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American Could be Next U.S. Drone Victim; Hollande's Relationships Gaining Headlines; Two Members of Congress Tell Redskins to Change Name; Iran Agrees to Steps to Ease Tensions over Nuclear Issue
Aired February 10, 2014 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. drones have killed at least four Americans who sided with al Qaeda, but another America could soon become the target of an air strike or other U.S. military operation.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working her sources on this.
So what do we know, who this person is, where this person may be, and what country right now, and in short, what do we know about all of this, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the precise two questions, Wolf, that no one is going to answer right now, who is this person, and where are they located? Nobody is talking about that. But we have confirmed, and Associated Press reported it initially, that indeed for the last period of days or weeks, there have been high-level discussions in the Obama administration about another strike against an American citizen located outside of the United States, someone who is said to be with al Qaeda, the al-Qaeda affiliates, and involved in planning, plotting, being a threat to the United States. Those are the ground rules under which the U.S. can go after an American citizen abroad. They have done it before. We're told the discussions are very high-level. The U.S. military weighing in. And it centers right now around how important this individual is, how important is the target, is it worth the risk, if you fly a drone into a country that would not be welcoming to the U.S. military? So this is the debate right now. We don't know how it's going to come out. But it's really quite interesting, because, of course, back in 2011, the u. s., with a drone, killed Anwar al Awlaki, that American- born cleric in Yemen, affiliated with al Qaeda, and it has been controversial ever since -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And we know that Anwar al Awlaki's 16-year-old son was killed in a separate drone strike, but he wasn't targeted. That was what they call collateral damage for some other strike. Is that right?
STARR: That's absolutely right. His son and the other Americans, at least a couple of them, that had been killed by U.S. drones over time have been said to be -- and we don't know a lot of information, not a lot has been revealed -- have been said to be people that U.S. was not necessarily directly targeting. And, of course, this is why U.S. drone strikes overseas are so controversial, and why they're so resented by so many countries. There is a very strong view outside the United States that these drones have indeed been killing civilians in places like Pakistan and Yemen. People in those countries understandably very resentful -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Obviously, a very sensitive subject.
Coming up, we have more news, including Iran. It has now agreed to allow more access to some of its nuclear program. We're going to talk about that and more with our new CNN Middle East analysts, talking about the road to some sort of permanent agreement. Is it possible?
But first, the delegate choice the U.S. has for the French president's visit to Washington. He's flying solo. How will that affect seating at the huge state dinner planned for tomorrow night at the White House?
BLITZER: President Obama praising what he's calling a strong resurgence in U.S. relations with France. But it's the French president's relationship with women that's generating some headlines, as he travels to Washington for an official state visit.
Our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, reports on president Hollande's baggage.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flags unfurled, party tent in place -- the White House ready for its first state dinner in nearly two years. But they didn't plan on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Scandal-plagued French president, Francois Hollande, comes to Washington with a lot of baggage. Not coming is this woman, Valerie Trierweiler, who was France's first lady until last month. Never married, the couple of seven years split after a French magazine said it caught Hollande sneaking out of the palace on the back of a scooter for a secret rendezvous with a much younger mistress, movie actress, Julia Gayet. She is not coming either.
Hollande says his private life is private, but the Affair Hollande made headlines around the world, lending unusual intrigue to a high- profile White House visit. 300 dinner invitations engraved with the former first lady's name had to be scrapped, according to "The New York Times." And with Hollande coming solo, seating arrangements for the dinner are delicate, at best.
Anita McBride helped plan state dinners as Laura Bush's chief of staff.
ANITA MCBRIDE, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR LAURA BUSH: Typically, when you have a foreign guest coming that has a spouse, you know, the president and first lady -- our president and first lady would be seated next to the spouse. So that is something that they'll have to change.
KEILAR: The White House says the romantic drama isn't putting a damper on the visit. And it's not just about the dinner, of course. France is a top U.S. ally, and topics like Syria and Iran are on the table. But at least, for now, foreign affairs seem overshadowed by affairs of the heart.
Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: Two members of Congress are objecting to the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins. Today, they sent a letter to the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell. They're calling on Goodell to, quote, "take a formal position in support of a name change." They go on to say that "the National Football League can no longer ignore this, and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is, a racial slur."
Brian Todd is with me here.
We're watching this. So what is the league's position, first of all, on the name of the team?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The league has kind of gone back and forth, Wolf, saying they understand the criticism, they understand the sensitive feelings, but that this is a team name that's been around for 80 years and that we have to at least respect that.
But this letter from Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Tom Cole -- a bipartisan letter. She's a Democrat. He's a Republican -- does ratchet up the pressure now on the NFL, on the Redskins to at least hear people out and do something about the name.
Interesting, you read part of the letter there. But another part is really kind of slamming the NFL, saying, "It's clear that you haven't heard the leading voices of this country." It says, "The NFL is on the wrong side of history."
Now, contacted by CNN, the NFL today wouldn't really go beyond what Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl a little more than a week ago. And here's what he said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: This is the name of a football team, a football team that's had that name for 80 years, and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans. We recognize there are some that don't agree with the name and we have listened and respected that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, the Washington Redskins, not nearly as much on the fence as the NFL, Wolf. The Redskins today sent us an e-mail in response to this letter from Congress, saying, quote, "With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, including Afghanistan, health care, deficits, don't they have more important things to worry about"? And also, a zing at Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma. The Redskins saying, quote, "Given the fact that the name "Oklahoma" means "red people" in the Choctaw language, this request is a little ironic." So the Redskins punching back hard on this letter. Dan Snyder, the owner of the Redskins, has said he's not changing the game.
BLITZER: Lanny Davis helping deal with this.
TODD: That's right. A powerful lawyer.
BLITZER: A very well-known guy here in Washington. So what leverage does Congress really have?
TODD: They do have some leverage. It seems on the outset, they can't really do much to actually change the name themselves. However, they can hold hearings, they can haul Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell in before the halls of the House or the Senate and make them look bad or embarrass them a little bit. They could call attention to the NFL's tax-exempt status and maybe agitate toward that. They probably can't change that status. But again, they can hold hearings and make kind of -- kind of call attention to how rich the NFL is and how powerful they are and, again, embarrass them. So they have a little bit of leverage.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.
Brian Todd working that story.
Iran has agreed to take more steps in its nuclear agreement with the West. I'll talk to CNN's newest Middle East analysts about the pressure the U.S. is facing from its allies in the Middle East.
BLITZER: Iran says it's agreed to take more steps by the spring to ease international tension over its nuclear program. The statement was issued along with the International Atomic Energy Agency and set a May dead deadline.
Joining us now, CNN's newest Middle East analyst, Michael Oren, who is the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, now at the Atlantic Council in Washington, ambassador in residence; also Marwan Muasher, the former Jordanian foreign minister and vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment. He's also the author of a brand- new book, "The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism."
Good to have both of you with me here on CNN today.
I'll start with you, Mr. Foreign Minister, since you were a foreign minister. He was only an ambassador. (LAUGHTER)
Let's talk a little bit about U.S. efforts to get Iran engaged and stop its nuclear program. There's concern right now, some America's best friends in the region, whether the Israelis, Saudis, Emirates, are very nervous. Is the U.S. doing the right thing?
MARWAN MUASHER, CNN MIDEAST ANALYST: I think it is, Wolf. I think a war in the Middle East will serve nobody's interest. And in addition, it is not going to stop the Iranian nuclear program. So if a good political agreement is to be done, I think that's the best course.
BLITZER: Is the U.S. doing the right thing?
MICHAEL OREN, CNN MIDEAST ANALYST: Good to be with you, Wolf. Good to be with Marwan, too.
Well, I think Israel has some serious concerns, not only Israeli has concerns, but Saudi, gulf -- Saudi Arabia, gulf countries, are concerned that this interim agreement leaves Iran with enough nuclear material for four bombs. It leaves its missile program intact. There's no inspections of the military sites where they could actually be building a bomb. It's leaving intact facilities that have no peaceful purposes, other than to make a bomb. And so people are very nervous about it. And they want to know --
BLITZER: So you disagree with this strategy?
OREN: I think we have serious -- I think Israel and other Middle Eastern countries are pretty (INAUDIBLE), something they can agree no. Interesting enough, the Iranians and Israelis agreed on something last week. They both said that President Obama was not quite right when he said that the interim agreement involved some dismantling of Iranians' nuclear possibilities.
BLITZER: Because in your book, you write this, "The Arab world will be devastated if the United States should decide to conduct a military strike against Iran."
MUASHER: I think so. First of all, we don't know the terms of the agreement.
MUASHER: This is still an interim agreement. Second of all, I don't think the war will be the answer precisely because, on one hand, it will not stop the Iranian nuclear program. On the other hand, it will create a whole -- open a Pandora's Box in the Mideast. So I think a political strategy, a strategy to pursue a political settlement is the rest.
BLITZER: Give peace a chance. That's the theme the administration is suggesting. What's wrong with that?
OREN: There's nothing wrong with it. The question is, will it bring about peace? One of the paradoxes of having --
BLITZER: -- make a point, they can turn the sanctions immediately back on.
OREN: That's a question to be seen. The Iranian oil industry is rebounding, going up quite strongly, because the word has gone out that the sanctions are being eased rather than ratcheted up. One of the paradoxes of a credible military threat is that the more credible it is, the less chance you actually have to use it. The Iranians have to, internally, believe that if they proceed along the road to nuclearization, the United States will stop them.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Syria. Jordan has a huge problem, all the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come into Jordan from Syria. But the U.S. Homeland Security secretary, Jay Johnson, he said the other day that -- and I'm quoting him -- "Syria has become a matter of homeland security for the United States." Because all of the potential terrorists being trained in Syria right now could come to Europe or the United States and commit acts of terrorism here. How big of a problem do you see this?
MUASHER: It is a big problem on many levels. On a security level, the refugee situation is truly unsustainable, not just for Jordan but for Lebanon and some of the other countries. The sectarian divide between the Sunnis and the Shiites threatens to affect the whole region. So in many ways, the continuation --
BLITZER: What should the U.S. do?
MUASHER: I'm not sure much can be done. Obviously, there's not going to -- there is no appetite among the public to interfere. Bashar Assad cannot rule over all of Syria. The opposition cannot win. And nobody wants to interfere. I'm afraid we are going to keep in this bloody stalemate --
BLITZER: They will continue with all the wrenching consequences. Is there anything the U.S. can do to stop this?
OREN: I think the humanitarian aid. Shoring up Jordan, which has been inundated with refugees. And trying to ease as much as possible the suffering of the Syrian people, which we all feel.
BLITZER: There is a debate under way even as we speak right now, and it's coming to a head in Washington. Should the U.S. engage in what they call drone targeting killings, drone strikes? Obviously they are going to go after suspected terrorists. But if the suspected terrorist is a U.S. citizen, should they target that person in U.S. or Pakistan or Somalia or some place, and go ahead and kill that person suspected of plotting terrorism against the United States? What do you think? OREN: Probably getting in all sorts of trouble with all sorts of elements within American society. But I say America has to do what it has to do to defend itself. That's the responsibility of the people who sit in the capital building in the White House.
BLITZER: -- kill American citizens?
OREN: If the person -- if a bank robber is in a bank holding hostages, he's an American citizen, too, and the police will do whatever they can to capture him. But if they can't, they will do whatever they can to prevent him from killing innocent hostages. I think the situation is pretty analogous.
MUASHER: I think it's interesting you ask the question from a foreigner. But in general, I would say that, in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty. The drone policy has resulted in a lot of innocent civilians being killed and not just suspected terrorists. As such, I would be against it.
BLITZER: Marwan Muasher, Michael Oren, good to have both of you here as our partners on CNN. Thanks very much for joining us.
MUASHER: Thank you.
BLITZER: There is a new warning for flights heading to the United States. The United States embassy in Guyana is telling Americans not to fly out on Caribbean Airlines for the next two days. The embassy saying they've received what they called "unconfirmed threat information" against the flights. Caribbean Airlines said they are adding extra layers of security for all of its U.S.-bound flights.
Coming up, a former gangster crediting a small abandoned puppy for inspiring him to turn his life around. We will tell you about his remarkable journey when we come back.
BLITZER: It's an unlikely and remarkable story or redemption. A mob enforcer not only turns his life around but dedicates his life to saving animals.
Tom Foreman has the story.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): This may look like an animal rescue, but for James Giuliani, it is more like redemption.
JAMES GIULIANI, ANIMAL RESCUE: I was a bad person my whole life. Now I feel good about waking up in the morning.
FOREMAN: It was so bad, and now it's so good. His turn around is the focus of a new reality show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
GIULIANI: I used to deal cocaine. I used to deal marijuana. I used to stick people up.
FOREMAN: Giuliani used to work with the toughest mop bosses around New York until, one day, he found a small dog, neglected and sick. He nursed it back to health. And much later, when the animal died, the self-professed gangster discovered something new born in him.
GIULIANI: From that day on, I have been sober. Not a drink. Not a drug. It gave me a purpose in my life and it gave me a reason to live.
FOREMAN: For almost a dozen years now, he has taken in countless lost, abandoned, and hurting animals trying to ultimately find new homes for them, and always at very least keeping them safe.
GIULIANI: Every animal can stay there their entire life until they find the right home.
FOREMAN: The work is time consuming and can be expensive. Giuliani helps pay the bills with a dog grooming business called Diamond Collar.
GIULIANI: Diamond Collar.
FOREMAN: He doesn't make mobster money anymore.
GIULIANI: Hello, everyone!
FOREMAN: In many ways, he suggests he has never felt richer.
GIULIANI: Some people never figure out their purpose. I figured out from a little dog.
FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN.
BLITZER: A nice story indeed.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I will be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
NEWSROOM continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much.
Happy Monday to all of you. I'm Brooke Baldwin.