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Sunni Extremists Fighters Found Old Chemical Weapons Plant; Clarke: "The Major Interest Is In Preventing An Al Qaeda Base" In Iraq; Possible Anthrax Exposure At CDC

Aired June 19, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 8:00 p.m. in the East Coast of the United States, 3:00 a.m. here in Baghdad. And for the first in more than a decade, the headline tonight is chemical weapons in Iraq. That is the breaking news. Chemical weapons.

New reporting that Sunni extremists fighter have taken a former chemical weapons production plant that still contains a stockpile of old weapons, apparently.

Our Nic Robertson is working sources here. He's actually been to that plant years ago. He's going to joins us in a moment. Jim Sciutto is working the Pentagon. We'll talk to all of them ahead.

The news also, another headline today, capping with President Obama this afternoon called a key moment for Iraq. A moment he says when the fate of this country hangs in the balance. One last chance for the political leadership here to get its act together and somehow keep this country together.

The president made it plain what's tearing Iraq apart at its core is political. That's the long-term problem he believes and it has to be the long-term solution but because the immediate problem is military, Sunni forces rampaging while the Iraqi army cuts and runs in many cases in the north, Mr. Obama today offered military help and American military personnel, not he says to fight but to advice the Iraqi military.

Shortly after laying out the plan, he got a reminder, as if any commander-in-chief, needs one of the consequences of any decision to send Americans to danger zones or in this case back into them. He presented the Medal of Honor -- excuse me -- to retired Marine Corps machine gunner William Kyle Carpenter who jumped between a Taliban grenade and his buddies in Afghanistan Helmand Province.

Corporal Carpenter who was nearly given up for dead spent two and a half years in the hospital. Tonight, we'll look at what sending advisors and planning air strikes can do for the situation here but here is some of the key moments from President Obama earlier today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, we are working to secure our embassy and personnel operating inside of Iraq. Second, at my direction, we have significantly increased our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets so that we've got a better picture of what's taking place inside of Iraq. Third, the United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces. American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq. But we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests, as well.

Fourth, in recent days we've positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region. Because of our increased intelligence resources, we're developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL. In going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.

Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq. Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future. Shia, Sunni, Kurds, all Iraqis must have confidence that they can advance interests and aspirations through the political process, rather than through violence.

Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another. There is no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States. What's clear from the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take action abroad. Particularly military action.


COOPER: That was President Obama speaking earlier today.

First, I want to apologize for my voice earlier in the previous segment. The air is thick with dust here, anyone who served in Iraq knows what that is about. I'm sorry. I apologize for coughing.

Joining us now is Nic Robertson here in Baghdad, Jim Acosta at the White House, Jim Sciutto also in Washington, and Nic -- and Arwa Damon is in the north, in Erbil, in Kurdish control there.

Nic, let's start with you. Let's talk about this chemical plant. You've actually been there. What is it like?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the weapons inspectors 2002. And I was just looking back at my notes, bearing in mind that what we're hearing from State Department officials now who's saying that the stockpiles that the ISIS are coming across there are the old degraded, probably no chemical weapons value, could be dangerous if moved.

And looking back at my opening lines from when I visited the first impressions you have, rows of rusting chemical warfare equipment rotting in a warehouse, and the last line was this is a site that the weapons inspectors probably won't have to come back to. It was bombed in 1991. It's a large site, 15 square miles roughly out

in the desert, a lot of bunker type warehouses. It's the birthplace of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons production. The heart of his chemical weapons production but the impression at that time was it had been bombed in '91. Weapons inspectors have been there in the mid- '90s, filled a lot of the equipment with concrete.

It -- it was in a relatively unusable state and when we went there, it was just rotting lined up in these bunkers. So what there would be now after again it's been cataloged post --

COOPER: Right.

ROBERTSON: You know, 2004, it would strike me as not a lot of use but a great danger to somebody who might try and tamper with it.

COOPER: So, Jim Sciutto, what are you hearing from your sources -- and we're going to have -- any published statement that's been by the State Department or by the Pentagon about the capabilities to weaponize whatever may be there or to even take it somewhere else and how dangerous that would be?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think as Nic hinted there, the State Department not expressing great alarm. They say that they are aware of this Muthanna complex. They have for some time. But they say, as Nic said, that they don't consider the materials in there to be of military use while, of course, they're concerned of any site or any military site that might be taken over by ISIS.

Here's the statement that they had in particular, if we could put that up on screen. I'll read it for you.

"We're aware that the ISIL has occupied the Al Muthanna complex. We are concerned about the seizure of any military site by the ISIL," or ISIS as we call them. "We do not believe it contains chemical weapons materials of military value and in fact would be very difficult if not impossible to safely move the material."

So not expressing great alarm while, of course, it's just a sign that as these forces move through Iraq, they can come across military sites and weapons when they have that kind of scope.

COOPER: Well, the other question I had when I read that statement, though, is how concerned would a terror group be about safely moving the material, I'm not sure that they would mind just moving it even if it's not all that safe to do so. But we'll have to wait and see.

Jim Acosta, you were at the White House today when the president was speaking. You pressed him about the possibility of mission creep. President Obama saying 300 advisors, he said non-combat forces, probably Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Rangers are going to be going to Baghdad and in the north. What did he say about mission creep?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it was another example of why President Obama is a cautious commander-in- chief. He's really caught in a jam here. He said American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again but he also said it's in the national security interest of the U.S. to make sure Iraq does not become a safe haven for terrorists so that's why he's keeping options open for air strikes but, by the way, those options for airstrikes could take place in Iraq or Syria.

Senior administration officials are not ruling that out and at the same time, while this is a cautious move to only send in military advisors, Anderson, senior administration officials were explaining earlier today that they're going to be going in, these advisors and teams of 12 or so, when they go out with Iraqi forces to advice them and consult with them.

That does potentially open them up to some danger and that is why senior administration officials were saying today that these advisors have been granted immunity unlike the situation that occurred between the U.S. and Iraq back in 2011 and that if they need to, they can fire back in self-defense -- Anderson.

COOPER: Arwa Damon, as you know, the Shia-led government here and Nouri al-Maliki had wanted air strikes by the -- by the United States to help their military on the battlefield. I'm wondering what the response up north was to the president's comments today and the idea of sending in these advisors.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Kurds have been viewing what's been happening naturally with a lot of caution but also as something of an opportunity for them. We've seen the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighting force here, move very quickly to ensure that they stake out the territory that they want to see firmly remain under their control.

In speaking to some of the Kurdish leadership about the potential for U.S. air strikes. Some of them were cautioning that the Americans will have to be very careful in terms of who exactly are they hitting because ISIS at this stage not fighting alone. It does have the Sunni insurgents, the former Sunni insurgent groups fighting alongside it, it does have the support of the tribal leaders so you don't want to further aggravate the sectarian divide that exist here by being perceived as simply striking at the Sunnis.

That being said, there is this realization that ISIS is going to be capitalizing on this situation, growing in strength and wealth and military capabilities as all this goes on so they do need to be hit at this stage before they get even stronger but it's going to be an incredibly delicate situation -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Nic, clearly, the U.S. interested in trying to -- I mean, Arwa was talking about other Sunni groups who were -- whether it's allegiance of convenience right now but aligned with ISIS or fighting with them, clearly the U.S. would like to peel off some of these Sunni groups, particularly these groups they've worked for before in the so- called Sunni awakening.

ROBERTSON: It has to be some of the strategy and certainly those -- some of those groups -- a tribal commander I talked to was expressing the hope that the United States would talk to him. It is an act of desperation to side with ISIS for them but they had -- they felt they had no other opportunity and they hope that they don't -- and said that they don't become targeted lumped in with ISIS. That's their fear because they know what that would happen, what that would mean.

It would necessarily drive them further away from the United States, make them greater enemies of the United States and greater and a much harder to solve the issues of Iraq. So there is that hope that they can be pulled away. The possibility is there. Who knows what exact price they're going to want for that.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, again at the White House, President Obama really -- I mean, is saying about it's not the U.S. role to tell Iraq or tell Iraqis who should lead their country. But he couldn't have made ant clearer they have no confidence in Nouri al-Maliki's ability to reach out to these Sunni groups, to reach out to the Kurds where Arwa Damon is and, also stressing that a political solution has got to be the way to move Iraq forward and unify Iraq.

ACOSTA: That's right. The president, Anderson, blamed much of the violence on Iraq on Nouri al-Maliki saying the prime minister has failed to unite those rival factions that are really tearing Iraq apart but the president is not making U.S. support for Iraq contingent upon Maliki stepping down. You saw some reports about that earlier this week that U.S. assistance would only take place if Maliki were to step down.

The president put an end to that today saying it's not the job of the U.S. to choose Iraqi leaders but at the same time during a background call that the administration had with reporters here at the White House, senior administration officials were making it pretty darn clear that they don't mind if Nouri al-Maliki leaves the scene so long as it's part of the Iraqi constitutional process -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Jim Sciutto, it seems clear the White House believes there is some time that the huge forward momentum that ISIS and Sunni -- their Sunni supporters had certainly slowed as kind of the easiest targets in the most Sunni controlled areas are already under ISIS control or being contested by ISIS. Do we have a sense or do you have a sense of the timeline the White House sees for getting these advisors into a position in Iraq?

SCIUTTO: Well, these advisors from what we know are going to be coming from forces already staged in the region, stationed in the region, so they can be in there very quickly. In fact, the first teams we're told going in, in the next 24 hours, then you have to deploy them, forward deploy them out to the headquarters of these Iraqi battalions where they're going to be based.

As to when those air strikes are launched, as a matter of operation security the White House is not going to say when they're going to do that but you are right, and we've been hearing this, I've been hearing this from intelligence officials all week, as you say, that they felt that Baghdad and the Shia dominated areas in the south were not as vulnerable because of the Shiite populations there, because the Shiite militias more loyal to the Iraqi government, more likely to fight back against largely Sunni forces. And that does give them some time.

The trouble is, I'm told, by those same intelligence officials that without a comprehensive counter offensive from Iraqi forces now with U.S. help, it's going to be very difficult and take time to rest back control of those areas in the north and west that have been taken over by -- by ISIS and their Sunni allies.

COOPER: Yes. Very difficult, if not impossible, at least at this point to say the least.

Arwa Damon, what are you hearing from Peshmerga fighters you've been spending time with? Do they feel that -- I wouldn't say stalled would be a word for the ISIS forces right now but do they feel that the momentum has at least kind of stabilized or slowed?

DAMON: Well, if you look at a lot of the front lines that are -- front lines that are around the Peshmerga controlled areas, they are not as active as they are moving further south towards the capital Baghdad. But what we're seeing up here is ISIS units trying to test the resolve of the Peshmerga. They'll launch quick attacks, there'll be clashes that will last for a few hours at times, some mortar rounds that will be lobbed, but there's no real direct confrontation. The front lines seem to be effectively holding up to a certain degree.

What is quite interesting, though, when it comes to the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces themselves who are speaking with the governor of Kirkuk, and he was saying, look, the problem is that the Americans basically trained what he was describing as a checkpoint army. The Iraqi security forces are great at setting up checkpoints. You would have gone through this on numerous occasions in Baghdad, where there's all sorts of traffic jams that are created by this.

But barring that, barring setting up these checkpoints and conducting whatever searches they are trying to conduct with various vehicles going through there, these are not forces that are necessarily capable nor do they have the confidence of the population when it comes to carrying out the kind of operation that is necessary at this stage in what is happening in the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Arwa, stick around, Nic Robertson, as well.

Jim Acosta, thank you. Jim Sciutto, as well.

A quick reminder, make sure you set your DVR so you can watch 360 whenever you want.

Coming up, racing to fight ISIS. Earlier today I visited a recruitment center. You know, you've been hearing reports about these tens of thousands of young men, old men in some cases, volunteering after a call. I went to a center where today there were hundreds of young men signing up volunteering after a call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

I went to a center where today there were hundreds of young men signing up, volunteering to fight, most of them didn't have any military experience. We'll talk about that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: What began as a Sunni awakening in Al Anbar Province against al Qaeda has now spread to other parts of Iraq to encourage local tribesmen to turn against al Qaeda, the U.S. military is now paying local sheiks to provide security in their areas. A gunman like this can earn up to $10 a day for his services.

The next step is to have young men like this join the Iraqi police, but for that, the U.S. military needs the cooperation of the Shia dominated government in Baghdad.


COOPER: Well, that was a reporting from here back in 2007. What's interesting about that, of course, is that after the U.S. left Nouri al-Maliki stopped paying a lot of those groups and some of those group are now involved in the fight yet again against the central government here and those are some of the groups the U.S. is hoping to kind of reach out to, get them back on board and that's why they want a leader here, a government here that's willing to reach out to Sunni groups.

I want to continue to just talk about the breaking news tonight.

Nic Robertson is here, Arwa Damon as well in Erbil.

The breaking news tonight, ISIS forces apparently now having occupied an old chemical weapons facility from Saddam's days. Nic Robertson was actually there. We actually have some of the video that you shot.

What year was this that you were there?

ROBERTSON: 2002 and it had already been bombed by coalition forces back in 1991 and weapons inspectors, U.N. weapons inspectors have been there in the mid-'90s. So when I was there, I was writing about these rusting rows of chemical weapons equipment. Again, I was back there with the U.N. weapons inspectors.

It must have been an important site because that was the seventh site that they visited after they arrived. We went to a lot of sites so it was a key one. This was the birthplace for Saddam Hussein's biological weapons, the heart of his chemical weapons production facility. It was that a sort of maximum production in the '80s when Iraq was at war with Iran, and it had been -- it had been sort of idled after that.

Again, bombed in '91 so when I was there, you have this desert site, sort of 15 square miles, bunkers.

COOPER: Right.

ROBERTSON: Semi secure site, some places, the wire around the outside was torn down. COOPER: And you raised the question tonight right before we went on

air, which I think is a good one, is if it's -- ISIS forces are there, if they have some of these former Baath Party members with them, or former Sunni militias or former Saddam forces, who know about this facility, does that add a whole wrinkle into this?

ROBERTSON: You have to fight to that end. Part of the strategic that I understand for the tribal leader that I talked to who are fighting there right now is that they are using the strategic planning of the former Baath Party generals and offices in the army. If they are there right now you've got to believe there's some part of design in that.

COOPER: Right.

ROBERTSON: What is their plan? To use it. For those Baath Party officers from the old Iraqi army, yes, they will know the layout there. They will know what equipment is there.

COOPER: Right.

ROBERTSON: And some of them even think they can utilize this.

COOPER: Arwa, do we really a good sense or does the United States at this point have good intelligence on how many other groups are now fighting with ISIS forces? How many other Sunni groups or Sunni awakening groups are -- or Baath Party groups are fighting?

DAMON: In terms of an exact number at this stage, Anderson, no, it's still a very murky picture and in speaking to people who are connected to these various other Sunni fighting forces. You know, they will throw a couple of familiar names out there, the Naqshbandis, the former Baathists, various other Sunni insurgent groups that were quite prominent during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

But at this stage, the situation is so polarized that even if some of these former Sunni groups are not directly involved in the fight, they are at the very least allowing it to happen. The Sunnis who do not want to see an organization like ISIS take over, who do not want to see the creation of an Islamic caliphate at this stage feel as if they have no other choice but to make their bed with the devil, the devil of course being ISIS.

But even if amongst their ranks, there are those who disagree with that perspective.

No one at this stage is feeling as if they have the clout or the capacity to even begin to stand up to ISIS and try to even bring about a stop to what is happening. One individual who we've been speaking to is fairly close to the other Sunni insurgent groups, was saying that look, we can't fight on two fronts. We can't fight the Shia dominated government in Baghdad and ISIS at the same time.

COOPER: Arwa Damon, thank you so much. Stay safe. And Nic Robertson as well. Appreciate your help.

Joining us now is retired Army Lt. General Mark Hurdling who commanded U.S. forces in northern Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

General, thank you so much for being with us. I'm interested in your perspective. The 300 non-combat advisors that are being sent into Iraq, times I've worked with Green Berets and rangers, I'm always impressed by the complexity of the task that they are assigned to do. They're kind of working on multiple fronts.

What do you see as their key objective this time around here?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ, 2007-2009: Well, I'll open the aperture a little bit, Anderson, and say that these guys are going to provide a lot more than a lot of people are talking about right now. They are certainly going to provide not only support to the Iraqi security forces, that's what everyone is thinking about now, but they're going to provide clarity to what's going on over there.

I'm listening to your reports with Nic and Arwa and they're talking about the numerous tribes and terrorist groups in the north and it brings back some memories when she talks about Naqshbandi and Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam, and the 127 tribes that we once counted in the northern region, but those special forces and special operating forces, they're going to provide clarity as to what is going on.

They're also going to have very good communication packages. So they're going to be able to report not only to their Iraqi brothers in the fight but they're going to report back to our national security apparatus to tell them what is going on. They're going to provide very good intelligence. They're going to provide support to the Iraqi forces and whatever groups they are assigned by and it's usually a 12- person detachment, but they are also going to provide psychological support for the operations.

COOPER: And that's got to be incredibly important, just on a -- for a morale boost to have the presence of highly trained operators from the United States amidst these Iraqi forces. That seems like one of the issues here, I don't know if it's in the officer corps or below, but you have Iraqis who not even, you know, engage in a fire fight but before ISIS even showed up, taking off their weapons, throwing down, you know, taking off their uniforms, throwing down guns.


COOPER: So a morale boost you can't underestimate how important that could be.

HERTLING: It is. And, Anderson, I was listening to your report earlier this afternoon when you had talked to some of the folks on the street that said hey, we don't need the Americans here. I'll tell you that was also prevalent when I was there during my last tour of over three years in that country, and what is interesting is you hear that from the people on the street. They will tell you, hey, we don't really need Americans. We're good to go.

But when you talk to the Iraqi security forces, they know the capabilities we provide with the intelligence contacts, with the capabilities to synergize the various elements of the battlefield. So I think the Iraqi security forces that are beleaguered right now who see us pushing the government as well as the army, they are very happy to have this small number of special forces and special operating forces in the area.

And again, I emphasize not only the clarity and the intelligence but the communication packages and the ability to reach back with the things that our special forces bring with them to the battle field.

COOPER: Yes, you know, it's interesting that you point that out. I will say everybody who has said that to me is like a 22-year-old kid that has no military experience, no experience with the U.S. military.


COOPER: And in truth doesn't really know what they're talking about. They're talking from a position of pride and national pride but when you talk to Iraqi personnel, military personnel who worked one-on-one between breaks, it's a completely different tune as you said.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, I appreciate you being on. Thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next in this hour, the U.S. once supported Nouri al- Maliki, no doubt about that. The man being now blamed for the Sunni backlash that's fueling the current crisis or does Iraq's prime minister need to step down?

Is there a way for that to happen without the U.S. trying to force it to happen? We'll talk about that.

Plus I'll talk to Richard Clark, he's the former top counterterrorism officials his warnings about al Qaeda were ignored before 9/11 and is against the Iraq war now says we were seeing exactly why. We'll talk to him ahead.



COOPER: The airport road used to be among the dangerous roads in the world. There are a lot of suicide bombings, a lot of sniper attacks. They say it's much safer now. We'll see.


COOPER: That road is better now. It's not so great at night, but definitely better now. I did that reporting December 2005. A few months later Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki took office. Tonight he showed no signs of stepping down. His alliance won the most votes. Under Iraq's constitution, he must form a new government. Publicly the White House hasn't said that Maliki should absolutely resign. They say it's up to the Iraqi people, but they surely have been openly critical of his divisive policies. Some U.S. lawmakers are being much blunter saying point blank he is got to go. CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour joins me tonight along with Bobby Ghosh, managing editor of the digital site, "Quertz." He covered Iraq for a lot of years for "Time" magazine.

Christiane, listening to the president, I mean, there really seems to be no support for Nouri Al-Maliki and clearly the White House believes there needs to be change.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The president made that pretty clear going to say it's not up to the United States to choose who the government of Iraq but nonetheless, they have lost faith in Nouri-Al Maliki, even the president's former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton basically told me that Iraqis need to get rid of Maliki.

Now here is the issue, who would be alternatives? We are hearing names floated, one of the senior Sunni names and a Shiite being floated. If you remember, he was the name associated most with helping to pull the U.S. into that war. So see how far things have come, people don't quite know who to get into power.

But one of the things that I'm being told, also, is that the Shiites are genuinely terrified still. They are very afraid what will happen now is that the Sunnis might think they can again take over.

COOPER: Bobby, I mean, you've worked in Iraq for a long, long time and known Maliki for a long time. Do you have belief that he's the kind of leader that can reach out to Sunnis and reach out to Kurds?

BOBBY GHOSH, MANAGING EDITOR, "QUERTZ": No, Anderson. He's had plenty of opportunities to do that and he's doing none of it. He hasn't been doing it in the last 72 hours when the pressure on him has been so great to do so. When it's clear that his policies aren't succeeding. He hasn't shown any kind of flexibilities at all.

I've known him for a long time. I first met him long before he was even considered prime minister candidate and even back then, he was very much a Shiite partisan and his policies in government have remained consistently pro-Shiite and anti-everybody else.

COOPER: Bobby, to Christiane's point, it's amazing to hear his name back in the mix. I remember a time, I think, it was 2004, U.S. troops almost arrested him for one of his aids, I think, giving information to Iran, wasn't it?

GHOSH: I think when you -- if the solution to the problem is him, then your country is in far greater trouble than you actually think. I think if you ran this down, you would find the person suggesting him is him. Nobody in Baghdad I have spoken to in the last 48 hours thinks of him as a serious of viable candidate. It's a sizable lead in Iraq and a few years ago, nobody even heard the name Nouri Al- Maliki. He came out of nowhere. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of somebody whose name we are not considering right now emerging from this confusion as a possible candidate. What is important is to try and have some kind of a national coalition government.

COOPER: And Christiane, it is important to point out, there is a constitutional process here should Maliki choose to abide by it, they are supposed to be working toward forming a new government and choosing a prime minister in the next two weeks. I mean, that's not something the White House has been forcing, that's the constitutional process here.

AMANPOUR: That's right, and the president mentioned again that these elections happened. They were certified. Maliki did get the most votes and they need to form a government. They need to get the system underway, and that has been not happened yet. So here is the thing, you've got several options here.

You've got partition, the freezing of the lines as they are right now with the terrorist group in charge of one part of Iraq or if this political thing doesn't work out, you've got a possibility that Iran might see that it has to come in and save the Shiites or the best case scenario and if John Kerry can do this, who is being dispatched to the region this week.

And it's a very big if, to get U.S., Iran, Saudi Arabia, all who have different ideas about what should happen in Iraq to actually try to use all that influence to make what Bobby was saying, sort of a governing coalition, see if you can get a coalition or a leadership group of national unity and to try to keep Iraq unified and democratic.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much. Bobby Ghosh as well, thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks, Anderson.

GHOSH: Any time, thank you.

COOPER: You know, in all the talk about geopolitics and the politicians, it's important to pause for a moment and remember what happened here over the last week and the death toll and the deaths of people whose names we won't remember or don't even know I should say whose stories we will never know, but people who trying to live good and descent lives, trying to raise their children, just trying to live in peace, who ended up being killed.

Take a look at this scene at a northern Shia town today as families grieved, 31 people killed in an assault by ISIS. Town's people say ISIS fighters attacked three villages with mortars and burned houses. The bodies of the victims were brought to a mosque for prayers before being buried.

Coming up, counterterrorism that warned the Bush administration about al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks join me. We'll hear what Richard Clark thinks about ISIS. Whether the U.S. should have gotten involved in Iraq in the first place, whether it should be doing so again. By the way, he also has some very strong words about Dick Cheney's latest comments. That's next.

Also ahead, we have breaking news, how dozens of CDC employees in Atlanta and the United States may have been exposed to anthrax and what happens now. We'll speak to Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


COOPER: Regular news, you probably know the name Richard Clark. He was the anti-terror adviser in the Bush administration and he raised a red flag about the threat from al Qaeda before 9/11 blasted the president for ignoring warnings. Richard Clark is now chairman of the Middle East Institute and the author of the new book "Sting Of The Drone." I spoke to him early today.


COOPER: Richard, what do you see as American interests in Iraq right now?

RICHARD CLARKE, CHAIRMAN, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, I think we should really have minimal interest. The major interest is in preventing an al Qaeda base or an al Qaeda sanctuary. ISIS as we call it are an al Qaeda branch. They are probably the most powerful of the al Qadea branches in the world certainly after they ripped off all of the money from the banks in Northern Iraq.

And so our goal has to be to split the Sunni alliance so that the rest of the Sunnis, the people we used to deal with deal with us again and help us go after al Qaeda. Now, the reason that our friends in the Sunni alliance have turned against the government in Baghdad is the government in Baghdad is basically been Iranian stooge and pursued anti-Sunni policies.

COOPER: And to do that is it essential that Nouri Al-Maliki has to leave?

CLARKE: I think it is. I think Al-Maliki, despite all of our warnings and all of our efforts to reach out to the Sunnis and the Kurds, to have a real government of national reconciliation and he's consistently refused and been aggressively going after the Sunnis. I think he has to go. I don't see any way that the Sunnis will have a government of national reconciliation as long as Maliki is involved.

COOPER: I've heard comments you made recently sort of skeptical of American's ability to affect change in a lot of places. Do you think the United States can affect change here?

CLARKE: Well, Anderson, we spent a trillion dollars. We had 4,700 Americans die and over 50,000 Americans seriously wounded in order to try to affect change in Iraq and it didn't work. So we have to be very careful about thinking we can affect change. That having been said, we should try in limited ways through intelligence means, through diplomatic means, maybe through very limited use of our military. We really have to understand what our essential interests are. They are not to bring democracy to Iraq. They are not to have Iraq be some nice, functioning government.

COOPER: In a recent interview, you laid the blame for the current situation on the Bush administration for intervening in Iraq back in 2003. You said quote, "I don't want to say I told you so, but this was foreseen." Do you see much of what we're seeing now trace to that movement? I talked to Tony Blair the other day who said it's all about Syria really and Maliki, not back what happened in 2003 and subsequently.

CLARKE: Anderson, the 1991 at the end of the first gulf war I sat in the White House with then leadership of Secretary of Defense Cheney and Brent Scocroft (ph) and others and we contemplated whether to go into Iraq and march to Baghdad and Secretary Cheney and others said if you intervene in Iraq, it will break into pieces into Sunni and Kurdish pieces and they were right.

When the next President Bush contemplated in 2003 going into Iraq some of us said that again. If you invade Iraq, it will break into three pieces as soon as you leave. That's what happened. We should have never gone in in the first place. The situation we face now is directly because we went in.

COOPER: So when you heard Dick Cheney's recent editorial, his writing along with his daughter, I was curious to hear your response to his really blistering attack on the Obama administration and their foreign policy.

CLARKE: Dick Cheney is a discredited hypocrite. He knew in 1991 that it was a mistake to go in and that was the only time he's ever been right about Iraq. Why anybody would listen to Dick Cheney on Iraq is beyond me?

COOPER: You also said at one point, which I found interesting, that what we're seeing is actually al Qaeda fighting Iran. Something you said isn't necessarily a bad thing. Can you explain that?

CLARKE: Well, the two forces that are really on the ground, both of which are enemies of the United States are fighting each other and that's al Qaeda in their ISIS or (Diish) incarnation on the one hand and they are fighting a regime backed by Iran with Iranian Special Forces advisors already on the ground. You know, if we could get the Iranian Special Forces to fight al Qaeda, that would be fun, I think for U.S. national interests. And so the fact that they are fighting each other isn't entirely bad.

COOPER: Richard Clarke, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

CLARKE: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: You heard Richard use the term Diish, it's what ISIS is called in Arabic.

A lot more up next, include potential cases of anthrax back home, that's right, anthrax, where the stuff got loose and how. You may be surprised and maybe not sleep too well, either. Details ahead.


COOPER: Disturbing news today, some of the world's best researchers at one of America's top research labs may have been exposed to a deadly germ, the germ in question is anthrax. Thirteen years ago deliberate anthrax attack killed five people, you may remember. This time what happened at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta was accidental.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, spent a lot of hours inside CDC labs. He joins us tonight. Sanjay, how did this happen?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, simply put, I think this was a mess up either by an individual or group of individuals. This sort of thing should not happen. We're talking about some of the most dangerous pathogens that really exist. It was being studied in a laboratory designed to that. They were transporting it from one particular bio safety laboratory that had pretty stringent regulations to a lower level bio safety laboratory.

What was supposed to happen is they were supposed to deactivate or inactivate the bacteria before they transferred it and they were supposed to wait 48 hours to make sure the bacteria were, in fact, inactivated. Neither one of those steps seemed to happen, Anderson. The inactivation process did not work. They did not wait 48 hours so the bacteria ended up in another lab where people thought it was essentially dead and it wasn't. So they may have been exposed.

COOPER: It's really scary. If someone has been exposed, what are the symptoms?

GUPTA: Well, the symptoms, if it's in -- there is three different types of anthrax. The inhalational, the stuff that you breathe in is the worst one and the one that they are particularly concerned about. You know, it can start of somewhat vague. You can have flu-like symptoms. These anthrax spores get into the lungs and eventually cause significant problems with breathing.

Someone can develop sort of more wide-spread infections throughout the body, and look, this is deadly stuff. The last time we talked about this in a significant way was, you know, back in 2001. You'll remember back then we talked about mortality rates that could be 80 to 90 percent. People died back then, you remember, Anderson, because of anthrax spores that were transmitted through the mail.

COOPER: And people who have been exposed, they are already being treated, right?

GUPTA: It's interesting. I talked to the officials over there. What they said, there were 75 people they are concerned about. They are either working in that lower bio safety lab where the live bacteria came or they may have been walking in the hallways outside the laboratory, but for whatever reason, they were deemed as potentially being many exposed. They are offered antibiotics and they are offered to take it for 60 days, two months. They are very clear and not mandated to take it although I think most people probably would. They are also offered the anthrax vaccine. Typically vaccines are something that are given before an infection, prevent an infection but in this case, they may have some benefit to give it even now after an exposure.

COOPER: Wow, it's unbelievable. Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: You got it. Any time. Be safe.

COOPER: Scary stuff.

Up next, why investigators don't expect to have it easy with the suspected mastermind of the attack on the U.S. mission on Benghazi.

Plus Donald Sterling caught on tape threatening the doctors that diagnosed him as mentally incompetent. You'll hear one report next.


COOPER: Welcome back. Let's check in with Susan Hendricks with the 360 Bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a law enforcement official says investigators don't expect to have an easy time getting information out of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected mastermind of the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, is now being held on a U.S. warship. Bringing him to the U.S. by sea rather than by air will give FBI interrogators more time to question him.

Investigators say the truck that rear-ended comedian, Tracy Morgan's, limo was speeding 20 miles an hour over the limit and the driver was approaching federal limits on how long he could be behind the wheel. Tracy Morgan suffered broken ribs, a broken nose and a broken leg. One person died in that limo.

A judge today heard audio tapes of intimidating voice mails that Donald Sterling left for doctors who certified him as mentally incapacitated. Here is one of those recordings.


DONALD STERLING: I'm not incompetent, you're an incompetent doctor. I'm going to get you fired from UCLA because you are nothing but --


HENDRICKS: The judge denied Shelly Sterling's request to preventing her estranged husband from contacting those doctors and other witnesses over the battle between the Clippers. The fight continues -- Anderson.

COOPER: He called the doctor a tramp? That's weird. Susan, thanks very much. That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern, another edition of 360. The CNN original series "The Sixties, The Decade That Changed The World" starts now.