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JOHN KING, USA

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Speaks on Libya; Enforcing the No-Fly Zone

Aired March 24, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, GUEST HOST: Thanks Wolf. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King is off tonight.

And we start with breaking news. Any moment now we are expecting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come to those microphones you see right there in that live picture at the State Department and explain just what roles NATO and the United States will play in the military operation in Libya.

Here's what's happening. Within the past hour NATO announced it's made a deal to take over enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya, but there's still a lot of disagreement about how aggressive the military operation will be. Less than an hour ago NATO's secretary-general told CNN there's still no deal on who is responsible for protecting Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: We have taken on responsibility for the no-fly zone while the coalition still continues its activities. But as I told you, we are considering whether we should take on that broader responsibility. However, that decision has not been made yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: To help us interpret this CNN's Paula Newton is at NATO headquarters in Belgium with more details on what NATO is and isn't doing and on the disagreements that are holding up a full announcement. Now Paula, let me ask you, the NATO secretary-general, you just heard it said that NATO will enforce the no-fly zone, but a decision is still yet to be made on the broader mission. So what does that really mean?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What it means is this. They're calling this here no-fly plus. The no-fly will be in place by Sunday night. What does the plus mean -- an expanded role. They sent a directive to the military planners here saying how can we get involved in a new robust role? I just --

YELLIN: Paula, I have to interpret you for just a moment.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now making a statement -- Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Where I met with the president and the national security team and I want to give you an update on the international community's efforts to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 and protect the civilians of Libya. Events have moved very quickly, so let's be clear about where we stand and how we got here.

When the Libyan people sought to realize their democratic aspirations they were met by extreme violence from their own government. The Libyan people appealed to the world to help stop the brutal attacks on them. And the world listened. The Arab League called for urgent action. In response the U.N. Security Council mandated all necessary measures to protect civilians including a no- fly zone.

But the regime's forces continued their assaults, and last weekend they reached Benghazi itself. We faced the prospect of an imminent humanitarian disaster. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were in danger. So an international coalition was compelled to act. French planes were the first to reach the skies over Benghazi.

Cruise missiles from the United States and the United Kingdom followed, striking the region -- the regime's air defenses and clearing the way for allied aircraft to implement the no-fly zone. Many other nations have now joined this effort. After only five days we have made significant progress. A massacre in Benghazi was prevented. Gadhafi's Air Force and air defenses have been rendered largely ineffective, and the coalition is in control of the skies above Libya.

Humanitarian relief is beginning to reach the people who need it. For example, just today we learned that at least 18 doctors and nurses from an organization funded by the United States Agency for International Development had arrived in Benghazi and were beginning to provide support to the city's main hospital. Gadhafi's troops have been pushed back, but they remain a serious threat to the safety of the people.

From the start President Obama has stressed that the role of the U.S. military would be limited in time and scope. Our mission has been to use America's unique capabilities to create the conditions for the no-fly zone and to assist in meeting urgent humanitarian needs. And as expected, we're already seeing a significant reduction in the number of U.S. planes involved in operations as the number of planes from other countries increase in numbers.

Today we are taking the next step. We have agreed, along with our NATO allies, to transition command and control for the no-fly zone over Libya to NATO. All 28 allies have also now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under Resolution 1973.

NATO is well-suited to coordinating this international effort and ensuring that all participating nations are working effectively together toward our shared goals. This coalition includes countries beyond NATO including Arab partners, and we expect all of them to be providing important political guidance going forward. We have always said that Arab leadership and participation is crucial.

The Arab League showed that leadership with its pivotal statement on Libya. They joined the discussions in Paris last weekend on implementation. And we are deeply appreciative of their continuing contributions including aircrafts and pilots from Qatar. This evening the United Arab Emirates announced they are joining the coalition and sending planes to help protect Libyan civilians and enforce the no-fly zone.

We welcome this important step. It underscores both the breadth of this international coalition and the depth of concern in the region for the fight of the Libyan people. In the days ahead, as NATO assumes command and control responsibilities, the welfare of those civilians will be of paramount concern. This operation has already saved many lives, but the danger is far from over.

As long as the Gadhafi regime threatens its people and defies the United Nations, we must remain vigilant and focused. To continue coordinating with our partners and charting the way forward I will travel to London to attend an international conference on Tuesday convened by the United Kingdom. Our military will continue to provide support to our efforts to make sure that Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 will be enforced.

This is an important effort that has garnered the support and the active participation of nations who recognize the significance of coming together in the international community through the United Nations to set forth a clear statement of action to be taken in order to protect innocent civilians from their own government. It is an effort that we believe is very important, and we'll look forward to coordinating closely with all those nations that are participating. Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: All right, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton there saying that after only five days coalition forces have managed to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, render Gadhafi's air defenses ineffective, and allowed coalition control of the skies over Libya enough to begin delivering humanitarian supplies. But the big headline here is she said that we have agreed to transition command and control for the no-fly zone to NATO, and here is the complicated statement she made.

She says "we've also authorized military authorities for NATO to take on the broader military protection mission." That is what still remains a murky question for us and we go now to our Paula Newton who is there in Brussels where NATO leaders have been meeting, and Paula, perhaps you can clarify this for us. What does this effectively mean authorize military authorities to take on the broader protection mission?

NEWTON: What it means is that right now military planners here at NATO are looking at what they can do in order to help enforce that humanitarian mandate that is so important to so many countries in this coalition. What happens next is they expect that plan to land on the table Sunday night here in time for another ambassadors meeting. They're calling this no-fly plus.

What does it mean when they see civilians in danger in Libya, they hope they can act. NATO officials just telling me right now, Jessica that look, they hope that this can actually happen in tandem with this recent decision by NATO, and then that will mean that they will actually have everything in place for that crucial meeting that will happen in London on Tuesday that the secretary of state will be attending.

Also crucial here, Jessica, they are saying -- I want to make this distinction -- while 28 countries of NATO will have the full authority to make all decisions, decision-shaping will also involve Arab countries and that is a huge point to many people involved in this right now. It gives the countries the moral suasion they're looking for to be able to operate in Libya -- Jessica.

YELLIN: All right, that's a crucial point that we will get to in our next discussion. Thanks so much, Paula, for that.

Joining us now to further break down what Secretary Clinton has said and add perceptive Nicholas Burns. His career as a diplomat includes a stint, among many other things, a stint as U.S. ambassador to NATO. And then right here in Washington CNN's senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Thanks to both of you.

And Nic, first to you -- so we get that NATO is going to take over command of the no-fly zone, but there seems to be -- there's this outstanding question of what steps will the organization take to protect civilians from ground forces? For the past few days it's been a very aggressive effort. Could we see that significantly scaled back now?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: I hope we don't. First of all, I think that Secretary Clinton spoke very effectively and very clearly about why the United States had to go in, and I think she was right to say that there's been tremendous progress made over the last five days. Our military, the U.S. military principally, has taken the initiative away from Gadhafi, blocked his siege of Benghazi and Misrata and Ajdabiya and I think it's put him on the defensive.

But you've asked the key question. If this command and control of a no-flight zone and the entire mission is now to be transferred away from the United States to NATO will NATO be an effective and quick and forceful prosecutor of the tactical air strikes that are keeping Gadhafi on the offensive? Because it's pretty clear a week into this action that the no-flight zone itself cannot protect the civilians of Libya.

That Gadhafi has sufficient ground power through his military to inflict a lot of damage on civilians to besiege those towns. And so NATO is going to have to be as aggressive in its tactical flight operations as the United States military has been, and that's an open question because, of course, NATO is a coalition of 28 countries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right --

BURNS: And if countries object to one measure or another, it could slow down operations.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well and I have a question also which is Nic, maybe you can answer this is that -- is that is there any way in which we could still retain some kind of unilateral capability to act if we needed to from the air against Gadhafi's forces, given this NATO agreement?

BURNS: Well, Gloria, I hope we would. You know we're a member of NATO, of course, and we are the leading member of NATO and in many ways the NATO alliance in a military sense is dominated by the United States, so I wouldn't want to see the United States just withdraw from the region, because in essence what we're trying to do here as an alliance is intimidate Gadhafi and pressure him and embolden the opposition so that there might be a true revolution against Gadhafi.

That's United States policy to see Gadhafi and yet we're limited by the United Nations mandate. So one would hope that the United States would stay involved, because the United States military is an impressive and awesome force, and obviously Gadhafi has to respect our power. Will he respect the power of some of the other NATO members who might now take the lead? That is an open question. It gets to the very heart of the credibility of what NATO is trying to do.

YELLIN: And of course one of the big questions here is why does the U.S. want to take a back seat at this stage? We'll get to that --

BORGER: Yes.

YELLIN: -- and to the other questions on the other side of this break, so Nic, Gloria, please stay with us. And up next, we'll have more updates on this breaking news story as well as NATO agrees to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: We have agreed along with our NATO allies to transition command and control for the no-fly zone over Libya to NATO. All 28 allies have also now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under Resolution 1973. NATO is well-suited to coordinating this international effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Secretary of State Clinton making that statement just moments ago, NATO has made a deal to take over the no-fly zone there in Libya, and Secretary Clinton saying also transitioning authority for protection of civilians that that effort still being worked out. In Libya itself Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces are engaged in fierce battles with rebels in at least three Libyan cities.

We can check in now live with CNN's Reza Sayah who is there in Benghazi, the opposition stronghold for us. And Reza tell us your sense this uncertainty today over who is control. Has it affected the rebels' mission and even what they've been able to accomplish throughout the day?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of people are going to be eager to see if the complexion of this operation changes with NATO now taking the lead. But these opposition forces want this operation to stay in place, and they want it to be as aggressive as it has been. But what's remarkable is what continues to be ignored.

When you listen to statements by U.S. secretary of state, when you listen to statements by NATO officials, coalition officials and heads of western states that are involved in this intervention, they continue to ignore the stated mission, the stated intents of these opposition forces. And they say it openly. They want to continue to fight.

They want to continue to wage war, and they want to take this war to Moammar Gadhafi, and they want to topple his regime. And that's a critical fact that sometimes barely meets daily details of the military activity here and the diplomatic face-offs that are now taking place with this operation. And this stated mission by the opposition forces brings up a whole lot of questions.

When you look at U.N. Resolution 1973, the intended mission of ending the bloodshed, when you listen to coalition leaders saying we want to end the loss of civilian lives, the question is how do you end the bloodshed when one side, the opposition forces that are benefiting from this operation, want to continue to wage the war. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned Benghazi, how civilian lives were saved here, Jessica.

Certainly that is the case, but this conflict is not limited to Benghazi. There are a lot of serious situations in cities like Misrata, Ajdabiya where civilian lives are still in jeopardy with a lot of uncertainty ahead.

YELLIN: All right, thank you so much to you -- Reza Sayah reporting for us from Benghazi and in fact, a doctor today, Gloria, told CNN that 109 people were killed and more than 1,300 wounded in Misrata over the past week. But Secretary Clinton did go out of her way to make the point that this has been successful to date. That's a political message to the U.S. to stay on board --

BORGER: It is. It is. I mean she said very clearly that a humanitarian crisis has been averted, and she said the other day that that's something that you can't always see on your television sets because it's hard to show a crisis that's been averted, but she wanted to make the case that they've been effective and that, as she put it, a massacre was prevented --

(CROSSTALK) YELLIN: And Nic to you, so in recent skirmishes the U.S., whenever U.S. forces have been involved the U.S. has wanted to take the lead. Why in this instance is the U.S. -- is the White House particular seeking to get in the back seat on this effort?

BURNS: Well you know, the United States is fully engaged in these two major land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nine and a half years in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq. We also have vital interests in other parts of the Arab world. There's a lot happening outside of what's happening in Libya.

The government of Yemen is on the verge of being perhaps overthrown. That government is a critical counterterrorism partner with us against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Their pressure is in the government of Bahrain. That's where our Fifth Fleet is stationed. There's a continuing uncertainty about the development in the democratic states in Egypt --

YELLIN: But they do have an advantage and the very reason that we took something of a lead initially is because we have such sophisticated military capabilities. So do we risk making this mission less successful if we're not in the lead?

BURNS: Well I just wanted to say I think we do have vital interests elsewhere, but you're right to pose the question if the United States now withdraws from the lead role, if others, the European members of NATO take over, is that going to be sufficient in terms of experience, in terms of capability, in terms of will to put the kind of pressure on Moammar Gadhafi that needs to be applied? And I think that's the basic question that we have to look at in this transition to NATO as well as the basic contradiction between the express goals of the United States to see Gadhafi go --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

BURNS: -- and much more limited goals of both NATO and the United Nations.

YELLIN: Would you speak to that, Gloria, because for the past few days I mean it's very clear the U.S., U.K. and France have -- they won't say it openly --

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: -- want Gadhafi to go --

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: -- and it seems that that might be the underlying mission.

BORGER: Well you know the president of the United States early on set a political goal, and that was to get rid of Gadhafi. And the United Nations and the Arab League have said a humanitarian goal, which is to save the people of Libya from being attacked by Gadhafi. This has been a huge problem for the president of United States, because the goals aren't necessarily the same.

And I think the president's also going to have another problem, which is the downside of not directing this mission, of not leading this mission is that you cannot call all the shots. And we're not used to that kind of ambiguity in this country. We're used to setting timetables. Congress wants to know you're in, you're out. What's the mission? What's the end game?

YELLIN: Right.

BORGER: And this is a lot more ambiguous --

YELLIN: Well how do you measure success?

BORGER: How do you measure success particularly by the way if Gadhafi remains, can we still measure this as a success if he stops attacking his people and there's a real cease-fire? I don't know the answer to that question.

YELLIN: Nic, you know, Paula Newton has reported that the big challenge has been getting Turkey to sign onto the agreement for NATO. Would you explain a little bit why Turkey has unique and special reservations, but also why they're such an important partner in this effort?

BURNS: Well of course Turkey is the only Muslim member of NATO, a long-time member, but a country that's a real bridge to the Middle East and I think the Turks have felt that they wanted to understand if this would be a rather limited mission if they were going to give their support to it. The complication always at NATO is that it's an organization that operates by consensus, meaning every single country has to agree before the alliance can do anything. Getting the Turks on board and getting the Germans not to object were the two principal barriers this week.

YELLIN: All right, Nic Burns, Gloria Borger, thanks to both of you, an unbelievably momentous day and (INAUDIBLE). Complicated, yes, thanks for breaking it down.

Ahead, how does today's news from NATO impact the U.S. military strategy in Libya? We'll break it down further for you next.

And later a new announcement out of Japan about radiation in the water, what they're saying now is having a big impact on children. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be here with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: In only five days we have made significant progress. A massacre in Benghazi was prevented, Gadhafi's air force and air defenses have been rendered largely ineffective, and the coalition is in control of the skies above Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Welcome back as we continue to cover this breaking news. The latest -- NATO will assume control of enforcing the allied no-fly zone over Libya, but the U.S. military's work there still is not done.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence joins us from his post. OK, Chris, help us understand what are you hearing at the Pentagon in terms of how a hand-off to NATO is going to occur?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well officials here, Jessica, are telling us that it's going to be a phased approach. In other words, don't look for U.S. jets to just pack up and go home the minute that NATO sort of takes control. Now, White House Spokesman Jay Carney described the U.S. role going forward as support and assist, and in some ways that is true in that they're going to be doing a lot of refueling, aerial surveillance of what's happening on the ground in Libya. But the Pentagon is also saying they expect to continue strike missions as well, so somewhat of a different nuance there in terms of what exactly the U.S. military will be doing.

YELLIN: You know Chris, in Secretary Clinton's statement she made it clear that the U.S. helped go in only after Arab states said that Libya needed some support, and the UAE now has announced that it is contributing aircraft to help enforce the no-fly zone. So how big a victory is that UAE announcement for the Obama administration?

LAWRENCE: It's big in that they're not just going to be doing humanitarian aid. That's one thing. But the UAE has agreed to send 12 jets, lend 12 jets to the cause, and that's coming on the heels of Qatar already getting its aircraft there. They're going to start flying this weekend.

But look, the overall, the U.S. needs as many coalition partners as it can get. Take a look at this graphic, and we can show you sort of the load that the U.S. military is bearing right now. You know of the 175 Tomahawk missiles that have been fired, the U.S. has fired 168 of them. Now those cost well over $1 million each.

Also when you look at the number of sorties that have been flown -- 750 so far, the U.S. has flown about 450 of those with all the fuel costs and ammunition that come with it.

And again, that F-15 that went down just the other day, that's a $30 million fighter jet. And whether it was taken, you know, taken down out of sky as Libyan state TV claims, or as the Pentagon says, had a mechanical failure, either way, it shows that no-fly doesn't mean no risk. And anytime you put those pilots in the air, you know, U.S. assets are going to be on the line, so to speak.

YELLIN: Right, Chris. And those numbers seem to demonstrate that as much as this is a coalition effort, the U.S. is certainly bearing, it seems, the brunt of the load at this point.

LAWRENCE: Yes. YELLIN: Yes. All right. Thanks so much. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.

Well, the U.S. and its allies have reached an agreement of command of the Libyan military operation enforcing a no-fly zone. NATO will take charge in the next couple of days. But, what else will up happen?

Joining me now is retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He held senior posts in both the Defense Department and the State Department.

General Kimmitt, thanks for being here.

GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Sure.

YELLIN: So, our Paula Newton in Brussels, at NATO, said that they're call this a "no-fly plus." Can you interpret that? What does that mean?

KIMMITT: Well, I think what they mean is that the NATO authorities are going to try to push the mission beyond simply of that of the no-fly. Right now, they have the authority to take over the no-fly, but I think even the NATO authorities recognize that this is going to be pretty complicated to have the AfriCom headquarters running the humanitarian protection mission, and the NATO headquarters running the no-fly. So, I think they're trying to build a little bit of flexibility so that when the politicians can agree that the expanded mission will take over.

YELLIN: OK. So, basically what -- we've calling this a no-fly zone, but there's a lot more to date.

KIMMITT: Right.

YELLIN: You know, allied forces taking out tanks and shooting even Gadhafi forces on the ground, if they have been going after civilians. Do you expect that kind of effort to ramp down once NATO takes over?

KIMMITT: No, I don't think so. I think that there will still be a requirement to conduct those operations. It's really up to Gadhafi whether that's going to ramp down or not, whether -- up to their forces whether they're going to pull back. I suspect that NATO will have as much heart to go after those tanks, whether it's a foreign country or U.S. country that's flying that airplane.

YELLIN: How complicated does it become now? A no-fly zone is one thing, but this no-fly plus, that must be an added burden for military commanders.

KIMMITT: Well, it really is, because, again, you have pilots is you have some pilots that are up in the air that are going to be conducting the protection of the civilian missions, the humanitarian missions, going after tanks, sharing air space with those working for a different headquarters conducting a no-fly mission. It is a good thing that we have such seasoned professionals that can work their way through these de-confliction measures. But it will -- it just makes it more difficult.

YELLIN: What you call them, de-confliction?

KIMMITT: De-confliction measures, right.

YELLIN: To keep things, pilot literally from conflicting with one another in their mission in the air?

KIMMITT: Absolutely. Can you imagine one pilot that's going after an airplane coming up and another pilot that's trying to go after that same airstrip? It can really be complicated. But thank God we've got such a professional military organization both in the United States and NATO.

YELLIN: What does this do to our U.S. men and women who are helping with this effort? It just complicates their burden?

KIMMITT: It really won't be seen down at the individual level, down at the individual pilot level, down at the individual squadron level. They'll take their orders from the headquarters above them. Those staff officers that are trying to coordinate between AfriCom headquarters and between NATO headquarters, they're going to be busy little beavers. But this -- their job at the staff level is to make sure that when they give their actions and orders down to the pilots, they're not confused.

YELLIN: And is it your sense, then, that for a while, U.S. forces -- U.S. planes or efforts would continue in the area while there's a transition to NATO?

KIMMITT: Well, it's important to recognize that U.S. is part of NATO. So, a pilot could, in fact, be flying for General Ham one day, and then the next day get a mission to fly for Admiral Stavridis.

YELLIN: And that would maybe happen over this weekend?

KIMMITT: It could happen over this weekend, yes.

YELLIN: And what Secretary Clinton said that NATO is now authorizing military efforts to take over the command of the civilian protection effort. What does that mean to you?

KIMMITT: Well, as somebody who has served in NATO and at the supreme headquarters there, I think the code there was they're now authorized to start planning to take over this additional mission. It was very clear when the NATO secretary-general said, "We've got the no-fly. We don't have the humanitarian mission." But they just can't take over the humanitarian mission.

YELLIN: It's a work in progress?

KIMMITT: It's a work in progress. They actually have to be authorized to conduct military planning in NATO. They seem to have the authority to do that future planning before the political decision is made.

YELLIN: And it can be an ugly process.

KIMMITT: It's a complicated process, but NATO has done great work over the past 60 years. And I suspect it's going to do great work here as well.

YELLIN: OK. And we can't reinforce enough that, it is a 28-0 agreement. Every single member nation must be on board for anything to happen.

KIMMITT: As the former NATO ambassador, Nick Burns, said earlier, it's a consensus organization, there are no abstentions, 28 to zero.

YELLIN: Painful politics to get down, to get done.

KIMMITT: Painful politics.

YELLIN: Thanks so much. Thanks for being with us.

KIMMITT: Glad to be here.

YELLIN: Appreciate it.

And ahead: at least 34 dead and thousands mourned during funerals today in Syria. It's all part of the latest round of violence in the Middle East, and new promises from the Syrian government. We'll get the latest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back.

If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now:

This hour's breaking news story: NATO has agreed to take command of enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, but it's still considering taking control of the full U.N.-backed military mission of protecting Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's forces. To that end, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a few minutes ago she will attend an international meeting on Libya next Tuesday in London.

We got a medical update on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords today from her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. He sees her twice a day and she's getting staff briefings on what's happening in Congress and in her Arizona district.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK KELLY, REP. GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: She's starting to process some of the tragedy that we all went through in January. She's going through that as we speak. Despite that, she remains in a very good mood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Amazing.

Well, in political news, CNN first reported today that Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann will form a presidential exploratory committee in June, but possibly sooner. This is an order to be in the early Republican presidential debate, CNN is told.

Late this afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed an air traffic controller at Reagan National Airport here in Washington, D.C. fell asleep on duty Tuesday night, and that's why two airliners had to land on their own. The controller, a 20-year veteran, has been suspended.

And, it's been a tense day in Syria where thousands turned out for today's funerals for people killed in anti-government demonstrations. The government is promising reforms.

Joining us from there: CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom. He is monitoring the situation and joins us actually from Abu Dhabi.

Mohammed, thanks for being with us. Tell us -- does it look like any of the government's promises will quell the growing discontent in Syria?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, from activists and opposition members we've spoken with the past few hours, the answer to that is no. Opposition members that we've spoken with have said to us they continue to plan to be out on the streets tomorrow. There are big demonstrations being planned for tomorrow for the city of Daraa.

What people were telling us is that the time for the government to offer these types of reforms has long passed. This is too little too late.

What's happened the last few days in the past week, what started out local concerns in this city in Syria, they wanted reforms there and they wanted more economic opportunity, more job creation. Now, it's starting to coalesce into more of a movement calling for the fall of the regime. This is really worrying the Syrian government.

The activists, because they've seen the Syrian government respond now and offer more concessions, they're saying what the government is offering is not nearly enough. They want -- they want regime change. They want more reforms. They want to see what's been promised to them implemented now -- Jessica.

YELLIN: All right. Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting for us on the latest tensions in Syria.

We're going to switch back to this hour's breaking news on Libya and NATO's decision to take over enforcement of the no-fly zone. That's coming up on the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) YELLIN: We're following breaking news this hour. NATO has just announced that it's agreed to take command of enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, but there's still no deal on who will control the full U.N.-backed military mission of protecting Libyan civilians.

Joining me now from NATO headquarters, CNN's Paula Newton, and from the State Department, senior producer Elise Labott.

First, to you, Paula. You say that your sources at NATO headquarters call this agreement a "no-fly plus." I asked you about this before. But what more are you hearing about exactly what that means?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That means this "plus" part, that they will become closer to being able to enforce that U.N. resolution to the satisfaction of all of those NATO members. And what does that mean? If they see at any point in time that civilians are in trouble on the ground, that they can do what they need to do militarily in order to stop whatever is going on. This is important to all of the countries involved here. At the same time, they want to make sure to not overstep the bounds of that resolution.

You know, Jessica, in the last few moments here, NATO officials still at pains to emphasize that, look, we expect this expanded role of NATO to be approved as well perhaps as early as Sunday night. They're planning on it, they're having another meeting on Sunday night. And they're hoping that by the time Secretary Clinton gets to the meeting in London, that they will have a clear picture of what this will look like.

They're saying that, look, we've put this together as flex -- as most flexible plan as we can get, which will give also them that moral suasion to bring in those Arab partners and really make the decisions. You know, we pointed out before, Jessica, that's how it's supposed to work in principle. How it's applied on the ground, you can imagine in the coming weeks how difficult this is going to be.

YELLIN: Paula, your sense, given if the U.S. called all the shots, how would they want the NATO agreement to look? What would they like it to accomplish?

NEWTON: Well, they want it to accomplish basically two things. One is, yes, protect those civilians on the ground, and also make sure -- and this is key for a lot of countries involved, that there aren't any civilian casualties from NATO operations. The last thing anyone wants here with the very delicate -- and I remind everyone that there is a huge operation going, ISAF operation going under the NATO umbrella in Afghanistan -- the last thing they want is to have civilians hurt by any kind of NATO airstrikes, and that's the second key to this.

At the same time they know, look, there's expectations there that U.N. resolution is clear, those civilians must be protected. But we've heard from the correspondents in Libya, Jessica, it gets very complicated on the ground. That's why those military commanders issue this plan to these nations on Sunday night and let them know, look, if we have house-to-house fighting in a place like Benghazi, this is what we can do.

YELLIN: OK. Let's bring in Elise for a sense of where the U.S. is coming from -- because Elise, it seemed that Secretary Clinton appeared to get out ahead of what the NATO secretary-general said on CNN earlier today. She indicated that NATO will pick up the humanitarian effort.

Is she foreshadowing what is inevitably going to happen?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: I think she's foreshadowing what she'd like to happen and what she's going to make sure talking with the foreign ministers over the next couple of days does happen.

I was told, Jessica, that when Secretary of State Clinton was on the phone call today with the foreign ministers of Turkey, France and the U.K., they all went over this agreement very carefully, that NATO would undertake all of the resolution, and which says by all means necessary. And that does include airstrikes, and that all of the members, including Turkey, agreed. And we understand, in the last couple of hours, Turkey said, well, you know, they thought they had agreement and they said, wait a minute, not so fast.

The U.S. made real pains to see that this resolution would have the widest possible support, but also the broadest possible authority. Obviously, as Paula said, no one wants casualties. No one wants to take airstrikes if they're not necessary. But it seems kind of murky talking to people whether you're going to have NATO on a case-by-case basis deciding whether to undertake airstrikes in a certain area. As we know, there are 28 members of NATO. They all have to agree.

And this is, as Paula said, what we're going to be discussing in London on Tuesday. They want to really have a broad political support for this mission and talk about not only the mandate of this particular mission, of the no-fly zone and the airstrikes and protecting the civilians, but also what comes next. This resolution is very wide and broad. It talks about arming the opposition. It talks about different things that the U.S. can do by all means necessary to protect civilians.

YELLIN: Elise, explain then why it's been difficult for Turkey to fully get on board. What's -- what are the reservations?

LABOTT: Well, one of the reservations, as you know, is Turkey is one -- is the only Muslim member of NATO. And it's been very concerned that the Arabs would not support some kind of actions against Gadhafi's forces that could have help civilians, not only there are Libyans on the ground, but there are thousands of Arab civilians on the ground, right now. And so, very careful to make sure that they don't want to do anything that would hurt civilians and engender any Arab anger against this mission, when, in fact, their support was really the pretext for going ahead and passing this U.N. Security Council resolution.

So, Turkey really wants NATO to have a limited mission. It wants -- it really has been talking about just enforcing the no-fly zone, this naval blockade, the lightest mission possible, not undertaking any airstrikes or strikes against Gadhafi's forces.

But as we've heard, and we're talking now about two possible commands: one NATO command which would enforce the no-fly zone, and then another command that would enforce some of these other strikes against civilians. It could get very murky on the ground for all of these soldiers fighting to protect the civilians.

YELLIN: Well, we -- yes, we've heard that clearly from General Kimmitt, who was here earlier, that there's already going to be enormous confusion, and especially if there's this no-fly plus.

Paula, let me ask you because you're there where all the members are milling about. Is there a sense that some of the -- one of the reasons this is taking some time is because there is not necessarily agreement on what the mission is? That maybe the Western members want Gadhafi replaced but not everyone does?

NEWTON: You know, that's still the unspoken thing around the table. I'm sure privately many ambassadors are speaking about that. It's interesting, though, we have had so many heads of state, leaders saying, we want him out, we want him gone, quote, "he won't last long" -- referring to Gadhafi. And yet, here, there are many, many reservations for many nations about what regime change means.

But, Jessica, even if we put that aside, NATO knows that they have a huge role to play on the ground in order to enforce that U.N. mandate of protecting civilians. They are at pains to tell me, though, Jessica, that look, we will have a robust rules of engagement on the ground. There will not be confusion, that the unity of command in NATO will exist -- and they hope that they can put some of the meat on the bones of that in this meeting next week.

And this whole issue of bringing in the Arab partners which allows them to take the moral high ground in this mission, they're saying that, look, those Arab partners -- they'll get a role, they'll help shape our decisions. The decisions will still be NATO's and NATO's alone, but they will help us shape the decisions. Exactly how that's going to work, uncharted territory, we have yet to see if there's going to be confusion with that or, again, if we have these last-minute hiccups that really make an agreement on that not possible.

But Secretary of State Clinton really echoing a lot of the optimism here, that they have a good agreement on this.

YELLIN: All right. We'll pick up with that question of Arab involvement on the other side of this break. But we do have to take a quick one. And on the other side, we'll head to the Pentagon to get the U.S. military's reaction, in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: This hour, breaking news. NATO agrees to take over from the United States and enforce the no-fly zone in Libya. NATO secretary general made the announcement on CNN a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: It's of utmost importance to stress that this is not primarily a NATO operation -- it is a broad international effort in which we will include partners from the region that have pledged to contribute to this protection of civilians in Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: This hour, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she will attend a conference in London next Tuesday into the broader goal of protecting Libya's civilian population.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: After only five days, we have made significant progress. A massacre in Benghazi was prevented, Gadhafi's air force and air defenses have been rendered largely ineffective, and the coalition is in control of the skies above Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence joins us now.

Chris, there's still lots of questions after Secretary Clinton's statement. Are your sources at the Pentagon giving you any more clarity about what this next phase is going look like?

LAWRENCE: Well, I just talked to a defense official, Jessica, who said, look, hold the horses just for a second. Maybe give it 24 hours to see if NATO does, indeed, work out something to take full control. He said, look, it's not like our planes were packing up tonight anyway. We're not going to drop off the keys to the destroyers and the aircraft carriers with a NATO commander by tomorrow morning.

And he said, look, remember, the supreme military commander of NATO is a United States Navy admiral. So, there is some synergy there, there is some cooperation, and he said -- by the time this all shakes out, in a day or two, NATO may very well be in control of the entire mission.

YELLIN: All right. Chris Lawrence reporting from us from -- for us from the Pentagon.

A lot of news this hour, and more yet to come. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the United Nations will pick up NATO -- excuse me, NATO will pick up the no-fly zone protection and begin looking at humanitarian protection, as well. Some calling it the "no- fly plus."

Our coverage will continue with "IN THE ARENA" which starts now.