AC: "And let's not forget: everyone wants the American sons and daughters to go home."

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ANDERSON COOPER: How much of what's happening in Al Anbar is because of the surge?

MICHAEL WARE: Very little, Anderson.

I mean, what we have seen develop in Al Anbar Province, what the Americans call their Sunni tribe program, which is really an American militia-building program, began well before the surge.

I mean, we know that there's been covert negotiations between the Americans and the insurgency since 2004. We then started to see the tribal program emerge back last year. So, it predates the surge by almost nine months.

COOPER: It comes with great risk, though. I mean, the Shia- dominated government here is very concerned about it and what it may mean for the future, especially if U.S. troops leave.

WARE: And so they should be. I mean, this is one of the reasons that the Americans have engaged in this militia-building program. It doesn't just work for them against al Qaeda. It's also a stick with which to beat the Iraqi government and try and prod it into real action. And, above all of that, it's a major block against the encroaching Iranian influence that America is now so desperately fearing.

COOPER: Michael, thanks.

We will have more from Michael Ware coming up later on in this 360 special.

We will also talk to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

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GRAPHIC: U.S. opinion of war in Iraq, September 7-9. Favor, 34 percent; oppose, 63 percent.

ANDERSON COOPER: Those were some of poll numbers that greeted General Petraeus as he testified in Washington this week. Support for the war, now in its fifth year, has been declining. And as we learned this week, there are still going to be large numbers of U.S. forces here going into next year's elections.

You're going to hear politicians trying to come up with solutions, though there are no easy solutions at all for what's happening here. The end game, that's what we want to talk about with CNN's Michael Ware, who joins me now here in the Green Zone.

In the United States, some, mostly Democrats, want a date set for withdrawal. They say, those who support that, that it would pressure the al Maliki government, it would pressure the Iraqi military to stand up faster. Would it?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a dream-like state. Anyone who's telling themselves that is absolutely deluding themselves. Maliki's under no pressure from the presence or not of American forces. I mean...

COOPER: Really? He's not under pressure from American forces?

WARE: No. Whilst America, on the one hand, is propping up his regime, on the other hand, they don't answer to the Americans. They don't feel beholden to the Americans. And they have a ready-made sponsor waiting in the wings to step into the American vacuum, as the Iranian president himself this week said.

So the presence of American troops is meant to serve U.S. interests, Western interests. They're not necessarily the interests of the government that America has created.

COOPER: But the U.S. can pressure them to some degree, no?

WARE: It can and it's trying that. It's failed abysmally until this point. Right now the greatest stick that America has, that it's jabbing this government with, the only thing that's forcing them to even pretend to meet any of the benchmarks on de-Ba'athification or reconciliation is that America is now supporting the Ba'ath insurgency. It's supporting the Sunni tribes, and this is terrifying this government.

This government's trying to block it at every turn. Iran has said that you're going to pay a severe price if you keep doing this, but it's the only thing.

COOPER: You know, there are a lot of folks in the United States who say, look, why should the U.S. troops be here? I mean, why should Americans be losing their lives here when Iraqi politicians are going on vacation and are not even passing, you know, reforms that would work towards reconciliation, which would seem -- I mean, everyone seems to admit that's essential for progress here.

WARE: And that's right. And that's not going to happen. You may get it on the surface. You may get some bells and whistles, but you're not going to get true reconciliation, no matter how much people are working to...

COOPER: Still too much hatred and too much desire for retribution?

WARE: And too much vested interest. I mean, it doesn't suit peoples' agendas to come together in the middle. And there's external players all around this country who don't want to see that happen, and they're having much greater affect here than America is.

COOPER: Those who support the U.S. effort here say that American troops should stay because they are vital national security interest here. If American troops did pull out in great numbers, withdraw totally, even, say in the next year or so, do we know for sure what would happen? Or is it a roll of the dice?

WARE: No one knows for sure. But one thing that we can count on is that the blood will flow. And American foreign policy interests will suffer such a withering blow I'm not sure that they would be able to recover from this region.

America can leave tomorrow, as long as it's ready to pay the price. And let's not forget: everyone wants the American sons and daughters to go home. But this is the dilemma facing liberal America: you can do that, but you're going to have such death and misery on your conscience.

There is a moral imperative here. America chose to invade. America created this environment that's not just hurting the Iraqis but it's hurting American interests. It's fuelling al Qaeda and fuelling Iran. You can walk away from that, but it's not without price.

COOPER: Well, Michael, you take an enormous risk to be reporting here, and we appreciate it. You do a great job. Thanks so much. We're going to have a lot more from Iraq coming up. A 360 special, "Anvil of God", a really remarkable look at the battle of Fallujah.