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THE SITUATION ROOM
Top al Qaeda Leader Killed in U.S. Airstrike; Source: Gunman Followed al Qaeda Cleric; Trump Gives Out Opponent's Phone Number; Mike Huckabee Weighs in on Iran Deal; North Korea Rejects Iran-Type Nuke Deal. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 21, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: [17:00:07] That's it for "THE LEAD" today. I'm Jake Tapper. I am now officially turning you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Terror leader killed, a longtime al Qaeda operative who had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks taken up in a targeted airstrike in northern Syria. How did the U.S. find him? And is his death disrupting plots to attack American targets?
Al Qaeda inspiration, new indications that the Chattanooga gunman, Mohammad Abdulazeez may have been a follower of a radical American al Qaeda cleric. Is al Qaeda now posing a new terror threat to the U.S.?
Call me, Lindsey. Donald Trump invites a new uproar, giving out the personal cell phone number of his rival, Senator Lindsey Graham, on live television. Is Trump breathing new life into a stale bit of politics, or is he destroying Republican hopes of winning the White House?
Nuclear ambition. North Korea rules out a nuclear agreement like the one reached with Iran, telling the U.S. it has no interest, while it continues to build its stockpile. While the U.S. is dealing with one foe, could another amass as many as 100 nuclear weapons in the next few years?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The Pentagon just announcing a major success with the death of a longtime al Qaeda operative, a leader of a network of veteran terrorist killed in a U.S. airstrike in northern Syria.
His death comes as the U.S.-led coalition is stepping up bombings of ISIS targets, some of them shrouded in mystery. Is Syria the new main battleground of the fight against terrorism? We're covering the breaking news and more this hour. Senator Cory Gardner is standing by to join us live. And Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, he's standing by, as well.
Our correspondents and guests, they will have full coverage. But let's begin immediately with the breaking news. Our position correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us. Barbara, tell our viewers what you've learned.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf. The Pentagon announcing a short time ago Muhsin al-Fadhli, the leader of the so-called Khorasan Group, a violent offshoot of al Qaeda in Syria, was killed on July 8 in a U.S. drone strike in northern Syria.
This has been somebody they'd been looking for for a long time. Al Fadhli was one of the few al Qaeda operatives that had advanced knowledge, according to the Pentagon, of the 9/11 attacks so many years ago, he's said to be responsible, involved in October 2002 in a terrorist attack in Kuwait that was against some U.S. Marines and a French cargo ship.
This today -- announcement today is about what they call a targeted attack. That means U.S. intelligence, the U.S. military, when they launch that drone strike against him, riding in a vehicle in Northern Syria, they knew he was inside that vehicle. That means there was pretty good intelligence, Wolf. They don't just launch.
So overhead intelligence, surveillance, signals intelligence, phone intercepts. How did they know what was happening in northern Syria, where there are no U.S. assets on the ground, no U.S. personnel on the ground in northern Syria? Some very intriguing puzzles.
BLITZER: It certainly is, and it comes as the coalition is pounding an ISIS stronghold, Barbara.
STARR: Again, in northern Syria, the self-declared capital of the ISIS caliphate. Northern Syria, Wolf, I have to tell you, now very much in the U.S. crosshairs.
STARR (voice-over): U.S. aircraft continue pounding ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria. But the most recent targets are mysterious. Blast walls like these have been bombed repeatedly in recent days. The so- called T-walls are barriers erected around areas like command centers and buildings ISIS wants to keep secure.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If you knock down a T-wall or overcome a ditch, you're going to have the infantry force being able to maneuver more freely.
STARR: CNN has learned whatever the walls were protecting, it was on the priority target list for warplanes. Bombing the blast walls could now open the way for ground forces, likely Kurdish, to move in, unthinkable just weeks ago. U.S. commanders now have a network of intelligence on the ground. They are getting targeting coordinates around Raqqah from the Kurds, who are strategically positioned just north of the city.
HERTLING: They are heading with an assault force, and they've been very good at coordinating U.S. aircraft forward in this assault force to go against ISIS. STARR: These leaflets, airdropped in Raqqah by the U.S. the message:
"Freedom will rise." A not-so-subtle warning to ISIS, watch out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen, I'll be...
[17:05:09] STARR: Meeting with U.S. and coalition forces in Jordan, Defense Secretary Ash Carter says in northern Syria, ground operations are extremely effective.
ASH CARTER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: They couldn't have done what they did without you. And your impact as air power wouldn't be lasting without them.
STARR: The U.S. intelligence community now watching closely for reaction from ISIS leadership.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
STARR: It's been a year since this Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi surfaced, with no new video yet to mark the end of Ramadan. Questions about whether Baghdadi has bigger concerns about his safety.
STARR: So why has no one seen or heard from al Baghdadi in months? Is he feeling the pressure from this stepped-up campaign in Raqqah, in northern Syria? Is he staying hidden? Is he moving around? And we don't know where he is? Is he actually giving more authority to his local commanders to engage in attacks, because he has to stay hidden? All very intriguing questions, again, Wolf, that we don't know the answers to.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you. We're also getting new information about Mohammad Abdulazeez, the 24-year-old who shot and killed five U.S. servicemen in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before being killed by police. Investigators have been searching for possible terror ties, and we're now learning of a possible connection directly to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Our justice reporter is working this part of the story for us. What are you finding out, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a picture of radicalization. This is Mohammad Abdulazeez's writings and his cell phone that are giving a picture to investigators as to how that came along.
Back in 2013, some of his writings indicate that he'd been watching Abu Awlaki's videos, the former leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to U.S. officials. And according to his writings, he says he was agreeing with some of his -- some of his sermons, some of his teachings.
And then fast forward to just a few days before the shooting, as a matter of fact on Wednesday. He's searching on his -- on his smart phone for information about martyrdom and whether this is a way for him to atone for some of his sins, his alcoholism and his drug abuse.
Again, this shows a picture to investigators what might explain some of his radicalization that may have taken root as early as two years ago and what Abdulazeez was thinking just in the last few days.
BLITZER: We're also getting new information that in Jordan, authorities now have -- are being -- have picked up or at least are questioning his uncle, Abdulazeez's uncle in Jordan. We know Abdulazeez spent several months in Jordan last year.
PEREZ: Right, according to the uncle's lawyer, he's been in detention by Jordanian authorities since Friday, Wolf. He did work with the uncle's company when he was in Jordan. He stayed at his house. What the Jordanians are trying to do is help the U.S., the FBI to figure out who else he might have come in contact with, whom he may have associated with while he was there about that may -- in addition to this information about his radicalization could help explain what happened on Thursday.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, thanks very much. Let's get some more on what's going on. Joining us now is Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: You just heard the leader of the al Qaeda operative group Khorasan, Muhsin al-Fadhli, he was killed in a U.S. airstrike. They targeted him for assassination. They killed him. How dangerous is this group? Give us a little perspective on what this means?
GARDNER: I think earlier in the show, you mentioned this is an individual who had knowledge about the September 11 attacks. This is a dangerous individual. Any time that we can mark one for the good guys, that's a good day for our coalition and a good day for the free world.
BLITZER: And did you actually get briefed on the killing of this guy?
GARDNER: I have not been briefed, but I -- again, I sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, not the Intelligence Committee, so they may have received prior notice of this.
BLITZER: But you welcome these kinds of -- whether it's a drone strike or an aircraft, you welcome these kinds of targeted killings?
GARDNER: Any time we have our men or women in uniform have the kind of success that we see today or that we learned about today, July 8 attack, that is a good day for our efforts. It's a good day for our efforts in the region, and it's a good day for our efforts to stand up for this country -- this country against terrorists like Khorasan.
BLITZER: Let me get your quick thought on what's going on in Chattanooga. We now know that the shooter in this particular case, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, he was apparently inspired, at least in part, by the American-born al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki's teachings. What do you make of that?
[17:10:02] GARDNER: I think we have to be very careful not to jump to conclusions about what may or may not have motivated this killing. Obviously, this is a very deranged individual who committed a heinous act. And our thoughts and prayers to the families who suffered greatly because of these killings.
But to say that this was the result of a download from a radical cleric, to say that this was a result of visits to Jordan and who he may have encountered while he was in Jordan, I think we have to be very careful to learn the facts before we jump to any kind of conclusion.
BLITZER: No, we're not jumping to any conclusions. But the facts as they're coming in, as investigators are learning, they point to a picture of someone who apparently did have a history of depression, maybe bipolar, maybe drug use, alcohol abuse. Obviously, had some serious problems, couldn't hold on to a job.
But at the same time, clearly, at least according to social media and the initial information we're getting, also at least in part inspired, if not directly ordered, to do what he did.
GARDNER: And that's exactly -- what you just said, ordered, that's a very, very different task that inspired versus ordered. That's what we have to -- have to find out. That's our -- we have to get to the bottom of whether he was ordered, who did that, what happened. Clearly, if he was downloading radical cleric statements over the Internet, we know there may have been some inspiration that took place.
But we've got to get to the bottom of this and find out how -- who he was talking to, find out if there are other elements that he was associated with, and prevent the next killing from taking place.
BLITZER: And as we noted yesterday, one of his friends said he thought ISIS was stupid, but that does not necessarily negate the possibility that AQAP, in his mind, may be smart. ISIS and al Qaeda, as you know, they split. They have different agendas, at least slightly different agendas right now. So we have no idea how significant that inspiration, if not order was.
We do know he went to Jordan, spent several months there last year, he went to Kuwait. Do you know if he visited other trips -- other places in the Middle East?
GARDNER: That is something that we are waiting to hear back from, the intelligence community, to find out exactly where he has been, to find out exactly who he came into contact with, and other associates that are under investigation.
And so again, if we jump to a conclusion too early, I think it jeopardizes the results of what could be an ongoing study that would bring more people to justice in terms of other actors. BLITZER: But you don't know if he actually -- because there are
rumors out there that he may have had a side trip to Yemen. That's the headquarters of AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. You haven't confirmed that.
GARDNER: We have to be very careful about what we know, what we say he did. We've got to understand all the facts. And I think that's exactly what the intelligence community is going to provide to us. But I would hesitate to direct any kind of cause or association before we find out the truth.
BLITZER: And the fact that Jordanian authorities -- and Jordan is a close friend of the United States -- are holding his uncle for questioning right now, what does that say to you?
GARDNER: Well, again, I think the Jordanians are active participants, active partners with the United States in our efforts to combat terrorism, to combat ISIS and al Qaeda. And so I believe the Jordanians are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of this, and we will assist them in any way possible. It's important that they continue their investigation before, again, we reach the wrong conclusion.
BLITZER: Senator, stand by. We have more to discuss. There's obviously a lot going on right now. Much more with Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado when we come back.
[17:17:52] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The Pentagon just announcing the death of a longtime al Qaeda operative. One of the leaders of a network of veteran terrorists killed in a U.S. airstrike in northern Syria. There you see the leader of the Khorasan Group, which in recent days, he was killed in a U.S. airstrike.
We're back with Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Let's talk a little bit about what's going on. When you see these terror groups apparently growing in Syria, elsewhere in the region, how concerned are you about what's going on right now? The whole situation seems to be exploding.
GARDNER: Well, I'm very concerned. In fact, we learned the news yesterday. We know that 30 deaths involved near Turkey, what happened there yesterday with ISIS. And we know al-Baghdadi has been talking about spreading his control -- his chain of control, chain of command, excuse me, to try to give other people more direction in case something were to happen to him. And we've seen other actions throughout the Middle East.
It all goes back to what our strategy is from this administration, what we need to make sure that we are effective in our efforts to combat and destroy ISIS.
BLITZER: Is there anything you've been able to -- anything you would hear in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the coming days and weeks that would convince you to support the Iran nuclear deal?
ACOSTA: Yes. We're going to be hearing on Thursday from Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and Secretary Lew about the agreement.
Right now, the way I read the documentation, the annexes, this is one expert called it, a patient pathway for Iran to have the ability to achieve a nuclear -- a nuclear bomb after ten years.
We know that there are people who are responsible for the birth of Iran's nuclear program, who basically get relief under the Iran deal as it's written. So not only does Iran get a pathway after ten years, or less as some talk about, to a nuclear bomb, but some people are going to have relief who are responsible for the creation of Iran's nuclear program in the first place.
They do nothing in terms of -- no -- they don't give up their threats against Israel. They continue to fund Hamas, Hezbollah, terrorists in Yemen. The fact is, the Iran deal is very good for the Iranians and very bad for the United States.
BLITZER: If they were, the Iranians, to release those four Americans they're holding hostage right now, would that convince you that maybe they're willing to start afresh and go forward with a new agenda?
GARDNER: Again, just this past couple of days, we've heard reports from leaders in Iran, saying that the policy toward the United States will not change. In fact, Wolf, that led Secretary Kerry to say that he has very large concerns about the statements, the attitude of Iran toward the United States.
So just in the recent -- the past few hours, we've actually heard Secretary Kerry now questioning the intent of the Iranians in terms of the veracity of their word as it comes to this deal.
So we need to get these four hostages, these four Americans released. Absolutely we do. But the American people need to understand that a nuclear Iran, which this deal assures, is no way forward for the United States.
BLITZER: So just to be precise, even if they release these four Americans in the coming weeks, it would not change your attitude towards the whole deal?
GARDNER: Well, we all welcome the release of four American hostages. But the fact is that Israel will continue to be held hostage by Iran. Hamas and Hezbollah will continue to terrorize the Middle East. The bonus payments that they will receive, Iran will receive as a result of entering into the deal, will allow them to continue funding terrorism.
In fact, I believe it was Susan Rice on your show just a couple of days ago said that money will be used by the Iranians to continue funding bad behavior. And it in fact went a little further saying that the deal with Iran
was never intended to change their bad behavior. And so I welcome the release. In fact, we should demand the release of four American hostages. To think we have now created this patient pathway to a nuclear bomb is more acceptable.
BLITZER: Yes, they always made the point this was strictly a deal to do away with Iran's nuclear capabilities.
GARDNER: It did not do that. It didn't even do that.
BLITZER: That's another subject. But they all acknowledge it wasn't designed to stop their supporting terrorist organizations in the region or taking other measures of the U.S. It was strictly designed to deal with their nuclear program.
GARDNER: And in fact, I think that's exactly what the president has achieved. Not only has he created a situation where we have sanctions that will be beginning to be released as a result of the United Nations' actions. Instead of going to the United States Congress first, the United Nations acted first. The sanctions are going to be lifted. Billions of dollars will start pouring into the Iranian economy, and they've done nothing to say that they will change their behavior.
In fact, Secretary Kerry is now worried that they will not change their attitudes one iota as it relates to the United States. So this deal, the more and more people learn about it, the more and more concerns people have about the content of this supposed deal.
BLITZER: I know you'll be at that hearing later this week, watching what's going on.
Quickly on the arrest by the U.K. of these two suspected ISIS sympathizers who were apparently planning to attack U.S. service members in Britain. I guess the bottom line question is, how much of a target are American military personnel, not only here in the United States, but serving around the world? How much of a target are they?
GARDNER: I think we've always known that Americans in general were targets by terrorists. We've always known that our men and women in uniform were particular -- in uniform were particular terrorists -- targets by terrorists.
I think, though, what this administration has done in terms of the weakness of this Iran deal is it's lifted sort of the hesitation that terrorists might have against attacks by terrorist organizations against the United States. And so when the United States presents an air of weakness, then it opens to the door to more attacks. And I'm afraid that when we continue to treat Iranian terrorists as equal partners to the United States, that's exactly what we've done.
BLITZER: Senator Gardner, thanks very much for joining us.
GARDNER: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Cory Gardner is a senator from Colorado.
Coming up, a new round of name calling from Donald Trump. He's even giving out -- get this -- the personal cell phone number of one of his key Republican challengers.
Up next, I'll get reaction from one of the 16 Republicans now running for president of the United States. There you see him, the former governor of Arkansas, the winner of the Iowa caucuses back in 2008. Mike Huckabee is standing by live.
[17:28:35] BLITZER: In what's become a daily round of name calling, Donald Trump today mocked his opponents, mocked his critics, even disclosed the personal cell phone number of one of his main critics, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican presidential candidate. He's the senator from South Carolina.
Here's a sample of Donald Trump's speech today in Graham's home state of South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So this morning, you know, they told me Mr. Trump -- because Mr. Bush said my tone is not nice. My tone. I said, "No, we need tone. We need enthusiasm. We need tone."
Jeb Bush, I'm not a fan of Jeb Bush. Because Jeb Bush is in favor of common core and he's weak on immigration. Those are two bad things.
Who would you rather have negotiating against China, as an example, Trump or Jeb? Or Trump or Hillary? Hi, every -- hi. She's another one with a tone. Isn't it amazing they both said tone the same day.
I see Rick Perry the other day, and he's so -- he's doing very poorly in the polls. He put glasses on so people will think he's smart, and it just doesn't work. You know, people can see through the glasses.
You have this guy Lindsey Graham, a total lightweight. Here's a guy in the private sector he couldn't get a job, believe me. Couldn't get a job. Senator, what a stiff. What a stiff. Lindsey Graham, by the way, he's registered zero in the polls, zero. He's on television all the time.
This guy Lindsey Graham, he gets out, and he's out there, and he calls me a jackass. I'm supposed to be -- I'm trying to be nice. You know, I'm working hard to be nice. But every time I turn on, I have -- I have some guy that is hitting me, like, hard.
[17:30:14] Now the reason they're hitting me, in all fairness, is when you register zero in the polls, what the hell? They have nothing to lose.
So Lindsey Graham says to me, "Please, please, whatever you can do." You know, what's this guy, a beggar. He gave me his number, and I found the card. I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try it, 202- [PHONE NUMBER DELETED]. I don't know, maybe it's -- you know, it's 3 or 4 years ago, so maybe it's an old number; 202- [PHONE NUMBER DELETED]. So I don't know, give it a shot. Your local politician, you know. He won't fix anything, but at least he'll talk to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: With us now, one of Donald Trump's opponents for the Republican presidential nomination, the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us. What do you think? You just heard some of the excerpts, some of the clips from his speech. I don't know if you watched it earlier, but it's pretty amazing when you think about it.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, to quote Toby Keith's great song, I want to talk about me. And you know, sometimes all the interviews these days are about Donald Trump. But Wolf, if we don't get to some issues, I'm going to give your cell phone number out on the air, and everybody in America will be calling you.
BLITZER: That's a major, major threat. Governor, take a look at this. Arguably, Donald Trump, he's now the front-runner. Look at this ABC/"Washington Post" poll for the Republican nomination. Trump, 24 percent; Scott Walker, 13; Jeb Bush 12. You're at 8 percent, Rubio 7, Rand Paul 6. Why is he doing so well?
HUCKABEE: He's striking a nerve with a lot of people who are just fed up with government. They're fed up with -- I think just a double- mindedness on the part of so many people in politics. And he's speaking in such a blunt way.
One of the things that I hear out there, Wolf, is that there are some people, and they're not interested in someone going to Washington and presiding over this country and governing. They're so angry that right now, what they're thinking about is just burn it all down. And I understand that rage, but as we get closer to electing a president, people are going to be thinking more about governing and less about just burning down the whole system.
BLITZER: Because when you hear some of the language going on, and certainly, Donald Trump caused a huge stir by saying what he said about John McCain when he was a POW in Vietnam. And Senator McCain's best friend, Lindsey Graham, called him a jackass. You heard what Donald Trump called Lindsey Graham today, gave out his personal cell phone number. This is a serious question, governor.
Is this the party, the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan? Because you remember his 11th commandment.
HUCKABEE: Well, I think, look, there's 16 candidates, and all the attention is being focused on one of the candidates who is being very plain-spoken, when I'm going out there and talking, I'm talking about jobs, the trade deal, the Iranian threat. I talk about implementing the fair tax. I talk about the horrors of this Planned Parenthood video that reminds us just how utterly disgusting this whole process is.
Frankly, rarely does a person in a town hall ever ask me about one of the other candidates. They just don't. They ask me what I would do about jobs, and about the economy, and about how to get us safe again, how to deal with immigration, secure the border.
So while everybody's talking about it, it's not the predominant issue among the Republican candidates.
BLITZER: I'm going to get to several of those issues with you, including the Iran nuclear deal. I know you have very strong thoughts on that. But you're also a Christian. You're a minister. And Donald Trump was asked by Frank Luntz to talk a little bit about his relationship with God. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: But have you ever asked God for forgiveness?
TRUMP: I'm not sure I have. I just go on trying to do a better job from there, I don't think so. I think I -- if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't.
Now, when I take -- when we go to church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker, I guess that's a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I just want your quick reaction. Then we're going to move on to some major policy issues. But go ahead.
HUCKABEE: Well, I know I have to ask God's forgiveness every day, because I think when we understand what sin is, sin is the pride of putting self above others. And I think we all have that.
I challenge people, if you don't think you're a sinner, you don't think you're self-centered which is what it means to be a sinner, the next time you get a group photo, look in that photo and tell me whose image do you look for first? We are born, me first, and that's really what sin is, and why we need to ask God's forgiveness that we don't elevate ourselves above others.
[17:35:37] BLITZER: Stand by, Governor. We have more to discuss. I want to take a quick break. Much more with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee right after this.
[17:40:21] BLITZER: The field for the Republican presidential nomination grew to 16 today with the entry of the Ohio governor, John Kasich. He's the tenth candidate to jump into the race since Mike Huckabee declared back in May that he was making another run for the White House. The former Arkansas governor is with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Governor, once again, thanks very much for joining us. Let's talk about this Iran nuclear deal. You've been very critical of it, very opposed to it. Would it be a game changer, as far as you're concerned, though, if as a gesture of good will to the U.S., the Iranians went ahead and released those four Americans they're holding hostages?
HUCKABEE: Wolf, they should have done that before the United States ever sat down at that table. That should have been a precondition.
And the other two preconditions should have been that Iran agrees that Israel has a right to exist. And the third precondition should have been that they end the rhetoric of "death to America." And if those three conditions were not met, we never should have sat down and even started this conversation, much less ended up with this 159-page agreement which I've read, and it's alarming. And it obviously has everyone in that neighborhood alarmed, from the Saudis to the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and, of course, most certainly the Israelis.
But I'm one American who is outraged that this president is so intent on making a deal with people who haven't kept a deal in 36 years since the ayatollahs took power.
BLITZER: If you do become president of the United States, and let's say this deal gets through, then there's not a two thirds majority to override a presidential veto in the House and the Senate, what would you do on day one, as far as Iran and this nuclear agreement is concerned? In other words, what would be your alternative?
HUCKABEE: The alternative is to take the actions to revoke the agreement, reinstitute the sanctions on Iran, make it clear that this was a terrible deal. It was done in a manner that didn't really have the support of the American people, was not done in the best interests of peace, and that we have a new sheriff in town.
And the new sheriff is not going to accept that agreement as one that we're going to live with, because we can't live with Iran having nuclear power. And we can't live with them continuing to sponsor terrorism through Hamas and Hezbollah, kidnap Americans, kill Americans. It's an unacceptable form of civilized behavior, and we simply aren't going to negotiate with it.
BLITZER: But what if the Iranians do honor all of its nuclear-related commitments over the next year and a half?
HUCKABEE: What if they're unicorns that are discovered somewhere in the Middle East? Show me when the Iranians have ever quit an agreement. They haven't. Show me when the Iranians quit chanting "death to America." They haven't. Tell me when the Iranians stopped sponsoring terrorism and murdered people through Hezbollah and through Hamas. They haven't. So there are a lot of "ifs" there, but the one thing we know for
certain is that this deal is predicated on the absolute iron-clad belief that the Iranians can be trusted. Now somebody else may trust them; I most certainly do not. And obviously, neither do the Saudi Arabian government officials. Neither do the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Kuwaitis, the Emirates, and I think anybody who's ever watched them.
BLITZER: You may be right on the others. The Jordanians did vote in the U.N. Security Council yesterday, unanimous 15-0 vote in favor of the Iran nuclear agreement.
What Secretary of State Kerry says is over the last year and a half, two years, the Iranians have kept their word as far of the commitments they made as part of the interim agreement. They say they haven't violated those commitments.
BLITZER: Well, they also, though, put money toward Hamas when Hamas was launching rockets toward Israel last year.
I was in Israel at the end of that conflict. I've been going to the Middle East since 1973. My first trip there was 42 years ago, and I've been through virtually every country in that region. And the one thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that, if you really want to mess up the Middle East, just let the Iranians continue to move toward having nuclear capacity, take their sanctions away, and give them the kind of 120 to $150 billion assets to start buying up weapons for the Russians that enriches the Russians; it empowers the Iranians; and it endangers the world. It's a deadly combination.
BLITZER: Today, President Obama took a direct swipe at people like you, the critics of the Iran nuclear deal and people who supported, back in 2003, the war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Listen to President Obama today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:45:01] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the debate over this deal, we're hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past. The famed politicians and pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program are the same folks who are so quick to go to war in Iraq and said it would take a few months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Basically what he's saying is you were wrong then and you're wrong now. Go ahead and respond.
HUCKABEE: Well, if he really believes that the Iranians are interested in a diplomatic solution, that they're going to suddenly quit being the snakes that they are, that you can charm them and make them behave, then he has a whole different understanding of snakes than I do, having grown up in South Arkansas where we saw lots of snakes. And I just don't think that you can -- at any point take a nation that
has consistently murdered people, kidnapped people, held political prisoners, shot young people in the streets for disagreeing with their government, done everything they can to make it clear that their ultimate intentions are to destroy America and in the interim destroy Israel. And somehow think that those are the kind of folks you can sit down and really do business with.
I think it's an incredibly naive. It's the mark of a Chamberlain, not a Churchill. And we're living at a time with great danger we need Churchills, not Chamberlains. Right now we've got the rhetoric from this president that reminds me of Chamberlain.
BLITZER: Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, he's running for the Republican presidential nomination.
I just want to point out, Governor, at this point we checked eight years ago when you were running, you were very low, you were 1 percent or 2 percent in the polls. You went on to win the Iowa caucuses when they occurred. You couldn't -- you couldn't go ahead and get the nomination. John McCain got the nomination but you got your work cut out ahead of you right now.
We'll stay in close touch. We'll see you on the campaign trail, thanks very much about.
HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf. It's always a pleasure to be with you.
BLITZER: Coming up, Kim Jong-Un's regime takes notice of the new nuclear deal with Iran. Could North Korea be talked into giving up its nuclear weapons?
And we're also following today's breaking news. The Pentagon today confirming that a U.S. military strike in Syria has killed the leader of one of the most dangerous terror groups threatening the United States.
[17:51:44] BLITZER: We're following a new blast of defiance from North Korea. It's rejecting any kind of Iran-style deal aimed at getting rid of its nuclear weapons.
Let's bring in our correspondent Brian Todd. He's working the story for us. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight Kim Jong-Un's regime is brazenly taunting the United States, saying we've got nuclear weapons. Deal with it. Kim's end game we're told is to intimidate his neighbors and to extort the United States.
TODD (voice-over): Brimming with confidence, even cockiness, Kim Jong-Un's regime emphatically tells America, we're not Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): We do not have any interest at all in dialogue for unilaterally freezing or giving up our nukes.
TODD: State Department officials have responded, telling CNN they still want dialogue with North Korea, are committed to drawing down its nuclear weapons. But the Kim regime's bravado comes from pure leverage knowing they've already got a formidable nuclear stockpile.
MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The North Koreans want the world to accept that they are a nuclear weapons state and they're not going back.
TODD: Analysts say Kim is in fact moving in the opposite direction fast. Building his arsenal at a dangerous rate.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: North Korea could have 10 to 15 nuclear weapons now and it can grow that amount by several weapons per year.
TODD: Possibly to between 50 and 100 by the end of 2020. The North Koreans have done three underground nuclear bomb tests. They claim they can miniaturize a weapon to fit on a warhead.
Analysts say they can launch nuclear warheads which can hit South Korea or Japan. They don't have the capability to hit the United States yet, according to U.S. officials, but they're working on it.
Kim's regime says their program protects them from the U.S. and they say their nuclear deterrent is not a play thing. But experts say they seem to be using it as one to intimidate and extort. Analysts say Kim might offer to freeze part of his nuclear program or he'll promise not to export his capability to terrorist groups or other threatening regimes, and in return he'll want sanctions lifted.
The MO of a high level mafia don.
GREEN: The Kim family and the security services directly under them run an international drug, counterfeiting syndicate, so in a way they are like a mafia family. They're in the business of extortion. They export insecurity, they export tension, they export fear.
TODD: The key question tonight, would Kim actually launch his nuclear women's? Analysts say that's the frightening and unknown part of this equation. They say one thing the Kim family has always been willing to do is to show that they are willing to risk more than the U.S. to get what they want, Wolf.
BLITZER: You also have some new information on these reports of Kim Jong-Un purges of his military. What are you learning?
TODD: It's getting pretty frightening on that level, Wolf. A U.S. official tells us he is reshuffling his leadership deck especially within his military. We're told he's gone through at least four different Defense ministers since he's taken power including the one he just executed in April. Analyst Mike Green says he has seen evidence that when young military
recruits are trained and they're ready to deploy, that part of their training is actually witnessing the execution of a soldier or an officer who is accused of disloyalty to send that signal, don't cross a certain line. Part of their training is actually witnessing an execution.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting for us. Thanks, Brian, very much.
Coming up, breaking news, a top al Qaeda leader who had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks killed in a U.S. airstrike in Syria. How did the U.S. finally hunt him down?
[17:55:06] Plus, the jailhouse death of a young African-American woman pulled over for a traffic violation. Was it suicide or murder? New surveillance video raising new questions.
BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news, top terrorist killed. A U.S. drone strike takes out the leader of a dangerous network of al Qaeda veterans plotting to attack the United States. This as we learn more about al Qaeda's influence on the gunman who carried out that deadly attack in Chattanooga.
[18:00:01] Suicide or murder. New video and details in the jail cell hanging death of a woman who was arrested after a traffic stop. We're going to tell you what officials are revealing tonight.
Trump's new weapon. He's unleashing a new kind of attack.