Before he left Baghdad for his holiday break, Michael filmed a couple short comments about 2007 in Iraq that were included in Jim Clancy's year-end-review titled "Defining Moments." It only aired on CNN International, but my Parisian source was kind enough to capture this for the site. (Thanks, Délie!)
Tom Foreman asks Michael (in Baghdad) and freelance reporter Michael Yon (in London) about the civilian uprising in both the Sunni and Shia communities, and about Muqtada al-Sadr and the US' missed opportunity to have him help us put the country back together. (I've always thought Muqtada was the key to bringing the sects together. There is no other cleric in Iraq who has the respect that he does, and he's smart and savvy and from what I can tell actually cares about the country and its people.)
As for whether the 'concerned citizens groups' can be called American's militias... if we're helping to organize them and are paying and supporting them, yeah, we're hiring militias. It may be the only way to dig ourselves out of this, but let's not try to pretty up what we're doing. "Neighborhood Watch" conjures up certain images here at home, but these are armed guards ready to kill when (not if!) it is needed.
An incredible exclusive: Michael tours a Shia section of Baghdad with a group of men who are standing up to the Mahdi Army and death squads from other Shia militias. This is the first time the Shia have stood up the way the Sunni have been, and is another example of the "people power" that is the US's new hope for victory. To see Michael walking through these streets and inspecting the torture chambers is both chilling and stunning... this is just amazing reporting.
Michael talks to Jim Clancy about General Petraeus' assessment of the progress in Iraq (an incredible drop in attacks and deaths, but he's not "dancing in the end zone" yet), the continuing influence of Iran, and the ramifications of arming the Sunnis and encouraging local militias to do what the partisan government won't: reconcile their differences and put their country back together.
Wolf interviewed presidential candidate Bill Richardson on the show today, and for one of the questions he posed, he used a clip from the earlier interview he did with Michael. (Richardson certainly lost my vote... well, that's not fair; I wasn't going to vote for him anyway.) I did not include all of Richardson's response because, well, I just don't think it was worth the space it would take up, but you can read the transcript if you care.
Now, if only I could get my hands on all the interview material that doesn't make it on-air...
Wolf asks Michael to evaluate the reasons for the drop in violence. Mostly it has been the deal cut with the Sunni insurgents, but it seems that Iran has also been curtailing their involvement. Nobody believes that will last, any more than they think the Sunni and Shia militias will lay down their arms and start singing Kumbaya anytime soon...
Michael reports on SecDef Gates' trip to Iraq, where he has been trying to evaluate Iran's current level of involvement and how that whole reconciliation plan is going.