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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Week's War-Related Events Reviewed
Aired August 18, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: Four simultaneous truck bombs explode and two small Iraqi villages are blown apart, smashed flat with hundreds dead, more buried in the rubble and survivors streaming into hospitals wounded and grieving. It was the bloodiest terrorist attack in almost five years of a very bloody war. There may well be progress being made in Iraq, but in this week at war, it is pretty hard to see. More after a quick look at what's in the news right now.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in your hurricane headquarters with the latest on hurricane Dean, category four storm with maximum winds of 150 miles per hour. The outer bands now are just lashing Hispaniola, which is the island comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They're receiving tropical storm force wind gusts between say 40 and 74 miles per hour gusts. The rain bands moving on shore, but I assure you they extend farther than this. We only have Doppler radar to show you out of Puerto Rico. It doesn't quite reach all the way over there, because it is a mountainous state.
We are very worried about the rainfall and it could be heavy at times, up to 10 inches causing flooding conditions and mudslides. After that we'll watch the storm to move up to the west-northwest towards Jamaica, possibly taking a direct hit here, Sunday afternoon and evening, then up towards the Yucatan and intensifying. It could be a category five storm, still iffy as to whether or not this will hit the U.S. mainland. If you live in Texas, you need to be on high alert. I'll have more in one half hour. Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: I'm Tom Foreman and here is where we stand in THIS WEEK AT WAR. U.S./Iranian relations getting worse. We'll ask Robin Wright at the "Washington Post" what the fallout will be if the U.S. labels the entire elite military force of Iran a terrorist group. The war on the Taliban looking better. Barbara Starr in the Pentagon on how a NATO offensive and Pakistani military attacks are putting the squeeze on insurgents there. The battle for Iraq's Diyala River valley could go either way. CNN's Michael Ware goes on patrol to answer the question, will the tactics that worked in al Anbar succeed in this al Qaeda stronghold?
God's warriors, Christiane Amanpour looks at the rise in activist conservative Christians and their intensifying battle with American culture. But first, it's been a bad week in the war for Iraq. We'll go to Baghdad and ask CNN's Arwa Damon where we're headed when the terrorists are doing more and more and the politicians less and less. THIS WEEK AT WAR. It seems that if all of Washington is now in the month-long countdown to mid-September when General Petraeus is scheduled to give his report on progress in Iraq. But will it really make any difference? A new poll shows that more than half of Americans don't believe he's going to tell them what's really going on anyway. Are they wrong to be so cynical or is military success in Iraq really just a pipe dream? Arwa Damon is with us now in our Baghdad bureau. Retired Lieutenant General William Odom now with the Hudson Institute is here in the studio and Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institution are all here with us now to talk this over. Let me start with you, Arwa. Big events, big explosions in northern Iraq this week. How was that received in Baghdad?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, you can just imagine. Everyone is utterly horrified. Even though Iraqis are very used to violence, this was the deadliest attack since this war began at the hands of insurgents. You've got local authorities saying that some 500 people have died. You've got the Iraqi central government confirming at least 400 deaths, but that aside, this is everybody's worst fear come true at a time when you're hearing from the United States and from senior Iraqi politicians that things are getting better in Iraq and they look at an attack like what we saw taking place there in northern Iraq. They look at their own lives and they just don't see that happening.
FOREMAN: Let's look at the map. This did indeed happen way up in northern Iraq, not where we've seen a lot of the trouble before near the Kurdish region. And it was targeting a group that is largely without much support in Iraq. So General Odom, what should we take of this? Is this a true counterbalance to the progress that some people claim? Or is this evidence of continuing chaos?
LT. GEN. WILLIAM ODOM, U.S. ARMY (RET): It's evidence of continuing chaos. It also shows the insurgency has the capability to spread the war out. The surge was sold as a strategy when in fact it was a tactic to pack a lot of troops into the Baghdad area. You could see, obviously, that the rest of the country is pretty much left open to the insurgents to stir up things where they want to. So this is sort of predictable. What you're seeing there will be repeated even if things were to level out between the Sunnis and the Shiites. You'll see similar kinds of things even more bloody between the Kurds and the Iraqis, the Arabs, when they decide to fight over the oil in Kirkuk and that area.
FOREMAN: Michael, as bad as this event is, do you buy that assessment?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm a little more optimistic, but obviously on a week like this, the first thing to do is to express condolences and recognize there is a huge way to go. I was in Mosul, for example, a large city up north a few weeks ago. Colonel Twitty (ph) of the U.S. Army was briefing us as he has done publicly since, talking about how the reduction in the number of attacks per day is about 50 percent over the last few months up there. It doesn't mean that it is anything close to what it needs to be. Iraq is still a very violent country. But this week's events notwithstanding, the overall trajectory of the last few months is in the right direction. It still is not nearly enough even on its own terms. And certainly when you combine that with a lack of political progress, we're nowhere near stability. But I still hope and pray that this week's tragedy was a bit of a blip on an otherwise positive trajectory in the right direction.
FOREMAN: General, one of the suggestions has been that when have you a big push like this, it is a sign of desperation of those that are being pushed that they will try to mount one big attack to make it look like everything's failing. What's wrong with thinking at it that way?
ODOM: That's not what's happening.
FOREMAN: How do you know?
ODOM: You're seeing much more sophisticated tactics. You're seeing better capabilities on the part of the insurgents, particularly south of Baghdad. You're seeing the Iranians put in lots of capabilities because they are preparing to raise the heat even higher if we attack them which we're making noises about doing. So if you take an overall strategic view, I don't see any reason for optimism whatsoever. Just take a larger view. This has never been done in an Arab country before successfully. The idea that there's any historical precedent for coming out of this with a regime that will be pro U.S. and consolidated, just boggles the mind. Furthermore, if there is a way to stabilize Iraq, it's to take the revolution all the way around, side with the Sunnis against the Shiites, let them win, repress the Kurds, and get out. Now --
FOREMAN: But that's an option that political leaders here said they won't do.
ODOM: But that's where things are headed.
FOREMAN: Let me raise an interesting point here that was raised this week by Major General Rick Lynch. He was talking about the success with getting Sunnis in part of the country to side with Americans. He said, they could flip back tomorrow -- meaning against American forces -- and the only thing that's going to keep them from flipping back is the government of Iraq. Michael, do you see progress yet on that government? There were some multi-group meetings this week, a sense of maybe there's some movement. What do you see now?
WARE: There's not a lot of movement Tom. There's been some discussion that there's some grassroots cooperation in certain individual provinces across sectarian lines. That is encouraging. What's happening in Baghdad is not encouraging. I'm not sure we have to meet every one of the 18 benchmarks by a given date. But at a minimum, Baghdad needs to let the provinces further this process of local reconciliation by for example passing a provincial powers act and allowing new provincial elections. Those sorts of things may be every bit as important as an oil law or reforms, debaathification because if that happens, at least Baghdad can get out of the way, ship the resources to the provinces and let them do more of the hard work, which is the one positive thing we're hearing on the political front. FOREMAN: Arwa, do the Iraqi people on the street believe that their political leaders there are making any progress or do they really want progress on the political front?
DAMON: Tom, the Iraqis put quite simply think that their government is utterly useless, ineffective and does not have the best interests of the nation at heart. Of course, they want to see some sort of political progress. Iraqis want just anything to happen to get them out of their current way of life. But there is very little faith in this current government, even if we look at this so-called summit that took place this week. It really resulted in just Shia and Kurdish leaders signing a piece of paper. The Sunnis were not even a part of it. They boycotted that process as well. Essentially all that the Shias and the Kurds have done is agreed to everything that they'd agreed to a year ago when this government right around the time this government was beginning to form. Nothing is happening here politically whatsoever. And until that begins to change, the nation is not going to move forward. And everybody here is fully aware of that.
FOREMAN: So Arwa, are people there just bracing for an all-out civil war?
DAMON: Well, people will tell you that if U.S. troops withdraw any time soon, that is exactly what is going to happen. There are also grave concerns right now that the U.S. by fighting now alongside the Sunni insurgents, having the Sunni insurgents come over to the American side, although that is more the result of an al Qaeda failure rather than America developing an ability to win over Sunni hearts and minds, that the United States is just laying down the building blocks for what many people are calling an inevitable civil war. And on the one side you're going to have the U.S. and the Sunnis and on the other side, you're going to have the Shias backed by Iran.
FOREMAN: Michael just very quickly here at the end though, you still don't believe that it is inevitable that that's what's going to happen.
WARE: There are a couple ways it could be avoided. One is a soft partition concept where you actually have three autonomous regions. That's not very likely to be attempted, but it could work, I think. A second way is that if we stay long enough with 50,000 to 75,000 forces, we can stay in the most ethnically and sectarianly charged areas and help prevent that kind of violence. It's going to mean, unfortunately, a sustained American presence. Lower numbers, fewer casualties but no immediate withdraw not even in the next couple years.
FOREMAN: I'll give you the final word briefly General.
ODOM: I find that totally incredible. I put it almost in the category of too ridiculous to refute. We're sitting on a civil war. We're not even framing the structure of the fight out there properly. This is a civil war going on now. We're kind of participating on one side and then the other. And to get out and let it come to its logical conclusion and one side win, you're going to have violence. We started this by knocking off Saddam, who kept order. Once you knocked him off, this was in the cards. There was no way to prevent it.
FOREMAN: We'll have to knock off our talk for now. Thank you, General, Michael, Arwa for all of your insights.
Later we'll tell you about a military tribute for a guy whose name we guarantee will ring a bell.
And straight ahead, CNN's Michael Ware takes us to the front lines where paratroopers are facing off with al Qaeda in the Diyala River valley, a fascinating report. Stick around for that.
But first, as long as there have been photographers, war has provided many of the most vivid, unforgettable images. Just think of Matthew Brady's pictures out of Gettysburg. So we've decided each week to bring you a few of the pictures taken by combat photographers. An anonymous photographer captures the agony of a woman injured in the terrible truck bombings in northwest Iraq as she's brought to a hospital (INAUDIBLE). Peter David Joseph snapped this image of Oman Abid (ph), the name used by a former insurgent now fighting with U.S. troops against al Qaeda in west Baghdad. Joseph also caught a soldier from Van Nuys, California, taking a lunch break in the hatch of his armored vehicle, safe for a moment inside the walls of Baghdad's camp liberty.
And not all pictures of war of course are taken on the battlefield. In North Mancato (ph), Minnesota, John Cross took this picture, Charles Thompson laying a hand on his son's casket as Army Staff Sergeant Jacob Thompson stops for the last time at his family home. We'll be right back.
FOREMAN: It's all well and good to discuss the war in Iraq from here in Washington, to look at the big picture battle plans and intricate political arguments, but to really understand it, someone has to go out there, out with the troops on the frontlines. This week Michael Ware did just that. He went to the Diyala River valley known as the DRV. It is over in this side of the country, the eastern part of the country. That's where al Qaeda once ran a mini-state, everything from a police force to courts that operated under religious law. Before we get into our discussion, take a look at some of his report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: (INAUDIBLE) in the Iraqi capital dominates public attention. The DRV is at the heart of al Qaeda's military operations. And in recent months, U.S. forces have been battling to take this valley. Flooding it with paratroopers, much of the fight for the DRV now rests with this man, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Pappas of the 573rd airborne squadron. Of his 300 plus men, 21 have been killed, most here in the valley.
(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: And back from his imbed in the DRV valley, Michael Ware joins us from our Baghdad bureau. Michael, what do you see out there right now? Are we making progress or not?
WARE: Well, progress is a many varied thing, Tom. I mean, in one sense, militarily, are U.S. forces currently putting pressure on the al Qaeda network in the province of Diyala? Yes, absolutely. Their hierarchy, their structures right now are under strain. And they've since been dispersed. Part of that has become because America is finally able to commit some forces to these regions. I mean the DRV has been an al Qaeda stronghold for years. It has been relatively untouched. And it is only now that the military's been able to go in and reclaim that valley.
But there's also other problems as well. Military, yeah, they've pushed al Qaeda out. But we find in that valley, like in most of the countryside, it's now been ethnically cleansed or segregated by sectarian faith. It is now either pure Sunni or pure Shia villages. And these are small examples of the DRV. Recently a Sunni battalion of the Army arrived from Fallujah and the Sunni villages celebrated. Why? Because the police force is Shia and it has been linked to deaths of a number of their sheikhs and an untold number of their young men. So they want the army to stand up against their own police. That's the sectarian divide we're leaving behind.
FOREMAN: So that speaks to the notion we started this show with, that some people believe that we're already in the early stages of a civil war and that's part of what's happening in Diyala.
WARE: We have to be kidding if we think at this stage that we can still be debating whether there's a civil war or not. I mean, that's beyond the pale now. I mean, on any textbook definition or political scientist definition of civil war, you have that, right now, here in this country, now, maybe boiling away at a certain temperature, bubbling to a certain degree. The real point is once you draw down U.S. forces below say 100,000 or 75,000, that's simply enough troops just to protect the Americans themselves. The civil war will erupt of its own accord in and around these troops. There it will reach a boiling point where it will bubble over the top of the pot. There is a civil war now. And the building blocks are well and truly in place for a much more Lebanon-style civil war once U.S. forces draw down, be it this year or next.
FOREMAN: We know you'll keep track of all that's going on in Diyala and the rest of the country. Thanks so much Michael for your time.
Straight ahead, you might remember a place named Tora Bora and if you do, it's probably as a place where the United States military failed on a crucial mission. More on what's happening there this week in just a moment.
But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Army Specialist Eric Salinas was killed earlier this month by an IED as he patrolled in Baghdad. This week in (INAUDIBLE), Texas, more than 200 family members and friends came to pay their final respects. As always, the carefully folded American flag was given to his family, his mother, his father and his four-year-old son Anthony, followed by the traditional gun salute. Family members say he was looking forward to raising his son and working to buy his mother a house. Salinas was scheduled to return home just next month, just days before his 26th birthday.
FOREMAN: Tora Bora, a remote mountain region on the Afghan side of the Afghan/Pakistan border. It was the last known location of Osama bin Laden after the defeat of the Taliban in 2001. Now almost six years later, al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are again dug into the caves and ridges of Tora Bora and once again U.S. troops are going in to dig them out. Will they be more successful this time? That's the question. CNN military correspondent Barbara Starr is at her post at the Pentagon. With me in the studio Michael Scheuer, now a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, but in 2001, one of the CIA's top agents in pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Barbara, first of all, what's going on at Tora Bora as we speak?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Tom, it's really remarkable. The U.S. is back there, the Taliban are back there. What officials tell us is several weeks ago, they noticed a massing of Taliban forces, maybe 100, as many as 200 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters back in those mountains. They've been keeping an eye on it, now they've decided, as you say, to go in and dig them out. The question is the Taliban capability. They can still amass forces. They still may be planning, officials say, for some type of high profile attack. In the last few weeks they've staged several raids against U.S. fire bases, going right for defense lines, trying to breach and get into a U.S. fire base. They aren't giving up any time soon it appears. So the U.S. is chasing them down yet again.
FOREMAN: It is worthwhile considering the history of the Taliban. It was formed back in 1994 by clerics and students, many are former mujahadin (ph). In 1996, they offered refuge, formed an alliance with bin Laden. In 1996 to 2001, the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan including the capital Kabul. Then in October 2001, the U.S. attacked the Taliban following the September 11th attacks and they were toppled. And in December of 2001, they were out of power. But, Michael, they retreated to Tora Bora and that's where everybody said we should have gotten Osama bin Laden, but we didn't.
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FMR. CIA SENIOR OFFICER: No, we had the chance to get him there and we didn't do it. We used the Afghans instead of the U.S. military. The battle at Tora Bora now is just an example of the spreading insurgency in Afghanistan. We're fighting them in the south. Now we're fighting them near Kabul. Some Germans got killed in Kabul the other day. So we're really facing a growing insurgency in Afghanistan and we have far too few troops on the ground to counter it.
FOREMAN: On the map, you can see that this is Afghanistan. This is Pakistan over here. This is what used to be controlled by the Taliban basically the whole country. Then they got pushed back, driven down to where at one point we really felt like we sort of had it isolated in the Tora Bora region down here. How did they hold on so long? Did we just not finish the job?
SCHEUER: We hardly started the job, sir. We killed very few of the enemy. We let them go home with their weapons, let al Qaeda go home into Pakistan with its weapons and now they're back. They probably outnumber American forces on the ground if you take the totality of the country.
FOREMAN: So Barbara, do we see this current action in Tora Bora as an isolated limited action or is this a big front in a big war?
STARR: Well, you know, hard to say. Limited at the moment, but there is that bigger picture, Tom. Because of course just across the border in Pakistan, still the U.S. has no idea how many Taliban, how many al Qaeda well dug into that Pakistani frontier area, rearming, training, equipping, continuing to be ready and continuing to come across the border and fight U.S. troops on the Afghan side. There is a long way to go here. And I think Michael really raises the question, is if this is now an insurgency, which many U.S. commanders call it, how does the U.S. really begin to deal with this?
FOREMAN: Michael how do you thing we will begin to deal with it?
SCHEUER: I don't think we will sir. I think we'll eventually find a face-saving way to get out. When Mr. Obama last week spoke about two more brigades for Afghanistan, that is 6,000 troops. It would bring us up to 36,000. Don't consider any discussion serious unless we're talking about half a million troops in Afghanistan.
FOREMAN: How do we have a face-saving way to get out when we have so many intelligence reports saying that if we step out of Iraq, step out of Afghanistan precipitously, that they will become breeding grounds for troubles that will come visit us?
SCHEUER: Well, they're there now, sir. It is not a question of if it will happen. It is happening now. Whether we stay or whether we go from those two countries, they're going to come after us in the United States.
FOREMAN: Isn't that a huge argument for at least not running away from it?
SCHEUER: We shouldn't run away from it, but we should be realistic. We have lots of aircraft carriers and lots of submarines. We don't have a lot of troops. The idea that anyone thought they could control Afghanistan which is the size of Texas with 30,000 troops, a person of that description ought to be hospitalized.
FOREMAN: Barbara, how much do you hear talk at the Pentagon of people saying OK, however we got into these various things, these are concerns for the world community and the world's armies should be joining more in these efforts?
STARR: Well, I think that's a feeling of a lot of U.S. commanders. They think that the U.S. military is really bearing most of the burden in both of these wars that, you know, you hear commanders continue to say Tom is none of these wars are going to be won by the U.S. military. They're insurgencies. They are ideological movements. They are going to be won by fighting on that ideological front and that means other countries. It means diplomacy. It means economics. It means financial sanctions and incentives and perhaps that is something many U.S. commanders believe the world really hasn't grappled with yet.
FOREMAN: Barbara, very briefly, do they have any faith that the world is going to grapple with that any time soon?
STARR: I think they feel that, no, to be honest. I thing they feel that unless there's another mass casualty attack against a western power such as the United States or a country in Europe, that the incentive simply isn't there because of the political environment in the United States and in most of western Europe. Countries are simply exhausted by the last several years of fighting terrorism and yet it is not kinetics, it is not guns and weapons that most people will tell you will win this war.
FOREMAN: Thank you Barbara Starr, thank you Michael Scheuer as well.
In a moment, Christiane Amanpour takes us to the frontlines of a volatile battle where religion and politics collide. But first as always, we're going to take a final look at some of those who fell in this week at war.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Here is a quick check on what's happening right now. Hurricane Dean is churning up trouble in the Caribbean. The Category 4 storm has 150 mile an hour winds. Tropical storm force winds are already taking a swipe at the Dominican Republic. And Dean is bearing down on Jamaica. The island could feel the hurricane's wrath as early as tomorrow.
On the other side of the world, a powerful typhoon is hammering Taiwan and has now entered China. We're talking about Typhoon Sepat. It's forced thousands of people to flee their homes. Tens of thousands of others don't have electricity.
Above the Earth even the shuttle astronauts have storm worries. NAS is bringing Endeavour back a day early because of Hurricane Dean. Tomorrow the shuttle will undock from the International Space Station with an eye landing back on terra firma on Tuesday. Now back to Tom Foreman and THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: Let's take a look at some of this week's hot spots all around the globe. Near the Russian city of Novgorod, a bomb derailed the Moscow to St. Petersburg express train injuring dozens. No word yet on which terrorist group is responsible but Russian police have been put on high alert.
Torrential rains have wiped out a good deal of the rice crop in North Korea putting stress on already undernourished people there. In an unusual move, the North Korean government has asked for aid from the outside world. We'll keep an eye on that situation.
And in Lebanon, the radical Islamic Hezbollah militia has released a video game putting players armed with everything from grenades to rocket launchers on the front line of war with Israel. The game replicates last year's battles in South Lebanon. Hard to believe.
OK. Well, a video game, of course, is one thing. The reality of religious extremism is something very, very different. Next week Christiane Amanpour is hosting "God's Warriors," a unique six-hour television event looking at the intersection of politics and the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions. On Thursday, that series investigates some conservative Christians and an event called "Battle Cry."
RON LUCE, EVANGELIST: Let me hear your battle cry tonight!
Whoever speaks up most gets to shape the culture.
I'm looking at a whole army of young people who want to speak out!
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): San Francisco, AT&T Park. This is Battle Cry. And these 22,000 screaming teenagers and adults are Christian conservatives armed with their faith and prepared for battle in perhaps the most liberal city in America. Ready to fight what to them are the evils of secular society and pop culture. Sex, drugs, violence, and pervasive pornography on the airwaves, the Internet and in video games. They are God's warriors for Jesus.
LUCE: ... rebellion. We are here to rise up, reject the pop culture and re-create it with the creativity that God has given us..
AMANPOUR: The man leading this struggle is Ron.
LUCE: So, I have a question for you tonight. Do you have a voice?
LUCE: I didn't hear you. I said, do you have a voice?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christiane Amanpour, Ron Luce.
AMANPOUR (on camera): How are you?
AMANPOUR (voice-over): I traveled to San Francisco and met Luc as he rehearsed for that night's Battle Cry event.
(on camera): It's like Sarajevo.
(voice-over): I wanted to know why he's declared war on the American lifestyle.
LUCE: We call them terrorists. Virtue terrorists that are destroying our kids.
AMANPOUR: Virtue terrorists.
LUCE: They are raping virgin teenage America on the sidewalk. And everybody is walking by and acting like everything is OK. It is just not OK.
I want us to read this.
AMANPOUR: The language is extreme. But many Christian parents agree with Luce. They don't like a culture where kids know more about Paris Hilton than the Bible. But his hard line against abortion and homosexuality is what draws the controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Battle Cry is not a harmless movement. Its program is fiercely anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-war and pro-obedience.
AMANPOUR: Critics say under the guise of saving teenagers is imposing his conservative values on the rest of society.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Represent a far bigger agenda, Christian right theocratic agenda. It goes from Roy Luce, the leader of Battle Cry, Pat Robertson, all the way up to George Bush.
AMANPOUR (on camera): How do you answer that? They say that this sounds like a message of bringing back your values but it is actually a message of intolerance and of hate.
LUCE: You can say it is divisive. Well, maybe it needs to be divisive.
FOREMAN: For the rest of Ron Luce's story and much, much more, join us for the powerful "God's Warriors" reported by Christiane Amanpour. On Tuesday it's "God's Jewish Warriors," on Wednesday it's "God's Muslim Warriors" and on Thursday "God's Christian Warriors." All at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.
Straight ahead, more pressure on Iran. Is the U.S. on a collision course in the Persian Gulf? THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: Even if you're keeping up with all of the news, you know it's easy to get friends and enemies confused these days. Take Iran, for instance. On Tuesday President Ahmadinejad was in Afghanistan proclaiming solidarity with the U.S.-backed government. On that same day in Washington the State Department used the term battlefields to describe its confrontations with Tehran. And now Zain Verjee reported on Wednesday, the administration is considering naming all or part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard a specially designated global terrorist group.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just last week President Bush warned Iran the U.S. was about to act and now it might.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: When we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay.
VERJEE: That price could be cutting the financial lifeblood of the Guard, going after their bank accounts as well as businesses that deal with the Guard inside and outside Iran.
FOREMAN: So what is really going on here? Is all of this just diplomatic wordplay, or are we really on the brink of military confrontation? Robin Wright joins us from "The Washington Post" and Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations is with me here with me in the studio.
Ray, everybody says we don't want a military conflict. And yet things keep coming up every week that suggest we might be headed that way.
RAY TAKEYH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, we're in sort a path of incremental escalation. Where there's increasing economic financial pressure and now increasingly declaring the national army as a terrorist designation. Where that leads to, it could lead to sort of a military confrontation, but I don't think we're there yet. We're still trying to use economic tools to dissuade Iran from various actions that we find objectionable.
FOREMAN: I want to remind everybody with the map here basically why this is of such interest to us. Iran right in the middle here, Afghanistan over there, Iraq over there. Important area. Robin, do you think that we're accomplishing something with this sword rattling and if so, what?
ROBIN WRIGHT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the administration feels very frustrated that after a year of reaching out to Iran, offering it a carrot and stick package, if it suspended its uranium enrichment process which can be used for post for peaceful nuclear energy as well as to develop a nuclear weapon that it's had no response. And tensions have heightened with Iran's deepening intervention in Iraq. It's arming even some of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
And the failure of the Security Council to be able to engage in the kind of robust sanctions that might actually pressure Iran. So far, they have been token efforts, for example, the last UN resolution sanctioned 28 members of Iran's military and industrial complex including the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards. This is a quantum leap in trying to name the whole Revolutionary Guard corps, but its practical impact will probably be economic rather than military. And that for the time being is all the United States is trying to do to squeeze continuously, to try to get Iran to change its behavior rather than to engage in a process that leads to regime change itself.
FOREMAN: I want to show our viewers some of the other businesses of the Revolutionary Guard. They're involved in mass transportation, oil pipeline contracts, natural gas fields, movie production and poultry farming.
Ray, if they get this designation of specially designated global terrorist, what does that do to all these endeavors? Are we just cutting off their money?
TAKEYH: Well, a lot of those business enterprises are domestic. So they're immune from this sort of economic sanctions that we can propose. Second of all, we don't have direct economic relationships with Iran or any sort of a linkage to those Revolutionary Guard companies. So it would have to be Europeans and Asians to do so. And they're unlikely to sign up for that. So the practical economic consequences of this designation is likely to be more limited.
FOREMAN: So is this just a dog and pony show at this point?
TAKEYH: No, it does ratchet up tensions between the two countries. For instance, Russia and China are involved with arms sales. Now the actual beneficiaries are the revolutionary guards. How does that work? Does that mean that Russia and China are selling arms to a terrorist organization? What does that portend for Chinese American or Russian American or European American relations? It could be rather destabilizing.
FOREMAN: Robin, in your reporting, does the U.S. speak with one voice on this? Because it seems like we keep getting messages, one side saying, we want cooperation, the other side then saying thing like this?
WRIGHT: Well, I think just like Iraq, the administration is beginning to feel the pressure of the clock. And that is 17 months left in office. And one of their primary goals is to ensure that Iran is not left behind as an emerging nuclear power. So there is, I think, a sense within the administration that they have to do something far more dramatic to try to produce that kind of result.
There is clearly a difference within the administration. So far, those who are arguing diplomacy, even tough actions like sanctioning the Revolutionary Guards have prevailed. Will they prevail for the next 17 months? It kind of depends on what the Iranians do.
FOREMAN: Let's consider what Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said on Thursday. "I have significant concerns that a coalition withdrawal would lead to a major Iranian advance." He's talking about Iraq here. "And we need to consider what the consequences of that would be." Ray, is that a legitimate concern at this point or is that just more of this talk?
TAKEYH: Well, part of the administration's strategy to justify its continued military presence in Iraq. I'm not quite sure what the answer to that is. There will be Iranian influence in Iraq. There will be Iranian influence in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Economic, political social and religious.
So the question is to avert that influence, do we stay in Iraq permanently or not? And the ambassador should answer that question, because if the goal of the American policy is to prevent Iran from having any sort of influence in Iraq, then that is a permanent occupation.
FOREMAN: All right. Thank you so much. We're out of time. Robin and Ray, appreciate your insights in all of this.
In a moment, an international land grab, except there isn't any land to grab. It's all in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Stay with us.
FOREMAN: OK. Take the North Pole, a cold and barren landscape. Now look at the Middle East. A hot, sandy and also rather barren landscape. What have they got in common? Oil. Billions of gallons of oil. And now a struggle to control all that black gold, particularly at the top of the world. Barbara Starr has the lowdown on this new cold war.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reporter: this is what started it, a mini sub planted a Russian flag under the ice at the North Pole. Directly challenging Canada's claim it's in charge of the Arctic region. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper then flew to the Arctic Circle to put Moscow on notice.
PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER, CANADA: Canada's new government understands the first principle of Arctic sovereignty. Use it or lose it.
STARR: The U.S. is also skeptical of Russia's newfound claims in Arctic.
TOM CASEY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I'm not sure whether they've put a metal flag, a rubber flag, or a bed sheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing or effect on this claim.
FOREMAN: And Barbara joins me once again from the Pentagon. Now, Barbara, why is all this cranking up now?
STARR: Well, you know, there's a lot of players up there at the North Pole, Tom. Russia is making a move. It's making both a military statement and a political statement. They've started flying their air force long range bombers over the Arctic again, just to say they have presence, just to say they're in the neighborhood. But this is also a statement in terms of planting this flag by the government of Russia that they are a player on the world stage. They want to be taken seriously. They want to have a claim on that oil and gas, if they can make one.
But make no mistake, so does everybody else. Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, everyone who operates up in that very remote, very cold part of the world, is staking a claim right now.
FOREMAN: We're going to look at the map for a moment and show you exactly what Barbara was talking about a moment ago. This is the North Pole. Look at the countries around it, Canada, the United States, Greenland over here, Norway, Russia all clustering around that. All of that said, Barbara, are these fighting words about this? Or are these people just sort of rattling their long range bombers at each other?
STARR: Well, at the moment, I don't think anybody is exactly going to war over this. The Canadians, of course, say that they have the most legitimate claim to this. Canada's always a very polite, well mannered country on the world stage, but make no mistake, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada went to that region and announced several new initiatives. He's going to build a lot of facilities up there. He's going to also give the local Canadian Ranger unit, which is Inuit native Canadian Indians (sic), new weapons. He's going to add 900 people to that ice and ears force of the north. Everybody is making a move. Nobody is flying bullets across the ice but everybody is staking out a claim.
FOREMAN: We're going to zoom in on our map and show you the facilities that Canada is talking about. But what is the United States going to do in all of this, Barbara?
STARR: Well, the Coast Guard has just sent a small ship up there with a number of scientists on board. And they're doing what they call a mapping mission. They do it all the time, but they're going up there once again, having a scientific expedition, mapping part of the Arctic, looking to see where the United States may make a claim. The State Department, the Pentagon is actually quite serious about this, Tom, they don't want to foreclose any options. What they want to do is keep all the options open for the future so that if there is oil, if there is gas, if there is a dispute about rights of way through that very remote region, the U.S. can still stake its claim.
FOREMAN: Barbara, thanks for the insight. It is going to be an interesting conflict to watch as it goes on.
When we come back, a military tribute for the guy who pulled off perhaps the most well known congressional filibuster of all time. You don't want to miss it. Stick with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOREMAN: This week a technology center at Bowling Air Force Base just across the Anacostia River from where I'm standing here in Washington, DC was named in honor of a World War II pilot who was originally rejected because he was too skinny. He finally made it past the physical and went on to fly B-24 bomber missions over Europe. Winning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the French Croix de Guerre.
Just about the first thing he did when he came back from the war was to star in a classic movie. "It's a Wonderful Life." Yes, bowling named its new center after Air Force Brigadier General James Stewart. You might know him as Jimmy. Those were the day when just about everyone served.
Well, turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next WEEK AT WAR. Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency is scheduled to hold talks with the Iranian government over its nuclear program.
Also on Monday, the trial begins for Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan on charges of cruelty and maltreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. And the question of who owns the riches under the Arctic sure to come up Monday when the presidents of the U.S., Canada and Mexico hold their annual NAFTA summit just outside of Ottawa.
We'll keep track of all those stories. Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, CNN's SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT, "James Brown: Say It Proud."
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