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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Week's War-Related Activities Reviewed
Aired August 25, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: In Iraq this week the violence continued and the grieving continued and in both Baghdad and Washington, the countdown continued. In three weeks, General David Petraeus will appear before Congress and the American people to deliver perhaps the single-most important document of this war. From the battle fields to the political back rooms to daily life on the Baghdad streets, we will give you a preview of that report right after a look at what's in the news right now.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Drew Griffin. Let's bring you up to date on the news. Indian officials say twin explosions that killed 41 people today were terrorist attacks. One blast ripped through an outdoor music show in the southern city of (INAUDIBLE). A second happened a short time later just a few miles away. Officials also found bombs at other spots in the area.
In south Surrey, British Columbia this, a hot air balloon igniting into a fire ball. It killed a mother and daughter who were on board, 11 other passengers jumping to safety, some seriously hurt in the fall. Witnesses say the balloon burst into flames then broke loose from the launch pad and became airborne.
Pakistan successfully test fired a new cruise missile today. It's capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has a range of 220 miles. Pakistan and India, nuclear rivals and neighbors, both routinely test nuclear capable missiles. I'm Drew Griffin. Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: I'm Tom Foreman and with only three weeks to go before General David Petraeus' crucial report to Congress, a report that will set the political and military agenda in Iraq for months or even years to come, here is a preview in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Michael Ware in Baghdad has been digging into the steadily weakening government of Nuri al Maliki, asking if it's time to give up on a democratic Iraq. Terrorism analyst Seth Jones gives us insight and the downward trend of the insurgency. Are they on the run or are they just laying low? Special inspector general Stuart Bowen's latest report gave a mixed grade to reconstruction efforts. We'll ask him what more can be done in the face of massive theft, fraud and Iraqi indifference. Arwa Damon in Baghdad looks at daily life on the Iraqi street, a life that is uncertain at best, with security improving, but anything like a normal life still only a distant dream.
But first, the big picture. Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre lays out the improving military situation. We'll ask how long overstressed U.S. troops can keep up this pace. THIS WEEK AT WAR. The latest update of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq came out this week and here are some of the key points. There has been an improvement in security. Overall violence remains high, al Qaeda is alive and well and sectarian strife continues. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon is joining us now with a look at the military. If you present a report that says, where do we stand? Tell me what's going on.
JAMIE McINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of military missions have been accomplished, even though the overall goal seems to be slipping. If we look at the map of a year ago and we take a look at the areas that were really considered the hot spots back then, we marked it here in red. You can sort of see there's a wide area where it's almost like the wild west. Flash forward to today and you can see that a lot of these areas are under control particularly because of these operations that have been known as the surge.
FOREMAN: Not perfect control.
McINTYRE: No. As the report says, some improvement, uneven, depending on where you are any particular day. This shows where essentially the surge operations have been and the effect that they've had. Out here in Anbar province to the west, the Marine general out there, who has got a really good relationship with the sheikhs and that's part of the area where things have been turned around.
FOREMAN: It looks very much like we have pushed all the problems into this area in the east of Diyala province. But we still get reports of things out here. How much of this is still a whack a mole situation?
McINTYRE: That's the big concern the generals have. That's why you hear them say they don't want to let the troops go yet. They're really concerned they're going to lose those gains. If you look down to the south where the British have pulled back some of their troops, you've seen that situation where not only different factions fighting each other, different factions of the same sect, like Shia sects going after each other because there's a power vacuum.
FOREMAN: Thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre. OK. That's where the war for Iraq stands. What happens next? Stephen Biddle is a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's in Harrisburg today. And from Chicago, CNN military consultant retired Brigadier General David Grange. Let me ask you this, General Grange, if we can start off this way. When you consider the progress over the past year, militarily, do you find yourself saying this is a positive situation now or still a very tenuous situation?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's somewhat in between. I think there's no disagreement between any of the leaders that are over there serving that this particular situation is a conflict of determined enemies, unreliable allies or questionable allies anyway and weak politicians. You have pockets of improvement. But overall there's a long way to go.
FOREMAN: You talk about agreement on the ground there. Listen to a moment from what John Warner, big defense Republican, said this week about plans for the troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R) VIRGINIA: I say to the president respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum, but certainly the 160,000 plus, say 5,000 could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Stephen Biddle, does this represent any kind of a breach between the top levels of government and the people in the field?
STEPHEN BIDDLE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I mean, I think it's an attempt by Senator Warner to try a rather different approach for leveraging political change in Baghdad than what the government has been willing to pursue, whether the government is the government in Washington and the White House or the government meaning that headquarters of the command in the theater in Iraq. What Senator Warner would like to do is tell the Iraqis, either you get your act in gear or we're going to start leaving, in the hope that that will motivate them to get their act in gear and produce political progress. I think the command in Iraq and the White House as I understand their views doesn't believe that that kind of threat is going to help. They think if anything it will hurt. In that sense clearly Senator Warner and the administration and the theater command are I think driving in different directions on this.
FOREMAN: General Grange, in a practical sense if you talk about 5,000 troops by Christmas, out of 150,000, 160,000, does that really make a difference?
GRANGE: It makes a difference -- it depends where you sit. If you're the commander on the ground like General Petraeus, that's a brigade combat team, 3,000 to 5,000 troops. He needs every soldier Marine that he has over there right now to cover the area that he's responsible for to try to get some level of security, a safe and secure environment, to gain the confidence of not only the people, but of the weak politicians so they'll make some kind of a commitment. And I don't think sending 5,000 home is really going to send a message. I think you got to do that behind closed doors with your finger in somebody's chest.
FOREMAN: So you're thinking that that in effect would be a political thing here, a bit of a bone thrown to the political system, but militarily would not make anything better or particularly worse, it's just a political move?
GRANGE: I think that's exactly correct.
FOREMAN: What about the Iraqi forces over there, Stephen? Are they in any way -- we've had so many assessments of them. There are about 300,000 of them trained for the military and the police there. Are they in any way yet ready to do the job? BIDDLE: Well, there are mixed bags. Some of them are pretty proficient militarily and reasonably disinterested in nationalist politically. Others are neither. Some are one and not the other. Across the whole of the Iraqi security forces though, I don't think the central problem is proficiency. I think the central problem is their politics. To whom are they loyal? The society they're drawn from is being pulled apart into sectarian factions. I think inevitably that tends to pull the military apart into sectarian factions. That's the big limit around what they can do for us, not whether they're trained well enough or whether they know how to field strip a weapon or whether they know how to clear a room.
FOREMAN: With that concern in front of us then, what do you make of General Peter Pace saying that by next year we can be drawing down our forces by half?
BIDDLE: If the idea is the Iraqis will be able to stand up and cover for that withdrawal, I think that's unrealistic. I don't think the Iraqis are going to be in a position to do that. If the idea is we need the U.S. military as an institution for problems beyond Iraq and if Iraq isn't solvable, maybe we need to start thinking about rebuilding and resetting the U.S. military for the next problem. You could make a case for that. But if the argument is the Iraqis are going to be ready so we can safely withdraw and draw down, I don't think that's realistic, no.
FOREMAN: The national intelligence estimate this week said this: changing the mission of coalition forces from a primarily counter insurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent al Qaeda from establishing a safe haven would erode security gains achieved thus far. General Grange, is that your primary concern?
GRANGE: Well, I think in fact in 2008, the Iraqi military, the police, will not be ready to take the place of the American GIs. It's just not going to happen. I think there's areas that it could happen. I think, though, that it will transition into some type of a combat support role which you're always going to have to have a U.S. element there for quite some time to really take on some tough issues when they go bad. And so it's a little bit of a combination. But it's in 2008, it's not going to be a lot of improvement but there will be some.
FOREMAN: If you were asked, General Grange, to give your assessment right now, to write the report, what would you say? Do we stay or do we go and what are we trying to accomplish now?
GRANGE: Well, I mean, it's a question of are we staying forever? We're going to stay I think for some time, with an advisory force, with a reaction force, some type of expeditionary covering force. I think that we have to let this thing go at least through 2007 to get an accurate assessment of the gains. I think it's just too early for this new strategy which some people call the surge to get enough information. I mean, September's really pushing it. So I think you have to go through '07 with the forces that we have and then you can make a more I think prudent decision in '08 where you're going to go from there.
FOREMAN: Same question to you, Stephen, do we stay or go, if so, on what terms?
BIDDLE: Well, I think there are actually three sets of ideas about what we ought to do that are popular in Washington, stay as long as we can with as much as we can. That's basically the president's view. Cut our losses and get out altogether, which is the Democratic (INAUDIBLE) Democratic party base preference. Then everything in between which is where most people on the Hill are which amounts to some sort of partial withdrawal and then a shift in mission towards supporting or training or in other ways enabling the Iraqis to take up the slack. I think you can make a very strong case for either of the two positions at the extremes. Staying as long as we can with as much as we can and trying even though this is a long shot to pull the chestnuts out of the fire at the last minute, or if you think the odds are too long and you're not willing to take that kind of long shot bet, cutting our losses altogether, getting out and beginning to reset the U.S. military for the next problem. It's all those in between options that at the moment are extremely popular that I think are seriously problematic.
FOREMAN: Thank you so much, General. Thank you, Stephen. We appreciate your time.
From the very beginning, General Petraeus has said there will be no military solution in Iraq, that all he can do is provide time for Iraqis to work out a political solution. This week, that solution appears further off than ever. We'll go into that in a bit.
Straight ahead, a look at a situation known as the second insurgency with the guy who's assigned to clean it up.
First, take a look at some of the images that came out of THIS WEEK AT WAR, pictures taken by combat photographers. (INAUDIBLE) shot this almost abstract photo through the window of a bus after it was struck by a roadside bomb on Tuesday in Baghdad, two passengers were killed. On Monday, Loa Hamid (ph) caught this young boy looking cautiously out of his apartment window after his street was hit by mortar fire. In Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad, Kareem Kadin (ph) witnessed as Iraqis protested the American presence in Iraq and the increased patrolling of Sadr City. And finally, Scott Kingsley took this powerful image in Grand Island, Nebraska. Young Addison Hanson (ph) stands in front of a memorial to her uncle, Staff sergeant Jeffrey Hanson. The memorial, a representation in bronze of the real rifle, helmet and combat boots that have become an indelible symbol of the human cost of this war. Stay with us.
FOREMAN: Consider this short list, illegal payments, unauthorized transfer of vehicles and apartments, stolen government funds, massive fraud, corruption in Iraqi ports, misspending, diversion of government funds to militias. Just a few examples of the rampant corruption that's hampered the task of rebuilding Iraq's shattered infrastructure, corruption so endemic that Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has termed it a second insurgency. Mr. Bowen joins us now from the embassy in Baghdad. Why do you call this a second insurgency?
STUART BOWEN, IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION INSPECTOR GEN: First let me make the point that corruption that we talk about in our latest reports has to do with the corruption within the Iraqi government, not within the U.S. program. I call it a second insurgency because it fundamentally undermines the effort to move forward on the program to build a democracy here in Iraq. If the Iraqi people can't benefit from the money that has been budgeted by their government to carry out the recovery of the country, well then progress is going to be very difficult.
FOREMAN: Give us a sense of the big picture here. How much electricity is working? How much water is clean? How many hospitals are open? A sense of what's working.
BOWEN: As our reports indicate, the infrastructure picture in Iraq is a very mixed one. However, in the course of this year, electricity output has gradually increased, that in contradistinction to last year. It's the result of U.S. projects gradually coming online. The water program, the electrical program, the oil program, from a reconstruction perspective are virtually complete. But we're beginning to see the positive effects in each sector, gradual, admittedly, but positive nonetheless.
FOREMAN: When you say a water program, for example, is complete, what that would mean to me in the United States is that pretty much every home can turn on a faucet and get fresh water. Is that the case?
BOWEN: No, no, not by any means. But Iraq had a very long way to go after the 2003 conflict came to an end. And there's still much that needs to be done in that program. The water sector had its budget cut by half in 2005 because of the need to spend more money on security. However, the commander's emerging response program continues to invest in that sector. The goals have not been met, but progress continues to be made.
FOREMAN: So what does that mean in terms of homes? You have any sense of how many people have fresh water running into their homes?
BOWEN: Well, the U.S. program has added about 5.6 million persons or households -- persons onto the water sector grid, if you will. But the U.S. specifically has opened up two very large water treatment facilities, one in Erbil (ph) that's serving 350,000 Kurds up in the north and one in Nasiriyah (ph) which will serve 500,000 Iraqis in south central Iraq.
FOREMAN: When I read some of the reports on this, I'm still not sure if we're clear on the water issue here, but when I read the reports, it seems like every single thing -- electricity, railroads, roads, water -- all of that seems to have as the headline, security issues over the years have hampered or set back progress virtually every time and ultimately wasted millions and millions of dollars. Is that a fair assessment? BOWEN: It is a fair assessment. The security has inhibited every effort, including reconstruction in Iraq. For instance, in the electricity sector, the minister of electricity has repeatedly told us that he has a very difficult time getting his repair teams out to lines that have been taken out by insurgents because they are attacked. That keeps hours of power down in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.
FOREMAN: Is the recent surge helping on that front? Do you see any evidence that, for everything we've tried now, that our rebuilding the infrastructure can go better now with the surge?
BOWEN: The surge which is focused in Baghdad and surroundings and in Anbar, according to the briefings I've received during my three- week stay here, has made a difference. The trend lines in attacks this year are down since the surge began and that will pay dividends. That will enable these repair teams to get out and fix these downed lines. It will enable Iraqis to get to work. It will enable reconstruction projects to move forward.
FOREMAN: So if you look at the level of progress right now, under the surge, if you had to say how far down the road would normal Iraqis be able to rely on water, power, roads, 24 hours a day, that would all be working, how far are we talking about?
BOWEN: That's a difficult date to pick. What I can say is that the --
FOREMAN: Is it more like six months or more like six years?
BOWEN: It's difficult to nail down. I don't want to give you a date on when that can be achieved. What I can tell you is the trends are in the positive direction as opposed to last year. 2006 was a very difficult year after the golden mosque was blown up in early February. Much has improved in the course of 2007 on the security front and on the infrastructure front.
FOREMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Bowen, we appreciate your insights. Good luck with the work over there.
That's what it looks like from the outside. Straight ahead, a very different perspective, the gritty reality of day-to-day life inside an Iraqi neighborhood. Stick with us THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: CNN's Baghdad correspondent Arwa Damon has done story after story on the struggles that the average Iraqi family faces just to get by. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the (INAUDIBLE) house a small block of ice is stored as a top shelf item. I work for Baghdad's department of water and I know we have dirty water in the main pipes, (INAUDIBLE) says. I know it's filled with dirt and germs. Still his family stores it in countless bottles even though they know it will make the kids sick. It's the only way to survive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So while the September reports will give a high-level snapshot of life in Iraq we thought we'd get a preview from the street level, where life is very hard and far often very short. Arwa joins us from Baghdad. And in Los Angeles, Lorraine Ali, the senior writer for "Newsweek" magazine, who's written about the problems faced by her family in Baghdad. Lorraine, let me start with you while we zoom in on a map of the very neighborhood that your family called home. What is life like there? We tried to get an answer in the last segment and I don't think we got it. How much water do you have, how much electricity, how much security?
LORRAINE ALI, NEWSWEEK: Well, my family tells me that the water that they get is not clean. And so therefore, they either have to try and go out and get bottled water and half the time they don't even have the water running in the house. In other words, it just shuts down. Now, in terms of electricity, power, they say they're lucky if they have that up to three, maybe three times a week, in other words, functioning for a couple of hours a day. So many of the neighborhoods just have their own generators. If you're lucky enough, you have your own personal generator.
FOREMAN: Arwa, on a day to day basis are people there going to jobs? Are they sending their children to school?
DAMON: I mean, look, you do go out into the streets of Baghdad, and you will see Iraqis out and about, shopping, going to work. If you just glimpse around on a superficial level, you can step back and say, oh, it looks normal. But this is what everyone needs to realize. That Iraqi nine times out of 10 will have woken up not to an alarm clock, but to the sound of an explosion. All that time that they're spending out on the street, be it them going to work or sending their children to school, they are doing that with their heart in their throat and their nerves on edge because they don't know if they're going to make it back home.
FOREMAN: Lorraine, much of your family has fled the country. There's a tremendous refugee problem. What do you make of that?
ALI: Well, the horrible fallout of that is that these families have been ripped apart. I have cousins who are living apart from their husbands. The wife is in Jordan, the husband's still in Iraq. You have people that are actually even separated from their children, because they've sent their children to Syria for medical attention, yet they have to still make a living so they're working in Baghdad. So you have families ripped apart because of this.
FOREMAN: You had an interesting report, Arwa that I wanted to share just a moment of here because it looks so incongruous under the circumstances. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: Moments like this are stolen, rare and treasured. We can't tell you the name or location of this social club because everyone here is afraid of an insurgent strike. Within these walls the carefully guarded illusion of normalcy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Arwa, I can imagine that that is a very puzzling image for many, many, many of my neighbors here because you see that and it looks so much like a good, happy life. If you're that afraid, why would you even try to have a pool?
DAMON: Because as everyone there was saying, you have to do something to live. There's this gloom, this depression, that is so ingrained in people here, in society, that families are so desperate to get away from that, to live that illusion that you just saw in those images, that illusion of a normal life, the illusion of being able to laugh, that they will take the risk to go to a place like that. And again, that is the kind of atmosphere that you can walk in to take a glance around and say, look, things seem normal. But if you actually listen in to the conversations that people are having around that pool, it's all about security, about the daily struggle, about the lack of water, the lack of power, and just about how hopeless they are about the future.
FOREMAN: And so many have seemingly given up on that. Thanks so much Lorraine and Arwa well.
In a just a moment, we'll look at the political battlefields in Baghdad and the extremely uncertain future of President Nuri al Maliki.
But first, as we always do, we want to take a moment to remember some of those who fell, in THIS WEEK AT WAR.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Drew Griffin. Here's what's happening "Now in the News." In the upper Midwest, folks dealing with some of the worst flooding in almost a century. Tonight, Illinois bracing for an overflow from the Fox River. Power crews say it could be days before everyone's power is back on in and around Chicago. At least 18 deaths reportedly blamed on the storms and the floods there.
Southern Greece burning out of control. The entire nation practically under a state of emergency there. Forty-plus people have died, maybe more. Greece's prime minister suggests some of these fires deliberately set ahead of next month's national elections. He's also requesting help from his European allies.
This fiery tragedy in South Surrey, British Columbia. A hot air balloon catches fire. A mother and daughter on board, they were killed. Eleven others who were in that balloon jumped when the balloon first burst into flame, some of them seriously hurt.
I'm Drew Griffin. Now back THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: When general David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker deliver their report on Iraq three weeks from now, it is virtually certain that questions will concentrate on one man, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Will he survive? Who could replace him? Or is Iraq's democratic government so completely gridlocked that the only solution is a classic Middle Eastern strongman?
To help me as we continue our preview of the September report, CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad. And in New York, TIME magazine's new world editor, Bobby Ghosh, up until this very recent promotion, Bobby spent four years in Baghdad as the magazine's bureau chief.
Bobby, you made it clear you think Maliki needs to go because he has sided too much with the Shia, too much against the Sunni. What kind of person should replace him?
BOBBY GHOSH, WORLD EDITOR, TIME: Well, in an ideal world what Iraq needs now is a statesman. They need somebody who can represent all factions of Iraqi population. The Shiites, the Sunnis, the Kurds. And somebody who is seen as being above sectarian politics. Unfortunately, I haven't seen one in the four years that I've been in Baghdad. And I'm willing to bet Michael hasn't either.
FOREMAN: The support for Maliki seems very shaky, Michael. Listen to what President Bush said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fundamental question is, will the government respond to the demands of the people? And if the government doesn't demand -- respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government.
Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man, with a difficult job, and I support him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: A bit of whipsaw from the president there, in one breath saying he may be thrown out, on the secondhand we'd like to support him. That's the question that Bobby poses there, Michael. Who would replace him? Do you see a statesman out there?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. Bobby would be winning his wager. There simply is no, to use the Afghan example, a Hamid Karzai waiting in the wings, one sole political figure who can unite this nation, or even someone who can hold it within the iron grip of a fist. That person at this stage simply doesn't exist or hasn't emerged.
More or less, that person or that faction is going to have to be fashioned. Now that's going to come from one side or the other. You have Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Let's face reality here, folks. He is a lame duck. He is a man with no power.
As one senior U.S. official here in Baghdad said, of his 37 cabinet members -- cabinet ministers, he can only count on three. And political power in this country, within this government, is judged by the number of militiamen and arms that you have. And Maliki has none.
So he doesn't have the authority to deliver which is driving some U.S. generals for the first time ever to say openly on camera that perhaps democracy for now is not the solution.
FOREMAN: You filed a report that said that this week, Michael, let's take a quick listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: Two years after the euphoria of historic elections, America's plan to bring democracy to Iraq is in crisis. For the first time, exasperated front line U.S. generals talk openly of non- democratic alternatives.
BRIG. GEN. JOHN BEDNAREK, U.S. ARMY: The democratic institutions is not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Bobby, are you astonished to hear military people from the U.S. government saying something like that on the ground in Iraq? Or do you think they have no other choice?
GHOSH: I am certainly surprised to hear them say it on record. But we have heard them say it off the record for several months now. It reflects the level of frustration that the military feels. They're putting their boys' lives on the line here, and they feel that the Iraqi political class is not delivering on their side of the bargain.
FOREMAN: And yet, Nouri al-Maliki said some astonishing things this week as well. Listen to this. "The American administration is full of contrast and petty politics. The government is legal. Our government is legal. The Iraqis choose it. And Americans have no right to place timetables on it or any other restrictions."
Michael, how can Maliki, a guy who's teetering on the brink of chaos, say things like that about what has been his largest protector?
WARE: Well, what he's doing is he is taking swipes at phantoms in the dark. I mean, Prime Minister Maliki is in an insidious position. He's between a rock and a hard place. Now, yes, essentially the U.S. mission is underwriting him.
But nonetheless, that's not where the true power in this country lies. It still lies with the fundamental building blocks of the political landscape here, which are the militias. And according to U.S. intelligence, most if not all of these militias have links to or are supported by Iran.
So it's easy to argue that indeed Iran has greater influence in this country with this government than does Washington. Indeed we saw when Prime Minister Maliki, just last week, visited Tehran, he described Tehran's role as most helpful, which immediately prompted a sharp rebuke from President Bush. He said, he's going to have to have a heart to heart with Prime Minister Maliki because Iran's role certainly is not helpful. We're really seeing great tectonic plates clashing here in terms of political framework.
FOREMAN: Very shortly here, Bobby, if the question is that we must have some kind of political progress for all of our military expense, the lives, the suffering, to be worth anything, would you stay or go? Is there any sense of that political progress can be made?
GHOSH: Well, political progress can't be made under the system as it exists now. We have to understand that the dynamics that produced Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister would not change if you changed him.
He comes from a political class. He comes from a political coalition. The next prime minister, if that person is picked from the same coalition, will deliver exactly the same thing Maliki has.
So yes, it's worth remaining. But the political system as it exists now has to be dismantled and then reassembled in a different way. And that would require enormous commitment from the United States. I don't see any sense that the people up in Washington are willing to make that kind of commitment.
FOREMAN: Michael, very quickly as well, you've made it clear that you think the U.S. has to stay for any hope of stability in that country. But what can be done about the government there now?
WARE: Well, Bobby has really touched upon something that's very present at the moment. I mean, you really need to almost destroy this democracy to save it. That's certainly the argument of some people. That really, it's in such ruin, that it's so fatally flawed, that there's no hope of going forward no matter who's in charge of it.
Indeed, we heard from the U.S. embassy and from General Petraeus himself this week in a statement to CNN, that even they have downgraded their vision of what kind of democracy could emerge. So it's clear the real changes need to be made. And America, it can start pulling troops out tomorrow, as long as it's willing to pay the awful price.
FOREMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Bobby Ghosh. Michael, stay just where you are if you would, please. We'll be back to look at what's left of the insurgency with you in just a moment.
And later, we'll tell you what the "F Troop" has to do with all of this. Yes, the "F Troop." THIS WEEK AT WAR will be right back.
FOREMAN: The update of the National Intelligence Estimate that appeared on Thursday said that Iraq's security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months, but levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high. The question is, how high? What's left after Sunni defections and massive coalition operations? To help answer this, Seth Jones, a terrorism analyst at the Rand Corporation. And once again, Michael Ware is in Baghdad.
Seth, what about the enemy in this case, particularly the insurgents, al Qaeda in that country? Are they wounded, are they weak, are they invigorated, what are they?
SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: Well, the answer really depends on what insurgents you're talking about. Probably the most interesting case over the last several months has been what has happened in Anbar province where you've had a variety of sheikhs and tribal elements that have targeted, conducted their own counter insurgency effort against al Qaeda in Iraq, largely without U.S. -- major U.S. assistance.
They've done it with some U.S. protection. But this -- it's -- and what you have is in cities like Ramadi, you have insurgents that are now taking the position of Iraqi police officers. So you've had a very significant change in who even the insurgents are in Anbar.
FOREMAN: So it wasn't a matter of beating them as much as a change in their temperament, in who they wanted to attack because they were tired of al Qaeda.
JONES: That's correct, and al Qaeda tried to overstep its bounds and essentially co-opt the entire Sunni insurgency and to use very brutal tactics against the population there. It was not well-received by the tribes.
FOREMAN: That's one part of the country. That's one part of the insurgency. Michael, when we look at the militias on the Shia side, what do we see? Are they any closer to saying, let's give up, let's lay down our arms?
WARE: No, you'd have to be joking. Why on earth would they? Everything is going in their favor. They own the government. Tehran is bankrolling them faster and heavier than ever before. Their weapons are improving.
Indeed, according to the second-highest general here in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, they're now the ones killing more U.S. troops every month than the Sunni insurgency or al Qaeda.
Now what the Sunnis are doing in Anbar and elsewhere is carrying out a promise, an offer they made four years ago. In 2003, the dismantled apparatus of Saddam's military and intelligence communities approached the Americans and said, we are your allies, we're opposed to Iran, we're opposed to al Qaeda, we're willing to host U.S. bases, but you've brought in a bunch of Iranian agents. We're willing to work with you.
Their aim from the beginning has been to wear down American will, until America was ready to deal with them. And after four years, America has been batted into a position where they're willing to come in and deal, put them in power locally, put them in police uniforms, and use them as a counterbalance against the very government America created.
FOREMAN: So Seth, who is our biggest enemy now, and what state are they in?
JONES: Well, I think there are multiple enemies. There is one concern that we haven't talked about, which is a concern up in the north. The Turks are particularly concerned about the PKK, and other Kurdish groups operating in northern Iraq.
There has been concern, it has come out in the National Intelligence Estimate, about a Turkish invasion of -- or at least Turkish incursions in the north of Iraq and having actually violence spread.
This is in addition to Shia that we've just talked about. It's in addition to efforts among Sunnis to counterbalance al Qaeda in Iraq. This would then be an expansion of the violence up to the north, in response to Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq.
FOREMAN: For all of the money and all of the weapons though, Seth, and all of the lives we've spent, has no one over there felt the heat? Are none of our enemies over there saying, these guys are just too tough?
JONES: No. I think to some degree there has been some heat that has been placed on certain organizations, but let's be honest, U.S. soldiers have been on a per capita level very small, very small compared to the U.S. levels in Germany.
There were over 101 soldiers per 1,000 Germans after World War II. There are roughly, depending on how you count it, about six or seven U.S. soldiers for every 1,000 Iraqis. There just aren't enough U.S. soldiers in Iraq to have that kind of impact.
FOREMAN: So, Michael, it seems some ways like the problem has been that all along, American forces have been fighting for the idea of a unified national Iraq. And our enemies have been fighting for their neighborhoods.
WARE: That's absolutely right. And I mean, one of the major problems here is that America has never really fought this war. They fought it with one arm tied behind their back, as Seth points out. Frankly, no one is really intimidated by the U.S. military, certainly not the regional players.
And the longer this war plays out, the less that America is feared or revered in this region by its rivals or elsewhere. So is there really a national spirit here? Yes. There...
WARE: ... Iraqi nationalism. But right now that has been wrenched apart. And the preconditions for Iraqi national unity right do not exist.
(AUDIO GAP) WARE: ... America abandoned middle Iraq. America abandoned the secularists, the moderates, the democrats. While someone like Iran has capitalized.
WARE: ... one of the most senior U.S. officials in this country said to me, the real winner of the past six years has indeed been Iran and al Qaeda.
FOREMAN: Thank you both very much.
FOREMAN: ... a tale of two sisters when...
FOREMAN: Even though we are devoting this program to the situation in Iraq, let's take a look at other "Hot Spots" in THIS WEEK AT WAR, all ultimately related to Iraq.
In Pakistan, another setback for embattled President Pervez Musharraf. On Wednesday the supreme court ruled that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who Musharraf ousted from power eight years ago, can return to Pakistan and take part in upcoming elections.
In Iran, American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was released on Tuesday after nearly four months in prison. For bail, her ailing mother had to put up the deed to their Tehran apartment.
And in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Islamic Jihad said three of its members were killed as Israeli jets struck in a second day of retaliatory strikes after Qassam rockets were fired into Israel. That's a quick look at some of the global "Hot Spots" this week.
In a moment we'll tell you a vital factor that almost certainly will not be in September's report on Iraq. But first, as we always do, we want to pause for THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance.
Yolanda Worthy says she and her twin sister Zandra were inseparable. They attended the same high school, the same college, and together as always they enlisted in the Army. But they were apart last week when Yolanda's greatest fear came true. Army Specialist Zandra Walker was killed by indirect fire during combat operations in Taji, Iraq. Yolanda was hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. But the bond with her sister was still there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOLANDA WORTHY, SISTER: I didn't feel right that night when I was sleeping. But I didn't know why.
(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: Now Yolanda says she feels like part of herself is missing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WORTHY: We were always, always together. Now it's like, I'm by myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Our thoughts are with the Walker family. Zandra Walker was 28 years old.
FOREMAN: We've listened to so many ideas and opinions about this war in the past hour, we wanted to close with a final word about what you will not hear in September's progress report. Earlier this month, Anthony Cordesman, a well-respected Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released his analysis of the situation in Iraq.
And here's the key quote. "The U.S. team is far more impressive than ever before and far more experienced, from Crocker and Petraeus down to the junior officer and U.S. civilian in the field. The 'F Troop' that existed in Iraq during the key initial years of the occupation has been replaced by the 'A Team.'"
Whatever is in the official report we hear in September, it's important to remember that wars are won by millions of tough decisions being made every day in the worst of conditions. And in the end it's going to be the men and women on the ground who will make the difference. It's awfully nice to hear that at least in many opinions, we've got our "A Team" on the field.
Turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next WEEK AT WAR.
On Tuesday, the Turkish parliament will hold what could be the final round of voting for president and foreign minister. Abdullah Gul, he is expected to win, an Islamist, his religious views have raised tensions in this secular nation.
Also on Tuesday, President Bush plans to give another major speech defending his Iraq policy. This time concentrating on implications for the entire region.
And on Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate on the Middle East. That could get fiery.
Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, "CNN'S SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT," "Growing Up Diana."
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