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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Deadly New Insurgent Tactics Sacrifice Two Children As Decoys; Congress Continues Debate Over Dollars and Deadlines For U.S. Military; U.N. Sanctions Iraq For Continuing Nuclear Program, Will It Do Any Good?
Aired March 24, 2007 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: Deadly new tactics at Iraqi checkpoints, using children as unwitting suicide bombers?
A debate over deadlines and dollars on Capitol Hill, what does it mean for troops on the ground?
And pressuring Iran on its nuclear program. Will another vote in the United Nations make any difference?
THIS WEEK AT WAR begins in one minute. After a look at what's happening in the news right now.
ROBERTS: The so-called surge, is it really working? Overextended troops and tired equipment, is this any way to run a war?
Setting deadlines and operating dollars on Capitol Hill. The Senate's independent Democrat Joe Lieberman weighs in on the end game in Iraq.
Is Iran's president on a collision course with the United Nations?
I'm John Roberts with THIS WEEK AT WAR. Let's take look at what our correspondents reported day by day, this week.
On Monday, President Bush pleads for patience from the nation asking Congress for more funds on the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. Tuesday, a U.S. general describes how insurgents used two children as decoys to pass through a military check point and then detonated a car bomb killing them.
Wednesday the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insists Iran will defy international regulations and continue its nuclear enrichment program regardless of any U.N. sanctions.
Thursday, three men arrested in connection with a terrorist attacks that killed 52 people in London, back in July of 2005. And Friday, a suicide bomber targets Iraq's deputy prime minister, Salam Al-Zubai, during the traditional weekly prayer service. More than a dozen are killed or wounded.
From Baghdad to Washington, to Tehran, we are covering all the angles. Michael Ware on the surge, success or spin? General Spider Marx and how insurgents defeat checkpoints, and Aneesh Raman on a defiant Iran, THIS WEEK AT WAR.
As U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces step up the crackdown on sectarian violence fresh signals that insurgents aren't backing down. It was a message that United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon received firsthand in a visit to Iraq. CNN's Michael Ware joins us from Baghdad, Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre at his post there, and here in the studio, Colonel Patrick Lang, U.S. Army Retired, former intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
On Tuesday, Major General Michael Barbero, of the Join Chiefs, outlined the deadly Trojan horse-like tactics that insurgents supposedly used this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. MICHAEL BARBERO, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, OPERATIONS: We saw a vehicle with two children in the backseat. Come up to one of out checkpoints, get stopped by our folks, children in the backseat lowers suspicion. We let it moved through. They park the vehicle. The adults run out, and detonate it with the children in the back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Michael Ware if that's true it would represent to me an incredible new level of barbarism. Is this another tactic that these insurgents are using to try to defeat these checkpoints, or do we know if it's true at all?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Well, yeah, it is far too early to tell, John.
It is hard to say if it in fact happened. Certainly none of the American military commanders here on the ground are adding to the general's remarks which seems to suggest quite rightly probably doubt surrounding this incident.
Don't forget it's being reported from a part of the city that is a Mehdi Army stronghold. This is a place where the conspiracies run rife. Indeed the predominant conspiracy is that America sends the car bombs anyway just to attack Muqtada, just as an excuse to destabilize him. So, anything that is emerging from that part of the city and being recycled by the military on vague, you know, uncorroborated witness accounts, is hard to make assessments of.
But kids are in the war. And all the sides in this war are killing children, whether dropping bombs on their houses or blowing them up in the marketplaces, or in fire fights. Kids are being used to lay bombs. There's reconnaissance. I mean, this is a terrible, terrible place to be growing up.
ROBERTS: Yeah, the U.S. military command has been claiming some success, particularly in Baghdad, with a reduction in the number of sectarian attacks. But there's still plenty of violence to go around. Let's take a quick listen, Michael, to how you reported on that on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: American and Iraqi officials acknowledge as many as 20,000 Sunni insurgents alone are still out there. Despite some successes, coalition forces are attacked around 100 times a day, almost twice as often as two years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Pat Lang, how does Michael's report, including the assassination attempt against the deputy prime minister on Friday, square with these claims by the U.S. military that things are beginning to look up? Is the plan really working?
COL. PAT LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, understandably, we are trying to emphasize all the positive elements in the situation. And what they have been counting, that enables them to say that violence has gone, is they have not picked up as many shot and drilled bodies of civilians in the streets lately. So the argument is, is that this is the indicator that in fact the level of sectarian violence is going down.
But everything else is still going great guns all over the place. There are all these attacks, you mentioned. There are attacks all around Baghdad. There are attacks in the city, suicide bombers. All kinds of active attacks ongoing, so I don't think you can tell as yet. There's no real indicator.
ROBERTS: So, Jamie McIntyre, is there some kind of a flaw in the security plan that they manage to affect one type of violence and the other types flourish?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing that's clear is that -- while we're debating whether it's working, the insurgents are trying to show very clearly that it's not working.
But I was struck by the comments this week by Stuart Bowen, he's the special investigator for Iraq reconstruction, he's an auditor, very critical, very skeptical, been to Iraq 15 times; has come back pretty pessimistic every time. He came back from his last trip saying that for the first time in the last 20 months he actually thought maybe things were better.
And he based that on, not so much the level of violence, which he concedes is pretty high, but on the level of cooperation, and the coordination with the Iraqi forces. He really got a sense, for the first time, not like in "Together Forward", which didn't really succeed, that it really was starting to pull together. But it's way too soon to see it's going to -- to be able to say if it going to work.
ROBERTS: But, Jamie, almost every time you get a report of things that are going well, you get some reality on the ground tells well, maybe they're not going so well. Let's take a look at how you reported on one particular incident, earlier this week, on Thursday when the U.N. secretary-general visited Baghdad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE (voice over): In Baghdad, a jarring reminder that Iraq remains awash in weapons after four years of war. An insurgent rocket caused not injuries, but prompted the new U.N. secretary-general to duck for cover during a press conference in the supposedly secure green zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Michael, as people in your homeland might say, a fine how do you do and came right as Maliki was claiming that it was -- you know, that Iraq was really on the road to progress here, in terms of cutting the violence down.
WARE: Yeah, absolutely, John. I mean, that kind of event is not such an event of importance militarily. I mean, as Jamie rightly pointed out, no one was hurt. I mean, bombs fall on the green zone all the time. The point was that it was done at that moment.
And you watch that press conference. It's a moment of extraordinary theater in this war. You saw the secretary-general flinch and duck for cover, but you saw the Iraqi prime minister -- no matter what feeling inside -- stand resolute. Even as his bodyguards tried to drag him away, he barked at them to leave him alone. Why? Because if he was seen, by the people, to have flinched at that moment, they would have lost all confidence in him. So his government was all but in his hands at that precise moment, John.
ROBERTS: Pat Lang, just about the same time that mortar attack happened, the government accountability office was releasing reports saying the reason why Iraq is so awash in mortars, and rockets, and artillery shells for making these car bombs, is because of poor planning on the part of the United States.
Here we are four years out, four years from the time when those ammo dumps were not secured and they still can't get a handle on it. What does that say?
LANG: Well, I think the GAO report is exactly correct. In fact, the operation was planned largely here in Washington, at the office of the secretary of Defense level, and such a way that there were too few forces, nobody paid any attention to tasks like policing up this vast amount of hardware around the country. And General McKiernan (ph), the ground force commander of the engagement was really given the task to do that kind of thing and ignored it. They just ignored it. They thought everything would be peaches and cream afterward and there'd be a friendly government, you would not have to worry about it. It turned out they were absolutely wrong.
ROBERTS: But they still can't do it and there are still a number depots and ammo dumps that they haven't gone around to check to see if they're secure, despite the fact that people are asking them to do it now. LANG: Yeah, but if you look at the number of troops available on the ground, they had a number of shooters that people in brigade combat teams and Marine regiments, things like that. And soft forces, things like this. There still is not a very large number of troops given the tasks they have to do. I doubt if they really have the manpower to do that.
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, you mentioned Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, saying something positive about Iraq. At the same time as he did that, though, he was suggesting that there are still big problems particularly with the Iraqi government. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STUART BOWEN, INSPECTOR GEN., IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION: Corruption in -- within the Iraqi government is a serious problem inhibiting all progress in Iraq. We have called it the second insurgency in our report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, Jamie, if corruption is still such a problem, how is this security plan ever going to work?
MCINTYRE: Well, it's a very good question. Because, of course, it entirely hinges on the Iraqi government. And this report by Stuart Bowen the latest in a series of very sharply critical reports about how money was spent, how money was spent without anybody knowing what happened to it, how a lot of it was sort of siphoned off.
And while he saw a sort of a silver lining and how things are going at the moment, his reports point to really serious potential problems in trying to make this thing work over the long haul. And, of course, the key is what happens as soon as the Americans believe they have the opportunity to start withdrawing and drawing down the troops? That still remains a big question.
ROBERTS: A real mixed bag here. Perhaps, as Pat was saying, too early to tell how this is going. Michael Ware, Jamie McIntyre, Pat Lang, good to finally have you on the show my friends. Appreciate it.
Coming up later on in this hour, deadlines and dollars on Capitol Hill. We'll ask Senator Joe Lieberman if Congress is jeopardizing the military's chances in Iraq.
And just ahead, as the surge of U.S. forces heads into battle, are U.S. troops prepared and ready for the fight?
But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR "Remembrance".
Army Staff Sergeant Terry Prater of Claiborne County, Tennessee, killed last week in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated during combat operations. Prater was one of four U.S. soldiers who was killed in the attack. They were assigned to the Second Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, out of Fort Hood, Texas. Prater's wife, Amy, says she is having trouble believing that her husband is gone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY PRATER, WIFE OF FALLEN SOLDIER: This is your worst scare come true. You keep thinking in your mind somebody's going to call and say they were wrong, but you know that they're not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: In 2004, Staff Sergeant Prater awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star shoved a fellow soldier clear of a grenade. Prater was just 25 years old.
ROBERTS: If you follow the numbers proposed by President Bush and General David Petraeus, nearly 30,000 more U.S. forces will be in Iraq when the surge reaches its peak. But will the additional troops be fully trained for the mission, and is the build-up threatening to break the back of the U.S. military?
In Atlanta, former assistant Defense secretary, now with the Center for American Progress, Lawrence Korb; he is a critic of the war in Iraq. And here in Washington, CNN Military Analyst Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, U.S. Army, Retired.
Lawrence Korb, in a recent report for the Center for American Progress, titled "Beyond The Call Of Duty" wrote quote, "Bush's latest escalation threatens to inflict serious long-term damage to the force", talking about the U.S. military.
"Spider" Marks, you had a meeting this past week with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, some other high-level Pentagon officials, are they concerned? What are their thoughts about the force readiness?
BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Characterized by the secretary of Defense and some of his key guys is there's no crisis in readiness right now. There clearly isn't. The troops are trained and ready for this combat and this fight that exists today. There certainly is concern down the road for what is called full spectrum operations.
ROBERTS: Do you agree with that, Lawrence Korb, there is no crisis now?
LAWRENCE KORB, CTR. FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Oh, I think there is. If you take a look, for example, at two of the brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division, that are part of this surge; in one brigade 62 young men and women joined that brigade right out of basic training. Missed the training that they had at the national training center, were sent to Iraq three weeks later with only 10 days of training. One is already dead.
You have another brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, where 75 soldiers basically were too injured to go, and they gave them a quick medical, and changed the diagnosis. No, I think we are sending people over there who really are not trained the way that they should be to deal with which is essentially a war of choice.
ROBERTS: We should point out, too, Lawrence, that the military has denied that those soldiers at Fort Benning were reclassified to just to keep the numbers up. That's a topic that we actually took on last week.
But, "Spider" the 82nd Airborne has always had a ready brigade and we're reading stories this past week that they may not be so ready anymore.
MARKS: Well, the readiness level is there. I have to disagree with Dr. Korb. The readiness level, these units are ready to fight today. In fact, there's a term that has been coined, which is "just in time" units. It used to be "just in time" logistics. It is now "just in time units". I'm OK with that. The American public should be OK with that. So the unit readiness is there, just not enough numbers.
ROBERTS: But when we talk about how thinly the military is stretched, and this is a topic that we cover an awful lot. Let's take a look at how Barbara Starr reported on that Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today, nearly half of the Army's combat brigades are already tied up fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Army wants billions of dollars for the 18,000 additional improved armored vehicles urgently needed in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, "Spider" correct me if I'm wrong. But aren't the military guidelines that only a third of combat brigades should be deployed at any one time, and I think it's 20 out of 42 are actively deployed now, or on their way, or coming out of rotation?
MARKS: John, the guidelines really affect the reserve component. And it has been in writing for years. It has kind of been the script, which is two years mobilization and five years in what's called dwell time. Those rules have been busted, absolutely.
ROBERTS: So are we overextended?
MARKS: Sure, we're overextended, absolutely. But we're bringing forces forward that are prepared to meet the task. Overextended and being ready are two separate topics.
ROBERTS: Larry Korb, what is this doing to forces back home, particularly the National Guard also, what are the implications for recruiting, for the command structure?
Well, I mean, basically I mean, the National Guard commission just reported that 88 percent of the Guard units are not ready. We are going to be sending four Guard units over as part of this surge. They haven't had the equipment to train on.
And if you take a look at the people coming into the active duty Army last year, more than 10 percent had moral waivers, that is for things like criminal convictions.
I disagree with the general. I think you owe it to the men and women to give them the two years of dwell time before they go back. I mean, because this is what we -- these are the standards we established when I was in there, to ensure that it would be fair to them, when we're asking them to do so much.
ROBERTS: "Spider", what about that idea that recruiting standards are being dropped to keep the numbers up, and this idea that because, I believe it was 100 percent of captains were promoted to majors, you are getting these very swift promotions, that you may be degrading the command structure?
MARKS: It is way too soon to draw the conclusion that standards are being dropped. Again, this is not the issue. The issue absolutely is -- and I agree with the Doctor Korb on this -- are we breaking faith with the National Guard? Yeah. Doggone it, we have broken faith. They thought they were a train -- you know, mobilize, train and deploy force. They are a train, mobilize and deploy force, and then deployed again. So, the dwell time doesn't exist.
ROBERTS: Larry, you also wrote in your article, quote, this is about the effect on personnel, "an Army survey revealed that soldiers are 50 percent more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, if they serve more than one tour. Since the invasion, the suicide rate among troops deployed for the Iraq war reached its highest point in 2006 according to an Army mental health study."
Any question, Larry, that this is taking a toll on not only the mental and emotional health of soldiers but the personal lives of them as well, including their families?
KORB: Well, no doubt about it. If you look at the 172nd Stryker Brigade, which was extended four months, recently, and you look at what happened to the families there, you had suicides among some of the families, premature births.
So this idea that somehow you can keep doing this over and over again, and not suffer long-term consequences, I mean, I think we need to realize the toll that this is taking. And, in fact, you looked at the testimony of people like General Cody, the vice chief of staff, they talk about death spiral. This is something we went through once in the late '70s and took us about 10 years to recover from.
ROBERTS: I rode a lot with those guys from the 172nd Stryker Brigade, and I know the effect that the extension was having on them.
Very quickly, "Spider", if you could. If the military is affected to this degree, can the new security plan for Iraq be successful?
MARKS: It's going to be successful primarily because the numbers exist today and the troops are trained today. Is there a long-term downstream affect? You bet. We better be addressing that.
ROBERTS: "Spider" Marks, thanks very much. Lawrence Korb, to you as well. Good to have you on the program finally.
KORB: Nice to be with you.
ROBERTS: Later, on THIS WEEK AT WAR, Russia takes the big stick to its ally Iran, or does it? We'll sort it all out for you.
And as the Democratic Congress tries to stop the war, we'll talk to one Democratic ally who thinks it's a bad idea. Senator Joseph Lieberman next on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This bill has too much pork, too many conditions, and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: President Bush reacting to the Iraq war supplemental bill that passed the House on Friday. Democrats are getting more aggressive in their opposition to the war. Attaching demands for withdrawal to critical military spending bills.
Are they jeopardizing success in Iraq, or is the place so shot to hell that it is time to get out? Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman opposes any attempt to attach withdrawal provisions to the funding measures. He joins us now from Capitol Hill.
Senator Lieberman, why is it a bad idea?
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): Well, it's a bad idea now, particularly, because we've got a new plan for Iraq, a new general, new troops. And the first reports are encouraging; that it's working to stop some of the sectarian violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province.
Why in the midst of that, begin to order a withdrawal from our -- from Iraq of our troops? What I believe is that here in Washington, we ought to declare a truce in the political wars over the war in Iraq. To let General Petraeus, and our soldiers, fight that war for four or five months until the summer, when Petraeus has told us he would really be able the know whether the new plan is working or not.
Until then, this all sends mixed messages to our troops. And it will not do anything but create a lot of political fuss here in Washington. Because the president has said, he won't accept any of these conditions -- and he shouldn't. It is wrong for Congress to try to micro-manage a war. If people are opposed to the war, they ought to cut off the funding for it. That's what the Constitution lets us do.
ROBERTS: I want to ask about that idea as to whether or not this is political theater in just a second. But first of all, let me play a little statement here, from the Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, reacting to this idea of criticisms on timetable, and this idea of micromanaging the war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: This bill does not in any way impede General Petraeus or any of his commanders, or any people on the ground, from exercising that strategy or tactics they believe is necessary and appropriate to accomplish their objectives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Senator Lieberman, your response to that?
LIEBERMAN: Well, my response is, as I understand the House measure, is that regardless of what happens in Iraq, whether we're succeeding or not, this order is a withdrawal by a date certain. I believe -- I agree with Eisenhower, who once said, anybody who says we should set a deadline for doing anything in a war doesn't understand war.
In the Senate, the provision that we're going to be considering this week is more aggressive than the House, as I understand it. And says within 120 days, the American troops should begin to leave Iraq. But what if we're in the middle of a successful effort to stabilize Baghdad?
See, that's where I think it's micromanaging. It's harmful to our troops and our cause. Let's try one more time to make this work, and I think we still can.
ROBERTS: Senator, what about the idea, that both Democrats in the House and Senate know that this is not going to pass a presidential veto. The president will veto it; they don't have the votes for the override in Congress. Senator Graham told me a couple of weeks ago, he thinks this is all political theater.
And there is some belief that the Democrats just want to make as much noise as possible about this to satisfy the constituents, but God forbid, they should every actually change anything on the ground for fear it goes bad, and they get blamed. What do you say to that theory?
LIEBERMAN: Well, again, I repeat what I said a few moments ago, if somebody is really against the war, and there are people around here, in Congress, who are sincerely against the war. Then they ought to do what the Constitution gives the Congress the power to do, which is to stop the funding of the war. The rest of this is -- is a nuisance but will not change at all the course of what's happening in Iraq.
That's why I followed with some interest the statements of those in Congress who really opposed the war, who thought that the measure in the House was not strong enough because it continued to fund the war. I think what -- this is a time for acting in a way that's responsible. If you're really want to stop the war, cut the funding. It does make you accountable for what happens thereafter. But you've done something as a matter of principle.
ROBERTS: Senator, you have talked a couple of times about potential progress on the ground in Iraq. You had before the Homeland Security Committee on Thursday, the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOWEN: Preliminary results of this latest initiative, in the Baghdad security plan, have been positive. That cautious optimism is a good sign, and something that I had not returned from Iraq with, I guess, over the last 20 months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: You know, even though Stuart Bowen is a Bush appointee, he's been very pragmatic, very realistic on the whole situation on the ground in Iraq. Now, saying he sees some difference. Let me ask you straight out, Senator, do you believe that this new plan for Iraq is, in fact, working?
LIEBERMAN: It has shown some real signs of success. The General Petraeus has whole different attitude. The best way to measure and the most objective way to measure it, the number of sectarian killings is way down. Even the number of suicide bombings is down, but hard it is hard to stop every person who's crazy enough to want to kill themselves in order to kill others.
Stuart Bowen's comments before our committee were very significant to me because this guy is a real straight talker. He's been very critical of a lot that's happened in Iraq. For him to come back and say that he is cautiously optimistic -- in fact, it's a first time in 20 months of trips to Iraq that he's come back optimistic. I think that is significant and ought to lead all of us here in Washington to stop the amendments, the debates, the posturing, to let the soldiers and General Petraeus try to make this work, without a lot of fire from us here in Washington.
ROBERTS: Ah, two words to answer that, not likely. Senator Lieberman, thanks. Appreciate it.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, John. Be well.
ROBERTS: Coming up later on THIS WEEK AT WAR, another show down between the United Nations and Iran's president. Will it make a difference in the nuclear nation's actions?
And next, children in the crossfire? How insurgents are using the youngest Iraqis to side step security check points.
ROBERTS: There is a disturbing new twist in terror tactics used in Iraq. The U.S. military say that children are being used as decoys to get cars through security checkpoints before insurgents detonate bombs inside those cars, with the children in there with them, too. What do these barbaric tactics say about the evolving insurgency? And how effective are joint security checkpoints at preventing such infiltrations.
Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks is here with me again, to map this all out.
First of all, "Spider", what depths will the people sink to, to carry out these attacks using children as decoys?
MARKS: John, there's no moral floor to what these insurgents will go to, to try to achieve the ends. We shouldn't be surprised by this. It's horrible, but we should expect more.
ROBERTS: Take us into Baghdad here, and run us through some of the tactics that both the Iraqi police, the Iraqi military and the U.S. military are trying to employ to stop these attacks.
MARKS: Sure, John. Since we have had the surge ongoing in Baghdad, there's been a decrease in the violence. Violence occurred in other locations, granted, but within Baghdad and at some key locations, violence has been eradicated.
Let's go to the Shorja, which is just to the east of the Tigris, outlined here. Now as you come down to this lower western corner of the market, what you see highlighted right down here, John -- you can see by the perspective of the shadows, these are very large barriers that keep the vehicular traffic out of the market.
ROBERTS: All those little white dots?
MARKS: That's exactly what they are. And what happens is those are installed after patrons come in and it becomes a foot market. Now, in the middle of the night, when nobody is in there, that's when they upload their goods.
ROBERTS: So that is when they allow vehicles in at night, when there aren't really people in there, just to get the market all stocked up and then they put these barricades out?
ROBERTS: What do the barricades consist of? And can they stop any vehicle?
MARKS: Well, it's a combination of the Jersey barriers and with concrete. The Texas barriers, if you will, are the much larger ones, in excess of six, seven feet. And then these, in particular, like big chicken wire and within which you put stones, you'll put rocks, you'll put concrete. And you can then take them apart and move them some place else. ROBERTS: You have another example?
MARKS: Yes, we do. Let's go further to the east if we can. Let me show you another market, which is another example of how they've been able to restrict the traffic, keep it just a foot traffic, and then during the hours of darkness they bring in the goods.
As we can right here, again, highlighted there is one of those very large barriers that's going to keep traffic out. Those things will be moved when they need to move the trucks in so they can put their stuff in there.
ROBERTS: This is a market in Sadr City?
MARKS: It is, absolutely. Let me take you again to the west side of the Tigris. One more example of a security checkpoint. This is -- we have seen security checkpoints like this, but it really walks you through the tactics, techniques and the procedures that the Iraqis and the U.S. soldiers and Marines have to have in order to be effective.
This is training. These guys just don't show up, shake hands, and say how are you doing? Let's get busy. There is training in advance. This is a highlight of what that looks like. Vehicles have to work their way through these barriers.
ROBERTS: Sort of a zigzag here.
MARKS: They are checked at each location, and also gives you a sense of perspective. That's about a half ton truck, you cans see the size of the barrier. Now, let's back out just a little further and what you can see is U.S. vehicles here, combination of Bradley fighting vehicles, and M1 Abrams tank; they are available to respond in case something goes south.
ROBERTS: And we'll see barricades like this within the green zone, as well, they tend to be speed bumps, more than they are large walls. And there is always a Bradley or M1 tank sitting there, with it's gun facing towards the outside just in case, someone were to try to come through there.
But here's the question, though, General. You have all of these, in some cases somewhat elaborate security precautions in place, yet when an officer, or a soldier, or a member of the Iraqi army sees two people in the front of a car, and two children in the back, is their guard automatically down. And is that how this car got through?
MARKS: It's human nature. Yes, the guard is down. We had examples at the early stages of the war, where the same thing occurred, pregnant women in the back of a car. Soldiers respond to it, because they look in extremis, they look like something's wrong. Guess what? There is something wrong. And the vehicle is blown up and she is destroyed, as well. So there clearly is a human nature to this. That is why you want to make the training as objective as possible, so you walk through the steps. You might slow things down, but you better be cautious. ROBERTS: So this is only happened once? Is that the only time it will happen now that the adjustment in the tactics has been discovered?
MARKS: We would anticipate seeing this again and we might see it in a different combination. We have to expect this type of activity.
ROBERTS: But will they be anticipating it? That's the question.
MARKS: Oh, the soldiers on the ground, Iraqi and U.S. must anticipate it. They have to stick to the checklist. That's where the training comes in. Focus on the training tasks and meeting those standards.
ROBERTS: "Spider" Marks, as always, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, Iran's leaders warn they won't back down from their nuclear ambitions. Will a change in tone from Russia force Iran to make concessions? Coming up on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
ROBERTS: Iran's leaders began the new year with more heated messages for the West, vowing to use, quote, "any means necessary" to strike back if the U.N. forces the rogue nation to shutter its nuclear program. And a kink in Iran's cozy relationship with Russia, why is Moscow hardening the stance against its long-time ally?
In Teheran, CNN's Aneesh Raman joins us via broadband, and in Phoenix, Arizona, Joseph Cirincione, he's the senior vice president for national security at the Center for American Progress. And with me, here in the studio, Ray Takeyh; he's a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Also, Aneesh, on the occasion of that Iranian new year, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, quote, "Until today what we have done has been in accordance with international regulations but if they take illegal actions, we too can take illegal actions, and will do so."
What do you interpret that to mean? Might there be some sort of retaliation? Might they seek to expand their nuclear program?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: It's a good question. We have seen often statements from Iranian leaders be aggressive but vague as we saw there.
The sense on the ground is that this supreme leader referring the nuclear program, that if the U.N. continues to define Iran's pursuit of nuclear energy as illegal, Iran is simply not going to stop but will pursue that illegal action. We have heard earlier from Iranian officials around U.N. votes that they could perhaps even kick out IAEA inspectors that are here, and pursue their nuclear program in secret.
The resolve does seem, at the moment, unbreakable within the regime about their nuclear program. We have seen recently some relatively moderate figures within the government telling the people, look, these are serious times. Every sort of careful consideration should be taken. But recently we've also seen the hard liners champion two things for their argument about pushing ahead with this program regardless of what might come.
First, North Korea: They say, look, the North Koreans tested a nuclear weapon and after that, the U.S. stopped talking at North Korea, but talked with them. And the source that you mentioned, that increase in pressure from Russia to get Iran to suspend its the nuclear program, as further rationale why Iran must be self- sufficient. So we are seeing the hard liners sort of coalesce in their resolve to continue this program. At the same time, among their people, there is a sense that these are very serious times, John.
ROBERTS: Well, Joe Cirincione, the United Nations keeps taking up these resolutions, there was more activity this week. Iran keeps on thumbing it's nose at the United Nations. Time for a new approach?
JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I don't think so. I think this approach is actually showing some results.
The key was the December resolution where you have the united Security Council. The perm five, the U.S., Russia, China, U.K. and France, all together saying, Iran, you have to stop. This sent shock waves through the Iranian political establishment.
Aneesh is right. The hardliners haven't budged, but the moderates and the pragmatists have, and you've seen criticism not just from the reformist factions, who gained in the December elections against the President Ahmadinejad's forces, but also from Ayatollah Khamenei, himself. His newspapers, the ones that he control, have been criticizing the primitive policies of Ahmadinejad.
And these financial sanctions hurt. Not the actual technical measures that are in the resolutions, and we are going to see those ratcheted up in the new resolution, but in the impact they have on investor confidence. Investments are in Iran are being reduced to a trickle. The stock market plummeted, there is increased pain being felt in Iran.
Now's the time to keep the pressure up, ratchet it up to cause the kind of reconsideration of the course at the highest levels, that you want to see in Iran's political establishment.
ROBERTS: But, Ray, take a look at this from a different angle, and pick up on another point that Aneesh was making. This is the idea that it was one on one talks that broke the North Korean impasse. We saw baby steps to dialogue between the United States and Iran in that recent meeting in Iraq. Is it time to expand that idea? Sit down in the same room, and talk to each other?
RAY TAKEYH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The situation is different in the sense that Iranians don't really ask for bilateral talks. The modalities of this are not that relevant, whether they're multi-lateral or bilateral. What the problem with the talks has been is the United States insistence on a precondition, that namely Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program before talks began on an entire range of issues. And that is where the key obstacle is. Iranian's don't seem inclined to desist with the enrichment efforts. And as Aneesh was saying, they've become even more resolved to do so, because of the Russia deal calling -- in essence they're calling for indigenous capability because they can't trust anybody else.
So, if you're prepared to dispense with the preconditions, then I think you can have those talks.
ROBERTS: Well, certainly, some people are calling for a different approach. Here's what John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, said on Tuesday. Quote, "I believe that ultimately the only real prospect of getting Iran to give up nuclear weapons is to change the regime."
Calling for regime change, Aneesh Raman, sounds slightly familiar and to the best of my recollection didn't go so well the last time.
RAMAN: Yes, we have seen offers from Iran right after we saw the beginning of the Iraq war, when the U.S. was really showing its strength. Iran was willing to talk about any number of issues, at that moment and seemed the U.S. didn't engage in talks because they were in pursuit of a broader strategy, that being regime change.
It is the unavoidable backdrop to this nuclear issue. When President Bush labeled Iran part of the axis evil, alongside Iraq, and then subsequently led an invasion into Iraq, Iranian officials felt they were next. And they continue to feel, at the core, especially among the hardliners that at the core of the nuclear dispute, is a desire by the West, and the U.S. specifically, for regime change. And that if they give in at all, as we heard the call for suspension as a prerequisite for talks, the fear is that if they give into that other requests will be made. And that it will all come back to regime change, and that is an important element in terms of what we're seeing from the Iranian defiance.
ROBERTS: Joseph Cirincione, also reported on, earlier this week, was this idea that Russia threatening Iran saying if you continue with your nuclear enrichment program we are not going to give you the nuclear fuel that you need to run the Bushar (ph) Nuclear Plant.
Russia, the next day, and Iran both denied that. The White House continues to insist it is true. What do you think?
CIRINCIONE: I think Russia has been telling Iran for sometime that the continuation of the project including this delivery of fuel that would actually help start the reactor at its -- at anticipated time of spring 2007, would be conditioned on Iran resolving the issue over its nuclear program with the United Nations.
There is also the financial factor involved here. Iran has been behind in payments to Russia. It's now telling Russia to pay them in euros. Russia wants dollars. Part of this is all connected with the sanctions that have had this kind of financial impact on Iran.
It's causing these financial pressures that are now rippling into the diplomatic pressures. I think Russia is on our side here. It's not pure diplomacy; it is also business but this pressure is the kind of thing you want to back Iran into the corner. The trick, as Ray was just saying, is to then offer them a way out. Open a door for them. Have them know that if they begin a process of direct negotiations, it will lead to a normalization of relations, and end to U.S. regime change efforts. It's exactly the opposite of what John Bolton is been preaching, incorrectly, for the last five or six years.
ROBERTS: Ray, quickly if you could, what ultimately will bring about a resolution of this? Action from the United Nations? Pressure from big economic partners like Russia? A combination of the two?
TAKEYH: There's an emerging consensus and I think Joe reflected that. And if there is a Bush administration representative they would say so. That the strategy of pressure is working. The only problem is there is no evidence that it is.
On the proliferation front, Iran seems intransigent. On the issues of terrorism, it is still intent on the destabilization of Lebanon, and certainly the by the administration's own acknowledgment it has becoming mischievous in Iraq. So, I'm not quite sure what the successful evidence is of this successful policy are, but I guess that remains to be seen.
ROBERTS: Another week goes by without resolution. Aneesh Raman, in Tehran, Joe Cirincione, in Phoenix, and Ray Takeyh here in the studio, thanks very much.
Next on THIS WEEK AT WAR, more than 3200 U.S. Service men and women have died in the four-year old Iraq war. We'll look at one New Hampshire family who's mourning the loss of one. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: Funeral services were held last week for Army Specialist Justin Rollins of Newport, New Hampshire. Rollins was killed earlier this month when a roadside bomb detonated near his unit in Sumara, Iraq. The blast killed five other U.S. soldiers. Rollins' father Mitch gave one final farewell to his son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH ROLLINS, FATHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: And now it's my time to say good bye. I will see you soon. And I would like to say, one more time, I love you, Justin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Rollins was scheduled to come home three weeks after the attack. His father said he planned to propose to his girlfriend, Britney, shortly after his return. Specialist Rollins was 22 years old. Straight ahead, questions remain for the family of a pro-football star turned Army hero who died in battle in Afghanistan. Can the uncertainty surrounding Pat Tillman's death finally be put to rest? THIS WEEK AT WAR.
(BEGIN PHOTO MONTAGE, IN REMEMBERANCE OF FALLEN SOLDIERS)
ROBERTS: A week ago I said year five in Iraq was beginning with some promise, an apparent reduction in sectarian violence in Baghdad. Since then, though, two children were reportedly used as decoys in a suicide car bombing in which they were sacrificed. Three more chlorine bombs were detonated in Anbar Province. And Iraq's Sunni deputy prime minister attacked by a suicide bomber, in his own compound.
So much for promise, you say. Who can blame you for thinking that way? U.S. military officials told me that such acts can quickly erase any perception of progress and they don't yet have enough statistics to determine if things are actually changing.
Is the so-called surge really working? It's not my intent to leave you with some kind of cornball cliff hanger this week, but I have to because at this point, we just don't know. So we'll check back again next week.
Turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next WEEK AT WAR. On Monday, the Pentagon issues its report a friendly fire death on the Army Ranger and former NFL star Pat Tillman. Also, on Monday, a House Foreign Relations Sub-Committee debates the U.S. obligation to Iraqi refugees.
And next week, Undersecretary of State Hughes leads a delegation in India to discuss expanding opportunities for Indian students to study in the United States.
Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm John Roberts. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines and then CNN Special Investigations Unit, "Grady's Anatomy." The real-life dramas of residents at Atlanta's Grady Hospital.
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