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THE SITUATION ROOM
Crisis in Iraq; President Obama Speaks Out; Fireworks as Scandal Roars Back to Life; World Cup: The Game the U.S. Hoped to Avoid
Aired June 20, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the terrorists behind the armed siege in Iraq are now targeting young Americans. We have the latest on the propaganda war and the battle for control of Iraq.
Plus, a CNN exclusive: A wanted man risks his life to share secret video, ISIS terrorists in action, knowing the family he left behind could be in danger as well.
Also this hour, a new CNN interview with President Obama, a day after he ordered military advisers to Iraq. Our own Kate Bolduan, she just sat down with the president at the White House. She's heading over to our studios right now.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The first U.S. military advisers could have boots on the ground in Iraq within a matter of hours. The deployment of up to 300 military personnel is getting under way to help Iraqi security forces in their battle against ISIS terrorists and their all allies.
The United Nations Refugee Agency is warning that a humanitarian crisis is growing worse by the day, as ISIS fights to expand its grip on a large portion of Iraq.
The former Iraqi ambassador to the United States is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Our correspondents are standing by in Iraq and the region.
Frist, let's go to our senior international, Nic Robertson. He's got the very latest in Baghdad -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, perhaps the most sign today, a spokesman for the country's top cleric in his Friday prayers listened to and followed by millions upon millions of Iraqi Shias said today that the winning parties in the election should quickly form a government that avoids past mistakes that bring -- that is a good government for all Iraqis and that is inclusive for all Iraqis in the future.
This is a veiled ailed threat to Nouri al-Maliki that it is time to go. We have talked here with Iraqi politicians about how Nouri al- Maliki can be convinced to go. They have said that the only way is for the country's religious leaders to tell him his time is up and that appears today to have been what is happening. Not clear yet that he's going to heed this spiritual guidance.
But this -- these are the developments we're seeing here today, Wolf.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In a nationally televised address, a top Shia cleric, Imam Al-Safi, sought to tamp down sectarian tensions, calling on the government to ban all militias and clarifying an earlier call to arms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This call was directed to everybody and not to one sect. It aimed to prepare to stand up to ISIS that has got the upper hand and strongest presence in many areas.
ROBERTSON: Meanwhile, supporters of ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, amped up their vicious sectarian message with a social media blitz featuring a YouTube video in English aimed at Westerners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have brothers from Bangladesh, from Iraq, from Cambodia, Australia, U.K. Nothing has gathered us, except to make (INAUDIBLE) with the highest.
ROBERTSON: On Iraq's ever-expanding battlefield, ISIS remains in control of vast parts of north and central Iraq and is fighting towards Baghdad.
It is into this that U.S. special forces are being sent back into Iraq, almost three years after U.S. combat troops left. President Obama said as many as 300 special forces might be sent in an advisory role. They are set to assess the dangers ISIS poses and will be forming two joint operation centers with Iraqi troops.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Just like in any unfolding situation like this, like even in a disaster relief operation, one of the first things you do is you deploy assessment teams to go find out what the requirements are, before you start flowing in your support. And that's I think what these first couple of teams will do.
ROBERTSON: So far, the fighting in Iraq this year has displaced more than a million people, the U.N. High Commission on Refugees says.
We met the Red Cross chief for Iraq, who warned me, where ISIS took control six months ago, the situation is dire and could be repeated in the new conquests in the north.
PATRICK YOUSSEF, ICRC: Fallujah has been blocked since quite some time, and the needs are only increasing.
ROBERTSON: Iraq is, meanwhile, looking to embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a more inclusive government, but, Friday, there was no sign of any changes.
Imam Al-Safi told the faithful to be patient while a new government forms. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ROBERTSON: And that patience is clearly something that he perhaps himself, Sistani, and his spokesman there are indicating that they are beginning to run out of with Nouri al-Maliki.
The very fact that they have waded into this deeply -- political issue and laid a very clear guideline, no mistakes like the past, meaning Maliki's mistakes and a government for everyone in Iraq. It's a very, very clear message here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is. Nic Robertson in Baghdad, be careful over there.
Now we have a rare exclusive glimpse into ISIS on secret video smuggled out of the captured city of Mosul. That's Iraq's second largest city now controlled by ISIS. It was smuggled out by a man who's wanted the by terrorist group.
Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is in Northern Iraq for us. She has this exclusive report.
Tell our viewers, Arwa, what you have learned.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, ISIS has already threatened anyone who dares to film them, be it journalist or citizen, with death, already implementing its very strict rules, trying to force them upon the population.
But one man risked everything to bring this video out, speaking to us on condition that he remain anonymous and that we alter his voice.
DAMON (voice-over): Look at his clothes. He's not Iraqi, Ratid (ph) points out. It's not his real name, speaking to us on condition we conceal his identity.
Ratid's wife and children are still in Mosul and could be slaughtered. Ratid, wanted by ISIS, just escaped with this video he shot on his phone. He believes the man he filmed is after him.
(on camera): So, you are saying they're going to go from Mosul to Baghdad to Jerusalem? And he says he was speaking in broken Arabic and clearly wasn't (INAUDIBLE).
(voice-over): That experience and the images a rare glimpse into the murky world of ISIS and how it solidified its grasp.
(on camera): Here's a kid who is giving the ISIS fighter a kiss.
(voice-over): Some of the women were even throwing chocolate on them and shouting, "You saved us from the sectarian army, from Maliki's army," Ratid says. It's because the army had harmed the people, put too much
pressure on them. It's those actions that turned the terrorists into heroes. But Ratid says the people will be betrayed. Already, ISIS is implementing its harsh interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
"Men who wear three-quarter pants get lashed," he says. "If there was Internet, you would see the worst of their torture. Women can't go out without a male guardian."
And he is still shocked his city fell so fast. "There were only two to three hundred ISIS fighters, and 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi security forces. But after fighting for three days, they disappeared," Ratid says.
(on camera): This is from the special operations for the anti- terrorism unit.
(voice-over): After moving through, sleeper cells are activated. They are Iraqi.
"All the groups that were fighting the Americans at the start are now back and with ISIS," Ratid explains. "Maliki's actions are fueling the fire. American bombing would wreck more havoc than there already is." He pauses. His voice starts to crack. "The country is destroyed. It's lost," he says, disbelieving. "After 1,000 years, it won't come back."
His eyes fill with tears as he adds, "The city of Mosul, once the city of prophets, in a day and night, it turned into a city of ghosts and nightmares."
DAMON: And, Wolf, Ratid believes that there has to be some sort of political change, that Maliki most definitely needs to go. But he does not believe that that's actually going to help save his country.
But he says, at the very least, it could begin to ease some of the tensions, perhaps even cause some of the violence to subside. But, at the end of the day, he says what people really need to focus on is trying to drive a wedge between ISIS and the other Sunni groups currently fighting alongside it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Totally horrendous situation. Arwa Damon in Irbil, Northern Iraq, be careful over there as well.
Let's turn back now to the videos that ISIS wants you to see. The terror group is widening its chilling recruitment campaign, reaching out directly to Americans and other Westerners.
CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom has been doing some excellent reporting for us on ISIS, its propaganda.
Mohammed, what's the very latest?
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we have seen emerge today is a startling new tactic that's being utilized by ISIS in (AUDIO GAP) war. And one (AUDIO GAP) analysts here will only make this group more dangerous than it already is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All my brothers come to jihad and feel the honor we are feeling. Feel the happiness that we're feeling.
JAMJOOM (voice-over): This new and very glossy recruitment video, which looks professionally shot and edited, was produced by ISIS in English. It's tailor-made to appeal to Americans and other Western jihadists.
It features a 20-year-old British medical student who's traveled to Syria to wage jihad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What prevents you from attaining martyrdom and the pleasure of your lord? Look around you while you sit in comfort, and ask yourself, is this how you want to die?
JAMJOOM: Analysts fear strategies like this may be working.
NADIA OWEIDAT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: It's very significant that ISIS is using English. That means they have ambitions to attack Western countries. These videos attract certain people, young people who find violence exciting.
JAMJOOM: Last month, Moner Mohammed Abusalha, a 22-year-old from Vero Beach, Florida, became the first American suicide bomber in Syria.
ISIS released clips showing the attack, declaring the feat a victory for them. U.S. officials say dozens of U.S. citizens are already in Syria. They're worried not just about the Americans currently there. They're even more concerned about the ones who might come back and plot attacks against the homeland.
To that end, Twitter has become a front line in the propaganda war ISIS is waging. Many fighters claiming to be British constantly tweet updates, urging like-minded Britons to join them in Iraq and Syria. One asks, "How can you see pictures of babies blown to pieces with their brains all over the floor and then question us about why we come here?"
Another post, "Families in the villages taken over by ISIS are slowly returning and settling in and are happy and relieved to see ISIS occupying."
And then there's YouTube, where a steady stream of clips are posted, like this video purportedly showing ISIS supporters around the world standing in solidarity with a group so brutal even al Qaeda has disowned them.
Experts suggest that even though the propaganda is making waves, ISIS should be seen for what it really stands for. OWEIDAT: It is really important to treat this as you would a
deadly virus. If there was a deadly virus anywhere in the world, it is threatening to all of humanity. So it needs to be treated as a virus that causes genocide.
JAMJOOM: Wolf, it was just last month you and I were discussing a really brutal video showing ISIS going on a horrific killing spree throughout different provinces in Iraq. Well, the terrorism experts I'm speaking with today are saying that it's not really a surprise that ISIS is somewhat shifting tactics.
They believe that if they show this softer side that they trying to present now, that they will be able to get more foreign recruits -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mohammed Jamjoom reporting from Beirut for us, doing excellent work, thank you, Mohammed.
Let's dig deeper into the situation in Iraq and the threat from ISIS. We're joined now by the former Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Samir Sumaidaie.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming back.
Can you believe what is happening in your country after all the suffering, all the blood, sweat and tears that have been invested; it has come down to this horrible situation right now?
SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, FORMER IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Wolf, this is absolutely heartbreaking.
Iraq now is like a wagon which is right at the edge of a cliff.
BLITZER: Who's to blame?
SUMAIDAIE: Before we get into that, the two wheels of the -- the front wheels of the wagon is already over the cliff. It will not take too much effort to push it over. It's right there.
Iraq could splinter, could disintegrate, but it will take a lot of leadership, skill and effort to get it back.
BLITZER: All right, so what needs to -- let's look ahead. What needs to be done? Then I'm going to ask you later, why did this happen?
SUMAIDAIE: First, the enemy number one and number two and number three is ISIS. Terrorism is our mortal enemy.
It's not only your mortal enemy. It's our mortal enemy. But the only way to defeat them, as General Petraeus would tell you, with even with 170,000 Americans on the ground, the only way they could be defeated the first time around was to get the people on your side. And to get the people on your side, we need a political solution.
I'm very encouraged today by the announcement of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has always been a moderating influence, who basically said we need a fresh start.
BLITZER: So, let me ask you this question. It's a blunt question. The U.S. trained hundreds of thousands of Iraqi security forces, police and military, provided the best weapons, spent billions and billions of dollars, did everything possible to give political stability to Nouri al-Maliki and his government.
There's a few thousand ragtag terrorists come in from Syria and they take over Mosul, a city of two million people, and the Iraqi military flees, they rip off their uniforms, and they throw down their weapons?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, here is the thing that many Americans don't get. I was minister of interior in 2004.
The Americans put a lot of emphasis on training. But you cannot train people who are unqualified. The recruiting was done wrong. A lot of ex-militiamen who were almost illiterate were given rank well beyond their capability. Then there was corruption. People started buying military rank for money, for American dollars.
And when you buy your position with dollars, that's an investment. You want to get that back. We had the horrendous situation of Iraqi army officers in Anbar effectively kidnapping local people, so that they can collect money to release them.
SUMAIDAIE: When you have an army like this, it's not invested in the defense of the country. It's invested in itself.
BLITZER: How much blame -- do you have any confidence at all in the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, not all the blame can be placed on Mr. Maliki.
BLITZER: But a lot of it can be.
SUMAIDAIE: Only 99 percent of it.
BLITZER: OK, 99 percent, you blame him. He's got to go, right?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, look, he -- now Ayatollah Sistani is effectively saying he has got to go.
If we have to have a political solution, which we must have in order to -- we have to -- we are right at the fore.
BLITZER: Who can emerge as a leader of Iraq? Ahmad Chalabi, his -- all of a sudden, his name has been thrown out.
SUMAIDAIE: I'm not going to name the next leader. There is a process. Effectively, technically, now, Maliki is a
caretaker prime minister, because the government -- his mandate is finished. Now the new parliament has to sit, and there's got to be a new package agreed upon. And now that's -- we need to accelerate that and to arrive at the solution...
BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Ahmad Chalabi?
SUMAIDAIE: Look, I'm at the point of saying practically everybody is going to be better than Maliki. Maliki must go.
But we must -- we must walk away, walk back from sectarian politics. As long as we have -- you see, Maliki, the problem is, he used sectarianism as a tool of consolidating his power. We need politicians who walk away from that, who use the strength of the nation, not the weakness of the nation.
BLITZER: Here's the problem that I see. And you and I have had this conversation over the years. We spoke a lot when you were the ambassador here in Washington.
Iraqis used to be Iraqis. Now they're Sunnis, they're Shiites, or they're Kurds. Being Iraqi is sort of way -- this ethnic, religious, sectarian split has exploded. And I'm deeply concerned, Mr. Ambassador, that it's not going to be fixed. It's going to go on and on and on.
SUMAIDAIE: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, I assure you Iraqi nationalism is not dead.
But what happens is, when you have the extremists getting -- getting to grips with the power, they polarize, they thrive on polarizing the nation. And, actually, the Shia extremists thrive on Sunni extremism. And Sunni extremists thrive on Shia. We need the middle. And there's a lot of it. It's just now marginalized. We need to revive it.
BLITZER: All right. Let's hope you're right, Mr. Ambassador.
SUMAIDAIE: I'm sure it can be done with the right leadership.
BLITZER: We have been waiting since 2003. It hasn't been done yet.
SUMAIDAIE: Well, with the right leadership -- and that's really the deficit that we have to make up.
BLITZER: I hope that there can be the right leadership.
Samir Sumaidaie is the former Iraqi ambassador to the United States.
SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And I know you're a true Iraqi patriot, and you would like to see the country get some semblance or order. Thanks very much.
SUMAIDAIE: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Good luck.
SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Don't leave yet.
Still ahead, who's the blame for the current crisis in Iraq? We're going to speak to a top spokesman from the Bush-Cheney area about the former vice president's scathing criticism of President Obama.
Plus, a brand-new entire view with President Obama. We're standing by. Our own Kate Bolduan, she has been over to the White House speaking to President Obama about Iraq and other subjects. Kate is coming over to THE SITUATION ROOM. We will speak with her shortly.
But first, if you want to help the Iraqi refugees, here's how.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: I don't know if you have noticed, but some of the guys that got us into the Iraq war in the first place are now criticizing Obama's policy? That -- that takes a lot of nerve. Getting -- being criticized by those guys for your war policy is like being called ugly by a toad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Strong words from Senator Angus King of Maine, sharing his take on the president's Iraqi critics, including the former Vice President Dick Cheney, who this week published a scathing opinion piece, along with his daughter Liz Cheney.
We're joined now by Dan Senor. Early on, 2003-2004, he was in Iraq, as the Bush administration's efforts were just getting under way. He was the chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Dan, thanks very much for coming in.
DAN SENOR, FORMER COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY SPOKESMAN: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Is Angus King, the senator from Maine, right when he says someone like Dick Cheney, who got the U.S. into the war with a lot of bad information back in 2003, has -- really should just shut up right now and not give advice to the president? SENOR: Well, I will say a couple of things, Wolf.
Anybody who has experience dealing with Iraq should be weighing in right now, because we have learned a lot of very difficult lessons.
BLITZER: Even someone who made many blunders, making predictions that turned out to be disasters?
SENOR: Well, let me get to that, because -- because -- because, Wolf, if Senator King is right that anybody who was for the original policy in Iraq should -- quote -- "shut up," he's talking to many of his colleagues in the United States Senate, whether it's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whether it's the current secretary of state or the secretary of state in President Obama's first term, Secretaries Clinton and Kerry.
It's his vice president, Joe Biden. These were all people who were very supportive of the 2003 Iraq war.
BLITZER: As you know, the legislative branch, they depend on the executive branch for intelligence, for information, for briefings, and they were getting these briefings -- but you remember that?
SENOR: They saw the same intelligence that the executive branch did. They could make their own independent decisions.
There were members of the Senate that voted against the Iraq war. So, it's not like they were forced to vote for the Iraq war. And I just would also say, many of these members of Congress who are making the points that Senator King just made, I met with a number of them when I was in Baghdad, in 2003, 2004.
There were congressional delegation trips that came over. We met with these members all the time. We briefed them. We walked them through decisions we had made. They weren't critical. They were supportive. They were trying to help us out.
And now a lot of the second-guessing you're hearing, more in the post-war period, which is what I was involved with, is just second -- sort of, you know, Monday-morning quarterbacking.
BLITZER: I guess it's frustrating. And I'm sure you're frustrated, just like everyone, to see what's going on.
You heard my interview with Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie, the former Iraqi ambassador here in Washington. He sees his country being ripped apart right now, a city of two million people, Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, now controlled by these ISIS terrorists.
There were so many glowing predictions. I'm going to play a little clip. You and I spoke. This is back in 2004, when you were the chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority. And you were very optimistic as well. And that's what I -- I want to get your reaction to the disappointment you must feel right now. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENOR: Everyone was concerned about a civil war. It didn't happen. Everyone was worried about a humanitarian crisis. It didn't happen.
In these war situations, where there's some level of ambiguity that's to be expected, you also have to give credit where credit was due. And we are in a situation, about 15 months after the war, where we have a sovereign democratic government in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so you must be as frustrated, as angry, as disappointed as anyone, because you had such high expectations. A lot of us did.
SENOR: Actually, the period in which that interview occurred, which I is guess 2004, we then went through an extremely dark period in Iraq, where really the wheels came off.
This is the bombing, you remember, of the mosque in Samarra. In 2006, you had Shiite militia death squads going after Sunni communities, Sunni terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda, Abu Musab al Zarqawi responding. The place was out of control. You go to a morgue in Baghdad 2005-2006, hundreds of bodies lined up each night.
It was horrendous. And in 2007-2008, President Bush, in the face of incredible unpopularity, both personally for him, politically, but also unpopularity for the war, you know, developed a new strategy, em powered an innovative and entrepreneurial general, David Petraeus, and turned this around.
And the key lesson, the key takeaway there is there is this connection, this complex connection in Iraq between security and politics, between security and power. And our ability to influence the politics, the inclusive politics -- politics in Iraq, is directly connected to our ability to help provide security.
You know, Prime Minister Maliki, who we're watching with great frustration right now, just a couple of years ago, about four years ago, had taken on Shiite militias.
SENOR: He had taken on Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi army.
SENOR: And the Sunnis had taken on radical Sunnis in the Anbar awakening. BLITZER: Dan...
SENOR: So we have -- we have seen this happen before.
Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment we need anything on the scale of the surge. But if we want to have any influence with the Iraqi government and do the sorts of things that the Ambassador Sumaidaie was just talking about, we need to have some security influence.
BLITZER: All right. Dan Senor, we will continue this conversation. Thanks very much.
SENOR: It's good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We've got breaking news. The president has just wrapped up an interview with our own Kate Bolduan. She's one of the co-anchors of CNN's "NEW DAY." Kate is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Kate, welcome back. This was a good opportunity, on this day after the president made a major announcement about sending military advisors to Iraq. We need falling (ph).
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was an important moment to get some clarity on some of the details that we still don't know about what the -- what the administration is going to do.
I began the interview, Wolf, by asking him about the man really at the center of this, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And as you well know just months ago, the president commended the prime minister for ensuring a strong, inclusive, democratic Iraq. We know none of that has happened since Maliki's been there. So why, then, does the president think that any fix can happen in Iraq if Maliki is still in power?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:We gave Iraq the chance to have an inclusive democracy, to work across sectarian lines, to provide a better future for their -- their children.
And, unfortunately, what we've seen is a breakdown of trust. There's no doubt that there have been a -- a suspicion for quite some time now among Sunnis that they have no access to, you know, using the political process to deal with their grievances.
And, you know, that is, in part, the reason why a better armed and larger number of Iraqi security forces melted away when an extremist group, ISIS, started rolling through the western portions of Iraq.
So part of the task now is to see whether Iraqi leaders are prepared to rise above sectarian motivations, come together, compromise. If they can't, there's not going to be a military solution to this problem. There's no amount of American firepower that's going to be able
to hold the country together. And I made that very clear to Mr. Maliki and all the other leadership inside of Iraq.
BOLDUAN: But by going into the country to support the -- this Iraqi government -- to support Iraqi forces now, there's a real risk that you will very well likely be seen as supporting the Shiite side.
Isn't that inflaming the tension further and thus doing exactly what ISIS wants?
OBAMA: Yes, actually not, because the terms in which we're willing to go in as advisers initially is to do an assessment of do they still have a functioning chain of command, and is their military still capable, particularly in some of the western and northwestern regions of the country?
But what we've also said is, is that in a joint operations center that we might set up and any advising that we may do, if we don't see Sunni, Shia and Kurd representation in the military command structure, if we don't see Sunni, Shia and Kurd political support for what we're doing, then we won't do it.
The terms in which we send any advisers would be dependent on us seeing that, within the military and within the political structure, that there remains a commitment to a unified and inclusive Iraqi government and armed forces.
BOLDUAN: No matter what happens in Iraq, can you realistically protect the national security interests of the United States without also going into Syria, where this threat emanated from?
OBAMA: I think it's important for us to distinguish between a counterterrorism effort that is ongoing: dealing with al Qaeda and the remnants that still exist in the Fatah, creating platforms, taking targeted strikes where necessary, gathering intelligence.
All that work has to be done -- would have to be done even if the crisis in Iraq wasn't occurring. And there's no doubt that the problem in Syria is one that we've been paying a lot of attention to over the last couple of years, as you see jihadists coming in from Europe and as far as Australia to get trained and then going back into their home countries.
This is something that we've been deeply concerned about. Part of the reason we've been supporting the moderate opposition effort in Syria is to make sure that there are forces that are countering some of the gains that some of these extremist organizations have made inside of Syria.
But that's different from whether we have the capacity, for example, to send our own troops into Syria. That's different from, you know, some of the decisions that we make -- we are making with respect to how do we pull Iraq together.
BOLDUAN: Finally, do you really believe in your gut that those -- this change can happen, that they can unify in Iraq?
OBAMA: I think we'll know soon enough. They're not -- they don't have a lot of time. There's a timetable that is in place under their constitution. The good news is that so far, at least, all the parties have said that "We want to abide by the constitution." You had the preeminent Shia leader inside of Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, saying, "We need to follow the constitutional order and form a government quickly."
So they have the chance. But, you know, ultimately, what I think the vast majority of Americans understand is, is that we can't do it for them. And we certainly can't redeploy tens of thousands of U.S. troops to try to keep a lid on a problem if the people themselves don't want to solve it.
BLITZER: Kate, good interview. I know that's just part of it. The full interview is going to run Monday morning on "NEW DAY." But I didn't get the sense, when you asked him about his gut instincts, he's been very upbeat that this is going to work out. It doesn't sound like he has a lot of confidence in the prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki.
BOLDUAN: I totally agree with you. I think at best, you can say he's skeptical. And let's be honest, for good reason: political reconciliation in the country has been -- has escaped that country for forever, for so long. And he said we don't have a lot of time, and he even said yesterday in announcing what was going to happen, there's too much mistrust. There's too much suspicion among Iraqis. How is that going to change overnight with the same man in power?
BLITZER: Because he must be so frustrated. Last November you and I discussed this. Nouri al-Maliki came to Washington, went to the White House, sat with the president in the Oval Office. And there were glowing comments from the president on how thing were moving in the right direction...
BOLDUAN: That's right.
BLITZER: Nouri al-Maliki was doing the right thing. And all of a sudden, a few months later we see this disaster that has unfolded.
BOLDUAN: And one interesting detail that I had not yet heard is when I said that aren't you going to be seen as supporting one side or the other, and he said no. And he was talking about even if they create these joint operations down there, they're going to need to see, he says, Sunni representation, Shia representation and Kurdish representation if they are going to get any assistance from the United States.
I have not heard that yet. That sounds difficult to pull off in itself. That goes into the wait-and-see category, if that's possible. I found that interesting. But that is part of the interview.
We also had a -- really, a fascinating conversation, Wolf, really interesting, talking about domestic issues: what families are facing on a daily basis, how to balance work and life and make it work. They're having a summit, the working families summit. That's on Monday. It gets really personal and gets really interesting and offers a lit bit of advice for first-time parents. So it was an interesting conversation.
BLITZER: Like you and Michael getting ready to be first-time parents.
BLITZER: Monday morning, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., "NEW DAY," the full interview will air. And of course, we will be watching. I watch it every day.
BOLDUAN: Every day. You're my biggest fan.
BLITZER: Good to have you back in Washington.
Just ahead, a key critic of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq weighs in on President Obama's handling of the current crisis and the deployment of U.S. military advisers.
BLITZER: We just heard the president of the United States in that interview with Kate Bolduan, suggested it's now up to the Iraqis themselves. The United States simply can't do the work of what the Iraqis need to do to bring some semblance of peace and security to that country. Let's get some reaction.
Joining us, Joe Wilson. He was the former chief of mission in Baghdad, certainly with a role of acting ambassador during the lead-up to the first Iraq War back in 1991, a war that all of us covered at the time.
Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.
JOE WILSON, FORMER CHIEF OF MISSION TO BAGHDAD: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. So what do you think of the president's strategy right now, deploying another 300 Special Operations Forces, advisers, if you will, to go back to Iraq right now to help the Iraqis?
WILSON: Well, I'm not sure what I -- if I understand the mission. As I heard it described earlier today on your show and then by the president, it's to go in and sort of assess whether or not the training that we gave the Iraqi military for eight years has actually taken hold, if they can actually effectively function as -- as a military service.
But the problem with that, it seems to me, as the mission, is that it will be seen by the Sunnis as our taking sides against them in a sectarian conflict, something which others on your show have already spoken to earlier today and in other days.
BLITZER: So what advice -- what advice would you give?
WILSON: Well, I think the extent to which we're in there at all, it should be focused strictly on the terrorist mission, which would be the decapitation of ISIS or ISIL, whichever you want to call it, and stay away from sort of widespread attacks on the Sunni, uprising which is backing the ISIS tip of the spear.
BLITZER: Is it really, though, going to make much of a difference, given all the effort the U.S. has made going back to 2003? We see the disaster there right now. A lot of folks are just simply saying, it doesn't make any difference what the U.S. is going to do.
There are hundreds of years of animosity, hatred between various groups, tribal groups -- Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- in Iraq. Is it really going to make much of a difference, no matter how much the U.S. spends, no matter how many U.S. troops are involved?
WILSON: I think Iraq is in a perilous position right now. And I think you're right to suggest that U.S. involvement at any level may not make a long term difference. Certainly at the military level, I don't think it will make a long term difference. They waited us out during the occupation.
I was in Baghdad in September 2010. It was a powder keg, going through these check points, it was so serious my security detail wouldn't allow me to go one block off of the main road to see my old house in Mansur, one block off the main road to see my former embassy in Baghdad. That's how perilous it was then. And we still had 40,000 troops there.
This has been building for quite a while. On my own sense of this is we ought to be preparing for the worst scenario, bolstering the efforts our friends and allies in the country, Jordan and Turkey, their efforts to handle the influx of refuges, because there may well be many more refugees in the next six to 12 months.
BLITZER: Are we on the verge of seeing three new countries develop inside Iraq, a Sunni, a Shia and a Kurd?
WILSON: I don't see the Nelson Mandela on the horizon that can bring these three parties that have been irreconcilable for hundreds of years together in a common union at this stage. Maybe there's one out there. But I certainly don't see that person, that leadership.
BLITZER: I agree. I don't see that person either. Joe Wilson, who was the acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq back in 1991 when Saddam Hussein was still in power, knows the country well. Thanks for joining us.
WILSON: Thanks, Wolf, very much.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a simmering scandal roars back to life.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Missing e-mails are acting like a gas on a fire,
heating up a House hearing to dramatic levels today with the IRS commissioner in a very hot seat.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has details -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the IRS scandal had died down but today's incredibly combated hearing shows that there is still life on this issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Levin.
BASH (voice-over): In the annals of white hot moments on Capitol Hill, this IRS hearing ranks high.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: This is a pattern of abuse, a pattern of behavior that is not giving us any confidence that this agency is being impartial. I don't believe you. This is incredible.
JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: I have a long career. That's the first time anybody has said they do not believe me. I'm actually --
RYAN: I don't believe you.
BASH: Former Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan is usually more policy wonk than attack dog but not here.
RYAN: You asked taxpayers to hang on to seven years of their personal tax information in case they're ever audited and you can't keep six month worth of employee e-mails?
BASH: Republicans pushed John Koskinen on new IRS claims that two years of e-mails from IRS official Lois Lerner vanished because Lerner's hard drive crashed. E-mails from the same time frame the IRS targeted Tea Party and other groups.
KOSKINEN: The actual hard drive after it was determined it was dysfunctional and that with experts, no e-mails could be retrieved, was recycled and destroyed in the normal process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, was it physically destroyed?
KOSKINEN: That's my understanding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, was it melted down? Do you know?
KOSKINEN: I have no idea what the recycler does with it. This was three years ago.
BASH: The IRS commissioner repeatedly said Lerner herself worked with I.T., even an IRS criminal forensics lab, to restore the e-mails but they couldn't. Beyond the question of what happened to Lerner's missing e-mails
is whether the IRS purposely kept Congress in the dark, that e-mails were lost, fueling GOP accusations of cover-up which Koskinen flatly denied.
KOSKINEN: There's been no attempt to keep it a secret. My position has been that when we provide information, we should provide it completely. If we provide you incomplete information, people sometimes are tempted to leap to the wrong conclusion.
BASH: It was testy right at the gate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I didn't hear in that was an apology to this committee.
KOSKINEN: I don't think an apology is owed.
BASH: The IRS commissioner tried to give as good as he got from Republicans, with backup from Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could the witness answer the question?
BASH: They mocked Republicans for obsessing over conspiracy theories.
REP. RICHARD NEAL (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The only thing it's missing is Oliver Stone.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: How about Area 51 out in Roswell, New Mexico, where all those space aliens allegedly came? Have you ever had any responsibility for that?
DOGGETT: Have you ever had custody of the president's birth certificate?
BASH: Now, when this IRS scandal first broke, Democrats joined Republicans in their outrage at the IRS, but no more. You just saw there, Wolf. The Democrats are now basically brushing this off as yet another Republican partisan witch hunt, something that really does gin up the conservative base, especially since we're 4 1/2 months away from the midterm elections -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fireworks on Capitol Hill. Dana, thanks very much.
Just ahead, members of Team USA, they are set to play a critical World Cup match.
BLITZER: Right now, World Cup fans are gearing up for a must-win game for Team USA. They play Portugal on Sunday. It could be a tough match.
CNN's Lara Baldesarra is in Brazil.
Set the scene for us, Lara.
LARA BALDESARRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is what you need to know right now. The U.S. team, they have left their base in Sao Paulo. They have flown to Manaus, which is the middle of the Amazon rain forest. They landed just a short time ago. So, they're really just going to have one night and I guess a day to really acclimatize to the really crazy humidity that they're going to have to play in.
Now, this is the type of humidity that can be so draining on a player's body. It really could come down to a battle of fitness and conditioning between the American squad and the Portugal squad. So, that's what we could be seeing.
Now, we also want to keep our eye on Clint Dempsey. He'll be playing with a broken nose. He can only breathe out of one nostril. So, hopefully, the humidity won't impact his breathing whatsoever. He is a key role on this U.S. team, Wolf.
BLITZER: I can't wait to watch. I mean, you have the best assignment in broadcast journalism right now, Lara. We'll check back with you on Monday. Thanks very much.
And be sure to join us Monday in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.