PZN: "...what America is prepared to pay...for peace in this region."
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, tonight, with the Iraq war now going into its fifth year, we're bringing the search for an endgame out in the open.
Here is a range of possibilities: U.S. troops leave as Iraq sinks into chaos. Our forces stay for 10 years or more as an occupation force. Or we accomplish the mission, defeat the insurgents, and leave behind a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.
Today's news doesn't provide any answers. The Pentagon says two more U.S. soldiers have been killed. And there are reports that about 40 Iraqis also lost their lives.
After four years of that kind of unrelenting violence, editorials and commentaries across the Middle East today are asking, when will we see the new peaceful Iraq? How will it all end?
To help explore that question tonight, from London, our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, Michael Ware in Baghdad. And Wolf Blitzer joins us from THE SITUATION ROOM in Washington.
Michael, I'm going start with you tonight.
Four years from now, how many U.S. troops do you think will be on duty?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that depends on what America is prepared to pay as the price for peace in this region. If America is willing to cut the deals that it's going to have to cut with Iran, with Syria, with the Baathists, with the insurgents, then you could have only a nominal or token presence here, if any troops at all.
Essentially, America would have to surrender its complete mission, give up on this failed hope of a shining model democracy, and surrender power to, by and large, its enemies. Then there won't be American troops here. If, however, America does not want that, wants more than that, then you're going to have to keep troops here. And, arguably, you would have to keep a heck of a lot more than you have got here now.
ZAHN: What kind of numbers are you talking about, Michael?
WARE: Well, I mean, the generals were telling the civilian commanders of this war before the invasion that it would be hundreds of thousands.
But the American war machine is straining as it is. You do not have those resources in men or machinery anymore. So, to really occupy this country, America would have to introduce a draft. That isn't going to happen either. So, basically, you're going to be left with doing the halfway option that you have been fighting this war from the beginning, and it's going to continue to fester, in one form or another, until America relents on some front.
BLITZER: Christiane, where do you think Iraq stands four years from now?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think the beauty and the significance of your question is that, frankly, nobody knows. You can make some educated guesses, and you can speculate.
The truth of the matter is, and the facts are, that even the U.S. generals there have told us over the last several years that it will take at least a dozen years to tame an insurgency. That's just from the textbooks on insurgencies in the past. So, that does take a long time.
What we have seen over the last year, for instance, also, is, we don't really know -- and it's vacillating -- which is the more dominant now? Is it the festering civil war? Is it the insurgency? Is it back again to the civil war and back again to the insurgency? That has been seesawing over this last year. So, we don't know how that is going to shape up.
And, also, who would have thought, when we were all in Iraq four years ago, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, after we had seen the quick military victory, that the United States and its allies would still be in an ongoing war now into its fifth year, that none of the so-called milestones for success would have actually cemented that success yet, that there would be so many deaths, both on the American forces' side and, of course, on the side of the Iraqi civilians?
So, already, in the last four years, we have had unpredictable reality there. So, it's unclear about what's going to happen in the future.
ZAHN: Wolf, we spent many, many hours on the air together as this war unfolded. I don't think anybody ever predicted that Iraq would be where it is tonight. But, given these numbers that I'm going to put up on the screen with Iraqi attitudes towards U.S. troops on their soil -- 78 percent of them strongly oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq; 51 percent of Iraqis view violence against U.S. forces as acceptable -- then, how do you put any dent in this insurgency movement?
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's going to be very, very hard. You have got a huge problem in Iraq, not only with the ethnic tensions between the Sunni and the Shia specifically, to the Kurds to a certain degree as well, but you have got a situation unfolding now where there's a lack of strong, decisive political leadership.
Of that political leadership, you have a close alliance, if you will, with Iran that's emerging right now. Maybe 10 percent of the population of Iraq has already fled or already been displaced over the past four years, about two million refugees or so. It's moving in the wrong direction. The American public is going to get fed up, as you know, Paula, unless things start moving in the right direction, they see fewer Americans killed, and they see some progress on the political front.
And, right now, clearly, that is not happening.
ZAHN: Michael Ware, you were saying how it's not clear what kind of deals the United States would be willing to cut with Iran, perhaps with Syria.
But, in the meantime, a lot of people are speculating that what you might eventually see is a country divided into three major sectarian groups.
WARE: Yeah, well, I mean, in effect, that's what's emerging. If that is actually formalized, if America partitions this country, then you can kiss goodbye to the rest of the region. Turkey will be forced to act militarily. Iran will certainly be pressing its advantage militarily. And you will see America's Arab allies -- from Saudi Arabia, to Jordan, to Egypt -- opening the floodgates of financial and military support to the Sunnis in that minor partitioned part of the country. And you will see al Qaeda reclaim the territory it lost after Afghanistan.
ZAHN: Christiane, time for one final quick thought.
AMANPOUR: Well, clearly, for the United States, it's a huge issue as well. And its challenge, as well, over the next several years is to somehow mobilize to regain what used to be a position of admiration and influence in that part of the world.
I think the big cost of the Iraq war has been this massive blow to the prestige and the influence and the effect of this, of U.S. foreign policy in this part of the world.
ZAHN: You all had very interesting perspectives.
Thank you, Christiane Amanpour, Michael Ware, Wolf Blitzer. Appreciate your input.