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U.S. Continuing Air Strikes against ISIS in Iraq; Expert Talking about Yazidi's Situation and ISIS Emergence in Iraq; NASCAR Driver Killed on Track; Diplomatic Options for Stopping Israeli- Palestinian Conflict Running Out

Aired August 10, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to an early morning here on "NEW DAY." I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. This is a very special edition of "NEW DAY" Sunday, and we welcome our international viewers as well.

PAUL: We want to start with you in Iraq this morning. U.S. war planes and drones have carried out another series of air strikes against ISIS fighters in the northern part of the country.

BLACKWELL: The four strikes targeted armored vehicles used by the terror group to fire on the Yazidi religious group near the town of Sinjar there in the mountains. And that's where tens of thousands of them have fled into that range in fear for their lives. Now, on Saturday, President Obama made it clear and you watched it here live on CNN, the military action could go on for months. And that the U.S. needs to work with its allies to help create there in Iraq a unified government.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We can conduct air strikes, but ultimately there's not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There's going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support.


PAUL: So as for the humanitarian mission there, three cargo planes we know escorted by U.S. fighter jets dropped about 3800 gallons of drinking water and more than 16,000 ready to eat meals last night. Just a short time ago as well, the British Royal Air Force made its first drop, but a U.N. official says that's not enough for the estimated 40,000 minority Yazidis hiding from ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar.

BLACKWELL: And listen to this, this is from one of the Yazidi refugees. He says that the situation there is not a crisis, but a catastrophe. He tells CNN he counted as many as 1,000 bodies as he left and went up into the Sinjar Mountains trying to escape ISIS.

PAUL: CNN's Anna Coren joins us now live from Erbil, Iraq. Anna, from what you can see, what is the situation like right now for -- is it safe to call them refugees at this point?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they absolutely are refugees. They are stranded on Mt. Sinjar. 40,000 of them. Although we are getting word that there are several thousand who have managed to get off the mountain and flee towards Syria. That's thanks to the Kurdish forces on the ground there that are helping these Yazidis, as well as those U.S. air strikes that you mentioned targeting those ISIS mortar and artillery positions. Taking them out, which means that those Kurdish fighters can get in and help some of the Yazidis. But that's only a handful of the tens of thousands that are trapped on Mt. Sinjar.

As you mentioned, you know, the situation, as that particular refugee mentioned, it's now beyond humanitarian crisis. Is now a catastrophe. Particularly if he's saying that there are thousands of bodies up there. It is dire. It is incredibly hot. They have been without food and water now for days. Obviously, those aid drops, the third humanitarian aid drop, reached them overnight. However, you know, that is some 50,000 meals, 10,000 gallons of water that has managed to get to some of them. But Mt. Sinjar is a large place. And we know that these 40,000 Yazidis who have fled there, you know, they are probably not altogether. So we're hearing of some of them getting away. Fleeing towards the border, but still, many of them are trapped, which poses an enormous problem for the 200,000 others who have fled to other parts of northern Iraq, including here in Erbil. It's just as dire.

You know, when I landed late last night, we went to one of the construction sites, abandoned construction sites where many of these refugees have set up camp basically, and they asked me, you know, when can I return home? Can we go back next week? Can we go back next month? We just don't know. And for them, they have left with just the clothes on their back. They have nothing - no possessions, whatsoever. They fled as soon as they knew that ISIS militants were heading towards their hometowns. And they got out of there. Because as we know, ISIS said you either convert to our extreme form of Islam or you face slaughter. These people left, they were taking nothing to chance, now they are here desperate and in need of help.

BLACKWELL: You know, the U.N. is working on that as they call it humanitarian corridor. As the U.S. continues to work, and with some irony, we see them going back now into Syria finding some refuge. We'll see how this plays out over the next several weeks and months. Anna Coren there for us in Erbil. Anna, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Anna. Two Iraqi senior defense officials, though, are telling CNN that ISIS recruiting is on the rise in Sunni areas of Iraq. They say hundreds of young men between the ages of 16 and 25 have joined ISIS in recent weeks.

BLACKWELL: So the question so many people are asking, did the White House underestimate ISIS' strength early on? Here's the president's response.


OBAMA: There's no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and, I think, the expectations of policymakers both in and outside of Iraq.


PAUL: Let's talk more with Professor Peter Neumann, he is the director of the international Center for the Study of radicalization at King's College in London. Peter, thank you so much for being with us. I want to show you some pictures here that we've gotten in just recently of how the Kurdish Peshmerga are helping some of these refugees, as Anna Coren calls them, these Yazidis from the mountain. You can see here, if we can pull them up, there are pictures of them literally in a front loader. Here it comes. This is how they are getting some of these Yazidis off of that mountain in Sinjar. They are using construction equipment. Where are they taking them is the question. Where can they go for safety, Peter? Do you have any gauge on that?

PETER NEUMANN, KING'S COLLEGE: Well, I mean, the area is located, I mean, a number of the Yazidi refugees have made it into Syria. There seems to be a small corridor that allows them to escape. However, that is only true for a very small number of them. Most of them are still stuck in the same situation. So for them, the situation has not improved.

BLACKWELL: And help us understand and even al Qaeda has called them radical. And when you get that moniker from al Qaeda, then you know that they are on one far end of the spectrum. Help us understand as it relates to other terrorist groups that the U.S. and the world has fought before. How savage ISIS really is?

NEUMANN: So, ISIS has often been said is even more extreme than al Qaeda. You have to understand, in the 2000s, ISIS came out of the Islamic state of Iraq and al Qaeda in Iraq which was creating havoc in that particular country because they were introducing things like beheadings. They were starting a civil war against Shiites. They were bringing back all the punishments from if you want the seventh century at the time of the Prophet Muhammad. And even al Qaeda at that point was criticizing Zarqawi who was the leader of the predecessors of ISIS for being too brutal, for putting off Muslims from supporting al Qaeda. So you can imagine how extreme they are and to some extent it's working because people are literally scared of them. We know of Iraqi soldiers who were running away from ISIS knowing what would happen to them if they were being captured by ISIS.

PAUL: So, when we hear this, and then we talk about how to stop it, if we talk about just containing them as it has been - that's been one of the goals here is to contain ISIS and not give them any further ground is that going to be enough? Aren't they going to continue to be a threat? And how much does the international intelligence community -- how much are they honed in on this group? How much do they really know about them to continue to contain them?

NEUMANN: So, the air strikes that are currently being carried out by America are probably enough to contain them. But, of course, containment is not enough with a group like that. They continue to hold territory. That could be very dangerous for all the neighboring countries, but also even for the United States because it's holding territory that enables you to pull off terrorist operations like 9/11. So over the next months and years, it will be necessary to work with all the people who are against them. The secular forces in Syria, the Kurds, the Iraqi government, the Jordanians in order to increase their capacity to take them on. That will be the aim that President Obama is pursuing in the next months and years. Ultimately, of course, the solution is political. The tribes in Iraq have to be -- have to be taken away from ISIS. And the Iraqi government has to be inclusive enough to basically reach out to them. That will be the solution. But militarily, they can be pushed back from all sides.

PAUL: OK, SO, Peter, it sounds as though you are saying - you said containment isn't enough. You need to destroy them. Who is willing, not just capable, but who is willing to take that on if -- I mean, the U.S. has said there's not going to be any boots on the ground. But if it comes to it, who -- are there any U.N. allies with the U.S. that could do that? That are willing? That are capable?

NEUMANN: Well, the good news is, ISIS doesn't have a lot of friends because ISIS is threatening every single one of its neighbors. It is already fighting on four fronts. It is fighting against the Kurds, it is fighting against the Iraqi governments, against the secular people in Syria and against the Syrian government. All these people are in principle willing to take ISIS on. The problem is they are not very capable. As we've seen with the Iraqi army who fallen at the first hurdle. So the task of America and the international community is to increase the capacity of the Kurds, of the Iraqis, of the Syrians, of the Jordanians in resisting ISIS and in taking them on. Not putting boots on the ground but making them stronger so they themselves can eliminate ISIS.

BLACKWELL: All right, Peter Neumann, we've got you back with us in the next hour. One thing I want to talk about as we have you back is the president said on Thursday night in announcing these strikes that they are also some diplomatic and economic levers that can be pulled. Diplomatically, are there countries that would have some influence over ISIS? We'll talk about that in the next hour. Peter Neumann, thank you so much.

NEUMANN: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, now we've got a big story here in the U.S. we want to talk about breaking overnight. A top NASCAR driver track racing here now under investigation after running over a fellow driver on a dirt track. We've got all the details on the crash involving NASCAR's Tony Stewart.

PAUL: Also, a Missouri community is outraged this morning after an unarmed teen is killed by police. His mother has a lot to say.


PAUL: 14 minutes past the hour right now. We are following breaking news in the world of NASCAR today. Authorities tell us driver Tony Stewart hit and killed another driver during a dirt track race in upstate New York.

BLACKWELL: And the driver who was killed was out walking on the track. "Bleacher Reports" Rashan Ali is here with more. Rashan, what more do you know? Because we've learned something from this - the sheriff there.

RASHAN ALI, THE BLEACHER REPORT: Right. Well, witnesses say Stewart spun out fellow driver Kevin Ward. Kevin then got out of the car to kind of voice his displeasure and he was hit by Tony Stewart's car sliding him down the track. According to Ontario County, New York sheriff Phil Povero they say that the driver was then taken to the hospital by ambulance where he was pronounced dead. So a spokesman from Tony Stewart's camp have released a statement saying a tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race, in which Tony Stewart was participating. Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We're still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time. Now, they have said that he has been cooperating and talking, but for those people who follow NASCAR, we know that Tony Stewart has been a hot head over the years. Of course, we cannot make any assumptions now ...

PAUL: Sure.

ALI: Because this is an ongoing investigation, but this is going to be something that could rock the NASCAR world.

PAUL: On dirt tracks like that, I mean is it possible, I suppose, that the guy jumped out in front of him and he just did not have time to react to go another way?

ALI: That could be a possibility as well. So, that's why, you know, with further investigations and all that, it's going to kind of tell what, you know, the intent was on Tony Stewart's part.

BLACKWELL: I've driven on one of those dirt tracks. In my role, it was ceremony. I've driven the pace car, however, they are very slick.

ALI: Right.

PAUL: Right. That's what I was ...

BLACKWELL: Also depending upon the weather the night before, I mean it's easy to lose traction on those tracks.

PAUL: Yeah, right.

BLACKWELL: That statement, though, from Tony Stewart's camp, no connection there between Tony's driving and the driver's death.

PAUL: Right.

BLACKWELL: Tony is unhurt.

ALI: Accident.

PAUL: Right.

BLACKWELL: But another driver lost his life. Instead of there being any involvement in that statement.

PAUL: Or taking any responsibility at that point.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, yeah. And that's probably a legal decision.

ALI: Right. Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: All right. Rashan Ali, thank you so much.

ALI: You're quite welcome.

PAUL: I appreciate it very much, Rashan.

BLACKWELL: You know, there's outrage in Missouri in a community there this morning after an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by police on Saturday. Witnesses say that 18-year-old Mike Brown was with a friend when he was stopped by police and told to walk on the sidewalk. Now, after a heated exchange, Brown was shot even after he reportedly stopped, raised his hands in the air. According to family and friends, Brown was spending the summer with his grandmother. The teen's mom described her son as a good kid and says he did not deserve to die. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know (INAUDIBLE) nobody. My son just turned 18 and graduated from high school. (INAUDIBLE). They told me how many times my son was shot. Eight. You're not god. You don't decide when you're going to take somebody from here. If that was the case, I brought him here, I should have took him from here. That was mine. That belonged to me.


BLACKWELL: Well, officials there say it took hours to collect evidence, remove Brown's body because of protests in the community. County detectives say they plan to release more information about the shooting later today.

PAUL: And we will have that for you when we hear it.

Meanwhile, there had been more peace talks as you know. And thinking that they could end the bloodshed in Gaza. Well, now Hamas is threatening a, quote, major escalation in violence is their demands aren't met and the conversation doesn't continue. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Well, just days after a short-lived cease-fire crumbled in the Mideast, Hamas is giving Israel an ultimatum now. Come to the table and meet our demands or prepare for an escalation of violence and rocket attacks.

BLACKWELL: But Israel says it will not budge until the rocket attacks stop. Now ahead of today's cabinet meeting in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that this crisis is far from over. Here's a quote, "I said at the beginning of the operation and the whole way along it will take time. We need to relate to this with steadfastness and unity until we completed the mission." CNN's John Vause is monitoring the developments on the ground there in Gaza. John, we also heard from the defense minister from Israel that there is nothing to negotiate unless the rockets stop from Gaza. So is there even any potential for even these humanitarian ceasefires that we saw intermittently through this conflict?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, certainly the diplomatic options seem to be fast running out here. Especially when you listen to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon being very adamant that this operation will continue. What we know at this stage as far as the negotiations in Cairo, the Palestinian delegation there plans to meet with the Egyptian mediators. That's meant to happen any time soon. And Hamas says if it has confirmed that the Israelis have no intention of returning to Cairo to continue on with those negotiations, then they will pack up and they will leave and they'll head back to the Palestinian territories. And they will continue negotiations here pretty much amongst themselves or meet with the leaders both in the West Bank and in Gaza. In particular, the president of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. But it certainly appears that they will be leaving. Certainly at face value. Because as you say, the Israeli government making it very clear that they have no intention to continue these negotiations while the rockets continue to fire from Gaza into Israel. And that is the case. Those rockets do keep coming, mostly falling in the southern part of Israel. But as far as the Israelis are concerned, that doesn't really mean much. The rocket fire is rocket fire. And so, we now have a situation that Hamas has warned that unless the Israelis agree to their key demands which is here lifting the economic blockade and now they are saying they want a sea port as well as one of their key demands, then they will start firing rockets again and that this conflict will be back on. And what they have also said, Victor, in the last day or two, is that if this fighting escalates, they will start sending rockets towards Tel Aviv, in particular, they'll try and target Israel's airport in Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport. You may remember, a couple of weeks ago, international carriers pretty much stopped flights in and out of Ben Gurion for almost two days because a Palestinian rocket landed nearby and that was a huge blow to the Israelis. But despite that, Israel was adamant no negotiations until there's an end to the rocket fire.

BLACKWELL: All right. John Vause there for us in Gaza. John, thank you so much. PAUL: Thank you, John. Breaking news that we're following this

morning involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. As we were just saying, he's being investigated after a deadly crash. We'll have more on that.

BLACKWELL: Plus, an unarmed teenager shot by police in Missouri. We're going to have more throughout the morning. What the community wants to know about why this happened.


PAUL: Well, a bright hello and welcome to you. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Here are five things you need to know for your new day.

PAUL: Number one, you have to know about new air strikes and air drops in Iraq. The U.S. hitting ISIS militants four times yesterday. The group that's taken over several cities in Iraq is also responsible for forcing tens of thousands of Yazidis to hide in the mountains near Sinjar. On the humanitarian side, the U.S. and the British air force have both dropped food and water to those stranded refugees.

BLACKWELL: Number two, just days after peace talks failed, Hamas and Israel are at it again.