Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. to Move Aircraft Carrier for Possible Strikes; McCain: Fire Obama's National Security Team; Sterling Goes After NBA Owners; Air Force One Due for a Facelift
Aired June 13, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, weighing his options. President Obama huddles with his national security team, following a decision on Iraq which could include U.S. military action is just days away.
Digging up dirt. Donald Sterling hires a team of private investigators in his battle against the NBA. We're going to tell you who he's going after now.
And the new Air Force One, one of the most famous airplanes on earth, soon to be traded in for an extraordinary new model. We're taking you behind the scenes.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with the escalating crisis in Iraq. President Obama is now weighing a range of options, including U.S. military action in response to what he calls a terrorist offensive, not only threatening Iraq's government but potentially, he says even the United States.
In a statement from the White House South Lawn, the president stressed though no U.S. troops will be sent back into combat, the Pentagon plans to move a U.S. aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf to be ready for possible airstrikes. There are other options on the table.
CNN is covering this story from every angle with a global team of correspondents and analysts. First, let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's working her sources.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here at the Pentagon, there certainly is anxiety. Could this be Iraq one more time with less than perfect intelligence?
STARR (voice-over): Even as the militants continue advancing towards Baghdad, President Obama is still looking at all military options except for sending ground troops.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces.
STARR: But the Pentagon repeatedly not willing to endorse Iraqi security forces.
I'd like to ask again, does the United States military think the Iraqi military can hold this? Does Secretary Hagel think that the Iraqi forces can hold Baghdad?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I didn't give up any opportunity not to answer. I take every opportunity I can not to answer your questions.
STARR: The joking not hiding military reality after spending $730 billion on the war with nearly 4,500 U.S. troops killed and 32,000 wounded.
KIRBY: I'm going to say, yes, we were surprised and disappointed by the poor performance of some Iraqi security force units. They're up in the north.
STARR: Air strikes pose significant problems. There are no U.S. ground troops with up-to-the-minute intelligence to guide air strikes. The militants don't have military bases, commanding control centers, or missile batteries to attack and, therefore, degrade their capability.
Fighters are dispersed in trucks, moving in cities. Civilian casualties could occur.
One bright spot: this week the Pentagon began drone reconnaissance flights over northern and western Iraq to give the Maliki government intelligence on where militants are located.
But there are still so many holes. The Pentagon says it doesn't know if Iranian fighters have entered Iraq.
If the Pentagon can't even confirm that there are Iranian fighters on the ground, what is the quality of the intelligence? How can you give the president realistic options if there's so many holes in the intelligence?
KIRBY: Intelligence is never perfect. It's not a perfect science. It never has been. It never will be. It's an important capability.
STARR: And certainly, the intelligence about Iraq, as all Americans know, has never been perfect. Far from it over the years.
Right now, what the Pentagon wants, what the White House appears to want is the government of Nouri al-Maliki to stand up, fight for itself, get its forces back in the fight, but right now that is going to be very problematic -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly will be very problematic, Barbara. Thank you very much. Don't go too far away. Let's go to our White House correspondent,
Michelle, ultimately, of course, the president has to decide what he is going to authorize. He has already said U.S. troops will not re- engage on the ground.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president has been accused of napping while the situation in Iraq degraded. Today he obviously wanted to show that he is focused on this difficult problem. Both he and his administration emphasizing that any U.S. military action would require -- require political action on the part of the Iraqi government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can't do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won't succeed.
So this should be a wake-up call. Iraq's leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: So what does this administration want to see from the Iraqis? Political engagement and an agenda, that is inclusive. That's something that they've been looking for, for a long time but has not been happening.
OK. So what happens now? Today the president emphasized that making a decision is going to take several days. Not something that's going to happen overnight.
And plus, they need to gather as much intelligence as possible. Barbara Starr laid out some of those difficulties in conducting something like air strikes over Iraq. We do know, and it's important to emphasize that the urgency of the situation is not even yet such that the president would change his weekend plans to stay in California, but he's going to stay in contact with his national security team. There was a high-level meeting last night, another one this morning.
We also know that he and his administration are going to be reaching out to world leaders to see what kind of international support there would be for possible military action. And that started today with a call to Canada's prime minister.
The president could also be reaching out to congressional leadership before a decision is made, and at this point doesn't look like that's going to happen before the start of next week, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. He said a few times in the next few days. At one point he said several days. We'll see how long it takes for some final decisions to be made. Michelle, thanks very much. Joining us now to break all of this down, he was the top U.S. diplomat
on the ground as U.S. troops were leaving Iraq. The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey. Also, our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is with us as well as our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Jim, you've been talking, first of all, to your sources. You're getting some new information. What are you picking up?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I talked to a U.S. counterterrorism official who tells me that the U.S. intelligence committee warned in the spring of this year that ISIS was targeting Baghdad and Mosul and ISIS, that ISIS had also conducted probing attacks around Mosul, indicating their intentions of attacking there.
I'm told that the intelligence community in fact issued multiple assessments, particularly over the last year, detailing ISIS's growing strength, but also its territorial ambitions to take territory inside Iraq. And this is important, because there's been a lot of talk about whether this was a complete surprise. And clearly, there were intelligence warnings out there about this for a number of months and about specific targets, Baghdad and Mosul, which speaks to the strength -- to the strength of these groups.
The one thing I am told by the intelligence community that has been surprising was how quickly the Iraqi military melted away. That was the one thing that no one predicted.
BLITZER: And you say this is the U.S. intelligence community. Not be a U.S. intelligence committee or whatever?
SCIUTTO: No, this is U.S. intelligence.
BLITZER: This is the U.S. intelligence community...
BLITZER: ... suggesting they knew weeks and weeks ago that ISIS was planning on moving in, not only to Mosul or whatever but to Baghdad itself?
SCIUTTO: That they issued multiple assessments over the course of the last year about the territorial missions inside Iraq and that recently, just in the last couple months, in the spring, they made a specific assessment that talked about specific targets being Baghdad and Mosul. As we know, Mosul fell just in the last week, and we know that those ISIS forces are moving closer to -- closer to the capital.
BLITZER: Ambassador Jeffrey, you were the U.S. ambassador, the top U.S. -- top U.S. diplomat on the scene. What do you make of this? They were warned weeks ago this was happening, but it seems like it's been such a surprise to so many top officials.
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: It was certainly a surprise that a very large force of Iraqi troops would essentially drop their weapons and flee from northern Iraq. This is something that we hadn't seen during six months of fighting between the ISIS people and the Iraqi army, for example, in Fallujah and Ramadi, closer to Baghdad. This is really inexplicable.
BLITZER: Why is that? Why, when you have tens of thousands of highly trained -- U.S.-trained, we should say -- U.S. armed Iraqi soldiers. They take off their uniforms. They take off their -- they put their guns down, and they start running away in the face of what may be a few thousand ISIS terrorists who are moving in.
JEFFREY: Bad leadership at the level of generals, and I blame that on the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Maliki and people around him have politicized the military. Prime Minister Maliki himself has basically seen these troops as occupiers, as do the largely Sunni population of Mosul. I saw this myself when I saw them up there. So therefore, this is -- these were troops who were not motivated to fight for territory they didn't feel was theirs.
BLITZER: Jim, show us where these ISIS forces are now in control. Because these are very significant areas. They've already got a big chunk of Syria.
SCIUTTO: No question. I mean, you see them. They've moved down here. You know, Mosul was the first to fall. Came further down south, Baiji. This has a major oil refinery down there, so it's strategically important. They targeted Tikrit. We understand that this is now under contention because Iraqi government forces say they pushed them back and have been able to reclaim some parts.
BLITZER: The Kurdish forces have taken over a lot of those areas.
SCIUTTO: And what the Kurdish forces did actually, they swooped in and took Kirkuk, which is a city that the Kurds have had their eyes on for some time. Kirkuk is just to the south of Mosul about over here. Also Fallujah. You remember this, going back weeks ago. There's been an ongoing battle over Fallujah. There were times when ISIS forces controlled most of it. There's been a push and pull there, as well.
What I'm told by counterterrorism officials is that ISIS needed to have help to make this very quick progress south in these last several days: help from Sunni tribes, help from Sunni nationalist groups and that that has helped them.
And I'm also told by a counterterrorism official that as long as they have that help, they're going to be able to maintain this territory here in Mosul, in Baiji, around Tikrit, possibly around Fallujah, absent a major counterterrorism offensive.
BLITZER: The president was pretty specific, and I'd like you to show our viewers what he's talking about, Ambassador. Because he said that he is worried that these ISIS Sunni Islamist terrorists could go after some Shia shrine, explode them or whatever. Listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think there are dangers of fierce sectarian fighting if, for example, these terrorist organizations try to overrun sacred Shia sites which could trigger Shia-Sunni conflicts that could be very hard to stamp out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I think he's talking about Karbala and Najaf. Do you want to show our viewers where those areas are? If they were to go in there, blow up some of these Shia mosques, these Shia shrines, what would happen?
JEFFREY: Wolf, the president has two problems. He needs a long-term solution to that red area, as he said he cannot have a permanent presence of al Qaeda in that area. That requires political engagement as much as military. He stressed that. He's absolutely right.
But right now he's got an immediate problem involving days. These forces are moving -- these ISI forces are moving to surround Baghdad, hit these holy sites of Shia Islam: Karbala, Najaf, Samala. If they do that, they will besiege the forces. They will cut off supplies, electricity, everything. And the Iranians could well come in in a big way. That's the dramatic situation that is facing the president right now.
BLITZER: There are reports Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops already have already come into Iraq.
JEFFREY: These are probably small numbers. We've seen this before. I'm not as troubled by that as if, when they come in in large numbers, they'll come in to relieve a siege of Baghdad or Karbala.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
SCIUTTO: It's interesting on that point, because on the one hand, you don't want Iran to get involved, because that adds to the sectarian conflict. Of course, the Iranians coming on the side of the Shiites in the south as separated from the Sunnis in the north who are now supporting -- many Sunnis supporting ISIS.
But on the other hand, this is an area where U.S. and Iranian interests actually they actually overlap here. Neither the U.S. or Iran wants Iraq to collapse. You know, the Iranians, of course, want to empower the Shiites. We want to have a multi-party system there.
But neither the U.S. or Iran wants a civil war in Iraq.
BLITZER: Let me get Barbara's quick reaction.
Barbara, do you get the sense over there that the U.S. military was surprised by the collapse of the Iraqi military in the north, at least around Mosul? And what's going on, this threat to the capital of Iraq right now, Baghdad?
STARR: Yes. I think that the Pentagon, like the rest of the intelligence community, surprised about the speed. Not surprised that it happened. The warnings were out there.
This is not a classic intelligence failure. They knew that these fighters were out there. How fast they moved this week alone, a big surprise. The intelligence problem now is what do you do about it and how do you target a bunch of fighters, thousands of people out there perhaps in very dispersed locations.
BLITZER: All right. Barbara is at the Pentagon, Ambassador James Jeffrey. Thanks very much for joining us. Jim Sciutto will be back later.
When we come back, one of President Obama's toughest critics blaming him largely for this crisis. Senator John McCain. There you see him. He's standing by to join us live.
Plus, one of the most famous airplanes on earth soon to be traded in for an extraordinary new model. We've got some new information. We're taking you behind the scenes of the new Air Force One.
BLITZER: President Obama certainly under a lot of pressure right now to provide at least some military support to Iraq, particularly from critics blaming him for much of this crisis. Let's bring in one of the those critics, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. He's a key member of the Senate Armed Services committee.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you.
BLITZER: The president is largely blaming Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, for not doing the right thing, forging a comprehensive coalition, including Shia, Sunni, Kurds and as a result of the situation there has created a vacuum and is exploding right now. Do you have confidence that Nouri al-Maliki will do the right thing and reassess his position?
MCCAIN: Actually, I'm very concerned about Maliki getting in bed with Iranians that, because us not really doing anything and waiting days to figure out what we might do, that the Iranians come in.
And they're even -- I'm hearing rumors that some people say, well, that might be good in our interests. That would be a Faustian bargain, my friends. The Iranians are our enemies, and wherever we have anything to do with them, it would be a horrific mistake.
Wolf, I predicted that this would happen when they decided not to have a residual force. Anybody tells you they couldn't, isn't telling you the truth. I was in Baghdad at the time with Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, and we could have done it if they had wanted to. And that's why I've predicted that these events would take place.
BLITZER: Let me -- let me interrupt for a moment, because the secretary of state, John Kerry's spokeswoman, Marie Harf, she says you're dead wrong on this issue. I'll play to you what she said at the State Department today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE HARF, SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: And how would a few -- and how would a few thousand Americans saying, "Don't do that" have stopped this? I would press Senator McCain to say specifically how it would have prevented what we saw from happening and what he thinks we should do now, because I also heard Senator McCain say he's not supportive of military options at the time. OK. You're so concerned you think this is an existential threat to the United States? What would you do? You don't get to just attack us and call on all of us to resign. You get to come up with your own ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Senator, you heard what she said.
MCCAIN: First of all, I'm not in the business of responding to that kind of trivia but -- but, first of all, we left troops behind in Korea, in Germany, Japan, even in Bosnia. They're a stabilizing force. That's what the influence would have been.
Maliki got progressively worse after we left. We had no influence over him. And there are things that we could have provided, such as intel and many others. It's the same reason why we remained behind in all those countries after the wars.
BLITZER: So what should the U.S., what should the president do now?
MCCAIN: We should -- we should be doing -- we should be doing air strikes now. We should be -- look, the crisis of Maliki's leadership is a political problem. The eminent crisis is the military movement of ISIS that can even threaten Baghdad. And by the way, you can take out targets in the middle of the desert. It's not that difficult. They will tell that you it would.
BLITZER: But they say -- I've spoken to Pentagon officials. They say it's not that simple, because these ISIS terrorists who are moving in, they're so intertwined with civilians, with families in populated areas they can send air strikes in, but they don't know where to go.
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, we could have some people on the ground, a select few identifying them.
But second of all, they have to go over to open spaces in order to move from one place to another. But the Pentagon will always, under this leadership, will always find reasons why you can't do anything. That's what's been so horrifying.
And by the way, you've been showing the map. Syria is part of this problem, where the president refused to help the free Syrian army. The 5,000 Hezbollah came in. Bashar al-Assad is winning with 160,000 people dead. And you cannot separate Iraq from Syria and ISIS, because they are moving back and forth into both of those countries in various ways. And they are posing a direct threat to the security of the United States of America.
BLITZER: All right, Senator... MCCAIN: The president's announcement was, we'll wait a few days and
see what happens. They are an existential threat and they are winning. We have to help.
BLITZER: When you say "existential threat," what does that mean? The United States will be destroyed.
MCCAIN: It means that what General Clapper has said is what's happening in that area, the Iraq-Syria area, where ISIS and al Qaeda are located, that they will be planning attacks on the United States of America. Whether it's the existence of the United States of America or if it's just another 9/11, I don't know. But it was a director of national intelligence who said that, along with many other experts.
BLITZER: All right. So name names. Because you said that the president should fire his national security team. Who specifically should the president fire, from your perspective?
MCCAIN: The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, No. 1. The national security adviser, No. 2. They should probably spend time with their families on Sunday. The -- I would certainly have all of her deputies, national security advisers gone, as well.
Kerry and Hagel were not there when some of these most crucial decisions were taken, but I don't have a lot of confidence in their performance either.
BLITZER: So you would fire Hagel and Kerry?
MCCAIN: No, I probably wouldn't, because they weren't there when these crucial decisions were made. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has done nothing but find ways for us to not be engaged or involved or stay.
And by the way, since we're pulling out of Afghanistan, I will predict to you that you will see the same chaos ensue in Afghanistan for -- when we don't leave a residual force behind there.
BLITZER: All right. So let's be -- let's be specific now. You would launch air strikes against various ISIS targets in Iraq. What else would you do, assuming that Nouri al-Maliki stays the same, he really doesn't change much of his own attitude; he wants to be the Shiite, in effect, dictator of Iraq?
MCCAIN: I would -- I would dispatch General Petraeus on the next plane to Baghdad. He has influence with those people. He knows them all. Maybe Ryan Crocker along with him. Sit down with Maliki and say, "Maliki, prime minister, you're going to have to transition out of your job. We have got to have national reconciliation. Otherwise, your country is going to be torn apart." That is the next step.
And -- but the immediate crisis is the military one, and the most immediate along with it is the Iranians pouring into Iraq, no matter whose side they're on. Then you have Iran, Syria, Iraq all in a line, and the Iranians are realizing many of their ambitions. BLITZER: Let me ask you one political question, because Hillary
Clinton raises it in her book. She expresses regret on her vote back in the end of 2002 in favor of going to war against Saddam Hussein. She writes this. "I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had, and I wasn't alone in getting it wrong; but I still got it wrong, plain and simple."
You, like her, you voted for that authorization to go to war against Saddam Hussein. Did you get it wrong then, too?
MCCAIN: Obviously. But when the secretary of state of the United States of America goes before the United Nations Security Council and gives compelling evidence that there are weapons of mass destruction that are held by Saddam Hussein, it's hard for people to not take that into the most serious consideration.
Secretary, then-Senator Clinton also said when the surge was being considered and some of us said we had to have it, and I said the secretary of defense then had to be fired, Secretary Rumsfeld, she said she had to have a willing suspension of disbelief in order to think that the surge would work. She was wrong.
BLITZER: All right. And then one other thing. I understand you want to fire a lot of the political appointees, but the chairman of joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, who's got a distinguished military career, why would you fire him? And who would you replace him with?
MCCAIN: There's many, many people who you could replace him with. In 2006 I had a spirited argument with then-General Dempsey, who was training the Iraqis at the time. I said we were failing in Iraq, and it was an utter failure. And I came back and said that was the case. He didn't -- he believed we were succeeding then. And on the issue of Syria, the letter that he wrote with me and Senator Levin is what we needed to shift the momentum in Syria was incredible.
I'd be glad to share it with any of our viewers. If we weighed in two years ago, Iraq would now be -- Bashar al-Assad would be gone now, and we would not be facing the challenges we're facing today. Remember, this -- most of this really started in Syria.
BLITZER: But you can't -- the president of the United States made that decision not to go ahead and launch air strikes in Syria. That wasn't General Dempsey.
MCCAIN: The president of the United States was advised, I'm told, by many of the his advisers. All I know is I have seen General Dempsey testify -- look, I'm not really interested in parsing General Dempsey. I've watched him and observed him for years, and I do not believe that he is doing a job that should be done for the American people.
But the point is, that it's not going to happen. So we ought to bring in people like General Petraeus, the architect of the surge, Ambassador Crocker, Jim Lukein (ph), who is an architect of the surge, as well. Bring in some additional people. He's not going to fire them. Bring in additional people and listen to them. And they can tell you how we can prevail in this debacle that is a direct result of a failed foreign policy.
BLITZER: You think ISIS is going to take -- move on Baghdad and take over that country?
MCCAIN: I think it's a genuine threat right now. I am not exactly sure what they will do. But look at the stunning success that they've enjoyed in the last few days. And the president has said, well, he wants to wait a few more days. I don't think there's a time for waiting.
BLITZER: A lot of people go back, and Hillary Clinton says she made a mistake. You've acknowledged your vote was a mistake. There was a lot of optimism. All of us remember at the time the U.S. was going to get rid of Saddam Hussein, Iraq could become a democracy. Things would be great. It's gone on and on. And look at the disaster that it is right now. We went back to 2002, the end of 2002. I want you to play a little clip. This is what your optimism showed, at least then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The sooner he is removed from power, the threat to the United States of America is -- literally disappears. And then I think we can build a free, open democratic society in Iraq with a much better economy than the one that has been declining ever since 1991.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Let me respond very quickly.
MCCAIN: And then when I saw things going wrong in Iraq, beginning in 2005, and then into 2006. and I said we have to change the strategy. we're losing. we need to fire the secretary of defense. We brought in David Petraeus and General Keane, and the architects of it, and we won, Wolf. We won. We had it won. And there's no doubt about it.
And instead, the president decided to withdraw all of the troops rather than leave a residual force behind, and now in the words of General Keane, we won the war and lost the peace.
BLITZER: John McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona, the member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Thanks, as usual, for joining us.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: When we come back, we'll get reaction to what we just heard. Our panel of experts standing by.
BLITZER: Let's break down what we just heard from my interview with Senator John McCain. Joining us CNN's Fareed Zakaria, he's the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS," and "Washington Post" associated editor and columnist David Ignatius. He has a brand new book, an excellent new book entitled, "The Director" that's out there right now.
Fareed, give me your quick reaction to what we just heard from Senator McCain.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think Senator McCain was being naive in the extreme. What he wants us to do, what he wants the United States to do is to be the air force for Nouri al-Maliki and his government. Nouri al-Maliki is a Shiite thug, a dictator, who has essentially followed a pro-Iranian foreign policy, a pro-Syrian foreign policy, to place the United States in that position where we would be, where the United States would be doing his bidding, supporting his cause, we would -- the United States would alienate the Sunnis of Iraq and the Sunnis of the region.
They would fuel these sectarian fires and I think it would be highly unlikely that in that scenario, once the Washington did that and let's say some of the violence stopped and the government was consolidated, that Maliki would then say, oh, I'd now like to do power sharing of the kind that I haven't done for eight years.
Let's remember, the United States has never been able to get him to genuinely share power. The reason he started to do a little bit of it in 2007 and 2008 was not the United States' pressure. It was that his country descended into an all-out civil war and to stop that, Maliki temporarily agreed to do what Petraeus asked him to. The minute Petraeus left, well before U.S. troops pulled out, Maliki stopped doing it.
This is a hard-lined Shiite thug. The United States would be supporting him and becoming his air force. I think this is something we -- that Washington should think very carefully about before it does and the president is quite right, to put the pressure on Maliki to use the leverage he has now and say, your country will explode if you don't agree to do genuine power sharing.
BLITZER: What do you think, David, of what we heard from Senator McCain?
DAVID IGNATIUS, AUTHOR, "THE DIRECTOR": I agree with much of what Fareed said. I would note the Senator McCain said that he would send General Petraeus and perhaps Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Baghdad to tell Maliki that it's time for him to go. To begin a transition from power. I'd like to hear that from the White House. I think it's important that the United States recognize that Maliki is the architect of this sectarian disaster.
The Sunnis will not accept him. The idea of urging him to be more responsive, urging him to reach out, it's just not going to work.
BLITZER: Do U.S. airstrikes, as Senator McCain is recommending, make a difference?
IGNATIUS: I think the issue in the short run, and I'm sorry that the president has decided to wait some days. The issue in the short run is stopping ISIS, the al Qaeda offshoot, from taking Baghdad. If the United States doesn't provide assistance probably in the form of air power, I'm worried that Iran is going to intervene. I don't think Iran --
BLITZER: Why has the Iraqi military crumbled the way it has?
IGNATIUS: Because it's poorly led. Because Maliki has purged the Iraqi army of its best generals because he didn't trust them. He's put in his own pliant, political leaders. He has done to the Iraqi army what Stalin did to the Red Army before World War II. So you know, this has been coming. People understood that the army was weak.
But for President Obama to have said today that this was a shock, I mean, I've been hearing about this, as I'm sure Fareed has, for some months. This has been coming. The question is what to do about it now and they do have to be stopped before they get to Baghdad.
BLITZER: And we heard Jim Sciutto, Fareed, our chief national security correspondent, report earlier this hour, the U.S. intelligence community was warning weeks, maybe a few months ago that ISIS would plan on moving towards Baghdad. So it shouldn't have come as such a shock.
What did you make of Senator McCain's call on the president to fire virtually his whole National Security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey?
ZAKARIA: Well, I think Dempsey is a somewhat more cautious in terms of the spectrum of intervention and of course Senator McCain is fairly strongly pro-interventionist, and there what you were seeing was really a policy debate that was being personalized.
I think Dempsey is a fine man. It's just that he and McCain disagree on the virtues and efficacy of American intervention.
But I think that to underscore the point David was making, this is not really a military problem in the sense that the Iraqi army is what, 700,000, 800,000 men? ISIS, to the best we can tell, is 2,000 or 3,000 people. The problem is that because of the sectarian nature of the army, the Sunnis there seem to be fleeing and will refuse to fight. All those people who are laying down their arms, taking off their uniforms were probably Sunnis who didn't want to fight fellow Sunnis and actually felt a greater bond between them and the insurgents than they did with their often Shiite officers.
So, you know, we think of these things in the United States -- armies as nonpolitical, bureaucratic. But this is deeply political.
BLITZER: All right --
ZAKARIA: And what happened was, a purge of the army so the army is now no longer functioning. If you could fix some of that, the Iraqi state has massive capacity.
BLITZER: All right.
ZAKARIA: They don't need American airpower. They need to get their act together.
BLITZER: They certainly do. Fareed Zakaria, thanks very much. David Ignatius, thanks to you.
Fareed is going to have a lot more on this crisis in Iraq this Sunday on his program "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, also 1:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday right here on CNN.
At the top of the hour, a SITUATION ROOM special report on the crisis in Iraq. CNN has reporters inside the country. We'll go there live.
Up next, though, Donald Sterling takes off the gloves. The embattled co-owner of the L.A. Clippers hires an army of private investigators. His target, the NBA.
BLITZER: The embattled L.A. Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling is launching a no holds barred strategy in his battle with the NBA. CNN has now learned Sterling has hired an army of private investigators to find anything he can use against the other owners and the league itself.
Brian Todd has got the details.
Brian, tell us what prompted this, what's going on.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, our source, a person familiar with Donald Sterling's legal strategy says it was the NBA who took the gloves off when Shelly Sterling's move this week to get a judge to support her sale of the L.A. Clippers. Now regardless of who escalated this, what's clear is that this brawl is getting uglier.
TODD (voice-over): He's ready to unleash an even nastier fight. A person familiar with Donald Sterling's legal strategy tells CNN Sterling has hired multiple private investigators to dig up dirt on other NBA owners and the league itself. The source says the investigators will look into several cases of alleged race and gender discrimination brought against the NBA dating back many years.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Make no mistake about it, Donald Sterling has threatened mutually assured destruction. He's essentially said, if I'm going down, everybody else is going down with me.
TODD: Our source says Donald Sterling will give each private investigation firm $50,000 and a month to do its work. The source says Sterling's team already knows of cases where pregnant employees were allegedly discriminated against by the league. Sterling's lawyers have publicly called the NBA a bunch of hypocrites.
BOBBY SAMINI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD STERLING: Why are they beyond reproach? Why can't the NBA come clear and tell us about their indiscretions?
TODD: Donald Sterling was reluctant to investigate other owners, according to the source, but his side has already called other owners and players, including Lakers' star Kobe Bryant being caught on TV calling a referee an expletive and an anti-gay slur. The Orlando Magic owner supporting a ban on gay marriage and criticizing people with AIDS.
The source say they'll also highlight the Phoenix Suns settling a lawsuit that alleged the team wouldn't hire women to do trampoline dunks and fire T-shirts to the crowd during breaks. It all signals an increasingly bitter and personal fight between Sterling and the league but analysts say Sterling could be building a legal case to show inconsistencies in the way the NBA treats different owners or he could be just trying to make his fine go away.
ELLEN ZAVIAN, FORMER SPORTS AGENT: If he wants to shake them up, he would follow the investigation and basically say, OK, behind closed doors, I have this evidence. Are you now going to remove the $2.5 million or do we have to make this public?
TODD: Other information that could be made public? Our source says the private investigators are going to look into the NBA's finances and the compensation that was paid to top league executives. A source with knowledge of the NBA's position responds to all of this by saying this is a strategy of intimidation that obscures the real issue, Donald Sterling's conduct. The source says the strategy won't work and only further demonstrates that Donald Sterling is unfit to own a team -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks for the update. Brian Todd reporting.
When we come back, one of the most famous planes on earth soon to be traded in for an extraordinary new model. We're taking you behind the scenes of the new Air Force One.
And right at the top of the hour, a SITUATION ROOM special report on the crisis in Iraq. CNN has reporters inside the country.
BLITZER: Perhaps the most famous airplane on earth is now being traded in for a new model. Air Force One will turn 30 in 2017. That means the U.S. government is shopping for a replacement right now.
CNN's Tom Foreman reports.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Part White House, part war-room, part political icon, the new Air Force One will fill many roles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air Force One, cleared for takeoff.
FOREMAN: On the surface the requirements are simple. It must be a wide body, four engine commercial aircraft, but then things get complicated. ROBERT F. DORR, AUTHOR, "AIR FORCE ONE": I think the biggest
misconception about Air Force One is the idea that it's some sort of a plush comfortable luxury jet that only is used for executive travel, when in fact it has a military mission. It is a flying headquarters for the commander in chief.
FOREMAN: Will it have an escape pod like in the movie "Air Force One"? No. That is fiction. But it does have defensive capabilities. Shields against the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear attack and anti-missile systems, too. The plane must be able to travel anywhere in the world landing at big and small airports and, of course, there are many secrets. At the Reagan Library, an earlier model, a modified Boeing 707 is a major draw.
MELISSA GILLER, RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL FOUNDATION: We all want to know what's on this plane. There's such a mystique. It is America. It's our presidency. And I remember the first time I walked through it. You know, you just get chills.
FOREMAN: Air Force One has been in the middle of many extraordinary moments when John Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson became the next president on board. Ronald Reagan took it to meet the Russians and practiced his putting in flight, too. And George W. Bush used today's version, a modified Boeing 747, to fly back to Washington on 9/11. Unable to do a TV address to the nation until he landed. That was later fixed and the new jet is expected to have full in-flight broadcast capabilities along with sleeping quarters, a shower, an airborne Oval Office and an emergency room. Delivery, in seven years. But --
DORR: Trust me when I tell you that the Pentagon's military acquisition system can't achieve anything in that short period of time.
FOREMAN: So like the rest of us sometimes, even the president may have to wait for his plane.
FOREMAN: The sticker price is currently unknown. Perhaps that will be clearer when the final contract is arranged. But for the record, it's almost certainly going to need money that will go to an American plane manufacturer for an American plane. After all, as one of our experts told us, you don't see the president riding around in an Audi -- Wolf.
BLITZER: No. It's not going to be an Airbus.
FOREMAN: No. I don't think so.
BLITZER: It will definitely be -- presumably some Boeing.
FOREMAN: Probably Boeing. Probably Boeing. We'll see.
BLITZER: All right. Good report.
Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Coming up, right at the top of the hour, a SITUATION ROOM special report. President Obama weighing military action in Iraq. We're live on the ground as that country spirals deeper and deeper into crisis.