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CONNECT THE WORLD

Allied Forces Continue Attacks on Libya's Military

Aired March 22, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(NEWSBREAK)

MAX FOSTER, HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Bombarded from the air, as allied forces continue to weaken Libya's fighting power.

But with no clear plan in place questions remain over who should control the mission.

Also, still defiant Yemen's president rejects calls to quit now.

And a desperate plight facing Japan's elderly as they struggle to survive.

These stories, and more, tonight as we CONNECT THE WORLD.

Even as coalition jets patrol the skies over Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's forces are pressing ahead with fierce ground assaults in the west.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MEN SHOUTING)

FOSTER: This dramatic amateur video is said to capture some of the fighting in Misrata, a town under siege near Tripoli. Medics tell CNN at least 77 people have been killed there over the past three days. The U.S. commander says protecting civilians, though, is number one priority of the coalition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. SAMUEL J. LOCKLEAR III, COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE, ODYSSEY DAWN: First, my intelligence tells me that there are Gadhafi forces in Misrata. That they are conducting attacks against civilians in Misrata and in violation of the Security Council resolution construct. I'm not going to talk about future operations but I am aware of it and we are considering all options as we look across the entire country of Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, Admiral Locklear also says the coalition is expanding the effectiveness of its no-fly zone over Libya. Here you can see some of the main targets of recent air strikes. The dark shaded area there, near the Mediterranean illustrates how the no-fly zone extends out to sea.

The coalition has lost its first war plane since the bombing runs began. The U.S. says its fighter jet that crashed near Benghazi was not shot down though, but had a mechanical failure. The two-man crew safely ejected.

Just a short time ago we heard more reports of anti-aircraft fire and explosions in Tripoli. This would be the fourth straight night of attacks in the Libyan capital. We can go straight there and hear from Nic Robertson.

What's going on there, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, we heard some anti-aircraft, bursts of anti-aircraft gunfire a little earlier. It seems that that has subsided and subsided very quickly. So possibly if there actually had been any missile strikes I would suspect that the anti- aircraft gunfire would have lasted much longer. So it seems no strikes that we have been able to hear from here, at least, in this part of Tripoli.

We are seeing state television, again, for the fourth night in a row now, show live pictures of what it says are live pictures of people demonstrating in support of Moammar Gadhafi, around his palace complex area that was hit just a couple of nights ago. That has become almost a daily staple now, on state television, to show these images of perhaps a 100 or so people there, at that palace complex.

(AUDIO GAP) was interesting when we were taken to the harbor area, by government officials, to see a naval facility that had been targeted in overnight bombing raids. The people stand along the cornish (ph), there, who had come out to take a look at what had happened. Many of those just casual bystanders, having a look; not waving the green flags, not showing demonstrating their support for Moammar Gadhafi, just out having a look.

But inside that facility we saw a number of four mobile rocket systems that have been damaged, destroyed beyond repair, it appeared, in that, in those missile strikes, Max.

FOSTER: So, Nic, what would you say is being achieved by the coalition efforts in Libya?

ROBERTSON: Well, it-we had heard from coalition commanders yesterday that they felt this was convincing Moammar Gadhafi to slow down his offensive. Since the strikes began we have heard the government reissue it cease fire, 48 hours ago. We have continued to hear the reports from Misrata, by opposition members there, that they are under attack in that city. We are not able to go out to independently verify, coalition commanders say those strikes go on there. What it appears to have done is to driven some people closer to the leadership here, because they are concerned about what is going to happen. It has certainly raised the fear and concern among the general population about what is going to happen. Even those who oppose Moammar Gadhafi are very concerned about, you know, the safety of their children. How is this all going to escalate? What is going to happen?

So, I think the overall affect has been to put the country on notice, and to put the leadership on notice that there could be worse to come. If you take the example of what we saw in the Harda (ph) facility today, then we weren't allowed to film the naval vessels that were moored there in the harbor. It would be very clear to the leadership that just as easily as the mobile rocket systems were targeted, it would be easy for these warships to be targeted as well. And so very clear for the leadership that more of their military structure could be degraded and lost as this process goes on. \

As hard as that maybe for the coalition to do that in Misrata, which is a built up environment, and hard to see a separation between government and opposition forces, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nic Robertson in Tripoli. Thank you.

Well, the size and the strength of the United States military has made it the leader of the coalition so far. But U.S. officials insist that they want to hand over control of the operation very soon. The question is, who will take charge?

Let's see what the United States is saying. Well, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that the U.S. anticipates handing control to NATO allies in just a matter of days.

Many of the other countries involved in enforcing a no-fly zone want NATO to take control as well. Take the United Kingdom, on Monday the Prime Minister David Cameron, echoed Mr. Obama's statement, saying that responsibility for the no-fly zone will be transferred to NATO.

Let's take France, another main member of this. France is a notable exception, though, here. The foreign minister said today that a group of foreign ministers should serve as political leaders of the coalition. Although France is willing to let NATO command the military operation. France says the reason NATO should not take political control is that it would alienate Arab countries-like, Qatar, currently the only Arab nation helping to enforce this no-fly zone.

Now after days of heated debate, then, in Brussels, NATO members themselves still can't decide whether to take charge of the Libyan military effort. But they have agreed to play a role. NATO says it will use its naval and air power to enforce the United Nations' imposed arms embargo of Libya, it is also ready to help if asked, with another key operation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: NATO has completed plans to help enforce the no-fly zone. To bring our contribution, if needed, in a clearly defined manner to the broad international effort to protect the people of Libya from the violence of the Gadhafi regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Let's get more now on NATO's role in these military operations. We are joined by Wesley Clark, a former NATO supreme allied commander. He is in the U.S. state of Arkansas for us tonight.

Thank you so much for joining us. What do you make about this current debate about whether or not NATO should take over from the U.S. completely?

WESLEY CLARK, FMR. NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think it is the kind of issue that really it would have been better if it had been resolved before we had to get the operation underway. But the operation has started because of the fast pace of events on the ground. And so the coalition had to get started. These kinds of discussions are normal. They normally take place behind closed doors and they are not in the middle of an operation. But they can be handled.

I think that one of the states that is very important to work with in this case is Turkey. Turkey has guest workers on the ground in Libya, Turkey is the only Muslim member of NATO. I would think it would be a very logical thing for NATO, with Turkey, using the Mediterranean Dialogue, which is a NATO process of communication with the states that border the Mediterranean and inviting coalition partners to join with it, for NATO to work the operation.

If France doesn't agree with that, it should propose and alternative structure that is functional. Then the foreign ministers and heads of state need to agree.

FOSTER: How would you feel as a NATO commander right now, having to answer to a council of ministers from various countries?

CLARK: Well, that is the usual way that it works; is that political authorities run operations and as a military commander, you do have to answer to more than one country. This is the way NATO operates as well. So there is nothing unusual in that. France was a colonial power in the Mediterranean. Some of the NATO countries were not colonial powers in the Mediterranean, so this is one factor that would argue for a NATO political leadership as opposed to a French or ad-hoc leadership.

But, you know, it is only one factor. I think the most important factor is that the nations themselves agree and then get on with this.

FOSTER: Isn't the most important factor, right now, that Arab countries, African countries are on board. And they may have a problem with a NATO-led military operation. So, I'm just wondering, as a military man, what would be the alternative command structure to NATO?

CLARK: Well, I'm not sure that they do have a problem with a NATO alternative. NATO has had the Mediterranean Dialogue in place before. All of these countries are very familiar with working with the United States. And the United States is one of the prime factors behind NATO, one of the prime forces behind NATO, even if we weren't the political lead.

So it seems to me that the logical way to do this, with approved procedures, with political representatives in place, in Brussels, able to meet on a standing basis, is to work it through NATO and then bring these others countries' representatives into those communications in Brussels. Almost every country in Africa and the Middle East has representatives, diplomatic reputation in Brussels. So this should be an easy fix to run and ad-hoc political organization. It just makes the operation that much more complicated, but it can be done.

FOSTER: We hear from some U.S. commanders, talking about the military mission, currently in Libya. Truth is there isn't a mission, is there? Or what do you understand the mission to be?

CLARK: Well, there is a military mission and it is the one that is the implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution, 1973. It is to enforce a no-fly zone, and it is broader than just the no-fly zone. Because it does entail finishing it up. It does entail striking those Gadhafi forces that are on the ground. They are threatening civilians, not all the Gadhafi forces have been struck. Apparently there are Gadhafi forces in the area of Misrata. Apparently they have not been struck. The no-fly zone development still continues with nighttime strikes, apparently, on radar installations and other facilities. But there is clearly a military mission. The question is how far it goes and whether the coalition is actually serving as close air support for the opposition forces.

FOSTER: OK, Wesley Clark, thank you very much indeed for joining us on the program today.

Now Britain says it is talking Arab nations, trying to bring more of them onboard. The coalition mission, so far support has been scant, possibly because some Arab countries are contending with opposition movements of their own, of course, or at least in nearby states. The United Arab Emirates, for example, says it is dialing back its support for the Libyan mission because of events in Bahrain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. KHALED ABDULLAH AL-BUAINNIAN, FMR. COMMANDER, UAE AIR FORCE: Bahrain, it is the most important for the UAE. And this is one of the reasons now, because the European, especially, American position and attitude towards Bahrain is not very clear. And what is going on in Bahrain is extremely, very dynamic. And it is also very, very, very dangerous. Unfortunately, our friendly European, especially Americans, they don't realize what is going on in Bahrain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, all the way to the western reaches of Africa, Morocco was also being hit by the anti-government anger sweeping the region. Thousands upon thousands demonstrated in Rabat and other cities on Sunday, demanding social justice and further democratic reforms. Morocco's king has already promised sweeping changes, including an elected prime minister. But protestors say they are a keeper. Keeping up the pressure, until they see results. Let's bring in Morocco's foreign minister, Taieb Fassi Fihri, joins us now.

From Washington, thank you so much for joining us. When you speak to other foreign ministers in your region how much support would you say there is for the current mission in Libya?

TAIEB FASSI FIHRI, MOROCCAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, let me just remind you that the resolution of the Security Council is binding to us, as is the international community. We are here in the chapter 7, and this resolution is clear. One, an urge for a cease-fire. Second, to protect the civilians, including some old necessary measures. And third the humanitarian support for the refugees. But also for Libyan, and at the end the political process, and I think that each country can contribute to this comprehensive approach. And Morocco, as a member of the Arab League, follows this issue. But Morocco has also a partner of Libya inside the Maghreb Arab Union. We are partners. And for us it is very important to follow and to see how this process will be concluded because we have to build our common future with Algeria, with Tunisia, with Mauritania.

FOSTER: Meanwhile, these Western powers that are currently operating in Libya are really struggling as Arab leaders are all too well aware, because they don't feel that they have an international coalition here. And they really need more help from Arab countries, apart from Qatar. What is the reason that Arab countries are holding back, would you say.

FIHRI: There are some hesitations and it is logical because there are some precedent, and all of the population in the area wants to avoid what has happened in Iraq, or what has happened in Afghanistan. But it is clear that the Security Council adopted its resolution and say to take all necessary measures to protect the civilians. And the Arab League was the first, who asked for the no-fly zone. And it is important to note that the international community will respond to this regional appeal.

Now, we heard that some countries participate in this military goal coalition. We know that Qatar is ready to do that. And others, others, one or two others, Arab countries, want to join this effort. I think that the Arab countries also have to play a key role in the context of the political process, after the cease fire, we ask all now, for the implementation of this years' flyer.

FOSTER: Do you think there is any chance that Arab countries will offer any more military support to this mission? Because it seems that the Arab League is split on this, behind the scenes, in truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FIHRI: You are right. But it is important to note, and I want you to insist on that; that for the first time the Arab League adopt current and global resolution.

In our history, time to time, the Arab League was a small district. We have to note and take notes that the Arab express a clear vision. Now who will be implemented, it depends on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE); it depends on its means, depends on its capacity. And each country has to play a role in the global approach. It is not true that they are not Arab countries are prepared to join the military actions.

FOSTER: And of course, many countries in the region are suffering with their own problems. So they don't necessarily need a whole new set of problems, Morocco is one of them. We have seen these demonstrations building steam in your country. What are you going to do to try to make sure Morocco doesn't go in the direction of other countries, Egyptian and Tunisia, for example.

FIHRI: Let me just remind you that Morocco started with a constitution in 1962, a liberal (ph) constitution, we have pluralism. We have many parties, we have many trade unions, we have various NGOs, and what his majesty did recently is to propose, once again, a revision of this constitution. We have four revisions during the last decades. And the king said that it is time to have another one, listening to his people, listening to the political parties, and other actors. What I can say to you is that the process started and the process is inclusive. Everyone will be integrated in this debate to formulate the best constitution we can have for the future.

And it has started and his majesty also said if we can finish and finalize the proposal before the end of June and then this reforms of the constitution will be presented for a referendum. And then I can say that before the end of the year Morocco will have, once again, a new constitution, modern, dynamic, with total independence between the executive and the parliament and the justice body. We started before and some people talk about the exception of Morocco.

FOSTER: Yes.

FIHRI: Maybe, it is certainly a reality.

FOSTER: OK.

FIHRI: And we note also that the protests and some demonstrations are totally peaceful, and we are proud. We are proud for that.

FOSTER: Taieb Fassi Fihri, thank you very much indeed for joining us. Morocco's foreign minister. Thank you for joining us on the program.

Now, mechanical malfunction, that is what the Pentagon is saying about a crashed U.S. fighter jet in Libya. CNN is on the ground in the battle for Libya. Then Yemen's embattled leader is saying let's make a deal. You'll hear the opposition's answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: A crash, and a rescue, a U.S. fighter jet falls from the sky over Libya as its two-pilots get away in one piece. The Pentagon points to equipment failure near Benghazi. Colonel Abdullah Hamed El-Mismari (ph) told CNN he helped one of the pilots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

When I found his parachute, someone tell me that the parachute is not far from that point, which we were there. I am going directly there and I know he will be not far from that point. So I am shouting to them, "We will help you. We are coming to help you. You are coming to support us, to so please if you are hearing me, stand up, and present yourself for me."

Then, he stand and coming to me. So, he has a right to be afraid. And at first he was afraid. But I am joking with him, and I kissed him, and I tell him you are coming for us. You are our brothers. So don't be afraid. You will be safe. We will carry you for any place you will be removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, Spain already has jet fighters and a refueling plane in action in Libya. But on Tuesday Spain's prime minister officially won Parliament's approval for being part of the coalition. The vote was 336 in favor, three lawmakers were opposed.

There is plenty of opinion on Odyssey Dawn making itself heard around the world; 70 percent of Americans back the mission, that is according to a CNN Opinion Research Survey. In Britain, 44 percent told a Yougap (ph) poll they approve of Prime Minister Cameron's handling of the Libya crisis. Denmark is also a partner of the no-fly operation, 78 percent of its people approve. And today, most of Sweden says it wants to be part of the coalition.

Will the no-fly mission be enough to stop Colonel Gadhafi's attacks on its own people? Well, I'm going to put that question to Max Boot, he is a senior fellow for national-for security studies, rather-on the Council On Foreign Relations, he joins me now from New York City.

Thank you, so much for joining us.

So what do you think of the effectiveness of the no fly zone, first of all?

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES: It is obviously very effective, but it is also early days. I mean, this is really the easy part, which is ground Gadhafi's air force and inflicting some damage on his military forces. The much harder part will be dislodging his forces from the cities that they are currently occupying.

FOSTER: Yes, how do they do that with a no-fly zone with air power, the can't can they?

BOOT: They really can't. What we have to do is we have to have a multipart strategy and we should certainly use the air power. But what we also need to do, I believe is to send in special forces to train and arm the rebels, so they can coordinate with the Western air forces. Then they would have a very effective one-two punch, of the kind we saw Afghanistan, with the northern alliance in the fall of 2001, or in Kosovo with the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1999.

FOSTER: And therein lies the problem, doesn't it? Because many ministers suggesting they don't have a mandate for special forces, any forces going in, so therefore it is a failed operation already.

BOOT: Well, I don't know that it is a failed operation but I don't think there is anything in the U.N. resolution which precludes the dispatch of some special operations forces. All the resolution says it there shall not be a foreign occupation army in Libya. That is very different. I think there is much more we can do to coordinate with the rebels. And to make our air strikes more effective. Because the bottom line is, as long as Gadhafi remains in power the mission cannot be accomplished. There will continue to be human rights violations and we will be embroiled in a long term, very costly, intervention. The best way to bring this to a speedy conclusion is to get rid of Gadhafi and then plan for the aftermath, the day after, of what happens after Gadhafi is gone.

FOSTER: And the new political problem building now for many Western leaders are the costs of this no-fly zone. They are already piling up, times of austerity, of course, in the West. Just on the first day of military action, the cost of that was more than $100 million, and that is just the U.S. missiles fired on Libya. A report from a Washington think tank estimates that the initial stages of the no-fly zone could cost coalition forces between $500 million and $1 billion.

The report also estimate that maintaining a full no-fly zone over Libya would cost upwards of $300 million per week. These aren't costs that politically these governments can handle right now, can they, Max?

BOOT: Well, I think we can absorb those costs in the short term, but that makes the point that I was urging before, which is that we should not get embroiled in a decade-long no-fly zone as we did in Iraq. I think we need to get this over with and we need work with the rebels to bring Gadhafi down, and then crucially this is a point which has not been getting the attention it deserves. We need to think about how do we stabilize a post-Gadhafi Libya, which I think, should probably include an international peacekeeping force, under the auspices of NATO, the Arab League and the United Nations. That is not-

(CROSS TALK)

FOSTER: That would be seen as an occupation, as you know-

(CROSS TALK)

FOSTER: That would be seen as an occupation.

BOOT: Well, we would need, we would need a new U.N. resolution. But if you look at the precedent of post-conflict countries like, Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, and others, it has been vital to have an outside peace- keeping force stabilize things after the departure of the previous regime. And that is something we need to be talking about right now. Because while Gadhafi looks well entrenched, right now, he could be killed in an airstrike tomorrow, and then things could fall apart much more quickly than anybody could imagine. So we need to plan for the eventualities and not just hope for the best.

FOSTER: OK, Max, thank you very much indeed for joining us. Max Boot a senior fellow for the National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Up next a key U.S. ally in the fight against Al Qaeda clings to power, as demands for his immediate resignation grow louder. The latest from Yemen, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, he's been in power for more than three decades but, now, he's hanging by a thread. What Yemen and the region could look like without President Ali Abdullah Saleh in office.

Then, progress and setback at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Engineers managed to connect power to one of the reactors as they acknowledge two others are in worse shape than they thought.

And a coach fit for a princess. We'll give you an up-close look at how Prince William and his bride will travel in style back to the palace after the royal wedding.

All those stories ahead in the show for you but, first, let's check the headlines at this hour.

A coalition commander says all options are being considered to stop the Libyan military from attacking civilians in Misrata. Medics in the western town tell CNN that 77 people have died in three days of fighting.

The US military says that equipment malfunction likely caused an F-15 jet to go down in Libya, not enemy fire. The two crewmembers onboard were rescued and are in US hands.

In Japan, power is back on to the control room of the reactor number three of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. One air conditioning -- one air conditioner is turned on. Workers will be able to return to work in that room. But the plant's owner says damage to reactors one and two will take more time to repair than previously thought.

Afghanistan's president says his troops will assume responsibility for security in certain areas beginning in just three months. Hamid Karzai says the areas will include parts of Kabul and Helmand province. Afghan forces are expected to control the entire country by 2014.

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Katsav was convicted on two counts of rape, sexual harassment, and other charges.

Those are the headlines this hour.

The president of Yemen is defying calls for him to step down from power, even though some of them are coming from his own top generals. In a televised speech today, President Ali Abdullah Saleh pushed back against his opponents and predicted civil war if attempts to overthrow him continue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, PRESIDENT OF YEMEN (through translator): There is a constitution, and there are rules. There is the will of the people. It is impossible for a minority to control the fate of the nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, officials say President Saleh seemed willing on Monday to leave office at the end of this year, which was a plan proposed weeks ago by the opposition. But since the deal was first offered, the anti- Saleh movement has gained strength, and opposition leaders say now it's too late. His only remaining option is to step down immediately.

But what is the likelihood of that happening? CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is watching all of this from Abu Dhabi for us. He joins us, now. What would you say are the chances of leaving immediately, Mohammed?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, more and more government officials that I've been speaking with in Sanaa are saying they believe that President Saleh's days are clearly numbered, now. A lot of dissatisfaction being expressed from inside the corridors of power in Sanaa, today.

I'm being told by many officials, there, people were very angry at President Saleh's moves today. First, the speech that he gave in front of the National Defense Council, in which he seemed defiant, said that the people that were against him were just a minority, a group in the country, and that he was going to enforce the constitution.

They said that was a very bad move, that that would anger people in the streets, that that would rise -- raise the level of tension in the country.

Then, this conciliatory tone, President Saleh offering a deal in which he says he will step down at the beginning of 2012 and use the remainder of this year by which to lay the groundwork for a peaceful transition of power.

Well, the opposition has rejected that. They say that all they want from Saleh is for him to resign and resign now.

And people that were on his side, people in the ruling party, telling me this was a very bad move. Saleh should have made this deal or tried to make this deal weeks ago. He had many chances to do so. To come at this time, to do this now, it's just too late. He's losing more support by the hour.

Now, regional neighbors starting to question if he's able to lead anymore. The question, now, if he is forced to go or if he resigns, who steps in? And that's what's causing so much worry among regional allies and the US, as well. Max?

FOSTER: Yes, you're speaking what was on my mind. Who is lined up to take power if he steps down?

JAMJOOM: This is one of the key questions. Although the opposition there has the upper hand right now, although the protest movement, the so- called Youth Peaceful Revolution, is really gaining momentum across the country, these people are not gathering behind anybody who they're asking to replace Saleh. Their only demand is for Saleh to step down.

In a country as divided, tribal, and fractious as Yemen is, where you have a secessionist movement in the south, where you have a rebellion in the north, where you have a growing threat of al Qaeda, where you have a water crisis and very deep poverty, people wonder, who can step in, who can try to unite this country? And that's the worry.

Saleh alluded today to the fact that he thought if there was a coup, there could be a civil war in Yemen. People believe that could happen. If there's chaos in the streets, that could plunge the country into chaos. That's what we're being told, now, from many government officials inside Yemen. Max?

FOSTER: Mohammed, thank you very much, indeed, for that. And there's a reason why Yemen is particularly concerned right now, and other parts of the world. Al Qaeda has been strengthening its presence in that country for several years.

The group joined forces with the al Qaeda branch in Saudi Arabia in 2009 to form a new group known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The group claimed responsibility for failed parcel bomb plots last October. That's when two bombs hidden in printer cartridges were found aboard US-bond cargo planes.

The group's also believed to be behind the underwater bomb plot, a failed attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009. Radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is said to be a spokesperson for the group. He's been called the Osama bin Laden of the internet. The group is said to number around 100 core operatives and many more sympathizers.

But the president of Yemen is not one of those sympathizers. In fact, President Saleh has been a key US ally in trying to root out al Qaeda militants in that country, so now that his future, his political future is in question, what does that mean for al Qaeda in the region? CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen joins us, now, from Washington just to talk about that.

Whatever we say about the president, Peter, he has offered some stability in that country, which is in a precarious state when you look at al Qaeda there.

PETER BERGEN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. As Mohammed Jamjoom laid out, Yemen's got a lot of problems, and President Saleh has been in power for 30-plus years, similar to Mubarak in Egypt. He hasn't delivered a great deal to his country. It is the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula, and it has been a place where quite a number of recruits from al Qaeda have come.

For instance, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of 9/11, has in court documents said that about 20 percent of al Qaeda's recruits come from Yemen. And that's partly a testament to the fact that President Saleh has ruled Yemen as an authoritarian police state, and al Qaeda is kind of a response to that, in part.

And it's also partly a testament to the fact that the central government in Yemen doesn't really control what goes on on its own territory, which is why Saleh has accepted US government help pretty much because it's been insisted upon to -- basically, to go after al Qaeda.

There are small American -- small numbers of American special forces on the ground in Yemen, obviously keeping a pretty low profile. There have been attacks on al Qaeda bases in Yemen, which have been publicly characterized as efforts by the Yemeni army but, in fact, are very obviously efforts by the US military, Max.

FOSTER: So, if President Saleh has been part of the campaign to keep a lid on al Qaeda in that country, does that mean that if he steps aside, it would strengthen al Qaeda? Could they step in and fill some sort of void, there? A political void, almost.

BERGEN: Well, it depends what the denouement is in Yemen. If Saleh steps aside and there is a civil war, which is, I think, a big if -- by the way, there are two mini civil wars already going on in Yemen, so even with Saleh in charge.

But if there was a sort of -- if Yemen sort of became instead of a failing state a failed state, that does help al Qaeda, because we've seen, with the run of the Taliban in Afghanistan or Somalia today, that al Qaeda takes advantage of these situations and already is taking advantage of the kind of chaotic environment in Yemen.

So, if that environment gets even more chaotic, which is still a big if, al Qaeda tends to thrive in those kinds of circumstances.

FOSTER: And do we know if the opposition has enough authority to lead the country with some strength in order to keep some stability in that country?

BERGEN: Well, elements by the opposition, by the way, Max, are people that have been sort of aligned with al Qaeda.

There is an Islamist party in Yemen called the Islah Reform Party, which is not an al Qaeda sympathizer-type party, but certain members of it have, certainly, been sympathetic to al Qaeda. Some of the secessionists in the south have been aligned with al Qaeda in the past.

Of course, bin Laden's own family comes from Hadramaut, which is the valley in southern Yemen that runs north to south down to the coast.

So, there's a fair amount of history with al Qaeda, here. But that doesn't prevent -- to just focus on al Qaeda is to ignore the fact that there is this really, basically, peaceful revolution going on in Yemen. And that is to be sort of applauded.

FOSTER: OK, Peter Bergen, thank you very much, indeed, for your analysis on that.

Several of Middle Eastern cities were rocked by protest today. In Cairo, a fire broke out in the interior ministry after thousands of employees protested, demanding higher wages. And interior ministry spokesman said protesters never entered the building, and the fire may have been caused by an electrical circuit malfunction.

In Syria, hundreds of anti-government protesters marched in several towns for a sixth straight day, chanting, "The people want to bring down the regime." Organizers say they are planning a day of mass protests across the southern region of the country for Friday.

And in Tunisia, a 32-year-old man died after setting fire to himself as hundreds of university graduates gathered to protest and demand jobs. It happened in the same town where another man set himself on fire three months ago and ignited a revolution. CNN's Ivan Watson has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(WOMAN SPEAKING ARABIC)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Visitors to the Bouazizi family's humble cottage pay homage to the family's most famous son.

"The martyr Mohamed Bouazizi," this poster says, "The spark of the uprising."

Many Tunisians call Bouazizi a hero, even though just three months ago he was a struggling fruit vendor earning barely $10 a day.

RIDHA BOUAZIZI, MOHAMED BOUAZIZI'S UNCLE (through translator): "These government inspectors used to confiscate our goods and demand bribes," says Mohamed's uncle Ridha, who also works as a fruit vendor. "It was because of their tyranny that Mohamed set himself on fire."

WATSON (voice-over): On the morning of December 17th, a female inspector accosted Bouazizi, seized his scales and, according to some locals, slapped him. Twenty-six-year-old Bouazizi struggled to get the attention of town officials until, finally, he doused himself with fuel and let a lethal flame in the center of Sidi Bouzid.

Soon after, protests erupted and quickly spread across the country. Tunisians denounced the corruption and authoritarian rule of President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali, who'd been in power for 23 years.

Under pressure, Ben Ali visited the bedside of the once smiling young man, but it was too little, too late. On January 4th, Bouazizi died in hospital and, less than two weeks later, Ben Ali fled the country.

The rest as they say, is history. Tunisians inspired unprecedented popular revolts that continue to ripple across the Arab world.

Back in Sidi Bouzid, the place where it arguably all started, the euphoria of the revolution has given way to the everyday struggle of trying to make a living.

WATSON (on camera): Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself outside the gates of this building, the governorate of Sidi Bouzid. And nearly two months after the revolution that overthrew a dictator in Tunisia, this building is still protected by barbed wire, soldiers and, every day, people line up to beg for jobs.

Nearly everywhere we go in this economically depressed city, people come up to us and complain about unemployment.

WATSON (voice-over): Bouazizi's older bother, Salem, says Mohamed had to make tough choices for the good of his family.

SALEM BOUAZIZI, MOHAMED BOUAZIZI'S BROTHER (through translator): Mohamed was the main breadwinner of the family. He dropped out of school even though he had good grades to pay for my sister's education.

WATSON (voice-over): Mohamed's mother, Manoubia, is still in mourning.

MANOUBIA BOUAZIZI, MOHAMED BOUAZIZI'S MOTHER (through translator): I am proud of him. Thank God he spoke out. He turned the world upside down, but he did not deserve to die.

WATSON (voice-over): Today, Bouazizi is buried in the countryside in a family cemetery. The Tunisian flag flutters above the grave of the man who's desperate act of fiery protest unwittingly inspired millions to rise up and demand their rights. Ivan Watson, CNN, Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, from an uprising in the Middle East, we look next to the devastation from Japan's twin disasters. More than 9,000 have been killed, another 12,000 are still missing. We'll have the latest on the earthquake and the tsunami victims and how authorities are struggling with the ongoing nuclear crisis.

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FOSTER: Workers have restored power to the control room in one of the most critical reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. The number three reactor has been a source of worry for engineers because its fuel contains extremely dangerous plutonium. Plant operators say the next step will be to get air conditioning in the room so workers can return, but the battle to stabilize the plant is far from over.

A smoke was seen on Tuesday, rising from the buildings housing reactors two and three. Japan's nuclear watchdogs couldn't say exactly why this was happening. Officials also admit that reactors one and two are more severely damaged than they first thought.

Our Paula Hancocks has been following more of the day's developments for us from Tokyo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Now, 660 workers, we understand, were working on this site from about 6:30 this morning, this Tuesday morning. And, of course, the main, most urgent issue is still trying to get the cooling systems back online for those six reactors.

Now, as for the wider impact that there has been some radiation detected within some food goods, within spinach and milk in the Fukushima prefecture and further afield. Now, the officials say that the sale of those goods has now been banned.

The World Health Organization said that it -- it is more serious than was thought, this food safety issue at this point, but any -- there is no immediate risk to health. It's just short-term exposure to these kinds of food.

Also, there has been some radiation detected in sea waters about 100 meters south of the Fukushima nuclear plant. We understand that there are tests ongoing at this point. There should be some results within a day or two as to whether or not that is a serious implication.

And, of course, it is still a fluid situation. There are still earthquakes that are ongoing. This Tuesday, we've had a number -- at least two of them have been at least 6.4 magnitude. So, obviously, that is a worry for those trying to get the Fukushima nuclear plant back on track. It is a worry that further earthquakes could jeopardize that. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, as those authorities grapple with Japan's nuclear crisis, they're also dealing with the hardest-hit victims from these twin disasters, the destitute, the sick, the elderly. Our Kyung Lah takes a look, now, at how many are coping when resources are stretched thin and time is running out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(WOMAN SPEAKING JAPANESE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ninety- three-year-old Matsuya Iwohana (ph) only moans when her granddaughter talks to her. She's been this way since they barely escaped the tsunami, and things are getting worse by the day.

EMIKO SATO, TSUNAMI VICTIM (through translator): "I don't know what to do," says Emiko Sato. "I'm just trying to take this day by day."

LAH (voice-over): To think beyond that overwhelms her.

Sato is the sole caretaker of her 73-year-old father, a stroke victim, and her sick grandmother. Their home and possessions gone. They're now living in a school gym needing constant medical care that just isn't there.

It is a cruel truth about this disaster, say emergency health workers treating the elderly across the tsunami zone. In this region, 30 percent of the population is over the age of 65.

This 81-year-old man has a high fever, says the Red Cross, making door-to-door stops to the elderly who can't walk out. No power or water for more than a week means this sick man is at grave risk.

Dr. Takahiko Naruko is part of an emergency team from Osaka.

LAH (on camera): What is the particular challenge with the elderly in Japan?

TAKAHIKO NARUKO, EMERGENCY DOCTOR (through translator): "There are so many of them, particularly in this area," says Dr. Naruko. "The number of young people has been falling for years."

LAH: Doctors say the immediate risk to the elderly is that they're more susceptible to disease in the evacuation centers. The longer-term problem is this. How, at age 70, 80, and 90, do they rebuild all of this? And who will take care of them?

LAH (voice-over): The Kawasakis are relying on each other for now. But 79-year-old Rokuro Kawasaki (ph) has prostate cancer, and his wife doesn't know what she can do unless she gets him his medicine lost in the tsunami.

"We're just doing our best to help each other," she says.

SATO (through translator): "It's really difficult," says Emiko Sato. "When I look around this room, it's the same for everybody."

LAH (voice-over): And that's the hard part, say relief workers. So many elderly to treat, and not enough help to save them all. Kyung Lah, CNN, Kamaishi, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, as you heard Kyung mention there, there are a large number of elderly Japanese in the areas hardest hit by this quake. Let's take a look at the figures.

More than 23 percent of the population in Iwate prefecture is over the age of 65. There's more than 22 percent in Fukushima, and a fraction less than that in Aomori, and almost 20 percent in Miyagi prefecture. That's slightly higher than the national average of around 19 percent.

CNN has launched a high-tech way for smartphone users around the world to take immediate action to help those disaster victims in Japan. Throughout our coverage, we are showing you special black and white codes, which you can see on your screen now. If you scan this image with your smartphone, it loads our Impact Your World website automatically, no typing required.

There will -- there, you'll also find links to charities that are helping disaster victims in Japan. We'll air this code throughout the day here on CNN, so do keep your smartphones handy.

Now, a royal reveal. I was the only television reporter allowed into the Royal Mews. I'll show you what I found, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Their carriage awaits. Kate Middleton and Prince William will greet married life and the crowds around Westminster Abbey in the same carriage used by the prince's parents on their wedding day. I was the only television reporter given a sneak peak at the Royal Mews.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER (voice-over): If you live in a palace, you need a garage to match, and this is what's known as the Royal Mews behind Buckingham Palace. It's where the queen keeps her carriages, horses, and cars.

All eight state limousines will be used on the wedding day. Kate will be traveling to the Abbey in one like this, but with a glass roof at the back.

ALEXANDER GARTY, PALACE TRANSPORT MANAGER: It's actually designed with visibility in mind, so that you actually probably get a better view in the Rolls-Royce she's using than a closed carriage.

FOSTER (voice-over): This is the car. It was attacked by protesters when Charles and Camilla were using it in December. It's been undergoing repairs.

After the wedding, Kate and William will leave the Abbey in this carriage. It's the queen's favorite. It was also used by Charles and Diana on their wedding day. It is the 1902 State Landau.

If it's raining, though, the couple will revert to the Glass Coach, which has a hard roof.

Four other carriages, like this one, will be used to carry principle guests including, of course, the queen.

FOSTER (on camera): What's your biggest worry?

MARTIN OATES, SENIOR CARRIAGE RESTORER: The wheel falls off. Then, obviously, I will possibly lose my job. So, that is a bit of a worry.

FOSTER: So, you're constantly checking the wheels, right?

OATES: Wheels are a big problem.

FOSTER: On the big day, you'll notice bay horses, these brown ones, and also Greys. The Windsor Greys only ever normally pull the sovereign, the queen. But on the wedding day, they'll also be pulling the bridal party.

FOSTER (voice-over): Preeminent amongst the Greys is Daniel.

JACK HARGREAVES, HEAD COACHMAN: Daniel's just a very good, steady horse. No horse is a guaranteed 100 percent, but he's one of those that you do trust, you do have faith in. Doesn't worry about big noises, doesn't worry about sudden movements, and that's what we want from all of the horses, really.

FOSTER (voice-over): Which is why Daniel has a key role pulling the bride and bridegroom. Kate isn't used to traveling by carriage, so she'll need some practice in the art of getting in and out gracefully.

TOBY BROW, CROWN EQUERRY: I think she will wish to probably practice getting in and out of the carriages, because obviously on the day, she will be wearing a dress with a large train, and that'll be a -- it's quite a difficult event to get into a carriage and get settled so it all looks perfect. But I think she's very excited about it.

FOSTER (voice-over): And so are all the staff behind the palace walls as they frantically prepare to make what is in all but name a full state occasion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Not long now. April the 29th, the wedding day. We will, of course, have full coverage for you from here in London.

I'm Max Foster, that is your world connected. Thank you for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will short -- will follow this short break.

END