AAM: Muqtada al-Sadr's threat

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Length: 4:24

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: President Bush is meeting with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, at Camp David. It's happening before his trip to Jordan. He's going to meet with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki.

Meanwhile, though, a powerful anti-American cleric in Iraq says that if that presidential meeting takes place, he's going to pull out of the Iraqi government. Between the violence and the threats, Iraq is truly in chaos.

Let's get the latest from Michael Ware, who is live for us in Baghdad.

Good morning, Michael.


Yes, what we've heard is, as you say, the very powerful political faction loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has today threatened to suspend its cooperation or involvement with the government -- to boycott the government, as it says, without any detail on what that means -- if the prime minister meets with President Bush next week as planned.

Now, this is a nightmarish position for the Iraqi prime minister. He owes his place to two competing interests. He's borrowed political capital from both the Americans and from Muqtada. So he answers to two very different and, indeed, competing and opposing interests. And this is where we see it come to a head.

This is a fault line. He's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't, quite frankly. This is the most precarious position that the prime minister could be in.

S. O'BRIEN: We just heard, Michael, from Suzanne Malveaux, who said no word from the White House on that front yet.

Let me ask you a question about the latest round of attacks. Outside of the sheer number of dead, more than 200, and the sheer number of wounded, more than 250, was there a sense that there was something different about that attack?

WARE: Well, in a sense, this is just part of a much broader continuum. We have been seeing these kinds of mass attacks launched against the Shia population, even way back starting in the summer of 2003, August 29, the assassination of one man with a car bomb that took out more than 90 people around him in a holy shrine in Najaf.

What we have seen is al Qaeda, led by the now-deceased leader, Zarqawi, taken over by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, striking at the Shia population time and time again, provoking them, wanting them to retaliate. And we've seen that happen, particularly since February and the destruction of the holy Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra.

So this is part of a much broader picture. It's not distinguishable from a broader campaign. It's just so devastating that it just overwhelms you.

S. O'BRIEN: You have all this talk about diplomacy. We know that -- we were just reporting Dick Cheney heading to Saudi Arabia. You've got this -- which might be up in the air now -- Bush and al-Maliki meeting in Jordan. And then there was talk of a meeting between the Iranians, the Iraqis and maybe the Syrians as well.

What can be accomplished with all of these various meetings, do you think, Michael?

WARE: Well, all sorts of things could emerge from this. I mean, essentially, there's a number of very powerful regional-level power blocs that are all at play here in Iraq.

This war here, the many wars of Iraq, as you could put it: the insurgent war, the terrorist war with al Qaeda, the civil war, and this great rivalry, this competition between the U.S. and Iran for influence in interest, not just in Iraq, but in the region. So you cannot see these wars being fought or conducted in a vacuum.

So what we're seeing is everyone has their pieces in play right now. And this is a critical time. Everyone is trying to capitalize on and fathom this period of American strategic crisis as we see this upheaval politically following the midterm elections. Everyone is looking to capitalize. This is a moment where everything is being repositioned, and that's the nature of this diplomacy.

S. O'BRIEN: Michael Ware is in Baghdad for us this morning.

Thanks, Michael -- Miles.