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THE SITUATION ROOM
Japan Raises Nuclear Crisis Level; President Obama Warns Libya
Aired March 18, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, we're tracking two major international stories.
Breaking news in Japan. The crisis level is raised at a crippled nuclear reactor. Officials acknowledge the problems are worse than originally thought, emergency workers struggling to hold their own in the battle to head off a catastrophe.
And President Obama warns Libya's leader to call off his troops or face military action. The U.S. and its allies prepare to carry out a U.N. resolution authorizing military force.
Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The United States and several key allies are now getting ready for military action against Libya. President Obama today bluntly warned the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, that he will face the consequences if he does not halt what the president calls the brutal repression of his own people. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, once more, Moammar Gadhafi has a choice. The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop.
Gadhafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misurata, and Zawiyah, and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.
Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.
Let me be clear: These terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: After the U.N. Security Council authorized the no-fly zone and the use of force to protect civilians, the Gadhafi regime did announce a cease-fire. But witnesses say the fighting rages on and the casualties continue to mount.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Nic Robertson. He is with -- in Tripoli, where Gadhafi's forces remain in control, and Arwa Damon is in Benghazi, where the rebel remain in control, although they're under enormous pressure.
Arwa, what is the latest as far as the United Nations Security Council resolution? It doesn't look like military action, as we speak right now, has started. Are they getting disappointed in Benghazi that it's taking so long?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're disappointed, but even more importantly they're fearful and growing increasingly anxious. They feel like the delay in the implementation of this resolution is basically giving Gadhafi's forces a carte blanche to do what they will until it is actually imposed.
He is even violating his own cease-fire that his government announced on air. We did not see that materialize either. And so people are growing increasingly fearful. Wolf, we heard earlier from Ambassador Rice talking about the need to protect the civilian population immediately, talking about the need for an immediate cease- fire. That hasn't happened.
Today, according to the opposition, in Misurata alone, at least 26 people were killed. Hundreds more were wounded. So many people are asking, what is the U.S. waiting for? It says the immediate need, and yet immediate obviously isn't happening. People are very worried.
They said that they fear that Gadhafi could strike in Benghazi tonight, could continue to strike in other parts of the country. And, meanwhile, they are very happy this resolution passed. Now it has to be implemented. It's as simple as that.
BLITZER: It's one thing to utter words. It's another thing for action.
Nic, what are they saying in Tripoli, Gadhafi's forces there? Is there any indication that they will accept all these demands, the ultimata laid out by the president?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are parts that they're going to find very hard to swallow, Wolf, not least of which -- this seems to be the end of the road here is that -- even the beginning of the road -- that Gadhafi troops (AUDIO GAP) back from the east.
Ajdabiya, for example, was -- President Obama mentioned that. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned some of the other towns that Gadhafi would have to pull back from. That's going to very, very hard for them to swallow. And the reality of what we see on the ground now, it seems that the government is trying (AUDIO GAP) international communities actually ready to enforce this U.N. resolution, use this time to mop up areas and towns on the ground it doesn't want left in the opposition's hands.
So, really, the government really seems to be sort of playing for time and pushing the envelope, despite what they say, Wolf.
BLITZER: But you have seen it, a shift on the part of government officials, supporters of Gadhafi over these past few days, and especially in the aftermath of the U.N. Security Council union. Do they at least give the impression that at least some of them are saying it's over; it's over for Gadhafi, sooner, rather than later?
ROBERTSON: One of the interesting comments I heard today, Wolf, was quite a very telling insight about the Gadhafi family. I was told that the Gadhafi family were together. That was this morning. They were together.
And I was told that they are in a state of denial. There's a lot of denial, I was told, which rather gives the impression that the Gadhafi regime wasn't expecting the resolution to get passed, doesn't know exactly how to handle it and what to do about it, and is blaming everyone else for why it has happened, blaming the international community.
And I think when they find their feet better from this and find their voice, that's pretty much what we're going to hear, Wolf.
BLITZER: Arwa, I have been speaking to high-ranking administration, U.S. administration officials at the highest levels. And they tell me it is eventually going to be over for Gadhafi. But the question to you is, how many more Libyans are going to die before he's removed?
DAMON: You know, Wolf, that's a question I would never even want to answer, because at the end of the day, as so many people have told us, why should anyone need to die when all they want is freedom and democracy, when those are the very basic principles that the U.S. tries to promote so strongly?
People here say that their struggle is very basic, that it started out peacefully, that all they wanted was a life free of Gadhafi's oppressive rule, and then Gadhafi's forces attack them with violence, and they had no choice but to arm themselves.
Historically, Gadhafi has been known to deal very brutally with those who opposed him. He's imprisoned political prisoners for decades just because they spoke out against them. Nobody here wants to see this bloodshed go on any longer. They feel like they have been forced into this battle, they have taken it as far as they can. And they do feel like the responsible is now with the international community to help them bring this to an end, Wolf.
BLITZER: It sort of reminds me, Nic, from Gadhafi's perspective of the way Saddam Hussein might have been feeling on the eve of the U.S.-led war almost exactly eight years ago. He was blustering, but then it was over relatively quickly for Saddam Hussein, as you remember. And within a matter of days, he was in hiding and then eventually captured and hung.
I assume that's going through Gadhafi's mind right now.
ROBERTSON: It doesn't appear to be, Wolf.
I think Saddam Hussein's situation, while there are some similarities, he was obviously able to watch for quite some time the military buildup that was going on in Kuwait and elsewhere. And he could see everything that was being arranged in front of him, and didn't really believe until the last minute it was going to happen, and then it did.
I think Gadhafi here has a harder time imagining what exactly could be coming his way. Will it target him? Certainly, Saddam Hussein was very aware that he would be targeted. Gadhafi probably asking himself that question, but more likely coming to the conclusion that it will target his air force on the ground, his radar systems, his airfields, and is potentially (AUDIO GAP) he's not a man who goes into hiding particularly easily.
Are we going to see more of him on the television in the coming days? Sort of surprised we didn't see him today with a fresh statement. But it's entirely possible we will see him popping up a lot more on television and maybe even some of these appearances in the Green Square in the center of Tripoli here, reaffirming he's around and is not being forced out by anyone.
The difficulty everyone here has -- and I have been telling officials this since I -- since we arrived here three weeks ago -- that the international community is clearly dead-set against Moammar Gadhafi and that there has to be an acceptance on their side that at some point he has to step down.
I asked his son Saif al-Gadhafi if anyone is telling his father about what President Obama has been saying (AUDIO GAP) lost his credibility, lost his mandate, and nobody, it seems, said that, and it seems to be a very, very hard thing for anyone here to do, to tell Moammar Gadhafi that he has (AUDIO GAP) there's a long way to go, I think, between where we stand today and (AUDIO GAP) Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson is in Tripoli for us. Arwa Damon is in Benghazi. We will stay in close touch with both of you. And to both of you, please be careful.
BLITZER: Is Libya prepared to comply with the U.N. resolution and the president's demands? Listen to this, this just in from Libya's deputy foreign minister in Tripoli.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHALED KAIM, LIBYAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: The armed forces are located outside the city of Benghazi. And we have no intention of entering the city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's turn to someone who actually knows something about a no-fly zone operation. Joining us now, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark.
General, thanks very much for coming in.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told me in the last hour, Gadhafi and Libya, the regime, they are in violation now of this U.N. Security Council Resolution, Resolution 1973, passed 24 hours ago. How much time do you give them before military action should begin?
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, in my view military action should have begun immediately. And it hasn't. So I assume that they're scrambling to get something put together, got to arrange the command and control, got to get a diplomatic team in there to talk to Gadhafi and follow up on it, because, Wolf, the idea is not to bomb him into submission.
It's to use the leverage, the military leverage oft U.N. Security Council resolution our forces to use diplomacy and -- well, this is a little ambiguous -- either restore the humanitarian situation and -- as the president said, or get him out of there. As the secretary of state said, he has no business being there.
BLITZER: Because the U.S. and its coalition partners, the NATO allies, some of the Arab League countries who will participate, they have had four weeks to think about this. They knew it was coming, didn't they?
CLARK: Well, it seems that they would have known it was coming.
And you would have hoped there would have been strong preparation, but there were also strong reservations. Germany, for example, had abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote. So it doesn't seem like this is going to be a NATO-based operation. It could have been done through NATO with so-called Mediterranean dialogue that we have had in existence since the 1990s at NATO.
We could have built it around a NATO framework. It could be a coalition of the willing. But somehow you have to have some airborne early warning and command-and-control aircraft up there to provide the radar coverage you need. You put your interceptor or ground attack aircraft airborne over that. And maybe you also some unmanned aerial vehicles.
But the sooner you do this, the sooner the message gets through to Gadhafi. And what you have to worry about is not just the forces that are poised outside Benghazi, but Gadhafi's intelligence arm and his people going into Benghazi, identifying opposition leaders, threatening them and their families or maybe bribing them and trying to drive apart the opposition. Certainly he's in a fight for his life. Maybe he is just stunned and denial right now. But my guess is that there are people around Gadhafi who are saying, OK, how do we use this? OK. We call for a cease-fire. We grab as much as we can. We consolidate what we can. We destroy evidence of previous war crimes violations, which I'm sure were there, and we try to cover our tracks. And we prepare for the long haul. And we try to hold onto power in Libya.
That's their game.
BLITZER: Every military expert, every general I have spoken to over the past few weeks says a no-fly zone begins with an air assault. You take out the anti-aircraft missile systems, the radar systems. You bomb targets on the ground. You crater their runways, if you will, and at least delay them being able to take off, planes, whether they're old MiGs or they're Mirages, whatever they have.
When do you think those strikes -- I assume that if you're going to do it, you have to begin with an air assault like that.
CLARK: Well, Wolf, I think that's really questionable.
I know that a lot of people have said it. I know the secretary of defense said it. And certainly that's one way to do it. But if you go back to the record, we flew over Iraq continuously without taking out all of his anti-aircraft weapons. We flew over Bosnia in a no-fly zone over Bosnia without taking out all of their anti-aircraft weapons.
We waited until we were illuminated in a certain way that the enemy has shown so-called hostile intent before we engaged. And we did lose one aircraft over Bosnia in 19 -- I think it was early 1995. But there are different ways to do it. So it might not necessarily begin with a sweeping attack on his integrated air defense system. It could. But it doesn't necessarily have to.
BLITZER: How risky is this for U.S. military personnel?
CLARK: Well, I think that although Libya does has an air force, it has MiG-21s and probably some MiG-25s that can still fly. High- performance aircraft with -- moderate/high-performance aircraft with the right kind of training and the right kind of radar support can certainly handle that. I'm not saying it's not dangerous, but it's certainly manageable.
But when you get it mixed up on the ground, what you want to be careful of is that you don't create incidents that cause civilian casualties that backfire against NATO's good intentions, because it's very possible for Gadhafi to ground all his aircraft and still infiltrate tanks and snipers and infantry squads and intelligence agents and continue to pick apart the opposition. He's got them hemmed in at this point, it appears. And so he does have the military momentum. And that hasn't exactly changed yet.
BLITZER: One final question, General. There is a lot of concern about is called mission creep, that the no-fly zone also becomes the no-drive zone. You start taking out artillery and tanks, positions like that. Is that a good idea?
CLARK: Well, I think this is, you know, the fundamental question of the intervention, Wolf.
The question is, what's the real objective, and can you stop short? Will you be satisfied if you're the president of the United States or if you're the leader of France? Will you be satisfied if Gadhafi said, oh, OK, I stop. I have halted my forces. I'm willing to consider where we are right now. Now, these people are criminals. They must be punished in accordance with the law of Libya. But I'm not going to do more with heavy artillery.
Are you happy with that? Or would you say, as the secretary of state said, that he's forfeited -- or the president said -- he's forfeited his legitimacy to rule in Libya? If you mean that, then it means following through to regime change. And if that's the objective, and the airstrike or the air cover doesn't work, then presumably -- and diplomacy doesn't work -- presumably, you're going to do something else.
And this is the imponderable in this situation. This is always the concern in an intervention is what is your objective? If the objective is humanitarian, that's fine. When we went into Kosovo, we had no intention at that time of forcing Milosevic out of office. It was simply to stop the ethnic cleansing. But this may be different.
BLITZER: Well, the president says Gadhafi must go. So presumably it is his regime change, that's the ultimate goal right now. They want him either dead, I'm sure, or at a criminal court of justice in the Hague.
CLARK: Then that's the mission. There's no creep.
BLITZER: Well, that I assume is the mission, whether they say it or not.
All right, thanks very much for that, General. Appreciate it, General Wesley Clark, retired NATO supreme allied commander.
We're following other breaking news as well, including in Japan. The severity level of Japan's nuclear crisis has been upgraded. It's now on par with the disaster at Three Mile Island. Anderson Cooper is standing by to join us live from Tokyo.
BLITZER: Let's get to the other breaking news we're following. Japanese officials now admit what others have been saying for days. The problems at Japan's crippled nuclear plant are more serious than originally estimated.
But the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog days that for a second straight day the situation has not worsened.
Let's get some more specifics from CNN's Tom Foreman. He's over at the magic wall for us. What are you learning, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What officials have now that they did not have before is more information.
Let's zoom and take a look at what's been happening here. These were the facilities one, two, three and four before this all happened. This is what they look like now in the latest image from DigitalGlobe. You can see all the damage. Officials have been covering this a lot more closely now and getting more pictures, looking closer.
And they can see the damage, too. Look at this photograph taken right after the tsunami. You don't see so much apparent damage. But when you look at the current pictures, you can see how things have broken down through a combination of hydrogen explosions, the heat, the intensity, the radiation, particularly down here on number four, so they have changed the rating.
One of the reasons they have done is the radiation readings. Common exposure is three millisieverts per year. We all get that from the sun, everything else. But the high exposure of this is going to be 400 millisieverts per hour. That was on March 15. They registered that here over here in a building, an annex over here where they're trying to establish a power line in here. They had a reading of 20 millisieverts per hour. That's one of the reasons they're concerned about this.
Remember that's three millisieverts per year, 20 an hour. It's up and down. It's not uniform throughout here, so you can't read too much into that, but it's important to look at. In any event, what it has done is change their rating. If you look at number five here, which is where they are now, they're talking wider consequences, the real potential of radiation leaks or maybe we have already had them, they believe. You might have some deaths associated with this. You might have broader contamination.
That's where we are right now. That's about the Three Mile Island range from 1979. The next steps above are a serious accident, number six, and all the way up to Chernobyl in 1966. These are big jumps, too. It's not an easy change to make here. So that's what authorities have. They have looked at more information. And so they're intensifying their efforts, like the cooling efforts.
You can barely see it here, the spraying to try to cool down unit number three. The bottom line is things have not worsened today from all we can tell. It looks relatively stable in one, two, and three. Five and six, which are off to the side, have diesel power supporting them a little bit. Number four remains the really serious problem because they still don't know and they're still debating how much coolant they have in the spent fuel rod pool. And whether they're right or wrong about that coolant can tell you how much radiation will come off this and affect all the rest of the operation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Tom, thanks for the explanation.
Now let's go live to CNN's Marty Savage right now. He's in Tokyo.
What impact is all of this having on the millions and millions of people who live in Tokyo? What are you seeing there, Marty?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, about 13 million people live in the city of Tokyo. And when we first arrived here in the middle of the week, it was eerily quiet.
Even those who have lived here a long time say they haven't seen anything like it. Midday during midweek should be hustling and bustling. Instead it looked like a Sunday morning. You had very limited traffic on the street, very few people on the streets.
Now, there are a number of explanations. And they aren't all just fear of any sort of radioactive fallout. First of all, there isn't a lot of fuel to be had. Much of it that's available is being used for the emergency recovery effort, so not a lot of driving. Number two, food has been hoarded by many people.
And because of the fact that electricity is in short supply, many people are staying home. A lot of businesses have greatly scaled back their hours. A lot of restaurants have closed down or closed down with a shorter day. All of this creating a kind of cocooning effect. So if people haven't left -- and not everybody has left, despite long lines that may have been seen -- many people are curtailing their activities because they have no other choice and in fact that's part of what of the government has asked them to do to contribute to the overall recovery effort -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Marty, we're going to stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much.
Marty is in Tokyo.
We're also staying in touch with our own Anderson Cooper. He's going to have more on the breaking news coming out of Japan. He's joining us live in just a moment as well.
And dozens of people reported killed as tens of thousands take to the streets of Yemen. There's a state of emergency right now, stakes for the U.S. very serious.
BLITZER: Let's get some more on the breaking news out of Japan right now.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is in Tokyo for us.
Anderson, the Japanese are now finally saying this is a level five category, which is like Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania back in 1979. But a lot of folks have been suggesting that for days now. Here's the question. What's taking Japan so long to come to this conclusion?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, especially when you consider that we heard from our U.S. nuclear officials two days ago saying that the situation was much worse than Japanese officials were letting on. And now two days later, lo and behold, here you have Japanese officials saying based on the data from the past couple of days, essentially the U.S. officials were right, that the situation is worse.
They have raised this level to a level five, equivalent, as you said, to Three Mile Island. But a lot of observers say, look, this is worse than Three Mile Island. We have known this for a while. There has been release of radioactive material. People's health has been affected already.
Two people are missing. Two workers are missing at the plant, presumed dead. So there's a lot of questions about whether the Japanese authorities are still being as transparent as they -- as they should be in their dealings with the public.
That being said, we know that they're essentially three battles, Wolf, going on right now. One, there's the effort to try to restore a power line, bring a new power line to reactors number one and two. The hope is that if they're able to do that, they could get the cooling system going again, the cooling pumps going.
The problem is they haven't been able to restore that power line because of high levels of radiation detected yesterday outside reactor number two. Also steam was seen rising out of reactor number two yesterday which is likely containing radioactive material.
So it's been very difficult for them to restore that power. And the second problem is, they're not even sure if the cooling pumps actually work. They may have been damaged in the earthquake or may have been corroded by all the seawater that they have been pumping in. So that's an open question.
The other two battles are reactor number three, the spent fuel rod pools. There, that has been the main source of their efforts. They have been bringing in Japanese soldiers manned by Japanese soldiers and firemen, municipal authorities, trying to constantly pour water. They will send one truck in, pour water. And then after a short time, that truck will go in reverse, another truck will come in.
They don't want to expose the workers for too long to these high levels of radiation. But they admit, Japanese officials do admit they really have no idea how effective these water operations are going.
And then there's the big question about reactor number four, the spent fuel rod pool in reactor number four. Some reports say that there may be some sort of a leak in it, so it's not actually able to hold any water. Two days ago, U.S. officials said they believed there was little to no water in that pool.
Japanese officials say they cannot tell exactly how much water is in that pool. So three main battles going on, Wolf. They do again, say today -- it's Saturday already -- that they hope to try to connect that power to reactors one and two today. But they said that on Thursday and they said that on Friday. Nothing has gone as they had hoped.
BLITZER: Anderson, several U.S. experts, including government officials and others, they've all said to me they believe the U.S. recommendation for American citizens within a 50-mile radius of that power complex, they should get out of there, yet the Japanese government says 12 miles is enough. You don't have to get out if you live or stay 12 miles outside of that radius.
How are the Japanese defending their decision in the face of U.S. experts who are saying you better be safe rather than sorry. Fifty miles is a lot more reasonable?
COOPER: You know, they simply say they've looked at the data and that they believe that it's a reasonable evacuation zone. And, I mean, they essentially say they're not saying the U.S. is wrong. They're just saying they look at the data, and that's how they interpret it.
You know, it was two days ago that the U.S. gave this 50-mile exclusion zone for U.S. citizens, a recommendation for U.S. citizen. And now the Japanese authorities have admitted that what the U.S. said two days ago in terms of this being worse than they thought -- or worse than they had said was true. But they still have not extended the exclusion zone.
They in fact said, have come out and said, "We still believe, even though we now say this was worse than it was -- than we were previously saying, we still believe this -- this exclusion zone, this 20-kilometer, 12-mile evacuation zone is appropriate," Wolf.
BLITZER: Because I can understand any government, they don't want to panic the people. But at the same time, you have to be transparent, and you have to tell the folks, here are the facts. They may not be pleasant. You've got to deal with it. You don't want to sugar coat what could be a really awful -- which I'm sure is a really awful situation.
So I'm a little surprised that the Japanese and some reporters have said to me that they don't have a good record as far as transparency in dealing with the press to begin with.
COOPER: They absolutely don't. I mean, you know, you hear a lot of the public statements by Japanese officials, and, you know, like politicians anywhere in the world, they -- you know, they talk, but they're not necessarily saying anything. It seems even more compounded in this tragedy.
Also you've got to remember, Wolf, they're getting their information essentially from TEPCO, which is the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The private company which runs and operates this plant. And so that is a company which does not have a history of transparency and, in fact, has a history of misleading the public in public statements.
So it's very troubling how much information is being spread, whether that information is really accurate, and whether it's timely. You know, there is really a sense, I think, among a lot of people here, that they just don't believe some of the statements that are coming out from their officials and from TEPCO officials.
BLITZER: Anderson's got a lot more later tonight, AC 360 live from Japan. Anderson, we'll be watching. Thanks very much for all the good work. Appreciate it.
As the world waits to see what's going in Libya right now, there's also new violence in other parts of the Middle East. We'll have much more on this part of the story. More of the breaking news when we come back.
BLITZER: There's unrest in the Arab world beyond Libya. In Syria, witnesses report rioting in five cities including the capital, Damascus. There are unconfirmed reports of deaths and injuries.
Anti-government activists proclaim today dignity day on Facebook. A spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House here in Washington says the U.S. condemns the violence and calls on the Syrian government to address the demands of its people.
In Bahrain, the government has demolished the landmark that was at the center of the reform demonstrations, the Pearl Monument. State television showed video of the scrap left behind on the site where thousands of people demanded change in the kingdom. The government says the demolition was part of an infrastructure improvement plan.
In Yemen, a state of emergency in the deadly clashes. Medical officials say at least 40 people were killed when tens of thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with security forces in the capitol. State television showed the chaos. There were reports of more than 100 people hurt, and the interior minister says there are casualties on both sides. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are condemning the violence.
By the way, I've just posted a reporter's notebook, my reporter's notebook at CNN.com on my recent trip this week with Secretary of state Clinton to Egypt and Tunisia. You might want to go there. You'll see my reporter's notebook, some entries from it, also some pictures from the trip.
A coalition is forming against Muammar Gadhafi. But who's in charge of the no-fly zone effort? Would it be the United States, its allies? We're going to hear what President Obama is saying.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, President Obama warning Libya's Muammar Gadhafi to call off his troops or else. The U.S. and key allies are preparing for possible military action against the Libyan regime, but who's going to be in charge? Listen to this.
Don't listen to this, because we'll cue up that sound bite a little bit later. Let's discuss what's going on with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.
We actually have the sound bite right now. Listen to the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting alone. It means shaping the conditions for the international community to act together. That's why I directed Secretary Gates and our military to coordinate their planning. And tomorrow Secretary Clinton will travel to Paris for a meeting with our European allies and our partners about the enforcement of Resolution 1973.
There are British and French allies and members of the Arab League have already committed to take a leadership roll in the enforcement of this resolution, just as they were instrumental in pursuing it. We are coordinating closely with them. And this is precisely how the international community should work, as more nations bear both the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Gloria, the president has been criticized for waiting this long, not being more decisive over these first four weeks. But he wanted to build this international coalition.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He did. First of all, a unilateral no-fly zone was never going to happen with this president. He wanted an international coalition. And they also believe...
BLITZER: Not just an international coalition.
BORGER: The Arab League.
BLITZER: He wanted Arabs involved, as wail.
BORGER: Absolutely, absolutely. They also believed that a no- fly zone by itself was never going to be a solution. You know, I talked to someone at the White House, a senior adviser who said to me, "Look, we were focused on getting it right. President Obama is not about beating his chest and winning the day's headlines. We couldn't go down a military road and then discover, 'Oh, well, it's not going to work.' You have to be very strategic about it. You have to get your partners along with you."
And the Arab League, as you point out, was very, very important and remains so.
BLITZER: We'll see which Arab countries specifically show up.
BORGER: Exactly. BLITZER: Get involved. Will the Saudis, the UAE, Qatar? There's a lot of questions still on that front.
BORGER: UAE and Qatar maybe...
BLITZER: Jill -- Jill Dougherty's over at the State Department. What are you hearing about the end game? What is it that the Obama administration wants in Libya?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's -- that's the ultimate question. What they are saying is right now they are very, very focused on the immediate situation of stopping Gadhafi's advance. They want to stop the violence. That is No. 1.
They also point out that the -- the objective of the no-fly zone is not to get Gadhafi to step down, although of course, that is a main part of the U.S. strategy. So what they're saying is they're using the word "sequencing." A senior U.S. official used that word with me. Sequencing. And that's what Hillary Clinton is saying: one step at a time.
In other words, you look to stop the violence, stop the killing, and then you continue to tighten the noose in different ways. And the only thing, Wolf, right now is that there is not a lot of time, because after all, they want a cease fire, and it doesn't look as if it's holding. So that could be -- that could speed up the process if that -- if Gadhafi does not stop his attack.
BLITZER: And I think it's fair to say, Gloria, based on everything I'm hearing, they don't expect Gadhafi to simply say, "You know what? It's over. I see the handwriting on the wall. I'm leaving." They think he will fight. The key is, will his military be there with him?
BLITZER: Or will all of these actions convince the top military brass, those who are killing a lot of Libyans right now, you better -- you better stop. Otherwise, you're going down, too?
BORGER: And if you talk to people at the White House, they say take a look at what's happened over the last five weeks. What they started out doing was trying to isolate Gadhafi, to try to say, "OK, we're going to freeze finances. We're going to let people know they're going to be held accountable in the international court if you support Gadhafi."
And then go from that to this coalition at the United Nations. And so, yes, it is, as Jill says, tightening the noose. The interesting thing, though, to me, Wolf, is there is no time line here. There is no deadline. The ambassador to the U.N. did not give you any sort of time line. But it's very clear that when they see that things aren't going the right way, they're going to act.
DOUGHERTY: Jill, very quickly, the secretary of state, she arrived at, what, 1 a.m. last night from her trip to France, Egypt and Tunisia. And now she's going back to Paris. She's leaving tonight once again?
DOUGHERTY: You know, I mean, we learned about it when we heard it come out of the president's mouth, that Hillary Clinton is going to go to that meeting. That's where they're going to be discussing who does what, the strategy. She'll be meeting with, you know, European partners, and also Arab partners.
Because in all of this, the crucial, crucial element is the Arab League. And you've been talking about that. That was the one thing that really changed the situation, when the Arab League came out in support of the no-fly zone.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. She's traveling a lot. I read about that in my reporter's notebook that we just posted at CNN.com. Check it out. Jill, thanks very much.
Gloria, thanks to you, as well.
A check of the day's other top stories, that's coming up.
Also, you've seen the devastation. Communities reduced to rubble. Now you're going to hear from a Japanese family already at work on the heartbreaking task of starting all over.
COOPER: Deadly violence is flaring in Ivory Coast right now among other places. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
It's an awful world right now out there, Lisa.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Wolf.
At least 45 people were killed there today. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced by unrest that's gripped the country since disputed election results last November. Former colonial ruler France and the United Nations secretary general are urging the Security Council to take action.
The brother of al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been freed from prison. Egypt's interim government released Mohamed al-Zawahiri along with scores of other political prisoners. He had been jailed since 1999, first linked to Anwar Sadat's assassination and later accused of conspiring against the Egyptian government.
And an elementary school student here in Washington is facing charges for allegedly bringing cocaine to school and sharing it with other children. Remember, this happened at an elementary school. Four of the children who inhaled or ate it were taken to a hospital but checked out OK. Police are investigating, but they won't say anything about how the child got that cocaine, Wolf.
BLITZER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) All right, Lisa, thanks very much.
Returning home to ruins. It's the plight of thousands of Japanese families. We'll meet one of them.
BLITZER: Thousands of families will spend years rebuilding what the quake and the tsunami destroyed in only a few minutes. CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Japan's disaster zone.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what many families along Japan's Pacific Coast are coming home to. The Ichikawa family lives in the city of Hachinohe, two blocks from the ocean, where a wall of water devoured their neighborhood. Now with the help of friends, they try to clean up. But the task they have in front of them appears to be overwhelming.
(on camera) You can see this family's house is off its foundation. How high did the water go? Here's the water line, all the way up there. That's at least ten feet of water that came down this street. You can see the mud. I mean, it's an insurmountable amount of mud to shovel just to clean up this driveway. And they don't even know if they're going to be able to move back in this house. But they want to clean up, this family, and get an idea if it's possible to move back.
And it's so cold out right now. The snow is coming down again. What they've done is they put together this portable heater unit so they can work into the night and not freeze.
(voice-over) Friends are helping them with the physical work and the psychological support. Seventeen-year-old Ren (ph), his mother Chikako (ph) and his father Hidemitsu are in a state of shock.
HIDEMITSU ICHIKAWA, TSUNAMI VICTIM (through translator): I have no words to express my feelings. I lost my mind. We will have to start from zero.
TUCHMAN: The nearby Pacific provides one of the great charms of living in the neighborhood. But now many of the homes are decimated. The ocean, they say, has turned against them.
(on camera) The city of Hachinohe has spent an enormous amount of money to build this elaborate series of sea walls, 30 feet tall, to protect its neighborhoods from flooding. But not surprisingly, when the tsunami came, these walls made very little difference.
(voice-over) The Ichikawas have no idea how to even start figuring out whether they can ever live in this house again.
ICHIKAWA (through translator): This is a nightmare, but we are alive.
TUCHMAN: And for that they are grateful.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Hachinohe, Japan.
BLITZER: Canine survivors of the tsunami. Jeanne Moos shows us how their story ends when we come back.
BLITZER: People suffering in Japan. The crisis is also proving catastrophic for pets. But one story that touched hearts around the world now appears to have a happy ending. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is one of those "where are they now" stories. Amid all the human suffering in Japan, a pair of tsunami-surviving dogs stood out.
"Is the dog dead?" wondered the Fuji TV team that stumbled on this scene as the healthier dog seemed to stick by his injured buddy. Moments later, proof of life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
MOOS: Soon this video was rocketing around the Web, and the bedraggled but seemingly loyal dog became an iconic picture on the Facebook page of Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support.
ISABELLA GALLEON-AOKI, HEART TOKUSHIMA (via phone): We actually tried to go and rescue these two dogs after hearing about them.
MOOS: Isabella Galleon-Aoki and others packed up a van, headed for the devastated Sendai area to see what they could do for pets left behind in evacuations.
(on camera) Finding human survivors is hard enough. Imagine trying to track down a pair of dogs.
(voice-over) They went at it like detectives, trying to find the building behind the dogs in the video. They ended up here.
ASHLEY FRUNO, PETA: This is the school that we think is the elementary school that we saw in the background of the original footage of the dogs.
MOOS: But no dogs. And that turned out to be good news, because animal rescuers believe this man, animal rights supporter and dog food importer Ken Sakurai, got his friends to get the dogs.
FRUNO: He was able to get into the area with the help of two men on motorcycles.
MOOS: That's Ashley Fruno, a member of PETA who's also in Sendai, though she's better known for drawing a crowd at PETA protests.
On his Facebook page, Ken Sakurai says the injured dog is in a vet clinic while the healthier one is in a nearby shelter, "but please know that those two are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more, and we need help."
Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue has raised over $100,000, much of it due to man's best friend acting like best friends to each other.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.