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CNN's Baghdad reporter: Beware of 'smoke and mirrors from the administration'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday July 17, 2007
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CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke on Tuesday with Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, asking him about the newly-released National Intelligence Estimate which "suggested al Qaeda is seeking to leverage al Qaeda in Iraq for attacks against US targets outside of Iraq."

"That statement in the NIE is about three years too late," Ware responded. "Al Qaeda has reorganized itself through the war in Iraq that America handed it on a silver platter in its own backyard. ... The war here ... has energized the jihadi community across the globe." Ware asserted that "Iraq veterans" among foreign terrorists "are creating a whole new momentum back in their homelands," but said that "the true danger of al Qaeda in Iraq is the template or the model it offers" even to those who have never been to Iraq.

Equally quick to insist that the NIE should not be taken too literally, Ware said, "We must be aware of the spin, the smoke and mirrors from the administration, trying to reshape the message on Iraq being specifically about al Qaeda ... trying to evoke some Pavlovian response from the American public to fear them into again supporting the war. That doesn't quite hold water."

Blitzer asked Ware about the statement by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that he has seen a "sea change" in the security situation on his current visit to Iraq.

"With the greatest of respect ... I think the general, unfortunately, is suffering from the luxury of distance," replied Ware. "I think he's expecting far too much to be able to peer through the US bubble of protection."

Ware pointed out, for example, that attacks against US forces by al Qaeda in Anbar Province may have dropped significantly, but only because "America's subcontracted out the fight against al Qaeda to the Baathist insurgents and the tribes."

"Is there a sea-change in Baghdad?" Ware concluded. "Well, if he's seeing one, I'm afraid I'm not. Maybe you can see it from the Green Zone, but you can't see it out here in the Red Zone where Iraqis live."

The following video is from CNN's Situation Room, broadcast on July 17.