Michael Ware


LKL: "...shifting their weight politically to throw some support behind these anti-Iranian elements"

Length: 8:47

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LARRY KING: Let's get into the big story of the day, Iraq.

In our first segment, the guests are, in Baghdad Michael Ware, CNN correspondent based there.

In Camp Victory, Iraq, Anderson Cooper, the anchor of "A.C. 360". He will be in -- at Camp Victory all week.

In Portland, Oregon is Lars Larson, the nationally syndicated radio host.

And the nationally syndicated radio host Ed Schultz is in Fargo, North Dakota.

Michael, what's the reaction in Baghdad to the Petraeus/Crocker appearance today?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Baghdad so far -- the reaction so far, Larry, of course, has been muted. It's late in the evening here. It's -- in fact, it's 5:00 in the morning. So the testimony went through late into the night. And there's been very little response from anyone at this stage. Although, I have to say, Larry, it pretty much went to script. There was no surprises whatsoever in the testimony. So I think everyone here in Baghdad was braced for what was eventually delivered.

KING: Are you saying, Michael, that nothing today surprised you at all?

WARE: No, not in the slightest, Larry. I mean we've heard much of this before from generals Petraeus and his other commanders. We certainly saw them softening this ground, both he and Ambassador Crocker, leading into this testimony.

I mean, I guess the most striking thing that was the takeout from their combined testimony was that it seemed that the foundation stone now of America's success, wrapped around the surge, is the work with the Sunni tribes -- essentially the deals cut with the Sunni insurgency. This is obviously helping the U.S. forces not only with the fight with Al Qaeda, but to nudge a reluctant Iraqi government into action and to help curb Iranian influence.

KING: Anderson, I know you just got there. You're at Camp Victory.

What's your feel on this?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I thought it was interesting that the Bush White House has portrayed Al Qaeda in Iraq as the number one enemy here and, at times, seems to portray the battle here as a fight simply between Al Qaeda in Iraq and U.S. forces.

That is certainly not the message -- and perhaps what, to me, was most surprising in the testimony today is that's not the message we heard from General Petraeus. He certainly seemed to contradict that, although he didn't publicly contradict it. They really focused on the influence of Iran and their effect on sectarian militias here in the country.

It also seems that the mission, you know, continues to change. Before, the definition of the surge was a military concentration on Baghdad in order to provide political security, in order to provide some form of time for national politicians to reconcile. That certainly has been a failure.

Really, the emphasis today was on the success of these Sunni tribes, which Michael Ware has talked about. And it's not clear, really, how much the surge has had an impact on that at all, frankly.

KING: Lars Larson, Ambassador Crocker -- did he have anything to offer of a positive nature concerning the political situation in Iraq?

LARS LARSON, TALK RADIO HOST, "THE LARS LARSON SHOW": Well, of course, Larry, because if you can lock down the military situation, then the politicians can get down to their work.

And as for Anderson's assessment that it's a failure, how is it a failure when you get some of the most disparate groups, like the Sunnis, working with the government in Baghdad?

That's a real victory. Anbar was a write-off a year ago. It's not today.

KING: Ed Schultz, what's your feel?

ED SCHULTZ, TALK RADIO HOST, "THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW": Well, I think, Larry, what Americans are going to be taking from this testimony today is that we, as a country, are going to have a major footprint in Iraq for a long time. You can talk about a surge working -- I believe I said on your program back in January after the state of the union that this might not be the last surge. The fact is, you can draw down troops a little bit, but you're still going to have a major footprint.

This is going to be decided in November of '08 and the next president is going to definitely have to deal with this. I don't see any major progress being made. He said what the president wanted him to say -- throw out some hope, throw out some progress and buy us more time.

KING: Michael, do you think he was just aping the administration?

WARE: No, I don't think so. I mean I've always found both of these men who testified today to be straight shooters and relatively frank. And, by and large, their assessment of the situation on the ground does accord with what it is that we experience here.

However, what I think that they didn't really go into is some of the costs of these successes -- decentralization of power here in Iraq; the arming of or the support of armed Sunni groups opposed to the very government that America created; and, obviously, the ongoing rivalry that is increasingly intensifying between America and Iran. That's become the true dynamic of this war now and I think we're seeing a new moment in this conflict being ushered in, with a concentration now on Iran.

KING: Anderson, do you -- is there any light at the end of this tunnel or are we there, like, ad infinitum?

COOPER: Well, certainly, the -- I mean the thing that has caused the biggest light, according the Petraeus and most observers here, are -- is the working with these Sunni tribal groups. What the future holds for that, though, however, is very much open to question, as Michael pointed out.

Your guest said, you know, it's a political success that these Sunni tribal groups are working with the central government in Baghdad. That's simply a misunderstanding of what's happening here. They're not working with the central government in Baghdad. In fact, they have great distrust for the Shia-dominated government here in Baghdad. What we're really seeing is a regionalization of these actors. And that's where the greatest success has lied.

What it means for the future, though, there's no way to tell at this point. It, you know, it could be just arming groups for a future civil war or it could be sort of proto local governments, as some observers have pointed out and that could be the real emphasis of moving forward.

KING: Lars, how would you respond?

LARSON: Well, here's how I'd respond. The greatest example or greatest evidence of success today is the fact that before Petraeus and Crocker even testified, MoveOn.org, which is the far left of America, takes out an ad in the "New York Times" accusing Petraeus of being a betrayer, a traitor.

This man is a real patriot. This man is a hardworking military man who does his job and they accuse him who does his job and they accuse him of cooking the books. In other words, they're anticipating that there is so much good news in here, that they've got to accuse this man of being a liar before he even gets up on Capitol Hill to give his testimony. That shows the desperation of America's political left, to say that this is a failure before the evidence is even out there.

KING: Would most of America, Lars, agree with them?

LARSON: I don't think so. I think most of America would like to see some light at the end of the tunnel. And I think an awful lot of America believes that anything the American government and our military sets its mind to do can be done. It's the people who can talk us into losing and surrendering, that's where the fail -- the possibility of failure exists.


SCHULTZ: Well, I think the MoveOn.org, Larry, is a stark reminder to all Americans that we've had a real hard time as a country getting to the truth. We've got people who are just working underneath Petraeus who have had a little problem about taking the money on the side. And there's been a lot of fraud. In fact, there's been 34 Senate hearings dealing with fraud and abuse and the billions of dollars that are gone in Iraq.

I thought that was an advertisement to tell general Petraeus it's about time Americans get the truth about what's going on in Iraq...


All right...

SCHULTZ: How long is this going to go?

KING: Lars and Ed, thank you both very much.

LARSON: You, too.

KING: And thanks, too, to Anderson Cooper, who will be hosting "A.C. 360" from Camp Victory in Iraq at the top of the hour and all this week.

KING: And Michael Ware in Baghdad, one more question for you.

Do you see a light at the tunnel end?

WARE: Well, what I do see, Larry, is that America has presented before it right now the opportunity to take a decisive moment. I mean, I think the window of opportunity to reclaim what's left of American interests and to, in some way, try and stabilize Iraq and hopefully stabilize the region, is rapidly closing.

The question is, does America have the daring to do so?

And I think the emphasis on the Sunni militia program runs much deeper than Al Qaeda. These Sunnis out there, these Baathists, the men who used to run Saddam's military, first and foremost, they're anti-Iranian. And I think that that is very much a part of what the U.S. strategy is doing here. They're shifting their weight politically to throw some support behind these anti-Iranian elements so that they can put pressure on the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad.

KING: Thank you all very, very much.

We, of course, will stay on top of this.