AC: Reality check

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Length: 3:57

ANDERSON COOPER: Sad to say, since the elections at least five U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, bringing the number of U.S. casualties for November to 26.

And today we heard from the insurgency. In a message, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq mocked the president and the defense secretary while declaring victory and threatening even more attacks, both in Iraq and here at home.

CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad. He joins us now live.

Michael, this new al Qaeda in Iraq tape, it was posted on the Internet. Let's listen to a clip that was recorded by the group's leader, this guy Abu Hamza al-Muhajer. Let's listen.


ABU HAMZA AL-MUHAJER, AL QAEDA IN IRAQ LEADER (through translator): I say to the lame duck, don't rush to run away as your lame defense secretary ran away. We haven't had enough of your blood yet. Come down to the battlefield, you coward.


COOPER: Abu Hamza also claimed they're winning in war in Iraq and threatened to blow up the White House.

What's remarkable about these tapes is these guys have such a finely honed sense of propaganda, when to release things and what to say for maximum impact.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson. I mean, we've seen the insurgency as a whole, throughout the course of the war, developing sophistication. Not just in terms of the battlefield, but also in terms of the information campaign, the propaganda war. We've seen them increase their degree of polish in their propaganda videos and tapes and also their timing, their attention to detail.

What we've had now from al Qaeda in Iraq is a further rising tide of triumphalism from militias and insurgent groups in Iraq. We saw a politician connected to the militia of anti-American rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr say that Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation is a defeat for America.

The Islamic Army of Iraq said it was a victory for the insurgency, and now we have al Qaeda in Iraq saying it's a victory for them and that the administration should not run away, "we have not yet had enough of your blood."

So they're capitalizing on the political turmoil and upheaval in Washington.

COOPER: I'm going to play another quick excerpt from this audio tape. Let's listen.


AL-MUHAJER (through translator): In the name of the Mujahideen Shura Council and under the command of the Islamic nation of Iraq, I pledge to put at your disposal in your direct command 12,000 fighters. They are the al Qaeda army. All of them pledge allegiance to die in the name of God and more than 10,000 others await to be ready and can't wait to join you.


COOPER: So he's claiming 12,000 active al Qaeda fighters and another 10,000 kind of waiting in the wings. Is there any way to know the accuracy of -- I mean, how big is al Qaeda in Iraq?

WARE: Well, that's something that's obviously very, very difficult to calculate. Now, while I'd suggest that those numbers are most likely inflated or exaggerated, they may not be so inflated by the degree that you might at first think.

Certainly in terms of the insurgency, it's been bandied about that there's as many as 20,000 fighters in the field on any given day. Of which al Qaeda itself is between 3 and 5 percent.

However, what you need to take in account is that al Qaeda brings around it other groups that are following it. So in that regard, yes, al Qaeda definitely has thousands here.

Remember, this is a group that started as a handful of Jordanians in a training camp in Herat, in Afghanistan. They became Tawhid wal-Jihad under Zarqawi. Then they became the Mujahideen Shura Council. Now they've created the Islamic State of Iraq, as they say.

He's committing these troops to that Islamic state, the heartland of the caliphate Osama bin Laden wants to see spread across the world, Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate your expertise. Thank you, Michael. Michael Ware, live from Baghdad.