YWT: Second replay, another new interview

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Length: 7:03

HALA GORANI: Well, the daily reports of violence out of Iraq suggest just how dangerous the streets have become. Even walking to the market or going to work could cost you your life.

CLANCY: Take, for example, a new United Nations report that says the number of civilians killed recently is far greater than the initial estimates. Equally troubling, how many victims show signs of torture.

All right. Let's get details of that report for July and August in a moment.

But first, that was, of course, a period when the United Nations said it was the deadliest yet. But we want to go inside the insurgency, take you there to learn why at least one group seems to be getting even stronger.

CNN has exclusive footage of Al Qaeda in Iraq and some rare interviews with some of the insurgent leaders, the commanders themselves.

Here's our Michael Ware.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Until now, most communications from Al Qaeda in Iraq have been carefully crafted videos like this one, showing the shooting down of a U.S. Apache helicopter. What's unprecedented about this video is we hear about from al Qaeda in English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to let you know that our lives are nothing beside our religion. We will bomb everything.

WARE: Insurgent groups and the U.S. military now say al Qaeda has become the darkest core of Iraq's insurgency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to let you know that we love to die as you love to live.

WARE: An organization so secretive that despite seized documents, intelligence, and interrogations, the U.S. military still struggles to know how it works.

COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, U.S. ARMY: We don't have a 100 percent understanding of that. And the enemy tries very hard to keep us from understanding.

WARE: There have been successes: cells disrupted, leaders captured, and most stunning of all, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, executed in a U.S. airstrike. But reality on the ground suggests the U.S. military is far from crippling the deadly network.

Abu Khaled al-Iraqi is a top commander from a powerful alliance of local Islamic insurgent groups. In his first television interview, he tells CNN Zarqawi's death brought change, but not what the U.S. had in mind. Instead, younger even more radical al Qaeda leaders.

ABU KHALED AL-IRAQI, SR. IRAQI ISLAMIST COMMANDER (through translator): Al-Zarqawi is one person, and al Qaeda is thousands of people.

WARE: Local Sunni insurgent groups more moderate than al Qaeda, and Iraqi nationalists, mostly from Saddam's former military, agree. Al Qaeda is becoming stronger.

Listen to this nationalist insurgent commander. He says al Qaeda's decentralized structure, seemingly endless money, and growing support in and out of Iraq is overpowering local guerrilla groups.

ABU MOHAMMED, INSURGENT COMMANDER (through translator): Al Qaeda's leadership is different, but as an idea it has expanded, because most other groups pressureed between U.S. forces and al Qaeda and have had leaders killed or captured and al Qaeda took over their fighters.

WARE: That's an assessment shared by many in the U.S. military. American commanders like Sean MacFarland confront the al Qaeda-led insurgency every day.

SEAN MACFARLAND: What we're trying to do here is counteract a strong presence of al Qaeda that's intermixed with some lingering Ba'athist influence.

WARE: Four months ago, Abu Khaled's insurgent group was distancing itself from al Qaeda. Now he says there's no difference at all.

KHALED (through translator): Al Qaeda works within the resistance and is part of the resistance.

WARE: The Sunni groups say fear of civil war with Shiites in control of the Iraqi government and unchecked Iranian interference is driving them to al Qaeda.

ABU MOHAMMED (through translator): America came to Iraq saying it would free us from tyranny and dictatorship. But that hasn't happened. Because the U.S. increased the power of Shia religious organizations, gave them the government, and we regard this as giving power to Iran.

WARE: If so, it is Zarqawi's most enduring legacy, his plan all along to spark sectarian conflict and draw Sunni insurgents to al Qaeda's cause. The insurgents say al Qaeda's hard line is gaining traction where there was little before.

ABU MOHAMMED: (through translator): When the nationalist forces become weak, that leaves al Qaeda as a strong force in the area.

WARE: Yet, the U.S. military is still hoping disillusioned moderate Sunnis reject al Qaeda.

MACFARLAND: Al Qaeda is herding them back toward us. So, to an extent, the Sunnis may be trapped between the devil and deep blue sea.

WARE: But Sunni insurgents know one day the United States will leave Iraq. And they believe al Qaeda will not.


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Length: 2:20

CLANCY: Well, Michael Ware joins uses now live from Baghdad.

Michael, the epicenter of a lot of this is in Anbar province. Its capital is Ramadi. President Bush, I guess quoting his own military intelligence sources, is saying there's evidence there that al Qaeda is influencing events on the ground.

What's your read?

WARE: Well, as President Bush and Osama bin Laden himself agree, Jim, Al Anbar province is the centerpiece of the global war on terror for both of them. In fact, President Bush has been highlighting this in recent weeks.

He talked about seized al Qaeda documents revealing their plans to essentially set up a government in Ramadi. Well, what we found is that U.S. Marines' intelligence has discovered that, for example, al Qaeda's infiltration of the oil ministry out there is so extensive, that it has a finger in all aspects of it, from its delivery from refineries in the north, to its distribution through the government office, right down to the gas stations.

U.S. commanders say al Qaeda in Ramadi has been making between $400,000 and $600,000 every month to fund their operations against U.S. forces -- Jim.

CLANCY: On another front, statistics that tell a tragic story of what's happening in Baghdad and elsewhere across the country, and that is the appalling numbers of those people who have been killed in sectarian violence.

WARE: That's right. And, I mean, this is precisely what Al Qaeda in Iraq's founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wanted.

He spelled it out way in the beginning. And we first saw it in an intercepted letter between him and Osama bin Laden.

He says, "We must provoke the Shia, keep taunting them until they rise up. Only then will we awake the sleeping giant, the Sunni world. And then the great conflict can begin."

He believed this was the way forward. This is the result of his handiwork.

On the other extreme, you see Iranian-backed Shia extremists and death squads playing their part. So this is both ends of the extreme pulling the middle apart and polarizing this country -- Jim.

CLANCY: Michael Ware. A look at the facts as they appear tonight from the streets of Baghdad.

Michael, thank you.