Michael Ware


AC: "It's a daring move."

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ANDERSON COOPER: We heard from Prime Minister al-Maliki before the break.

As we said, his government is dependent in so many ways on Iran, even though Iranian weapons are killing Iraqis and Americans. The White House, meantime, is ratcheting up the rhetoric on the Islamic republic, warning today that retreating from Iraq would amount to an Iranian victory.

Sources expect more of the same from the president's speech tomorrow night. U.S. diplomats also said today that they're going to renew their push for tougher trade sanctions against Iran when they meet with their Russian, Chinese, and European counterparts on the 21st.

Iran, as you would expect, is pushing back.

CNN's Michael Ware spoke with the Iranian ambassador today. He joins me now.

Michael, first of all, how big of an actor is Iran here in Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Enormous, Anderson. You cannot underestimate the influence that Iran has here in Iraq.

Indeed, it's not wrong to say that Iran has much more sway over the government of Iraq than does America. All the fundamental building blocks of the Iraqi government are militias, many of which were created by, continue to be funded by, and its political organizations fashioned by Iran. They own this place, not America.

COOPER: And, as we said, the rhetoric by the U.S. is certainly ramping up.

Let's listen to what some of the Iraqi ambassador told you today.


HASSAN KAZEMI QUMI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ (through translator): We have no fear of the outbreak of war. In the past several months, under different pretexts, the Americans tried to create a U.S.-Arab alliance against Iran. But it didn't work, and we don't have any problems with the Arab countries.

So, we have no fear of a war and conflict, but have concerns that U.S. efforts would want to create conflict. But, given the similar interests and efforts among the regional countries, conflict will be averted.


COOPER: Essentially, kind of standing tough.

WARE: Oh, absolutely. Iran is not backing off one little inch.

To the Iranian point of view, all the cards are in their hands. And they can sit back and wait and see what America does. They're not offering America a thing. Indeed, they're consolidating their power, waiting for America to leave.

And America has been using its own proxies in the Arab states and here within Iraq to try and counter that, but, so far, to no avail.

COOPER: And the U.S. is accusing Iran of trying to destabilize Iraq.

Let's listen to one other thing the ambassador said.


QUMI (through translator): U.S. security plans for Iraq have not succeeded. The administration is pointing fingers at others, and, by accusing others, tries to cover up its own failed plans.

If you look at the Iraqi scene just in the past several months, you will see clearly that terrorist and sabotaging forces are mostly from countries whose governments are, on the surface, U.S. allies. It is true that, so far, we have had no relations with the United States and that we have differences. But, thus far, not one Iranian youth, not a single Iranian citizen has engaged in suicide and terrorist attacks against American troops in Iraq.


COOPER: He's essentially denying any wrongdoing in Iraq.

WARE: Oh, absolutely.

What we see from the Iranian ambassador here in Baghdad is, he just bats away the American allegations like a man brushes away a fly. Indeed, he throws down the gauntlet to America. He says, if you have real evidence, then give it to us officially, and we will respond.

He challenges America to give their evidence to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. At the same time, he throws it back on America. He says, we have evidence that you are interfering in our affairs, that you are funding and supporting armed militias that are opposed to our government. And we have that evidence. We're ready to give ours. Are you ready to give yours? It's a daring move.

COOPER: Yes, a war of words continues.

Michael Ware, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.