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More Food, Water Dropped To Trapped Iraqis; More U.S. Airstrikes Possible in Iraq; At Least 3 Dead in Israeli Strike in Mosque; Islamic Jihad Claims Rocket Attack on Israel; Sources: Russian Convoy Nearly Crosses Border; Top College Players Might Get Paid

Aired August 9, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I want to show you the night vision, too. Those are pallets dropping off a cargo plane. This aerial shot we're going to have for you too. There they go off the plane. There's the aerial shot as they glide down on parachutes.

British news outlets reporting that a British plane is heading to Iraq to deliver humanitarian aid. And the United Nations is trying to clear, quote, "a humanitarian corridor" to try to help those Iraqis who are trying to get away.

U.S. warplanes in northern Iraq, though, have a green light right now to go after those suspected ISIS threats.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And even as he now is heading out on vacation for two weeks vacation to Martha's Vineyard, President Obama is watching the situation closely.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us now.

Jim, good morning.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, President Obama is receiving regular updates from his national security team on the damage done by those air strikes on ISIS. In the meantime, aides to the president are hinting that there could be more airstrikes in the coming days.

(voice-over): After multiple rounds of U.S. air strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq, this was all we could see of the president, commander-in-chief on the phone with King Abdullah of Jordan discussing what's next.

Aides insist the mission in Iraq will be limited. Protect U.S. military advisers and diplomats in Irbil and ends the siege against the Iraqi minorities driven into the mountains by ISIS fighters. But the White House concedes there's no firm timeline.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has not laid out a specific end date.

ACOSTA: That prospect of an open ended engagement is a far cry from the president's initial reluctance to deal with ISIS two months ago, as well as his preference for a diplomatic solutions in Ukraine and Syria, after ending the war in Iraq nearly three years ago --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's war in Iraq will be over.

ACOSTA: -- Mr. Obama is now the fourth U.S. president in a row to launch military action in Iraq.

(on camera): Was he reluctant to make this decision?

EARNEST: I think the president was determined to use military action to protect American personnel who are in harm's way in Iraq. He was determined to use American military assets to try to address an urgent humanitarian situation.

ACOSTA (voice-over): ISIS is just as determined.

As one of its fighters told Vice News, "We will raise the flag of Allah at the White House."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those people are not people. They are monsters.

ACOSTA: Monsters the president apparently brushed off back in January when he said to "The New Yorker", if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant." They're not the jayvee anymore.

EARNEST: We do remain concerned about the military proficiency that's been demonstrated by ISIL.

ACOSTA: For now, members of Congress are showing support for the airstrikes. But House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement, I am dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy, for countering the grave threat ISIS possesses to the region. Vital national interests are at stake, yet the White House has remained disengaged. ISIS has threatened one of Mr. Obama's main hopes for legacy: to get out and stay out of Iraq.

OBAMA: I want to make sure when I turn the keys over to the next president, that they have the ability, that he or she has the capacity to make some decisions with a relatively clean slate.

ACOSTA (on camera): And White House officials insist the president will stay on top of this crisis during his family vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Key members of the national security team will be making the trip -- Victor and Christi.


BLACKWELL: All right. Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta -- Jim, thank you so much.

You know, as the U.S. ramps up the military efforts against ISIS, militants are closing in on the Kurdish capital of Irbil and could be as close as 18 miles. PAUL: The timing is crucial here because ISIS fighters have already

captured Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam north of Mosul.

Let's dig deeper with this, with Paul Sullivan, the National Defense University is what he's with, and Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who joins us by phone.

Hello, gentlemen.


LT. GEN MARK HERLING. U.S. ARMY (RET) (via telephone): Good morning.

BLACKWELL: All right. Good to have both of you.

Mr. Sullivan, we're going to start with you. How much leverage does this give ISIS over this area, over Mosul specifically, not have control of this dam. Do you think they'll use it as a weapon?

SULLIVAN: Well, they could use it as a weapon. This is known in history, 1938, in Japan, the nationalist Chinese essentially, cut down a dam and 800,000 people were killed. During World War II bouncing bombs were sent in by the British against dams in Germany in the Ruhr valley. It is possible they use this as a threat.

However, the dam remains a threat on its own. It's built on soluble soil, gypsum and limestone. This is in a very bad location. And something called carsting (ph) happens to the dam, which means it cracks and seeps. And it has been cracking and seeping.

If you take a look at the generation station itself, there are four silos behind it. Those silos are cement to continuously maintain this dam. If it's not continuously maintained, probably within three months, it's going to be in bad shape.


PAUL: Oh, wow.

General Hertling, you know this terrain in Iraq well. Aside from the dam in Mosul are there any high-risk targets that come to your mind that officials really need to be worried about?

HERTLING: Well, if I can comment on the dam very briefly, Christi.

PAUL: Sure.

HERTLING: Probably just a very good point about the dilapidation of this facility. I've been to the dam several times. And in fact, in 2008, took a group of reporters up there when there was a threat that -- there was a rumor of a threat that al Qaeda will blow this dam up. I don't think that's going to happen for several reasons.

First of all, ISIS wants this facility. It provides hydroelectric power not only to Mosul but to many of the smaller cities around the area, to include Irbil. I mean, Irbil gets some of its electricity from the dam. So, you see why it's a powerful thing.

Secondly, ISIS is attempting to establish a state. They know they want this. And it's going to be used for their infrastructure as well.

Third, the dam is probably low in its water level. It's August. The last time I was up there, was July, and it was about 40 percent of its capacity. So, even if the dam is exploded or it begins to leaking it will be a trickle not a massive flood.

And fourth, again, if they attempt to flood the area, this is the area where they're trying to establish their own state. They would only be hurting themselves.

So I would put aside these rumors of ISIS using the dam as a weapon.

Secondly, from the other facilities in the area, as we talk about ISIS approaching Irbil, that's desert. It literally goes -- it's what like going into Las Vegas where there's nothing but desert around. And suddenly, you hit the city, the very nice city of Irbil.

So I think some of the protection that we're establishing there, the defense of that city, helping the joint operations commands on the area. Helping to defend the people of Irbil, while defending under the president's orders that Joint Operations Command is the critical issue.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Sullivan, we heard from Congressman Peter King. And he's pretty upset, angry even, that President Obama, in his words, signaled to the enemy the narrow scope of this mission. He says that to tell ISIS that we're not going to any further than these airstrikes was a mistake.

What do you think?

SULLIVAN: Well, I'd first like to respond to the general. Yes, they have economists on staff pretty much at ISIS and they're into money and power. And they most likely will not use this dam as a weapon. But the dam itself is unstable.

The president can say things publicly, but what happens privately and what the actual strategy and strategies might be are two different things. Signaling the enemies obviously have a good idea, but it's a lot more complicated than that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Paul Sullivan -- I guess it might be even an underestimate, sir, to say it's a lot more complicated. We are learning just how complicated this entire situation is. Thank you so much for helping us understand what's happening there.

PAUL: Thank you, gentlemen.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Now, on the ground in Iraq, we do understand that life is growing even more desperate for the thousands of refugees who are trying to get away from the bloodshed and the horrifying threat posed by ISIS militants.

BLACKWELL: Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson joins us now from Irbil.

Ivan, what are Iraqis saying about now the U.S. air strikes?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're welcoming here in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdish leadership publicly thanking the U.S. for stepping while they're dealing with two major challenges. The ISIS militants advancing really within 30 miles of the Kurdish capital of Irbil, where I'm standing right now, and that advance triggering a wave of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who are fleeing here. Among them more than 100,000 Iraqi Christians.

I caught up with the Muslim Kurdish governor of his city who is working with a Christian archbishop yesterday, Victor, to try to provide some kind of shelter, some kind of food, some water to these hordes of desperate people yesterday. And he said, listen, we really need help from the U.S. to help keep the ISIS militants away from the cities where the humanitarian crisis will just get infinitely bigger. Take a listen.


WATSON: How far away are the ISIS militants right now from Irbil?

GOV. NAWZAD HADI, IRBIL, IRAQ: Some of them maybe at about 30 kilometers.

WATSON: That's very close.

HADI: Yes, the Gwer side.

WATSON: And how is the battle going right now on that side.

HADI: Yes, of course. The Peshmerga force, they are fighting against them they will try to stop them. But it's very important because they have good weapons. But they take it from the Iraqi military in Mosul. They have different kind of heavy weapons. So, the weapons is different, not like the Peshmerga is bad. So it's very important to attack them by the air -- by the --


WATSON: So, victor, the Kurdish Peshmerga militias have suffered substantial losses. More than 150 dead, more than 500 wounded in less than a week of fighting. They are defending a front line against ISIS of some 900 miles. And they're only left with a little chunk, about 15 miles of space that still connects them to territories still controlled by the Iraqi central government.

I hear from a high-level Kurdish official that there were two is assaults to the south of the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk overnight. That Kurdish official claiming that Kurdish forces succeeded in repelling those two assaults with the help of an airstrike from the Iraqi air force.

So, one positive sign, after a lot of signs of disagreement, there are signs that the Iraqi central government down in Baghdad is they're starting to coordinate with defense forces in the country.

PAUL: Ivan Watson in Irbil, Iraq -- Ivan, thank you so much for the update.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Ivan.

It's just one day after the peace talks failed, rockets are flying from both sides of the border between Israel and Gaza. We'll head live to Jerusalem for the latest.

PAUL: Also, the people who fled from ISIS in Iraq are standing on a mountain top. They are in desperate need of food and water as you heard from Ivan, earlier, too. More on the harsh conditions they are facing.


PAUL: Let's go to the Middle East now. Another war zone yesterday, a cease-fire ended with rockets landing in Israel. Strikes hitting Gaza again. Hamas negotiators would not agree to extend a three-day cease- fire.

BLACKWELL: Let's go now to Jerusalem where CNN's Jake Tapper is monitoring the developments there on the ground there.

Jake, good morning.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

Well, it had been a quiet night. A short period of quiet but at dawn, Palestinian rockets and Israeli strikes have resumed. The Israeli defense forces say that it started with rockets from Gaza. And that since they resumed, at least five rockets into Israel, none of which have caused any apparent casualties.

The IDF says it has then said it responded with airstrikes. At least one Palestinian was killed in Gaza when an Israeli strike hit Hamas. An IDF spokesman just described a different strike on men whom they described as terrorists on a motorcycle in southern Gaza. That's one of three dozen targets the IDF says it has hit since the period of quiet overnight was interrupted.

Let's go to Benjamin Netanyahu -- Prime Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev who is here with us.

Mark, what exactly happened? It seemed like seven or eight hours of quiet and I was perhaps foolishly optimistic that maybe that meant something.

MARK REGEV, CHIEF SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, Hamas opened fire on us this morning. They're targeting communities across the frontier. They -- it's not right to say the cease-fire is apart. Hamas broke the cease-fire, 3 1/2 hours before the cease-fire was supposed to run out, there was already fire on Israel. And at 8:00 yesterday morning, we had barrages. We had 60 rockets and mortars shells fired on Israel yesterday.

TAPPER: So, before the cease-fire was set to expire, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired and broke the cease-fire, you said. Do were no who did it? Was it Hamas definitively firing those rockets?

REGEV: I know it was terrorists in Gaza, obviously. I can't say definitively it was Hamas. But I can say the following: Hamas runs the Gaza Strip and they can outsource terrorism to other groups. When they want to enforce a cease-fire, they do it very well. The question is: are they willing to do so?

TAPPER: I think -- one of the things I'm wondering if this is now the normal in Israel, A almost as if it's a return to 1967 to 1970, there was this relatively low level burst of intensity war of attrition, between Israel and Egypt. Is that what is the new normal now? If there's no cease-fire deal, that it's just going to be Israel waits for Palestinian rockets and then Israel hits Gaza. And then it just resumes indefinitely?

REGEV: We can't allow Hamas to have the initiative to shoot at us when they're comfortable to do so and to hold fire when it's comfortable for them to do so. We have to have a situation where the border is quiet. And we've said over and over again, our goal in the military operation has always been the same. It's to create a sustained period of quiet without rocket fire, without terror tunnels. That's our goal. And it will be achieved one way or another.

TAPPER: Are you gearing up for a war of attrition. That's going to be the new normal here?

REGEV: No, the prime minister is determined to achieve a sustained period of quiet. And that will be achieved diplomatically or militarily, but it will be achieved.

TAPPER: There are reports in Israel media that Israel may be sending its delegation back to Cairo, where the Palestinians remain, the Palestinian delegation remains. Some people look at that as a recent silver lining. Maybe there's reason to hope they haven't left yet. Is it true that the Israeli delegation has returned?

REGEV: No, and let me be clear here. The whole Cairo framework was based on two stages: one stage, the first stage, unconditional cease- fire -- a cessation of all hostilities.

TAPPER: By both sides?


And, two, talks in Cairo. So, the talks in Cairo had started only because there was an unconditional cessation of hostilities. And now that hostilities have started again, that Hamas has broken the cease- fire, deliberately violated the previous ceasefire and didn't agree to extend it as we did. TAPPER: I want to get your response to some comments that President

Obama gave to "The New York Times'" Tom Friedman, in which he said one of the problems is that in ways, Bibi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is too strong, and in some ways, Abu Mazen, the president of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is too week. And he suggests it's going to require leadership among both Palestinians and Israelis to look beyond tomorrow. That's the hardest thing for Palestinians to do is to take the long view on things.

Your response?

REGEV: I think President Obama is great and Prime Minister Netanyahu is a strong leader. We've seen overwhelming support for his leadership during this crisis with Hamas in Gaza. We've had 80 -- above 80 percent support for his way of steering, of leading the country during this conflict. He's a stronger leader.

And I think the Palestinians are making a mistake by not negotiating with him seriously because he can deliver, because he is a stronger leader. And to those in the international community, who've always said, Israel just pull out, take down the settlement and everything will be find, I'd remind them that's what happened in Gaza exactly where we did take down the settlements and we did move back to the '67 line. And what did we get? We didn't get peace.

So, Netanyahu, my prime minister wants a secure peace, a peace that would endure, and will require security arrangements, so we don't see a repeat of what's happening in Gaza.

TAPPER: Palestinians would are argue that there was a blockade. We don't have time to get into the whole history since 2006.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Back to you in New York.

PAUL: All righty. Jake Tapper and Mr. Regev, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Well, minority Iraqis as we've show you are running from ISIS, thousands, tens of thousands of them and more. And some have taken refuge on top of a mountain.

PAUL: And some of them are in bad shape. These are harsh conditions. They need food. They need water. We'll tell you more about what's going on there in a moment.


PAUL: Thousands of Iraqis are stranded on top of a remote mountain -- Sinjar, that you can see there. Many of them are Yazidis. That's a small religious group that's in northern Iraq right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and they left. Of course, they're afraid of being killed by ISIS militants and now, some -- and some of those are children. Some of the people have died from dehydration. Two U.S. cargo planes have air-dropped water and meals. Thousands of them into that mountain, that mountain range there. And a predator drone flying over indicates Yazidis have received 63 of the 72 pallets dropped so far.

PAUL: Hopefully, that will help.

We want to bring in meteorologist Jennifer Gray.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Jennifer, we said that, you know, they are dying now of dehydration. Give us an idea of the temperatures there. What are the conditions like in Mount Sinjar?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Guys, the conditions are brutal. It's similar to conditions here in the U.S. in the southwest region. So, desert-like temperatures -- August is the hottest time of the year.

So, imagine sitting out somewhere in Arizona, New Mexico, temperatures in the triple digits, no food, no water, temperatures 104 during the heat of the day feeling like 110, 117. At night, temperatures only drop down into the 90s. And you're sitting out there unable to really find shade, shelter from the sun. That's what we're dealing with.

So temperatures, Sinjar Mountain right around 104 today. Tomorrow, the next day, temperatures aren't going to change much at all, until we get into, say, September.

And so, that's what we're dealing with. Average is around 97 degrees. Temperatures have been running 5 to 10 degrees above normal, the past couple of days. And it looks like that's going to be the case for the next five to 10 days at least, barely a cloud in the sky.

This is the satellite loop. You can see hardly any clouds out there. Of course, no rain, this is not the rainy season. So, we're going to stay very dry out there. It is going to remain, unfortunately, very, very hot, and it is going to stay that way for the near future.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jennifer Gray reporting for us this morning -- Jennifer, thank you so much.

And we'll be right back.


PAUL: Bottom of the hour right now. We are so grateful to have your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Peace talks crumbled Friday. And Gaza has once again become a bloody war zone.

PAUL: Yes, as we speak, Palestinian officials say they are digging to retrieve the bodies of at least three people who died when an Israeli airstrike hit a mosque. They say two others were killed in a separate strike.

Now, the IDF went after about 30 targets in Gaza today. While five rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Let's talk about this with Martin Indyk. He is the current vice

president and the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institute.

Thank you so much for being with us.

We know just a little bit ago, we had a report from one of our reporters saying Islamic Jihad, which is a rebel group of Hamas, is claiming responsibility for the latest firings out of Gaza, Martin. And then we had the spokesperson for Benjamin Netanyahu saying, listen, when Hamas wants to enforce a cease-fire, they will. They cannot outsource fighting to other guys. Who do you think is responsible? And what is the relationship between these Islamic jihad group that is the supposed rival of Hamas and Hamas?

MARTIN INDYK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE (via telephone): Well, they're not really rivals. They're allies and partners. Palestine Islamic Jihad, there are several groups operating, pro-Iranian and Iranian-directed operation. Palestine's Islamic Jihad has a history of continuing fighting when Hamas stops. That was certainly true during the intifada as well.

But in this particular instance, I think that they are closely coordinated. And I agree I don't think it makes a distinction of the two. Hamas has made clear that it's not going to continue the cease- fire because its demands are not being met at the negotiating table.

And I think it's really at this point immaterial whether it's Islamic Jihad or Hamas firing. They're all of these terrorist organizations in Gaza are determined to secure some kind of trophy for their war against Israel. And Israel and Egypt are determined to deny them that. And I think that the continued fighting is an attempt to pressure both Israel and Egypt to make concessions.

BLACKWELL: You said that the only way to get a long-term solution here or to get real peace in the Middle East is to work on that long- term solution. But as we heard from Mark Regev, Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesperson, there is nothing to discuss, until the rockets stop.

And from the other side of the border, they said that there is nothing to discuss until the blockades end. So, how do you get to the point of getting them at least at the table especially in this iteration of the conflict?

INDYK: Well, it's very difficult. I don't think Israel will accept to negotiate with a gun to its head. As you say, the Hamas and other terrorist organizations are looking for some achievement that they can hold up for resisting, as they say, Israel for this time. So, I think that you're going to have a kind of war-war and jarring going on at the same time as each presses the other to try to secure some advantage in the negotiations.

But problem here, which will impact both sides is that the poor people of Gaza are facing a humanitarian crisis. And if the fighting continues, it will be there are difficult to address their needs, not emergency humanitarian needs like water, food and shelter, but also reconstruction of all of those homes that have been destroyed.

The concrete can't be imported. Everything has to come into Gaza. And everything is shut down at the moment.

So, as that humanitarian crisis grows, it's going to put pressure on both sides. The question is whether the people of Gaza will now say to Hamas, enough is enough. Let's rebuild. And whether the Israelis will feel that they have no choice but to leave the humanitarian effort there and therefore, give it all in terms of the demands on the passages (INAUDIBLE).

So I really think we're in the middle of this kind of maneuvering that will go on. And it's only when the situation on the ground creates pressure on both sides that maybe they'll come up with some kind of middle ground solution.

PAUL: But, Martin, what kind of power do the people in Gaza have to say to Hamas, we're done with this? Hamas doesn't really -- do they listen to the people of Gaza?

INDYK: They do have their finger on the pulse of popular reaction. At the moment, in circumstances in which their homes have been bombed by Israel, they identify with Hamas and support them for quote/unquote resisting Israel. But I don't think that will go on for much longer. I think they will begin to turn on Hamas and say enough of this.


INDYK: And at that point, Hamas is going to find itself in a situation where it's going to have to accept arrangements that allow for the rehabilitation of the people of Gaza.

PAUL: All right, Martin Indyk, we so appreciate your insight. Thank you for being with us today.

BLACKWELL: Thank you so much.

INDYK: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: It's been a big week for Vladimir Putin, blocking imports, granting Snowden three more years of asylum. So, the question has been for sometime now: what is the end game here? What does he want? We'll ask a Russian expert, next.

PAUL: Plus, a landmark ruling could mean big time college athletes are going to start getting paid. We're going to tell you how quickly this could happen and what it means for you, the fans.


PAUL: For your update on mortgages: rates dropped this week. Here you go.


BLACKWELL: Well, tensions between Russia and Ukraine are once again ratcheting higher.

PAUL: Ukrainian sources tell CNN earlier today, a Russian humanitarian convoy, accompanied by military transports, advanced on the Ukrainian border but stopped just before crossing over.

BLACKWELL: It's a move some are likening to the beginning an invasion. We have not yet heard a Russian response. But, of course, we'll keep you posted when we get an update there.

Now, today's convoy is just the latest in a string of moves by President Putin this week alone.

PAUL: We've seen Russian banned food from the U.S. and the European Union. Threaten to ban European flights from flying over Russia. Grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden three more years of asylum.

Let's talk about this with Andrew Kuchins. He's an expert on Russian policies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Andrew, so good to have you with us. Thank you.

When you look at all of this, what in your estimation is Putin's end game here?

ANDREW KUCHINS, EXPERT ON RUSSIAN POLICIES: Hey, nobody told me that you guys were going to ask me hard questions this morning on a Saturday.


KUCHINS: I think that his end game is to have a fractured and weakened Ukraine that is basically compliant to Moscow's wishes and desires -- the Ukraine that is not going to be threatened into joining NATO, a Ukraine whose economy is much more oriented toward the Russian Federation and Customs Union and newly formed Eurasian Economic Union.

BLACKWELL: So, this military convoy that we just spoke about a moment ago that nearly crossed into Ukraine. It's edging closer to the border but did not cross it. The Red Cross has acknowledged their offer but says it won't accept it just yet because of the implications behind having the offer and then the military vehicles and everyone you see here cross into that region.

What's your take on that? And this perceived or the effort to at least make it look like we're here to help?

KUCHINS: Well, the Russians have been preparing the Russian public through their media. I was in Moscow a few weeks ago, for some kind of humanitarian or so-called peacekeeping mission. Now, someone joked that the Russians spell peacekeeping a little different. P-I-E-C-E, as such keeping a piece of Ukraine.

But the emphasis has been on the instability in Ukraine, the lack of control of the Ukraine government supposedly has over the Ukrainian military, the tremendous civilian deaths -- the numbers of civilian deaths and damage being caused in eastern Ukraine, and that somebody needs to use what the United Nations has come to call the right to protect -- the right to protect citizens in a neighboring country.

PAUL: There have been a lot of arguments but not a lot was done to help Ukraine when this whole thing started. Why is Europe so hesitant, do you think, to mandate any lasting consequence against Putin? Is it the energy? Is it the trade?

KUCHINS: Yes, it's primarily the economy. The Europeans are dependent on them for 30 percent of their natural gas from the Russian federation. And, of course, the most dependent upon that gas are the ones closest to the Russian federation, ironically those states probably the less Russian for historical and cultural reasons.

Also, they have a very deep trade relationship with the Russian federation. For the Russians, they're extremely dependent upon the revenue that's derived from the sale of energy, primarily energy, but other products as well to Europe.

Europe is far and away as you count it as a whole, U-25, Russia's largest trading partner. So, it's a symbiotic economic relationship, and the European workers have a lot more European enterprises, European workers, have a lot more potentially to lose than would, say, American workers, if the sanctions were to go farther.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk more about this food ban -- President Putin banning food from the West. I wonder if that could backfire. Now, because the aggression, the conflict comes to their home, comes to the dinner table. For some people, these sanctions may never touch them because you're going around or going to the people close to Putin, these billionaires, the oligarchs.

But if you come to the dining table of the average Russian, could that backfire?

KUCHINS: Well, potentially. But this was a pretty cleverly targeted move on Putin's part. Now, since the constituency which is most anti- Putin already is the emerging middle class, those that are wealthier, those that are educated, those that are more likely to eat French cheese, drink French wine and generally food imports from the European Union, which total about $11 billion to $12 billion a year.

Putin's hard core contingency which tends to be less educated, less well off. They're not located in urban city centers, but the countryside, they're going to be less dependent upon these imports of food from Europe and elsewhere.

But nevertheless -- I mean, you're right, it's going to cause a little bit more inflation for the Russian people. But it's not a -- it's not going to dramatically impact them so far.

And I think at this point, this is kind of a warning from the Russians about, well, this is our first step. And we're certainly prepared to take more serious steps if the sanctions from the West continue to increase.

PAUL: All right. Andrew Kuchins, always an enlightening conversation with you. Thank you so much for making time for us today. KUCHINS: My pleasure.

PAUL: A new court ruling could be a game-changer here, folks. The NCAA may be forced to pay college athletes.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but there are rules and limitations to when and how much. We're going to break it all down and what it could mean for the fans.


BLACKWELL: Big time college athletes? They may start to actually get paid because a U.S. federal judge ruled against the NCAA on Friday.

PAUL: In a 99-page ruling, Judge Claudia Wilken writes the NCAA violated anti-trust laws by forcing its member schools not to pay the athletes even though the athletes images or likeness were used to generate revenues.

Sara Ganim is in New York, and she's been studying up on this.

So, what does it all mean, Sara?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, good morning. Mark my words -- this will change college sports as we know it. What this means is that schools, if they want to, they don't have to, but if they choose, the NCAA can no longer tell them they can't pay players.

Now, there is a cap on this. It's $5,000 per year per athlete. So, potentially over four years, $20,000, that these athletes have the ability to make that money by handing over the rights of their image so that schools can put them on TV, of their likeness so they can sell jerseys with their name, hats with their numbers on them. All the things that us fans love to buy.

This very well could end the days of the Johnny Manziels of the world being punished and losing their eligibility for doing things like signing an autograph. Now, just to give you an idea of how big the players think this is -- this is from the National College Players Association.

One of the biggest advocates for NCAA reform told me this last night, "This is a big win. The ruling says the NCAA was operating illegally and college athletes do have rights. Even if you label them student athletes and want to call it amateurism, it doesn't give the NCAA the right to deny them the rights that other Americans deserve."

BLACKWELL: So, we are actually going to and I want to know about the fans, if you could pull that thread a little more. The fans will get what has been kept away for so long from these college athletes.

GANIM: Well, yes. You know, the NCAA's whole argument at this trial -- you know, I sat in the courtroom for much of this trial. Their whole argument was this will ruin college sports because fans don't want this. Now, there are polls that show that the majority of fans do not think athletes should be paid.

What the judge did here was actually take from the NCAA's own argument, their own witnesses, who said, you know, $5,000 isn't a ton of money. It's not gratuitous. It's not the millions of dollars that the pro-players make. This isn't something that fans would necessarily -- wouldn't be repulsive to them. That's what the NCAA's own expert said. So, she actually took that cap.

And, you know, she rejected that argument in her 99-page ruling, she did not think fans go for amateurism because she knows these athletes are not being paid. She says they go for tradition and she doesn't think that this will ruin college sports.

PAUL: All right. We'll see. Hey, Sara. Thank you so much. Good to see you this morning.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Sara.

Well, as the bombs drop out of the sky from the American warplanes over Iraq, American veterans who fought there are -- they're now voicing their opinions. We'll have those next.


BLACKWELL: Turning back to one of our top stories this morning: the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the American airstrikes there.

PAUL: Iraq war veterans are speaking out now.

CNN's Alexandra Field sat down with several of them.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A seven-year mission in Iraq, 4,424 U.S. troops gone. Two years after withdrawal, a new mission.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I authorize two operations in Iraq: targeted air strikes to protect our personnel and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of civilians.

FIELD: All summer, Americans who served there have been watching the violence in Iraq erupt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all agree that the Iraqis deserve peace.



FIELD: We sat down with some of them back in June, when the U.S. took its first step to quell the violence, sending in military advisors.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I think any intervention is limited in scope.

FIELD (on camera): What do you all want to hear the president saying right now?

ANDREW BARTHOLOMEW, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I want to hear President Obama acknowledge that America has a moral obligation to that country.

FIELD (voice-over): Two months later, the U.S. launches air strikes.

BARTHOLOMEW: I think the United States is a bit slow in reacting to the situation in Iraq.

FIELD: Andrew Bartholomew served there in 2009 with the Marine Corps. He says the U.S. has a commitment to maintain.

BARTHOLOMEW: It's very much a humanitarian crisis and not just a military crisis. If we have the ability to do so, and we might be the only power with the ability do so, we are obligated to intervene.

FIELD: The White House is making assurances that this intervention won't look like the last one.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It will not involve American troops returning to Iraq in a combat role.

FIELD: Ross Caputi, an Iraq war vet, believes he never should have been on the ground. Today, he says he can't support military action from the air.

ROSS CAPUTI, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I think that as Americans, we need to first come to terms with what we have done during the occupation two Iraq because I think it's our misunderstanding of the past that's skewing our understanding of what's going on in Iraq today. So, I think we need to educate ourselves on that level before you make any further decisions about any future course of action in Iraq.


FIELD: And, Christi and Victor, you can hear that the vets are really deeply divided at this point. Here's what's fuelling some of the difference here. Some vets who spoke to feel that their service in Iraq really made a difference in help to improve the lives of Iraqi civilians. Others people like their deployments left Iraqi civilians in more vulnerable place and that's really shaping their opinion about how the U.S. should proceed as far as our relationship with Iraq today.

PAUL: All righty. Alexandra Field, good to see you in New York for us. Thank you.

And thank you for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: The next hour of your NEW DAY starts now.