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President Obama Sending Soldiers to Iraq; Interview with Paul Bremer; Tornadoes Sweeping Through Eastern Nebraska

Aired June 16, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next breaking news, the White House just releasing a letter notifying Congress troops are being sent to Iraq. President Obama meeting with his top advisors at this moment. A live report from the White House.

Plus the man with intimate knowledge of the situation in Iraq. President George W. Bush's Iraq envoy, Ambassador Paul Bremer is OUTFRONT.

And severe weather slamming the Midwest at this hour, four towns damaged by incredibly severe tornadoes. Rescue operations under way. We're going there live. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, American troops heading back to Iraq, the White House just notifying Congress soldiers are being sent for support and security for the embassy in Baghdad. It's the largest American embassy in the world with 5,000 people.

Also tonight, President Obama meeting with his national security team to decide the United States next move in Iraq. Senior administration officials tell CNN the president's entire national security team spent much of the weekend preparing options for him to go through for potential military action against the al Qaeda linked terror group, ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

ISIS has now captured a northwest city of Tel Afar in addition to two villages northeast of Baghdad. Five major cities now under complete or partial ISIS control. More than three dozen villages and towns.

We are going live to Baghdad in a moment and also speak with a key member of President George W. Bush's team in Iraq, Paul Bremer. He oversaw Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. He is standing by, but first, the breaking news from Jim Acosta at the White House. Jim, how many troops are we talking about tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Less than 300, Erin. We can point out that the White House has already released this letter, which called a war powers resolution letter from the president to House Speaker John Boehner about an hour ago. The letter notifies Congress that the president has authorized deployment of 275 troops to Iraq, with secure personnel.

And the letter goes on to say that forces will remain in Iraq until the security situation there improves and White House officials are pointing out, Erin, that these troops are coming in with the consent of the Iraqi government.

BURNETT: Which obviously is crucial. Given that there's been a failure between the two governments to agree on status of forces that would allow more troops. But Jim, I know the president's meeting with his advisors tonight and they've been working all weekend to come with him with a list of here are your options.

What kind of decision might we get tonight? I think what you will see is reviewing those options. The president is concerned with the ISIS threat and he has Chuck Hagel's secretary of state coming in. One official tells us that the president has a fundamental set of options in front of him and those could be tweaked or changed before a course of action is taken.

The options include airstrikes. One option we heard about at the White House is the U.S. could expand its already existing training programs for Iraqi security. They are cautioning that that would not put the troops in a combat role. Technically, no boots on the ground.

And that any military strike against Iraq would be limited in scope. One thing we should point out ask White House officials are done playing how much they would work with Iran with the ISIS threat. Josh Earnest told reporters there are no plans for U.S. military coordination between U.S. and Iran.

They are speaking on the side lines of discussions. Make no mistake, there is deep concern at the White House over ISIS. Senior administration official told me earlier today the national security team working throughout the weekend with the same urgency we saw heading into the weekend. So a lot of intensity in these discussions right now -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much. We are going to be joined by the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, later on in the program tonight to talk about exactly what U.S. and Iran are doing together.

But the brutality of the terror ISIS wield he has been on full display if Iraq. Jim Sciutto reports.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the forces now ruling Northern Iraq. ISIS militants taunting and humiliating captured Iraqi soldiers. These are Malaki's dogs he said, and we are the soldiers of God. Moments later, executed on camera. Here, similar violence but enormous scale, 1700 soldiers claims is, captured, paraded and shot in cold blood. Mass killing unseen in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein.

CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of these images. Tonight, the president is convening his national security team to review options for a U.S. response. "USS Mesa Verde" with 550 Marines on board arrived in the Persian Gulf to help with possible evacuation of Americans joining the carrier "George H.W. Bush."

Secretary Kerry in an interview with Yahoo! News acknowledged airstrikes on Iraqi targets are now under consideration.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: When you have people murdering, assassinating, in these mass massacres, you have to stop that and you do what you need do if you need to stop it from the air or otherwise.

SCIUTTO: With or without military action, U.S. officials emphasize a political compromise bringing Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds into the Shiite dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Malaki must be a part of any response and it must be immediate.

COL. PETER MANSOOR (RETIRED), FORMER AIDE TO GENERAL DAVID PETRAUS: If we engage in a military action without a political solution, we will be seen as backing Malaki in a Sunni Shia civil war and that exactly the opposite of what we want to do.


SCIUTTO: Some news tonight, we're learning that the U.S. and Iran had, as described to us, very brief discussions about Iraq. This on the side lines of talks under way in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program. We are told those talks did not include discussion of military coordination. There's been a lot of talk of U.S. airstrikes somehow supporting Iranian forces already on the ground.

They did discuss though the importance of the threat ISIS possess both to U.S. interest there and Iranian interest, but also some urging from the U.S. side for Iran not to get involved in the sectarian strife of Iranian Shia. Iran previously backed Shia militias and the U.S. does not want Iran to make that situation work, but willing to talk to them about how they can work, the U.S. and Iran can work together.

BURNETT: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. And as I said, we are going to be joined by the chief spokeswoman for the State Department on that Iran issue later in the program. But now what should the United States do?

Joining me now, the man who ran Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein back in 2003, President Bush's envoy, Ambassador Paul Bremer.

He writes in an op-ed today.

And Ambassador, I'll just read you directly a quote here: "America's core interest remains a stable, united and democratic Iraq, but American regional interests are broader. At stake now is the century- old political structure of the entire region, with huge consequences for our friends and allies there."

And he's the key sentence: "American action now would be considerably less difficult than later."

What action specifically are you talking about?

AMB. PAUL BREMER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO IRAQ: Well, they fall into two categories, military and political, and they both need to be pursued.

The military actions are to stop the flow of the ISIS south toward Baghdad or even further south toward the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. That has to be stopped. It will take air strikes. We will have to do air strikes.

And by the way, for air strikes to be effective, we're going to have to have people on the ground. They don't have to be combat forces, but you're going to have to have intelligence sources on the ground, especially for the second part of the military operation, which is retaking the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah and so forth, Tal Afar.

So we need to get away from this idea that we're not going to have troops on the ground. We will have Special Forces. We will have to have Special Forces and intelligence observers, fire control officers, people identifying targets in those cities so that drones can hit them. You can't subdue a city with fighter jets. You're going to need drones.

BURNETT: And -- and I will say, Ambassador Wesley Clark -- General Wesley Clark, I'm sorry, who is obviously on the other political -- side of the political aisle than you -- agrees with you on that and agrees with you on your definition of combat troops.

But -- but I still have to ask the question this way. You're talking about air strikes and retaking cities and intelligence people on the ground. As you know this number, 4,490 lives have been lost in the Iraq War, American lives; $1.7 trillion spent already.

How could you advocate any more people, any more lives going to risk for that country?

BREMER: Because it's in our interests and it's -- there are two points about our interests.

Number one, as the president pointed out on Friday in his first statement, we cannot allow a -- well, the world's worst terrorist group to get a base of support in a failed nation. This is not Afghanistan, which is remote and behind the mountains. This is the heart of the Middle East with a lot of wealth and we cannot allow that to happen.

So that's in our interests, to stop that. You've got foreign fighters there. We know an American conducted a suicide attack recently for this group in Syria. Those people have American passports. They can come back here and conduct terrorist attacks.

So it's in our interests. That's number one.

Number two, what we're seeing is the potential falling apart of the entire, as you read, as I wrote this morning...


BREMER: -- the entire...

BURNETT: Well...

BREMER: -- uh, regional structure, which threatens our allies in the region, not the least, the king of Jordan.

BURNETT: Well, let -- let me ask you, because when people -- a lot of people are watching you right now and they're -- they're hearing you give your ideas of what to do. And they're saying but aren't you the guy who got us in this mess?

I mean they're saying, look, you're the guy who ran Iraq for President George W. Bush.

And let me just put this, Ambassador, if I can, you in Baghdad the morning after Saddam Hussein was captured.


BREMER: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.


BREMER: This is a great day in Iraq's history. Iraq's future, your future, has never been more full of hope. The tyrant is a prisoner. Now is the time for all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis, Shia, Christian and Turkmen, to build a prosperous democratic Iraq at peace with itself and with its neighbors.


BURNETT: We now, of course, know none of that came to pass.

BREMER: No, actually...

BURNETT: How did it go so wrong?

BREMER: -- actually, you're wrong, Erin. Every single bit of that came to pass. They have held -- they have the -- the Arab world's most progressive constitution. They have conducted six elections since I made that speech, all of them democratically. They have a democratically elected government. Their per capita income...

BURNETT: Which is engaged in...

BREMER: Just a minute...

BURNETT: -- purging...

BREMER: -- just a minute.

BURNETT: OK. Go ahead.

BREMER: The per capita income today is six times what it was when I made that speech. They -- they had all of that in place. We defeated al Qaeda. The Iraqi Army defeated al Qaeda, with our help, in 2009.

All of those things came true. They have all been reversed in the last two years, three years.

BURNETT: Now, so -- OK, so now that -- there's your -- your argument.

But let me ask you this, you have ISIS coming through and offering basic services that aren't being provided by the Iraqi government. I saw the statistics on simple things like electricity when you were still there and the years after. It was horrible and much worse than it was before. A democratically elected president, of course, who's engaging in purging people who are not of his religious persuasion.

How is that success?

BREMER: Erin, you -- you're going to get your facts straight.

First of all, when I left, the electricity production was 50 percent higher than it had been under Saddam Hussein and it was fairly shared around the country instead of all being paid by his cronies in Baghdad.

Life expectancy has gone up since independence.

So the fact of the matter -- and it's a -- I'm not saying it's a great place to be. It's not, particularly with these terrorists terrorizing in the north.

But it is not as if Iraq cannot be a success. It was a success. It is now being put on the road to failure by these terrorists.

BURNETT: What I don't understand is how you can say it -- it was a success. After President George W. Bush left office, President Obama was put in a position where he had to do a second surge because Iraq was not stable.

BREMER: We basically had al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni extremists, by the end of 2009, in effect, really by the end of 2008. And our departure in 2011, at the end of 2011, was a signal to the Iraqis that we were leaving. We were out.

And two things then happened. We lost our ability to work closely with the Iraqis on intelligence and training and we lost our political influence. Al-Maliki concluded that he was going to have to be alone. And he's gone off in sort of old Iraqi style to become a -- a Shiite dictator.

That has to change. That's why the strategies...

BURNETT: The decision...

BREMER: -- cannot be done just militarily.

BURNETT: -- the decision, though to talk to you about...

BREMER: There has to be a political dimension.

BURNETT: -- the decision to talk to you about, as an -- as a crucial one, which I think everyone could agree on... BREMER: Yes.

BURNETT: -- which is when U.S. forces would leave, leave Iraq, that was a decision made, of course, by George W. Bush in the Status of Forces Agreement he signed in 2008. He said all U.S. forces would be out by December, 2011.

BREMER: All combat forces.

BURNETT: That was a -- that was a decision made by George W. Bush.

BREMER: Combat forces. Combat forces. That's an important distinction.

BURNETT: Yes, it is an important distinction. But when President Obama tried to keep those combat forces in the country, tried to provide a Status of Forces Agreement, the Iraqi government wasn't willing to give diplomatic immunity.

Would you have said that he should have kept troops in there without diplomatic immunity?

BREMER: No. In fact, if you read my piece this morning, which you apparently did, I said explicitly that when we do put forces back in there, they should -- it's one of the prices for al-Maliki is to sign a Status of Forces Agreement right away.

BURNETT: Right. But he -- he did not sign one with -- with President Obama. So...

BREMER: Yes, right.

BURNETT: -- I want to make it clear, you're not trying to blame President Obama for anything that's gone wrong, are you?

BREMER: I am saying that his decision to withdraw all the troops at the end of 2011 was a serious mistake. And on the...

BURNETT: Right. But I'm saying...

BREMER: -- record of saying that...

BURNETT: -- that wasn't his decision.

BREMER: -- I'm on the record as saying that in three years ago.


BREMER: If -- if -- yes, it was, Erin. It was.

BURNETT: But it was President Bush who signed that agreement in 2008 that promised that all those troops would be removed at the end of 2011.

BREMER: The -- the planning in 2011, leaked very heavily from the Pentagon and the White House, was to keep 20,000 to 30,000 troops after 2011.


BREMER: The White House then leaked that they really wanted to only keep 3,000. Then they said to Al-Maliki, not only do we want a Status of Forces Agreement, but you have to get it through your parliament. So for the first time to my knowledge, since 1945, we have 84 sto -- SOFA agreements around the world. We were telling the host government how they should proceed in approving that Status of Forces Agreement. That put Al-Maliki in an impossible political situation.

BURNETT: But weren't we trying to have him do it...

BREMER: Three thousand troops...

BURNETT: -- in a democratic way...

BREMER: Excuse me, Erin.

BURNETT: -- and have his country...

BREMER: Excuse me, Erin...

BURNETT: -- agree?

BREMER: Excuse me, Erin.

BURNETT: Hold on.

BREMER: The way...

BURNETT: Can you answer that question, though?

Wasn't he...

BREMER: Well, I will...

BURNETT: -- trying to use his parliament in a way to have them democratically...

BREMER: After...

BURNETT: -- support the agreement?

BREMER: -- after I answer the question, I'll answer your next question. Usually the system goes, you ask a question, the guest answers is, then you ask your next question.

BURNETT: That is true. I felt like I had given you plenty of time on the prior question. So as long as you finish it, please answer the one I just asked.

BREMER: From Al-Maliki's point of view, we had said we were going to have only 3,000 troops there. That means, in effect, they would do nothing. They would sit at the Baquba Air Force Base and protect themselves. It's less than a brigade. They would not be able to have any effective counter-insurgency or basically any major training.

So we put Al-Maliki in an impossible situation with that demand.

And effectively, I think, in many ways, there are a lot of people in this town who believe, and I am among them, that the -- this suited the president's purpose. He didn't want to have to keep the troops there.

BURNETT: So -- so let me ask you...

BREMER: Certainly all...

BURNETT: -- OK. Let me...

BREMER: -- everything he has done since then in Libya and in Syria speaks very highly of a desire to get out of this region.

BURNETT: So -- so let me ask you a question on that. First of all, you didn't yet answer my question about democracy and that you would want your parliament to support Status of Forces Agreement.

But you say the president wanted to get out of the region. He's the one saying he wants to keep nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan with a Status of Forces Agreement there.

If he wanted to get out, why would he be doing that now?

BREMER: Yes, look, Erin, we can rehearse Afghanistan if you wish. I mean he announced the surge with a deadline. You don't win wars on deadlines.

BURNETT: I'm sorry, I don't -- I don't -- I don't understand the answer to that question.

BREMER: When he announced his surge into Afghanistan of 30,000 troops, in the very next sentence, he talked about when they would leave.

BURNETT: That's true. He did.


BURNETT: Again, just like...

BREMER: That's not a...

BURNETT: -- George W. Bush...

BREMER: -- that's not a very...

BURNETT: -- in 2008, said he was going to leave on December 31st at midnight, 2011. That's a deadline.

BREMER: It -- it -- we had won the war by then. That's the difference.

BURNETT: But if you -- then you should have pulled out in 2008. That doesn't make sense.

BREMER: We needed to keep training the Iraqi Army. We needed to keep working on them with -- on intelligence. Those were the things that were continued and which the -- President Bush intended to continue after 2011 and which were substantially cut back by the fact that we withdrew our troops at the end of 2011.

Now, you know, Erin, we could argue this until dawn comes. Basically, the problem is, where are we now and what are our interests?

And I believe the president is right to say that our interests are to defeat ISIS, to disallow them from getting a safe haven in Iraq. That is going to take a political and a military strategy with some robustness from the United States.

I'm glad he's sending more fellows over to defend the embassy. That's important. But that certainly can't be enough.

BURNETT: So one final question I want to ask you about why we are here now, and that is the decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army back in 2003. It came from you. You have defended it. In 2007, you wrote an op-ed. I was reading it again today. And you wrote: "We were right to build a new Iraqi Army, despite all the difficulties encountered. Iraq's new professional soldiers are the country's most effective and trusted security force."

Now, today, our reporters on the ground, there are reports of soldiers across the country putting down their guns, walking away from the fight. Our own Arwa Damon spoke to an Iraqi colonel. He deserted along with his unit.

Would this be happening it was a deeper bench, a military with a longer, stronger history?

I mean would it have happened if you hadn't disbanded the Iraqi security force?

BREMER: Yes, let -- let me give you some facts first.

First of all, when we disbanded the Iraqi Army, we said explicitly that all members of the former army, up to the level of colonel, were welcome to apply in the new volunteer army. By the time I left 14 months later, 75 percent of the officers and NCOs were from the former army.

The -- we paid all of the other officers a pension that was calculated to be higher than they would have gotten under Saddam Hussein. So the idea that they were -- didn't have money or were just running around looking for trouble is simply not true.

I don't -- I don't exclude that some of them became part of the insurgency. But it was not because they didn't have money. It was because they didn't want to have a democratic country.

We did produce a professional Iraqi Army. Al-Maliki, once we decided to withdraw, began to purge officers right down to the battalion level...

BURNETT: But this is the guy you say...

BREMER: -- throwing out the guys...

BURNETT: -- was democratically elected that you were championing.

BREMER: He was democratically elected. He was democratically elected. Democratic elections don't always produce the result you want. Hitler was elected.

BURNETT: That -- that may be the case, but...

BREMER: But isn't it...


BURNETT: -- the inherent contradiction in what you are saying.

BREMER: No, it's not. Iraq is a democrat -- has a democratically elected government. Look around the region.


BURNETT: But you are saying that democratically elected government would have led to where we are now, but yet, isn't in any way partly your responsibility. That's what I don't understand. That's the inherent contradiction I'm referring to.

BREMER: Look, Erin, we went into Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein. At the end of which we had two choices. We either tried to set up some kind of representative government or we take some colonel from his armed forces and say OK, it's your place now and we go home. I don't think an American president would be very likely to do that. That's not what Bush did. He wanted to have a representative government, and we got that.


BURNETT: Do you think in your heart of hearts, though, that the country was more stable, the region more stable with Saddam Hussein, who was a counter to Iran. Yes, he was a bad guy and did horrible things, but it was a more stable region?

BREMER: Well, you can you make that argument for the whole Middle East. I mean, that was in effect the policy of American administrations from Franklin Roosevelt forward until basically the iron curtain fell down.

You can always find stability. You can find that Mussolini runs trains on time. And it was pretty peaceful inside Germany, too, before Hitler started a war. That is a very poor argument because Saddam Hussein killed more than a million and a half of his own people in the 20 years he was in power. That's 75,000 people a year, far more than killed in the war in the last decade. So yes, it was more stable. BURNETT: But that wasn't the rationale, of course, for going in.

BREMER: No. I wasn't explaining a rationale. I was just explaining the facts.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we have to leave it there. Thank you very much. I appreciate the spirited conversation.

Ambassador, it is a pleasure to have you with us.

BREMER: Good to be with you.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, the president is meeting with his national security team tonight. What should the United States do next?

Plus, multiple tornadoes converging, devastating four town in the Midwest, at least. They are touching down. We are we going to go live for a report. One town official say, quote, "we are still digging people out." A live report coming up.

And an earthquake rattling a live newscast again.


BURNETT: Breaking news, President Obama informing Congress he is sending approximately 275 soldiers to Iraq to provide support and security to the 5500 Americans in the country. The deployment comes as the president sit down with top security advisors tonight, going through specific possible courses of action to deal with Islamic extremists overrunning the country.

The brutal group, the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, called ISIS for short, is gaining ground across northern and central Iraq creeping toward Baghdad.

OUTFRONT now, retired general Anthony Zinni. He was commander in- chief of the U.S. central command, in charge of all-American troops in the Middle East leading up to the Iraq war and retired colonel Peter Mansoor, the executive director to general David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq. Two men who know more about this than anything.

General Zinni, what message is this decision to know send 275 troops, is what they are saying, to Iraq, sense to ISIS. I mean, though they are being specific, this is just for the embassy. But is it a significant message?

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER COMMANDER IN-CHIEF OF THE U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Well, I don't think they will have a reaction it this one way or the other. I mean, this is simply for security for our own people out there. It is the next steps, it is really what we do in terms of an advisory effort. Security assistance and the way of equipping and assessing where the Iraqi military and security forces are right now.

The ability to provide teams on the ground that can help gain intelligence, help them about their intelligence collection and also if we elect to go with the airstrikes in support of forces when they eventually get to counter offensive to retake these areas that we have control on the ground of that air, which would be ours, which I think is necessary if we get into close combat or they get into close combat.

BURNETT: An honest issue of close combat, Colonel Mansoor, you just heard Ambassador Bremer, on the one thing he might agree with Gen. Leslie Clark saying that he believe in targeted strikes and that he would be boots on the ground in the form of intelligence and others to guide those strikes. Not troops per se. But those are Americans whose lives will be at risk for Iraq yet again. Is that the right decision?

COL. PETER MANSOOR, (RET.) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TO GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS DURING THE SURGE IN IRAQ: No, I don't think so, and at least not at this point. If we were to use airstrikes to support the Iraqi government now, we would merely be choosing sides in a civil war. Maliki has proven himself a very divisive leader. And until there is a government more representative of all of the Iraqi people, we should stay on the side lines. But let me make it clear. If we put forward air controllers or special forces on the ground to vector in airstrikes, those are troops in combat. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it.

BURNETT: So the semantics of their boots on the ground but they are not combat boots, you are saying that is semantics.

MANSOOR: You have you to be on the front line to vector in airstrikes. I don't see how you can call it any differently.

BURNETT: So General Zinni, do you think that that -- I mean, do you agree with that assessment and do you think it is necessary to put those American lives at risk right now or is this a case of doing what a lot of the American people would think, which is you know what, it is missed up, horrible, last thing we want to do is go back in?

ZINNI: Well, I appreciate that. And I appreciate the facts that this is our mess. I mean, we created it despite the fact, we heard some revisionist history. But we have to realized, we cannot afford another sanctuary like we had in Afghanistan. And this is metastasizing. It is growing.

I agree completely that is al-Maliki's fault and we need a reformed government. But right now, you have to worry about the wolf that is on the sled and that is advancing tied of ISIS coming self. And I think we have to take the appropriate action and try to stand that, get the backbone with Iraqi military opt, and let me say this can go into Jordan, it can go onto other places in the Middle East. Our alliances out there are working with the members of gulf cooperation council, it's gonna be critical here. I said earlier, we need a U.N. resolution authorizing force. Look to some of our allies internationally to help support this and share the burden. But this isn't in anybody's interest to have some sort of failed state where we have -- we have seen what happens in places like Somalia and Yemen as remote and obscure places as they are, they generate problems that have global reach. Unfortunately, we broke it and to some degree we own it. Now, I don't like the idea of troops on the ground. I completely agree with Colonel Mansoor, you can't use to find destination. They're up on the frontlines, where they have to be, but unfortunately we cannot afford to have another sanctuary like Afghanistan grow in the heart of the Middle East.

BURNETT: Thanks very much to both.

And still to come, the Obama administration looking at every possible option, including working with Iran. But can Iran be trusted? The chief spokesperson for the State Department out front tonight, plus, breaking news, four towns devastated by tornadoes, we're live on the scene for the latest.


BURNETT: Breaking news a frantic race tonight to save victims trapped, and entered several deadly tornadoes right now sweeping through parts of eastern Nebraska. Storm chaser capture this video right here of two -- look at this, two tornados with wind speeds, each of them, 175 to 200 miles an hour. And these two funnels that you're looking at are only a few miles apart. That's just stunning to see. The emergency manager from Stanton County, which is about 90 miles from Omaha, telling CNN they are trying to dig people out, several twisters touching down just hours ago. So far, we've learned that one person has died, 15 others right now that we are aware of critical condition. Our chief meteorologist Chad Myers joins us now with the latest. Chad, just looking at those pictures of those two twisters, only miles apart, 175 to 200 miles an hour each, that -- how rare is that?

CHAD MYERS, CNN CHIEF METEOROLOGIST: You know, in my mind, it is unprecedented. I've never seen that. And I've only been doing weather since 1987. So, I'm sure it happened before. But for me to look at that and then, to be live on T.V., we had that live on Wolf Blitzer Show. And it went through the town of Pilger, Nebraska, at least to 150-175 miles per hour as it went through that town. There are still more watches and there are still more warnings tonight. There are still people now watching baseball at the college world series in Omaha. And there could be storms even approaching Omaha, Nebraska. Right now, though, the only tornado we know that's on the ground is heading toward Burwell -- Burwell, Nebraska. It was just north of Sergeant, Nebraska. This is in the middle of Nebraska, not near Omaha but it is that storm right there that is rotating. They're widely scattered, but these have been big tornadoes on the ground tonight. Ef-3, Ef-4, approaching, as you said, in my opinion too, 175 to 200 miles per hour, at least at a time or two, very large tornados. The great news, other than for Pilger, there has been very few towns in the way. Just a lot of farm steads. We hope those people are safe, too.

BURNETT: Yes, we do. And of course, we should say, there is still search and rescue on-going now. Chad Myers, thank you. One northeast Nebraska town in search and rescue mode, at its instance, almost every building in the town is destroyed. We are talking about Pilger, Nebraska. The town that, Chad, just mentioned. That is the town that was hit by those two double tornados. Storm Chaser Reed Timmer, witnessed that destruction first-hand and joins me now on the phone. Reed, you're a storm chaser. You just heard our Chad Myers, he's been covering weather since 1987, says he has never seen a picture like these with two tornadoes of this power so close. Have you?

REED TIMMER, STORM CHASER: No, this was definitely the first time I've seen two tornadoes like that, that violent, on the same storm. A lot of times you see multiple tornados that fled dominant one and that weaker one is next to it, but in this case, they are both extremely violent tornado. And they happened very fast. We've saw them touchdown. We are west of Pilger, by about (inaudible) miles or so. And they just came out of the sky in a matter of seconds, (inaudible) a violent tornado, extremely quick. And that's what happens when all of the ingredients are in place for strong tornados, they are very, very (inaudible) produced in that, and this was definitely that. And it seems like the two tornadoes almost merged -- (inaudible). The Pilger guy hit by the dominant one, that was just coincidental, it's very strong, and turned into a half mile wide wedge to the east of there. And then we started doing search and rescue, and pulled two people out of the basement of their homes. They had severe injuries, lacerations. And now, we went house to house and almost every single building in that town was destroyed. It's like extremely tragic situation there, and we've been there before. Emergency personnel got into, and then thankfully they arrived just minutes after that and we saw a lot of injuries, and a lot of destruction up there.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. We appreciate it. As you just heard, Reed, saying he hasn't seen anything like this before, and talking about the other destruction in the town of Pilger, parts of the town completely devastated by these tornadoes. The pictures that you are looking at right now, are from Jalayne Keyes. She lives in Pilger. She joins me now on the phone. Jalayne, what does it look like there?

JALAYNE KEYES, PILGER NEBRASKA: I can't get real close to a lot of things. But there is a lot of damage. I've heard 3/4 or half and 3/4 of the town -- (inaudible) downtown is all gone.

BURNETT: Just completely gone?

KEYES: Yeah. The other half (ph) (inaudible) is still there There is a major part of have strained in. They have been flattened and tossed around town. I know the library is gone. The middle school is damaged severely. (Inaudible) and the co-op building is damaged. It's just everywhere.

BURNETT: Now, Jalayne, when you talk about, and I apologize to our viewers for the connection. It is not great with your cell phone but I don't want you hang up just yet, if you could give us one more moment. You talked about the middle school, I mean, do you know whether everybody was able to be evacuated. Those kids were probably still in school.

KEYES: No, I believe that it hit after school. I don't know the exact time. Around 4:00 sometime. So, I believe the kids were out of school. (Inaudible) hearsay. I wasn't in town at the time. I headed this way. And met a lot of the rescue vehicles here, probably from ten surrounding towns. BURNETT: That would be a miracle. We hope that those children were gone at 4:00. Jalayne, thank you very much for joining us. We will be monitoring that situation in Pilger, Nebraska. And still, Outfront, Iraq, U.S. officials met with Iran about the situation today. We actually know a part of what was said during that conversation. We're gonna be joined by the chief spokesperson for the State Department.

And an earthquake strikes in the middle of a live newscast. Jeanne Moos tells us what not to do when that happens.


BURNETT: Breaking news again and our top story tonight, the situation in Iraq. The United States today met with Iran about the growing crisis in Iraq. This was during on-going nuclear negotiations in Vienna, and I asked the State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki about that conversation moment before the show.


JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, our team is on the ground in Vienna. They did have meetings today. And this topic, this issue did come up on the margins of those discussions. It is no surprise given how much concern there is around the world, in the United States. And other P5+1 countries and certainly by the Iranians as well that this was discussed.

BURNETT: So, when you talk about on the margins. What sort of coordination were you talking about? Given that the Pentagon saying, look, we're not gonna cooperate militarily with Iran.

PSAKI: Well, to be clear, we are absolutely not talking about military cooperation, military coordination. But we are going to engage with the Iranians or discuss with the Iranians as we are with other countries in the region. And we feel that there's a benefit in that. And we will see where it goes from here, Erin.

BURNETT: So, obviously, the U.S. and Iran have something in common in this case, right? Both of them want ISIS out of Iraq. But from there, it appears to be too completely different world views and a lot of people have talked about the potential for Iraq to become in many ways an Iranian satellite state. Is -- are you worried that the defeat of ISIS could inadvertently play into a stronger Iranian hand?

PSAKI: Well, first, there is -- there are issues that we certainly have strong concerns about, disagree with Iran on whether it's human rights abuses, their support for terrorism, the role they played in Syria, and we're not talking about a coordinated effort here. We're talking about a discussion in continuing discussion in order to know what they are up to and what they're thinking. And that we think is beneficial to all of us. But there's no question that we're talking about engagement here because we're concerned about the growth of terrorism under Iraq. We're concerned about what we are saying on the ground and security situation and we're engaging with a broad array of countries including many in the Arab world, including Iran in the margins of the discussions in Vienna. BURNETT: And obviously, right in the center for you is the American

embassy. It is the biggest in the world for the United States and Baghdad, 5,000 staffers and officials. How many are you going to be pulling out?

PSAKI: Well, we don't get into those numbers for security reasons but I can tell you that our embassy is open and operating. Our ambassador just return had over the weekend. He and our Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk have had a range of meetings with Iraqi officials today. But we do take steps when warranted to make sure our personnel are safe and secure. And in this case that included temporarily relocating some staff to other parts of Iraq and to neighboring country, Jordan.

BURNETT: I know this is a tough question. But, for people to understand sort of what we're looking at, when you look at Baghdad right now, and your assessment, is it more or less safe than Benghazi was on the night of that attack?

PSAKI: Well, that is not an assessment. I would touch with a ten-foot pole, Erin. I think we assess every circumstance differently. There are different threats. There are different challenges. But we take the safety and security of the men and women who serve around the world incredibly seriously. It's one of the secretary's and the president's top priorities. And as you know, we have put a range of additional measures in place since the tragic events happened in Benghazi. And we evaluate every single day what more we can do to keep our men and women secure.

BURNETT: All right. Jen Psaki, thank you very much for your time tonight.

PSAKI: Thank you, Erin.


BURNETT: And still to come, a weather report gets a little too real. Jeanne Moos is next.


MEGAN HENDERSON, KTLA ANCHOR: Coming up, nor problems for...

CHRIS SCHAUBLE, KTLA ANCHOR: Earthquake. We're having an earthquake.



BURNETT: An earthquake strikes during a live newscast. It happens more often than you might think. For more, here's own Jeanne Moos.




MOOS: And you could almost see breaking in the anchor's eyes. And it happened again Monday.

DANIELLE DOZIER, KOCO METEORLOGIST: Southerly winds are gonna be with us. Whoa! Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry. This is live on air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are the studio lights overhead rattling. Did the earth move under your feet?

DOZIER: The earth did move under my feet.

MOOS: KOCO Meteorologist Danielle Dozier was doing the weather at 5:47 in the morning when an earthquake shook the Oklahoma City studio.

DOZIER: When I yelled, Oh my God, I yelled it so loud that I, you know, I felt like I have to cover my mouth for the viewers take.

MOOS: Not only did Danielle manage to continue her forecast, but she guessed the magnitude of the quake based on all the shaking.

DOZIER: Well over 4.0 magnitude.

MOOS: She pretty much nailed it. It ended up being a 4.3.

DOZIER: Forgive me. It actually scared me, that's how powerful that one was.

MOOS: But if you like seeing talent quake even more than the earth.

CHRIS SCHAUBLE, KTLA ANCHOR: Earthquake. We're having an earthquake.

MOOS: We only have to go back about three months when KTLA's morning anchors hit the deck in Los Angeles.

It appears to have stopped.

MOOS: Chris Schauble and Megan Henderson were probably smart to take cover. Even if those macho South American anchors keep yakking right through earthquakes.

MEGAN HENDERSON, KTLA ANCHOR: We've got stuff kind of here falling back.

MOOS: But it turns out Chris didn't really have to hide under the desk from the earthquake, but rather from all the aftershocks and teasing that he had to endure. Comedians made jokes.



MOOS: Jimmy Fallon dedicated a little dance to the anchor team. They weren't the first anchors to seek cover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone stay calm. Under the desk, under the desk.

MOOS: The poor cameraman has no desk. That's Letterman's audience laughing at this KNDC clip from 1987.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what's happening right now.

MOOS: If you really want to see guts.

SCHAUBLE: Girls, what are you laughing at.

MOOS: Watch an anchorman man enough to face his own daughter who's imitating him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, we're having an earthquake.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

SCHAUBLE: Earthquake, we're having an earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, we're having an earthquake.

DOZIER: Oh, my gosh.

MOOS: New York.

DOZIER: Sorry, this is live on air.


BURNETT: That girl was the mirror image of her dad. All right. Still out front, the number one beer in the world. Let's go talk about the World Cup. It's time to discuss this, because you know what, it's not the one you think it is.


BURNETT: Breaking news, the U.S. winning its first game in the World Cup beating Ghana, 2 to 1.



BURNETT: Patrons in bars across the country right now, these are live pictures, raising their glasses, their hands in celebration. You're looking right now live pictures of the celebration. None of those flags are touching the ground, not that we've seen. Everyone is truly celebrating, you better believe more than a few of those cups are filled with American beers like Bud and Coors. Those are the best known brands around the world. But when it comes to beer, sorry to pour on your parade here people.


BURNETT: But America's not number one there. The number tonight is 110 billion, that is how many pints of beer consumed in China each year, twice as many as in the United States. According to the research from Euro Monitor International in Bloomberg, the country is four of the top ten filling beers in the world. Snow, and Tsingtao leading the pack. Apparently Snow taste just like Tsingtao. The American brands Bud and Budweiser, Bud light and Budweiser are 3 and 4. The only that are American brand to make the list is Coors light at number 10. When it comes to USA soccer, big congrats to the winging team tonight. U.S. beating Ghana. And the parties just beginning. Too bad it's only a Monday night, guys. Anderson's starts now.