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Iraq, Afghanistan Actions

Aired July 1, 2007 - 13:00   ET


TOM FOREMAN, ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: The U.S. troop surge is at full speed and taking the fight to insurgents. But the enemy is hitting back with deadly force.
So, what about Iraqi forces? Are they even close to being ready to lead this battle?

THIS WEEK AT WAR, right after a quick look at what's in the news right now.

MELISSA LONG, CNN HEADLINES NEWS, CNN CENTER, ATLANTA: Hello. I'm Melissa Long at the CNN Center in Atlanta with some of the stories that are now in the news.

A dangerous situation in the U.S. heartland. Want to show you some pictures of floodwaters in a town in southeastern Kansas. That's Osawatomie.

Now, officials there are concerned that a swollen creek will top a levee, and they're asking people in that community to evacuate.

There's a new security alert in Glasgow, Scotland. A bomb squad has blown up a suspicious vehicle at a hospital where one of the suspects in Saturday's airport attack is being treated. Police say no explosives were found, but the vehicle is believed to be linked to the airport attack.

More raids and more arrests in the terror investigation in Britain. Five people are now being held in this case. The latest, a man who was arrested in Liverpool after police found a suspicious car at the city's airport. Britain's terror threat level is now at its highest after the Glasgow airport attack and the foiled car bombing plot in London.

On the coast of Maine, a bit to shore up a rocky relationship. Later today, President Bush welcomes Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to the Bush family's Kennebunkport home. Now, the two men have been at odds lately over a number of issues, including U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.

And the space shuttle Atlantis is airborne again, this time, as you see, on the back of a special 747. The shuttle is being ferried back to Florida. Remember that stormy weather forced Atlantis to land in California last week after its two-week mission in space.

We have more news coming for you in 30 minutes. Now, THIS WEEK AT WAR. FORMAN: I'm Tom Foreman, and here is where we are going in THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Nic Robertson is in London, where a terror plot is foiled. But was it just dumb luck? Ed Henry looks at the Bush-Putin summer effort to warm up chilly U.S.-Russian relations.

Ben Wedeman is in the Middle East, where Arab and Israeli leaders are doing whatever they can to quiet the fighting among Palestinians before it spills over into something worse.

A setback in the White House's effort to shore up political support for the war, as prominent Republicans break ranks with President Bush.

But first, Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is following the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, and troubling questions about just how many Iraqi forces are battle-ready - THIS WEEK AT WAR.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the Iraqis struggling, a British aircraft is called in to aid them. The fighter drops a massive 2,000-pound bomb on a house used by the attackers.

But while military officials call the air strike a success, they acknowledge it highlights a major problem for U.S. forces in Iraq.


FOREMAN: The problem, as described by CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, is that, even as U.S. troops fight insurgent strongholds, Iraqi security forces are unable to hold ground on their own, which raises the question of how long before Iraqi troops can handle this job. Months? Years?

Frederik Pleitgen is in our Baghdad bureau, Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon, and in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Stephen Biddle. He's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle."

Frederik, the surge is complete right now. Doesn't this give any more backbone to the Iraqi forces? Aren't they doing any better?

PLEITGEN (on camera): Well, first of all, what the American forces are telling us is that the surge does allow them to do things that they haven't been able to do before.

Now, the operation that we witnessed was one outside of Baghdad, where U.S. forces are basically trying to interdict the insurgents smuggling EFP and IED devices into Baghdad. So, that's one of the main smuggling routes into Baghdad.

And what the U.S. forces are doing there right now is, they're conducting raid operations. They're setting up checkpoints to try and stop insurgents from getting into the Iraqi capital. But then they have to turn those checkpoints over to Iraqi security forces.

And usually, within a matter of hours, those security checkpoints are attacked by insurgents. And very often, the Americans will have to come in again and basically bail out the Iraqis.

So, right now, American forces on the ground tell us that's not something they can really rely on. And, of course, in the long run, that can pose very big difficulties for the U.S. forces here, Tom.

FOREMAN: Well, let's look at the map and get a sense of what we're talking about. As we zoom in, this is really the hot region right now that people are very concerned about, as you move into the middle of the country - Baghdad, and right around here.

And this is where the surge is going in that country, some of the troops going out here to al Anbar - which has been a great success story in many ways - others over here in Baghdad.

Barbara, what does the Pentagon say right now? I've seen a lot of reports that say there are at least encouraging signs.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, THE PENTAGON: Well, there are some encouraging signs. You know, out in the west, in al Anbar province, they're working with some of the local tribal leaders. They're talking to local neighborhood leaders across Baghdad now, trying to see if they can bring them into the fold.

But this whole question of when the Iraqi forces can really take over, hold onto territory, be on their own, remains very problematic. There are estimates it could take another two years. The U.S. has no intention of keeping the current force levels of U.S. troops there for another two years.

And there are some fundamental tasks that the Iraqis are having a lot of problems with - food, fuel, moving around - basically, being able to conduct sustained combat operations. That's what it's going to take, Tom.

FOREMAN: And yet, President Bush said this week that he thought the Iraqis were rising to the task. Take a listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the help of our troops, the Iraqi security forces are growing in number. They're becoming more capable and coming closer to the day when they can assume responsibility for defending their own country.


FOREMAN: Stephen Biddle, even if that is the case, is it happening fast enough? Is this light at the end of the tunnel, or just more confusion?

STEPHEN BIDDLE, SENIOR FELLOW, DEFENSE POLICY, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS, HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA: I don't think it is happening fast enough. I think, if we're relying on the Iraqi security forces to solve the problem by backfilling behind us as we clear neighborhoods and move on, that's not something they're going to be able to do for many, many years to come, if ever.

The problem is not their military proficiency - their training, their equipment, their capacity to resupply themselves. None of those things are perfect, by any means. They're not the 82nd Airborne Division. They're not the U.S. Marines.

The serious, underlying problem, though, is not their proficiency. It's their politics.

Sectarianism is the long pole in the tent of making the Iraqi security forces able to take over for us in Iraq.

FOREMAN: To make sure that people understand that clearly, what you're saying is that the Shia don't want to fight for the Sunni. The Sunni don't want to fight for the Shia. The Kurds don't want to be a part of that.

Everybody's still preparing themselves, in many ways, for what people think will eventually be a civil war.

BIDDLE: Well, that's right.

We like to think that when we build up the Iraqi security forces, we're creating some disinterested, nationalist institution that will defend all Iraqis against a variety of insurgent groups.

What Iraqi Sunnis, in particular, think we we're doing is building up a Shiite militia on steroids and what we think of as this national military institution.

The society within which this military is embedded is being pulled apart into factions. You can't hermetically seal the military from the breakup of the society within which it's embedded.

As the society becomes factionalized among Shiites, Sunnis and the Kurds, so inevitably, the military is going to be, as well.

FOREMAN: And Frederik, there are reports that I keep reading about more neighborhoods feeling somewhat stabilized, making some progress. What do average Iraqis think is happening right now, that it's getting better, or not?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think that most Iraqis basically think that things are staying the same, and have been staying the same for a long time.

But it's interesting what Stephen was saying, because that's actually something that we are really seeing play out on the ground here.

Let me give you one example of what I saw happen this week, as I was moving along a convoy with American soldiers. They were showing me places that their convoys had gotten hit by EFP and IEDs. And they were - and some of these places where the convoys have gotten hit were basically only about 100 yards away from an Iraqi police station.

I asked one of the commanders, how can that happen so close to an Iraqi police station. And he was saying, these people are much more engrained into their society than they actually are into this police force.

So, there's a whole lot more loyalty to your faction, basically, than there is to the police force itself. And that poses a large problem for U.S. troops here - Tom.

FOREMAN: And very quickly, Barbara. The Pentagon is aware of this very much under General Petraeus. There seems to be a sense they want to address that very problem.

Is there optimism at the Pentagon now that they have even a toehold on that? Or are they still feeling their way around?

STARR: Well, it may be a very small toehold, Tom.

What they are seeing are signs of progress in particular areas.

But is it long term? Is it enduring? Is it going to be enough to allow U.S. troops to come?

FOREMAN: We'll just have to see.

Thank you so much, Frederik, Barbara and Stephen, for joining us.

Later this hour, will a summertime summit warm up icy relations between the United States and Russia? A report on the meeting in Maine between Presidents Bush and Putin?

And straight ahead, a foiled terror attack in London. Are we just lucky? Or are we getting better at spotting the danger?

We'll get perspectives from both sides of the Atlantic, THIS WEEK AT WAR.



GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We face a serious and continued security threat to our country. We should allow the police to investigate this incident and then report to us. But this incident does recall the need for us to be vigilant at all times.


FOREMAN: Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, a tough way to start the job. Just two days in, commenting on the latest terror scare in London. Officials say death and damage could have resulted. Are authorities getting lucky or getting better at stopping these potentially deadly incidents.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in London. And here in Washington, Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general for the U.S. Homeland Security Department.

Let me go to you, Nic. What is the basic answer? Are we getting better, or are we getting more lucky?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, LONDON: Specifically in this case, it appears that the police got lucky. There was an ambulance crew attending an incident at a night club. They happened to spot smoke in the vehicle. They called the police. The police discovered the bomb.

So, in that analysis, they got lucky. The broader analysis, the police have been expecting this, but they weren't able to stop it - Tom.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at where we're talking about on the map over here. This really is in the heart of London, the very kind of place, that if it were in the heart of New York or Chicago or L.A. would be very troubled by. These are where the incidents involved were.

Clark Kent Ervin, how should we react to these things? Because the simple truth is, no matter what anybody does, some things like this will happen.


I think, to me, this points up the vulnerability in particular of soft targets like nightclubs, shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants.

One of the ironies here is that, the harder we make things like airports and seaports, the White House, et cetera, hard targets, the more attractive it is for terrorists to attack soft targets like these. The psychic impact would be huge, even though the loss of life might be relatively small.

FOREMAN: Is there any sense that this whole campaign we've had over and over again to say to people, watch out, warn if you see something, that that worked here? You have normal people spotting it and saying there's an issue.

ERVIN: It absolutely did work here.

And, of course, this Fort Dix plot in New Jersey that was foiled a few weeks ago, the same thing. A very alert video operator saw something very disturbing on a video, and then reported that to the authorities.

So, this "See Something, Say Something" campaign that they have in New York City and other cities around the United States can really work. Law enforcement, intelligence officers can't be everywhere. The public can and should be their eyes and ears.

FOREMAN: Nic Robertson, you've just recently been to a conference where they've made a real effort to try to expand the cooperation of worldwide police agencies to look for all the signs of this.

Do you have a sense that there is real progress?

ROBERTSON: There is, certainly, more cooperation in Europe between Europe and the United States. It is certainly viewed that this is a common threat, and that a European country made be used as an entrance for somebody to then move on to the United States or a base from which to attack the United States.

So, there is more sharing, more working together, more understanding of each other's needs.

However, this particular plot, very simple, the bomb, very simple, inexpensive. The delivery mechanism, a vehicle - pick it up anywhere.

The idea of thwarting these attacks because of shared international information is perhaps lost here. This was a very, very apparently simple plot, and no amount of international conversation between different terror officials would perhaps have been able to prevent such an attack as this appeared to be, Tom.

FOREMAN: So, Nic, when you look at all this cooperation, what is it aimed at? Is it aimed at truly stopping the big, huge things like 9/11, and accepting that there will be things like this?

ROBERTSON: Well, there are some threads to these attacks that do span international boundaries. And here, perhaps these would be the terror plotters and the financiers of these types of operations.

Again, this relatively easy to put together, cheap. Therefore, not needing a lot of finance.

Who was behind it? Evidence that has come out in terrorism trials - al Qaeda terrorism trials - here in Britain recently, point to a mastermind in Abdul Hadi. A recent newspaper article by a British newspaper here said that British intelligence had picked up a letter from this Abdul Hadi, telling al Qaeda people in Britain to attack around the time of the handover between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

Now, that in itself not conclusive, but it does show that kind of international cooperation could help capture information that is being transferred internationally, Tom.

FOREMAN: Clark Kent, should we put too much emphasis on these things? Or less, or more? Because the simple truth is, if every single time we get somebody with a car with a bomb near something, we count that as a victory for terrorist forces, we can never win. ERVIN: Well, that's right. The odds are always in the terrorists' favor, Tom, there's no question. There are so many targets. Further, law enforcement officials and intelligence officers have to be right 100 percent of the time. Terrorists have to succeed only once.

So, we have to have a balance between vigilance on the one hand and not hyping things on the other.

I think the lesson to take away from this is that we are still under threat here in this country. And if anything, I think the way the Iraq war is going has only heightened the threat to Great Britain - our greatest ally in the war in Iraq - and to us ourselves.

FOREMAN: Should we think in this country - or in Britain or anywhere else - should we think that we can stop terrorism? Or should we say - like we are with murder, for example - there will be some, no matter what we do?

ERVIN: There's no question but that there will be some. Even if we implemented every counterterrorism measure that I and other security experts have recommended, we could still be hit by a terror attack tomorrow, and we might well be.

So, we can't make ourselves invulnerable to terrorism. We should make ourselves much safer than we presently are. That's the issue.

FOREMAN: Do you hear much more talk of that, Nic, of people in different communities saying, we also have to prepare our populations to say, this is something that's with us? It will be with us a long time.

ROBERTSON: And I think the British population went through that with the IRA campaign on mainland Britain. So, this is a message that they're familiar with. They're hearing it again, but people perhaps not taking it as seriously, because these attacks don't come up so often.

And that's a struggle for the police. They are putting a huge amount of effort into a public awareness campaign, to make people more aware and more ready to provide information that they may see around them and otherwise ignore - Tom.

FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Nic Robertson and Clark Kent Ervin. Good to have you here.

Coming up later in this hour, instability in the Middle East. There are new concerns that the Gaza Strip will become a breeding ground for al Qaeda. What can be done about it?

And straight ahead, can President Bush and Putin put aside their disagreements and see eye-to-eye again during their meeting in Maine?



BUSH: And I told Vladimir that we're looking forward to having him up to my folks' place in Maine, in the beginning of July.


FOREMAN: President Bush speaking during the recent G8 summit about Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to the United States.

The casual atmosphere of Kennebunkport, Maine, may be the perfect setting for a heart-to-heart between the two men. But will it be enough to diffuse tensions on some serious issues?

White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, and here in Washington, Andrew Kuchins, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Russia and Eurasia program.

Well, let's go to you, Ed, first. What do you think the White House wants out of this meeting?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, KENNEBUNKPORT, MAINE: The White House is desperately trying to lower expectations for this so-called summit. It's not even a full summit. It's really almost like a mini-summit. But there's no question that what they hope to get out of it is to sort of calm things down.

On the eve of the G8 summit, the fact that this fight over missile defense and the U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe on Vladimir Putin's front doorstep, basically, really broke out. That fight broke out around the world for everyone to see, and the fact that Mr. Putin basically threatened to aim nuclear weapons at our European allies, if President Bush did not back down. That certainly raised a lot of eyebrows.

And the most important goal of this summit has to be to calm this relationship down.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at the map and the area that we're talking about here.

This is a part of Europe where, what the United States has wanted to do is put in essentially what they all a "missile shield." These are the areas they want to put it. Russia is over to this side over here.

It's not a whole lot. So, the question, Andrew, is, why is Russia about this? Or is this not really the issue?

ANDREW KUCHINS, SR., FELLOW AND DIRECTOR OF RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, the Russians have never been enthusiastic about any missile defense program that we've had in our mind, going back to SDI and Ronald Reagan 25 years ago. In this case, it combines the fact that they're putting the missiles in Poland and the radar in the Czech Republic - two former members of the Warsaw Pact - very close to the Russian border.

The Russians know it's not a threat to their own strategic deterrent, but they don't like it for both of those reasons. And they're concerned about where this system may go and what it could develop into in the future.

FOREMAN: What is really going on here? Because at any given moment, I hear both Russia and the U.S. saying, no, no, everything's fine. And then there's a headline the next day where they're sniping at each other.

KUCHINS: And comparing us to the Third Reich.

Well, one thing that's going on is that there's an election and a succession for Vladimir Putin next spring. And anti-Americanism plays fairly well in Russian public opinion, so I think Putin is playing upon that.

And Putin is also playing upon the fact that, you know, in the 1990s, Russia was down. They were weak. They were agreeing with everything that we said, and they think that we took them for granted, that they we weren't really taking their position seriously.

Now, they're feeling strong again. They're a great power. They should be respected. And so, on a lot of issues that they've been against for a long time, they're much more willing to speak up on them, including missile defense.

FOREMAN: So, Ed, does the White House think Russia is a friend right now, or an enemy, or something else?

HENRY: They do believe that Russia is a friend right now, but they are certainly concerned about the rhetoric - I mean, what you just mentioned about the comparisons that Putin made between the U.S. and the Third Reich.

I spoke to one of Mr. Putin's advisors, and he tried to downplay some of the rhetoric from Mr. Putin. But there's no doubt that that really caught the U.S. by surprise in recent weeks.

And it's pretty dramatic. A sign of how dramatic it is, is the fact that President Bush decided to ask his father to host the summit here in Kennebunkport.

As you know, the White House is very sensitive to the image, you know that daddy is rescuing his son in dealing with a foreign policy crisis, especially given all the problems over Iraq and the pressure this president has faced to bring in his father's former advisors, like James Baker, to try to help him out.

So, the White House is sensitive to that image. And yet, anyway, this president moved forward and asked his father to use the family compound. It shows you the White House, while they think Russia is a friend, they're very concerned about the long-term relationship, Tom.

FOREMAN: Andrew, do you think this is going to make a difference? Because, after all, the senior Bush actually, of all the presidents, was one of the most renowned for great international relations.

KUCHINS: Well, you know, it possibly could, and that Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin do have a - they have a positive chemistry in their personal relationship. And if there's one international leader in the world that Vladimir Putin would be ready to consult and to trust to some extent, it would be George Bush.

He respects the fact that Bush is a man of his word. And Putin, for all of his faults, he does believe in loyalty, to some extent.

And so, I think that they'll use, try to use their personal relationship to turn around the momentum. And I don't think that either of these presidents really wants to have as part of their legacy a trashed U.S.-Russian relationship.

FOREMAN: Don't we both need each other right now, Russia and the U.S.? Because the world doesn't think that highly of either Russia or the U.S. in terms of how we're influencing the world right now.

KUCHINS: Well, they certainly do need each other. I mean, Russia, for us, should be one of our - it's one of our most important bilateral relationships, and certainly in the efforts to deal with the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism.

Let's remember. You know, back in 2001, when we took out the Taliban in Afghanistan, it was support - very important support - from the Russians that helped us to win that effort.

The Russians are kind of bitter, that they feel that, well, you got distracted. You haven't really taken - you haven't really reciprocated that support with us. And Mr. Putin's making that pretty clear with some of the high volume of his rhetoric in the recent months.

FOREMAN: It's an amazing thing - or an amazing turnaround, really - from so many years ago when Russia was the great enemy.

Andrew, Ed, thank you both for being here.

Coming up, the fight for hearts and minds, how the Internet has become a weapon for Iraqi insurgents in the war of images.

Plus, from prime minister to Middle East envoy. Can Britain's Tony Blair help reverse that Middle East meltdown?

Stick with us, THIS WEEK AT WAR.


MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Melissa Long at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I want to make sure you're up to date in the stories that are now in the news.

People fleeing floodwater. People in several Kansas communities are evacuating right now. Officials fear a swollen creek will top a levee. Twelve southeast Kansas counties are under a state of disaster emergency due to the flooding.

Britain is on high alert. Police have blown up a suspicious vehicle at a hospital in Glasgow, Scotland where a suspect in yesterday's airport attack is being treated. Officials saying so explosives were found in that vehicle.

British police have arrested five suspects, including a woman, as part of their investigation into the attacks on the Glasgow Airport and Friday's two failed car bombings in London. Authorities say they believe the attacks are linked.

And those attacks are not keeping Brits from several high-profile weekend events. London is hosting a charity concert in honor of the late Princess Diana as well as a gay pride march and the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

And in the U.S. President Bush is preparing for a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He arrives this afternoon at the Bush family's home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Protesters are already gathering there. The two leaders will likely discuss Iran and the U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe. More news for you at the top of the hour. Now back to THIS WEEK AT WAR.

FOREMAN: Hamas' military victory in Gaza prompted an urgent meeting this week among moderate Arab leaders and the Israeli prime minister. They tried to bolster support for the new Fatah-led Palestinian government to figure out how to isolate the radical Islamic group.

Are the prospects for a united Palestinian state becoming even more elusive? And can a new envoy find success where so many have failed before? Here with me is Daniel Levy, he is the director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation and in our Jerusalem bureau, CNN's Ben Wedeman is standing by.

On Thursday, Ben interviewed the new Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, on his top priority for the territories.


SALAM FAYYAD, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER: Security. Law and order for the Palestinian people. That is the most important thing. As a matter of highest priority we should first ensure what happened in Gaza will not spill over in the West Bank.


FOREMAN: Law and order. Keeping what happened in Gaza from spilling over. Ben, does he have any chance of doing that?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is going to be a difficult job, Tom, because already we've heard Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president saying that he has dissolved the Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, which is the military wing in his own movement and many of their senior figures in the Aqsa Martyr's Brigade have said no, we will not voluntarily dissolve, so he's already got serious problems within the ranks of his own movement and we're still not even talking about Hamas, so it's a tall order. It's going to be very difficult to achieve.

FOREMAN: I want to turn to the map here. Because this can be such a confusing thing for people to understand. As we move in, here is Israel, we have got Gaza down here, this is the area we're talking about, which effectively now is being run by Hamas. And over here we have the West Bank, which is effectively being run by Fatah.

Let me ask you this, Daniel. Is the government, is Fatah essentially conceding right now Gaza is out of our hands, we can't deal with that, we have to hold on to what we've got?

DANIEL LEVY, FORMER ISRAELI GOVERNMENT ADVISER: In the very, very short term, yes, but that can't last for long. We're still talking about a two-state solution. Not three states. Not one state. That brings you have to bring ultimately the West Bank and Gaza together. One of the most interesting things at that Sharam (ph) summit of the leaders you referred to was that the Egyptian president said we'll have to go back for working for Palestinian unity. People don't like to hear it, but ultimately the deep division on the Palestinian side won't advance the two-state solution.

And somehow those two sides are going to have to come back together again.

FOREMAN: It seems like the Palestinians have plenty of enemies in the world without being enemies to themselves. And yet that's what they're doing right here, aren't there?

LEVY: They're being enemy toss themselves, unfortunately, and of course it's still primarily a Palestinian responsibility, unfortunately we don't come to this with clean hands, either. The external community, America, Israel on the one hand, others such as Iran on the other, have encouraged this division. We need to go back to promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, not conflict between Palestinians and Palestinians. That's been a mistake to drive one side home against the other, I think.

FOREMAN: Ben Wedeman, is there any hope among the Palestinian people that this can be worked out that way?

WEDEMAN: Well, there are optimists and many people say it's not really a split between Fatah and Hamas which has happened. It's really Hamas going after this group led by Mohammad Dahalan (ph), who is a senior security adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, who is essentially the favored individual among the Palestinians in Gaza, and that there are already contacts, I know from senior Fatah, as well as Hamas officials between the two factions to try to isolate Dahalan group and bring together the rest of the two factions, because many Palestinians realize that this current situation cannot go on for much longer. Eventually the Palestinians are going to have to join ranks again if there's any possibility for approaching Israel in a meaningful peace process.

FOREMAN: And Daniel, very simply, what is in this for the U.S.? Why would the average person watching this show in the United States care?

LEVY: I don't expect the average person watching this show to go and read the 70-odd pages of the Iraq Study Group report, for instance. Were they to do that, they would see that a significant chunk of the report is about the way different things that happen in the region are interconnected. If you want to restore America's credibility, if you want to be able to ask your allies to take a leadership role and to actually do some heavy lifting in the region and if one wants to push back al Qaeda radicalism, then the Israeli Palestinian conflict is absolutely central to all of that.

As long as this is collapsing, deteriorating and America is getting a fair chunk of the blame, people in the region are going to be more angry, and it affects your security here.

FOREMAN: All right, Daniel, one of the solutions has been proposed now, certainly by the quartet now, these big powers, is Tony Blair. He's out of prime minister, but now they want him to be the envoy to go down and help solve this issue. Is he the right guy?

LEVY: Tony Blair brings incredible talent, capacity, stature to this position. It will be very difficult. Let's remember something. Tony Blair achieved some really remarkable breakthroughs in Northern Ireland. Now how did he do that? One of the things that he did was he brought the militants into the process. The people who were the terrorists who we couldn't deal with, etc, were the people who are now sitting in a shared Northern Irish government with the unionists, with the Protestants. So he brought in the militants.

Now the other things to remember is that although the mandate of Tony Blair focuses mainly on the economics -- and he should pursue that, sooner rather than later, we will all understand there are political issues here. And to achieve a stable Palestinian state alongside Israel, we're going to need to know where does Palestine begin and end? Where is the border? Where does Israel begin and end? What happens to settlements? Security, et cetera.

So he's going to have to deal with the political issues if he wants to be successful.

FOREMAN: Ben, very briefly here, how well can he do with Hamas, where leaders of Hamas have already said, hey, this is one of the chief guys in the Iraq War, we don't like him, they already don't trust him.

WEDEMAN: Well, that's what some of the leaders of Hamas are saying, but others of them are more pragmatic. If they can see that Tony Blair can make progress, will make progress, they may in fact respond positively, but so far Tony Blair's mandate has been fairly narrow. It's all about repairing and improving, developing Palestinian institutions. There really hasn't been a lot of talk of a broad mandate for Tony Blair to work under the umbrella of the Quartet to resume the peace process. So there's skepticism on all sides, but Hamas hasn't necessarily written him off all together.


FOREMAN: We'll see what happens. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much in Jerusalem, Daniel Levy, right here, appreciate your time.

Coming up later this hour, influential Republican senators break with the president on his Iraq policy. Is it more evidence that the tide is turning against the war?

And straight ahead, fighting the online propaganda war, a new report outlines how the U.S. can beat the insurgents. That's next on THIS WEEK AT WAR.


FOREMAN: Insurgents in Iraq have been making their mark with IEDs and other guerrilla tactics but another powerful weapon in their arsenal is the Internet. We've talked about it many times here, insurgents are using it to wage and win the war of images.

Our senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr is at the CNN Center. And here in Washington, Daniel Kimmage of Radio Free Europe, you've just completed a big study on this, how much impact are they having? And how?

DANIEL KIMMAGE, RADIO FREE EUROPE: Well, they're having an enormous impact, because they're able to reach a much larger audience by getting Internet images and text to people who are media professionals in the Arab World, and then it goes out to an audience of millions. So it's certainly having an impact.

FOREMAN: Do you think it's going out unfiltered through these mainstream media organs?

KIMMAGE: Sometimes it does go out unfiltered. Sometimes it goes out filtered but there are times when a tape will be played unedited on al Jazeera, and you get a amplification propaganda effect through that.

FOREMAN: And you're suggesting it's really reaching a lot of sort of mainstream folks in the Arab world. Octavia, you tend to disagree with that, saying it's reaching more of a fringe element?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN ARAB AFFAIRS EDITOR: You have to look at this in the big picture. You can't look at it in isolation. If you watch insurgency media, they say wow, they have press releases, they have weekly magazines, monthly notices and so forth, they have video, so forth. But in the big picture of Arab media, very little of this stuff is being seen and supported. I monitor sites all the time and I don't see much following to these messages. They have a target audience, they go after it. They do strike a chord with their extreme fundamentalist audience, but not much with mainstream. It doesn't look like it.

FOREMAN: But isn't it possible, Daniel, that what is set up here, even if they don't reach people individually, that they help set the tone of coverage, so that every insurgent victory looks big, everything done by the coalition looks small?

KIMMAGE: I agree with Octavia that maybe it doesn't strike a chord, but there are certainly are media outlets where some of the message does get through and it's amplified. So what you have is a niche media product that goes out and occasionally it gets amplification, but in some cases that's all they're looking for, they want to reach that audience of millions, even if it's once a month.

FOREMAN: What about the advantages of this to us? You write about the idea that we may not be able to stop this, because it's the Internet, but there are advantages to the fact that they're throwing information out there all the time. What are they?

KIMMAGE: Well, the two main advantages are that first of all, a lot of the insurgent groups and jihadist, they're airing their dirty laundry in public. We have access to an enormous library of statements. And number two, we know what's happening. This is sort of open source ideology material.

FOREMAN: I've noticed they've had like arguments online where ...

KIMMAGE: Absolutely.

FOREMAN: ... one side will say, should we attack a civilian target, and another one says no. You're saying you think we can exploit that?

KIMMAGE: I think it's very valuable information for everyone here and in the Arab World who doesn't want to see the spread of these violent ideologies. It's enormous insight.

FOREMAN: Octavia, do you buy that? Or do you think we've done a good job exploiting that yet?

NASR: I think that's what you see when you monitor these media. You notice that for example there are more than one insurgency groups working inside Iraq. You notice that have the jihadists, and then you have the nationalists, for example, fighting. This is something that research that Radio Free Europe touched on. And I think they did a very good job with that.

It explains that you're not dealing with one group. It's not al Qaeda, for example, only. It's hundreds of groups. Sometimes they agree on something, most of the time they don't agree on ...

FOREMAN: Octavia, with that said, with so many different groups, very briefly, do you think it can be exploited? Or are there just too many voices speaking at once?

NASR: Too many voices at once, and also anyone with a computer can set up Web sites right now. Basically, if you look at all those Web sites, you're going to see that they probably used the same software or maybe a couple of them. They all look alike. They have the same messages from the same people, the same rhetoric.

It's really something that's amazing. Anyone with a computer and camera can go out and shoot an attack, bring it, post it online, and then hundreds of others will take it and post it again. The most important thing here, when people watch this stuff, do they believe it, do they buy it? Do they join in or do they shut up and say, uh, propaganda.

FOREMAN: Daniel, final word here. Some al Qaeda leaders have said in fact the media war is more important than the physical war. Do you think it still is to them and are they winning that one?

KIMMAGE: I think it certainly is to them. And the great question, as Octavia touched on is, to millions who see this, does it gain supporters or does it discredit them? Let's hope it discredits them.

FOREMAN: All right. Daniel, thank you so much for coming in. Octavia as well.

Straight ahead, public support for the Iraq War hits a new low in America and it's dragging the president and Congress down with it. We'll examine the trends THIS WEEK AT WAR. Stick with us.


FOREMAN: A dramatic turn of events this week as two influential Republican senators call for a change of course in Iraq, breaking ranks with the president's war strategy. Can the president stand firm from mounting pressure within his own party, or is this the tipping point in the war?

Ed Henry joins us once again from Kennebunkport, Maine, and with me here in the studio, A.B. Stoddard, she is an associate editor at "The Hill" newspaper. Ed, let me go to you first. How much is the White House really feeling the pressure of the war now?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Publicly they're trying to make it like it's not a big deal that Dick Lugar came out like he did this week, but the fact of the matter is privately they know time is running out quickly now, because it's no longer about Democratic pressure. The Democrats on the Hill struggling to change the direction of the war.

Now you have very senior Republicans like Lugar, like George Voinovich, who are saying we can't wait until that progress report in September that the White House had been using to buy time. That report from General Petraeus. Instead these Republicans are saying you need to change course now. They're not going to change course right now but that pressure is undoubtedly going to force them to shift gears a lot faster than they wanted to.

FOREMAN: If you look at the numbers, the president's progress and support has directly tracked all along with favoring the war. Favoring the war back in 2003, 72 percent, it plunges all the way down to 30 percent. Look what happened with the president around the same period of time. He started out around 71 percent, plunged all the way down here to about 32 percent in just as a note here, casualties in the war back when it started, about 65 at the beginning there in the early stages, up, up, up it's gone to now about 3,570, something like that. A.B., let me ask you about this, the president is, no matter what he does, defined by this war?

A.B. STODDARD, "THE HILL": He is. This war has been officially unpopular and a huge problem since 2005. We're into year three of talking about moving troops around, reducing them. This has been defined as George Bush's war. And his popularity is directly tied. As you see him scramble for a legacy on immigration reform and other matters, it's because he knows that his legacy is the Iraq War.

FOREMAN: It is entirely fair for it to be entirely his legacy, though? Because look at this. This is Congress in the same period of time, 58 percent, they started below the president, now Congress approval is down at 24 percent, they are even worse off than he is.

STODDARD: Because of the unpopularity of this war after the last election when the Democrats were elected to take over the Congress, there's high expectation from voters on the new Democratic majority that they will change course in the war and not only from Democratic voters, they of course have not changed course in the war, they've debated it a lot, and during six months in power, they haven't wrapped up any domestic - any legislative accomplishments.

FOREMAN: Harry Reid keeps saying he's going to throw more proposals out there, but even he's admitting they are not going to go anywhere.

STODDARD: They have not changed course with the war. They've let the president run this war. We've seen this for six months. They stood up to him rhetorically, but when the votes came down, they didn't put their money where their mouth is. There's disappointment from the anti-war left, but disappointment across the board. Voters are paying attention. They want to see some kind of ethics reform, immigration reform, some accomplishments or change in the course in Iraq and they're seeing neither.

FOREMAN: Ed, when the White House looks at this whole situation, there was all this talk that we were going to wait till September and see what General Petraeus said. Now there seems to be all this talk of saying, no, no, we can't even wait, we have to decide now. Is that disheartening to the White House? Do they think it's a bad plan? What do you make of that?

HENRY: It has to be disheartening. And to pick up on what A.B. was saying, the difference now heading into the fall could be the fact that Democrats kept coming up short in recent months just from a mathematical standpoint. They had almost all the Democrats on board, but they just did not have enough votes to change the direction of the war. And what Harry Reid has been saying over and over, is if he can start getting more Republicans to vote with them on some of these things, they can finally force the president's hand.

Well, look, what Dick Lugar and other Republicans are saying, is look, we've been voting with the president all along but no longer.

And they haven't specific about what they'll vote against him on, but let's face it, come September, the White House delayed a funding fight for a few months, but in September the check is going to come due again and they are going to have another brutal spending battle for more money for the war.

If people like Dick Lugar, and also watch other senior Republicans like John Warner of Virginia, if they start raising more reservations, and if they start voting against the president, all of a sudden, Harry Reid will start having that majority he's been looking for, the super-majority of 60 votes to really push back on the White House.

FOREMAN: A.B., they all said they were going to wait until September. Why aren't they waiting? Why are they steaming ahead?

STODDARD: What's dramatic about Dick Lugar's statement is this, he has made his reservations known to the White House. I think if he felt if he had been heard, if he was being listened to, he never would have taken to the Senate floor with this speech. Dick Lugar, he is above partisan skirmishes. He doesn't play these kinds of games. This is a sign that he didn't feel he was being listened to. And he's actually not defecting to the Democratic side. He's asking Bush to lead on this. He's saying there's one more ball in our court.

FOREMAN: But that doesn't answer the question, though. Why aren't both sides doing what they said they would do, wait and see what General Petraeus says about the surge.

STODDARD: Because they feel no more progress is going to be made.

FOREMAN: That's sort of self-fulfilling, isn't it, Ed, if you say we're going to wait till September but now we won't wait? Of course no progress is made.

HENRY: Well, that's what the White House has been saying and that's why they've been pleading for time and for everyone to wait until September in both parties. Again, the difference is that they were able to push back on the Democrats for a long time, but now the dam may be breaking if more and more Republicans are saying look, we just can't wait, because they're watching the TV every day, seeing the casualties mount and they're tired of it.

And Dick Lugar did go to the president privately in early January in the Oval Office and express some of these concerns. And if you go back from January until now, Dick Lugar has given the White House five, six months to try to turn this around. So in his eyes, he's actually given them a lot of time, a lot of patience, and he's just not seeing the facts on the ground. The president gave yet another speech this week touting progress on the ground, but people like Dick Lugar are saying the facts on the ground just don't match the rhetoric anymore, Tom.

FOREMAN: And in fairness all these congressmen, they have to go home and meet all their constituents over the summer. It will be a tough time for them. Ed, A.B. Thank you both very, very much.

If you want to ask the presidential hopefuls about the war in Iraq, this is your chance. Next month, CNN and YouTube will host the first live interactive presidential debates. Submit your videotaped questions at

But first, let's pause and tack at look at some of those who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.


FOREMAN: As we wrap it up, I wanted to point out a quote from the president. "We should never despair. Our situation has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust it will again."

Those words were written to a general fighting in the war. The Revolutionary War. The president was George Washington. They are worth remembering as we celebrate our nation's birthday this week. Not to draw any direct comparisons to the situation in Iraq. Simply to remind ourselves that we have fought many conflicts over many years and for all the debates here in Washington, no one really knows how this war will end until it is over.

Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines then CNN's SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT, "Battlefield Breakdown."