Return to Transcripts main page


Five Hundred Fifty More Marines Heading to Persian Gulf; What's Next for Spurs, Heat?; Poll Pits Clinton Against Obama

Aired June 16, 2014 - 08:00   ET


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of civilians, young and old, marching through the streets of Baghdad, now having to defend their country. And in the north, ISIS is taking the town of Tal Afar.

The terrorists possibly gaining control over its army base, which would mean more armored vehicles, weapons, and ammunition up for grabs, some of the weaponry provided by the U.S.

Asking his identity be concealed, CNN's Arwa Damon interviewing an Iraqi colonel who says his unit alone left behind 25 Humvees, 80 other vehicles and trucks, 10 sniper rifles and 20 rocket launchers when they fled.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Baghdad falls, if the central government falls, a disaster awaits us of monumental proportions.

ROBERTSON: But now, this -- chilling images inside a country on the brink of another civil war. The radical Islamist terrorist group apparently capturing dozens of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes, lining them up for execution. With minimal resources, or little control on the ground, the Iraqi military uses aerial strikes to target is positions in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

AYAD ALLAWI, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: Now it's more dangerous than before. This one definitely would not be restricted to the boundaries of these countries, it will spill over to Europe and the terrorism could spread to the world at large.


ROBERTSON: And into all of this, the USS Mesa Verde has cruised into the Gulf waters, bringing marines with their V22 Osprey vertical airlift capability. Certainly that will bring an additional potential security for U.S. nationals, others in this region, in Iraq at this time. ISIS is still on the move -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Nic, an important distinction there. These troops are positioned to help with any potential evacuation needs, not necessarily a fighting force.

But we do know that the troops are certainly headed to the region, just in case the situation on the ground gets to the point where Americans need to be pulled out.

Let's get to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

You joined us earlier this morning, bringing us this information. What do we know now?


I think it's worth explaining why all of this is happening. Four U.S. warships moving into the Persian Gulf, including now the Mesa Verde with 550 marines on board, all of this happening in the last 24 to 36 hours. The president, to be clear, has not decided on the air strikes, no indication at this point he's making a decision about that.

Why so much muscle power in the region? There are a number of Americans still at the embassy. They have sent in Marines and Army soldiers to reinforce security there. But here's the real military challenge that looms. If the international airport in Baghdad were to come under attack, were to shut down, and you could not get commercial air traffic in and out of that airport, if the other military air fields nearby were not under secure control, they have to have a backup plan.

How would you get more Americans out of the embassy, how would you possibly evacuate American civilians living and working in Baghdad and in Iraq. That is why you are seeing the helicopters on the ships move into the region to be within distance if it comes to that. Clearly, the George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier also has fighter jets on board. They could do air strikes down the road if, if the president were to make a decision. They could conduct reconnaissance, surveillance.

The big problem that still remains for the U.S., there is very little targeting intelligence about where ISIS, where exactly they are, and how they could be struck and make a real difference on the ground -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: An excellent point. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thank you so much.

Let's continue to discuss with Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, host of CNN International's "AMANPOUR".

Christiane, I think Barbara lays it out really well. You've got four U.S. warships moving into the region now. She also talked about 550 additional marines that are going to be on board. They're positioning in the region.

Is this symbolic or is this getting ready for something more, do you think?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIE INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're really going to have to see certainly a show of force is necessary, but the real urgent thing is two parts. One, militarily, to hold the ISIS advance. I talked to a top U.S. commander who said, and this was just last week

after they had taken Mosul and were headed further south, once the groups get this kind of momentum, it is incredibly difficult to push them back. Very, very difficult.

I'm being told by top U.S. commanders and politicians in the field, including Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister of Iraq, that what is possibly happening is the end of Iraq as we know it. The partition of Iraq, the de facto new front lines created, Kurdistan in the north, this sort of east and -- sorry, west and north area with ISIS and Baghdad and on south, the sort of Shiite heartland. This is a very, very, very dangerous situation unfolding militarily, and so there has to be a way to push them back somehow or hold the line.

And then, politically, there has to be a way to get some kind of national unity government. Allawi told me he was going back to Iraq to try to get a national unity leadership for this crucial time because otherwise he told me as you've seen, because they have turned and fled, the Iraqi forces don't have anything to fight for. They feel totally disenfranchised.

BOLDUAN: Do you think because of that, with that in mind, especially when you're looking for a political solution, and you talk about this national unity government, some are suggesting that Maliki will have to step down in order for that to happen. Do you think that is the case?

AMANPOUR: Look, I think that would be the optimum, but most people think that's not going to happen. If you can at least bring Kurdish leaders in, Sunni leaders in, and there are those around who could come in and who could try to re-establish the political reality there in Iraq, which, over the last couple of years, has simply become more and more a Shiite dictatorship for want of any other way of putting this. And that is alienated practically half the country, which are the Sunnis.

So, this is a massive problem. The other incredibly huge problem is Syria, because without this swamp in Syria, ISIS in Iraq would not have been so enabled. They have been plotting and planning this for the last couple of years and commanders tell me and politicians and leaders in the area tell me you have to do something to bolster, arm and train the moderate Syrian opposition so that they can take care of this, because ISIS has made it very clear.

We've been reporting over the last couple of years, they wanted caliphate, over the borders of Syria and Iraq. And that's what they're carving out right now. And therefore, there needs to be some way to stop them, and the chaos in Syria, as well as the disenfranchisement in Iraq, is allowing them to germinate there.

BOLDUAN: And, Christiane, you talk about the unrest in Syria, and then how to stop the movement of is in Iraq, now the question becomes, pretty unusual proposition, should the U.S. sit down, coordinate, work with Iran in order to help stop this movement forward? What are the pros and cons of that?

AMANPOUR: Well, clearly, that's in the air, both Iran and the United States have made noises about that.

You know, they have worked together in Afghanistan, around 9/11, and during the invasion, to topple the al Qaeda and the Taliban. But this would potentially be, potentially, political and military cooperation.

Again, there are no details. But Iran has no interest despite what many may think of a fractured and chaotic Iraq. Obviously, Iran backs the Maliki government. Obviously, it is a Shiite power in the region. And it backs the Maliki government.

But it has had nothing but chaos on its border with Iraq over many, many decades, going all the way back to the Iran/Iraq war and doesn't want to see something like that erupt again. So, it has an interest in making sure that Baghdad doesn't fall, keeping, you know, at least the Shiite heartland whole, but also presumably keeping Iraq whole. And it's going to be incredibly difficult because even if the U.S. and Iran somehow manage to make some tactical agreement over this, they are on completely opposite sides when it comes to Syria.

Iran backs Assad. Iran is Assad's military. It's because of Iran that Assad has been able to change the balance of forces on the ground in Syria. Russia is Assad's diplomat. Iran is its military commander. And nobody is helping the moderate opposition in Syria. That is the only way that that balance of power is going to change. And try to drain the swamp a little bit over the border in Iraq as well.

BOLDUAN: And, of course, there the addition of, there's some question that if there is engagement on this issue, that it would muddy the waters in terms of the ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and the impact on that. So many questions obviously remaining here.

And many of the questions are going to Hillary Clinton. You have the big town hall with Hillary Clinton tomorrow night. She will have to answer major questions on foreign policy.

If she decides to run, what do you think some of the questions she's going to need to answer?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think already, you know, this is going to be a town hall, so it is people who are going to come and ask her questions and we're going to follow up and put some of the tough hard choices as her book is called to her. She's already written in her book about how she might have done things differently in Syria, you remember a couple of years ago, when she was still secretary of state. The entire U.S. administration's national security apparatus, chairman of the joint chiefs, defense secretary, secretary of state, CIA, they all presented the president with a plan to arm and train the opposition in Syria.

Remember, the straw man notion of putting U.S. forces or boots on the ground in Syria has never been an option. So, that needs to be put to the side. The question is arming and training Syrian opposition. And that didn't happen. The president decided to take a different route.

And now, what we're seeing is blowback in its ultimate form. You're seeing it absolutely in Iraq, and you have people all the way to the police commissioner of New York City worrying about the Syrian blowback in our heartlands as well. So if for the United States the president has articulated the fight against terrorism being the biggest national security priority still for the United States, it is happening, it is germinating in Syria and in Iraq right now.

BOLDUAN: And Lindsey Graham on the "STATE OF THE UNION" just yesterday, senator from South Carolina, saying that he believes that Syria and Iraq could be the next staging ground for 9/11, getting just to the concerns and fears you're talking about right there.

Christiane, thank you so much, thanks for that.

Christiane is in Washington, and that's important because you want to be sure to tune in tomorrow as Christiane is going to be hosting a global town hall there with Hillary Clinton. She's going to be taking your questions. That's tomorrow, live 5:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Let's get over to John Berman now, in for Michaela with some of today's other big stories -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Kate.

Officials are blaming terrorist group al-Shabaab for a brutal attack overnight in Kenya. Forty-eight people died in the assault on the coastal town. That's according to the Red Cross. Attackers reportedly started at the center of the town and went door to door, slashing and shooting their way through this residential area. The bloodshed follows last month's twin bombings that killed 10 people in Nairobi and 67 people died when militants stormed the West Gate Mall last year.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continuing his recovery this morning after five years as a Taliban prisoner. Now, the army is assigning a two-star general to investigate why Bergdahl abruptly left his post and allegedly wandered into the Afghan wilderness. The disappearance may have led to Bergdahl's capture and accusations of desertion by some of his fellow soldiers. The army has not identified the general heading up that probe.

Close to a thousand homes are now threatened in central California by a raging fire burning near Bakersfield. Fire crews are racing to control this fire before hot or dry air conditions creep in later in the week. The Shirley fire as it's called has burned 2,000 acres and has destroyed at least two structures. Now, 10 percent contained.

So, Target insists that data security issues were not to blame for a glitch that led to long lines at many stores. Customers posted these ugly pictures to social media and say they were told the system that processes debit cards went down. Target so far not confirming that. But, of course, it is another major snag for the store still reeling from a hack attack that stole personal data from millions of customers -- Chris.

CUOMO: Hack attack. BERMAN: Hack attack.

CUOMO: They're going to lose the affectionate moniker of target if they don't get this stuff straighten out.

BERMAN: Now, these are pictures that are just ugly after that data thing.


BERMAN: Lines are maddening.

Speaking of maddening, the Miami Heat, boy, they must be really crying in their corn flakes this morning, because the king has been dethroned. The San Antonio Spurs are the definitive NBA champs. They knocked off LeBron James and the two-time defending champ Heat in game five last night, 104-87, wasn't even that close.

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard named series MVP because he is a beast. He made defense a weapon.

Let's bring in the "Bleacher Report's" Joe Carter.

Joe, it was a rematch. So, that was big. This Spurs team so, so different than last year. But in your mind, Spurs better or Heat worse? Which was a bigger factor?

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Spurs better. Spurs much, much better. I love what LeBron James and Chris Bosh said after the game after the game last night. They said that this is the best team they've ever played against.

The Spurs have proven, Chris, that a small market team can win and win consistently. They scout well. They draft well, and they find players that fit into their system, five titles in 16 years is remarkable. They're a complete team and it is not just Parker, Ginobili and Duncan. Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, all the players got better this season.

And, of course, Tim Duncan, who's their number one pick back in 1997, has been the foundation of their success and in 17 seasons, Duncan has been to the playoffs every single season and he's now the first player in NBA history to win a title in three different decades.


TIM DUNCAN, SAN ANTONIO SPURS: It is amazing to think about having done this five times. And for the stretch and the span between them, to still be in a situation where we can win or I can win another championship is just an amazing blessing.


CARTER: What a great Father's Day gift, obviously, for Tim Duncan.

As for the Miami Heat, you know, questions are going to be surfacing this summer, Chris, what is going to happen with LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade? All of their contracts have options in them this summer, which means they could stay with this team or they could leave for another team.

Obviously, the first one to go is probably going to be Chris Bosh. You would think Dwyane Wade stays. Obviously, the sentimental favorite there in Miami, and they don't want to give up LeBron James, even though he has plenty of options to go to cities like, you've heard Los Angeles, we've heard Cleveland, perhaps, cities like Dallas and Chicago could make room for LeBron James.

But big contract options up this summer for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Chris.

CUOMO: Do you think LeBron James would return to Cleveland? What do you think the best move is for him? And then talk about Kawhi Leonard, let's help people seem smart when talking about this game today, because that's the name to say. I say he is the most physically dominating guy I've seen in the league, non-big man, since LeBron.

CARTER: You know, it's incredible that a guy that young has been able to peak this early in his career. We talked about how in college, you know, he never scored 29 points in his college days, but suddenly, in the biggest moment, biggest spotlight, he's able to put in game after game where he puts up great numbers and he's been such a complement to Ginobili, Parker and Duncan.

We talk about how Popovich has been able to put together the old men, every single year, got them in the playoffs, make a run for the title every year, but having pieces like Kawhi Leonard to add to those three is the difference between the Spurs and the Miami Heat right now. The Miami Heat's other guys, the rotation guys, aren't as good depth-wise as the San Antonio Spurs are.

CUOMO: And the question of LeBron James, we'll see it playing out -- my guess is he stays at Miami.

John Berman, not so sure. Joe Carter, not so sure.


CARTER: --major pay cuts. I think in order to make that team better, you got to take Bosh, the big three have to take a pay cut and then they have to, you know, restructure the deal and bring in another big name. We heard names like Carmelo Anthony floating around. I don't know if they get that deal done. But in order to compete with the Spurs and other teams like Oklahoma City, they're going to have to bring in another big name.

CUOMO: Well, if there is one thing --

CARTER: A big man.

CUOMO: One thing the Miami Big Three are known for is being very unselfish when it comes to money. I'm sure they'll work it out fairly quickly.

BOLDUAN: I just hope his next announcement is like the last one, I'm going to take my town to South Beach. I enjoyed that.

BERMAN: I do not think you will see another --


BERMAN: It did not go over well.

BOLDUAN: Never mind.

Thanks, Joe.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, an intriguing new poll pits Hillary Clinton against President Obama. So, who fares better with Americans on some of the big issues like keeping America safe from terrorism and what do the results tell you about Clinton 2016?

CUOMO: And, oh, what a story we have for you, a quick thinking young pilot does the incredible. He's taking up dozens of skydivers, but he's the pilot and never thought he would have to become a diver himself, let alone in dire circumstances. Incredible story from the man himself coming up.


CUOMO: Hillary Clinton, back in the news. Her star growing brighter. That of her former boss maybe not so much.

Why? Well, a new CNN poll shows the former first lady now doing better than President Obama on every major issue.

That's good news for her, right? Maybe. Maybe, because it may make her history with the Obama administration a problem going into 2016. Will she have to distance herself from the president? Is she doing that already in some none too subtle way?

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us now from Washington.

Good morning, Brianna. How are you? And what do you think of all of this?


So, I think it is a tricky sort of line she has to walk here. But Hillary Clinton will have to distance herself from President Obama if she wants to run are for president. His popularity has dipped. Hers is still rather high and she will need to preserve that the best she can if she wants a shot at winning the White House.


KEILAR (voice-over): Forget Republicans, Hillary Clinton is walloping a big name Democrat in a new poll, her former boss, President Obama.

In a new CNN/ORC poll, Clinton tops Obama in every area tested, from how she would handle the economy, to immigration, even terrorism despite criticism over her handling of the terror attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed a U.S. ambassador and three others.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me shake a few more hands.

KEILAR: As Clinton considers whether to try persuading voters to elect back-to-back presidents from the same party, historically a difficult feat, she also must decide how much to distance herself from an increasingly unpopular commander-in-chief. She's already started drawing contrast on foreign policy, an area she leads the president 63 percent to 40 percent.

On arming the rebels in Syria --

CLINTON: I did feel quite strongly that we needed to see if it were possible to vet and train and equip moderate opposition figures.

KEILAR: On ousting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak --

CLINTON: I had a lot of apprehension about just throwing Mubarak out of office, not knowing what was going to come next, or not helping to prepare a more orderly transition.

KEILAR: And lifting the trade embargo on Cuba.

CLINTON: I'd like to change the psychology of this issue. We have been in a corner for too long. We need to get out of the corner.

KEILAR: But this poll finds her topping the president even on handling health care.

CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

KEILAR: Clinton's push for universal health care failed in the early 1990s. Sixteen years later, President Obama successfully signed his own bill into law. But then --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law.

KEILAR: flopped initially. For weeks, many Americans were unable to sign up for insurance, hurting Obama's standing on the issue.


CUOMO: All right, Brianna, so here's the assertion. Not only is Hillary trying to make this space for herself, but she's making a lot of space on all the issues that matter. When she was a big part of the administration, who was pivotal in making a lot of these decisions as she now says that she would have made different ones on.

Will she be able to get away with this? What is the bite her in the butt factor on this maneuver?

KEILAR: Well, I think there is one and that's why you see this sort of difficult dance that she's already doing. A lot of this has to do with foreign policy, right?

We know she had been more hawkish than President Obama and there really is some genuine distance. But, for instance, on health care, she was pushing him in favor of that, and with her background that she had on that. So, I think it is a tricky line that she has to walk. But I think the bigger thing here is that it is one thing she's doing, maybe as she compartmentalizes this as she moves forward, considering a campaign and maybe ultimately launching one.

But she has to have some sort of message that I think distances herself from President Obama, some sort of vision for the future, and we don't know what that is at this point. And we really can't even say if she's going to be able to walk this line.

CUOMO: I like that point you make there, that the distancing isn't enough. She's going to have to articulate a different vision, especially to capture the middle third, a play to the base.

KEILAR: Exactly.

CUOMO: Very well put. Thank you very much, Brianna.

I feel much smarter about it now. I came into it a little lacking in confidence, but you helped. Thank you very much.

A quick remind, tune in tomorrow night as Hillary Clinton answers your questions in a live town hall meeting moderated by none other than CNN's Christiane Amanpour. That's tomorrow night, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, and again at 9:00 p.m. here on CNN.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, do you think the turmoil in Iraq doesn't impact you? You may want to think again. It will likely hit you the next time you are at the gas pump. We're going to talk about that ahead.

And also this coming up. Israel's prime minister blaming Hamas for the disappearance of three teenagers. Now, Israeli soldiers are making arrests.

The latest on the search, the desperate search for the teens ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Israel this morning is desperately trying to find three kidnapped teenagers, including an American missing for days now. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming Hamas as Israeli forces make hundreds of arrest.