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Are U.S., Iran Already at War Inside Iraq?; Biden Apologizes to Obama

Aired January 31, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much Lou. And it's happening right now. Are the United States and Iran already at war on an Iraqi battleground? The Iraqi prime minister telling CNN exclusively that both sides should take their fight out of his country. Is he taking sides?
Joe Biden jumps into the presidential race and into some hot water. We'll tell you why he's now apologizing to fellow Democrat Barack Obama.

And a promotion gone wrong -- an advertising campaign shuts down much of Boston in a security scare. The good news -- it's all clear.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Is the United States already at war with Iran inside Iraq? Iraq's leader weighing in today with some harsh words for both sides as the war takes an ominous new turn.

Our Michael Ware has the story and a CNN exclusive from Baghdad -- Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in an exclusive interview today with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader said that Iranian forces have been targeting American troops. And he now worries that his country is becoming a proxy battleground between Tehran and Washington.


WARE: Is American intelligence wrong when it says Iran is working to kill American soldiers in your country?

Nouri AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I didn't say it does not exist. And the Americans, when they say that their intelligence is saying that Iranians are killing their soldiers it means their intelligence is based on information that they got. This is not an obscure thing. There is a struggle between Iran and America.

And we have told the Iranians and the Americans, we know that you have a problem with each other. But we're asking you, please, solve your problems outside of Iraq. We do not want the American forces to take Iraq as a field to attack Iran or Syria and we will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces. But does this not exist? It exists.

And I assure you it exists. But it's based on the struggle between the two countries. And from our side, we're trying to stop the effort to have a struggle in Iraq. We're always encouraging the two sides to negotiate and to try to find an agreement away from Iraq. Iran and America, we're ready to pay efforts to solve the problems between them if is possible, but not on the account of Iraq. Iraq has nothing do with the American-Iranian struggle and we will not let Iran play a role against the American army and we will not allow America to play a role against the Iranian army and everyone should respect the sovereignty of Iraq.


WARE: Wolf, indeed the prime minister said that all of Iraq's neighbors from Turkey to Syria to Jordan to Saudi Arabia want to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.

BLITZER: Michael, were you surprised that the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was effectively equating the Iranian President Ahmadinejad with the U.S. president, George W. Bush?

WARE: Well, the prime minister is certainly a man caught in the middle between these two powers represented by Washington and Tehran by two presidents. He's struggling a very difficult divide. His government exists only through the intervention of the United States. He is propped up by U.S. forces and Washington's support.

Yet, he shares a very important border with Iran. Iran has enormous strategic interests in this country. And in the past, during Saddam's regime, when the prime minister was in opposition, Iran supported his party and many other Shia opposition parties.

BLITZER: Because, so much of this new U.S. strategy depends on Nouri al-Maliki cooperating with the U.S. And when so many people here in Washington, including the president's own Republican supporters hear Nouri al-Maliki basically say to the United States and to Iran, keep your proxy war out of Iraq, they're going to say why is the United States supporting this guy if effectively he's aligning himself, at least, in part with Iran?

WARE: Well, to some degree, I mean this is real politics. What choice does Prime Minister Maliki have? And certainly, U.S. officials and commanders here on the ground have been saying since the beginning, since the invasion in 2003 that they recognize that, yes, Iran does have interests in Iraq, given its shared border and the cross-pollination of the Shia people over that border.

And that also they would like to foster a healthy relationship between Baghdad and Tehran. However, what we've seen is this fierce competition for influence being waged between Washington and Tehran. And we're actually seeing it being fought out militarily, so this relationship is veering into very dangerous waters, Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad. Michael thanks very much. Here in Washington, President Bush is facing threats from Congress about a possible U.S. war with Iran. Could the Democratic majority stop Mr. Bush from taking any action, as far as Tehran is concerned if he decided to take military action in the first place.

Our senior national correspondent John Roberts has been looking into the war powers law, if you will, and what's going on -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NAT'L CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, you know it's a question that the world is asking with increasing urgency. Is Iran next? The administration says no. But with all of the saber rattling going on between the White House and Tehran, Congress is doing a little of its own.


ROBERTS (voice-over): President Bush insists he has no intention of expanding the Iraq war across the border into Iran. That hasn't stopped Democratic members of Congress from warning him against it.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: That will generate a constitutional confrontation here in the Senate I predict to you.

ROBERTS: But hold on, when it comes to waging war and committing troops into battle, who really has the power. It's not an easy answer. Even constitutional scholars disagree. Jonathan Turley is a professor at George Washington University. John Yoo wrote the Justice Department's guidelines on detainees and interrogation.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: The senator is correct that the president of the United States cannot invade Iran.

JOHN YOO, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY: The president as commander in chief has the full constitutional authority to attack Iran.


ROBERTS: Turley believes the president's options are limited, that the Constitution only allows him to answer a direct threat. If for example Iran was involved in the Karbala attack that killed five American soldiers that could free his hand.

TURLEY: To respond to an immediate attack or to engage in what's called hot pursuit, that can include attacking Iranian assets across the border.

ROBERTS: Yoo argues the authority is much broader and points to Korea, Panama and Kosovo is conflicts where presidents went to war without congressional approval. In fact, he says, President Bush didn't need it to invade Iraq.

YOO: He was doing it out of political reasons, not constitutional reasons. ROBERTS: While they differ on who can start a war, Turley and Yoo agree that Congress does have the power to stop one in progress by tightening the purse strings. Any action short of that though says Yoo is almost laughable.

YOO: It doesn't really have any force or all these nonbinding resolutions or resolutions. They have all of the force of a letter from your mother.


ROBERTS: Of course though an increasing number of Republicans do believe that those resolutions could be highly embarrassing to the president. But on Iran, about the only way the Congress could prevent a war would be to preemptively cut out funding for any military action involving Tehran, but who would want to bind the president's hands like that and even if military action began, with a response to a direct attack, it could escalate so quickly, experts say, that by the time Congress got involved it could already be a full-blown war, Wolf.

BLITZER: I don't know about your mother, but a letter from my mother would certainly be a powerful moment I suspect for a lot of us. Thanks very much...

ROBERTS: It's good that you listen to your mother.

BLITZER: That's right. I hope you do as well. Thank you, John, for that.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you're reading my mind. I was thinking exactly the same thing. Don't be discounting the power of a letter from one's mother. Those things carry a lot of weight.

How does this sound for 2008 presidential ticket, McCain and Clinton on the same ticket? How about Obama and Hagel, maybe Giuliani and Edwards? If the midterm showed us anything is that the American people are fed up with the partisan gridlock in Washington. In fact, former Clinton special counsel Lanny Davis recently wrote a piece for "The Washington Post" about why a bipartisan presidential ticket could be a good idea.

Quoting now, "Today's national unease and rabid partisanship raise the challenge for someone to form a bipartisan ticket in 2008. The lingering trauma of 9/11, the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism call for an administration open to bipartisan solutions to the crises that confront the country" -- unquote.

Davis says a bipartisan presidency will be important to find solutions to the war in Iraq and to enact new taxes. There's even a group out there called Unity '08 that wants to draft a bipartisan presidential ticket. They want it to be chosen online and what they say would be the country's first national primary. So here's the question. Would you support a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2008? E-mail us at or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect a lot of people would. But we'll see what our viewers think, Jack. Thank you.

Coming up, senator and foot in mouth, Joe Biden raising eyebrows with some controversial comments about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and other Democrats as well. It's the first day of his first presidential campaign -- actually, his second presidential campaign. But he's already mired in controversy.

Also, tens of millions of your dollars down the drain and unaccounted for in Iraq. We're going to have the government's own report that shows massive waste and fraud.

Plus, 9/11 dogs, more than a third of these canine heroes have died since working over at the World Trade Center site. Carol Costello will take a closer look at what's making them sick.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Right now, Senator Joe Biden's presidential campaign is getting off to a very, very rocky start. That's because some surprising things he had to say about fellow Democrats, especially his White House rival, Senator Barack Obama. Tonight, Senator Obama has a new message for Senator Biden. You got it wrong.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She has more on this controversy and the questions it's raising right now -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Biden was eager to focus on the first day of his campaign on his White House credentials. But instead, he round up defending comments he made about Senator Barack Obama.


SNOW (voice-over): In an interview with the "New York Observer" questions were raised when Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden used the word clean in describing Senator Barack Obama.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I mean you got the first sort of mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy. I mean that's a storybook, man.

SNOW: And what does Senator Obama think of that?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I mean you'd have to ask Senator Biden what he was thinking. I don't spend too much time worrying about what folks are talking about during the campaign season. SNOW: But hours after he made these comments to CNN, Senator Obama released a statement saying quote, "I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who ran against Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, said Biden's comments call for an explanation.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: I think he (inaudible) anything intentional that was off color, but it is certainly is highly suggestive.

SNOW: In a conference call, Senator Biden said his comments were taken out of context.

BIDEN: My mother has an expression, clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack. That's the context. He's crisp and clear.

LARRY SABATO, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It's classic Joe Biden. It's really history repeating itself.

SNOW: Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race following charges he plagiarized a speech of a British Labour Party leader. And just last year, he caused controversy with comments that some had to hear for themselves to believe. The comments are still posted on the Internet.

BIDEN: You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.

SNOW: Biden later explained the comment, saying he was referring to a vibrant Indian American community in the state of Delaware.


SNOW: Now on this most recent flap, Senator Biden says tonight that he deeply regrets any offense his remark about Senator Obama may have caused. And he expressed that to Senator Obama in a phone call after the headlines appeared -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thanks very much. And we have more on this story. Senator Biden had other provocative things to say in that interview with the "New York Observer". On the two previous Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore and John Kerry, Biden said and I'm quoting now, "Democrats nominated the perfect blow-dry candidates in 2000 and 2004 and they couldn't connect."

Asked about John Edwards' call for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Biden said I don't think John Edwards knows what the heck he's talking about. And here's what he said about Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton. Her husband has used every single legitimate tool on his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. She can't break out of 30 percent choice for Democrats. They've looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get.

Senator Biden speaking out in that interview -- we're going to be speaking, by the way, with Senator Biden here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Friday.

Presidential candidates these days rely on some high-tech Websites to get their message out, Senator Biden being no exception.

Here's more from our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that's right, Senator Biden now joining a growing list of Democratic candidates or potential Democratic candidates who are announcing their intentions for '08 on their Websites. Take a quick listen to this one.


BIDEN: Friends, today I filed the necessary papers to become candidate for president of the United States.


SCHECHNER: And just went up this morning. And the Web team tells me that he's planning to do a Web cast tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time where he'll answer questions that were pre- submitted to an e-mail address This is not Joe Biden's first foray into the Internet. He set up his Website in October 2006, laying out his plan for Iraq, very simply named And then just before the State of the Union, he put up this Website called where he asked people to petition against President Bush troop build-up in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you Jacki. A journalist went to jail to protect a source inside the Bush White House. And she testified against that source earlier today.

Brian Todd is covering the CIA leak trial here in Washington -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some key testimony today, the defense attacking the credibility of two very important prosecution witnesses, both of them journalists. Former "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller was on the stand first. The defense attacked her credibility regarding her memory of an important meeting she had with "Scooter" Libby and were there any other sources aside from Libby told her that the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, a Bush critic, worked at the CIA.

Miller's memory proved a little bit spotty on some of those details. That could hurt the prosecution's case. Next up former "TIME" magazine reporter Matt Cooper who testified that he first learned about Joe Wilson's wife from White House political adviser Karl Rove and then asked "Scooter" Libby about it.

Libby, according to Cooper said that he had heard the same thing that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, but the defense also attacking Matt Cooper's credibility, the accuracy of his note-taking, the rules of his reporting, the defense doing a lot to try to shoot holes in the memory and the credibility of these two very prominent journalists. But another very important journalist yet to take the stand, that is Tim Russert of NBC News.

He is a key prosecution witness, going to probably refute "Scooter" Libby's key account that Libby heard about Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson's wife the former CIA operative for the first time from Tim Russert. Tim Russert expected to refute that testimony. We expect Tim Russert to take the stand early next week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian -- Brian over at the courthouse here in Washington. We'll continue to monitor this trial.

Still ahead tonight, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, big bucks, huge bucks down the drain in Iraq. We're taking a look at wasted fraud that has cost all of us, us taxpayers, tens of millions of dollars.

And a cartoon network promotional campaign sets off a bomb scare. Find out how an ad campaign went so wrong.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN has now confirmed that radio talk show host and comedian Al Franken will, will now run for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Minnesota coming up in the 2008 campaign. Al Franken will run as a Democrat. He'll run for the Democratic nomination first.

If he were to get that, if he were to get that nomination, he would challenge Norm Coleman, the incumbent Republican whose term is up in 2008. Al Franken recently ended his radio talk show career with Air America. But now, his next career, at least his next moment will be as a politician running for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. We'll watch that story closely.

Let's turn to Mary once again in New York. She's monitoring some other stories from around the world -- Mary.

SNOW: Well, Wolf, in just the past half hour came news that best- selling author and columnist, Molly Ivins has died. The writer, who made a living scurrying Texas politicians, died today after a long battle with breast cancer. Ivins was known for her sharp liberal wit and for being the one who dubbed President Bush as shrub. She revealed early last year that she was being treated for breast cancer for a third time. carried her columns. Molly Ivins was 62.

Today, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez has been given a huge infusion of new power. The country's national assembly unanimously gave Chavez authority to rule by decree -- the goal to accelerate nationalist changes in broad areas of Venezuelan society. Chavez is beginning a new six-year term. Critics say the move will propel Venezuela toward a dictatorship.

And the prospect of a winter ice storm has prompted Delta Airlines to cancel roughly 200 flights into and out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport tomorrow. The carrier says it's a preempted measure aimed at reducing flight delays for travelers. The Atlanta Metro area is at the center of a warning for a winter storm that's expected to hit early tomorrow morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary thanks. We'll get back to you.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM is the U.S. moving closer to another war in the Middle East. America's former top diplomat says she's very concerned. Madeleine Albright gives us her unique perspective on Iran and Iraq. Stay with us for that.

Then, ground zero sickness, some people say there's a whole group of victims that most us have never heard about. We'll tell you what's going on.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM and it's happening right now. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki takes aim at the United States and Iran. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Michael Ware, al-Maliki says Washington and Tehran should keep their struggle with one another out of his own country. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's had a constructive meeting with President Bush on Iraq a day after she called the situation there catastrophic. Pelosi and other lawmakers reported to Mr. Bush about their recent trip to the war zone.

New movement in the global war on terror -- British police say they thwarted an Iraqi-style abduction during a series of raids in Birmingham, England. The source tells CNN the plot centered on torturing and beheading a British Muslim soldier who recently returned home from Afghanistan.

I'm wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- a possible deal on Capitol Hill with significant ramifications for the president's plan in Iraq.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. What are you picking up, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, what happened this evening is Democrat Carl Levin, the chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, and one of the major sponsors of the mostly Democratic resolution that we expect to come up next week opposing the president's plan in Iraq, he tonight signed on to one of the resolutions supported and proposed by Republican John Warner and several other Republicans. Now, he did that after Senator Warner and other Republicans made some minor changes to their resolution. And the significance is this. What is going on as we speak behind the scenes, Wolf, is, Democrats and Republicans who oppose sending more troops to Iraq are trying to figure out how to join forces, come up with one single resolution that can get them the 60 votes that they need in order to pass that resolution, making clear to the president they disagree with his plan.

BLITZER: Well, this is a significant development, because Carl Levin is the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. John Warner was the chairman. He's the ranking member. But both are highly respected on national security issues.

The presumption would be, they're going to bring in a lot of their fellow senators into this joint language.

BASH: That is the presumption, especially on the -- on the Democratic side.

You know, it was sort of expected that, when we got to the point where Democrats were going to have to choose, that they would probably go -- go ahead and vote for the resolution that's being sponsored mostly by Republican John Warner.

But the fact that Senator Levin decided to -- to go ahead and sign on to this resolution now is significant. It just shows what's going on behind the scenes to try to figure out how to get this vote as big as possible when it comes down next week.

And what's interesting is, Senator Warner changed this language not just to appeal to Democrats, Wolf, but also to appeal to some Republicans. For example, he put some language in here that Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, has says -- says that he wants to make clear that they're not going to cut funding for troops in Iraq.

BLITZER: Any word from Chuck Hagel or Joe Biden, whether they're going to be on board with Levin and Warner on this new language, because, as you know, they were the co-sponsors...

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... with -- with Senator Levin on the original Democratic language?

BASH: Not yet. We are trying to reach their offices.

It was interesting that just Senator Levin was on the Senate floor just a short time ago, and saying that he would sign on to it. I think those are things, frankly, that are being worked on as we speak, Wolf, here in the Senate. We will get back to you.

BLITZER: All right, significant developments up on Capitol Hill.

Dana, thanks. Tens of millions of dollars in reconstruction aid for Iraq squandered -- that according to a new federal government report.

Let's bring in CNN's Joe Johns. He's investigating, looking at these details.

This seems so outrageous, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is a surprise so far, Wolf.

All along, one of the U.S. priorities has been to stand up to police and security forces in Iraq, in order to bring some semblance of law and order, at least to the hot spots.

But the report by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction suggests the part of the plan that involves bricks and mortar is, well, falling apart.


JOHNS (voice-over): The new report by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction suggests waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. contracting is bungling the efforts to build facilities to help train and support the police in Iraq.

The reaction to the report across Washington was, in a word, grim.

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIRMAN, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: When you have this incompetence, when you have unauthorized work, when you have shoddy facilities, when you have money that is squandered, there are very, very few things that hurt our effort more in trying to succeed in Iraq than that kind of performance.

JOHNS: Here's the story in a nutshell: tens of millions of dollars of your money wasted or so far unaccounted for. Pictures are included of apparently shoddy plumbing and what was called poor quality and nonstandard construction methods on a police college built in Baghdad. And then there's the $51 million for a training facility and residential camp for the Iraqi police.

In September of 2004, the contract went to a non-U.S. firm to manufacturer trailers for the project. But, shortly after the trailers were built, the government canceled the camp.


JOHNS: Meanwhile, there's also evidence another $36.4 million has been spent on equipment that can't be accounted for. The inspector general said he found what looked like signs of fraud, which has been turned over to authorities to investigate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have more on this on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" tonight. That special inspector general's office seems to be doing a very, very good job on that front. So, is Iraq now becoming a battlefield for a proxy war between Iran and the United States? Could the U.S. face a wider war or a possible compromise?


BLITZER: And, joining us now, the former secretary of state during the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright.

Madam Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: If it's proven that Iranian agents were involved in killing American soldiers at Karbala or anyplace else, what should the United States do?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it clearly compounds the difficulties of the situation. But what I'm concerned about is that, it is very unclear to me what the administration's policy on Iran is. We clearly cannot afford to have our people captured by or killed by Iranians.

On the other hand, when I testified today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I made very clear that we need some answers about generally where the administration is going with Iranian policy.

BLITZER: It seems to me, what they're trying to do is squeeze the Iranians to get them into a position where they might be more malleable, not only in terms of Iraq, but on the nuclear issue, as well, and, at that point, engage them in a dialogue, once they feel the heat.

ALBRIGHT: Well, it's hard for me to tell, because I think they say many different things. They have become much more bellicose, and they have moved carriers into the Persian Gulf.

Clearly, there are also a lot of things going on inside Iran. President Ahmadinejad has been -- kind of had his wrist tapped by the ayatollahs for getting involved in nuclear issues. There is some turmoil within Iran itself.

BLITZER: So, you think maybe the pressure, not only from the United States, but from the Europeans and others, is beginning to have an effect?

ALBRIGHT: I think there's a combination of that. And what we have to learn how to figure out -- Wolf, people talk about sticks and carrots, and you either use the sticks and then give them the carrots.

The truth is, we should be able to try to combine a variety of these tools. Something is going on in Iran. And we have to be very careful not to give Ahmadinejad even more kind of credibility, and, at the same time, not get our fingerprints in a way that makes him -- makes it look as though we're undermining what's going in Iran.

BLITZER: How much credibility does the president of the United States have right now when it comes to Iran? When he says that the Iranians are doing X, Y and Z, do you believe the president?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think you have asked a very difficult question, because I think we all want to believe our president, any president. And, there, I'm very skeptical, I have to tell you, based on...

BLITZER: Because of the intelligence failures leading into the -- the war with Iraq?

ALBRIGHT: Because of the decision failures leading to the war in Iraq, and, basically, that we were told a variety of things, and something else was going on.

Now, there may be all the terrible things going on in Iran that we are being told by the administration. But who is to say? And I think that is exactly why the members of Congress have to begin oversight hearings on Iran. The issues about Iraq and the surge are obviously very important. But I think that, before we open up a new front in an area that is already very dangerous, I think we need to know exactly where we are.

And the truth is that, when there are so many doubts about how we got into the war in Iraq and what the basic circumstances were, then, unfortunately, the president has put himself and the administration into a position where people are skeptical.

BLITZER: Well, you speak about a new front. How worried are you that, when all is said and done, there will be a military confrontation between the United States and Iran?

ALBRIGHT: I would be very concerned about that.

BLITZER: Are you worried that it might happen?

ALBRIGHT: I don't know. That's the whole point here. I mean, why, all of a sudden, not only have they rejected the fact that the Iraq Study Group suggested of having a communication or dialogue with Iran, but they have stepped up our bellicose statements toward Iran? Secretary Gates has indicated that Iran's behavior is unacceptable.

I'm willing to believe all that. But I do think that it is very important for there to be just much more careful approach to this than what happened during Iraq. And we, as the public, are entitled to more.

BLITZER: As bad as the situation in Iraq is right now -- and, by all accounts, it's very bad -- you understand, certainly, that it could be a whole lot worse, and the fighting in Iraq could escalate. There could be a regional war, a battle between Shia and Sunni, for example. And that would make, potentially, what's happening in Iraq right now look like child's play. ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm very concerned about that. And a lot of people have said that they're concerned about a Shia-Sunni battle, which is basically a Persian-Arab fight, of great concern.

This is a region that is in turmoil. It has been for a long time. The United States' role in it has changed. We -- it's very hard for us to be the guarantor of peace and security, because our credibility is not great.

And I am worried about this expanding. And that is why I think it is so essential that we figure out a way to end what is happening in Iraq and be able to deal with the situation, and to do something about the Israeli-Palestinian talks.

BLITZER: Well, explain that. How is that going to affect what's happening in Iraq?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I am not one of the people who believes that dealing with Iraq and Israel is central to dealing with the war on terrorism. But I do believe that, for its own sake, we need to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

It would show American interest again in the region, our ability to carry out a diplomatic mission. And, obviously, it would end a lot of the -- the problems that are involved in that conflict.

But we need to be actively involved. We need a surge in diplomacy. That's what we need at this stage. And I do think, given what you said about a regional war, I think -- and others have recommended this -- that we need to have a very robust regional conference, in order to get others to buy into what's going on.

This is not just something that is in American national interests. This is an international problem. And others need to be brought into it.

BLITZER: we have got to leave it there. Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of State, thanks for coming in.

ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: And still ahead tonight: the dogs of 9/11. What price might -- must these four-legged heroes pay five years-plus after the disaster?

And later: Boston brought to a near standstill -- the bomb scare that wasn't. We are going to tell you what it was when we come back.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: In New York, protesters at ground zero, as President Bush gave an economic speech nearby, they're calling for more money for those who say they are sick from exposure to the rubble at the World Trade Center site.

The president has already pledged an additional $25 million for health care programs for first-responders. The protesters want more money and funding expanded to everyone right now.

The president later met with the son of a New York City police officer who was at ground zero, and died last week while waiting for a lung transplant.

And it's not just people believed to be affected.

Here's CNN's Carol Costello.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They came from all over the country, 300 dogs sniffing out life and death in the ruins of the World Trade Center.

DAVID VITALLI, DOG HANDLER: Hell, just hell. The dogs were breathing in things that they shouldn't have been breathing in. They were having a hard time. They were coughing. They were sneezing.

COSTELLO: The conditions at Ground Zero were so intense, that many of these dogs have been able to perform another search and rescue. Some have died, like David's dog, Jimmy, and Scott's dog, Bear.

Saul Aponte is worried about the lumps on Shannon's chest and stomach.

SAUL APONTE, DOG HANDLER: She already had an infection in her lungs when -- you know, when we got back. So, she could have died. You know, I'm pretty sure she would have died.

COSTELLO: Aponte's certainty comes in part because he is now sick himself.

APONTE: This is for my lungs.

COSTELLO: Those medicines were provided to Aponte free of charge, after doctors determined his breathing and anxiety problems are related to his work at Ground Zero.

Nearly a third of the 300 dogs at Ground Zero have died since September 11. The question is, why?


COSTELLO: Dr. Cynthia Otto, a veterinarian, conducted a major study on 9/11 dogs and found no evidence Ground Zero made the dogs sick.

OTTO: We surveyed 97 of the handlers, 61 that were at the World Trade Center. And, of those, we only had, I believe, eight dogs that had any evidence of respiratory problems. VITALLI: You know, everybody that was working down there has some sort of illness. So, to make a statement that the dogs didn't get sick, and the people did, that's totally just a ludicrous statement to even make.

COSTELLO: Dr. Otto disagrees. She says, it's challenging to determine exactly what killed the dogs.

APONTE: I'm not sure how long she's going to live, but she's a special dog to me. You know, we have been through a lot. We went through a life experience that nobody could, you know, repeat or take away from us.

COSTELLO (on camera): And that's what he tries to dwell on -- not the pain, or the loss of Shannon, but the bond they created trying to save lives in those terrible days.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Turner Broadcasting, CNN's parent company, is expressing regret over a promotion gone wrong. It resulted in multiple bomb scares in Boston that closed streets and bridges, even part of the Charles River.

CNN's Boston bureau chief, Dan Lothian, is joining us now with the latest -- Dan.


Well, a bizarre day in Boston -- the city was on edge, as a major security scare unfolded. Federal, state and local law enforcement officials raced to find out what was going on and who was responsible.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The first suspicious device was found during the morning commute under Interstate 93, just north of downtown Boston. Traffic was shut down, the area sealed off.

Then, the bomb squad detonated what turned out to be a harmless device. Then, around 1:00, a series of calls came into the Boston Police Department: There's a device under a bridge and at a medical center. In all, more than a half-dozen were found across the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very scary. Now, you have me thinking if I should go on the red line.


LOTHIAN: Bomb units scrambled to keep up.

ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: This has taken a significant toll on our resources. Emergency deployment teams were sent into the center of the city immediately upon these -- these reports.

Bomb squad units from the transit police, the state police and the Boston police were fully deployed. There were significant shutdowns of not only highways, but rail traffic with the MBTA. And this has created an enormous inconvenience to people in the city.

LOTHIAN: The devices all turned out to be harmless.

Governor Deval Patrick tried to reassure the public.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We feel, at this point, that there is not a reason for anyone to panic. But there are reasons for us to be vigilant.

LOTHIAN: As questions continued to mount, an announcement came that the devices had been placed around town as a promotion for a late-night adult cartoon show.

Turner Broadcasting, CNN's parent company, which also owns the Cartoon Network, released a statement, saying, in part -- quote -- "The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in support of Adult Swim's animated television show 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force.'"

Turner Broadcasting went on to say, that -- quote -- "We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger."


LOTHIAN: A Turner Broadcasting source said, the displays were a component of a third-party advertising campaign conducted by the New York advertising firm Interference Incorporated. That company had no comment.

But we did get a statement from Boston Mayor Tom Menino. He says, in part -- quote -- "It is outrageous, in a post-9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme. I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today's incidents" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, thank you very much -- Dan Lothian reporting from Boston.

Up ahead, Jack Cafferty's question of the hour: Would you support a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2008?

And kitty culture wars -- CNN's Jeanne Moos with a report from the front felines.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf: Would you support a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2008?

Layne in Antioch, Illinois: "If all I have to choose from is the current field on both sides, sure. There really isn't that much difference between the two parties. Either one will answer to their masters: corporate America and the rich."

Drew in Greer, South Carolina: "In the heated world of today's politics, I don't see either party willingly taking a back seat to the other. Maybe if the vice president actually did something, it would be different."

Nancy in Cape Girardeau, Missouri: "Jack, only if you would be my running mate for vice president."

Jim in Montana: "Yes, I would support it. We waste enormous amounts of time and money on separation and debate. The real issues about America go unattended. The system no longer works for the good of our country. Let's try it. We have nothing to lose."

Maggie in New York: "I'm a Democrat, but I will have a hard time not voting for John McCain if he gets the Republican nod. I think he's most honest, honorable man in politics today. A McCain-Obama ticket would solve my dilemma. And, in fact, it's something I have been wishing for."

And Bill in Des Moines, Iowa, where I used to work, actually: "Bipartisan, bipolar, bisexual, I don't care -- anyone but the bi- delusional evil twins we have in the White House now. I'm even for digging up Nixon and letting him run again."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to and read more of them online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you tomorrow.

Let's check in with Paula to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Paula.


We're going to shine a light on America's hidden secrets, bringing intolerance out into the open tonight. Senator Joe Biden announces his presidential run, and maybe he wishes he hadn't because of some comments he made about Barack Obama that some people say are out-and-outright racist. We will debate that tonight.

Also: History happens Sunday, as two black coaches face off in the Super Bowl. But how far has the NFL really come in erasing its racist past?

That, and a whole lot more, coming at you just about six minutes from now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will be watching, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks. BLITZER: Thank you.

And still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM: The fur is flying over a YouTube hit. CNN's Jeanne Moos is on the story for us.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: All right, you are going to want to see this.

A memorable piece of video featuring a cat in a washing machine has CNN's Jeanne Moos on the front lines of the cat culture wars.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cat may be out of the bag, but it's in the washing machine.

(on camera): You put the cat in the machine.


MOOS (voice-over): Actually, the pet-washing machine is old hat. But this video on YouTube is making a splash, kitty washing machines set to music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Under the sea, under the sea. Darling, it's better down where it's wetter. Take it from me.

MOOS: Kitty is only in the wash cycle for less than a minute on YouTube. The cat-wash rocketed on to BuzzFeed, which tracks the most discussed topics on the Web -- the result, pet culture wars.

Is it a feline concentration camp or it is horrible, really, really horribly funny?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like it's dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you do that?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how do you know when it's done? The cat is dead or something?

MOOS: Well, actually, a full wash, rinse and dry lasts about 20 minutes. And the folks who market Pet Spa to pet groomers say it reduces pet stress.

Tell that to kitty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it tumbling around or something?

MOOS (on camera): No, no. It doesn't tumble.

(voice-over): The water comes out in massaging jets. The makers say it gets pets really clean, and dogs really like it, though cats tend to freak out at first. Who wouldn't freak out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK, babe. You're just taking a shower.

MOOS: And we all know how much cats love showers.

Type in "cat bath," and you get 400 hits on YouTube. This one is entitled "Cat Bath Hell." Maybe a cat washing machine would be easier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that looks illegal.

MOOS: One outraged e-mailer compared it to water-boarding, when interrogators pour water on suspects to get them to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They ought to try putting some humans in there.

MOOS: Well, actually, the Lifetime show "Off the Leash" did, and she survived. So did the now famous YouTube cat, though his owner did take him out early.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They clean themselves.

MOOS: The makers of Pet Spa say the video misrepresents the product, that they spent 13 years developing it, with the help of animal behaviorists, and no pet has ever been injured.

But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say, "Using this machine is as ridiculous as tossing toddlers in the dishwasher."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it squirted on the right places, it would feel good.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like that.



MOOS: She can, but not the cat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Under the sea.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And Jeanne tells us no animals were harmed in her making of this story. That's it for us. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jeanne would never hurt anyone, Wolf. Thanks.


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