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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  September 23, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PDT

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wolf? happening now, imminent threat, u.s. missiles weighing down on an al qaeda offshot. hammering isis. arab allies team up with the u.s. in hitting targets in syria. officials call the air strikes very successful. but they warn this is just the beginning. and more strikes to come. as world leaders gather, president obama will ask u.n. members for more help. i'm speak with some who joined the anti-terror strikes and one key ally who has not. i'm wolf blitzer at the united nations. you're in "the situation room." let's get right to the breaking news. the united states and five arab allies carry out waves of air strikes against terror targets across syria. the pentagon calls them very successful but cautions this is
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only the beginning. the strikes mark a major new escalation of what could be a long war against isis. but they begin with a surprise u.s. cruise missile and tack on an al qaeda offshoot that officials say plotted against the u.s. and the west, perhaps using concealed explosives on airplanes. president obama says this is not america's fight alone. and when he speaks here at the united nations tomorrow, he'll make a major pitch for more support in this war on terror. let's begin with our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr. she has the very latest. barbara? >> just a short time ago, another al qaeda-backed group says its leader was killed in u.s. air strikes. no confirmation of that from washington. but we are getting our first look at u.s. military action. first, the attack. 48 warplanes from the u.s. and five arab nations.
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more than 200 missiles and bombs dropped. then, the warning. >> there may be tactics and procedures that we may not be able to discuss here today to preserve options we may want available to us in the future. >> reporter: the attack was not shock and awe but from the beginning, a surprise. in the u.s. crosshairs, the khorasan group, al qaeda veterans dug in in aleppo in syria. the "uss philippines" in the northern arain bee general gulf launched more than 40 tomahawk missiles against khorasan. but their manufacturing workshops and training camps. a senior administration official says that if the strikes prove as effective as the u.s. hopes,
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they stop khorasan's ability to stop from attacking the u.s. >> we believe that an attack was near and we know that the khorasan group has attempted to recruit westerners. >> then, 9:00 p.m., the second wave. f-22 rafters in their first come back roles. b-1 bombers and drones, they launched from bases in the region. the target, isis headquarters, training camps, barracks, and combat vehicles. just after midnight, the final wave. f-18s from the "uss george h.w. bush" and f-16s and arab members of the coalition attacked in eastern syria. their target, isis training camps and combat vehicles. here, u.s. precision bombs fired against a training area. other isis targets hit with precision bombs, included a
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finance center near raqqa. the target, a communications array on the roof. >> on the right-hand side in the after picture, the rooftop communications is heavily damaged while the surrounding structure remains largely in tact. >> the u.s. is reviewing the impact of all of these air strikes, seeing how it did and how much was destroyed. u.s. officials believe isis will start modifying their behavior and communications and movements to avoid future u.s. action. wolf? >> and as u.s. officials say, this is only just beginning. barbara, thanks very much. certainly it's going to be a long war against isis. if it is to succeed, it certainly will require a strong coalition. something of a surprise, five arab nations joined the syrian operation. four of them carried out air strikes. let's go to elise labott. she's following this part of the story.
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very impressive and surprising. >> reporter: news today that the united states said that attacks would be imminent against the syrian territory. now, they said that they did not coordinate with iran or tell them targets or anything about that. they did give them a heads up. now, president obama has said that this will be a protracted air campaign but day one was all about symbolism for the partners that he choose. it was a strike with a message. the u.s. will act but not act alone. >> i also made clear that we will not act alone. >> reporter: five arab nations participated in the strikes. >> america is proud to stand shoulde shoulde shoulder-to-shoulder with these nations. >> reporter: but he did say that there areas that they disagree. >> sometimes for the sake of our national security, the united states works with governments that do not fully respect the
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universal rights of their citizens. >> reporter: one by one, the nations involved took credit. saudi arabia says its air forces have participated. jordanian planes, the government said, carried out strikes against terrorist groups in syria and the uae said its air force group launched its first strikes suggesting more to come. only qatar took part but has stayed silent. arab diplomats say, even as they fight isis, they want a much larger campaign against terrorist groups in libya, yemen, and egypt sinai to prevent another group from emerging in the region. secretary kerry talked big picture. >> this requires a common strategy and we need to focus on the efforts and areas where our collective efforts are going to
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be the most coordinated and effective against isil as well as against other terrorist groups. >> reporter: despite u.s. efforts to bring both sunni and shia states together against isis, the only countries that took part are sunni. iran condemned the air strikes, calling them, quote, illegal. notably absent, turkey, who had been accused of colluting with isis. >> turkey is very much part of this coalition and turkey will be very engaged on the front lines of this effort. >> and wolf, in addition to alerting iran, we're told that samantha power, the u.s. ambassador to the united nations, notified the syrian government that attacks will be taking place and you'll note that the syrians were what the u.s. called passive. one could interpret that they knew that the strikes were coming but did not act.
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it's notable that u.s. partners in europe, like britain and france, were not part of this air campaign. the u.s. clearly wanted to give this an arab face. wolf? >> they certainly did. and they succeeded in this additional wave. elise labott reporting for us. thanks very much. the united arab emirates played a key role in creating and implementing this coalition strike. joining us now, the uae minister. thanks for joining us. welcome to the united nations. >> thank you. >> how difficult of a decision was this for the uae to join the military strike against isis targets in syria? >> i think it was a natural decision. we've always said that we have to have a collective response to terror and it was only natural that we would be at the forefront of it. >> what did you do, exactly, what was the role of the uae air force in this operation? >> well, rather than speak about the details of their role, i would say that coalition has been very effective, will
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continue to work together, also, to be more effective, to eliminate this common threat. >> so there's going to be mortar gets against the threats. we know this initial wave but what about in the hours and days ahead? >> we are committed. this will be more or less as part of the concerted military operation, a collective one, and we're committed to it and this is a common threat. >> the uae is deeply committed? >> yes. >> do you get any sense yet from the u.s. or other coalition partners how much damage to isis was actually done in this first wave? >> well, i haven't really gotten any sort of operational sense but i think the important thing is the political will. putting this coalition together i think has been a great achievement for the administration, for all of us together because this is a common threat and it's extremely important that we deal with it collectively.
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>> i was never surprised that the uae would be part of this coalition. you worked with the united states in going after gadhafi. your air force launched strikes at that time as well. i was a little surprised by qatar, your neighbor. were you surprised that qatar was involved militarily in going after these isis targets in syria? >> well, i think it's indicative of the threat that everybody feels is common. nobody is basically immune. everybody is threatened. the values. i think this is a danger to all of us. terrorism. and i think this is indicative of how the coalition was built on the sense that we need to act. we can't be passive. >> can you tell us how many uae aircraft were involved in this initial operation and what kind of aircraft they were? >> i don't really want to go into numbers or operations. but i want to say that we're a full partner, politically, logistically, politically, of course, we support this effort
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wholeheartedly, logistically, we're also and australian force plays a role here. other forces, also. of course, we've got our pilots and we've got our assets also on this fight. >> so you're welcoming australian troops into the uae? >> yes. >> and they will play a military role in going after this? >> exactly. they declared that. and this is an essential part of this coalition building. >> and i know the u.s. navy visits dubai as a major presence there as well. i don't want you to go away. i have many questions for you, mr. minister. stay with us. lots more to discuss with the minister from the united arab emirates, one of the countries deeply involved in this coalition that president obama has formed to go after isis targets, the terrorist targets in syria. much more on the war right after this. "hello. you can go ahead and put your bag right here."
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we're getting back to the breaking news that the united states has joined with five arab allies and hitting isis targets in syria and strikes against an al qaeda spinoff said to be in the advanced stages of a plot against the united states and appropriately enough, we've just received word coming into "the situation room" right now that the department of home land security has just issued a bulletin, a bulletin to all law enforcement that what is being
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described as lone wolf attacks in the wake of these strikes. the u.s.-led air strikes in syria. we're going to have much more on this part of the story coming up. but the department of homeland security advising all u.s. agencies across the country probably around the world to be on the lookout for retaliatory lone wolf strikes because of the u.s.-led air strikes in syria. once again, we're joined by anwar gargash, minister for the united arab emirates. what do you make of this group khorasan. all of a sudden we hear of this al qaeda offshoot that is making threats, i assume against the uae as well. >> definitely. and in a chaotic situation, you will always have groups and offshoots and various groups that have the same cause but will not necessarily be organized as the same organization.
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so i'm not surprised that there is this group or any other group. it's a very chaotic situation with the security vacuum and i think that it's expected to see that. >> so you're bracing for potential retaliatory strikes in the uae, united arab emirates as well? >> well, i think we all need to be vigilant but i think taking action is better than not taking action or delaying action. so i think vigilance is expected of all of us but i think we're doing all the right thing in order to thwart this challenge once and for all. >> because you and four other arab allies went after isis targets in syria. the u.s. alone went after this khorasan targets in syria. but if asked, would you get involved in going after khorasan as well? >> well, i think from our perspective, this is a battle against terror. this is a battle about extremism, about violence, that terror brings with it and i think this is an operational thing. i think definitely we're not
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there only about isis, we're there against terrorism. >> are you with the isis minister? are you with the united states in the war against isis in iraq as well? i know you've launched air strikes in syria. but what about iraq? >> no. i think our view is we are against this war against terror. terror is a challenge to our way of life, to our stability and i think it can cover its self under different means. it knows no geography so we're in it for that. >> i want to read to you a statement that lindsey graham said and they said, you should threaten the regime of bashar al assad in damascus. they said "the president should now issue a similar threat to assad, the air strikes and barrel bombs against our moderate opposition partners and civilians in syria must stop or
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else your air power will be destroyed." are you with mccain and graham? >> well, we think that of this operation in terms of an operation against terror, there has to be also a part of this operation and it involves a lot of political work. definitely i think we are with the idea that the current regime in syria should not benefit from this but also a lot of political work has to be done. there's a lot of legwork to pursue along the line, also, as we pursued the military option. >> because you want to get rid of the bashar al assad regime as well. >> we want stability. we want stability and we want to end this terror challenge and we don't want anybody to benefit from that challenge because isis is hit or this other group is hit. >> president obama is ruling out u.s. combat ground forces.
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what about the uae? >> well, i think the uae is part of a coalition and the uae believes that a lot of the political legwork that can be done on the ground will bring us good alternatives here to cover whatever expected vacuum there is. >> we should expect this to be a long war, not a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, maybe years. >> well, we're in it for the long haul. i think we're in it, committed, and i think it's too early now to really put a real assessment of how long we are looking at. but definitely we need to do the job right. >> minister, thanks very much for joining us. welcome to new york, to the united states. >> thank you. >> the minister of state for foreign affairs of the united arab emirates. thanks very much. coming up, the wife of a british hostage held by isis receives a recording of him pleading for his life. i'll ask phillip hammond about
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that and why britain is not taking part in the syria air strikes. stay with us. you're in "the situation room."
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the united states launches a surprise attack on an offshoot of al qaeda that is planning attacks against the united states. they carried out dozens of attacks across syria. the attacks were successful but
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warns it's just the start of what is expected to be a long and major campaign. let's bring in our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto who is working his sources. what else are you hearing right now? >> several developments in the last couple of hours. it's been said that one of the leaders in al nusra has been killed. the groups are very intertwined so it's possible you could kill one while attempting to strike the other. that's one of the developments. two, just another indication of this broad coalition that's involved here. more details about the five arab nations that took part that we've been talking about and i'm told that all five of them were flying strike aircraft ready to strike isis. qatar is the one that did not. it did not see a target on that first night. it gives you a sense that going
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forward you have broad regional arab participation in this alongside the u.s. one thing we learned just recently, tony blinken telling jake tapper in fact that in addition to giving heads up to syria at the u.n., the u.s. gave heads up to iran, warning them that the attacks were coming. not coordinating with them but letting them know that the attacks were coming. >> and certainly not seeking their approval, just saying, guys, this is going to happen? >> exactly. >> jim sciutto, thanks very much. let's dig a little deeper now. joining me is jane harmon, president and ceo of the woodrow wilson center in washington. also, retired general mark brivet, military spokesman in iraq after the u.s.-led invasion. he's now a security and defense adviser to a number of u.s. and foreign firms. and a senior adviser with the senior opposition coalition.
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welcome to all three of you. thanks for joining us. general, what do you make of the u.s.-led air strikes? it sounds like they are claiming to be successful but this is going to be a long, drawn-out process, isn't it? >> i think that's right. we also need to clarify, the word success came from the joint staff's spokesman but billy mayville who spoke after him said we need to do the post streak analysis before we can conclude how well we really did last night. >> the bomb damage assessment takes a while to come with that. ubay, what are you hearing from your friends in the syrian opposition of the rebel forces there? i know they are very pleetsased that the u.s. has started this with five arab allies. >> absolutely. this is a very important first step in the strategic partnership with the regional arab allies. it's really a crucial portion of this military campaign against
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isis because it includes the syrian opposition forces on the ground that have been fighting isis since january. the partnership between arab allies, between moderate forces on the ground is ultimately what will sustain any success against isis militarily. >> do you want -- ubay, you want the u.s. to do what john mccain and lindsey graham are recommending, hit military strikes in syria as well. any indication that you're getting that any of these arab countries are ready to do so? because they refused to until now. >> well, hours before the syrian opposition took place in new york on the margins of the u.n. general assembly made an impassioned plea to the world to prevent an isis offensive against civilians in syria and the province of aleppo and at
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the same time the opposition has made clear to the international community that you have to deal with the root cause of terrorism, end of isis in syria and that is the assad regime. >> let's talk about the role of iran. we heard jim sciutto say that the u.s., through diplomatic channels here at the united nations, not only around but syria that the u.s. and other arab countries were about to launch these air strikes against isis targets in syria, didn't seek their approval, didn't coordinate, just did it. rouhani is here in new york and prime minister david cameron is going to meet with him in new york. would it be wise for president obama to sit down with the iranian leader while both of them are here at the united nations? >> well, first of all, i think notifying the iranians was the right thing to do. we have a common interest at the moment but working with them is not a good idea. we are negotiating with them.
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i don't know. our negotiations are going full hit and i think it's in the interest of everyone in the middle east and us to reach such a deal but we are far apart at the moment. i think president obama is going to meet with the new head of iraq and i assume his coalition partners here. i think those are the most important meetings for him to take in new york and he comes to new york in a very strong position. the briefing by the defense department was masterful and the fact that we are rolling out the b-roll of our surgical targets is so impressive and at least phase one, i think, is going to be degrade and contain. we're not at the destroy level. it's a long campaign. but destroy will take political buy-in by the sunnis on the ground. >> let me bring general kibit
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back into this conversation. we just learned that the u.s. launched two additional air strikes in syria today following the air strikes that took place last night. so this operations clearly continuing. as i said earlier, it's going to be a while. isis still seems to be on the move. they haven't been destroyed there as well. so what does that say to you about how long this current war, this new war is going to continue? >> well, first of all, we've got to recognize that this is, in fact, a long war. despite the fact that we felt it was over a few years ago, it's a continuation of what we saw after 9/11, al qaeda and iraq and now against isil. i think it's very indicative that the general in his briefing said that the purpose last night was to disrupt. in many ways, what the military seems to be trying to do inside of syria right now is stop the
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momentum of isil on this offensive. take the air out of the tires. you may not destroy the car but at least you can stop the car from continuing to move forward and threatening baghdad. so with due respect to congresswoman harman, i don't think we're at the degrade portion yet. we're at the disrupt. take away the ability of isil to continue this offensive so that we can buy some space and time for the iraqi forces to go on the counteroffensive, push them out of iraq and then take the fight in syria. >> what do you know about this khorasan group, this al qaeda offshoot that we're now hearing about, the tomahawk cruise missiles, they said that some khorasan strike was imminent. what do you know about it working this issue? >> core cokhorasan is comprisedf
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core senior al kwqaeda operativ that made their way into northern and eastern syria. the reason they left their safe haven in pakistan and afghanistan is because they believe they can operate with further safety from international strikes in syria and northern syria. and now there are serious questions on how the senior operatives in khorasan were able to operate out of tehran for upwards of five years before they moved into syria. so there's some big question mark on that and the only way that you can prevent these guys from using syria as a safe haven is to empower those on the ground that are the rivals to take and hold territory in northern syria in the wake of
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these air strikes. >> how upset are you that turkey is not involved in these military strikes against isis targets in syria, which happens to be their next door neighbor? >> i'm not only upset about that, wolf. i'm upset that they have not pledged to police their border. the foreign fighters are coming over the turkish border over to syria and erdogan was asked about this. the reporter took great offense and said, if you tell me their names, then maybe we will stop them. not good enough, mr. erdogan. this is where the problem starts and turkey is a u.s. ally and is an ally of europe and i would expect them to step up. i would make one other comment
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about khorasan. you mentioned in you're broadcast that the homeland security department is warning of self-radicalized people attacking and the u.s. response. the actions that we're taking against khorasan reduce the risk of that and if they affiliate with this al qaeda bomb maker in yemen, al asiri, probably the dangerous man on the planet, that poses a greater risk to our homeland security. and so widening these attacks is a very smart move by the coalition including the obama administration. >> all right. jane harman, thank you very. thanks to you two as well. much more of the breaking news coming up. the family of a british hostage held by isis receives another new threat. we're going to ask britain's foreign secretary, he's going to be joining me here at the united nations, about effort to free him and why his country,
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britain, didn't take part in today's air strikes against isis in syria.
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performance review in a while. someone whose poor performance is slowing down the entire organization. i'm looking at you phone company dsl. go to checkyourspeed. if we can't offer faster speeds or save you money we'll give you $150. comcast business built for business. news in the war on isis. the family of a british man held by the terror group has now received a new message, a written statement issued by the wife of the hostage alan henning says this. "an audio file of alan pleading for his life has just been received by me. i and people representing me continue to reach out to those holding alan. we are at a loss why those
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leading islamic state cannot open their hearts and minds to the facts surrounding alan's imprisonment." what do you know about alan henning and this latest plea, this audio that the family received? >> alan henning was out there simply to help. he was a humanitarian worker who went with a convoy organized by british muslim groups to support refugees in syria. he was doing good. i think it speaks volumes about isil that this is the way they are treating somebody who went out there to help their people, support their communities in their time of need. >> the uk like the u.s. refuses to play ransom. >> absolutely. >> do you know why these 49 turkish diplomats were all of a sudden over the weekend released, what turkey had to do to get them back? >> i think you'll have to ask my turkish colleague. >> but do you know?
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>> i have an idea. >> without telling us, because obviously it's a sensitive issue and we have been trying to find out, was it something that they paid, something that they promised? >> i don't think they would have paid something but there would have been a negotiation, a discussion. >> and that's how they got their people back. there's another obviously -- there was a british hostage who was executed. >> yep. >> the same -- >> threats against a second one. >> threats against another one. two americans were executed. it looks like by the same individual, right? with a british accent. you know who that individual is, right? >> well, we're getting word. we're working on it. we're working on all of the leads. it's a big investigation going on. we're getting warm. >> what does that mean? you don't know for sure? >> we're beginning to narrow down the field but i don't want to say any more than that. >> there are indications that you knew but don't want to release the individual's name. >> i think we are getting warmer but at this stage i don't want to say anything more than that. >> the united states and five
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arab countries launched strikes against targets in syria. where was the uk? >> well, the uk is part of the coalition. we made clear that we want to play a significant role in the coalition. how we do that is something we're debating literally right now at the moment. >> debating inside london? >> debating inside the government. >> you've refused to launch targets in iraq, is that right? >> we haven't refused to do it. we haven't made a decision yet to do it but we're considering it, looking at our options. if we decide that that is what we want to do, that is the right way to support the coalition, we will have to get the approval of our parliament. that's a commitment we already made. >> do you think you have the votes to do that? >> that's what we would have to calculate. we have to be clear that it's in the uk's interest to join in air strikes and we have to be clear -- it's a democratic country. we're looking at that right now and we're making the decisions we need to make. >> you personally wanted to do
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so, right? but the prime minister is not yet ready. is that a fair assessment? >> we're a government. we work together. we discuss these things obviously and when we've made a decision, the world will know about it. >> what do you know about this new offshoot of this terrorist group that the u.s. launched strikes against. only a few weeks ago the prime minister raised the terror threat level in the uk to almost the highest level if not the highest level. was it as a result of these threats? >> we certainly have seen reporting and intelligence on external threat planning against uk and other international targets. and it was an assessment of that intelligence which led us to raise the threat level. we believe that there is it a real and serious and imminent risk to uk citizens, uk assets. >> because u.s. says there was an imminent threat from the khorasan group. if you saw that there was an imminent threat from one of these terrorist groups in syria or iraq, for that matter, would
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the british air force get involved? >> i'm afraid i can't get into the detail. we make judgments about how best to address our citizens and protect our country and work very closely with the united states. sometimes it's more effective for to us do and sometimes there's things that are better and more effective for the united states to do. >> how much of a threat does isis represent? >> a very serious threat. a very serious threat. we've got over 500 british originated jihadis fighting in iraq and syria with isis. they represent a threat. if they come back to the uk. they represent a threat if they use isis territory in iraq and syria as a base to plan attacks on western interests, airlines, buildings, whatever. and they represent a threat in iraq and syria to the stability of the gulf region which is essential to all of us. >> do you know who these 500
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british citizens are? >> we know who some of them are, sure. >> when you say "some" -- >> we have a sophisticated operation tracking and monitoring. most of these people enter iraq through turkey. we have a million british tourists a year going to turkey. it's not that easy to control and check everything but we have a pretty good idea who significant numbers of this group are. >> so the most important thing that you, the u.s., other allies, nato allies can do right now to defeat this terror threat is what? >> is, first of all, to cut off their supply of fighters, cut off their finance, and we are, working to do that through a u.n. security council resolution. thirdly, to support the government in baghdad as it reaches out to the sunni tribes in iraq and tries to detach them from isil and the action that will crush iran. >> philip hammond, thank you for joining us. >> thank you. coming up, the imminent
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threat posed by a terror group caused by u.s. air strikes. officials say the group was working on high-tech bombs and clothing dipped in explosives. we have new information. we'll share it with you when we come back. discover a new energy source. turn ocean waves into power. design cars that capture their emissions. build bridges that fix themselves. get more clean water to everyone. who's going to take the leap? who's going to write the code? who's going to do it? engineers. that's who. that's what i want to do. be an engineer. ♪ [ male announcer ] join the scientists and engineers of exxonmobil in inspiring america's future engineers. energy lives here. i have $40,ney do you have in your pocket right now? $21. could something that small make an impact on something as big as your retirement? i don't think so. well if you start putting that towards your retirement every week and let it grow over time, for twenty to thirty years, that retirement challenge
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with the top speedou compare of comcast the top speed of business dsl from the internet... phone company well, there's really no comparison. why pay more for less? call today for a low price on speeds up to 150mbps. and find out more about our two-year price guarantee. comcast business. built for business. today's air strikes on isis and other terrorists in syria saw the first combat use of a brand-new u.s. stealth fighter jet. cnn's tom foreman is taking a closer look at the f-22 as well as some of the other weapons used in syria today. what are you seeing, to.? >> reporter: if the f-22
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depending who you talked to is either the most advanced fighter jet in the world or a jet a lot of cost overruns and a lot of problems. nonetheless, first time it saw stealth action, missiles carried inside, better at eluding radar. this was just one of a tremendous number of aircraft brought to bear here, including tomahawk missiles. an aerial assault here. tremendous amount of power. when you look at this, what you would expect depended to be showing is tremendous devastation on the ground. but look at the images they released. that's not what they showed. what they showed were very specific images of individual places where there was damage, not here in the original, but over here, look at the very specific pinpoint damage, same in the second image here. they showed how there's a big area of damage out here, but, it's important to bear in mind, they pointed out that it was all contained within the fence line of the area they were trying to hit. why did they care about that? because of this. the coalition that has been put
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together here is very sensitive to the idea that these are arab nations joining in an assault up here, almost certainly part of what the pentagon wants here is a clear message that they can, with these advanced aircraft, like the f-22, provide pinpoint accurate assaults and that helps calm the sense here that there will be collateral damage that can make it hard for other nations. wolf? >> all right, tom foreman reporting for us. thanks very much. coming up, the homeland security department now warning u.s. law enforcement agencies across the country to look out for possible lone wolf attackers. we are going to have full details. and i will speak with the information minister for jordan, one of the u.s. allies that has now taken part in these air strikes against isis targets in syria.
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what's up for the next shift? ah, nothing much. just keeping the lights on. (laugh) nice. doing the big things that move an economy. see you tomorrow, mac. see you tomorrow, sam. just another day at norfolk southern.
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happening now, a situation room special report, war on terror strikes in syria. breaking news, the united states promises more strikes against terrorist targets in syria. now, a warning of potential danger to americans right here at home. stand by for new details on the air assault and what happens next. we are also learning more about a u.s. strike on a shadowy cell. authorities say they were plotting to attack americans and other westerners. some u.s. officials believe the threat was imminent. president obama says this is not america's fight alone but on, this the eve of his big speech before the united nations, can
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he persuade holdouts to join this new u.s. war? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer at the united nations. you're in "the situation room." . >> this is cnn breaking news. just hours after the first waves of u.s. and coalition air strikes against isis and other terrorist targets in syria, the department of homeland security in washington, d.c., has just issued a new terror alert, warning of a heightened risk of revenge attacks on american soil. here at the united nations in new york, president obama has been thanking five arab countries for taking part in the assault against isis in syria. american forces also took action on their own against veteran al qaeda terrorists in syria.
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some u.s. officials believe they posed an imminent threat to the united states and the west. we have our correspondents, our analysts, newsmakers standing by with new information and reaction to the expanding war on terror. let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, jim sciutto, here with me at the united nations. he has the very latest. what are you learning? >> wolf, we learned it is not one but two terrorist threats emanating from syria that led the u.s. and coalition part mothers act urgently with these air strikes. isis and khorasan, plans to attack outside of syria, a direct threat, u.s. officials believe, to the u.s. homeland. one thing pentagon officials making very clear tonight is the strikes we have seen over these last 24 hours are just the beginning of a sustained air campaign. under the cover of night the american war with terror groups in the middle east entered a new, more, aggressive phase, striking isis in its home base inside syria.
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>> last night, on my orders, america's armed forces began strikes against isil targets in syria. >> reporter: and there was another surprise target, a little-known terror organization known as the khorasan group, an al qaeda offshoot which officials say was in the final stages of planning attacks on u.s. targets, including on the homeland. even more alarming, the group was recruiting westerners to carry out attacks. >> we have been watching this group closely for some time. we believe the khorasan group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in europe or the homeland. we know that the khorasan group has attempted to recruit westerners to serve as operatives or infiltrate back into their homelands. >> reporter: the operation began with a devastating barrage of more than 40 tom ma hawk missiles, launched from u.s. warships in the persian gulf and red sea. those cruise missiles aimed mostly at khorasan targets.
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more than 45 fighter jets and bombers crucially, including aircraft from four arab nations, continued the assault through the night, taking on a broad array of isis positions. the strikes focusing on the isis stronghold in raqqa and the northern and eastern parts of syria. while the pentagon is still assessing the damage, it called the strikes a success. video released shows punishing blows to an isis command post and training camp. the assault is an unprecedented collaboration between the u.s. and arab partners, with jordan, saudi arabia, bahrain and the united arab emirates carrying out air strikes, cater supporting the air campaign. >> i also made clear that america would act as part of a broad coalition and that's exactly what we've done. the strength of this coalition makes it clear, to the world, that this is not america's fight alone. >> reporter: and it will be a sustained fight, the u.s. and its partners vowing this was
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only the beginning. >> i think the air strikes will certainly disrupt isil, may damage the corason group, which is very significant, but it won't degrade isil very much and certainly isn't going to defeat them. we have to be realistic about what we can hope to achieve. >> reporter: we now know the coalition taking part in these air strikes is bigger than we knew. just a short time ago, all five arab nations joined this coalition, i'm told, are flying strike aircraft, ready to drop bombs on isis targets as they find them. of course, the president's also going to ask for more international help at the u.n. ga, the general assembly this week, wolf. when he is asking for binding resolution before the u.n. security council, calling on nations to stop the flow of fighters and funding into syria which really fuel these terrorist groups, whether you are talking about isis or khorasan or al news rah and others. >> addressing the u.n. generalcy assembly here tomorrow morning and the afternoon, presiding over a special meeting of the u.n. security council. the u.s. is president of the security council this month, as
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you know. jim sciutto, thanks very much. just hours after president obama gave the order to strike in syria, he is now getting ready for that major speech before the u.n. general assembly. bring our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta, here in new york as well. going to be a very important and presumably powerful speech that the president will deliver, jim. >> reporter: that right, wolf in this city where the war on terror i'm essentially began 13 years ago, attacks on 9/11, the president is here in new york, trying to expand this coalition for this new battlefront in the war against terrorism. earlier this afternoon, he met with those five nation and representatives from those five nations that took part in those air strikes in syria last night. the president saying during that meeting with those arab countries, that this proves that the world is united in the fight against terrorism and the fight against isis. and it was interesting, wolf, there was one point during this exchange, a reporter who is with the small pool of reporters following the president during
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this event, asked the president if he is at ease being a war-time president. the approximately only smiled and said, thank you, and then that was it. but not all democrats are smiling when it comes to what's happening with this new fight against isis and syria, wolf. earlier today, senator tim kaine, a fellow democrat, was raising questions about whether or not the president has the authorization, legal authorization, to expand this war against isis. he said it sets a horrible precedence that the u.s. and these partners have now moved into syria after the congress basically punted on the issue and did not vote to authorize any expansion of this mission. the white house is maintaining, wolf, and there is a background senior administration officials today that the president does have the legal authorization to conduct this battle based on that authorization vote that occurred after the 9/11 attacks back in 2001, wolf. >> and we do know also is he at the same time, the department of homeland security, together with the fbi, they have issued a new warning to all law enforcement
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agencies across the u.s. to be on the lookout for revenge attacks by lone wolves, as they say today, dhs and fbi a joint bulletin, provide state, local and federal law enforcement with the latest intelligence related to these threats. we will continue, the statement say to adjust security measures as appropriate to protect the american people. what else do we know about the possibility of revenge attacks now coming from isis terrorists? >> reporter: you know earlier this week, wolf, we asked the white house press secretary, josh ernest, if they had any response to the isis call for attacks on coalition countries before these air strikes took place, they didn't have a comment, but it is important to note that the administration has said all along they don't believe isis has the capability to conduct air strikes or terrorist attacks, i should say on the u.s. homeland. they are very worried though, however, about the group, khorasan that we have been talking about so much today. they do worry very much that this al qaeda-linked group, which is composed,
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administration officials say of al qaeda veterans who have found a safe haven in syria after operating in afghanistan and pakistan, that they can carry out attacks and it's based on that premise that they are an offshoot of al qaeda, they say the president has the legal authorization to conduct the air strikes against khorasan and he will continue to do so the president indicated at that meeting with arab partners today that this fight is only beginning, wolf. >> all right, jim acosta here at the united nations. thanks very much. he is traveling with the president. meanwhile, a syrian human rights group now says at least 70 isis militants were killed in these you had-led air strikes. more than 300 wounded. there's no independent confirmation of that but many of the casualties were likely in the isis stronghold of raqqa. that's in the north central part of syria. brian todd is joining us with more on this part of the story. what are you learning, bra in? >> reporter: wolf, tonight, we are getting new accounts of life inside the city of raqqa, which isis has been controlling since
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january. now, this is really isis' fortress, activists, other witnesses risking their lives, getting information and pictures out of the city of raqqa. now, we are told, public executions in raqqa are commonplace, non-believers are sometimes crucified in the street. at one point, isis displayed the heads of syrian soldiers that it had killed on poles inside a city circle. residents describe raqqa as an islamic police state. women who don't wear veils head to toe are sometimes lashed and told by one woman, they are sometimes executed. music is banned in the city even minor things are punished severely. one resident says if they see anyone even holding a pack of cigarettes, that person could get lashed. cigarette and alcohol packages, as you see there is in that video, they are taken from stores, piled on the street, burned on the street. cnn cannot independently verify some of this information, but a u.s. official does tell us tonight, people who run afoul of isis rules sometimes risk
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summary execution in that city of raqqa. this official also says isis enforcers inside raqqa use threats, violence and informants to intimidate residents. wolf, we are told informants are all over that city. witnesses say teenaged boys are often recruited as informants, even told to inform on their own families. wolf, that whole situation tonight could get worse now that the air strikes are focused on the city of raqqa. >> brian, how is all this information getting out of raqqa? >> we are told that activists, wolf, and other witnesses, are secretly moving around, videotaping some of the public executions, videotaping some of the other things, taking witness accounts. they are -- they are communicating you with each other through encrypted communications on the internet and elsewhere. they don't move around together, they move around just in single, you know, just single people moving around by themselves, very secretly. it is very dangerous work. they are doing that to get the word out, but they are also, we
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are told, living in safe houses around the city, which isis is looking for right now. >> brian todd with that report, chilling indeed. while five arab nations took part in the military operation in syria, some important u.s. allies did not, including turkey, even though it has a very big stake in this fight against isis. as a nato ally, senior international correspondent, arwa damon is joining us live from turkey, she is near the syrian border. are they giving any explanation over there, arwa, why turkey, a nato al like has not joined in the military strikes against isis in syria? >> reporter: the government has been saying that the rationale behind that the reluctance to join this brought-together coalition stemmed from the fact that up until this weekend, there were 49 turkish citizens in isis custody, held hostage. the government over the weekend able to negotiate their release, not disclosing details as to how
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they managed to do that but the president did come out on sunday, coming out today, saying that they did support what the u.s. was doing. so, presumably, we could be seeing turkey taking a more, aggressive stance at this stage, moving forward, now that those hostages have been released, wolf. >> 'cause, one of the things i'm sure the u.s. would like, probably some of the other coalition partners, is be able to launch those air strikes from nearby air bases inside tur kirk some of the other nato bases. any indication turkey might be ready to allow these air strikes to emanate from turkey? >> reporter: no indication of that publicly just yet, wolf, the air strikes were an incredibly sensitive issue, not just for turkey, but also taking a look what is happening inside syria. you are hearing reports of what the situation and life used to be like inside raqqa, we spoke to a syrian activist in raqqa after those air strikes happened
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overnight. he said if he could, he would dance for joy in the streets but he couldn't because isis had been changing its tactics, much more visible in the street, even moving more amongst the civilian population and taking up residence basically, embedding themselves in some civilian homes. now, that was the reaction to the air strikes from a resident inside raqqa, starkly different to some of the reaction we are getting from syrian activists in other part of the country who are saying that the u.s. is wrong and that it is targeting other extremist groups, yes, like the nusra front, but in doing that, it is really serving to change the sentiment when it comes to these non-isis-controlled opposition areas as to what the u.s.' intent might really be at this stage, wolf. >> all right, be careful over there, arwa damon near the border of syria in turkey joining us. arwa, thanks very much. let's continue the breaking news. joining us now the top spokesman for the kingdom of jordan, one of the five arab nations that
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took part in these u.s.-led military operations, the minister, mohammed alamo maddie is joining us now from amman. thanks very much for joining us. what role did jordan specifically play in these air strikes against isis target he is in syria? >> well, wolf this morning, amman time, we launched an air strike inside the syrian borders to bomb selected bomb selected isis targets, did it at 3 in the morning, then our air jets came back safe and we announced actually this officially through a military communique. what we are saying at this point is that it is important that five arab nations are coming together collaboratively and
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declaring that there's a regional effort to stop and fight terrorism in partnership with the united states. i think this is an important political point to be noticed. i think it sends the right message everywhere this region had enough of the spread of terrorism and somebody needs to take the right stand and to do the right thing, the right thing to do, the moral thing to do to fight terrorism and stopper toism from spreading all around the region. >> will you keep launching air strikes against these targets in syria?
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>> syria has been unable to protect the borders from its side. we said this is going to be an ongoing operation through which we will preempt any attempts to try to cross our borders and infiltrate our borders and to make sure that our borders are secure and safe and this is the high interest of the jordanian states, to ensure the security and stability of our borders and our soil. >> what about isis targets in iraq? is that something you are likely to launch air strikes against as well? >> my understanding, this has not been discussed at this point, because there's a good level of cooperation going on between the united states and the iraqi officials and the iraqi military. so, it seems that there seem to be good effort going on there. the problem the areas near --
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near borders in syria, next to jordan borders in syria, that's the problem, that's very close to jordan. this is where we have been getting the most of that attacks on our borders. >> i heard your king, king abdullah say over the weekend that one of the problems why isis is so powerful is because they have so much money. they have robbed a lot of banks. they are exporting oil through the black market. do you have any idea how much money these isis terrorists have? >> the estimations we have is that we are talking about almost $1 billion at this point. and this is a lot of money for a terrorist organization. and this money continue to be increased due to the fact that they do control oil and do sell oil. so, this is a problem and makes isis a self-financing
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organization, which makes it further -- more dangerous. so, it is important to look at this and to see this differently, because other terrorist organizations struggled financing their operations. this one is not. so, they can finance their operations. they can buy operatives. they can pay salaries to terrorists. so, that all puts isis in a completely different category that needs to be focused on. >> what is your intelligence telling you, minister, about how long we should expect this war to continue? the president of the united states says the u.s. goal is to degrade and ultimately defeat isis, destroy isis, what are we talking about? months, years? any idea how long this will take to destroy isis in both syria and iraq? >> i think over the couple of months the assessment is that
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isis will be significantly degraded and weakened, but this fight is gonna take some time and that's why i was saying this is ongoing operation that will continue for the coming period of time. i think it's very difficult to pinpoint a specific time through which we can achieve the declared objective of finishing isis completely, but i think couple of months, we will see significant weakness and degrading of this terrorist organization and then, the period after that, we will see further success in cracking down on terrorism and isis in specific, especially that this regional collaborative effort, actually, is -- is quite significant and quite important. you are talking about five countries coming together in addition to iraq, of course, and
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the united states, joining their effort collectively to crackdown on this terrorist organization. this will succeed eventually. >> and what has been so impressive to me, so many of our viewers, minister and the united states around the world, we know that jordan has absorbed hundreds of thousands of syrian and iraqi refugees and now, jordan is going forward with the united states and these four other arab partners in going after isis targets in syria. thank you very much, minister mohammed alamo manny very much for joining us here "the situation room." good luck to you, good luck to all the people in the kingdom of jordan. mohammed alamo manny is a jordanian state minister and chief spokesman. still ahead, the possible risks to americans now that the u.s. has launched air strikes in syria. stand by. we have new details of a new u.s. homeland security terror alert. and we are also learning more about the surprise attack on an al qaeda cell in syria like some u.s. officials now say
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that the threat to the united states was imminent. ♪ who's going to do it? who's going to make it happen? discover a new energy source. turn ocean waves into power. design cars that capture their emissions. build bridges that fix themselves. get more clean water to everyone. who's going to take the leap? who's going to write the code? who's going to do it? engineers. that's who. that's what i want to do. be an engineer. ♪ [ male announcer ] join the scientists and engineers of exxonmobil in inspiring america's future engineers. energy lives here.
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big day? ah, the usual. moved some new cars. hauled a bunch of steel. kept the supermarket shelves stocked. made sure everyone got their latest gadgets. what's up for the next shift? ah, nothing much. just keeping the lights on. (laugh) nice. doing the big things that move an economy. see you tomorrow, mac. see you tomorrow, sam. just another day at norfolk southern.
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we are following the breaking news, air strikes on isis and al qaeda group -- and
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an al qaeda group inside syria carried out by the u.s. and five arab allies. i want to bring in our senior united nations correspondent, richard roth. he is here with me at the u.n. richard, i understand you just spoke exclusively with syria's ambassador to the u.n. what did you learn? >> syria's u.n. ambassador, bash sharoff far rib, the representative for syria met by samantha power, the u.s. ambassador yesterday morning here at the u.n. and told that washington was going to go after isil and al-nusra militant islam fighters inside syrian territory. he told her he would have liked she went to the security council for international legitimacy. the white house was not gonna go do that the nevertheless, syriaens have to accept attacks on their soil for weeks to come. he has a message for washington about them. >> we advise our american counterparts not to repeat the american fiasco in iraq by undertaking the same kind of
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blind military attacks. combatting terrorism requires having many tracks, a political track, a military track, a diplomatic track, so, so far, washington prefer to follow only one track. >> the syrian ambassador told me that syria and the united states were fighting the same issue, terrorism, the same side, but washington decided to act unilaterally. wolf, the syrian representative's real anger is for arab maybe neighbors of syria, bahrain, united arab emrids, saudi arabia, saying they were two faced, supporting isis and other extremists against the assad government, which they opposed and now cover from the united states to join in a military assault on syria. >> so, he described to you in detail the meeting that samantha power, the u.s. ambassador to the u.n., had with him? they actually met and she told him, get ready, the u.s. is about to strike? >> that's right. the state department got a letter, the state department issued letter to the iraqi government, but he got in person
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meeting with -- to the syrian government, getting a little complicated, all these conflicts going on. also, the u.s. sent a letter to the united nations today, proving, in their opinion, the international justification for going into a member u.n. country, saying they don't really, in affect, need to go through the security council, that iraq was threatened by syria and that is why the u.s. acted under the u.n. charter. >> interesting that the u.s. didn't ask for permission from the government of syria, didn't coordinate, but did give them a heads up and gave the iranians a heads up as well. >> that's right. doesn't hurt to let countries know your planes are entering their territory. the isis militants are in a different part of the country primarily, but i think the u.s. felt, look, they might as well do that but in the clear, the syrians are not going to be kept operationally in the fold as these attacks continue. >> richard roth, thanks very much. our senior u.n. correspondent. more now own the al qaeda cell targeted by the u.s. and the threat of attacks to americans. our justice correspondent,
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pamela brown is here in new york as well. she has more on this part of the story. pamela what are you learning? >> reporter: wolf, learning that u.s. officials have known al qaeda operatives were in syria plotting attacks since at least the spring but more recent intelligence suggested they were in the end game of planning an attack, possibly against the u.s., using western recruits. and u.s. officials say they had to act fast to disrupt them. the u.s. officials say one of the goals of american-led air strikes in syria was to eliminate the command and control structures of a terrorist group called khorasan. in terms of the khorasan group, withcy a network of seasoned al qaeda veterans. hich is a netwo al qaeda veterans. >> reporter: senior u.s. officials tell cnn in july, security at names was increased after