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Terrorist Group Continues March on Baghdad; Interview with Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger; Two-Star General to Investigate Bergdahl Capture; Interview with Dr. Elspeth Ritchie; Mitt Romney Criticizes Hillary Clinton

Aired June 16, 2014 - 07:00   ET


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Iraqi government, is saying, the prime minister saying he will take control of the country again. They've released -- ministry of defense released video showing helicopters launching assaults on what they said were ISIS targets. We can see buildings being blown up but no people being -- running from those buildings or caught up (ph), as far as we could see.

But the evidence at the moment is ISIS still on the advance, their target to encircle the city. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What will stop that advance obviously the huge question lingering in Iraq and here in the United States. Nic Robertson on the ground in Baghdad, thank you so much, Nic.

So as Iraq's crisis deepens, the U.S. is faced with an unusual prospect, dealing with Iran to help end the chaos in Iraq. A short time ago it might have been impossible to imagine U.S. lawmakers advocating open dialogue with Iran. But the process of all out civil war in Iraq has even some conservatives doing just that. CNN's Elise Labott is joining us with the very latest developments out of Washington. Good morning Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. Well, Senator Lindsey Graham who in the past has called for military action from Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon now says it's time for the U.S. to talk to the Iranians about Iraq. That's a huge about face. And administration officials tell me the U.S. is exploring a dialogue with Iran over the Iraq crisis. They aren't sure what form it will take, but U.S. and Iranian officials are meeting this week in Vienna on the nuclear issue. That could be an opportunity.

I think we're talking more an exchange of views than the U.S. and Iran really teaming up, because there are pros and cons for the U.S. here. Both have an interest in a stable Iraq but the Iranians have a significant influence in the country with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the Iranian regime both Shiite Muslims. The top Iranian commander in Iraq this week offering advice to the government. And the U.S. is concerned that being seen to side with Iran could alienate the Sunni majority in the country, make U.S. allies in the region nervous, and they don't really want to muddy the waters with these nuclear talks that are at a sensitive stage. So they need to tread very carefully. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Elise, thank you very much.

So here's what we know. The situation in Iraq is bad, it's getting worse. How do we know? Well, the U.S. is sending more people there, getting marines ready, trying to get people out of the embassy. So what do we do next? To discuss, Samuel Sandy Berger, former national security adviser to President Clinton, the chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group. Thank you very much, Sandy. It's good to have you on the show. Let's first take one step backwards and use it as a pivot to where we go from here. Pulling out of Iraq, having no U.S. troops on the ground, a mistake and a mistake not to be repeated in Afghanistan -- do you agree?


CUOMO: But is that an excuse or is it an explanation? Because we hear from people that we could have made a deal there. John McCain says they did have a deal in place with Joe Lieberman and him working it, and that it could have been done but that for political reasons back here at home, playing to the polls, they pulled out.

BERGER: I think that's a bit of hindsight. Maliki would not sign an agreement. He was playing to his Shia base. The fact is we didn't have a force there, and I think we have to look at it from where we are at this point.

CUOMO: All right, so politically now, what's the right move? We'll get to the obvious things. Are you on the ground or not, do you have enough people, what do you do with the embassy, all pressing. However, the headline, dealing with Iran directly, do you basically deal with the enemy when you have all the issues with them to help in this situation? Is that the right move?

BERGER: I think we can deal with Iran particularly in the context -- broader context of other regional players, Turkey and others, but I think we have to be very clear here. Iran's interests in Iraq and our interests are not the same. Iran seeks to have a Shia dominated Iraq with its lead as part of an Iranian crescent from Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq. That's their objective. Our objective is a stable, hopefully democratic Iraq. So if there's some tactical things we can do together, perhaps we can consider that. I'd rather talk to Iran in the context of a neighborhood conversation rather than directly with Iran.

CUOMO: General Zinni was very clear about it, saying Iran is not the kind of people to do business with, and this is a mistake fundamentally based on not wanting to take any decisive moves on the U.S.'s own behalf.

BERGER: I don't think Iran is the solution here. I think we have to recognize that what's driving this at its heart has been Maliki's misrule for the last three years which has created an enormous amount of Sunni dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It's fed the ISIS move. And we have to -- any solution here has to be at its heart one that is political and military, that makes very clear that Maliki has to create a unity government, that he has to curb his own powers, that he has to professionalize the army. All that has to be done if we are going to provide any kind of substantial military assistance. Otherwise for Maliki's army, air force, and that will not achieve anything.

CUOMO: It all makes sense, especially the last part, that it doesn't achieve anything, because isn't it fair criticism, that you've been watching Maliki for three years now do nothing, create dissension, and basically see the vacuum of his ability to rule filled by a militant group like ISIS and who knows who else may come along? And isn't that proof enough that the U.S. has to do more?

BERGER: Well, absolutely. If we went in, ironically we'd be both Maliki's air force and Iran's air force. We would be seen on the ground by the Sunnis as Maliki's air force, driving moderate Sunnis into the hands of ISIS. And ironically we'd be making things easier for the Iranians to forge an alliance with Maliki. So it's not something we do out of context. It has to be part of a broader operation. It's a serious problem. We have to lean into this. But we can't just do it with air power by itself.

CUOMO: This is very complicated. It's tough to absorb certainly in one conversation. But the central question is this. Do you believe the Obama administration has its hands around the concepts you're explaining right now. Do you believe they are leaning in, or are we taking too careful an approach?

BERGER: I'm not troubled that we haven't acted in first 36 hours. This is complicated. There are lots of implications here. Anybody who says this is black and white is not being straight with the American people. When you hear anybody say "here's the answer," breathe twice before you jump. This is hard stuff. Nothing should be done quickly. I'm glad the president is considering his options here.

I don't see ISIS moving into Baghdad that easily. Bagdad is 9 million people. There are 8,000 or 9,000 ISIS. Baghdad is Shia. The Shia militia have risen up. ISIS is not going to that easily fight on hostile terrain. So I don't see ISIS taking over Baghdad in the next time here. I don't think we have to panic about Baghdad falling, and, therefore, I think we should take the time to deal with a very serious problem, but do it in a way that makes sense. We know how to get into wars easily. We found it's hard to get out of wars easily. And I think the president is perfectly right to take the time to consider all of the options here.

CUOMO: Look, everybody is watching this situation for proof of leadership from the president right now. We have a little bit of a track record going now where there seems to be at minimum vacillation. And we're all looking at Iraq for two reasons, right. One, to see whether or not it falls to a basically disorganized militant group, and what does it mean for what we do in Afghanistan going forward. Sandy, it's very good to get your perspective on this. We look forward to leaning on you and others as we go forward because this is more than one conversation. Thanks for being on NEW DAY. BERGER: My pleasure.

CUOMO: So we're tuned to chase this story, and there's other news for you to watch as you begin your NEW DAY. So let's get right to John Berman in for the Michaela with the big headlines that are out there. J.B.?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Chris.

The Al Shabaab terrorist group being blamed for a deadly attack that killed dozens overnight in Kenya. The Red Cross says 48 people were shot and hacked to death as attackers went door-to-door in a coastal town. This is the latest bloodshed in a country plagued by violence recently. Explosions in Nairobi killed 10 people last month. You'll remember 67 people died in last year's attack on the West Gate Mall.

Pakistan's military moving against the Taliban. Pakistani fighters today launched airstrikes against Taliban strongholds along the Afghan border. For years militants have used this region as a base for attacks on Afghanistan. The White House has been pressuring Pakistan to act against the Taliban and Al Qaeda bases in that area as the U.S. gets ready to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Firefighters frantically trying to contain a wildfire that threatens nearly 1,000 homes in central California, and they're trying to do it before hotter, drier weather sets in later this week. The Shirley fire, as it's called, has burned 2,000 acres and has destroyed at least two structures and is now about 10 percent contained.

This is interesting. Thousands of baristas are set to get a free online education. Starbucks will pay up to full tuition for any employee who works at least 20 hours a week and is accepted at Arizona State University. ASU offers 40 undergraduate majors and has 11,000 students in its online degree programs. Starbucks and ASU will announce their arrangement today in New York. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, John, thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, even as Bowe Bergdahl continues with the long recovery from five years in captivity by the Taliban, the question remains did he intentionally walk away from his post back in 2009? A two-star general has now been tasked to find that answer. That's ahead.

CUOMO: Mitt Romney back in the news, taking shots at Hillary Clinton. We're going to tell you why "INSIDE POLITICS."


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. This morning Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is recovering at a military hospital in Texas two weeks after being freed from the Taliban. The question of whether he deserted looms large. And now CNN has learned the army is starting its investigation into Bergdahl's departure. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more. Barbara? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. The army has now appointed a two-star general. We are not being told his name yet, a two-star to investigate the Bergdahl matter. How and why did Bowe Bergdahl leave his post that night and then come to be taken captive by the Taliban? By all accounts, he left willingly. The Taliban did not come into the base and capture him. So this is the big question.

When will Bergdahl start being asked those questions by the two-star? We are told that that could still be a few days off. He has to be medically cleared by his doctors, by his psychologist team. When he starts getting those questions, he will be advised of his rights, he will be offered counsel.

But right now, that's not happening just yet. But now the process in place, the two-star general in place to begin the investigation.


BOLDUAN: Barbara, thank you so much for that.

And for more on this, let's bring in Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist and retired Army colonel who's been involved in the reintegration process of prisoners of war and hostages for the U.S. military in the past.

Dr., thank you very much for coming in. Appreciate the time.

ELSPETH RITCHIE, FORMER MILITARY PSYCHIATRIST: Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

So as Barbara Starr was just talking about, this two-star general has now been appointed to really look into these lingering questions surrounding the -- the disappearance and, you know, the whole situation with Bowe Bergdahl.

When do you think, from -- with -- from your position of expertise, when do you think Bowe Bergdahl himself is going to be asked those tough questions?

RITCHIE: He will be evaluated, as he's already been, psychologically and medically. And when he is stable, the investigation will begin. They will want to make sure that he's competent to answer questions. Usually there's an assessment for competency and criminal responsibility around the court-martial.

However, in this case, I would assume that they're going to want to make sure that he's competent before the investigation begins.

BOLDUAN: How do you -- if you can say in any kind of basic way, how do you ascertain? How do you figure out his competency? What are those kind of conversations coming from the psychiatrist assigned to his case? What are those conversations like in the early stages? What are you looking for? RITCHIE: Basically you want to make sure he knows what's going on,

that he is oriented and alert, and that he's not psychotic. By psychotic, I mean hearing voices that aren't there or seeing things that aren't there.

According to "The Washington Post" and other news reports, in the past he's written in his diary that he was hearing voices, and then he's been in obvious terrible shape and terrible circumstances in captivity for five years.

So you would want to make sure that he doesn't have severe Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder or a more extreme sort of psychosis where he's hearing voices. Once he's through that, once he knows what's going on, then he'd start to work with his lawyer and begin the investigation.

BOLDUAN: I found one thing interesting, when you talk about -- called the reintegration process. I've also seen it described as the decompression process that he would be going through now that he's in San Antonio.

I saw written in one place that he is looking good physically, but then, of course, it's mentally and psychologically, how is he, where is he? That's clearly the key. One of the things that -- part of that process is him making decisions on his own for the first time, choosing peanut butter -- or peanut butter and jelly over something else. Is it something as basic as that that's part of the process right now?

RITCHIE: Yes. He has to come back to making decisions on his own. He's been in a position for five years where he's had very limited decision making, and when he's made decisions, allegedly trying to escape a few times, he's been severely punished for those decisions. So he has to learn to do it on his own.

You know, if you look at history, you've heard about the Stockholm syndrome where people were allied with their captors or brainwashing back in the Korean War. People have stopped learning to think on their own, and they, in other circumstances at least, have been totally dependent on their captors. And he's got to start doing this for himself.

BOLDUAN: And one part of this that is unusual from anything in the past is the controversy surrounding his situation. By all accounts, he's still unaware of the -- of this controversy. When do you think he will become aware of it? And what do you think the impact of that is on his recovery? Take -- that that as a separate issue then any legal -- anything else involving the military, but for his mental recovery.

RITCHIE: Yes, I cannot know for sure when he's going to be told what's going on. Again, it's going to depend on his mental state and where he is.

But one thing I will say is it's not unique to have controversy around captivity. Often the circumstances under which somebody was taken into captivity are murky. There's often suspicion about people who have been taken hostage or prisoner of war, and then the question about how do they survive that long? Again, there often is some getting along with your captors; otherwise you wouldn't survive. So it is a murky and clouded process.

BOLDUAN: Part of that process, also involves him speaking with, seeing his family once again. And some say it's quite unusual that he hasn't done that yet, but that's also part of that process.

Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, thank you very much. Thanks for your help this morning.

RITCHIE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.


CUOMO: All right, let's take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, we're gonna go inside politics. You remember Mitt Romney? Of course you do. Well, he's back in the news and taking shots at Hillary Clinton. Why would he ever do that? We're gonna tell you on inside politics.

And something that is worth watching, a deadly epidemic in California, whooping cough. Didn't we get rid of that years ago? We're gonna tell you what you can do to keep your family safe. The key word: vaccines.


CUOMO: Welcome back. The situation in Iraq leads the news. And we do have the latest. And by we, I mean John Berman. He's in for Michaela with the top stories.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Chris.

Breaking news. Hundreds of U.S. Marines are making their way to the Persian Gulf to evacuate Americans from Iraq if necessary. This, as militants take over more cities and move ever closer to Baghdad. The U.S. is now moving personnel out of the embassy in Baghdad as a precaution.

Iraq's Air Force, at least according to Iraqi leaders, now fighting back against the militant group ISIS. State TV reports that air raids have killed some 200 militants.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming Hamas for the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers. Netanyahu called Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas to ask for their return. He also asked Abbas to arrest whoever abducted these teens. Abbas has condemned the kidnapping. Hamas (denies responsibility for their disappearance.

Another potential provocation between Ukraine and Russia. Russia's state-owned gas company has essentially cut off supplies to Ukraine, claiming Kiev owes more than $2 billion dollars. This, after the deadliest incident yet between Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels. Separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane killing all 49 people on board.


CUOMO: What a terrible picture there, John. Thanks very much.

All right, it's time for Inside Politics on NEW DAY with John King. A lot to talk about to be sure on this Monday. Hope your Father's Day was good, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was wonderful. I hope yours was as well. It's good to get some kid time, good to get outdoors. I got a little

too much sun, but that's OK. That makes it a great Father's Day.

It's a busy Monday inside politics -- back to you guys in just a minute.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", Manu Raju of "Politico".

Let's start with the political conversation over Iraq. The president has some very tough choices to make. He has ruled out boots on the ground, Julie. But I want you to listen to the chorus of Republican criticism. We've heard from a lot of people in Congress, and yesterday, from the man the president beat in the last election.


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This administration from Secretary Clinton to President Obama has repeatedly underestimated the threats that are faced by America, has repeatedly underestimated our adversaries. And whether that's Russia or Assad or ISIS or al Qaeda itself, it has not taken the action necessary to prevent bad things from happening. It has not used our influence to do what's necessary to protect our interests.


KING: In the case of Iraq, what many Republicans are saying was he should have negotiated agreement to leave some troops, residual troops on the ground that might have prevented this march of ISIS from Mosul down to where they're trying to approach Baghdad.

How does the administration react to this? Do they get into the substance? Or do they just say Republican politics?

JULIE PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": A little bit of both. I mean, certainly they expect that anything on the president does, there's gonna be some kind of instinctual Republican criticism.

On the actual policy, though, they say rightly that there simply was no agreement with the Iraqis to keep American forces there. Now you can question whether that was the outcome the White House wanted, whether they pressed hard to actually keep forces there.

But the reality is at the end of 2011, we needed to have an agreement with the Iraqis in order to keep American forces there, and the Iraqi government wouldn't sign it.

KING: There are some who find it -- I'll use the word "curious". But he mentioned Secretary Clinton before he mentions President Obama, Mitt Romney, in that criticism there, although he has said flatly, not running again, not running again, not running again.

We hear criticism off the Hill and from Governor Romney there, Manu, but what would they do in the alternative? What would they do that the president is not considering? Are Republicans saying it's time to put American combat troops back on the ground?

MANU RAJU, "POLITICO": There's no unanimity on that. The party is divided about it. It's much easier to go after the president for the failures in Iraq than it is to come up with a prescription of what to do. You see this happen time and again when the Republicans criticize the president on Obamacare, for instance, and not necessarily having a plan to replace it.

But foreign policy is certainly an area which Republicans are going to continue to hammer the president on. Why? Because it's Hillary Clinton, what she's selling (ph), it's her strong suit. If they can make that a liability for her going forward, this could be potentially something she'll have to answer for in the coming months as she prepares for her possible presidential campaign.

KING: It's interesting. During the book tour, she was very clear that she agrees with the president, no boots on the ground. She wants the president to consider his options there.

This footnote on the Hillary Clinton front, a brand new poll out this morning at CNN/ORC poll. Look at how dominant, how formidable she is when it comes to the Democratic race for president; 63 percent of Democrats favor Hillary Clinton. Twenty percent of Democrats want a more conservative Democrat. Eleven percent say a more liberal Democrat.

That's down a little bit Manu. She was at 70 percent back in February of Democrats, but not a big drop. I think if she gets more active, more political, we see her approval rating down a little bit, too. It's called welcome back to politics.

RAJU: Right, it's going to continue to go down, too, because she's gonna be dragged into the fray. She'll get back into hand-to-hand combat, which she's largely avoided.

I mean, the reason why her poll numbers have increased is during her time as secretary of State, she was not political. She was not in that warfare with Republicans. It was similar to kind of in 2008, she -- when she was a senator, she was kind of above the fray. But then once she got back into it with Obama in that Democratic primary, her numbers decreased. We're gonna see that again as we get closer and closer to 2016. PACE: And this is gonna be a tricky balance for her team. How do you

keep her in the spotlight? How do you have her engaging on substance and being involved in the debate, but try to maintain your popularity, knowing that every time you get involved, you might take a hit?

KING: And still no evidence anybody we would consider a credible Democratic challenger has emerged. Although the vice president is still moving around and says maybe. I'll believe that one when I see it.


KING: Here is another one. I'm going to be a little flippant here. And I don't -- well, maybe I mean to be. Do you believe in the Easter bunny? Do you believe in Santa Claus? Do you believe that Lois Lerner's e-mails just suddenly went poof?

Lois Lerner, if you followed the IRS story, she is the key official at the Treasury Department, the IRS, that the Republicans want to know if she was unfairly targeting tea party groups, challenging their tax- exempt status.

Well, investigations have been going on for long. You see that graphic there. Her e-mails from January 2009 to 2011 have, poof, disappeared. The administration saying she put them on a hard drive. That hard drive has crashed. They have recovered some of them by searching the computer for the people she sent those e-mails to. Republicans are very skeptical because they want to know if outside people, people outside the government were influencing her to go after tea party groups.

Here's the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp.