. David Gergen, Michael Ware, always good to have you.

Michael, stay safe.