TSR: "I'm surprised that it is still a question."
WOLF BLITZER: So what's the likelihood of this nightmare scenario?
We're going to talk about that now with our Baghdad-based correspondent Michael Ware. He covered -- he has covered the war from the very beginning. He joins us from our New York bureau.
Here is the fundamental question -- Michael.
And you know these Iraqis now, having spent four years or so on the scene for us.
Are they Iraqis first or are they Kurds or Shia or Sunnis first?
Because so much of the U.S. strategy is based on this notion that they're more committed to being an Iraqi than to being a Kurd or a Shiite or a Sunni.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it very much varies. But overall, there certainly was a point in time where most of the ordinary people of that country where Iraqis first. I mean, with the great exception of the Kurds. The Kurds have always felt that they were a separate nation from Iraq itself. But certainly among the Arabs there was this perception that, yes, we're Iraqis before we're anything else.
Now to some degree, that was underestimated, certainly when it came to the Sunni insurgency, because many of the Sunni insurgents, while they're being described as dead-enders, were actually fighting a cause of nationalism. They felt very Iraqi.
But what we now see is that people, ordinary people, have been forced to choose sides in this great sectarian battle, because as far as they see it, Iraqi or not, the American forces aren't protecting them and their own government isn't protecting them, be it against al Qaeda or be it because many of the death squads that are targeting the Sunnis are from the government.
So very much that sense of being Iraqi is dissolving.
BLITZER: Sixty percent or so, if not more, of the Iraqis, are Shiites.
BLITZER: They're Arabs. They're Iraqi Arabs. They're Shiites. They're not Persians like the Shiites in Iran.
Talk a little bit about this Iranian connection or relationship with the Iraqi Shiites.
WARE: You know, that's a very complicated relationship, and you've rightly touched on some of the factors.
Now, it's, you know, Arab versus Persian, and it's Iraqi versus Iranian. So it's always been a very difficult relationship. But at the end of the day, I guess you can sum it up with, you know, any port in a storm.
I mean certainly under Saddam, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia fled to Iran for sanctuary. They were being persecuted, not so much for religious reasons, but for political reasons.
Now, many of these -- or a number of these people then actually joined Iranian armed forces or were formed into covert networks that worked against Saddam's regime.
Now we see a lot of the apparatus still in place today now working against U.S. interests. But what we're seeing, by and large, is that whilst there's no great simpatico, there's an alignment of interests. And while that sustains, we will see a continuing growth of Iranian influence. Indeed, Iran has more sway in Baghdad than America does.
BLITZER: One final question, because we're almost out of time.
What's the bottom line as far as this nightmare scenario that Brian Todd was reporting on, that eventually these well-trained Iraqi forces, equipped by the United States, could turn against the United States?
WARE: Look, there's absolutely no question of it. In fact, I'm surprised that it is still a question. At the end of the day, there is absolutely no doubt that America is training and equipping, if not its enemies, then people who certainly don't share America's interests or agenda.
Now, these forces per se won't turn directly, one-on-one, against American troops. But they will continue to further their interests, which so happen more closely align with Iran's than America's.
On the flip side, the Sunni, you could argue that America is training elements of the insurgency, its sympathizers or even future al Qaeda recruits.
BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us.
Michael, thanks very much.
Let's stay in New York.
Jack Cafferty has got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that stuff is just fascinating. It occurs to me, we should get Michael Ware to go down to Washington and hold some seminars for the people in the White House, because it seems to me listening to his thoughts on what's going on over there, he makes a lot more sense and has a lot greater knowledge than most of the stuff I'm hearing coming out of the administration.
BLITZER: Maybe they should invite him to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
CAFFERTY: Or just to come talk to them and maybe if they'd listen -- well, now, we don't have time to get into that.