AC: The sniper video
Click photo to play
ANNOUNCER: Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER: Thanks for joining us. And welcome as well to our viewers watching on CNN International.
Two thousand, seven hundred eighty-three American troops have been killed so far in Iraq. You can see the faces behind me. Eleven deaths, we learned about today alone.
They're numbers and names only to people whose business it is to deal in such terms. They're not number or names to their buddies or their COs, not to their friends, their families, their loved ones.
We owe them a lot, including a clear and honest accounting of what they are up against, today, tomorrow, for the foreseeable future. To do any less, to sugarcoat the reality, we think, dishonors their sacrifice.
So, tonight, you will see how some Americans in Iraq are getting killed. The killings were videotaped by the insurgents, and made available to CNN. There is no doubt the footage is disturbing to watch. Our decision to run it has not been taken lightly.
This story, shocking as you may find it, is one that we believe needs to be told.
It is reported tonight by CNN's Michael Ware.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sniper is watching these American soldiers. You're looking at the unobstructed view from the sniper team's vehicle.
And they are waiting for their moment, as the soldiers mingle with Iraqi civilians.
"People are around them," warns the sniper's spotter, who seems to be operating the video camera.
"Want me to find another place?"
"No, no," comes the reply. "Give me a moment."
And, then, the soldier falls forward. You hear the sniper's vehicle start, and they slip away.
American casualties this month are tracking at near record numbers. This video is a glimpse into an enduring feature of this war. Ground commanders say it is a growing and deadly tactic: insurgent sniper teams.
U.S. military intelligence tells CNN it suspects some of these teams are trained abroad. They make an intimidating weapon.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: "Am I next? What about my buddy?" You're looking constantly. Your head is on a swivel, they say, you know, in windows, doors, looking in cars, rooftops. It's a very effective weapon. And that's why our own military uses them extensively. The best counter of a sniper is another sniper team on your own side.
WARE (voice-over): CNN obtained the graphic tape through intermediaries from the Islamic Army of Iraq, one of the most active insurgent organizations in the country.
It is titled "Latest Sniper Operations in Baghdad." Accents, license plates and street signs seem to indicate the sniper attacks in fact occurred here in the capital. A careful review of the entire video by CNN technicians found no evidence the images had been electronically manipulated.
The tape documents 10 incidents, all of which appear recent. But there's no way to confirm precisely when or where the attacks took place, or which U.S. units were involved, or what happened to the targeted soldiers.
The tape comes as the Islamic Army calls to renew talks with the United States, and as Islamist internet postings call for a P.R. campaign aimed at influencing the American public.
The images are markedly different from insurgent sniper videos on the internet. On this one, we hear the voices of the snipers selecting American targets.
Here, the spotter warns the shooter he only sees Iraqis, until he's sure he's identified an American.
"I will read you his name."
We wanted to ask the U.S. military about the insurgent sniper tactics, but no one was made available to CNN in Washington or Baghdad. Officials refused to discuss the sniper operations and related casualties, citing the safety of U.S. troops, though they acknowledge the menace is real.
MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY SPOKESMAN, COALITION FORCES IN IRAQ: That's something we always stay very vigilant about. We take extreme precautions against that, and we watch it very closely. It's always a real threat. No matter where you go, any kind of combat operation you're going to be on, you're always looking for IEDs. You're looking for VBIDs. You're looking for snipers.
WARE: As to a recent increase of the threat:
CALDWELL: I would not talk about that, for operational reasons.
WARE: The insurgents' methods vary. The Islamic Army video follows a team firing from a vehicle, precisely the kind of team Lieutenant Richardson's men encountered in the city of Ramadi.
(on camera): So, the insurgents do have accurate sniper fire?
LT. RICHARDSON: Roger. Yes. To what I have observed, two very good shots that were definitely more than 300 meters away and aimed to kill.
WARE: So, that's a trained sniper, probably working in a team with an observer?
RICHARDSON: Yes, that -- one of the attacks, you know, local communities, also, they talk to us about what they see. And they said that they saw a car pull up, a guy get out the back seat -- get out the front seat, climb into the back seat, remove a panel from off his car, and aim from the car to our rooftop position, which, unfortunately, resulted in the death of one Marine who was on a rooftop.
GRANGE: Well, you learn the tactics and techniques and procedures that the enemy snipers use. And then you come up with your own techniques to counter that, to negate their effect. And then how you move in the field, dispersal, and, again, alertness, and numbers of people in different patrols. There's ways that you work in this.
WARE (voice-over): And the implication in this insurgent video is that the deaths will continue.
GRANGE: You only need a few guys to have a tremendous effect, just like the improvised explosive devices, same thing, or a suicide bomber. You can get a lot of payback for just deploying a few resources. So, it's very effective.
WARE: "Wait. Wait. He fell down. God is great," says one of the team, as they disappear, until it's time for the next strike in Iraq's sniper war.
COOPER: Just a production note: We dipped to black at points in that report, so as not to show the moment of a bullet's impact.
Michael Ware joins us now from Iraq.
Michael, how often are these snipers firing? How often are U.S. troops getting killed by snipers?
WARE: Well, Anderson, they're constantly out there. There is insurgent sniper teams operating across the country, you could say with some confidence, every single day of the week.
The question as to how effective they are and whether there's been an increase in these particular type of sniper attacks, most pointedly here in Baghdad, is a matter of great question at the moment. The U.S. military is not discussing it, citing the safety of their troops, saying: We don't want to let the enemy know whether their tactics are working or not.
So, just how many American troops are being hurt by this is a closely guarded secret -- Anderson.
COOPER: When you see it through their video cameras, you see how vulnerable U.S. troops are. I mean, you have been out there embedded. You have been targeted by snipers. Are those tactics pretty common?
WARE: Very much so. It's been a feature of this war, Anderson, since the beginning.
I mean, there was an insurgent sniper in the northern city of Tal Afar at the end of last year who was extremely patient, who would sit for hours and hours and hours, waiting for an American soldier in a tank to shift just that little bit to find the narrow gap that he could shoot between the soldier's body armor, the plates in his body armor.
At that time, there was a Navy SEAL sniper team hunting him. And they believe that he'd received his training in Syria. So, this is throughout the country, Anderson. And American troops face it every single day.
COOPER: Michael Ware reporting. We will talk to you shortly, Michael. Snipers, of course, kill from a distance, but to the troops, incoming sniper fire could not be more personal.
Click photo to play
ANDERSON COOPER: Well, the images you saw at the top of the program of Americans being gunned down in Iraq are, almost by definition, propaganda. They are designed to send a message, in the starkest possible terms, about what the insurgency can do.
But, as Michael Ware tells us now, they came to him accompanied by another message that speaks to what this particular insurgent group in Iraq wants.
WARE (voice-over): The men who say they blew this American ammunition dump in Baghdad, shaking the capital, who claim a hand in the killings of four American security contractors in Fallujah in 2004, the men who provided this sniper video to CNN are from the Islamic Army of Iraq, a part of one of Iraq's most powerful insurgent factions.
Drawn from Sunnis and former members of Saddam Hussein's security apparatus, some of their leaders were American allies in the 1980s, and hint they may be willing to be so again, bringing with them a key element of the insurgency.
Using Islamic Army intermediaries, CNN passed written questions to the organization's leaders, and received back the sniper footage, and this, a professionally produced video featuring what is said to be the group's spokesman, Ibrahim al-Shimary, his face digitally masked by the insurgents, answering CNN's questions, and speaking to the Western media for the first time. It's a unique insight into what a large chunk of the insurgency wants, including a renewed willingness to talk with the U.S. military.
IBRAHIM AL-SHIMARY, SPOKESMAN, ISLAMIC ARMY OF IRAQ (through translator): We, in the Islamic Army, as we have announced many times, do not reject negotiations, but only if the Americans are serious.
WARE: This faction has engaged in unsuccessful discussions with the U.S. several times over the last 18 months, according to U.S. government sources and Iraqi politicians.
Their conditions to restart the talks? A timetable for troop withdrawal approved by Congress, formal recognition of the insurgents as interlocutors, and a third-country broker.
Even the White House is leaving the door open.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been a number of conversations with people who have said that they are willing to negotiate, and talk about a peaceful path. And we're willing to do that. But, again, the lead player in all this is the government of Prime Minister Maliki.
WARE: But the insurgents don't want that, believing the Iraqi government to be under the influence of Iran.
AL-SHIMARY (through translator): Iraq is suffering from double occupation, American and Iranian, because Bush's war, fought with taxpayers' money and the blood of Americans, has handed Iraq to Iran as an easy bite on a plate of gold.
WARE: Despite common interests in overthrowing the U.S. occupation, al-Shimary still draws a line between his group and al Qaeda.
AL-SHIMARY (through translator): We are different to them, because our agenda is local. Theirs is international.
WARE: As for the prospects of civil war, he says his group believes in religious freedom for Shia to practice their faith freely.
AL-SHIMARY (through translator): We don't attack Shiites who don't attack us. But we tire of what is happening to our sons. And you should not count on our patience.
WARE: In its attention to U.S. domestic politics and public mood, this is perhaps the Iraq insurgency's most finely tuned P.R. maneuver, a crafted and direct message to the American people, making an offer for talks, but, with the sniper video, also making a threat.
COOPER: And I should just restate, that sniper video and the interview with the insurgent that you just saw are exclusive to CNN. While some sniper videos have appeared on the internet and elsewhere on Arab-language stations around the world, this video has not.
It was provided to CNN's Michael Ware, who joins me now in Iraq.
Michael, this insurgent spokesman calling for talks with the U.S. -- have there been talks in the past? And, if so, how serious have those talks been?
WARE: Oh, Anderson, absolutely. This has been a long-running process.
I mean, we saw the first genesis of it, as a senior U.S. diplomat met with members of the insurgency over the issue of Fallujah in the middle of 2004. He did that during then-Prime Minister Allawi's administration. Prime Minister Allawi and others continued to cultivate insurgent contacts, particularly among the Baathists.
We then saw, under Ambassador Negroponte, the talks continue apace. And this has also been furthered under Ambassador Khalilzad, now the ambassador to Baghdad.
So, these things have been ongoing. There has been great limitations. Zarqawi's people have assassinated and tried to disrupt anyone and anything to do with these talks. And, also, both sides are coming from very different positions.
However, the dialogue does continue. And this is the Islamic Army of Iraq, representing one of the major factions, saying: Despite the difficulties, we still want to talk -- Anderson.
COOPER: Sending the message.
Michael Ware, thank you.
Click photo to play
JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There's no magic bullet for the situation in Iraq. It is very, very difficult. So anybody who thinks that somehow we're going to come up with something that is going totally solve the problem is engaging in wishful thinking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER: That's former secretary of state, James Baker, today suggesting there's no easy way out of Iraq. He co-chairs a bipartisan panel preparing recommendations for the White House.
The president says stay the course, but others, including some top Republicans, now say it is time to consider other options.
Joining me from Palo Alto, California, is Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover institution and an advisor to James Baker's Iraq Study Group. With us again from Baghdad is CNN's Michael Ware.
Larry, let me start off with you. In terms of a time frame, how much time does the U.S. have to act?
LARRY DIAMOND, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, Anderson, speaking strictly for myself, I think, you know, maybe a few months at most. The situation is rapidly deteriorating. I think you've had outstanding and very disturbing reporting from Iraq tonight and throughout the previous weeks.
It's slipping fast. We're running out of time.
COOPER: What do you make of the idea of partitioning Iraq?
DIAMOND: I think it's a terrible idea. I think it would result in something similar to what happened at the partition of India at independence in 1948. There would be massive casualties.
The Iraqi people, for the most part, don't want it, and it would bring about what it is meant to preempt, and that is an all-out civil war, ethnic cleansing, massive bloodshed.
COOPER: Michael Ware, since you and I first met back in Baghdad, I think it was some two years ago, you've been talking about U.S. officials' desire to drive a wedge between insurgent groups. Are they any closer to being able to do that?
WARE: No, not really, Anderson. In fact, in many ways, they're further from that goal that they've been seeking since the beginning of this insurgency.
The plan has been to separate the home grown Iraqi insurgency, the nationalists, the former Ba'athists, former allies of America from the '80s, and the moderate Sunni Islamists from the extremists.
Well, we've seen with the rise in the sectarian violence, or the civil war, that these people have in fact been herded towards al Qaeda. So, no, that has not been accomplished and in many ways is further away -- Anderson.
COOPER: Larry, is the presence now of U.S. troops making matters worse or is the prospect of the U.S. troops leaving even worse to contemplate?
DIAMOND: Well, it's a paradox, Anderson, because both statements are true. And I think the way to get at it is through very intensive diplomacy that would involve the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the regional partners, neighbors.
It has to begin with the Sunni-based insurgency. I think Michael Ware has it exactly right. We have not really made much progress with them because we've had very little to lay on the table.
We should begin with a statement from President Bush that unambiguously declares that we're not going to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. In the context of negotiations, we can talk about some sort of time frame for withdrawal.
And we need to address the imbalance in the constitution that was adopted last year that threatens to leave the Sunni areas of Iraq with no oil and no revenue to draw upon, isolated and powerless. They can never accept this, and that constitution is just not viable.
COOPER: Michael, how would that all play out on the ground?
WARE: Well, obviously, everything would be very, very messy, Anderson. As Larry rightly points out, the U.S. is in a position where it's damned if it does and it's damned if it doesn't.
I mean, very much this war has ground to a point where America is facing a key moment. I mean, in the past we've heard diplomats and military officials talk about turning points, that we're just about to turn the corner for the good. It's coming, it's coming. Now we hear talk about critical point.
I think after the U.S. midterm elections, everyone is expecting things to change here on the ground -- Anderson.
COOPER: Larry, what do you think will happen after the midterm elections? I mean, what is the first step, what is the second step? And is the U.S. prepared to make those steps?
DIAMOND: I don't know. It depends on one man, George W. Bush. I think the first step is we wait for the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. The second step is I hope and honestly pray that President Bush will really seriously ponder and adopt most of its recommendations.
And frankly, I hope that he will then appoint James Baker to be our principal policy official, if not czar, for the entire Middle Eastern region. Because unless we have a regional approach here, we're not going to succeed.
COOPER: Larry Diamond, Michael Ware, appreciate your expertise. Thank you, gentlemen.