Michael Ware


YWT: “Two enormous dynamics under play”

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Length: 4:16

JIM CLANCY: Welcome back. You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY, where we bring CNN's viewers around the globe an international perspective on the news.

Well, the U.S. president, you saw it there, talking about the war in Iraq once again. He says the U.S. cannot leave that country to the likes of al-Qaeda.

Well, Iraq one of the few places in the world where U.S. soldiers face off directly against fighters carrying the al-Qaeda banner. It's in the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province.

Michael Ware has been embedded there with U.S. troops. He joins us now from Baghdad.

Michael, no one more than the military men that you have been with over this embed support the president and his views. Do they feel as though the administration, the Defense Department is supporting them in their fight?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, obviously this is a very sensitive issue for commanders in the field to discuss. And I've been going out to Ramadi since 2003, so I've watched this evolution and I've seen many different deployments of U.S. commanders sent to Ramadi, all faced with the same problem.

I mean, the extraordinary thing is that President Bush put Iraq front and center in the war on terror in his speeches. He even specifically referred to Anbar Province and Ramadi itself as al-Qaeda's toehold from where it wants to build its caliphate. All of which is true. But as U.S. military intelligence and U.S. commanders in the field will privately concede, the fact is that this is a gaping black hole in the war on terror.

This is al-Qaeda in Iraq's central command node. It's the best place for it to have its leadership. Zarqawi hid there. His replacement moves through there. It's where they can plan, where they can rest. It's where they can be relatively undisturbed.

Yet, there's simply not enough troops to go in there. They are hoping to disrupt al-Qaeda. They don't even have a plan to decimate or displace al-Qaeda.

The word they use is "neutralize." That's the commander's mission.

The U.S. commanders use the term "economy of force." That's a military application that talks about using the troops and the forces that you have to do a mission that's greater than your resources. So they have to make tough choices.

So the bottom line is, the gaping hole is that here's an al-Qaeda headquarters in the center of what they hope to be the caliphate. There's simply not enough troops to do anything about it -- Jim.

CLANCY: On another front, we're talking about the Sunni-dominated al-Qaeda, the Sunni forces there in Ramadi. There are also grave concerns about growing power among Shia Muslim militias, often facing off in a sectarian conflict with their Sunni rivals. But today you have Prime Minister al-Maliki in Iran talking about non- interference.

What does all of this mean?

WARE: Look, this is the other great story of Iraq, Jim. I mean, there's two enormous dynamics under play.

One is the war with al-Qaeda. But the other one, the greater one, even, is the competition between the United States and Iran for influence here in Iraq. And this is fought out behind the scenes politically and also in the field.

We've heard Ambassador Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, accuse Iran many, many times of providing weapons, arms, training to Shia militias. In fact, there's untold military intelligence material that shows Iranian support is killing British and American troops.

Iran, however, is playing a very, very savvy game. The government in power is much closer to Tehran than it is to Washington. And what Tehran now is doing is putting America in a lose-lose situation.

It's saying America and Iraq need help to build the Iraqi security forces, to build the intelligence apparatus, and rebuild the country. We're ready to do this. If Iraq cannot do this because America vetoes it, it questions the independence. If Iraq does it, it gives Iran even greater influence -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. There has to be concern in Washington this day as those talks go ahead. We'll wait for the outcome.

Michael Ware, as always, thank you.