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President Authorizes Humanitarian Aid and Air Strikes in Iraq; Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas Ends; Gingrich: Strategic Strikes Insufficient
Aired August 8, 2014 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara, what is the very latest on what the U.S. is going to do now?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. U.S. troops left Iraq two and a half years ago. They may be headed back at least into the skies over Iraq. President Obama's authorization of air strikes means that air strikes could happen at any point without the U.S. military having tag back to the White House for approval.
We're talking about two potential types of air strikes -- in the mountains to help push is back from advancing on those Iraqi minorities who are now trapped in those mountains. Also possibly air strikes around Erbil if the ISIS militants move too close, too closely to the U.S. personnel in Erbil, about 40 American military advisers and other American diplomats at the consulate.
The president making clear he will move to stop what he calls the genocide in those mountains, move to protect American personnel in Iraq. No boots on the ground, and expect also possibly to see additional airdrops in those mountains. They dropped a good deal of material, food, and water last night, but there may be more to come. Much more of course is needed for those people. Kate?
BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, Barbara, thank you very much. We'll get back to you shortly. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: To be clear, the ISIS campaign against religious minorities has been ruthless. Take a look. This is about faith but also culture, some stretching back thousands of years, now in jeopardy of being swept away in a matter of weeks by terrorists bent on a bloody form of extremism. Here you can see how widespread ISIS is. They are now calling themselves a caliphate. That means a religious state, and they are spreading like a plague every day. CNN's Ivan Watson is on the ground in Israel this morning. He has more.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They flee any way they can, packed in cars and trucks, some of them moving on foot, carrying their baby's cradles over their shoulders, thousands of Iraqi families seeking sanctuary in Iraq's Kurdish north fleeing Islamist militants. "We're afraid of the Islamic state," says Tiabbi Ali Hussein. They
say they are Muslims, but they don't act like Muslims. They attack everyone, Muslims, Christians, Shiites. Even our prophets' graves aren't safe." Her family has been hurt by the ISIS militants. "My brother was a simple man who had a grocery store selling vegetables," she says. "Two months ago they came to his shop and killed him with three bullets."
The exodus to Erbil sparked by an offensive by the militants who captured towns from the Kurds located only 35 miles away from Erbil. The United Nations says some 200,000 civilians are on the run. So where will all these people go?
WATSON (on camera): This is where the first wave of fleeing civilians is coming to, unfinished buildings, part of the construction boom that Iraq's Kurdistan region has been enjoying now serving as a temporary shelter for hundreds, thousands of families that really don't have a plan of where to go. Look at this little child here.
WATSON: Six-month-old Kathen (ph) is far too young to know what's happening here. Her mother tells me her family fled after fighting in what appeared to have been Iraqi air strikes damaged houses near her home on Wednesday night. These families showed up with little more than the clothes on their backs.
You guys, no water, no food?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No water, no food. Nothing. Nothing. Anything.
WATSON: Around sunset, some Kurds arrived distributing some food and water for these desperate people. This help appreciated but also ad hoc. This new wave of homeless people will clearly need much, much more in the days ahead. Kurds may be far too busy defending their homeland from the Islamist militants who are knocking at their gate.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
CUOMO: Ivan Watson and his crew in a very dangerous area to bring you a story that we need to be paying attention to.
Now, let's get to Jake Tapper in Jerusalem with the other big story, another situation that's developing in a negative way there in the Middle East. Jake, good morning.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD": Good morning, Chris. After three days of relative calm the violence is once again picking up here in the Middle East. Israel says rockets were fired from Gaza even before that 72-hour ceasefire ended, and then after the ceasefire ended at 8:00 a.m. this morning here, Israel's air strikes have resumed. One person already reported killed in Gaza, and the Israeli delegation has left the peace talks in Cairo.
We're joined now by Mark Regev. He is the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mark, thanks for being here? MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: My
TAPPER: First of all, what can you tell us about these two rocket attacks that Israel says took place before the cease-fire expired? Who launched them? Did Hamas claim responsibility?
REGEV: First of all, it happened at 4:30 this morning which is three and a half hours before the ceasefire was due to end, the official ceasefire, the one we were willing to extend and Hamas said no to an extent.
TAPPER: Is it possible that it was just lone wolves?
REGEV: That's always possible, but let's be clear. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip with an iron fist, and these things don't happen out of the blue. Hamas' own leadership was saying they weren't going to extend the ceasefire. That sends a green light to all sorts of other people. And I think we've seen the ceasefire fall apart because Hamas took a decision they didn't want the ceasefire. And I think it says everything about Hamas. It shows that Hamas is ruthless. Hamas didn't want to see that ceasefire work. Hamas is more interested in its violent jihad than it is about the people it claims to represent.
TAPPER: So the military campaign that Israel is rage in response to rockets launched by militants in Gaza against Israel, we already know that one person has been killed, according to the Palestinian health ministry, a 10-year-old boy. What is Israel doing, if anything, to alleviate, to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible?
REGEV: We're doing everything we can. We don't see the people of Gaza as our enemy. We make a maximum effort to avoid what the experts call collateral damage. We really make an effort to minimize any possible negative impact on the people. Unfortunately, we're dealing with an enemy, Hamas, that does the opposite. They relish civilian casualties. They think civilian casualties serve their propaganda goals, and that's why they have deliberately embedded their terrorist machines inside urban neighborhoods.
TAPPER: What are you striking, what are you trying to hit? Obviously the tunnels that Hamas built from Gaza into Israel, 32 of them, the IDF says that they are destroyed, so what are you trying to do now?
REGEV: We're hitting Hamas command and control, Hamas arsenals of weapons, missile facilities and --
TAPPER: How do you know where they are?
REGEV: We have intelligence. We follow these things very, very closely. We're being as surgical as is humanly possible in a complex combat situation. Our enemy is Hamas and the other people shooting those rockets.
Let's be clear here. The only reason the bloodshed, unfortunately, continues is because Hamas would not agree to extend the ceasefire as Israel did. So Hamas has to be held accountable for the continuation of this conflict. There's no other address. They have taken a decision to say no to a ceasefire.
TAPPER: All right. I understand that, and I'm certainly not defending Hamas, but as you and I spoke about a few hours ago, the demands that they are making, there are even many Israelis who say those demands are not unreasonable, the demands of lifting the economic blockade or what Israel calls isolation of Gaza. If Hamas wants that and it's not unreasonable, why not at least take steps in that direction so as to create a path to peace?
REGEV: Well, those issues were on the table in Cairo and we're willing to discuss those issues. The people of Gaza are not our enemy, and if we can try to normalize the relationship, that's a good thing for Israel, a good thing for Gaza. But the premise for moving forward is nonviolence. The premise to moving forward is an end to hostile attacks from Gaza into Israel. That was the foundation of the Egyptian process that we accepted, and we're not going to negotiate under fire. We're not going to talk about easing pressure on Gaza.
TAPPER: Let's talk about that. You're not willing to negotiate under fire. Israeli delegates to the Cairo peace talks have left. Aren't most peace talks conducted while hostilities are going on?
REGEV: We're talking about a ceasefire. We're not talking about peace talks. Let's be clear, Jake. Israel accepted the Egyptian initiative, accepted it three weeks ago. We accepted that there should be a complete, unconditional cessation of all fighting and that we should discuss the issues. And the place to solve these issues is in talks through the Egyptians to try to find ways to make this ceasefire stick.
But it can only work if you want to make the ceasefire stick. And unfortunately Hamas has shown that they are nihilistic, that they are, unfortunately, callous, and that they are -- their whole view is not maybe dissimilar from ISIS in Iraq. This violent jihad above everything else, of course, about the people of Gaza, they sacrifice willingly with relish the lives of the people of Gaza on the altar of their violent ideology.
TAPPER: I want to get your response to something that Palestinians are saying, not Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. They are saying that Israel has committed war crimes during these military operations and should be brought before the International Criminal Court. Your response?
REGEV: Ludicrous. Israel does not target civilians. Israel does not commit war crimes. In any combat situation accidents can happen, civilians can get caught up in the crossfire, but that's very different from a war crime. If the United States now takes a decision to launch attacks against ISIS with your own air power, can you assure me that there won't be innocent civilians killed? It could happen, but it's not war crime because you're not deliberately targeting civilians. You're trying to hit a ferocious and ruthless enemy. It's the same for Israel.
TAPPER: I wanted to get your response to that, Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Back to you in New York.
BOLDUAN: An important point to bring up, Jake, thanks very much. Regev making very clear they are not going to negotiate under fire. Let's get to Michaela now thought for some other headlines this morning.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everyone, here we go. The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency. The WHO says this is the largest ever outbreak of this virus. The death toll is now approaching 1,000, most of those deaths in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The State Department has now ordered families of embassy staffers in Liberia to leave as that epidemic spreads.
Two big storms heading for Hawaii. Iselle has weakened to a tropical storm but still is bringing heavy rain and wind, you can hear it. Flooding is now a big concern with up to a foot of rain expected in some areas. Meanwhile, hurricane Julio just 900 miles behind it. It is expected to skirt the island. However, it is expected to still have quite a punch. It is a category three storm with winds of over 120 miles per hour. This could be the first hurricane to hit the islands in 22 years.
The Tea Party has once again tried but failed to oust a Republican incumbent. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander scored a convincing victory over State Representative Joe Carr in the GOP Senate primary. Carr had the backing of Sarah Palin and Tea Party group. Alexander is already considered a heavy favorite to win reelection to the Senate in the fall.
The tide of unaccompanied children illegally crossing for the border from Mexico is slowing. The White House says only half as many children were caught along the southern border in July compared to May and June. About 63,000 unaccompanied children have crossed illegally since October, prompting the president to declare a humanitarian crisis. However, and this is a familiar refrain, Congress has been slow to act.
CUOMO: And they don't really know what to do in this situation either.
PEREIRA: Very complex, we've admitted about that. We've talked about it here. There's no easy or quick solution.
CUOMO: Right. The concern has just been not letting those kids be caught up as pawns, and that seems what's still happening. All right, we'll get back to that story and others later on.
But first we're going to take a break on NEW DAY. The U.S. is pledging to help stop genocide with humanitarian aid and force as Islamist terrorists gain more ground and slaughter thousands in their path. The U.S. people war-weary, but can we ignore this need? Where's the rest of the world? Newt Gingrich, host of "Crossfire," joins us to talk about the path forward.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That's my responsibility as commander in chief. And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action.
(END VIDEO CLIIP)
BOLDUAN: That was President Obama late last night announcing he has authorized limited air strikes to stop the advance of ISIS militants in Iraq, but the president also stressed yet again that American combat troops will not be returning to the fight in that country.
The United States has already dropped some, some food and water to tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped at the top of a mountain who had to flee the militants, so can the United States stop ISIS before the militants completely overrun Iraq? And most importantly from this perspective, what should the U.S. role be here?
Joining us to discuss, CNN's "CROSSFIRE" host Newt Gingrich. So, Newt, I really am interested in getting your take on not only the president's statement but also the action that the president decided to take last night.
NEWT GINGRICH, CNN HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, let's start with his statement, which is frankly a little confusing.
GINGRICH: Well, if he doesn't want to risk American lives, he can pull them out of Erbil. I mean, there's no obligation to sit in Erbil, so he's trying to find a hometown "gosh, I have to do this, all of us patriots have to rally together. We're not going to risk American lives."
The tragedy of where we are -- and this is not about President Obama. This is about President Bush. It's about President Clinton. It's about where the country has been now about radical Islamism probably for -- probably since 1979 when the Iranians seized the American embassy. Nobody wants to tell the truth.
The truth is this is a radical Islamist group. They say openly if you don't convert, we'll kill you. It turns out they actually mean it. There's no complexity. They're exactly like Hamas. Hamas says openly we're going to kill every Jew; that's a direct quote from two weeks. We will kill every Jew. The difference is that is ISIS gaining power and they're doing exactly what they said they would do.
And I think this, if you go from Boko Haram in Nigeria all the way across region, what you see is a radical Islamist force. Nobody in the American State Department, nobody in the White House, not just Obama, but for three or four administrations, we have not had the courage to confront how bad this is, and it's getting worse. By the way, yesterday there were -- there were ISIS forces in Lebanon
occupying a town in the middle of a fight with the Lebanese army in northern Lebanon. They're in Syria. They are recruiting people in Europe and the United States. They see themselves as a worldwide fight, and so the president says we're going to stop them from getting to Erbil. Well, what does that accomplish?
BOLDUAN: Well then, what is your prescription? That's -- you want to -- do you want to see combat troops on the ground? What are you saying?
GINGRICH: No. I think that we should be arming and training the Kurds, who are very reliable. We should be arming the traditional tribes with whom we had very good relations back when we were in Iraq. We should be providing air power in a massive way. We should be hunting down ISI anywhere it exists, whether it's in northern Syria, it's in Lebanon or it's in Iraq.
But our goal shouldn't be to stop ISIS; our goal should be to destroy ISIS. This is a radical anti-human organization.
BOLDUAN: Do you not think, Newt, that you can accomplish that with -- if you went really big on air strikes, that you can accomplish that, taking them out?
GINGRICH: I think if you train and equip Kurds and you train and equip traditional Sunni tribes and you ally yourself with everybody who wants to defeat ISIS, you will in fact defeat ISIS. But the goal should be clear, just as it should be in Gaza. The goal in Gaza should be the defeat of Hamas. Because Hamas means what it says. It wants to kill every Jew. ISIS means what it says. Well, you can't co-exist with a neighbor whose stated public goal is to wipe your family out.
BOLDUAN: Well, we're talking about how to accomplish --
BOLDUAN: -- what to do to accomplish that goal on the ground. But then you also have a problem here at home. You've got lawmakers last night, by and large, came out supporting president's move, some saying it is not enough, as I'm hearing from you.
But you also have an American public, and we've talked about this before, Newt. They are war weary. They have no appetite to be going back in, to be throwing everything at it, to take on -- to start -- they're not staying they're going to start nation-building again, but they don't want to go back in. What do you say to the American public?
GINGRICH: I don't blame them. We've just had 12 years of war that accomplished almost nothing. You're seeing that in Iraq right now; you're seeing that with Hamas right now. Until we have a national strategy and we have an open, honest conversation -- the president couldn't even honestly describe ISIS last night because it goes against his ideology. BOLDUAN: What do you mean? How was he misdescribing it last night?
GINGRICH: ISIS is a radical Islamist organization dedicated to wiping out everybody who is not prepared to convert to Islam. It has a very clear religious background, just as Hamas does, just as Boko Haram does. There is a war against Christians across the region, and the fact is that we have got to be prepared to be honest about this. We should be the ally of every rational moderate Muslim.
But we have to understand, with people like ISIS, this is going to end up sooner or later being war to the death. And what the American people deserve is a coherent strategy that gets us to a decisive victory and the minimum use of American troops and the maximum use of other kinds of American assets.
BOLDUAN: One thing that, of course, comes up is the question of is this mission creep? Or looking at it from the other side, is this not enough?
In answering those questions and kind of exploring that, you also, when you commit to something like this, you need to be prepared to answer the question, "Then what?" Has the president answered that.
GINGRICH: No. There's a passion for some reason, particularly on the left, with this idea of targeted strikes. I remember doing this at one point in the Balkans when I was Speaker, and so I don't understand what the term "targeted strikes" means. If ISIS is as evil as I'm describing, and I think it is, as the Pope has described in calling for humanitarian intervention, as everybody seems to describe in looking at what it's doing, then we should be trying to defeat it everywhere, not saying, as the president said last night, boy, if you send a truck towards Erbil, we might kill it.
Well, what about the truck sitting two miles away with its engine idling waiting for us to not pay attention? I think either this is serious and we should figure out how to win, or this is not serious and we should figure out how to get out. And as I pointed out, he could pull the troops out of Erbil and he just eliminated one of his two excuses. There's no reason we have to be there unless it's part of a strategic purpose.
BOLDUAN: How does the political turmoil that's also happening on ground in Iraq, how does that play into this? Because there is a possibility that we're hearing -- that they could get a new prime minister in the coming days. Does that change anything in your opinion in how the U.S. approaches this?
GINGRICH: Yes, look, I think Maliki has been a disaster, just as Karzai's been a disaster in Afghanistan, and I think that's the reality sometimes of going into countries like this, that you end up with a leader who is either very corrupt, very dishonest, trying to do -- make sure his faction wins at the cost of everybody else.
We don't have a very good doctrine, frankly, at the State Department for figuring out how you cope with people like that. Maliki has been a major problem for the last three or four years. Hopefully, he'll be gone, but that won't solve the problem. You now have an ISIS, a cancer that is spreading in the region, and a cancer that is recruiting in Europe and the United States.
BOLDUAN: But do you agree with the president's statement though -- and he said this to me when we sat down early on in this latest crisis, when we talked about this, and he said it again last night -- there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. Do you agree with him on that?
GINGRICH: No, and the reason I don't agree with him is that his idea -- the political solution is a fantasy. That's my point. How are we going to have a political solution with Hamas who wants to kill every Jew? How are we going to have a political solution with ISIS, which wants to kill everybody who refuses to become Muslim? Ultimately, these are forces just like Nazi Germany that you end up defeating --
BOLDUAN: But he's saying it's Iraq -- they need to be the ones who deal with this ultimately.
GINGRICH: Look, ISIS is now in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It is recruiting in Europe and the United States. That's my whole point. You've got to see this as a worldwide fight, not a locality by locality neighborhood brawl.
BOLDUAN: Newt, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming on.
GINGRICH: Good to see you. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Talk to you soon.
All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY -- breaking overnight, a Republican incumbent survives a Tea Party challenge. That's Lamar Alexander right there, and in Montana a very different race. A Democrat scandal could turn into a big Republican gain. The INSIDE POLITICS team looking at all the details.
PEREIRA: 28 minutes past the hour. Here's a look at your headlines.
The cease-fire and Middle East peace talks all over for now in the Middle East. Israel says militants launched rockets before the three- day pause ended and they kept on firing. The IDF, meanwhile, has retaliated with air strikes, one of them deadly. The Israeli delegation has left peace talks in Cairo.
For the second time since June, Russian fighter jets and nuclear bombers were spotted near U.S. airspace over Alaska. The U.S. official says the move required a precautionary intercept by American jets. Russian flights have entered the airpsace before, but a U.S. official called this latest mission a spike in activity. It all comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The defense is wrapping up closing arguments in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial today. The judge is expected to set a date to deliver her verdict. The former Olympic star faces 25 years to life in prison if he's convicted of deliberately killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius says it was an accident.
Quite a stunning find in a shuttered funeral home in Delaware. Containers of cremated remains of nine victims from the 1978 Jonestown massacre. Police say they were discovered among dozens of unclaimed containers of ashes. The bodies of more than 900 victims who died in the mass suicide at the People's Temple in Guyana had been brought back to the Dover Air Force base. Most bodies were either claimed by families or buried in a mass grave, but some had been long forgotten. Talk about a dark chapter from our history.
CUOMO: So now what?
PEREIRA: That's the question. Now what? Quite a discovery.
CUOMO: Got anything for me on that?
CUOMO: What do you think happens?
BOLDUAN: I don't know. We'll find out.
PEREIRA: Forensic DNA, they'll do what they can to try and see if they can connect those remains to anybody, but there's not much left.
CUOMO: All right. A lot going on in politics, so let's get to INSIDE POLITICS on NEW DAY with Mr. John King.