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ISIS Advance in Western Iraq; Reaction to Iraq Crisis; Team USA Tied with Portugal

Aired June 23, 2014 - 05:30   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arriving in Iraq as militants capture more cities, moving in on Baghdad. We are live in Iraq with what's happening right now.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And dangerous storms ahead. Millions in the path of severe weather today as communities clean up the devastation left behind after tornadoes touched down in their town. Indra Petersons is tracking what you can expect today.

KOSIK: Team USA moments from clinching a victory against Portugal, stunned by a last-minute goal. The game a draw. This morning, we are breaking down the big plays, the big mistakes and what comes next.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

KOSIK: Breaking news from Iraq where ISIS continues its seemingly relentless march through western Iraq. There are reports this morning that at least 71 prisoners and five police officers were killed in an attack by militants on a police convoy transferring inmates.

ISIS has captured at least four towns since Friday including border crossings into both Syria and Jordan. Meantime, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Baghdad arriving overnight for talks with Iraqi leaders who he says must rise above sectarian motivations and be more inclusive.

CNN's Nima Elbagir is live in Baghdad.

What's the latest there?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the secretary is not just arriving in a very fearful Baghdad but in a fearful region. Those border crossings that you were talking about, Alison, that's got the Jordanians very scared. They have begun reinforcing on their side of the border at the Turabil crossing. They're very worried that now ISIS doesn't just have an open line of movement with Syria. It also potentially -- now has an overlooking point into both Jordan and into Saudi Arabia.

And as you mentioned, we've now had confirmed as the 71 prisoners killed, less than 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, it really gives you a sense of how fluid this situation is. We have had back to back to back, three significant military games over the last 72 hours and we're starting to see a spike in activity. South of Baghdad, we're hearing of clashes just to the west of Baghdad on the outskirts. And Abu Ghraib, eyewitnesses tell us the road out of Abu Ghraib towards that western Anbar Province is now closed.

Militants have been slighted there. Most of Anbar province, at least two-thirds of it, if not just under three quarters we understand from Iraqi officials, that is now in ISIS hands. So the task that faces Secretary Kerry, not just in unifying the Iraqi parties, but also in looking for a way out of it. And unfortunately without a political resolution, you can't have any sort of a security resolution, Alison. And that's what needs to happen first and foremost here.

KOSIK: Nima, what leverage does Kerry have at this point knowing that the tension is really heating up?

ELBAGIR: I'm so sorry, Alison. Could you repeat that? As you can appreciate we're having a couple of technical issues down here.

KOSIK: With tensions heating up so much in Iraq, what leverage does Kerry have?

ELBAGIR: Well, he has the leverage of any potential broader U.S. support. President Obama has promised 300 military advisers. We were expecting them this weekend. We have no word, as yet, whether they have arrived. But the president was also very clear. He said what they don't want to do is to have a government that repeats the mistakes of the past.

And what people are reading into that is given how much criticism Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has gotten about his policies that have seemed to have marginalized the Sunni community and driven them perhaps to some extent into the arms of ISIS, although we shouldn't also discount the role that fear plays in the support that ISIS is receiving from the broader Sunni community.

There is a concern that -- how can you bolster a government that was part of the problem? So the U.S. will be looking for assurances that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated and that there is going to be change on the ground before we look at any broader U.S. help. What the government here are asking for is air support because what they don't have is air fire power. And the U.S. has been reticent to commit to that. So what needs to happen for the U.S. to say OK, that is now on the table, Alison. That's what Secretary Kerry is going to be discussing today.

KOSIK: OK, Nima Elbagir, live in Baghdad, thanks.

MARQUEZ: So the Obama administration, is it doing enough to respond to the new and growing crisis in Iraq? That question being debated heavily on the Sunday talk shows.

Erin -- CNN's Erin McPike has more on the politics of Iraq.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's most politically interesting here is just how divergent the voices are in the Republican Party on this. First you have former vice president Dick Cheney, who, of course, more than a decade ago was really pushing for more serious action that, of course, led to the war in Iraq. Well, he was on ABC News just yesterday. He was calling Rand Paul an isolationist. But here is the point that he made.


RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure we've really addressed the problem. I would be definitely be helping the resistance up in Syria, in ISIS backyard, with training and weapons and so forth in order to be able to do a more effective job on that end of the party. But I think, at this point, there are no good, easy answers in Iraq.


MCPIKE: So, obviously, Cheney is saying there that he thinks the Obama administration needs to do a lot more. But on the other end of the spectrum is, as I mentioned, Rand Paul, who is very likely to run for president in 2016.

Here is how Rand Paul addressed this issue on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday.