AC: "...the currency of political power is still men at arms."

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ANDERSON COOPER: So, with the policy struggle just beginning really to play out in Washington, as we're seeing, we turn to the fighting and the dying in Iraq. Would more troops matter? And can the Iraqis get their act together?

CNN's Michael Ware is with us tonight, early morning, in Baghdad.

Michael, thanks for being with us.

General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, was there, sternly warning the Iraqi prime minister, al-Maliki, that he's got to disband Shia militias. Why haven't they disbanded thus far?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I mean, this is a call from the U.S. administration that the Iraqi government has heard time and time and time again.

I mean, the disbandment of the militias, from the American point of view, with this government is the thin end of the wedge. It's the center of American demands, or American expectations of the government. Yet, little if anything has happened apart from a few changes on the surface.

The reason why is that the militias remain the fundamental building blocks of this parliament and of this government. Nouri al-Maliki only has a limited degree of power. In fact, America is looking at him to be the vehicle to tackle these militias. Yet, he doesn't have what it takes to stand up against them.

Indeed, one of the sources of his power is one of the most powerful Shia militias in the country in the first place -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, don't -- you say he doesn't have the power to stand up to the militia. What, he doesn't have the troops, the numbers, or are the troops themselves, the police themselves, divided among these militias?

WARE: Well, certainly, the police, particularly, are heavy dominated and infiltrated by these militias. So, it's very hard for the prime minister to use them to flex any kind of muscle.

Within the army itself, the control of the militias is much more diluted. Yet, the situation there is much more complex as well. There's so many issues about the prime minister, as commander in chief, truly directing his army forces on the ground.

I mean, really, he's got no tools that he can use. I mean, the great irony is that Nouri al-Maliki, as prime minister, he's the only man in the country who does not have a militia, where the currency of political power is still men at arms -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, thanks from Baghdad tonight.