PZN: "...an organization built for regeneration."

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Length: 3:22

PAULA ZAHN: Despite all of the diplomatic activity, the "Top Story" in Iraq itself is the bloody violence, whether you call it a civil war or not. Now, today, in Ramadi, U.S. soldiers discovered the bodies of a man and five girls inside a house that was captured after a firefight with insurgents. In the Iraqi capital itself, a car bomb went off outside a hospital, killing at least four people, wounding dozens. The tortured bodies of at least 50 Iraqis were simply dumped on the streets of Baghdad.

All this comes as an American general is warning that sectarian violence in Iraq may be about to get worse.

Our Michael Ware was at that briefing. He joins us now.

So, what was it that General Caldwell was suggesting? What is it they expect, if things are to get worse before they get better?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, what General Caldwell was saying is that a whirlwind is more or less in effect.

This sectarian violence that the military can't bear to bring itself to call a civil war has its own momentum. It's perpetuating itself. And there's absolutely nothing right now that looks like it can act as a circuit breaker.

So, he is saying that all the portents are showing us that there's no sign of abatement. And with tensions inflamed in the wake of the Thanksgiving Day car-bombing massacre against the Shia population and the retaliatory strikes we have seen going backwards and forwards ever since, it can only spiral downward.

ZAHN: Let's talk about some of the numbers he shared that show that there is some good news coming out of Iraq, pointing to the fact that the coalition had killed or captured 7,000 members of al Qaeda in Iraq since 2004, and that more than 30 senior members of the group have been killed or captured since July.

How realistic are those numbers?

WARE: Well, the numbers could be plausible. I mean, that does account for al Qaeda's strength.

I mean, they're bringing anything between 50 and 100 foreign fighters across the western borders every month. That's at least the ones that the U.S. military thinks it can track. It is growing by the day, as it draws more and more Iraqi Sunnis to its ranks. The bulk of the suicide bombers almost completely come from the foreign fighters. So, the foot soldiers, more and more, are these Iraqis.

What percentage of the insurgency they make up in total is ill-determined, anything from 5 percent to 10 percent. But we now know that, as it's been for the last two years, the insurgents can put as many as 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in the field on any given day.

So, al Qaeda sends its people here, expecting to die. It's an organization built for regeneration. It knows it's going to lose people in martyrdom operations and in arrests. So, it's ready to replace them as soon as you take them away. Meanwhile, it's declared an Islamic state. So, the success has to be said to be marginal.

ZAHN: Michael Ware, thanks so much for the update.