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Iraq Under Attack; Sec. Kerry May Visit Iraq Soon; World Cup Preview: U.S. Vs. Portugal

Aired June 22, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Rise and shine. It's Sunday and we've been waiting for you. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock here now on the East Coast, 5:00 out West. It's NEW DAY SUNDAY.

And we are starting with Islamist militants now tightening their grip on Iraq, seizing a strategic border crossing and three other towns, in the country's tenuous west.

PAUL: These four towns include al-Qim, that's a critical gateway to Iraq and Syria. Take a look at this map here for a better get a good gauge here.

They also flank a highway that connects Syria to Baghdad. That's an asset that could aid any effort by militants to lay siege to the Iraqi capital.

BLACKWELL: Iraqi officials now say the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria control 70 percent of the western Anbar Province.

PAUL: In the meantime, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo this hour, it's firs stop on a swing to the region that we're told will include Iraq. The trip comes as some 300 U.S. military advisors are due to arrive in Iraq soon.

BLACKWELL: But just this morning, more pushback against U.S. intervention. Iran's state news reports that supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, strongly opposes U.S. military action in Iraq. He said the Iraqi government and religious authority must, quote, "put an end to this fire."

PAUL: The roots of the Iraq crisis, they trace back hundreds of years.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's really difficult for some people to understand, we're hearing on Twitter, why this is happening?

So, CNN international anchor Michael Holmes looks at what's happening now and how we got here.


everyone fighting? There are a lot of reasons but here's a big one. Sunnis are a minority in Iraq and they are fed up, mainly because Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiite, promised to open up his government to both ethnic groups.

Since the U.S. left in 2011, he's worked instead to strengthen Shiite control of ministries and the military. That made him popular in Iran where Shiites are also a majority. Not so much in parts of Iraq. ISIS is exploiting that anger to fuel its rebellion.

So, it's Sunnis versus Shiites, or more or less with some politics thrown in.

And here's a wild card as well -- the Kurds in the north. They are mainly Sunni, but rule and autonomous region Kurdistan which is Iraq's most stable area right now.

Many Kurds have wanted their own nation for years. If there is a winner so far in all of this, it's them. They've got turf, they've got oil and they've got muscle.

So, who is ISIS? Well, they used to be known as al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, they rebranded as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. surge in Iraq did set them back but after the U.S. withdrew, ISIS grew in strength.

Al Qaeda distanced itself with is because they are so extreme and wouldn't take orders. ISIS is infamous are for its brutality.

And this is what Iraq is up against. Why not split up Iraq? Shiites in the south, Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the west and north, simply drawing lines on a map could lead to massive bloodshed.

Don't forget the oil fields around the country. Who gets what? On top of that, ISIS dreams of creating a caliphate, a giant Islamic state expanding Iraq and Syria. But not just there, will it settle for a slice of Iraq? The answer is no.

So, we have to worry about Syria, too. Well, yes, we do. The civil war there gave ISIS access to more fighters, to weapons and money, toxic combination.

And the border remember between Syria and Iraq basically doesn't exist right now. Stamping out ISIS in one country but not the other, probably impossible.

So, what do we do? Airstrikes? Combat troops? Nothing?

Right now, no good or simple answer. And this is what makes this war so hard to end.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: So, there are the answers a lot of people have been waiting for, how did we get here.

Let's go to Washington now. We know that U.S. lawmakers are saying that Iraq needs to govern inclusively if they want to stop the sectarian violence.

PAUL: Yes, let's bring in host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION", Candy Crowley.

Candy, I know Secretary of State John Kerry is going to be going to Iraq at some point soon. We know he's in the region. What's going to be the focus of his visit?

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Oh, I think exactly what you just talked about. And that is, there is great disappoint -- and has been for some time, actually, with Prime Minister Maliki, both on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

They feel that part of the reason that sectarian violence has grown again, part of the reason we are where we are is that Maliki took over and was not inclusive of the Kurds and was not inclusive of the Sunnis and it made the march of ISIS that much easier. So, Secretary of State Kerry, I'm sure, is there to deliver that message.

How blunt it will be will be interesting, because when the president sort of signaled his dismay with Maliki before, he said but the U.S. can't be in the business of telling Iraq who to put in as their leader but nonetheless, they have made it quite clear that they want him to go. I suspect that Secretary Kerry's visit will be along those lines.

BLACKWELL: Candy, how about this statement from Iran's supreme leader this morning saying Iraq can deal with their issues and there should be no U.S. intervention, no U.S. action there. How strong will the resistance be in Iraq to these 300 military advisors?

CROWLEY: Well, first of all, Iran -- I don't think it is any surprise that Iran doesn't want the U.S. there. Never has, never will. These are two very rival countries.

We have seen that there is going to be some resistance. There will be resistance from the Sunnis because after all, the U.S. is why Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, is gone. So, obviously, there will be resistance but as far as we know, these are not troops that are going to be out fighting. These are troops that will be out training and I assume at first there will be a very low profile.

PAUL: All right. Candy Crowley, thank you so much.

CROWLEY: Thanks guys.

PAUL: Listen, you're going to see more of her and more on the American response to the Iraq crisis at 9:00 Eastern here on "STATE OF THE UNION." Special guests today, Senators Rand Paul and Dianne Feinstein. So, be sure to stick around.

Stranded at sea. Think about this, one couple gets scooped after 14 hours of bobbing in the water. We're talking live to one of their rescuers.

BLACKWELL: Plus, what everybody is going to be watching tonight -- Team USA trying to book that ticket to the second round of the World Cup. Live in Brazil with a look ahead to the big game.


PAUL: Ten minutes past the hour right now.

We've learned a body has been found in Mount Rainier, Washington, three days after a hiker disappeared. Officials say the body is going to identified by the coroner but they have suspended the search for that missing hiker.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that hiker, Karen, she was out hiking when she encountered snow cutting off her path but she went ahead anyway and her hiking partner stayed behind and reported her missing when she did not return.

Well, talk about missing, seven miles out to sea. That's how far a couple were from shore when they were stranded.

PAUL: They were stranded on an island. We need to point out, or a boat. No. Not even a piece of driftwood. They had nothing.


PAUL (voice-over): Imagine drifting for 14 hours in the Atlantic Ocean, through the night without any life jackets, treading water the entire time.

KEITH SILVIS, RESCUER: Very distraught, tired. You can tell they've been in the water a long time.

PAUL: Shawn McGovern (ph) and Melissa Morris (ph) are so lucky to be alive this morning after being rescued by off-duty public safety officer off the coast of South Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The female when we brought her on-board her legs were cramped. She couldn't move them. We had to lift her out of the water.

The male Shawn said he ran through three or four jellyfish stinks throughout the evening.

PAUL: The Broward County sheriff's office says the couple fell off their boat in Key Largo, then watched the boat which was in gear, drift away. McGovern and Morris drifted off the coast, finally being spotted seven miles off Hollandale Beach by some fishermen that just happened to include Broward County safety official.

Two of them who didn't want their faces on camera said they felt they were just in the right place at the right time.

JOSH WEBB, RESCUER: Another 30 minutes to an hour they probably wouldn't have the same outcome as it did today because they were in pretty bad shape, they were both cramping very bad, they're very dehydrated, very tired. They appeared to be mildly hypothermic.

JAMES WHITE, RESCUER: We originally thought they were bait fish. Once we got up close and realized they were in trouble, we brought them on-board.


BLACKWELL: We've got Steve Couch, you just saw there, one of the fishermen on the phone with us.

Good morning, Steve.

STEVE COUCH, FISHERMAN (via telephone): Hey, how you guys doing.

PAUL: Hey, Steve. Good. Thank you so much for making some time for us here this morning.

I just have to ask you. You're out there in the middle, seven miles out and you see a couple of people bobbing around out there in the water. What did you first think?

COUCH: Obviously, our first response was how in the world did they get way out here? You know? We didn't know if they were some snorkelers or somebody on a surfboard or what? As we got closer we noticed they didn't even have any life jackets on. So, it was kind of an odd situation.

BLACKWELL: Treading water 14 hours. What kind of shape were they in?

COUCH: Actually, mentally I was surprised. I think they were just kind of in a mild state of shock from mild hypothermia. But they were coherent. They could speak with us. You know, before we pulled them in they said, yes, they fell off their boat. Our first he question was how in the world did you guys get way out here?

PAUL: Yes. What were your conversations with them like?

COUCH: You know he, when they came on-board they were obviously very shaken, kind of silent he little bit. You know, we asked some basic questions, where they were from? Key Largo. Like I said, the female couldn't even move her legs. We had to kind of lift her up into the boat.

We got some water into them as quickly as we can, and didn't want them to drink too fast. They were very friendly and very thankful.

BLACKWELL: We're all thankful that you found them, too.

So what do you credit your being at the right place at the right place for as many places as you could have started this trip off the coast, you find them after 14 hours of waiting there for some help.

COUCH: Well, we don't go fishing that often. We're generally like weekend warriors. We try to do it during the week. But God sometimes puts you places you should be. You got to wonder if he had maybe another mission for us that day than just fishing.

PAUL: Obviously. Do you have any idea how they're doing now? Are you keeping up with them at all?

COUCH: No, we haven't been in contact with them. I mean, after the coast guard took them off their boat, we've kind of followed the news story going around. We notice they did find their boat. They did get picked up by some friends.

Gentleman on-board Shawn was telling me he had just about his entire life savings in his boat and we were feeling pretty bad for him that he lost his boat but I'm so glad he found his boat.

BLACKWELL: Steve Couch, we thank you for being in the right place at the right time, saving this couple.

PAUL: And doing the right thing, of course.

BLACKWELL: Two off-duty cops and a paramedic find these two people.

PAUL: That just seems like it is too coincidental to be random.

BLACKWELL: Perfect place, perfect time.

Steve, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Steve.

COUCH: Thank you very much. Take care.

PAUL: Take good care.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this world cup showdown. Bring in the music. There it is. U.S. team is just hours away from this date with destiny. But can they pull off a win now that one of their stars is out with an injury.

PAUL: We're taking you live to brazil in just a moment.


PAUL: I'm glad we have this music for a few more weeks, right?

BLACKWELL: I'm going to enjoy it.

PAUL: World Cup fever spreading across the U.S. this morning.

BLACKWELL: Because in just a few hours, America's team has a chance to earn a ticket to the next round.

Shasta Darlington is live in Manaus, Brazil, that's where all the action is kicking off tonight.

So, the question, Shasta, what kind of chance are the folks there giving Team USA? SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPODENT: Well, Victor,

traditionally, Portugal is a stronger team. They have the best soccer player on their team, Cristiano Rolando. When the United States found out they'd be playing Portugal, Germany, Ghana, it was called the group of death.

But their chances are getting better every day. They beat Ghana, then Ghana died against Germany. Portugal's have a few injuries.

So, every day bookies are betting better on the united states. They are looking better and they are convinced they have a chance and they are going out there 100 percent.

PAUL: OK. You mentioned injuries. There are some injuries on both of these teams. Yes?

DARLINGTON: That's right. On the United States side, Team USA, unfortunately, Jozy Altidore, one of their promising players, a striker, he's out after -- he was injured in the first game. He's not going to play in this game. On the other hand, Clint Dempsey broke his nose but he's back. He may or may not wear a mask. We won't know until game time, but he's going to be there.

On Portugal's side, they've had had some injuries. There have been rumors even that Cristiano Ronaldo isn't the doing so well, that he's injured his knee. But, so far, the news is he's going to be there and the United States says they are going to be watching him all through the game. Every 11th man on field will be keeping an eye on him.

BLACKWELL: They're playing in the middle of the rain forest. I mean, heat, humidity, talk about the role they could play tonight.

DARLINGTON: Yes. Well, I could tell you about that personally. We're forecasting 89 percent humidity. There are a lot of people out here on the so-called beach -- this is actually a river behind me -- but it is because they got to come out early because it gets so hot.

So, tonight, it is going to be tough. They are going to be playing in high temperatures, high humidity.

But they keep saying that's true for both sides. It is not like one side will be more effective than the other. If anything, Team USA has something in their favor because they are used to playing in Houston in the summer, and south Florida in the summer. So, they say they've dealt with these temperatures before, Victor.

PAUL: Good luck to 'em.

BLACKWELL: All right. Millions crowded around televisions at bars and restaurants and basements and everywhere watching tonight.

Shasta Darlington in Manaus for us -- thank you, Shasta.

PAUL: Thank you.

So, stepping out for the first time is what we are talking about. You have got to see this double amputee's inspirational step.


KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, everyone. I'm CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis.

Areas that have already seen very heavy rainfall over the last week or so expect to see another two to four inches for today. That's bad news, because as we go into the work week, the next three to four days, that water goes downstream and it is really filling up areas along the Mississippi like right around Minneapolis-St. Paul. They have flood warnings out. Looks like the river will crest right about Thursday.

Well, we've got lots of heat that's building right across the central United States. As it does that triggers these late-day thunderstorms. We did see the huge thunderstorms right across Chicago.

Take a look at this. Yesterday afternoon we saw downed trees, downed power lines, thousands without power.

In some areas, almost three inches of rainfall in a very short period of time. Looks like for this afternoon, Chicago, you could expect another late day round of showers and storms. But not just there -- this morning in Omaha, Omaha, by the way, has already seen nine inches of rain so far this month. Their average is about three.

And in Minneapolis-St. Paul they've seen almost 11 inches of rainfall. The average for them is something less than three inches so powerful storms. More rainfall adds up to continued flooding.

Christi, Victor, back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: All right. Karen, thank you. >

PAUL: Oh, have you seen this video? Look at your screen there. OK, motorcycle accident in Clearwater, Florida, here.

Looks like a perfectly executed Hollywood stunt. This is real life. The motorcycle goes -- look at that. Motorcyclist cartwheels through the air after being hit, lands on the street, rolls over, just gets up.

BLACKWELL: Watch again here. So, he flips. There's one more. Then the guy stands up and walks away.

PAUL: You know all the people sitting in their cars right there are going, what did I just see?

BLACKWELL: They cannot believe. I mean, the guy gets up. I guess you're OK.

PAUL: Oh my gosh. Just glad he's all right.

(MUSIC) PAUL: Here is some more good stuff for you. A Colorado woman

took her first steps this week a month and a half after a car accident which took her feet.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And we've got those first steps. Look, her name is Kristin Hopkins. She waited eight weeks for her specially made prosthetics. She says she is happy to finally being vertical again. Taking those first steps there and finally to be able to go home.

PAUL: That's awesome. You may actually remember this woman. We reported on her first back in May. She was found at the bottom of an embankment five days after her crash. She survived with no food, no water and, obviously, she was so badly injured.

BLACKWELL: You know, firefighters thought they were just going to recover her body until she raised her hand to let them know she was alive.

PAUL: That is astounding.

BLACKWELL: Now, she's taken those first steps and headed home.

PAUL: We'll be following her. Congratulations to her and her family.

And thank you for sharing your morning with us. We're going to see you here next weekend. Make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.