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Former CIA officer: Samarra ambush a 'classic guerrilla tactic'

Baer: "They want to show that they can carry out these attacks at will."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After U.S. forces repelled two simultaneous ambush attempts in the Iraqi town of Samarra on Sunday, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asked former CIA officer Robert Baer who's behind attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

BLITZER: Do you believe al Qaeda is related to these attacks, or are these Fedayeen local Iraqis, still loyal to Saddam Hussein?

BAER: I think we're seeing both. The suicide attacks are being carried out by al Qaeda or groups associated with al Qaeda. Whether they're coming from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran. And I think what we're seeing is organized armed forces on the ground operating almost independently but also coordinated. This attack on Samarra, what it tells me is they're drawing U.S. troops into the city. So they have to respond and take civilian casualties or cause civilian casualties, in order for the United States to lose support.

BLITZER: In other words, they wanted to lose 46 or 50 of their own insurgents, assuming some were civilians, which could generate popular opposition?

BAER: Exactly. They want to cause as much destruction in urban areas as possible. It is a classic guerrilla tactic, used by Mao Zedong. And unless we control this, it could get worse.

BLITZER: Well, what happens -- so tomorrow, this convoy of the Bradley fighting vehicles, the Abrams battle tanks moving in to bring currency to a bank that needs that currency. Was that a factor, potentially, by the way, in this incident, the insurgents wanting the money after all? They probably could use some of that cash.

BAER: I don't think so. I think it's more a question is they want to show their capability of attacking an armored unit like this, of tanks. That they are capable of doing -- organizing, putting the people on the ground, hitting them with RPGs, small arms, backing away, forcing the Americans to respond, killing some of them, but also...

BLITZER: But these grenades, these RPGs, the kind of weapons they have would have no impact on a Bradley fighting vehicle or Abrams battle tank?

BAER: It is symbolic. It is symbolic. And they want to show that they can carry out these attacks at will.

BLITZER: Based on what you know right now, is U.S. intelligence on the ground, battle intelligence, getting better?

BAER: Some of it is. But the problem is the Sunni triangle, where these people are truly hostile to the United States. It's very unlikely anybody is going to cooperate with U.S. intelligence at this point. Even if they wanted to, they're afraid of reprisals.

BLITZER: What are they, afraid the United States is going to cut and run and those who collaborate or cooperate with the U.S. and coalition are going to be toast?

BAER: They'll be toast by next summer if we leave.

BLITZER: In other words, that's why the intelligence is not getting better, people are not coming out to help the United States and its coalition partners?

BAER: They're afraid to. I mean, there is almost a civil war going on in the Sunni community. Right now, in Ramadi, there are people that support the United States that are dying every day.

BLITZER: What do you make of the power of the Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite leader in the south? He seems to be a powerful figure right now, perhaps emerging as the most powerful figure in Iraq.

BAER: What he's saying is, listen, we are 60 percent of the population. We want one man, one vote. And if we get this, this is going to be a Shia republic. And that's going to be our stand. And this is what's worrying coalition authorities.

BLITZER: In other words, they are trying to get a democratically elected Islamic, fundamentalist, ayatollah-led regime, is that what you're saying?

BAER: Which keeps in mind that it further disenfranchises the Sunni Arabs, which are 20 percent of the population. They said, listen, we are not going to turn over power willingly to the Shia Muslims.

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