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Obama to Address Nation Monday; Mideast Unrest; Coalition Input

Aired March 25, 2011 - 19:00   ET


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

The Libyan crisis is front and center tonight with news now that President Obama will address the nation on Libya Monday night at 7:30 Eastern. You'll see it here on CNN during the JOHN KING, USA show.

It has been today a day of huge and sometimes violent protests across the Middle East. First in Libya with the Gadhafi regime's air defenses now in tatters, coalition planes carried out at least 96 air strikes today, mostly hitting targets of opportunity.

This afternoon, President Obama reached out to members of Congress, briefing them on a conference call about the U.S. mission and NATO's agreement to take charge of the no-fly zone. Over at the Pentagon, a top admiral had a story that may indicate Colonel Gadhafi is getting desperate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We received reports today that he has taken to arming what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition. I'm not sure whether they truly are volunteers or not and I don't know how many of these recruits are going -- he's going to get but I find it interesting that he may now feel it necessary to seek civilian reinforcements.


YELLIN: Turning now to the Libyan capital, we're joined by CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson who is in Tripoli. Hi, Nic. So Libyan officials, we understand, took you out to eastern Tripoli today and they showed you the effects of the coalition bombing campaign. What did you see when you were on the outskirts of the city?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they wanted to show us civilian casualties which they weren't able to show us. They took to us a farm that appeared -- that part of the farmland area had been struck by a missile. We couldn't tell where the missile had come from or even who had fired it.

But what we saw when we were driving there was very interesting. We went past two military bases. We could see black smoke rising from both of them. Inside one of them we could see flattened buildings, military -- buildings inside the military base. And outside of one of them we saw a radar installation that's used at the center of a surface to air missile system right on the coastline where coalition aircraft would fly in over.

That radar system had been taken out. But at the same time, we also were able to see some of the air defenses that Gadhafi's military still have. Anti-aircraft guns, camouflage dug in behind sand berms right next to the road, right on the sea front there, also, surface to air missiles, sort of small portable surface to air missile systems hidden under trees taken outside of military bases.

So it seems to us that strikes effectively targeting military bases. But Gadhafi is reacting by moving his forces outside of the bases and still has real military hardware capacity to target aircraft. We don't know how many of these systems he has but we saw at least two systems today -- Jessica.

YELLIN: That's fascinating. Gadhafi seems to be demonstrating some real resilience and there have been reports also that he's promoted members of his military. Can you give us a sense what that means and what are the political implications for his regime in Tripoli if this fighting now drags on in the east?

ROBERTSON: Well every move that he is going to make right now is to shore up support around himself. Shore up support and capability of the military front line. He knows the toughest challenge he's going to face right now is in Ajdabiya in the east of the country and one of the reasons it's a tough challenge because the rebels are trying to get in there.

Coalition aircraft are going to be striking his military units inside the city. So he'll be trying to hide those military units, but the hardest thing that he has is to re-supply them. And the reason for that is the re-supply routes are relatively unprotected. They are the main highway, principally the main highway that runs along the coast from west to east about 100 kilometers, six, 700 miles between here and Tripoli and many of the supply depots and where there was front line troops are.

So he's going to have to find other ways to get those weapons and ammunition through to the front line troops. We also know that he has been arming the tribes in the west of the country as well. And those are a sort of full back force. He's been trying to shore up leadership and support with the tribes. And if the Army fails, then he will call in the tribes against the rebels. That's what government officials are telling us here -- Jessica.

YELLIN: That is fascinating, using the tribes as a backstop. Nic thanks so much to you -- Nic Robertson reporting for us from Tripoli.

The Libyan crisis began when Moammar Gadhafi's security forces started shooting and brutalizing anti-government protesters in that country. Those demonstrators in Libya have been inspired by the successful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Well today similar pro- democracy demonstrations in Jordan and Syria ended in violence.

We're also hearing disturbing reports that in spite of Egypt's revolution, protesters there are getting arrested and tortured for trying to speak their minds. Joining us now from Cairo is CNN's Ivan Watson. Ivan, hi -- so recently a lot of attention has shifted to the military campaign in Libya, but the situation where you are in Egypt is still delicate. Will you describe for us what you've seen there?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, we've seen some reforms and advancement. We just had a historic constitutional referendum here, some former officials being prosecuted for using deadly force against protesters in the past. But I'm also seeing a pattern of heavy handed abuse and torture by the security forces against demonstrators, against Egyptian citizens.

Today I just talked to two men who participated in a small protest outside the state television headquarters. They were detained by Egyptian soldiers taken inside the building, beaten and subjected to electric shocks to their groins. And they showed me cuts on their arms from handcuffs, cuts on their heads and face. I talked to another young woman.

A 20-year-old hairdresser who was detained on March 9th at a protest and subjected at a military detainment center, she says, to a virginity test, in addition to also being tasered and slapped in the face and called a prostitute. Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the alleged virginity tests against a group of 17 detained women.

Egyptian military spokesmen are denying that any torture or beatings are taking place. But these are disturbing signs that the old patterns of the police state here have not yet changed here in Egypt more than a month after its revolution -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Remarkably disturbing. OK, so turning then to Tunisia. You were also in Tunisia, I understand, and that's we all know where the protests began. Are you seeing similar violence there or what is the scene there?

WATSON: Well I just returned from Tunisia. Tunisia was the first Arab country to have a successful revolution, to overthrow a dictator. And there unlike Egypt, we see a much more benign process underway. More than 30 political parties have been established since the dictator there was overthrown in January.

You have basically a democratic ferment, people gathering in the streets just to discuss politics, debate the future of the country. But one persistent problem continues there and that is the rampant unemployment, the economy that was suffering. And now the tourism industry that is very dependent on, really in the doldrums right now. Those are problems that helped trigger the uprisings and the protests and they have not gone away.

YELLIN: Better news out of Yemen but some incredibly disturbing reports from Cairo -- CNN's Ivan Watson reporting for us -- thanks, Ivan. And just now, the White House announced President Obama will address the nation about Libya on Monday night at 7:30 Eastern. You will see that live here on CNN. And as we said, the president briefed members of Congress today during a conference call this afternoon. A short time ago, I spoke by phone with Maryland Representative Dutch Ruppersberger who is a member of the Armed Services Committee and a ranking member of the Select Intelligence Committee. He was with the president at the White House during today's conference call.

YELLIN: I understand that Republican members who were allowed to ask questions did push him hard to spell out the end game, so since the president has said the U.S. is not there to remove Gadhafi, did he explain what success would look like if Gadhafi doesn't go?

REP. C.A. "DUTCH" RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND (via phone): I think what he said -- the first thing I think is important to note the American people need to know that the president said that we cannot put troops on the ground. The reason, there are too many other areas and hot spots in the world that we have to be involved in. We're in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You have issues in Yemen. You have issues with drug cartels in Mexico and that we cannot continue to be the sheriff of the entire world. I think what the president basically said is that we are part of the coalition that was going to deal with the -- with what was going in Libya and that we in the beginning were using our unique resources at the first stage to make sure that we were able to enforce the United Nations resolution.

Now that that has been done, we are now just a part of the resolution and that other countries will be taking the lead role as far as the enforcement, as far as airplanes, as far as being able to attack the Gadhafi military, if in fact they are going to do what they're going to do with respect to the people of Libya. Another issue is that it is too early to predict what's going to happen in phase two.

And in phase two, again, it's going to have to be the coalition and not just the United States. We will be supportive. We will help them and we will use our resources, but we will not use military resources. We want other countries to do that.

YELLIN: Was he pressing whether there is a timetable for the U.S. to withdraw or stop -- cease involvement?

RUPPERSBERGER: I think we have to talk more about the coalition being involved and not the United States. Yes, he hoped that by this Monday that we would no longer be using our military, really not our military --

YELLIN: And the coalition's involvement?


RUPPERSBERGER: Our Air Force to enforce what he needed to do. That was really made very clear. YELLIN: And the coalition's involvement? He didn't have an end date for that.

RUPPERSBERGER: The coalition, no, we can't.

YELLIN: All right, Congressman Ruppersberger, we appreciate your time. Thank you for that.


YELLIN: Ahead, a violent turn of events in Jordan today as government loyalists clash with protesters who want reform. Dozens are injured as two sides converge in a hail of rocks and swinging sticks. We'll have the latest from our reporters on the ground next.


YELLIN: It has been a day of bloody demonstrations in the Middle East. In Syria, dozens of people are reported dead in and around the city of Daraa. A United Nations official says the situation there has worsened considerably this week with authorities using live ammunition and tear gas to break up protests.

In Jordan, government loyalists clash there with protesters who are pushing for reform. Authorities say at least 120 people, 62 citizens and 58 members of Jordanian security forces were injured, and one man died of a heart attack. CNN producer Jomana Karadsheh joins us by phone from Amman. Jomana, tell us a little bit. You were at the protest today, so what was it like there on the ground?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN PRODUCER (via phone): Well, Jessica, this is a protest that started yesterday by a group of youths here calling themselves the March 24th movement. They set up tents at Amman Square (ph) and decided to take over that square. And just start an open ended sit-in until their demands are met.

Last night we started hearing reports of government loyalists throwing stones at them and sticks, so I decided to go down there today and see what was going on. And indeed that was the case. It was a lot of security presence, Jessica. They had set up police barricades that were basically stopping both sides, the pro and anti- government protesters from attacking each other.

But at one point, it turned very violent very quickly. And as you said, one person is dead. Some say it is because of a heart attack. This is according to the government. But anti-government protesters are blaming it on police and pro-government loyalists.

YELLIN: Jomana, do you have a sense of who the protesters are and what is the goal -- what are they looking to get?

KARADSHEH: Well, to give you an idea, the protests have been taking place regularly for the past two or three months, ever since we saw these popular uprisings across the region, especially in Tunisia and Egypt this has given momentum to these protests in Jordan that originally started because of the economic situation, hikes in prices, unemployment. And slowly we started hearing more calls for political reform, more democracy, curbing the power, the absolute power that Jordan's King, King Abdullah holds.

And we're hearing now, Jessica, what we're seeing are even bolder calls. We've heard calls for stopping the interference of Jordan's secret police, the intelligence. (INAUDIBLE) what protesters are saying interference in all aspects of life. Now these young men we saw today at this protest, Jessica, seems to be university students and graduates.

Many of them left this group and others from Islamist groups, but we also heard from Jordan's prime minister this evening, Jessica, who is accusing Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood -- that is part of the Muslim Brotherhood that we know from across the region in, for example, like the one in Egypt. He is accusing them of stirring trouble in the country and saying that the country will not tolerate that.

YELLIN: All right, amazing to see this happening in Jordan. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much joining us by phone from Amman.

With us now to talk more about the unrest spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen who has traveled extensively in the Middle East and is author of books about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden -- also Leslie Gelb, who served in the State and Defense Departments and is with the Council on Foreign Relations. Gentlemen thanks for being with us.

And Les, first to you -- the U.S. handed over control of the no- fly zone to NATO. What does that mean for the future of U.S. involvement and should we have demanded a more robust international involvement from the start?

LESLIE GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Absolutely we should have demanded a more robust other nation involvement from the start, much more from the Arabs and much more from our European allies who are neighbors there. For example, Italy has a substantial air force and air fields nearby. They could have done a lot more.

Egypt is right next door. The Egyptian Air Force alone was quite capable of imposing a no-fly zone. And what does it mean to turn it over to NATO? It means turning it over from us to us. We are NATO. The commander-in-chief of NATO is a U.S. admiral (INAUDIBLE) and we will maintain overall --

YELLIN: Although the efforts being led now by a Canadian.


GELB: What?

YELLIN: The effort now they say will be led by a Canadian.

GELB: Yes, run by Canadian, but it is our command and control operations. That's how NATO works.

YELLIN: Peter, given that all that international organization and cooperation probably would have slowed down the effort to intervene in Libya, do you agree with Les that it should have happened -- should have been more multilateral from the start?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know the enemy of the perfect isn't the reasonably OK and you know just three or four days ago the -- you know there was discussion about whether NATO was going to be involved at all. And much hand wringing about you know that it would annoy the Arabs, et cetera and now here they are. Bear in mind this is now what seven days into this thing.

It is not like this has gone on forever. The fact that NATO -- NATO obviously wasn't involved in Iraq in the Iraq war -- that was a nonstarter. So yes, of course, Les is correct as always. You know the United States -- the United States is -- at the end of the day, NATO is very much you know we're the first among many other partners.

But there are 28 partners in NATO and the French have already shot down a Libyan jet. I think it was the first time in quite a while that the French have been involved in actual shooting in any war other than colonial wars of their own making. So you know I think this is a good development and we now have the news that Qatar is actually launching planes. And UAE has promised a dozen and you know the momentum seems to be gaining for the international group.

YELLIN: OK. Peter, let's talk big picture for a moment. What is Obama's approach to Libya in your view? Tell us about how he might handle uprisings in other countries, Jordan, for example, or Syria or Bahrain or does it tell us anything?

BERGEN: Well I mean do the thought experiment where we did nothing in Libya, we would have essentially green lighted massive oppression in Syria right now. Don't forget that Assad killed 20,000 of his own citizens in 1982 in the town of Hamid (ph). And you know the younger Assad is perfectly capable of that as well.

But he's going to think much more carefully about it. It is not just of course our own actions, it's also the fact that you have al Jazeera. You have Facebook. You have Twitter, and you have CNN and all these other organizations makes it much harder to do a massacre with the world not being aware of it.

GELB: But how far -- but how far do we go in this Bergen doctrine? Do we now intervene in Syria if he starts to massacre the protesters there? You know, at a certain point, if the people who live there, the Arab leaders, the Arab people feel strongly enough about this, it seems to me the primary responsibility is theirs.

Now we can support various efforts. And I would like to see us support development of democratic institutions. But to get involved in shooting wars, every time there is going to be a humanitarian situation, seems beyond what American interests are.

YELLIN: Do you think -- you joked about a Bergen doctrine. Do you think there is an Obama doctrine? I mean he's not intervening in Bahrain, not in Yemen, but yes in Syria and different positions in different countries, so does he have a doctrine? GELB: Well I hope he doesn't have a doctrine because everyone who's had a doctrine has met the end of thought about foreign policy. You just cram everything into one mold. You handle every situation the same way, even though all these situations are tremendously different. So a doctrine stops thought rather than provides coherence.

YELLIN: OK, Peter, you've spoken confidently about your belief that al Qaeda is going to be hurt by these popular uprisings across the Middle East. What is the evidence of that? What have you seen when you've been over there?

BERGEN: Well have you seen a single picture of Osama bin Laden carried in any one of these protests? I mean there have been literally millions of protestors and no one -- none of them are carrying pictures of bin Laden. None of them are spouting his anti- American rhetoric. I haven't seen a single flag burning of an American flag in any of the protests --

GELB: But Peter that -- Peter that could just mean that they've gotten smarter about it. Because they know this will stir up all the beasts if they come out and make this an anti-American thing or an anti-Israeli thing. So they're keeping quiet. They're letting Democrats open the door, spill the blood. But they are organized, and I think ready to come in and assume control.

YELLIN: They, meaning al Qaeda?


GELB: Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and the like. I wish Peter is right. And frankly I hate to argue with him because he knows a lot more than I do. But I can't be as sanguine about the prospects. I think as soon as you have turmoil, the best organized groups are generally the ones that gain power and that doesn't include the people we like the Democrats.

YELLIN: Well, Peter do we even know who are the people we like in each of these countries? Do we even who know would take power, for example, in Libya should Gadhafi go or in Yemen or Syria if those regimes should be overthrown?

BERGEN: Well obviously and Libya is the place where I'm fortunately flying the most blind which is you know -- you know this argues Les's case that we shouldn't be doing very much there because we don't really know what the outcome is. But it's hard to imagine an outcome sort of worse than Gadhafi. And we do know something about the Libyan opposition. After all they're people that the Libyan Embassy has had contact with when we had an embassy there. But you know that's the place we're flying the most blind. Obviously in Egypt, we have a great -- a very strong sense of who is who.

GELB: You know you're an expert in al Qaeda. You're an expert in terrorism. But we haven't been familiar with these societies because our dealings have been almost exclusively with people at the top. And the fact of the matter is the people who are rising up now have never really been a part of the political scene before. So we are flying blind. And we have to be careful. And we have to understand that in very fluid, revolutionary situations, the bad guys often are at a great advantage over the good guys.

YELLIN: OK, gentlemen --

GELB: That's all I'm saying.

YELLIN: -- we're going to leave it there, but I do look forward to hearing more about the Bergen doctrine in weeks to come. Thanks for joining us.

BERGEN: Thank you.

YELLIN: And a quick reminder, President Obama will address the nation about Libya Monday night at 7:30 Eastern. You'll be able to see that right here on CNN.

And up next, lawmakers from both parties share their concerns about what the U.S. has gotten itself into.


YELLIN: Among the members of Congress who have questions about the president's decision to take action in Libya New York Republican Peter King, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey who has joined with other Democrats in calling on President Obama to immediately end the bombing in Libya.

Congressman King, let me start with you. The U.S. has now handed over primary control of the no-fly zone to NATO and our coalition allies. Do you feel that it is clear what the U.S.'s responsibility is now and what the end game is?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: No, it's not. But let me say at the outset, I support the president tried to send in U.S. air power. I believe it is the right thing to do. My criticism of the president is or my question to the president is, I'm not sure exactly what the end game is. I don't know what our ultimate purpose is. Is it to remove Gadhafi?

Is it to help the rebels? Is it just to control the air space? And now with NATO what does that mean to have NATO in charge exactly because my experience -- I remember going back to Kosovo -- really none of the NATO countries is able to control the air the way the U.S. does. And are we really stepping back or is this just a cover? So I just would want the president to be more specific as to what NATO's role is, what our role is, what he sees as the goal -- are -- is NATO going to be attacking --

YELLIN: Right, a lot of questions.

KING: -- at Gadhafi's ground forces?

YELLIN: Yes, you'd like some questions clarified. KING: Yes.

YELLIN: Representative Woolsey, to you, in a statement you agreed with some of your Democratic colleagues that there are too many questions outstanding on Libya. Do you think that the U.S., for example, still owns the situation there? And for how long, you said. My question is, Secretary Clinton said that the U.S. saved, averted a humanitarian catastrophe. So do you now think it was the right thing to do, to go in?

REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, actually that's probably what happened in the near term. But what we're concerned about is the long term. It was very unclear from the beginning when the president didn't come to the Congress and there are so many questions remaining now. For example, where do we go from here? What does it mean to monitor ground troops? I mean, why when we secured the no-fly zone is the United States still up front and center to this, what could be a long, ongoing war?

YELLIN: May I ask you for a moment, if I can interrupt you for a moment -- you were arrested someday years ago because you protested the lack of action to protect people being targeted in the Sudan. So, why is this different? Why did you want action there but in this instance you're more hesitant?

WOOLSEY: Because it's unclear why didn't we help Sudan? And I wasn't talking about sending in a war machine to help Sudan. I was talking about humanitarian efforts, the United States' power -- is the number one super power, stepping in and making sure.

YELLIN: OK. Representative King, you've said that because --

WOOLSEY: There is a difference.

YELLIN: -- because of military operations in Libya, you said that, quote, the risk of attack is greater now than it was two weeks ago. So, what is this specific terrorist threat that you're concerned about? And why are you supporting an effort that could increase the likelihood of terrorism?

KING: We can't back down just because the enemy may threaten to attack us back. What I was saying is that Gadhafi is known to have had an international terror machine. Quite frankly, I don't think he's capable of attacking the mainland of the United States but he may well. And I know that our homeland security forces have upped their efforts here. That they are monitoring carefully.

It's more likely that if he does attack, it could be in Europe. But again, we have no evidence of it. But the presumption is that we certainly have to be ready in case if he does.

And again, it's important that Gadhafi be removed. I'm just not certain or understand why the president went into this without all of this being decided in advance. How far we're going to go?

For instance, if the air power continues to work but Gadhafi still remains in control, what are we going to do? Are we going to send in ground forces? Are we going to more actively arm the rebels? You know, what is our purpose here?

Once we're in, we're in. And that's my concern.

YELLIN: Would you support military intervention, Congresswoman? If he clarified these issues and gave you an end game, could you support any military effort?

WOOLSEY: Well, I'd have to hear what that was. I'd have to know that we're -- the ground effort is being supported with humanitarian effort. That we aren't just going to make things worse, that we're not going to be in a third war.

YELLIN: One thing the president does not have control over is the purse strings. Representative King, the president said we can currently pay for military operations out of already appropriated funds. But if this drags on, and he's forced to go to Congress to ask for more money, would you support him?

KING: Yes, I would. I want this mission to succeed. I want to support the president.

I mean, Lynn and I have a basic fundamental, philosophical disagreement. I respect her opinion. I disagree with it.

I want us to take out Gadhafi. I want this effort to be a success. I just don't think it's been thought through. So, I would not be voting to cut off funding. I want the president to lay out exactly what our plan is. And I don't think we can go in halfway and somehow say we're in there but we're not really doing it. Somehow it's NATO.

The fact is, if we're in, the U.S. is the major power. No matter how we try to cut it. We can't just be saying we're hiding behind a U.N. resolution or someone else. NATO is doing. NATO, we are the dominant power in NATO.

YELLIN: Congresswoman, if you could briefly -- now that we are in, would you support more funding if the president asked you for it?

WOOLSEY: It is costing us $6.5 billion a week in Afghanistan. The very thought that we would start investing in a war in another country makes my stomach ache. No, I wouldn't vote for it.

YELLIN: Finally, Congressman King, you've caused some controversy recently with your decision to look into Muslim radicalization here at home. Could you maybe make a little news for us now and tell us what's next? You said that was the first in a series of hearings. And have the Arab uprisings changed your approach or your thinking about these hearings?

KING: No. I think they're entirely consistent. What I -- right now, the next hearing will probably be in early June and it will be on radicalization in the American prison system.

YELLIN: All right. Congressman King and Congresswoman Woolsey -- thanks to both of you for joining us.

Well, a little bit of news there.

Up next: President Obama has announced a major speech on Libya scheduled just 72 hours. We'll have details.

Also ahead, CNN is on the ground in Benghazi with reaction from the rebels about the NATO announcement and the strategy in the coming days.


YELLIN: Welcome back.

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

A short time ago, the White House announced President Obama will speak to the nation about Libya Monday night at 7:30 Eastern. You'll be able to see it right here on CNN.

U.S., French and British military forces launch ad new operation against Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya where it's now Saturday morning. The United Arab Emirates announced it will send 12 aircraft to help patrol and enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. Other Muslim nations participating in the mission will include Qatar which will begin flying planes this weekend.

And we're also following reports of major military action today in the Libyan town of Ajdabiya.

CNN's Reza Sayah is tracking the situation from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Reza, hi. Ajdabiya is just a few hours south of where you are. Tell us what's in the battle between the opposition and Gadhafi's forces for control there?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of activity in this very important city. Both sides are fiercely fighting for it over the past several days. Rebel fighters have been trying to infiltrate the city, but they continue to be repelled by Libyan tank units.

Today, those rebel fighters got some help from the British air force. A British military is telling CNN British fighter jets targeting and destroying several Libyan tank units that had targeted the city itself, perhaps targeting civilians. This could help the efforts of rebel fighters who are trying to get in.

We've heard some disturbing accounts over the past 48 hours of tactics allegedly being used by Gadhafi forces to terrorize and target civilians indiscriminately. One witness is telling CNN that leaving the city, he saw bodies on the streets. Bodies no one dared to recover. Another witness said Gadhafi forces were going house to house, taking rebel fighters with them.

It's these types of accounts, Jessica, that has the opposition calling for international intervention to step up its help.

YELLIN: Well, has the opposition reacted in any way to the news that the U.S. is handing over control of the no-fly zone to NATO?

SAYAH: They're certainly well aware of it. But I think like most of the world, they're not quite sure what this means for the operation. They're not clear where it's going, if it's going to stay as aggressive or if it's going to deescalate in its intensity.

But one thing is for certain: when you talk about the opposition supporters, they want, not only this operation to stay intact. They wanted to expand over and over again.

We talk to opposition supporters, rebel fighters -- they keep saying give us weapons, give us more powerful weapons. They still say they're outgunned by the Gadhafi military. They say the only way they can turn the table is with better weapons.

And many opposition supporters are also saying, give us troops on the ground. Don't occupy this country. Don't invade it, but temporarily give us some soldiers so we can turn the table. Obviously, this is something that NATO officials have not talked about, but I think it's important to mention that it's something that over and over again, the opposition supporters are calling for.

YELLIN: All right. Well, it's clearly something that the White House has made clear they don't intend to do. So, thanks so much, Reza Sayah, reporting for us from Benghazi.


YELLIN: Ahead, Japanese officials are now saying that it's possible that in their country, there is a leak in the core of the nuclear reactor in Fukushima -- a potentially ominous development in the race t o prevent the large scale release of radiation. We'll have the latest on that live from Japan, next.


YELLIN: Another troubling development in Japan. One of the containment vessels inside the reactors at the Fukushima power plant may be leaking.

CNN's Martin Savidge joins us from Tokyo the latest.

Marty, we understand there is more water found yesterday at the Fukushima power plant that had dangerously high levels of radiation. Have you learned anything from them about where they think this water is coming from?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there are a number of different sources where the water could be coming from. The level of radiation, and we're talking about these three workers initially that were exposed on Thursday as they were trying to lay a new cable in reactor number three. They stepped in water that was reportedly 10,000 times the radiation level it should be in that part of the plant.

OK. Well, that would suggest there's a leak and a pretty serious one possibly coming from the reactor itself. That reactor number three is probably the most dangerous of all six out there because of the fact that it has a mixed fuel of uranium and plutonium.

Then, overnight, a new development -- now, TEPCO, that's the company that operates that facility out there, says that water levels or radiation levels of water inside reactor number one there were also about 10,000 times higher than they should be.

So, how does that happen? In other words, is the water somehow matriculating from reactor three to one? Or is there a separate leak now in reactor one? No one seems to know.

But do keep in mind that, of course, they've been pouring a lot of water, seawater, tons and tons and tons for about two weeks onto that whole facility. And maybe it is drifting from one to the other.

But to get back to your question, they really don't know where it's coming from. And it's to dangerous to go in to try to really get eyes on.

YELLIN: Marty, it's just one of these -- it's a terrifying situation and there doesn't seem to be a clear end in sight. What is your sense? How are the Japanese people coping with this?

SAVIDGE: Well, they seem to be doing pretty well given that you are dealing with three massive disasters. That would have hampered any country.

For the most part, they tend to be stoic. They don't talk a lot. But they are fearful, no doubt about it. They are very concerned about the radiation levels that they hear.

And they do not trust their government as far as giving them information. Part of it is it just trickles out. So, they tend to think that their government is not telling them honestly how bad the circumstance really is and they are frightened.

YELLIN: All right. It seems like they have reason to be.

All right. Marty Savidge, reporting to us from Tokyo, thank you.

And more troubling news and some mixed messages from the Japanese government on the safety of Tokyo's drinking water. Yesterday, officials announced that high radiation levels in the tap water in Tokyo had dropped and it was safe for babies to drink the water. But just the day before that, the government had said the opposite.

Earlier, I spoke with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who had just returned from Japan and I asked him if it were his family in Tokyo, would he let them drink the water?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is an interesting question. I think, I don't have infants anymore. I've had three but they're all older than that now.

I think for infants, I think it's still a little bit of an open question. You know, when I was in Japan even, where some of the areas closer to the plant, we saw the levels that we're talking about here. The unit that measures radiation go up and down. They sort of, you know, would spike one day, and then come back down. We've seen this pattern before.

Now, we're seeing the same thing again. They went up. They get high enough to get this warning issued. Come back down.

I think I worry that it's going to be this back-and-forth now between a spike and then a reaction to it and come down and another reaction. We know the particular radioactive particle we're talking about here has a half life of eight days. I think for infants in particular, given that the water has been high and may have been higher at times they weren't measuring it, I think until the radiation leakage stops, and the half life -- you know, you wait a weak or so for that radiation to clear, I think for infants, it's probably best to not be drinking this water. I think, for older children, for adults, the radiation levels are well below what will be considered a risky, safety standard.

YELLIN: OK. But for infants, better safe than sorry over there.

Bringing you back to the U.S. is, the Food and Drug Administration here has banned imports of milk products, vegetables, and even fruit from certain areas of Japan, not allowed to come into the U.S. So, how can Americans actually know if the other food that we're consuming is from Japan, and how dangerous would it be if we accidentally eat some?

GUPTA: I think the FDA is very serious about this, having talked to, you know, representatives over there. They want to enforce this ban.

The big question, I think, is that how long is that ban going to be in effect? The same sort of questions you're raising about the tap water -- hopefully, we don't get sort of this back-and-forth on the ban. I think they're going to have to pick a period of time and sort of stick with that because there is a lot of anxiety around this.

Having said that, the answer to your second question, I think, is really important. This spinach, for example, that people made a big deal about, if someone were to consume that spinach as things stand now, if they topper consume spinach every day for a year, this spinach that has the particles on, they would get about the same amount of radiation that you would get from a CT scan.

It's not negligible by any means, Jessica. But, you know, the real question people are asking -- is this going to cause an impact on my health? Is it going to be harmful in some way? And the answer is likely no, even if you ate it every single day. So, the amount is still small but worth paying attention to.

YELLIN: I just came back from California where there were reports that there was some increased radiation levels, as there were in other western states. And the people I speak to there don't know what to believe. So, what does it mean when they say there's nominally increased radiation levels, and residents have been told they don't need to take precautions -- but why not?

GUPTA: I want to pay absolute respect to people who have anxiety about this because, you know, this isn't something that we're used to dealing with or used to talking about. I think the numbers matter here, the context, as you're saying, matters here.

Take a look at the map. I mean, we know the various areas of the west coast that have had higher than normal radiation levels even as far east as Colorado, for example. You see there. But the point is this -- that radiation does exist around us. I mean, we're exposed to a certain amount of background radiation from all sorts of things. In your job in the television studio, Jessica, you're exposed to a certain amount of radiation.

The increase in radiation that this is causing here is about 0.0001 that we get in a typical day. That's according to the EPA.

YELLIN: All right. That's good to know. I know plenty of people in the West Coast get worried about. Those are reassuring words, Sanjay. Thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you. Thank you.

YELLIN: Thank you for your time.


YELLIN: Straight ahead, who are your neighbors, and are they welcome in your community? Soledad O'Brien's eye-opening report -- we'll talk about it next.


KING: President Obama's determination to bring Arab nations into the coalition to help Libyan civilians only highlights a problem that we have right here at home. Many law-abiding Muslims say their American neighbors make them feel unwanted.

CNN's special correspondent, Soledad O'Brien, traveled to a Bible belt town that erupted when resident found out about plans to build a mosque there. You can se her documentary "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door," this Sunday night, at 8:00 Eastern on CNN.

But, first, Soledad joins us now from New Orleans with more.

Hi, Soledad. First, just bottom line it -- the people you talked to, the Muslims who you talked to, do they feel essentially persecuted in the U.S.? SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know -- they don't. The people who I spoke to in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, told me that they actually love their community, and they love most of their neighbors. What happened in their particular town and where we get the title for this documentary, "Unwelcome," is someone really started when they decided to expand their mosque -- they decided to first attack and vandalize their sign, eventually tear it down and write "not welcome."

And there became a groundswell to try to keep the mosque from expanding. It was when they tried to expand that this really erupted and kind of ripped apart this relatively small city.

We wanted to explore the roots of that conflict and the anger. And what we really found underneath it all was fear and a tremendous lack of understanding.

YELLIN: Right. You know, after 9/11, a lot of the attention focused on Muslims in America, focused on al Qaeda. And now, because of these uprisings, a broad swath of Americans are getting exposed to Muslims who are engaged in democratic protests. So, I wonder if what's happening in the Middle East has in your view changed Americans' opinion of Muslims here at home.

O'BRIEN: It probably will. What we have seen in polls that we've done on CNN is a slow movement toward more acceptance of Muslims right after 9/11, the first anniversary of 9/11. Acceptance of Muslims was around 39 percent, relatively low. The number has inched up now in 2011, that number is around 46 percent. So, not a massive leap, but a slow inching up of acceptance overall in polling.

And so, I think you're right. As you see a different storyline, if you will, emerging -- not a storyline of al Qaeda and terrorists -- but a storyline of democratic protests, you will see people's opinion, I think, start to change.

YELLIN: OK. You know, it's CNN, so we can't have a conversation without mentioning a poll. Our new CNN research poll about Islam in America said that it -- showed that there's a lot of difference around the country.

Folks asked, would you be OK with a mosque in your community? Sixty-nine percent of American said yes. But when we asked the same to rural Southerners, 42 percent, yes, 50 percent said no.

Did you find that there's a regional difference in your conversations?

O'BRIEN: Yes. It wasn't a surprise for me at all. I think that's exactly what you saw in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has 104,000 people, has 140 churches and one mosque. And ultimately, that really is at that root of their problems. Even though the Muslims in that community have been there up to 30 years, really people did not necessarily know the Muslims in the community, didn't necessarily interact with them. And it was a lack of exposure more than anything that I think led people to have questions about "Sharia law, the Constitution, and First Amendment rights -- things that they would often shout and scream during these protests or marches, but not necessarily work toward understanding. The more people are living and working and knowledgeable of Muslims in their community, the more they feel like that, you know, they belong.

YELLIN: All right. Soledad, I look forward to watching your documentary. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

YELLIN: And that's all from us tonight. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King will be back Monday with live coverage of the president's address.

"IN THE ARENA" starts now.