Return to Transcripts main page


John Kerry Arrives in Iraq; Primary Day in Seven States; World Cup Continues in Brazil

Aired June 24, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A new reality in Iraq. Terrorists gaining ground. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promising help if the country can come together to form a new government. We are live in Baghdad with the very latest.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And new allegations of a deadly cover-ups at the VA hospitals. Patients dying while waiting for appointments, listed as living to make statistics look better. What one whistleblower is telling CNN. And what lawmakers had to say about it overnight.

ROMANS: Happening today, a political showdown in Mississippi. A primary runoff pitting a six-term Republican senator against a Tea Party challenger. We'll break you down this heated race and several more that will shape elections this November.

MARQUEZ: Interesting day.

ROMANS: It is getting interesting.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: And I'm Miguel Marquez. It is 31 minutes past the hour. The future of Iraq teetering on the edge this morning. Secretary of John State meeting with -- John Kerry meeting with Iraq's Kurdish president who told America's top diplomat Iraq is facing a new reality. It comes a day after Kerry met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who agreed to form a new government.

Now there are conflicting reports about the status of the country's largest oil refinery. Iraq's state-run media says the military still has control despite reports that militants have seized it.

As more of Iraq falls under extremist control, let's get to Nima Elbagir live in Baghdad with the very latest.

Nima, is there anything that can flip this dynamic with the Sunni ISIS? The Sunnis seem to acquiesce with them and that the government only seeming to be able to go at them with weapons.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a commitment of U.S. military help. That is a very good start here on the ground and that is what has been promised by Secretary Kerry. But he also warned that that help needs to go side by side with political commitments from the actors on the ground.

Take a listen, Miguel.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective. It will allow Iraqi Security Forces to confront ISIL more effectively and in a way that respects Iraq's sovereignty, while also respecting America's and the region's vital interests.


ELBAGIR: That is pretty crucial, Miguel, if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps. But it's by no means guaranteed right now. Very difficult to get the Sunni tribes to move over, those who have allied with the -- with the ISIS extremists to move over to the government's side without some pretty serious commitments from the ruling Shia apolitical class from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, that they will be inclusive.

That the policies many amongst Sunnis have seen as being extraordinarily discriminatory, that that will be behind them and they can move forward, because time is of the essence here. And even now much of that ground -- this is what we're hearing from security sources on the ground. Much of what has been already lost to ISIS is going to be very difficult to retake, even with a commitment from the Sunni tribes. Let alone if the Sunni spent time trying to cut the best political deals. So time is absolutely of the essence.

That oil refinery you mentioned, Baiji, it is on the highway to Baghdad. So if that falls, then ISIS is another crucial step closer to the Iraqi capital -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Nima Elbagir, in Baghdad for us, thank you very, very much.

Hard to see how that dynamic changes.

Meantime a poll shows the American public unhappy with the president's performance. A "New York Times"/CBS News poll just 58 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling foreign policy, up 10 points in the last month. A slim majority, 51 percent, do support the decision to send 300 military advisers to Iraq.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, new stunning allegations of doctored paperwork at the VA. A whistleblower says veterans' records were altered to cover up how many of them died waiting for health care.

Pauline DeWenter told our Drew Griffin she was ordered by supervisors in Phoenix to make changes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Somebody is going on that electronic wait list and where people are -- identified as being dead, somebody is changing that and saying, no, they're not dead.


GRIFFIN: To hide the fact people died on that list?

DEWENTER: That's my belief.

GRIFFIN: What would be the other -- any other purpose?

DEWENTER: There wouldn't be any other purpose.


ROMANS: Meantime, lawmakers got few answers from VA officials at a late-night hearing on the matter.