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KYRA PHILLIPS: "Stop the violence." Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric urges his followers not to retaliate against Sunnis. It's the strongest call yet by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to end weeks of sectarian bloodshed, more of it today with four separate carbombings in and around Baghdad. At least 11 Iraqis were killed, two of them policemen. 38 bodies also have been recovered in various parts of the capital, all showing signs of torture. The US military acknowledges daily attacks are up 40% in the city under curfew.
The rising violence means more Iraqis are becoming refugees in their own country. The government reports about 162,000 people have fled their homes; 32,000 just this month. That does not include those who have slipped across the border or who have moved in with relatives in safer areas.
US and Iraqi troops have launched an anti-al Qaeda operation just outside the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. It's a region known to be a safehaven for insurgents and one that CNN's Michael Ware knows all too well. He's been in Iraq for the past three years, one of the few Western journalists to travel to insurgent camps. Now you're here in Atlanta, we thought we'd pick your brain. Good to see you, nice to have you with us.
MICHAEL WARE: Thanks, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And I know you're itching to go overseas, hopefully that's going to happen soon.
WARE: We shall see.
PHILLIPS: You and I were talking just about Hezbollah and al Qaeda, and I want to get to sort of an interesting connection, but set up for our viewers what kind of inside look you've been able to have with factions of Hezbollah.
WARE: Well, Hezbollah is one of the most successful Islamic militant groups in the world. They've been able to achieve things that al Qaeda has not. Some of the very things that al Qaeda is hoping to do, Hezbollah has already done. For example, they already have territory which is their own. They have become a state within a state. That is one of the very clear goals of al Qaeda, yet they have failed to do that.
PHILLIPS: And it's part of a legitimate government. I mean, Hezbollah is within of a governmental system.
WARE: Absolutely. And they have that very active political arm which is legitimizing itself. Plus, Hezbollah is renowned for its ability to operate as a state that's delivering services to its constituents, to its people -- health care, education. Now, this is something that the US military is greatly concerned about in Iraq because we're seeing some very strong Shia insurgent groups in Iraq copying the Hezbollah model and in fact, according to US intelligence, it's Iran that is facilitating this relationship between Iraqi groups and Hezbollah.
PHILLIPS: So what you're saying is not only is Iran supporting Hezbollah -- and we've talked about it supporting Hamas as well -- but now you're saying it could help legitimize al Qaeda in certain ways or make al Qaeda more like Hezbollah?
WARE: Well, al Qaeda is a different kettle of fish. Al Qaeda and Iran have a very prickly, very complicated relationship. Al Qaeda and Iran in many ways are diametrically opposed. One is from the Sunni sect -- al Qaeda -- one is from the Shia. Ultimately their goals are different. Yet Iran is very careful in hedging its bets. It will support anyone who's in the race. Iran's main goal, according to most of the analysts, is to de-stabilize the region and capitalize on the chaos and the anarchy.
Now, to Iran's mind, al Qaeda can help with that in certain areas. So that's why we've seen even though in some ways they're opposed to each other, Iran has offered sanctuary to Zarqawi's group in the past, to Ansar al-Islam, and currently holds a number of key al Qaeda leaders under so-called house arrest.
PHILLIPS: So Iran isn't giving so much to al Qaeda that al Qaeda could become as powerful as Hezbollah. I mean, they're sort of keeping al Qaeda in its place.
WARE: Yeah, it's certainly not -- and don't forget, al Qaeda has its own sources of power.
PHILLIPS: But nothing like Hezbollah.
WARE: No, nothing like Hezbollah, certainly not at this stage, but don't forget, al Qaeda taps into a rich vein of Gulf oil money from Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen and other nations within the Gulf region. So it has independent sources of recruitment and money. In no way does al Qaeda rely on Iran, whereas Hezbollah--
PHILLIPS: Does completely.
WARE: --is state-sponsored and it is propped up by Iran.
PHILLIPS: So do you think al Qaeda could ever become like Hezbollah, a legitimate part of a government and be able to start providing governmental-type assistance to people like you said, helping with schools, helping with health care, etc?
WARE: That's certainly a part of its strategy and that's what we started to see it doing in a very early form in Afghanistan with the Taliban. I remember many members of the top levels of the Taliban government complaining to me how, when they invited al Qaeda in, al Qaeda started taking over even ministries within their government. So that's something they want to do. And don't forget -- old-guard al Qaeda, the leadership that surrounds Osama bin Laden, was very critical of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader, because he was destabilizing their program to gain popular support in Iraq and thereby create the toehold. They want their own little mini-state from which they can grow.
PHILLIPS: Michael Ware, looking forward to getting your reports from overseas. We're glad you're with us, glad you're a part of the CNN family. Thanks for your time.
WARE: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: All right, a watchful eye from Iraq. We've got more out of there right after the break.