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tv   Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield  CNN  June 19, 2014 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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he said wooden shoe. thanks for joining us "@this hour." i can't. i can't. i'm sitting over here. >> i'm john berman. that's michaela pereira. "legal view with ashleigh banfield" starts right now. is the united states ready to take action in iraq? president obama is about to take to the podium as soon as he wraps up a meeting with top-level national security team members. wait till you hear of the list of the people he is in many a room with at this moment. we're going to take that live as it happens. and also this hour, two men living in the middle of texas and accused of conspiring with middle east terrorists, both under arrest this hour, preparing to face a federal magistrate. who are they? what were they up to? and better question, why?
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hello, everyone, i'm ashleigh banfield. it's thursday, june 19th. and welcome to "legal view." combat troops, no. special forces, well, that's a big maybe. a very big decision on the united states' involvement in the bloody upheaval in iraq is expected to come this hour, just about 30 minutes from now, in fact, from the president himself. cnn has learned that the pentagon has drawn up plans to send as many as 100 special ops, green berets, army rangers and/or navy s.e.a.l.s all in an effort to help down the onslaught from isis in iraq. the islamic state in syria and iraq, which has blasted its way from the syrian border to the far outskirts of baghdad all in barely a week. the president is said to be meeting with his top-level national security team members as we speak. and of course, we're going to bring you his public comments live at the bottom of the hour just as soon as he takes to the podium. in the meantime, i want to bring in my cnn colleague nic
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robertson in the iraqi capital. we're also joined by cnn pentagon correspondent barbara starr and white house correspondent michelle kosinski. and joining me live here in new york, cnn military analyst and retired lieutenant air force colonel, he also worked for the cia and defense intelligence agency. also with me from denver, christopher hill, former u.s. ambassador to iraq, now the dean of the school of international studies at the university of denver. first to you, barbara starr. more on this plan, more on this idea from the pentagon of 100 special ops potentially en route just as soon as the president gets a signature on the documents. what is the likelihood of that? >> reporter: well, let's be clear. the president still has to -- we don't know if he's decided, but if there is a decision, it would still have to be made public. let's try and sort this all out. what we do know is the pentagon now is ready to send up to 100
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special forces. that means green beer rayberets army rangers, navy s.e.a.l.s. these are going to be, if it happens, small teams, 12-man teams of military advisers that will go to iraq, and they will be placed, we are told, in iraqi brigade headquarters around the country. they will advise iraqi forces, but they will do more. they will help gather intelligence about what isis is up to, where it is, how it's moving, what weapons it has. i think it's safe to say this is one of the reasons we're not seeing airstrikes. the u.s. just simply does not have that fine granular intelligence to understand fully the isis picture. you look at the videos, the tape, the pictures, you see that isis moves around in vehicles, individuals with ak-47s and machine guns, very difficult to target from the air. so the big question now, if this plan proceeds, if you start seeing military advisers around
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iraq in brigade headquarters, does that mean ground forces? are they ground forces? are they in combat? well, it's not like it's a maneuver force. it's not like it's an armored division or an infantry battalion, but these guys are special forces. >> yeah. and they're in harm's way. if they're on the ground, they are in harm's way no matter what you call them,er er ithey are line of fire. can you hold that thought for a second? i want to go to the line of fire and nic robertson. there's mixed messages. if you're hearing it from your perspective and what the iraqis are hearing, number one, the americans might be considering sending help. number two orks the americ, the also saying we're not so crazy about your government, and we really want a change. how is all of this settling on the ground there? >> reporter: well, that line about wanting to change the government is not settling well, as you can imagine. we had a statement from prime minister nuri al maliki's office saying they have not received an official statement from the united states, saying that nuri
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al maliki should step down as a condition to providing troops or airstrikes or whatever. so there's a very strong pushback there. toward many of the politicians and quietly to diplomats here, they will all tell you maliki is a spent force. he's the one that created the sectarian tensions. his response to the current crisis has alienated any potential political partners. the request he is how do you get rid of him? it won't be the army. they support him. it won't be his political party because they're not powerful enough. you have the politicians internally. they say it would have to be the religious leaders here. and frankly, we're not seeing any hint of that coming at the moment, ashleigh. >> again, the breaking news, i want to remind our viewers, we're waiting for the president to take to the podium for a live address, fresh out of a meeting with his top-level national security advisers. all of this on the news that somewhere around 100 special ops forces are drawn up and ready to go if the president puts his signature to it.
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at an advisory and intel-gathering capacity. our michelle kosinski is live at the white house. michelle, i'm just getting this list of the people that the president is -- i'm assuming still in a meeting with, and they don't get bigger or more important. the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chief of staff, the national security adviser, the u.n. representative, america's u.n. representative, the director of national intelligence, the director of the cia, the chairman of the joint chiefs. i just hit half of them, michelle. it sounds big. is the announcement going to be bigger than just yes or no to the pentagon's plan? >> reporter: yeah, this is a big deal. and when you look at that plan that barbara starr laid out, that would be or would seem to be at least a logical step to what has been discussed behind the scenes over the last several days. that yes, we know publicly that airstrikes have been an option, but department of defense officials saying kind of out of the spotlight, well, we don't have the intelligence. we need that first.
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if that is to be an option. so this would not be a big surprise. but this is a big announcement. it is essentially u.s. boots on the ground if that's what comes to pass. but the white house keeps emphasizing they would not be in a combat role. so yeah, this is a big deal, this meeting. it's been going on for about a half hour now. you could say, well, if this was not going to substantially change the footing of the u.s. role in iraq at this point, why would the president be coming out at 12:30 and making an announcement? >> sure. >> reporter: however, you look at this meeting that he had with the four top congressional leaders yesterday. when they same out, they said, well, actually, no. even though it had been speculated for days, this wasn't an opportunity for the president to lay out the specific options and to start to discuss them, pick them apart, start to make a decision. they said it was more an assessment, an update of how the president views the situation. nancy pelosi said it was informative and interesting. but they're saying there wasn't news there. there wasn't something along the
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lines of leading up to the brink of making a decision. >> so, michelle -- >> reporter: could this be simply an update? that's what we're waiting to see. >> and a lot of people are going to hinge what they're hearing is boots on the ground. these special ops forces aren't just going to the green zone or baghdad. they would be placed in brigades all around the country gathering intel on isis and then advising the local forces as well. i want to bring in the former ambassador to iraq, christopher hill. ambassador hill, i have to ask you -- i think a lot of people listen to this. they are frustrated. they are annoyed. they are fatigued by everything they hear that has to do with afghanistan and iraq, quite frankly. and at the same time, they're saying no one's burning effigies of president obama in iraq right now. why draw attention to americans again? >> well, i think the president and his advisors have looked
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very carefully at the situation. they seem to have concluded that there's not real scope for air operations, but they want to stabilize it. i mean, after all, we have this isis horde, in effect, coming in. they've used all kinds of sundry other people to move, and i think the potential for huge number of civilian casualties is very much there. and so i think understandably, the president is looking around for some options. and he's settled on a fairly low-profile option, that is a few soldiers who presumably have a lot of experience in iraq from before, working at the brigade level in the iraqi army which seems to be the real point of the spear there and seeing if they can stabilize the situation. of course, the other issue is the political issue where maliki has clearly had problems engaging the sunni community, although i would say the sunni community has clearly had problems engaging the fact that there's shia rule in that country. so a lot of things going on, and
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i think the president has tried to thread a needle, and it's not been easy. >> and that needle, for a lot of people, still i come back to it is, let them deal with their own needles and perhaps keep a better eye on who the victor is. when we come back after the break, i want to have rick francona weigh in on what's next then. maybe it's 100 special ops now, but then what? what if they need help? something called mission creep. we've been there before, we've seen it before. the president is about 20 minutes or so away from his big announcement. we are assuming it has to do with the proposal from the pentagon to send these special forces. will he? won't he? and is there more to it? and our own anderson cooper is also standing by live in baghdad. he's going to give us a special report in just a moment as well. we'll be right back. ybe you lefm in the bathroom again. it's just the strangest thing... the warning signs of alzheimer's disease,
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just keeping a live eye on the white house briefing room because the podium is empty now, but in about 16 minutes from now, the president is expected to emerge from the door behind the blue screen on the right. and the white house right now has been a very busy place. before the president emerges to that podium, he has been in a very significant meeting with some of the top-level members of his cabinet and outside his cabinet as well. his national security team has been in with him for most of the morning. and he's expected to come out and make an announcement on iraq. whether it's about this plan that's been forwarded from the pentagon to send about 100 u.s. special operations forces, delta, green berets, navy s.e.a.l.s to iraq to serve in an intelligence role or whether it's beyond that because that's a big meeting. we have yet to find out.
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we're keeping a live eye on it. anderson cooper is in baghdad and retired lieutenant colonel, also worked for the cia. we're going to talk to both of you starting with anderson on the ground. when this announcement came out this morning and top-level sources telling cnn that these special ops are likely to be placed in depots all around, not just in the green zone or baghdad or far away from isis, right in the thick of it because they've got to be placed with iraqi military brigades in the headquarters. what is the stability of these places? are they sitting ducks if they end up in those locations all around iraq? >> reporter: you know, i think that's a really interesting question to zero in on and to hone in on because for the last several days, there was a lot of focus from observers saying, you know, any forces that were sent were going to be sent to the embassy, were going to be sent to the green zone, were going to be operating out of there. but clearly to be effective l a lot of these groups have to be
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in forward positions, have to be with iraqi battalions out in the field, especially if part of their mission is to basically bolster the confidence, the failing confidence of a lot of these battalions out there. and obviously, this puts them very much closer to the fight, very much closer to harm's way. and what happens if the iraqis they are advising, the iraqis they are giving intelligence to, if the iraqi military units decide to cut and run like we have seen over the last week or so, do you then have a scenario where american personnel have to try to be extricated, have to be evacuated by other u.s. forces in the region there those front-line positions? so it raises a whole host of questions. remember, there was a status forces agreement which was not able to be reached. the obama white house says the maliki government didn't really want it, wouldn't let it happen. critics of the obama white house say the obama white house didn't really have their heart in it, didn't really try to push to
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make it happen. but one of the major issues was would u.s. military personnel on the ground here be subject to iraqi law if something went wrong, if there was some sort of an incident, they come come to an agreement with that. the question is with these forces, these s.e.a.l.s, special operators in these forward positions, i'm curious to know what sort of agreement has been reached with the iraqi government concerning who exactly is overseeing them and whether or not they are subject to iraqi law. so a lot of questions to be answered. we're not sure exactly what the president is going to be saying, but it's going to be interesting. >> yeah. you know, none of these special forces ever signs up for the safety of the job. colonel francona, i'm going to get you to weigh in in just a moment. we're under the gun. anderson, thank you for your work. be careful where you are. we're all worried about you every day. so you and your crew be safe. keeping a live eye on the microphone, expecting the president momentarily. we're going to squeeze in a quick break and be back right after this.
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back now to the story of the hour and probably many more hours to come. president obama is about to announce new military action in iraq, aimed at countering a deeply alarming threat from militants, those militants with isis, a group said to be more extreme than al qaeda. joini joining our special live coverage, jim acosta, dana bash, anderson cooper and pentagon correspondent barbara starr and cnn chief national security correspondent jim sciutto along with chief political analyst gloria borger. let's go right to barbara starr. barbara, i want to talk about this option that the pentagon is presenting to president obama, the one that they are presumably discussing right now in this national security meeting. explain exactly what this is.
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>> reporter: jake, what we are looking at is the president potentially authorizing the deployment of 100 or so special forces advisers to iraq. if this happens, they will be army green berets, army rangers, navy s.e.a.l.s. they will deploy to iraq, it is our understanding, small 12-man teams going to various iraqi brigade headquarters around the country. their job will be to advise and help the iraqis, but perhaps much more important, they will be in an intelligence-gathering mode. they will be looking at isis, the militant sunni fighters. they will be looking for where they are, how they're deploy, what weapons they have. one of the reasons you are not going to see airstrikes any time soon, they're still working to gather intelligence. it's a very tough target set. isis moves around in vehicles, in convoys with small weapons. already you are seeing manned reconnaissance, pilots in the cockpit, flying off the deck of the carrier "george h.w. bush" in the persian gulf over iraq.
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they are conducting reconnaissance, gathering intelligence. i think we all understand that the key question is 100 military advisers on the ground, does this directly contradict the president's statement, no ground forces in the iraq? they may not be in direct combat. they are not expected to go into direct combat. but they may find themselves in dicey situations. and as we keep saying, if you are part of special forces, you know you have to be prepared for anything. jake? >> i want to go right now to cnn military analyst and retired air force colonel rick francona. colonel, explain the semantics being used here. special operations forces are obviously those special teams, navy s.e.a.l.s, army rangers, green berets, delta force, et cetera, why are they not considered ground forces? >> well, they are. i mean, this is just parsing words. and they're not -- and they say not going to be in a combat role. we always say if people are
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shooting at you, you're in a combat role. so these are primarily going to be army officers. these are going to be army special forces officers who are trained to do just this. they're going to go out there and work inside these iraqi brigades. it's very important that these brigades get back online. we've seen this total breakdown of the iraqi command structure. and these officers will be fully equipped to put this back in order. but it's -- i think we're fooling ourselves if we say we're not putting boots on the ground. >> senior national security correspondent jim sciutto in studio with me. presumably the pentagon wouldn't be talking about this plan if the president hadn't already essentially decided tt he was going to do it. >> i think that's possible. and i think that's why we're waiting for him now in a few minutes to make such an announcement. but it's interesting. you see this in the larger picture of the administration's very measured use of force. you know, it fits with pattern. we saw the hesitation over syria
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ultimately deciding not to act. in ukraine, very measured, a couple hundred special forces -- well, in that case airborne going around the area of ukraine. they were not major steps, you know, it wasn't too combative. he was worried about making the situation worse. and i think you see that same ethos coming through here. it's a dangerous step. it's outside the wire. they do face risk. it's not combat troops, and he's still thinking about airstrikes. but it's continuing this pass of a very measured force, fitting under that umbrella of obama's, you know, as many of his advisers were describing it a couple weeks ago, don't do dumb stuff, right? they have real hesitation to apply force in places where they think they might make it worse. >> gloria, talk about, if you would, the politics here, president obama, one of his signature campaign pledges, getting troops out of iraq. as colonel francona just pointed out, he is, assuming this plan is announced, he's about to send troops back in. >> sort of pinky toe in the
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water kind of thing and clearly reluctant as jim points out. the obama narrative has been ended two wars, killed osama bin laden. we are safer. al qaeda on the run. and -- >> as written by the white house. >> as written by the white house, the obama narrative. and i think this is a problem now, and this is why you see a white house and a president who's very, very reluctant to use force, particularly in this part of the world, particularly in iraq. and so what you see is a president saying -- i don't think he will rule out anything, by the way. putting these forces on the ground, whatever you call them, they're also going to provide, as barbara points out, intelligence because if the airstrikes are needed, at least you would have people there. so i think he's moving a quarter of an inch at a time. >> senior white house correspondent jim acosta at the white house. we are expecting the president to deliver a statement sometime in the next few minutes about the decision. what are you hearing, jim?
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>> reporter: one thing we are hearing, jake, at the moment is this statement has been delayed. we don't know how long. we don't know how long we'll be waiting here in the briefing room. just a moment ago one of the staffers at the white house informed us that this meeting that the president is having with his national security team and if you look at the list of participants in that meeting, it may explain why this is taking a little bit longer than expected. everybody from the secretary of state on down is right now behind closed doors with the president in the situation room. so we're waiting to find out exactly when the president is going to go out. but just to echo what jim and barbara and gloria have been saying, every indication that we are getting from the white house is that the president is not going to come out and announce airstrikes, that he is probably going to announce something along the lines of what you've been hearing all morning, that these special forces will be going in in an advisory and training role. that yes, they are going to be at some risk. make no mistake about it, they are boots on the ground, so to speak. but as we've been told all week long by senior administrator
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officials, jake, is just because you send special operations forces into iraq doesn't mean they'll be in a combat role. they are sticking to this insistence that there will not be a combat role for whatever forces go into iraq. so i want to make sure that that point is made. at the same time, why the hesitation? jim sciutto was just talking about this. we've heard a number of reasons over the last week. first, the president said late last week that he wanted to see maliki impose some political reforms in his country to be more inclusive with the sunni and the shia and the kurdish minorities in sects in that country. we also heard earlier this week that perhaps the administration is more confident in the iraqi security forces in holding baghdad, that baghdad would not fall. that seems to have lessened the urgency for some kind of quick airstrike. and so it will be interesting to hear what the president has to say as to why he was saying last week we might need a short-term immediate strike. but now this week it seems that urgency has evaded. >> jim acosta at the white house. we're going to take a quick
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welcome back to cnn. we're expecting president obama to come out to the white house briefing room any moment to discuss his plans for iraq. we have been talking with barbara starr at the pentagon about a plan being floated by the pentagon, one we presume the white house has signed off on already about sending up to 100 special operations forces to baghdad to help the iraqi government battle the threat
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from isis. let's go to baghdad now, if we can, where our own anderson cooper is. anderson, tell us about the security situation in baghdad that will await -- that is awaiting these special operations forces should president obama give the go order? >> reporter: yeah, the security situation is extraordinarily tense, extraordinarily tight. i was driving around today to get anywhere now is harder than i've seen it in years. i mean, there are checkpoints probably every several blocks or so. they're certainly military or police or other security units on just about every block in baghdad. nevertheless, there are still bombings going on. three bombings today. at least three people killed, more than 15 wounded. so there are cracks in the security. but i've really never seen it as tense, as kind of well covered as it has been right now. and it really does raise questions about whether this has bought some time for the obama
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administration to plan what they want to do. a lot of the inroads, the fast movement that isis forces and sunni supporters have been able to make are predominantly sunni areas in the north and elsewhere, even in the weren't part of baqubah. but as you get closer to baghdad, more shia-controlled areas, there are more motivated fighters here certainly in the iraqi military, shia fighters and also now tens of thousands of vol tuunteevolunteers, some training over the last several years fighting for bashar al assad in syria who have returned to fight isis. you don't hear people in baghdad itself worrying about this city falling. nevertheless, the situation is very tense here, jake. >> anderson, the last time i was in baghdad, there was a big debate in the american media whether to call what was going on in iraq a civil war since the sectarian conflicts between shiite and sunni and kurd was so
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stark, yet there was a real reluctance by the u.s. government to call it that. what are you hearing on the ground there in baghdad? >> reporter: you know, in baghdad, a lot of people giving lip service to the idea that this is not a civil war. people, you know, i was at a military base today where v volunteers were signing up. and two men said we are one nation, sunni, shia, kurd. but we all know there are real sectarian divisions in this country. we're seeing it play out right now. i don't think one can say it's a full-on civil war at this point. i don't think we know enough about what sunni groups exactly are supporting isis in the field and how able the united states will be or other actors will be to peel off some of those groups if there is a change of leadership. that's certainly going to be one big motivation for the white house to try to, through these greater use of intelligence special forces, to try to kind of get a handle on some of these
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other sunni groups, even some of the sunni groups that the u.s. worked with during the sunni awakening back in 2006/2007 to try to get them back on board, supporting the central government if nuri al maliki goes. >> anderson, stay right there. i want to go to capitol hill to our chief congressional reporter, dana bash. i can't imagine, dana, that there is excitement about the announcement that president obama is about to make, whether it's from democrats or republicans, even though there have been several -- on both sides -- calling for some steps to be taken, it is a capitol hill that is wary of war as the american people are these days. >> reporter: incredibly wary. for better or worse, these are the people who represent their con state wepts who have, over the years, become very lee luck tant and very wary. and that is especially so when you're talking about the president's fellow democrats here on capitol hill. nancy pelosi, the democratic leader in the house, said point blank this morning that the president should use caution, even in spending -- sending this very small group allegedly of
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special forces to iraq because she says the number has a tendency to grow. just point of fact, she has seen this movie before. and she and other democrats worked incredibly hard when george bush was president, having vote after vote after vote, pushing to get these troops home. finally they got a democrat, a like-minded democrat in the white house who did that, and now they're very concerned about this. the other point i would make is that after this meeting last night at the white house with nancy pelosi and other leaders of congress, bipartisan leaders, they came back and didn't say anything. they talked a little bit this morning, but they didn't say anything, which certainly was an indication that something was in the works already at the white house because, as you know, jake, you've covered this a long time, when things break down and things are unclear, that's when other parties tend to spout off, and that didn't happen. >> dan that bash a bash on capi.
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we are going to take another quick break. we are expecting the president to come out and talk about plans for iraq, whether he is going to be sending in up to 100 special operations forces. stay with us. we'll be back after this quick break.
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welcome back to cnn's continuing coverage of the crisis in iraq. the president is expected to come out of the briefing room at any moment as to what he intends to do as commander in chief. we're hearing about his possibly spending up to 100 special operations forces to baghdad to assist the iraqi government in combatting and destroying isis, the militia terrorist group that is descending upon baghdad after conquering much of the rest of the country. let's says go to our chief international correspondent, christiane amanpour. there's a lot of semantic debate right now about whether or not special operations forces
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constitute boots on the ground or not. but more important than the word choice, i think, is the question of what will they be able to achieve once there? what do you think? >> reporter: well, here's the thing. i do think you're correct. it's a lot of semantic conversation about this in the face of a very dire and existential threat to the united states as well as to iraq. so the u.s. really has to try to do all it can to stop isis. what we've seen, which is very interesting, is isis has not moved further than baiji where they are fiercely contesting the power plant. they did have a lightning-fast movement towards that, but they're stopped, and they're not moving on baghdad, as you heard from anderson. but what is really a problem is that there's a core of isis surrounded by a coalition with former baathists, former sunni forces, former tribal leaders. and clearly what the united states thinks it can do is put in some advisers who, after all, trained these troops in the first place to help them with intelligence, to help them stiffen their spine, to help them get their forces and
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logistics and operation in order, if they possibly can, for them to then go out and fight a harder fight. because otherwise what you have is the fighters being taken over by shiite militias and potentially even ground troops from iran, if it gets so bad that baghdad or the rest of the country might fall. >> christiane, do you think this is a civil war? obviously the sectarian differences between the two sides right now are stark. there are, of course, even though the government is run by a shiite in a plurality if not majority shiite country, depending on whether or not you count kurdistan, the question of whether or not the military is almost entirely shiite comes down to also the dispute about who you have on the other side and how many of them are being fueled by sectarian impulses such as isis and how many of them just like the former baathists you referred to just don't want maliki in power? >> reporter: well, there's a little of both, really. you heard anderson say when you
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talk to people, they want to keep their country unified. nobody blithely talks about partitioning it. well the iraqi people didn't want that, and most of them still don't, but what you do have is a real problem and that is the authoritarian, sectarian nature of the maliki government. and yes, he's pushed out all significant sunnis in various key, key areas like the intelligence, for instance. certainly in parliament. i spoke to the top-ranking sunni politician yesterday who is the deputy prime minister. and even at this moment of maximum need, he says he can't see maliki really reaching out and having any kind of real power sharing. so what you have is not so much a civil war right now, actually. what you have are battle lines that have hardened, partitioned lines that exist right now, and that is what presumably the united states wants to try to change and to be able to stop and push back isis. let's not forget, this is a
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partition that's happening right now with an al qaeda-type entity in control of one-third -- you know, one of those three parts of the country. and that is an unacceptable reality. so whatever has to be done to stop that has to be done. >> christiane, stay right there. we're expecting president obama to come out shortly after the hour. maybe around 1:15 eastern time. stay with us for more on the announcement president obama is about to make and the crisis in iraq. back after this. don't just visit new york visit tripadvisor new york with millions of reviews, tripadvisor makes any destination better.
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welcome back to our continuing coverage of the crisis in iraq. we are continuing to watch the podium in the white house briefing room where the president is expected to emerge, having had a very significant meeting with his national security team. it's running somewhat over. but you can see all the
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reporters are in place. and as soon as the president emerges, cnn will continue its special coverage. jake tapper's going to have a special on this, in fact, at the top of the hour as well. so stay tuned, whether we send forces or whether it's much, much more than that, yet to be seen. in the meantime, since we've been talking about jihad and terror and a lot of violence, why not talk about it again, but not overseas and faraway places. instead, right here at home. in fact, no, not syria, not iraq, the good old united states of america. because federal authorities right here in the u.s. have moved in and arrested these two men in the state of texas. they are charged with trying to provide material support to terrorists. michael todd wolf and khan, both of them 23 years old. and the fbi says they both told undercover agents that they wanted to go overseas and fight the insurgent fight. whatever that means.
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here's ed lavandera on how the fbi caught those two wannabe jihadists in texas. >> reporter: these two men, americans arrested in texas, have been charged with supporting terrorist groups in syria and somalia. a s.w.a.t. team surrounded 23-year-old khan's home in austin. according to a criminal complaint, khan used internet chat rooms to spot and assess potential recruits for committing violent jihad overseas. michael todd wolf also 23 was arrested at houston george h.w. bush airport before boarding a flight to europe where he allegedly planned to later enter syria through turkey and provide his services to radical group. wolf referred to al qaeda representatives as righteous brothers according to the criminal complaint, even showing an undercover fbi agent a youtube video of foreign fighters in syria. wolf discussed which militant groups he should join, including the brutal islamist group isis, currently staging an offensive
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against iraq. the texas native also told undercover officers he had been physically preparing to join jihad by practicing martial arts, running and cross-fit. the competitive sport which uses military-style techniques. >> this is something that's been going on for a while. and since even the early 2000s, people from america have gone over to terrorist camps overseas, but sites like youtube can be used to recruit people even in the united states very easily where before they were -- they were out of reach. >> reporter: analysts believe as many as 100 american citizens have made the trek to fight in syria. last month an american suicide bomber who grew up in florida set off a massive truck bomb at a syrian military checkpoint. syrian jihadists tweeted several photos of the american before he took his life with bombs strapped to his chest. social media has now become one of the many ways al qaeda
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recruits, westerners, to fight alongside radical islamists. >> and that was ed lavandera reporting for us. we may have just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the d-day invasion, and world war ii may seem like a very distant memory certainly with the breaking news we have today. but believe it or not, a nazi war criminal, and several, perhaps, still out there living amongst us. and the effort to bring them to justice never stops. case in point, federal prosecutors in philadelphia are moving to extradite this man, johan breyer, for nazi war crimes. he allegedly committed them in his late teens and early 20s. he is now 89 years old. according to the court documents, breyer admits that he was assigned to auschwitz as a guard in hitler's ss death head battalion. he is accused of being complicit in the murder of more than
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200,000 european jews. cnn's jean casarez reports now on the case against this accused nazi who has lived in the united states since the 1950s. >> 158 trainloads, not individuals, trainloads of people. >> reporter: germany, 1944. over 216,000 jews from eastern europe were taken by force to auschwitz concentration camp during world war ii. many were murdered. 89-year-old john breyer, a u.s. citizen living in philadelphia, may be on his way back to germany. authorities say he worked at auschwitz and was complicit in those murders as an armed guard. >> his guarding, along with all the other guards who were in that circumstance in the death head battalion that he belonged to were -- made it possible for those killings. >> reporter: the united states
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has arrested breyer at germany's request. officials there now want him extradited. >> breyer has been charged with a crime in germany. we have an extradition treaty with germany. he is being turned over, arrested here, and turned over to the german government, consistent with our treaty with germany which says we will help you enforce your laws. >> reporter: the u.s. has known about breyer for many years. in the 1990s, federal authorities tried to strip him of his citizenship when he admitted to serving as an armed guard at auschwitz and other concentration camps. among the reasons he remained in the u.s., a court found he was only 17 years old when he joined a neazi unit. but every time authorities spoke to breyer, he gave alleged statements that may come back to haunt him. according to the federal kpa complaint, he knew that people would be cremated and could see the smoke but did not know how the prisoners had died. that he may have fired into the
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air occasionally. this isn't the first time the u.s. has helped germany. another nazi guard was extradited in 2009 after living in the u.s. for over 50 years. he died in germany in 2012. what breyer has on his side, experts say, is time. memories fade. witnesses die. >> but one of the core issues in a case like this is how can the german government, any government, charge someone with a crime so long after the actual crime? how can you have the evidence? how can you put on witnesses? how can you prove what happened in the 1940s? >> and as jeffrey toobin just nailed it, how do you find the evidence? and there's so many other questions as well. by the way, i jean, i just want to draw our viewers' attention to the right-hand side of the screen. we are still watching for the president to come out and give his briefing after this big
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national security meeting. he's a little bit later than expected. who knows if that means that the meeting was more contentious than he expected. i'm not going to draw any conclusions there. but clearly the pentagon with a very big proposal to send 100 special forces over to iraq. that mean boots on the ground, folks. and we're not sure whether that's exactly what the president will address or what that very high-level national security meeting, there may be more to it. we're watching that. meantime, jean, i want you to dovetail out of that report the significance of this, trying to try someone like this, evidence that's 70-plus years old. not only that, but the notion that this isn't the first time there's been an effort to bring this man to justice. >> that's right. >> what does it all mean? >> this is the complaint right here, but it's a complaint on the matter of extradition because these are german charges. but it cites in the complaint that they have a lot of records. they have records of him being that remember aed guard, and they have his own statements through the years. and i think that's going to be critically important. >> yeah, but you know as a defense attorney, they're going to say that was fabricated. they're written in pen.
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anything could have happened after the war, right? >> there are statements because the united states came at him not allowing him to be a u.s. citizen because of his alleged nazi cooperation and efforts. his mother was born in pennsylvania. and so he made statements to authorities during those times of legal significance, and they're going to use those against him. but here's what's interesting. he's 89 years old. his grandson is saying he's had several strokes. he has had heart attacks and a heart issue -- >> but he's competent, which is awesome. which is something that was so fascinating. the judge said do you know who's standing beside you? he said "my lawyer." and "do you know what's going on?" and he said "yes." that's all you need. to be competent, you don't need a lot more than that. >> extradition hearing august 21st. and he may fight it. so that will be interesting. >> and at 89, i can only say this. he was so young at the time, going into the forces at 17. there can't be any -- look, i'll say many, but definitely any corroborating witnesses at this point. as to his level of involvement. he says yes, i was there, but i
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didn't want to be. i was there under duress. you've got to have -- >> 17 years old. 17. >> and 17. >> yes. the complaint cites the importance of the armed guards, though. i mean, as the detainees were coming off the train, he would escort them, allegedly, to the gas chamber. so the participation was really immebs nse in all of this. >> does it say in the complaint that there is someone that is alive and can actually corroborate any of this? >> they talk about the amount of records they have from that time. >> records, i know, but you know how faulty they can be. >> they show that he was there in 1944 and 1945 and he asked for a leave of absence in 1944 and that is documented right there because his family had a farm in germany. but it shows he was there. >> it's amazing. >> the complaint says when you're allowed that leave of absence, it's because you've done a stellar job. >> thank you for that. keep us posted on the machinations of that case. we are still watching for the president as he is about to emerge to give some kind of an
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announcement regarding action in iraq, whether it is regarding the pentagon's plan that pentagon submitted that became public knowledge this morning of 100 special forces, special operations members that are at least ready to go, whether he puts a signature on it or not or whether this is a far bigger, more significant announcement about what's going on there, we have yet to see. but our jake tapper is going to have a special report at the top of the hour, and he'll join us right after this quick break. k . thank you daddy. military families are uniquely thankful for many things, the legacy of usaa auto insurance can be one of them. if you're a current or former military member or their family, get an auto insurance quote and see why 92% of our members plan to stay for life. listen up, thunder dragons, it's time to get a hotel. hey, razor. check this out. we can save big with priceline express deals. hey you know what man, these guys aint no dragons.
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turkey club. the fastest pencil sharpener. the fastest elevator. the fastest speed dial. the fastest office plant. so why wouldn't i choose the fastest wifi? i would. switch to comcast business internet and get the fastest wifi included. comcast business. built for business. this is cnn breaking news. >> hello, i'm jake tapper in washington, d.c. in just a few minutes, president obama is scheduled to deliver a statement on the growing crisis in iraq and what the u.s. government plans to do about it. several u.s. officials tell us that the pentagon has presented the president with a plan that would send up


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