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Defiance and Chaos in Iran; Ayatollah Faces Threat from Within; Lawmakers Try to Close Terror Gap

Aired June 22, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jack, thank you.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, defiance and chaos in the streets of Tehran, as protesters move forward with a second week of outraged demonstrations. They meet government and paramilitary forces willing to use deadly force to stop them.

Also, the legal loophole dubbed the terror gap -- felons and illegal immigrants can't buy guns, but suspected terrorists -- even known terrorists -- can.

What's going on?

Plus, a "New York Times" reporter escapes after being held by the Taliban for seven months. The paper never reported it until now. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, talked to the Taliban recently and found out what they think about the "Times" silence.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Iran's Revolutionary Guard is making good on its threat to stamp out further protests against the country's disputed presidential election. Riot police and the feared Basij paramilitary moved in with overwhelming force to send thousands of demonstrators scrambling out of one of the capital's main squares.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is monitoring all the latest developments, the pictures, the video that's coming in.

She's joining us now from our Iran Desk at the CNN global headquarters.

What are we getting in now -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're here at the Iran Desk, where we have teams of people monitoring state television. We have Farsi speakers who are listening to the sound on the videos that we're bringing you. Some of the videos, some of the images are disturbing -- I'll warn you of that right now.

We've got people going through, corroborating the images we'll bring you, with sources on the ground.

One thing I do want to bring you right now, this is a video that we have just been vetting right in the last few minutes.

I'm going to show you a still from the video right now. And I warn you that it is disturbing.

It appears to be a young man who has been shot -- shot in the groin area. The still and the video that we've been watching shows a lot of young people coming to his help. They're putting together a makeshift tourniquet to try and stem the bleeding.

And some of the background that I want to give you to this video is what our Iran Desk has been picking up here -- a document that's been circulating around the Internet in the last few days, compiled by a couple of doctors -- compiled in Farsi. It's instructions on what to do if you have to deal with a gunshot wound, because these young people who we're listening to on these videos are saying we can't take him to a hospital. We can't do that.

They're scared that if they go to a hospital, they will be arrested -- these injured people will be arrested. So this is the level of desperation in some of these videos we're seeing right now, that they're getting instructions off the Internet on how to stem the bleeding. That's what they're doing instead of risking arrest by going to the hospital -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are the pictures -- the images coming in -- still in major -- in big quantities, like -- or has there been a lessening of the images coming in -- Abbi?

TATTON: It really just goes in shifts. In the last few hours, some of the people I've been monitoring on the ground in Tehran have gone quite quiet. We know that the Internet has been blocked at times. At times, there are ways to get on it. At times it's so much slower. So it trickles out. We're continuing to go through all of it and then corroborating it with numerous different sources before we bring it to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, stand by.

We'll be getting back to you.

She's monitoring what's going on at our Iran Desk.

Meanwhile, there are some signs that at least a few of Iran's clerics may actually be turning on the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei.

Let's bring in Brian Todd.

He's looking at these clues.

What are you picking up -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a few of the top ayatollahs have spoken out against the election results. But if there is a stronger movement among the top religious leadership to turn against this government, it is working very secretively.


TODD (voice-over): In white turbans, men who appear to be clerics march with protesters. One of them positions himself in front of a group, as if to protect them. From 6,000 miles away, the son of the late Shah challenges the top echelons of Iran's clergy to do the same.

REZA PAHLAVI, IRAN'S FORMER CROWN PRINCE: This has become, also, a defining moment for clerics, both in the interests of the nation, but also in the interest of their faith and the clerical establishment to show a complete demarcation from the system.

TODD: But is that really happening?

Some experts with we spoke with, including an Islamic scholar familiar with the situation in Iran, say it's impossible to know. Only a few of Iran's prominent ayatollahs have spoken out against the election results.

Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani heads the Assembly of Experts, the only group with the constitutional ability to remove Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Five members of Rafsanjani's family, including his high profile daughter, Faezeh, were arrested -- accused of provoking unrest, but later released.

Contacted by CNN, an Iranian official dismissed reports that Rafsanjani is working behind the scenes from the holy city of Qom to unseat Khameini. The official says the two have a strong relationship and points to the supreme leader's praise of Rafsanjani on Friday.


AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMEINI, SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN (through translator): After the revolution, he was one of the most effective political figures alongside the late imam.


TODD: Experts say there may simply not be enough momentum among the top clerics right now to push Khameini out.

The head of an Iranian-American advocacy group which calls for new elections but is not endorsing a candidate, talks about the possibilities if this government collapses.

TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IRANIAN-AMERICAN COUNCIL: You could have a Moussavi presidency and he, perhaps, reform the office of the supreme leader to be a body of clergy rather than just one single person.


TODD: Trita Parsi says another possibility here is that some kind of military dictatorship might form. He says from what we're seeing, one of the most determined groups is that Basij militia, which takes its orders from the Revolutionary Guard -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it clear who's actually using the firepower right now?

TODD: It's really not clear right now. You heard Christiane Amanpour on our air less than 30 minutes ago say that the Tehran police, according to the chief of police, have firearms but are not authorized to use them. Well, an Iranian official told us today, he said the Basij militia doesn't have firearms.

Now, you take that with a grain of salt. This is an Iranian official saying that. But what it shows is we're getting kind of differing versions here of who has the weapons, who's firing on the protesters. We might not know for quite some time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting.

The Ayatollah Khameini sits at the center of Iran's power structure as the country's supreme leader. There is limited democracy in Iran, as you know. In theory, voters pick the country's president, who answers to the supreme leader. They also vote for the Assembly of Experts, a body of clerics which picks the supreme leader from its own ranks, while the president is responsible for economic policy, the supreme leader commands almost all other aspects of government, including the powerful Guardian Council and the Revolutionary Guard, along with all the armed forces.

As the world watches, the question on everyone's mind -- are we watching the next Iranian revolution unfold?

I asked "New York Times" columnist Roger Cohen, one of the few Western journalists still on the ground in Tehran, what's going on.

Do you get the sense, Roger, that this is a real -- one of those moments in history where, potentially, this regime is cracking and the whole history of Iran could be taking on a wholly new direction in the coming weeks or months?

ROGER COHEN, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think the regime has made a very fundamental error. I think there were millions -- perhaps tens of millions of Iranians -- who didn't like this Islamic Republic, but who were prepared to live with it and who felt that they had a measure of freedom, in that every four years, they were allowed to make a choice in a presidential election, which did change the tone and the direction of life here.

When the reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, was in power for eight years, things were very different than under Ahmadinejad.

And this time, their hopes were raised even more, because the campaign was so free and vibrant and there was debate that would be vigorous even by U.S. standards.

And then, it all proved to be a complete illusion. And there was this brutal clampdown -- a supposed two thirds victory by Ahmadinejad, followed by a kind of putsch.

Now, what sense does that make?

If you've got two thirds of the votes, why do you need to accompany that with a putsch?

So I think that shift is absolutely fundamental, that there are now millions of more Iranians who -- who had made some sort of accommodation that are now in outright opposition.

So even if this particular wave of protest passes -- and it's not over yet, by any means -- I think we're going to see a more fragile Iran. And also, as you know, Ahmadinejad thrived on the Bush White House because he pointed to it all the time and he used his own radicalism against what he portrayed as the radicalism of the White House.

I think with Obama reaching out to the Middle East, Ahmadinejad's Iran could find itself much more isolated.

BLITZER: Is that one of the reasons why the regime is really going after Britain, for example, and blaming Britain for so many of the problems and avoiding blaming President Obama?


Well, you know, when I was here earlier this year, in January/February, I saw the British ambassador. And he said, you know, in a way, it's quite an honor to be the ambassador here, because it's one of the very, very few places left in the world that actually thinks Britain still has some influence.

And there is this longstanding -- you know, the British were very involved here during -- during much of the 20th century. But there's -- and from that, there's this kind of longstanding view -- myth -- that, you know, the British are behind everything.

And this latest instance is, frankly, bizarre. I think it may well be what you just said, Wolf, that at this moment, given Obama's overtures, they don't want to -- I mean although they criticized the United States strongly for meddling, Khamenei did -- he hasn't directed the full force of his criticism against the United States for once.

And, in fact, tomorrow, there's a rally been called by the Basiji outside the British embassy. And rocks are stones are, as we speak, being distributed to them apparently. And there are rumors, again, that we're going to see a rerun of 1979, only this time it's going to be the British embassy. And the British are evacuating most of their diplomatic staff.

So it's just weirder and weirder.

BLITZER: To put it mildly.

We'll be continuing to talk with Roger in the next hour.

He's one of the few remaining Western journalists in Tehran.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now.

He's in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: A "New York Times" reporter characterizing the situation in Iran as just weirder and weirder.


CAFFERTY: Well, President Obama's plan to push through health care reform this year is very much in danger now of being dead. Top Democratic advisers are urging the president get more involved himself in the debate before it's too late.

The Congressional Budget Office last week put a price tag on this thing of $1 trillion over the next decade and said it would still leave millions of Americans with no health insurance.

Well, Republicans jumped all over this, insisting that health care reform may be too expensive at a time when we're already facing huge deficits.

Senator Lindsey Graham called the CBO estimates "a death blow to a government-run health care plan."

He might be right.

Some in the GOP suggest an overhaul of the nation's health care system just might have to wait for a while.

Like it's been waiting for how long?

They're also accusing the White House and Democrats of trying to rush through what they say is flawed legislation this year, before the midterm elections next year.

And make a note -- if they don't get something done this year, ain't nothing going to happen next year with those elections looming.

The White House acknowledges there are legitimate concerns about the proposed legislation, but they say the president is confident that setbacks are a normal part of what happens in Congress and that this legislation will get through Congress by the end of this year.

Go to Vegas, bet against it.

One senior official tells CNN, "We're not hysterical. We've seen this movie before."

But some people are not convinced, including members of the president's own party. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein says she's not sure there are enough votes among Democrats to get this thing through.

And she's probably right -- at least at this point. So here's the question -- why is health care reform suddenly in danger of not happening?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

They've seen this movie before and it failed the last time it got this close. That was back when Hillary tried to do it, remember?

BLITZER: Yes, in '93, '94. I was covering the White House in those days. And I know they're desperately trying to avoid a failure right now. But we'll see how they -- we'll see how they do.

CAFFERTY: You must have just been like a cub reporter in those days, huh?

BLITZER: I was a youth, yes.

I was part of the youth of America.


BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thanks very much.

They're not allowed to get on a plane in the United States, but known and suspected terrorists are allowed to buy guns. It's called the terror gap. And there's a real cause for concern right now.

Also, a "New York Times" reporter escapes the Taliban after a seven month kidnapping ordeal -- a kidnapping story "The Times" never reported. Our Nic Robertson talked to Taliban members about it. Nic is standing by to join us live.

Plus, massive demonstrations, a deadly crackdown, blood literally in the streets -- but you won't see any of it on Iranian TV. Iran's coverage of the unrest is nothing short of surreal. We're taking a closer look.


BLITZER: We want to go right back to CNN's Abbi Tatton.

She's over at the Iran Desk at the CNN Center -- Abbi, I -- I guess we're hearing now -- it's been a while -- from the main opposition leader, Mir Hossein Moussavi.

What is he announcing?

TATTON: Wolf, we just got an update on Mir Hossein Moussavi's Facebook page calling for another demonstration to be held on Thursday, specifying a peaceful demonstration to be held in Tehran. He's telling supporters through this post on his Facebook page to stay tuned, basically, for updates about where exactly this would be. And it's also -- it's supposed to be to honor those who have died in the last few days of protests. And it's also calling for protest demonstrations to happen around the globe, not just in Tehran.

It does say stay tuned for further details and we'll certainly be checking -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's an act of defiance on his part, because the ruling cleric said -- the ayatollah -- the grand ayatollah have already said no more demonstrations. Any such acts are acts of treason, if not terrorism. So it potentially sets the stage for another confrontation -- Abbi.

TATTON: Absolutely, although it does specify that these protests should be peaceful, "to honor the masses," it says to honor those who've died.

But, yes, it is an update calling for protests on Thursday.

In addition to that, Wolf, you do have a lot of chatter -- a lot of people talking on sites like Twitter about other demonstrations -- possibilities of those in the next couple of days. But this is directly from the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Moussavi, calling for a Thursday demonstration despite those orders, correct.

BLITZER: Another example of the social networking sites playing a critical role in disseminating information.

Abbi, thanks very much.

We'll get back to you.

Meanwhile, other news we're watching right here at home. People on the government's terrorist watch list are being allowed to buy guns and explosives.

And the question is this -- how is this possible?

Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve, taking a closer look at what are some calling a terror gap.

What is going on -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, known or suspected terrorists can be kept off an airplane, but most of them can buy guns. As you say, lawmakers call it the terror gap and some of them are trying to close it.


MESERVE (voice-over): A convicted felon cannot legally buy a gun. Neither can an illegal immigrant or a drug addict.

But under current law, a known or suspected terrorist can purchase firearms and explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, it's a shock, when you think about it. Secondly, it's idiotic. MESERVE: A new report from the Government Accountability Office says that between 2004 and 2009, 963 firearms and explosives background checks turned up matches with terrorist watch list records. And 90 percent of the time, those applicants got the green light to get a gun or explosive, because there was no legal way to disqualify them, even though they're considered so dangerous, they can be stopped from boarding an airplane or denied a visa.

The watch list contains over one million records on about 400,000 individuals. Government reports have documented instances of misidentification and misinformation. And the National Rifle Association says it should not be used to disqualify anyone from buying a gun.

"The integrity of the terror watch list is poor," the NRA said in a statement. "To deny law-abiding people due process and their Second Amendment rights based on a secret list is not how we do things in America."


MESERVE: Senator Lautenberg is introducing legislation giving the attorney general discretion to stop gun and explosive sales to suspected or known terrorists. The Department of Justice says it is reviewing that legislation. It proposed something similar back in 2007, but Congress never passed it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much for that.

We'll work on that story, too.

It's a very high profile kidnapping that you probably never heard about. "The New York Times" reporter, David Rohde, abducted and held by the Taliban, along with an Afghan journalist and a driver for seven months. Their ordeal, at least for two of them, came on Friday, when they hopped over the wall in the middle of the night while their guards slept.

News of the escape caught almost all -- everyone off guard, because few people outside "The New York Times" even knew of the kidnapping.

Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who's joining us now live -- and, Nic, you recently interviewed a member of the Taliban and you asked him about David Rohde specifically.

What did he say?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, when I was sitting down with that Taliban spokesman, one of the things I wanted to get across to him was the fact that David Rohdes was -- David Rohdes was a journalist. And, in many cases, one hears in kidnappings, kidnappers don't believe that people are journalists. They may think that they're spies. They may think that they're other people.

And I wanted to tell him about some of the good work that David had done -- highlighting the plight of Muslims in Bosnia, for example.

But when I asked a Taliban spokesman, he got angry, because he said they were trying to negotiate with "The New York Times and "The New York Times" didn't want to negotiate -- negotiate. The Taliban said that they wanted -- he said that they wanted a prisoner exchange and they wanted money and none of that was happening. And he didn't think anyone was serious about -- about freeing David.

BLITZER: Hey, Nic, when news organizations make a specific decision, like "The New York Times," to keep this secret for seven months, in this particular case, it worked out well.

Is that the thinking -- they're better off keeping this quiet, keeping it secret, than publicizing an abduction along these lines?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, it's not just news organizations, but aid groups who've had people kidnapped, governments who've had diplomats kidnapped, even families who've had, you know, loved ones kidnapped for ransom.

They -- they're worried about two things. They're worried if they go public, then it -- then it drives the profile of it up, it drives the rhetoric up, it makes it harder for both sides to move apart and move to a position where the person can be released. And it also may put the person's life in danger.

And I think it was a very real concern here at "The New York Times" that this might escalate the situation and put David and his colleague's life in danger if it all became public.

BLITZER: Well, we're really happy that David Rohde and Tahir Ludin are free.

Thanks very much, Nic.

Thanks for reporting for us from around the world, as he always does.

It's saturating the news media around the world, but if you watch the nightly news in Iran, it's hard to tell anything unusual is actually even going on.

Are Iranians seeing what we're seeing?

We're going to be taking a closer look.

Plus, where is South Carolina's governor?

No one seems to know right now -- not even his wife. But top aides insist there's absolutely nothing wrong. We'll tell you what's going on.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's going on? NGUYEN: Well, Wolf, this just in to us. Word of a plea agreement in the case against singer Chris Brown. Brown has been given five years' probation and 180 days of community service. Now, he could be allowed to live and serve in his home state of Virginia. At an earlier hearing, Brown had pleaded not guilty in connection with an assault on his former girlfriend, the singer Rihanna.

Well, there's growing concern about the whereabouts of South Carolina's governor. The lieutenant governor doesn't know and he says he hasn't been put in charge, as of yet. Even Governor Mark Sanford's wife says she has no idea where he is, but adds that she's not concerned, he just needed time away. Sanford's spokesman would only tell CNN the Republican governor needs a break after losing a court fight over refusing federal bailout funds.

Now, a leading state Democrat says the governor has been acting "erratically" for some time. CNN will continue to investigate.

And she just may be the best boss ever. Oprah Winfrey is taking her entire staff on an all expenses paid Mediterranean cruise this month. According to the "Chicago Sun-Times," the luxury cruise will call in Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Malta and cost more than $5,000 per person. Remember, back in 2005, Winfrey surprised her staff with a trip to Hawaii -- so, Wolf, where are we going?

BLITZER: Yes. That's a pretty -- a much better boss, I must say. She's impressive.

NGUYEN: Yes, she is.

BLITZER: All right, Betty.

Thanks very much.

NGUYEN: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, tear gas and gunfire -- Iranian forces move to crack down on the second week of opposition protests. It's a story CNN is covering from all angles. We'll hear from an Iranian who lived through the 1979 revolution and is still haunted by the memories.

President Obama says the U.S. is ready for any move North Korea might make.

How seriously should we take the regime's missile threat?

We'll get analysis from the best political team on television.

And controversy surrounds the firing of an AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walton.

Was the move politically motivated?

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

All right. We've got some breaking news happening right here in the nation's capital first. We're going to get back to the situation in Iran in a moment.

But I want to go to our producer in Washington -- Vito -- Vito, what are you hearing about some sort of Metro collision?

Hampshire Avenue MAGGIOLO, CNN PRODUCER: (AUDIO GAP) where it crosses over the top of the Metro tracks.

What I have here is two Metro trains -- this is the subway system here in D.C. -- that apparently have been involved in a significant collision. One train has actually ridden up -- one car has ridden up on top of the other.

The firefighters down on the ground by the train are reporting multiple people trapped. And these are two Metro trains now at rush hour here in D.C. So, obviously, the potential is high for many people injured, especially considering the high impact that took place.

BLITZER: Vito, just repeat the headline, because we may have clipped your microphone at the top. I know you're on phone with us. But give us the headline.

What, two Metro -- two subway trains collided?

MAGGIOLO: I'm looking at two subway trains that appear to have collided at a fairly high rate of speed. I'm looking down on the scene from the New Hampshire Avenue Bridge over the Metro tracks. And there are apparently a number of people trapped and a number of people injured.

BLITZER: And so this is obviously a developing story right now. We don't have more information -- how many people were involved, the extent of injuries or anything like that?

MAGGIOLO: No. But fire department units that are down at the train are reporting a number of people trapped. I'm watching them. They've got ladders up to the train part that's on top of the other. And they are using saws to cut into the car to try to reach victims.

BLITZER: And what happened here, Vito?

Both of these trains were on one track and they weren't supposed to be going toward each other.

What happens in a situation -- what happened in a situation like this?

MAGGIOLO: I strongly suspect this is actually a -- in all probability this is a rear-end collision, but I can't really determine it from what I'm looking at now. All I can tell you is there are two trains, they are on the same track, and one has ridden up atop the other.

BLITZER: So what you're hearing -- what you suspect is that one train collided into the other from the rear. It wasn't a head-on collapse.

MAGGIOLO: That's what I suspect, but I cannot confirm that. As I say right now, firefighters -- it's a difficult bit of access. They've had to cut some fences behind a commercial building, and they're getting onto the train and they're trying to get an access to the car that's ridden up on top of the other one to try to get to the people who are believed to be trapped inside. This is a major incident.

BLITZER: Vito Maggiolo, our assignment editor here in Washington, on the scene for us. Vito, stand by. We'll get back to you and update our viewers on what's going on with this metro. Two trains collide in the nation's capital.

Let's get to the breaking news out of Iran right now. Want to go back to our Iran desk. Abbi Tatton is standing by. We're getting new images just coming in. Is that right, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are images that we showed you, a still picture, from just a few minutest ago. They are disturbing images. We want to warn you of that right now. CNN has gone ahead and pixalated the faces of the people involved in this video for their own safety.

It's all injuries to students on the streets of Iran. And let's go to that video right now and show you what we're talking about. Students coming to each other's aid, basically, you can see it here, a man who appears to have been shot in the groin area. His fellow protesters, other students, young people making a makeshift tourniquet, putting that around him to try and stem the bleeding.

What I was telling you about earlier is the context of this, why they're not going to hospitals. We've seen circulated on the Internet directions compiled in Farsi by doctors on how to deal with a gunshot wound because these young people are too afraid at this point to go to hospitals to -- for fear of being arrested.

So that's what's happening on the streets to deal with these injuries, Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, we'll get back to you momentarily. Thanks very much.

Iranian news media certainly making it look like nothing is wrong if you watch the official Iranian TV stations. Our senior editor of Mideast affairs Octavia Nasr is joining us now with more.

You're monitoring what they're saying on official Iranian TV, which is, what, very loyal to Ahmadinejad and the Grand Ayatollah. Is that right?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, MIDEAST AFFAIRS: That's absolutely right, Wolf, and there are reports out of Iran indicating that something did go wrong in last week's presidential elections. The Iranian government is admitting the existence of 3 million votes more than the number of registered voters.

Let's take a look at how the new findings played out on state media. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to World News Press Iran TV. We're coming to you live from our headquarters in Tehran.

NASR (voice-over): Welcome to Iran's government-funded press TV, where the station reported but quickly down played new findings that last week's presidential elections showed three million more votes than registered voters.

The anchor woman acknowledged the allegations of vote rigging and offered this government response.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei has asserted that such a thing only occurred in Iran's 50 cities and did not noticeably affect the outcome of the election.

NASR: Then, moving to other news, Press TV, as well as other local channels, highlighted what they described as calm and quiet streets, totally under control according to this newscaster.

Here, IRNN and other government-run stations sent its reporters on fact-finding missions throughout Iran. Her interviewees without exception offering reassuring reaction about the situation. Everything is great, says this man on the street. And this shop owner is comfortably open for business.

There's even time for reports from around the world all the way from China to Egypt. On the ground, firsthand reporting. Back on Press TV, this anchor describes protesters as terrorists and says their rallies are illegal. He says the government will investigate the deaths that occurred during the street demonstrations but reminds viewers that the police will crush any attempts to disrupt the peace and quiet of Iran.


NASR: You see, Wolf, another day in Iran without real answers to presidential election results. Another day with two different perspectives, the government side from state-run media, and a completely different picture we're seeing off social networking sites, which have become the voice of the opposition. Wolf?

BLITZER: Octavia is monitoring the official media and the unofficial media in Iran. Thanks, Octavia, very much.

In a news conference earlier today in Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi made some accusations about western media outlets. Qashqavi accused everyone working at the BBC, the Voice of America, and CNN are pursuing what he called the weakening of Iran's unity and seeking the disintegration of the country all because he said of ties to Israel and Zionism.

In addition, Qashqavi specifically claimed that CNN officially trains people to, quote, "hack government and foreign ministry Web sites," citing a story about how protesters used the technique against the Web site of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Listen to this.


HASSAN QASHQAVI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY (Through Translator): This is a CNN schedule. They officially train the people to come and hack Iran's government Web site. This is the English text. I can give it to you. This is a cyber war. This is a cyber war of the media with an independent government. They asked the people to use the U.S. system to hack our Web site.


BLITZER: In response, CNN released this statement. Let me read it to you.

"The accusations are completely false. CNN stands by its comprehensive coverage of the Iranian election and the protests that followed. CNN has been and will remain committed to continuing to its efforts to bring news from Iran to the world in whatever way it can. The images and events coming in from Iran speak for themselves. CNN is beholden to no government in its reporting on international affairs."

That statement from CNN.

Let's bring in two guests right now. Joining us now, Rudi Bakhtiar, a former CNN anchor and now director of public relations for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian-Americans, and Karim Sadjapour, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Thanks to both of you for coming in. Let's talk about the role of women, first of all, and what's been going on, Rudy, in Iran. Right now there's a video that's been posted on YouTube, I don't know if you've seen it, of a woman in a rather revealing outfit walking around Tehran, which, as you know, is a no-no by all definitions of this 30- year Islamic Revolution.

There's the video. We're showing it to our viewers right now. You don't see that kind of thing in Iran, at least not in the public.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, PUB. ATT., ALLIANCE OF IRANIAN-AMERICANS: No, not at all. You would never dress like that before last week and show defiance like this. This is a different time for Iran. Women in Iran have had their rights stripped of them since the day the Islamic Revolution happened. Since the days these mullahs took power, women have been fighting for their rights.

People like Shiran Ebadi who were the first judges in Iran were told to step down. They had their credentials taken away, and were made mere receptionists. And what you're seeing now is something that's been going on ever since '79 revolution, women fighting back, but today more than ever because they are energized by Zahra Rahnavard, who is Moussavi's wife, who, for the first time in Iran, has spoken about the equality of men and women, saying women are equal to men, something we take for granted here but something which has become so poignant.

BLITZER: So, Karim, just the fact that she's wearing a sleeveless blouse or whatever, that's a huge statement in Iran right now.

KARIM SADJAPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTL. PEACE: Absolutely, Wolf. And I think that when we think about these protests and these incredible images and videos which have been coming out the last week. For me, the real iconic image of this protest is this poor girl, Neda, whom we saw on throughout CNN the last few days, who was shot and killed.

And if you compare that to the revolution 30 years ago, the iconic images from the revolution 30 years ago were bearded middle aged men. This shows the new face of Iran, as these young education women who are really the vanguards for change in today's Iran.

BLITZER: Explain why this -- the killing of Neda, this young girl -- and we saw the painful video, the father there -- why this potentially could turn out to be a disaster for the ruling regime.

BAKHTIAR: It's very simple, Wolf. The day before she was killed, you saw the supreme leader go out in Friday prayers, which is the equivalent of Sunday afternoon church here, and on one of the holiest days for Iranians, talk about the fact that tomorrow, if you go out and protest, there will be blood.

And he delivered -- the supreme religious leader of Iran issued this edict and then started killing people. And now the blood of this beautiful 26-year-old, who went there to protest peacefully for her rights as a voter in Iran, was killed, and the way she was killed is also horrific.

The fact that these people are picked out from above, from shooters from above picking them out, one by one, and almost sharp shooting and targeting them, this is really angering people. And again, something has happened now which Khamenei cannot ever take back, and that is the blood of this young girl is on his hands.

BLITZER: There's a demonstration now that's been called for Thursday, a peaceful demonstration. Mir Hossein Moussavi on his Web site saying there should be another demonstration. This is another major act of defiance because the Grand Ayatollah has basically said no more demonstrations.

SADJAPOUR: That's right, Wolf. I think that people's sense of injustice, people's sense of anger as a result of these elections has not subsided and is not going to subside anytime soon. I think what's useful for your listeners, for your viewers to know, is that Tehran is a city that's much closer to Los Angeles than it is Manhattan in the sense that it's not concentrated.

BLITZER: It's spread out.

SADJAPOUR: It's a large, spread-out city. And what this regime does very well is repression. They have repression down to a science. And what they do is they block off the major thoroughfares and highways and prevent people from congregating all in one area. So throughout the next few days and weeks, instead of seeing protests of hundreds of thousands, all in one place, I think we will see pockets of protest throughout Tehran, which is easier for the regime to repress.

BLITZER: I know you're in touch, Rudi, with friends and relatives back in Iran right now and other sources. What are you hearing from your contacts?

BAKHTIAR: What's very interesting, as I really want to point out here, is the Allahu Akbars that go on at night.

BLITZER: God is great.

BAKHTIAR: God is great. They come out on their rooftops. And this is something that happened in the days leading up to the revolution as well. And I remember it as a child, when you hear a million of people get on their rooftops and say Allahu Akbar, it reverberates through your heart and soul.

But now what I noticed in the last one that came out last night is they are saying, (speaking in foreign language), which means death to (INAUDIBLE), the leader who -- what is (INAUDIBLE) of the people, tortures his own people.

BLITZER: Is that death to the ayatollah or death to the president?

BAKHTIAR: I would imagine that is death to the ayatollah because on Friday he's the one who said if you go in the streets there will be blood.

BLITZER: Because...

BAKHTIAR: People are holding him accountable.

BLITZER: We've been hearing the translation of that being "death to the dictator," and it's been unclear to me who that references. You here a lot of opposition protesters say death to the dictator. I wasn't exactly sure who they were referring to.

SADJAPOUR: Really, Wolf, red lines have been crossed, previously sacred red lines have been crossed. Pre-election day, pre-June 12th, this was unprecedented that someone would challenge the legitimacy of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They do not only challenge the legitimacy of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but they're challenging the institution of the supreme leadership itself. So I find it very difficult to see how we can go back to the status quo ante in Iran.

BAKHTIAR: And what we have coming out tomorrow are talk of the fact that the Autobus industry, the Autobus industry, the bus industry in Iran, is -- has issued a statement saying we want to strike, and they have asked all of the other companies to also strike. So I think tomorrow will be monumental.

BLITZER: Because they say the three pillars of Iranian society, the clerics, the mullahs, the military and the business community. And we're watching what's going on in all three of those pillars of the Iranian community.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

SADJAPOUR: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll stay in touch with both of you.

We're also watching the breaking news right here on the nation's capital. Collision of two subway cars on the metro system in Washington. We have crews and reporters on the scene. We'll update you on what happened right after this.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: All right. We're getting this information in from our affiliate WJLA here in the nation's capital. A collision, two trains on the D.C. metro system. They say one train is on top of another right now, a head-on collision. They're reporting nine injured, one fatality, that according to WJLA. This is WJLA, which is our affiliate here in Washington.

Betty Nguyen is getting more information on what's going on.

Betty, what are you picking up?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. The information is trickling in right now, Wolf. What we're getting from D.C. metro is that there are massive injuries. Now what that entails we do not know. We don't have a definite number at this time. But as you've been talking about, this metro collision, and according to D.C. metro reports, there are massive injuries in this.

Of course we're working this very closely to try to see the latest information that's coming through, but that's all we know at this point and we'll continue to follow it.

BLITZER: Yes, I know we're awaiting the first pictures that were supposed to go. This crash occurred on what's called the red line in this metro system that we have here in Washington. Actually, it's not that far from Catholic University.

Here are the first pictures that we're seeing. You can see what's going on over there. There's one train -- car right on top of another, this coming in from WUSA, our affiliate here in Washington, D.C. It's unclear if there was a head-on crash or if that train jumped the other train from the rear.

Vito Maggiolo, our assignment editor, is on the scene for us. He's gathering more information, but these are the first pictures coming in from this metro crash here in Washington. Once we get more specific details -- it looks like a very, very serious incident in rush hour happening right after 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, about 45 minutes or so ago.

Betty, I know you're getting more information, as well.

NGUYEN: Yes. And what I have learned so far -- again, as you've been reporting, two trains have collided. One train, in fact, is on top of the other train. This according to D.C. metro. Also reporting, as we mentioned, massive injuries. We're talking about the green line and the red line that are affected here.

Again, one train is on top of the other. And we're looking at them right there where the lines were coming from. And then there are massive injuries reporting this effect, and as you see right there, the green line and the red line.

Don't know an exact number as of yet, Wolf. All of this, obviously, still coming in to CNN. But that's the latest that I have from here right now.

BLITZER: And we have confirmed at least one dead in this crash, this metro crash here in Washington, Betty. That's what we're getting in right now. All right. We'll stay on top of this story and update our viewers when we get more information.

We'll move on now to talk about President Obama and what's going on in Iran right now. Let's talk about it with our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

The -- they're setting the stage for another massive demonstration on Thursday. Donna, the president of the United States is holding a news conference at the Rose Garden tomorrow and he's under a lot of pressure to step up the rhetoric against this regime in Iran. What do you think he should do?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the president has struck the right balance, Wolf, and condemning the violence by the Iranian regime against its people as well as speaking out forcefully on universal values we share, freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom of the press. So I think the president has done the right thing in this instance.

BLITZER: Here's what he said in an interview with a Pakistani news organization called Dawn. Let me read it to you. The president of the United States saying, "We respect Iran's sovereignty but we also are witnessing peaceful demonstrations, people expressing themselves, and I stand for that universal principle that people should have a voice in their own lives, in their own destiny, and I hope that the international community recognizes that we need to stand behind peaceful protests and be opposed to violence or repression. It's a measured statement, very similar to what he's been saying in recent days."

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He needs to step up that last line. This thing has gone on now for several days and it's not about condemning the election process or interfering in the election process. It's about innocent people are being murdered in the streets and I think this president, for his own sake, for the sake of his ability to lead our country and lead the free world, he's got to step that rhetoric up a little bit, shake his fist, and say any great democracy, you want to be a democracy, you want to live in the world and say that you're a legitimate democracy which we may question, you cannot kill innocent people. You have to allow protests. You have to allow free press. And I don't think Donna and I would disagree on that.

BLITZER: Should the president, Donna, be mobilizing other Islamic countries like Turkey, for example, or Pakistan or Afghanistan, to start squeezing and distancing themselves from the regime in Iran right now? Should he be working behind the scenes to try to undermine Ahmadinejad, Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, I'm sure there's an internal power struggle taking place not only between the clerics but also between the moderate speaker and others, so we have to be very careful how we interfere in this internal squabble.

It's a very volatile situation. I'm sure the president or someone in the administration is not only watching these developments but reaching out to moderate Muslim countries as well as others who are working with Iran, whether they are taking their oil and other natural resources.

But this is a moment for us to stand with those protesters but not to interfere with the internal squabbles that are taking place between the mullahs and the others in that repressive regime.

ROLLINS: I don't disagree with that at all. I just think it's very important, though, when you think in terms we've had hundreds of thousands of young men and women fighting alongside each other in Iraq to create democracy there, now in Afghanistan, and basically not to say to these young people who want freedom, who want a fair vote that we basically are sympathetic to them and equally as important once again, condemn this violence, because this violence right now, it's BlackBerrys versus bullets. And that's not a good, not a fair fight.

BLITZER: All right, guys, I'm going to cut it short because this metro crash here in Washington, D.C., we are getting dramatic pictures coming in.

Betty Nguyen, update our viewers on what we know right now.

NGUYEN: Well, here's what we know so far, Wolf, that a six-car commuter train has collided with another one. And in fact, one train is on top of the other. You're looking at pictures right now from the scene, some people just sitting on the side obviously made it out of that train, but there in that shot right there, you can see where one of the commuter trains is on top of the other one.

And we are reporting that there is at least one person dead because of this. But D.C. metro is also saying that there are massive injuries. And you can understand why. It's rush hour right now. There are a lot of people on those trains. And this involves the green line and the red line.

Not told exactly how many, but just think about it. A six-car commuter train has collided with another one. In fact, the video that we just showed you showed one of them on top of the other.

Again, one person has been killed in this accident. No word on the extent and how many other people have been injured in it. But we're following it very closely, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Betty, I just want to dip into our affiliate, WJLA, hear what they're saying about this right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Metro has ordered or requested a shuttle bus in order to help some of the people who are now not able to get to their destinations. At some point later this evening, eventually get home.

Of course, 5:00 this evening is when this collision occurred so a lot of folks who are having trouble getting home at this hour as the result. But we should update anyone just joining us that at this point, one person is confirmed dead. At least nine injured.


BLITZER: All right. Let's break away from WJLA, our assignment editor, Vitto Maggiolo, is on the line with us once again.

Vito, are you there on the scene?

MAGGIOLO: Yes, I'm here, right up on the scene. As I described earlier, one train car has ridden up on top of another. I can confirm one fatality from having seen the victim. Several more seriously critically injured people have been removed and are being taken to a triage area.

Firefighters are struggling to extricate other victims who are apparently in the wreckage of these two cars that have collided. This is a mass casualty incident. A lot of resources are here and the rescue efforts continue. The injured are being treated and removed and the trapped firefighters are still desperately trying to rescue.

BLITZER: And Vitto, do we know if this was a head-on clash or if this was one car crashing into the other from the rear?

MAGGIOLO: I couldn't -- I don't have enough -- from looking at it, I just cannot tell you.

BLITZER: All right. So that's up in the air. Several of the local affiliates are saying it was a head-on collision but we don't know for sure.

Matt Sloane is on the phone with us. He's a CNN medical producer and a certified incident commander who would be involved in an incident like this.

Walk us through, Matt, what's going on.

MATT SLOANE, CNN MEDICAL PRODUCER (via phone): Well, first of all, it's important to recognize that that designation, mass casualty incident, is really a way for people to get all their resources organized. It's a delicate dance but it's a fast-moving dance.

The firefighters are going to get in and stabilize the scene as much as they can, put any fires out, any dangling wires, get those out of the way so that the medical rescuers as well as the firefighters can cut into that train, get in, get to the victims.

Now, Wolf, the first thing they're going to do is just ask folks if anybody can get up and walk, if you're not injured, get up and walk out. That way, you get, you know, 20, 30 percent of the patients out of the way right off the top. Then they're going to go through and evaluate the patients for a little further to see who are the most severe patients. Wolf?

BLITZER: And, obviously, they're going to get rescue squads over there as quickly as possible. We know at least of one fatality and obviously, numerous injuries right now, but the full extent won't be clear until they actually get inside and as Vito points out, it's not that easy getting inside one of these cars, especially if the car's on top of the other.

SLOANE: Yes, that's absolutely true. And you know, you mentioned fatalities as well, too. A lot of times what happens in these incidents is that if -- you know rescuers can confirm that there is a fatality, they will actually leave that person inside the train and go on to people that they feel like they can evacuate right at that very moment.

But you know, you heard -- WJLA talking about bringing in school buses. A lot of times, they'll load up the folks that aren't that injured into school buses and get them away from the scene. We'll probably see at some point they'll be setting up different colored tarps and those will be the different staging areas for the -- you know the most severe and then, you know, all the way down to the least severe and most minor injuries.

BLITZER: All right. Matt Sloane -- Matt Sloane is one of our medical producers who knows a lot about what's going on. These are more pictures that are just coming in of this incident. They're not far from Catholic University here in Washington, D.C. Two trains colliding.

We're not sure if it's a head-on. Several of the affiliates are saying it's a head-on collision occurring around -- shortly after 5:00 p.m. right in the middle of rush hour, but we're going to stay on top of this story and update you as we get more information.

In the meantime, let's go back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." It's always in any major city where they've got subways and trains. This is a nightmare.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It is, and you know, it's a wonder these things don't happen more often than they do. I mean millions of people moving around in the New York City subways every day and very seldom do you have anything like this occur. It's a tribute to the people who run the system, I guess. The question this hour is why is health care reform suddenly in danger of not happening and it's very much in danger of not happening? Darren writes, "Plain and simple, Capitol Hill is controlled by bankers, big business and special interest groups, all vying for the failed health care-for-profit model to continue making them all lots and lots of money."

Sam writes, "Some Democrats finally woke up from their Obama-induced commas and realized this is a very bad plan."

Ronald writes, "Certain media figures such as Cafferty are deliberately slanting their coverage in the national health care plan to try to defeat it. Why not quote the 'New York Times' poll which showed 72 percent of Americans are in favor of a government-run national health care plan? We're tired of being snowed by the health industry and insurance lobbyists. Give us health care."

Mike in Denver, "It all about perception. Right now it seems like the plan cost too much, does too little and is risky enough the Democrats would not even line up behind it. With that kind of marketing they should be thankful the press has been so kind."

Ed writes, "The reason health care reform is in danger of failing is because the U.S. is the only nation in the world that has made a for- profit business out of health insurance. We don't need to spend more for universal health care. Just ban for-profit health insurance and millions of dollars would be available to cover the uninsured."

Ryan writes, "I put the blame on the medical lobbyists and the ease with which they can purchase votes from most Republican members and some of the Democrats."

And Michael in Virginia writes, "Jack, you can insure some of the people some of the time, but you can insure all of the people all the time. It's just too damn expensive."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there. Perhaps you'll find it. Perhaps not. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jack, stand by. Thank you.