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This Week at War

Iraq's neighboring countries met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss debt forgiveness. What was accomplished by the summit?

Aired May 06, 2007 - 13:00   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: They were committed terrorists in the process of making bombs, several trained by al Qaeda in Pakistan. And all of them able to board an airplane for the United States, no questions asked. In London this week these men, British citizens who don't have to have a U.S. visa were convicted of terrorism. The evolving threat of al Qaeda in THIS WEEK AT WAR right after what's in the news right now.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Veronica de la Cruz on the CNN center in Atlanta. Here is what's happening right now in the news. Nine people are dead, another 63 are hurt after a massive tornado levels the small south Kansas town of Greensburg. A meteorologist from the National Weather Service says the twister was as big as a mile wide. Most, if not all of Greensburg, is gone.

In Africa, rescue crews have suspended the search for a missing plane in Cameroon. The Kenya Airways jet is believed to have crashed during a rain storm shortly after takeoff. Relatives of the 114 passengers and crew have flocked to the airport in Nairobi, awaiting word on their loved ones.

Iraqi police say a car bomb detonated just outside a Shiite mosque in the southern city of Hila (ph) today killing five people and wounding dozens more. The bomb went off in the city's busy market area. Witnesses say the car's driver was able to successfully escape the blast.

And today, a highlight of Queen Elizabeth's trip to the United States, her royal majesty enjoying the sights and sounds of the bluegrass, specifically, Louisville's Churchill Downs for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. It was the queen's first-ever visit to the fabled horse track. She is reportedly a big fan of the ponies.

I'm Veronica de la Cruz. I'll have more news for you at the bottom of the hour. Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.

FOREMAN: Anbar province appears to be one of the rare success stories in Iraq, violence down and Iraqis taking the lead in battling al Qaeda. A year ago the city of Ramadi and the rest of Anbar province was insurgent territory, a place where al Qaeda ruled. In June 2006, Colonel Sean McFarland told CNN's Nic Robertson that he was going to take it back one piece at a time and that is exactly what he did. I'm Tom Foreman with THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day. Monday five men were convicted of plotting to set off bombs in London. The police apparently missed a chance to break up the terrorist ring that killed 52 people in July of 2005. Tuesday as expected , President Bush voted the military funding bill, as expected negotiations for a new bill began. Wednesday, President Karzai of Afghanistan said that he can no longer tolerate the number of civilians being killed in NATO's battles with the Taliban.

Thursday, a summit conference in the Egyptian resort approved a five-year plan to bring security and prosperity to Iraq. Details as usual remain to be worked out. And Friday the Pentagon reported that more than a third of troops and veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress or brain injury. That number is expected to increase. This week's key questions, are new tactics working in Anbar province? We'll ask Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Was anything really accomplished at the Sharm el Sheik (ph) summit? Zaine Verjee is on the scene and how deadly is home-grown terrorism? Paula Newton has been investigating in London. THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Be sociable with those that will be sociable and formidable with them that will not. It's not every day that a military commander quotes 17th Century English philosopher John Locke, but that was Army Colonel Sean McFarland's battle plan when he took over Anbar province. He put his troops in small outposts in the most dangerous neighborhoods, staffed the Iraqi police with local men and worked to turn tribal sheiks against al Qaeda. How did this turn the tide in Anbar and can it work throughout Iraq? CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Baghdad. CNN military analyst retired Brigadier General David Grange joins us from Chicago and with me in Washington, Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In an article in Tuesday's "USA Today, " Colonel McFarland explained how the new tactics change everything, even what the troops are fighting for saying, quote, the pride in the counter insurgency fight is not terrain, it is the people. When you secured the people, you have won the war. Nic, how is this working? Why is this working?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the tribal leaders that I've been talking to recently say it's working because they are now an effective force. They see that al Qaeda in al Anbar is not in the best interest of the people and they decided to educate their people and lead their people against al Anbar and an insurgency, if the deny the enemy, in this case al Qaeda, deny them the ability to hide in the people, separate them from the people, then you can beat them and by the tribes turning and supporting what the U.S. military wants them to do, that's enabled that to happen, that is what appears to be the case, Tom.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at this region on the map here. We're talking mainly about the western part of the country and it has been an unbelievably dangerous part of the country, more than a thousand U.S. soldiers kill there, largely a Sunni stronghold. General, if this works and it appears to be working, why haven't we done it before?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET): I think it's been done before in smaller areas and locales and it may not work throughout all of Iraq, but I think this is a typical way to handle irregular warfare, which we're involved in here. And since you use the other quote and since Major McFarland used to work for me, here's another one. By indirection find direction out. That's Shakespeare and that's what McFarland is doing. He's taking uncommon approach to what's been done in this area in a conventional mindset and that will not work. You have to try something, because what was happening before did not work and I'm very confident that McFarland's tactic here is the way to go.

FOREMAN: I can't make enough of how big the change is. Look at what the "New York Times" wrote, one year ago about al Anbar province. In a recent province by province review by the military command and the embassy, Anbar received the worst score of overall stability and was rated critical. One year later, this is what they are writing. Anbar province is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas and the insurgency appears to be in retreat. Michael, where is the bad news in this?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: There is no bad news at the moment in al Anbar province. I think what is going on is that what should have been obvious a long time ago to the tribal sheiks is now apparent, which is they are better off fighting al Qaeda and getting some local ability to stabilize their home land. This is where they live. Why wouldn't they want to have some level of utilities working, of the economy working and they finally maybe begun to put their hatred of the United States and of the Shia in a little bit of perspective at least locally and at least for now. So there is no bad news in this development in the narrow sense. We just don't know how far we can project it into the future, to assume these sheiks will want to keep working with us and to what extent this can extend to Baghdad. This is the homeland of the Sunni tribes that are working with us and it's going to make their lives better. It's they would want to do this.

FOREMAN: One of the concerns Nic obviously is the Shia tribes. Some of them feel that this may not be a good thing because it just organizes the Sunnis for potential civil war in the future.

ROBERTSON: Well, what the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and indeed what the original American vision for Iraq had been was to create a national army that was drawn from across the country that could go and fight in any part of the country that you wouldn't have an al Anbar army fighting only in al Anbar. I was in a meeting where the defense minister about a year and a half ago angrily told a gathering of al Anbar tribal sheiks, they couldn't have their own Iraqi army division, but this essentially is what is being created here, al Anbar force to fight al Anbar's interests in al Anbar and the tribal leaders I talked to who are the guys behind the support right now for defeating al Qaeda, are telling me that they still expect to fight with the Shias and they expect these tribal members to be the vanguard of that part of the force. There is another quote and we've been talking about quotes here from TE Lawrence and he says to go to war with a rebellion is messy and slow. It's like eating soup with a knife. And I think American officers have found that as they have tried to eat the soup with a knife, learn new tactics, it's taken a long time to turn the American army around. The tribal leaders I've talked to have sat and complained that they felt undermined and not understood. Now there's been a coming together and this is a positive step. But clearly, more developments to head off what might happen are really important, Tom.

FOREMAN: General, very briefly, is it worth the trade out for potential future problems to have this progress now?

GRANGE: Absolutely. In fact, the second or third effects, there will probably be some, if we do not anticipate in other parts of Iraq how to handle those situations with the other sects, with the Shia and the Kurds, et cetera. Because each situation is different and a savvy commander has to be able to recognize those conditions, see it for what it is. Understand it and if he cannot seize upon an opportunity like McFarland did in this case, then create one, using collaboration with all actors in the area. You have to be very clever how to persuade and influence and use people to your advantage. You know, TE Lawrence also said when you use these indigenous people, it's better to have them do it 80 percent right than have us do it 100 percent right because it's not about us in the end.

FOREMAN: All these quotes, Michael, I'll give you the last word here. What should the American people take way from al Anbar right now? We've had so much bad news, should we truly be heartened by this?

O'HANLON: This is good news, this and the drop in sectarian warfare inside Baghdad are the two very important elements of good news. There's a lot of bad news. Civilian fatalities have really not declined in Iraq. The economy is still a mess. Political reconciliation is still a long ways off and happening only very slowly. Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte had a recent "Wall Street Journal" op/ed in which he argued things are really looking pretty good in many ways. That's getting a little too ahead of ourselves. We have two encouraging things, drop in sectarian killings in Baghdad and these alliances in al Anbar. I hope that's the wave of the future but it's way too soon to know.

FOREMAN: We will find out. Michael, General, Nick, thank you all for joining us. Coming up, this is what ammonium nitrate fertilizer can do. Homemade explosives and home grown terrorists. Are we doing enough to stop them? And the war of words escalates in Washington. Can Congress actually de-authorize the war in Iraq? What does that mean? We'll explore that in just a moment. But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance.

Private First Class Nicholas Riehl was killed last week in Fallujah when an IED detonated near his patrol. Riehl was just seven weeks into his tour in Iraq. He joined the army to help pay for college. Nicholas' uncle says his nephew would have had a bright future playing the guitar.


ROBIN RIEHL, UNCLE: He was just gifted. You don't see kids like that where you just pick it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: Nicholas was assigned to the 5th squadron, 7th cavalry regiment, 1st brigade combat team out of Ft. Stewart, Georgia and this young guitar player was just 21 years old.


FOREMAN: It's a safe bet that U.S. troops fighting in Iraq are not going to run out of bullets for their rifles or gas for their Humvees. At the end of the day, they will get the money they need, so while we watch the drama of a presidential veto and the stirring speeches on the Senate floor, what is really going on here? Joining me is CNN's Ed Henry from his post at the White House and AB Stoddard, associated editor of "The Hill" newspaper. Last week, the Congress passed a funding bill with a time line for troop withdrawal to no one's surprise and on Tuesday the president sent it back.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bill would mandate a rigid and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq. It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.


FOREMAN: Ed, we knew this was going to happen. It now has happened. Is either side closer to the middle ground they are going to have to come to to fund the war?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not really. I mean both sides are talking a good game to in public look like they want to compromise, that they are reaching across the aisle, but both sides are dug in on what the president was just referring to, which is the timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops. The president hasn't given an inch on that but I still think that in relative short order, a week or so, we're going to see the Democrats likely on the Hill moving towards the middle in terms of basically giving up the timeline and instead coming up with latest buzzword, which is benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. There will be a lot of arguing over what those benchmarks will be. It will be some sort of middle ground along benchmarks and I think both sides will try to claim victory.

FOREMAN: Joe Biden was calling this week, the Democrat from Delaware saying about the war and the president, we're going to shove it down his throat. Let me ask you here, doesn't that just poison the water, whether a Republican or a Democrat says something like that?

AB STODDARD, "THE HILL" NEWSPAPER: Well, it does but Joe Biden is running for president and he's actually not going to be one of the negotiators at the table ultimately. This is still the time early in the negotiations where the rhetoric is very heated, both sides are dug in as Ed said, people are trying to look like they are giving without giving but that is going to change and ultimately it's really going to be Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker and Harry Reid, Senate majority leader who are sitting at the table with Republicans and President Bush. FOREMAN: Another one of the candidates, Hillary Clinton raised another possibility. Let's listen to her idea.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time to sunset the authorization for the war in Iraq. If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him.


FOREMAN: AB, does that means anything? Is that a dog and pony show? What does it mean to deauthorize?

STODDARD: It's slightly a gimmick because this is a notion that's been battered around since the election but no one's really proceeded with it yet. Because she's talking about this authorization that would sunset in October, this is when the funding for the war, that is about to be passed in the Congress is going run out anyway. General Petraeus is going to - he's come up with this report in September. This whole game change is in the fall anyway but it's Congress's constitutional authority to raise and fund an army. President Bush is still the commander in chief. We're already in a war and there is not much Congress can do except for cutting the purse strings.

FOREMAN: Well, now we're looking at this end of summertime, when we're going to look at Petraeus' report, the assessment of how this so-called surge has worked and one of the things the president did this week was change expectations a bit. Listen to his comment.


BUSH: Success is not no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that's what we're trying to achieve.


FOREMAN: Ed, is this what it appears to be, the White House trying to say to the American people get used to a different idea about what winning the war means?

HENRY: No doubt about it, Tom. This was about the president ratcheting down expectations of the American people, trying to redefine what success will be. If you look at his words a year ago this month in fact, he was very clearly saying that victory would be an Iraq that could sustain and defend itself, that would be a model in the Middle East in terms of freedom, would be an ally in the war on terror. It's pretty obvious based on what's happened in the last year that's pretty much a dream at this point that's going to be very hard to realize. This is all about the president trying to recalibrate what success means and potentially preparing the American people this fall if General Petraeus says look, this is not turning things around, the increase in troops. It's not working, preparing the American people for saying look, we're going to have to change. Maybe we're going to have to pull out U.S. troops.

FOREMAN: AB, do you think the Democrats really want the problem of the war? Or do they want to beat the Republicans up with it? This is a tough problem for both of them.

STODDARD: I think they think that they were elected to run the Congress because of the Iraqi war and that the public is now showing the majorities, in polls, for withdrawal for ending the war. But the Democrats don't have the votes to end the war. Two things are going to happen now. The president and the Republicans are going to come around for some conditions on the Iraqi government. We don't know how binding they will be and the Democrats are going to fund this war.

FOREMAN: They're going to have no choice on that. To do that, do they have to chop off their liberal wing, the people who are saying we need to get out right now?

STODDARD: They can't do it without Republican votes. We don't know how they'll convince some liberals to stay on. We don't know how that will happen. The surefire way to get to the number you need is to leave them behind but they don't want to. It's very frustrating for them. This is very frustrating for them because as I said, they have the support of the public they believe, but they don't have the votes.

FOREMAN: All right. AB Stoddard, Ed Henry thanks you joining us with your insights. In just a moment, Condoleezza Rice had a sit down with Syria but only smiles for Iran. Was the summit over Iraq a success or just a side show?

And this is a shot from a British surveillance camera as a terrorist checks his explosives. How can we make sure this scene isn't playing out on this side of the Atlantic? THIS WEEK AT WAR. Stay with us.


FOREMAN: They could have been the men sitting in the next seats on the airplane, the guy across the way on the bus or the subway in New York or Boston or Washington, DC. Luckily, they were in a London courtroom on Monday convicted of plotting to set off bombs made from common chemicals in British shopping malls, nightclubs and airliners. But as British citizens, they would have only had to buy a plane ticket to get to the United States. And as one said in court, the events of 9/11 made him happy. How can we protect against these home grown extremists, this evolution in terrorism we've been calling al Qaeda 2.0. Former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security Clark Kent Ervin joins me here in Washington. His book "Open Target, Where America is Vulnerable to Attack" is being released in paperback and CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton has been following the trial in London. On Monday, Paula outlined this new face of al Qaeda.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the fertilizer bomb plot unraveled in London, the trail of evidence left behind was traced right back to Pakistan. These rugged and remote border regions have now become al Qaeda's new sanctuary, British Muslims, al Qaeda's new foot soldiers.


FOREMAN: Paula, there's an awful lot of hyperbole about security in the world, but how seriously do international terrorism experts really take this new phase of recruiting?

NEWTON: They take it absolutely seriously. They say it could be potentially the greatest threat to the United States right now is this kind of homegrown recruitment. It is not a phenomenon that we're used to, certainly, in the United States but here in Europe, in particular in Britain, it has proven quite effective, the tool usually the Internet, very, very deep family roots to places like Pakistan. Pakistan provides the training, Tom, but what those European passports that British passport provides is the access, the access to travel around the world and also to travel to the United States visa-free.

FOREMAN: Let's look at the map and see what we're talking about here. This area, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been an area that we obviously watch closely, but we're talking now about the Diaspora, the people who have moved out and set up new communities, Africa, Indonesia, but most importantly for security in the United States, what has happened in Europe? The larger communities there, where again people can get their passports, with no visa and travel right on to the United States. Clark Kent Ervin how long has this been going on?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: It's been going on for a long time, Tom and increasingly, it's a problem. There are 27 countries in world with which the United States has such good relations that their citizens don't need visas. Britain is one of those countries and there are about 800,000 Britons who have ties to Pakistan so that means they can jump on a plane and the first encounter the United States government has with them is when they get off that plane. They don't have to apply at one of our embassies or consulates abroad and so we don't have the check that a visa would provide.

FOREMAN: In this world, in this time, is it right that we are treating any foreign nation that way?

ERVIN: Absolutely not. Even though Britain is our closest ally, on Wednesday in fact, I testified at the Senate hearing that we need to do away with the visa waiver program. The implications of that are huge. We'd lose our ability to travel visa free to those countries but that's a small price to pay to close a major security gap.

FOREMAN: Let's take listen to what Rudy Giuliani suggested about this very problem.


RUDY GIULIANI (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every single person in this country who comes in from a foreign country should be identified, should be in a database. It should be a tamper proof card.


FOREMAN: Paula, is this practical? How could we make this really work?

NEWTON: In the short term, it definitely isn't practical and I think given the terror situation right now in terms of the level of the threat, American officials have tried to draw certainly this example out to Britain and to other European countries. But the future of this Tom, is going toward biometrics, what the United States wants every country to do with those visa waiver program is to start introducing that kind of retinal scan or a fingerprint scan that tells you exactly who that person is. One problem here tom has to do with people having dual passports, aliases, fraudulent passports. All of this causes a problem, as you say, in terms of getting scanned before you get into the United States.

FOREMAN: Even if we know who this person is though Clark, how are we going to deal with the fact that what they're looking for, what the terrorists are looking for is clean targets, people out there who have had no trouble. We know who they are but we don't know if they have had any trouble.

ERVIN: Exactly right and of course, it also raises the question of the profile that we all have. I'm confident that al Qaeda is recruiting people abroad and here in this country, our own homegrown terrorists who are Caucasian-Americans, who are Hispanic-Americans like Jose Padilla and who are Anglo-Americans like John Walker Lindh, the Taliban. And the principal spokesman of al Qaeda today is Adam (ph), the American, a fellow who grew up in California. So this requires us to rethink our approach to terrorism because the person sitting next us could well be a terrorist and that person needn't fit the terrorist profile that we all have in our minds.

FOREMAN: On the anti side of this Paula, if this is so easy, why is it not happening a lot already? Or are we doing a pretty good job with what we have?

NEWTON: I think certainly homeland security people in the United States would say we're doing a good job. There hasn't been a terrorist attack since. The problem in Europe is much more acute but when you start just talking about the number of trips, if you talk about the number of people in the air, all of the passports, you're talking about an investment certainly in technology and money, but also grinding business to a halt in a certain extent. It is not very practical and some people would say at this point in time, not urgent that any of this be done. Technology will start to really help in terms of security if people agree to submit to those kind of biometrics as they enter the United States.

FOREMAN: As so often is the case, it's not urgent until there is a surprise. Paula Newton, thanks so much, Clark Kent Ervin.

Coming up later this hour, religion, is it a comfort in times of war or the cause of war itself? And straight ahead, more than 60 nations sat down this week to help Iraq. What, if anything, was the real result? We'll go to Sharm el Sheik when we return on THIS WEEK AT WAR.


WILLIAM FALLON, ADMIRAL, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Success in Iraq is dependent on two primary things. First, internal, that stability and security in this country are essential, but it's not going to be possible unless we also have support externally from the neighborhood.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN HOST: The man in charge of the U.S. military in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, explains the importance of Iraq's neighbors to a Senate committee on Thursday.

But as some 60 of the neighbors met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, it was clear that forgiveness was just as important as support forgiveness of debt.

Before the summit, Iraq owed billions of dollars to dozens of nations. After two days of tough negotiations, Iraq still owes billions of dollars. So, what was accomplished?

CNN's State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee joins us from Sharm el-Shiekh, and in California, Dr. Abbas Milani, co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution and a professor at Stanford University.

Zain, many of the Sunni nations nearby seem willing to talk about forgiving debt for Iraq but they want something from the Shia government there. What is it?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, they do. The problem here is that Sunni Arab countries have been really skeptical about the government of Nouri al Maliki. Basically, they don't true it. So they haven't been willing to give him the diplomatic support and financial support.

They've also been really frustrated that Nouri al Maliki hasn't, they feel, included Sunnis enough into the political process. So the political reconciliation of Iraq really, they feel, it's not going in a direction they want to see.

One of Secretary Rice's goals here was to try and convince them, you have to back the Iraqis here because, in the end, you have more to lose by a failed or unstable Iraq.

But by the end of this conference, still, many Sunni Arab countries weren't convinced.

FOREMAN: Let's look at this and get a sense of what we're talking about for this area. There is Sharm el-Sheikh, where you are now. We pull out now. This is Egypt. And here are the neighboring countries, which have large, large Sunni populations. They go right up to the edge of Iraq there. And that's actually showing the Sunni area of Iraq, and their concerns about that.

Now, on the other side, you move over and you get the Shia part of it. And obviously dominating that is Iran.

Dr. Milani, what about Iran in all of this? What did they want to help stabilize things there?

DR. ABBAS MILANI, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: I think they have several goals in Iraq. First of all, they want to look like they are reasonable and helpful. They want to support the Maliki government because the Maliki government and many of its ministers are very close allies, if not creations, of the Islamic Republic in the past years.

They don't want chaos. I think a civil war would be detrimental to them because they would have to face maybe massive questions of people fleeing to Iran. And they would have to support the Shiites. But at the same time, they want to avoid in creating the united front among the Sunni Arabs, who are the dominant force in the region.

So they had very divergent interests they were trying to follow.

FOREMAN: Is the government in Iran right now settled enough on what it wants in its own right or does it have to fight an internal battle first?

MILANI: I think there is a big battle going on in Iran today between Ahmadinejad, on the one hand, and almost the entire rest of the leadership on the other.

And many of the events leading to Sharm el-Sheikh discussion -- the fact that the meeting with Condoleezza Rice did not take place, all of these, in my mind, have a great deal to do with the internal dynamics of Iran and this sense of isolation that Ahmadinejad is increasingly feeling and his attempt to torpedo his opponents from getting the upper hand, his competition, for example, with Mr. Larijani, who is designated as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, and Larijani's trip to Iraq a couple of days earlier than this conference began, all of this to me indicate that there is a fierce battle and there is some attempt on all sides to torpedo the other.

And that might well account for the fact that the meeting between him and Condi Rice didn't take place.

FOREMAN: Secretary Rice did get a chance to talk to one of the foreign dignitaries from Syria and she told Zain about that.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: He said that he understands that Syria has no interest in an unstable Iraq. But of course, actions speak louder than words and I'm hoping that they will carry through. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Zain, did you get a sense from the secretary that Syria is at all ready to start closing its boarder to Iraq so it doesn't become this porous back door for insurgents going in and out?

VERJEE: Well, she basically said let's wait and see. She said Syria's making that commitment to try and reduce and stem the flow of foreign fighters going over the boarder into Iraq that creates the sectarian violence and chaos there. But she was noncommittal.

The Syrians really saw this as a turning point. And in their discussions with the Secretary Rice said, "Look, can you send the U.S. ambassador back to Damascus?" Secretary Rice said this is all about Iraq right now, let's focus on that.

It is also a turning point in general in terms of U.S. policy in Syria. This was the first high-level contact the two sides have had in two years.

Syria has been isolated by the U.S. for destabilizing Lebanon. It's been accused of, and destabilizing the fragile democracy there for backing what the U.S. says is terrorist groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as playing a destabilizing role in Iraq.

So it is a turning point in that sense for U.S. policy. But Secretary Rice said let's see if they deliver.

FOREMAN: Very briefly, Zain, and Dr. Milani, was it worth while having these talks? Very briefly?

MILANI: I certainly think it was worth while. And I think the Syrian negotiations with Condi Rice has another aspect as well to it, and that is the attempt by the U.S. to draw a wedge between Iran and Syria. And that, I think, that is a key element of western policy.


VERJEE: It's worthwhile having these kinds of talks certainly to show the kind of international support there is for Iraq. But a lot of people leaving this conference feeling pretty cynical saying, "Look, conferences come and conferences go. Statements and proclamations are made." But they don't think it will have any real impact on security on the ground for the people there.

FOREMAN: We'll have to find out. Thank you so much Zain and Dr. Milani.

Straight ahead, religious conflicts are at the center of the continuing bloodshed in Iraq. How can we solve these conflicts if we don't understand what's behind them? War and faith coming up on "THIS WEEK AT WAR."


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We pray for the day when his peace will reign in every nation and in every land, until the ends of the earth.


FOREMAN: President Bush celebrates the National Day of Prayer at the White House on Thursday.

The United States, however, was founded by men with a healthy distrust of the ways that religion and government can mix. Most of them descended from refugees fleeing centuries of religious warfare in Europe.

What role does religion play in today's wars? It's a subject I explored on "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday.

The extremism that drives some in the Middle East to violence is easy to see. It looks like holy war. They call it holy war. And cries to Allah echo through the battle.

But some Muslims see holy warriors in the West, too, perceiving America and infidel government in an age-hold fight to crush Islam.


BUSH: This crusade, this war on terrorism...


FOREMAN: So, what is the proper role of faith in today's military? And where are the blind spots, the misunderstanding that can cause religious strife?

In Atlanta, Octavia Nasr is senior editor for "Arab Affairs." And at her post at the Pentagon, CNN's Barbara Starr.

Barbara, let me start with you. What did the U.S. military take into this war in terms understandings of Islam and sensitivities it wanted to show to that faith there?

BARBARA STAFF, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly perhaps they didn't take enough. I think that it's agreed that the U.S. military is really just beginning to fully understand how to operate in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, and how to be sensitive to the customs, traditions and faith in that world.

For example, the U.S. Marine Corps has begun a cultural awareness program for its troops deploying to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to teach these very young troops, who come from small towns in America, mainly, what they are getting into, what world they are now entering.

FOREMAN: Octavia, this could be difficult territory, particularly when you talk about the most radical wing of any religion. But in Islam, if you talk about people who see so many things that we think are neutral as having a religious value. We believe in democracy. We believe in freedom. We believe in women's rights, all of which a very devout radicalized Muslim may not believe in.

OCTAVIA NASR, SENIOR EDITOR, "ARAB AFFAIRS": They don't. And also, when they hear the president talk about God, they know exactly which God he's referring to. And they hear words like crusade and then see things like the Abu Ghraib scandal. And basically they link them together and, all of a sudden, they feel that Christianity, the whole of Christianity, is coming after them. And they see the war on terrorism as a war on Islam.

FOREMAN: Let me go back to you, Barbara, for a moment here. One of the things I'm aware of is that many of the troops, in times of war have always done this, they may carry a New Testament with them, they may have a small cross, something like that. Have they been instructed by commanders on what to do in terms of showing their own faith?

STARR: Well, again, it's a question of sensitivity and awareness. In Iraq, for example, you know, religious services are conducted, of course, on any U.S. military base in that country. But that is out of the sight of the Iraqi population.

Soldiers certainly may decide to carry a small prayer book, Bible or something in their backpack, in some part of their uniform, in a pocket. As for any overt signs, it is only chaplains, of course, that are permitted to have those religious emblems, if you will, on their uniforms directly.

Again, what is happening, when troops deploy to these parts of the world now, they are instructed to be sensitive, to be aware that their job there is not to engage in any religious public discourse but to do what they are sent there to do, Tom.

FOREMAN: Octavia, how do we move forward to this point? How do we get moderate Muslims around the world to realize that when we talk about terrorists or extremists, we're not talking about Muslims as a group?

NASR: When you watch Arab or read Arab media constantly, like I do, you start get some ideas about how to move forward and perhaps right now it seem that's Arab media, radical or mainstream, it seems that they never liked President Bush, never liked his administration. And now, it seems they are just waiting for a change in the administration.

But to answer your question, if you talked to a commentator on Arab media or read the paper, you're going to get a sense that there is a sense of generalization on the part of the U.S. when it comes to the Arab world.

First, considering the Arab world as one instead of looking at the different countries, the different values in those countries and laws and regulations. Also, looking at Islam, in general, as just one, as if it is the same Islam in Saudi Arabia as it is in Iraq or as it is in Afghanistan. And basically, they say, it is very important to differentiate and understand the differences in culture, in social values and religion in this case.

FOREMAN: We'll have to leave it there. Octavia, thanks so much. Barbara as well.

Up next, brings an old soldier back to the company of his comrades. But first, a final salute to some of those who fell in "THIS WEEK AT WAR."


FOREMAN: April was the deadliest month this year for U.S. troops in Iraq. Army Private David Kirkpatrick of Grant County, Indiana, is only one of the 104 servicemen and women killed in action last month. A member of the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, Kirkpatrick was killed when an IED detonated near his vehicle in Fallujah.

His sister, Jennie, remembered his determination.


JENNIE KIRKPATRICK, SISTER OF DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Being in the Army was something he always wanted to do. He was very proud, very, very proud to serve his country.


FOREMAN: Private Kirkpatrick was just 20 years old.

Years before he was even born, during another week in another war, on a hot day, Sergeant Richard Pruett sat down to rest. He loosened his flak jacket to cool off, another soldier tripped a booby trap and shrapnel tore through Pruett's body.

It was Vietnam, 1969. It took 36 years, but those wounds and the complications from them finally brought him down. This week his wife came to Washington to bring him home.

ANN PRUETT, WIDOW OF SERGEANT RICHARD PRUETT: It was almost like the climax of all of the emotion. Getting his name on the wall. Seeing him honored for the man he was and the patriot that he was.

I think he's really at home there. He's with the men who fought the same cause he did. And he is home. Coming to the wall gave him peace and helped him. And I just think that his name being on the wall is just a great way to end the chapter of his life.


FOREMAN: After what seems like a long time of little movement in Iraq, many parts of the equation there are dram at click shifting now. So let's wrap it up with an intelligence report on what is trending up or down. And this week, we have to start with Anbar Province, which gets a big up arrow.

It was long considered the black hole of the insurgency, peace with the Sunnis there beyond possibility. But new cooperation between tribal leaders and coalition forces has violence way down and al Qaeda on the run.

The Diyala Province, north and east of Baghdad, is trending down, more violence more worries there.

The central Iraq government of Nouri al Maliki remains in serious trouble and appears to be getting worse. Both Sunni and Shia factions are pulling back, if not entirely out.

Those regional talks in Egypt, good news. It is not clear if the plans on paper will produce real peace on the ground in Iraq, but the big players are talking. And that is a step.

And the war of the wallet back here in Washington, still a question mark. Not sure yet how or when or under what conditions the troops in Iraq will get funding. And for the moment no one in the White House or Congress knows either. So we'll keep you abreast of that.

Turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next "WEEK AT WAR."

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland's long civil strife may be over as Catholic and Protestant Parties begin a power-sharing government.

On Thursday, President Bush's staunchest ally in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair is widely expected to announce his resignation.

And on Friday, former CIA Chief George Tenet has been asked to testify before a House committee about the allegation that Saddam Hussein has tried to import uranium from the African nation of Niger.

Thanks for joining us on "THIS WEEK AT WAR." I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines. Then, CNN's "Special Investigations Unit: James Brown, Say it Loud."

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Rob Marciano. Here's a quick check of what's happening right now in the news. First,...