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THE SITUATION ROOM
Scott Walker Drops Out; Putin's Push; Carson Controversy; Putin Hears Israeli Fears About Russian Weapons in Syria; ISIS Defectors Reveal Horror Stories. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired September 21, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Can he survive the backlash as he slips in the polls? We will talk to a top veteran Republican operative.
Putin's big push, a disturbing buildup of Russian weapons and troops inside Syria. Israel's prime minister goes to Moscow, warning they could fall into terrorists' hands. Is Putin adding to Middle East instability?
ISIS horror stories. Defectors offering chilling new accounts of life with the terrorist forces, the brutality worse than so many imagine. Is disillusionment growing inside ISIS ranks?
We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, a new shakeup in the Republican battle for the White House.
Sources telling CNN Wisconsin Scott Walker, an early front-runner in Iowa, is now dropping out of the race. We're standing by to hear from him momentarily.
We're also following calls for the famed neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson to drop out after he said he wouldn't want a Muslim to be president. Carson has slipped into third place in our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll.
And in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to reassure the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the rapid buildup of Russian troops and weapons in Syria does not pose a threat to Israel.
We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our correspondents and our guests, including the former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, Eric Fehrnstrom.
But, first, let's go to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. She begins our coverage.
Dana, what are you hearing about why Scott Walker is now suspending his campaign? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First and
foremost, money, money, money, money. I'm told, Wolf, when it comes to the Walker campaign, after last month's FOX debate and certainly even more so after CNN's debate last week, that he just couldn't get his arms around enough donors.
The money was drying up. That's according to a source who I spoke with who is familiar to what is going on. It's not just that, it's the money but it's also the support. The support that he is not getting is probably a better way to say it, Wolf. The two obviously go hand and hand. The fact he went from at one point top of the polls, not just nationally, but the first in the caucus -- first in the nation caucus state of Iowa, which is the place he had put all his eggs in that basket.
He did so well and now he's also very low there and the bottom line is that when donors see that, they don't give money and he's not one of those candidates who had a pretty small campaign. He had a pretty large campaign. He built it all thinking he was going to go pretty far in his home state of Wisconsin.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, hold on a second. Scott Walker is now at the microphone. Let's listen.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), Presidential Candidate: First off, thank you all for coming.
Before I say anything about our campaign, I just want to say on behalf of Tonette, our family, we want to extend our sympathies to the family of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks. We will let the Supreme Court make the official announcement about that, but we just want to pass on our prayers, and our sympathy to him and his family, certainly his wife and his children, and all of his extended family. And then we'll have more to come about that in the days to come.
As a kid, I was drawn to Ronald Reagan because he was a Republican and a conservative. Most of all, I admired him because of his eternal optimism for the American people.
That thought came into my head when we were all standing on the stage at the Reagan Library last Wednesday. Ronald Reagan was good for America because he was an optimist. Sadly, the debate taking place in the Republican party today is not focused on that optimistic view of America. Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks.
In the end, I believe that the voters want to be for something, and not against someone. Instead of talking about how bad things are, we want to hear how we can make them better for everyone. We need to get back to the basics of our party.
We are a party that people create jobs, not the government. The best way to grow the economy is to get the government out of the way and build it from the ground up. We are a party that believes that the way to measure success of in government is not by how many are no longer dependent on government, because we ultimately believe in the dignity of work.
We are the party that believes that a strong military leads to peace through strength, and that that will protect our children and future generations, that good will ultimately triumph over evil.
We are a party that believes in the American people, not the federal government.
These ideas will help us win the election next fall, and, more importantly, these ideas will make our country great again. To refocus the debate on these types of issues will require leadership.
I was sitting at church yesterday. The pastor's words reminded me that the Bible is full of stories about people who are called to be leaders in unusual ways.
Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race, so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.
I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same, so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner. This is fundamentally important to the future of the party and, more importantly, to the future of our country.
This is a difficult decision, as so many wonderful people stepped up to support our campaign. Tonette and I are very thankful for the many outstanding volunteers and the excellent staff who helped us throughout the campaign. You all have been like family to us.
And speaking of family, I want to personally thank my wife, Tonette, who has been a rock, as well as our two amazing sons, Matt and Alex, and thank my parents, and my brother David, and his family, and all of our other family friends for their love and support.
Most of all, I want to thank God. I want to thank God for his abundant grace. Win or lose, it has always been more than enough.
BLITZER: So there you have it. There he is, this key race alert, Governor Walker announcing he's suspending, it's a key word, suspending, didn't say he's ending it, didn't say he's dropping out, suspending, because for financial reasons, he can still raise some money if he needs to, if he in debt if he suspends the campaign, as opposed to ending the campaign.
For practical purses, it's over, as he made abundantly clear.
Let's get some more on what is going on and let's assess what is going on.
I want to first of all bring in the former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Eric Fehrnstrom, who is joining us.
It's interesting what he said. He didn't just say he is suspending his campaign, Eric. He's encouraging other Republican candidates to drop out because he thinks that would do well to help, in effect, correct me if I'm wrong, he was making a statement he wants Trump to lose and if other Republicans, so-called moderates were to drop out, if you will, or conservatives, maybe that would give a better chance for someone to beat Trump.
He made it clear he wasn't happy that Donald Trump was the leader of the pack right now.
ERIC FEHRNSTROM, FORMER SENIOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Yes, he's right.
There needs to be more consolidation in the Republican field before we reach critical mass in this race. And so long as we have as many candidates as we do, then that will benefit Donald Trump.
And I think it's helpful, Wolf, to think of this Republican contest as really two different races, one involving outsiders and the other involving more experienced candidates. And on the outsider side, they are getting support from about half the electorate, but because there are so few of them, their vote share is much bigger.
On the other side, because there are so many current and former officeholders who are running, they get a smaller vote share. So Scott Walker is right. There needs to be that consolidation. It only benefits Trump to have this large and undivided field right now, but I got to believe that the reason he got out of the race is because his support has collapsed.
And I think it shows you two things. One is it's really hard to run for president and the second is that things change fast in politics. In the spring, he was on top of the national polls. He was the Iowa leader. He turn in a couple disappointing debate performances and that hurt his standing in the polls and his donors began to desert him.
Fundamentally, that's why he got out. But he wants to attach some noble purpose to it and I think he's correct. Until we have more consolidation on the Republican side, the biggest beneficiary going forward will continue to be Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Because, he went from a leader of the Republican pack to now, what, an asterisk in our CNN/ORC poll, less than half of 1 percent. It's pretty amazing when you think about that collapse. Why did he collapse like that?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, you know, it's -- the last thing I want to do is critique a candidate on the day that he exits from the race.
I know a lot of people who are involved with Scott Walker's campaign. Like I said, Wolf, it's a very hard thing to run for president. Part of me thinks that maybe Scott Walker got out too soon. That was the feeling four years ago, when Tim Pawlenty exited the race after the Iowa straw poll.
I have a sense that maybe Scott Walker should have stuck around until the Iowa caucuses. That was the state that was going to launch him. And even though his performance lately in the polls there were not -- was not impressive, things change. Not too long ago, Carly Fiorina was barely registering in the polls and now she's exploded to the top.
There is nothing to say that Scott Walker couldn't come back and stage a successful stand in Iowa.
BLITZER: Except he was running out of money very quickly and supporters were abandoning him.
We have Rick Perry, the former three-term governor of Texas. He dropped out first. Now Scott Walker, two-term governor of Wisconsin, he drops out. I suspect some more governors, current and former, are probably going to be next. The outsiders, though, who have never been elected, they're doing incredibly well. Why?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, there is no stronger force in American politics right now than the outsider dynamic.
And Carly Fiorina is the beneficiary of two really strong debate performances. And that's reflected in the host most recent polls. But with more buzz comes more scrutiny, and I think she has got to prepare for attacks on her business record.
This is what bedeviled Mitt Romney in the last election, and sometimes what is thought to be smart and successful in the world of business doesn't always translate into the world of politics. So she needs to get ready for those attacks. I thought when Barbara Boxer used those business attacks against her in 2010, they were very effective.
Having been through that, I think Carly Fiorina has all her ducks in a row and she is going to be able to respond when those attacks come.
BLITZER: Well, the attacks are coming largely from Donald Trump. You know, he got into a huge fight with Rick Perry who went after him, called him effectively a cancer in the party. Look what happened to Rick Perry.
Scott Walker at the last debate, he was going after Donald Trump. Look what has happened to Scott Walker. And now Donald Trump is really blasting Carly Fiorina, her record at H.P., at Lucent. He's going after her. You think those attacks are going to work?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I wish he would spend more time attacking Hillary Clinton than some of the Republican candidates, but look, Donald Trump is in still command in the field and I think the reason for that is simple.
Because that outsider dynamic is so strong this year, people look around and they think our domestic and foreign policy is inept, our political class is corrupt, our schools are failing. They want somebody who can come in from the outside to fix things. So the environment is perfect for a tough-talking businessman like Donald Trump.
And as long as this field remains as large as it is right now, he will continue to get top of the pole position.
BLITZER: And I guess there is one message that could go out, don't mess with Trump, because if you do, you might be dropping out and your numbers might be going down quickly.
Eric, I want you to stand by.
I also want to bring in for some analysis our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal," and our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Guys, hold your thoughts for a moment. We got to take a quick break. We are going to continue on the breaking news, political news right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Eric Fehrnstrom.
We're also following the breaking news, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ending his presidential campaign amid poor poll numbers and lackluster showings in the presidential debates. We're also following the backlash against another Republican candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, facing calls for him to now drop out after saying he doesn't think a Muslim should be president of the United States.
Let's bring back our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
What's the latest on Dr. Carson?
BASH: I think I can answer that by looking back to 14 years ago, right after 9/11. You remember George W. Bush, Republican president, made a very impassioned statement appealing for tolerance in this country, especially when it came to Muslims.
It's hard to believe how different the Republican conversation is now.
BASH (voice-over): Even in a campaign full of explosive comments, this one immediately stood out.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
BASH: Ben Carson's comment responding to a question about whether the Islamic religion is consistent with the Constitution set off a firestorm in and outside the GOP.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the Constitution provides that there should be no religious test for public office. And I'm a constitutionalist.
BASH: The latest conversation about Muslims in America began at a Donald Trump town hall last week, when he failed to correct a voter who falsely said President Obama is a Muslim, even though he's a Christian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
BASH: On Sunday when asked about that and what he thinks about the idea of a Muslim president, Trump once again stirred the pot, making this not-so-subtle suggestion about President Obama.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people have said it already happened, frankly. But, of course, you wouldn't agree with that.
BASH: Today, both Muslim members of Congress lashed out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is asinine. That is almost like saying that a neurosurgeon could never become the president of the United States of America.
BASH: The Democratic front-runner for president was quick to chime in, saying in a tweet: "Can a Muslim be president of the United States of America? In a word, yes. Now let's move on."
The controversy comes at a time when both Trump and Carson are slightly slipping in the polls. He's still on top, but losing ground, down eight points in a new CNN/ORC poll since early this month. And Carly Fiorina is on the rise in second place with 15 percent after a standout debate performance.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls.
BASH: Trump has now set his sights on Fiorina, not only going after her record as a Silicon Valley CEO, but also her persona.
TRUMP: She's got a good pitter-patter, but if you listen to her more than five minutes straight, you get a headache.
BASH: Now, Trump called Fiorina a robot.
But a lot of people who watched her at CNN's debates last week thought she looked prepared and even presidential. And, Wolf, tonight, she will have a chance to maybe show her personality on "Jimmy Fallon." But one thing just looking at Fiorina and Carson and Trump, big picture, the debate seemed to really scramble the Republican field in a way that cements the idea that outsiders, first-time politicians are doing well and the fact that Scott Walker, a lifelong politician, just dropped out, at the top of the hour, underscores that even more.
BLITZER: That's the breaking news we're following as well.
All right, Dana, stand by.
I want to also bring back the former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Eric Fehrnstrom, together with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, who is the editorial director of "The National Journal," and Dana is still with us.
Gloria, you have been talking to your sources. Where do we go from here?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we go without Scott Walker.
What was most interesting to me was Scott Walker saying other people need to now start getting out of the race or it needs to be this consolidation. And he's really launching, I would argue, an anti- Donald Trump campaign here, even though Donald Trump tweeted today that Walker is a nice person.
But you will remember, during our last debate, that Donald Trump attacked Scott Walker quite directly for his record as governor of Wisconsin. And what Walker is now saying is, all you other asterisks, we need to unite against this outsider, because we need to bring the Republican Party to a place where it can get our voters together, consolidate Republicans and actually win.
I wonder who he's talking to.
BLITZER: There is the asterisks right there, the Republican candidates who are less than half of 1 percent, but remember at the last CNN debate, it was Scott Walker referring to Donald Trump, saying we already have an apprentice in the White House. We don't need another one.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think these two stories really converge.
If you go back to the beginning of this race, Scott Walker was an attractive candidate because he was strong on the things that Republican front-runners are usually strong on, business, economics, standing up to public employees, cutting taxes.
Along the way, he decided he had to make himself more acceptable to the culturally conservative side of the party, so he moved right on immigration. He moved right, said he supported a constitutional amendment to overturn the gay marriage decision, and then he kind of alienated some of the upscale supporters he had originally and he kind of placed himself in that populist outsider lane.
And a house fell on him in the form of Donald Trump, who was more authentic and more angry and kind of more visceral than Walker. And he was a man without a country by the end of the race.
BORGER: These were self-inflicted wounds, though.
BROWNSTEIN: Totally. It was a bad choice.
BORGER: He didn't know if President Obama was a Christian, didn't believed in evolution. Fighting labor was like fighting ISIS.
BROWNSTEIN: Not many Republicans wanted to refight the gay marriage decision in September.
BLITZER: Dana, your ears perked up, so did mine, when we heard Scott Walker say he hopes his decision to drop out of this race will encourage other Republican presidential candidates to drop out in order to try to hurt Trump.
BASH: Right, because he said he doesn't like the way that the campaign has gone, because it's too angry and negative and pessimistic he wanted to be optimistic.
The problem is, to both of your points, the fact that Walker kind of flip-flopped or at least didn't seem to have his footing on a lot of issues -- whenever he was asked a question, even the Syrian refugees, he said that's a hypothetical question.
But what that speaks to is the fact that people out there are yearning for leadership, for not just authenticity, but somebody with a backbone who is going to actually answer a question. And you saw that and you see that in maybe the three front-runners right now, for better or worse, and he was so cautious, it reminded people that he is a politician.
BLITZER: Let me ask Eric.
On this whole Ben Carson Muslim issue, when he says he would not support a Muslim being president of the United States, does that cause damage to the Republican Party?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, look, the religion of a presidential candidate shouldn't matter.
Article VI of the Constitution says that no religious test will be imposed as a qualification for any public office of these United States. But the fact of the matter is, we have never had a Muslim president. We have never had a Jewish president. We have never had a Mormon president. Jack Kennedy was the first and only Catholic president.
It's easy to say that religion doesn't disqualify somebody from seeking public office, but getting elected is a different matter. That's where biases and prejudices come into play. And I think it's incumbent on everybody in public life, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, to make it clear that every faith has something significant of value to contribute to our civic dialogue and that nobody should be prohibited from participating fully in our society.
BLITZER: You were a senior adviser to Mitt Romney and you studied the election results closely. The fact that he is Mormon, did that hurt, did that take votes away in your analysis?
FEHRNSTROM: It was more of an issue in 2008, when Mitt ran for national office. It was less of an issue in 2012 because, of course, in 2012, the economy was center stage.
But I will say that, in 2008, I remember Al Sharpton was a big top Obama surrogate and he said that anybody who really believes in God is not going to vote for Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton in 2008 was spreading rumors that Obama was a secret Muslim. David Plouffe had to come out and condemn that type of campaigning.
So this is not something where Republicans have a monopoly. The Democrats are not entirely blameless. And I think, as I said, both Democrats and Republicans need to avoid exploiting these biases and prejudices that exist within the electorate.
BLITZER: Ron, you look at the numbers closely, especially among evangelical Christians, who are going to be a huge part in Iowa and New Hampshire, elsewhere.
BROWNSTEIN: Part of the challenge I think the Republicans face on this debate is this is similar to the illegal immigration debate, where there is a big part of the party, a bigger part of the party than many expected that actually agree with some of the things that they are hearing from Donald Trump, from Ben Carson.
The core of Donald Trump's support has been those blue-collar non- college Republicans. In your CNN/ORC poll earlier this month, 51 percent of Republicans without a college degree say they believe President Obama is a Muslim. Another poll last year, two-thirds of Republicans said they believe that the values of Islam are at odds with American values, and that's much higher than the numbers of Democrats or independents.
There is a constituency for these kinds of arguments. The problem is that these arguments are also counterproductive to building a national majority.
BORGER: But if you look at our most recent poll in which Donald Trump is sinking a bit, he is losing support with college graduates. BROWNSTEIN: Yes.
BORGER: And that's important.
BROWNSTEIN: That is.
BORGER: He's losing support with women. He's losing support with older voters who have always liked him. He's losing support with self-identified conservatives and Tea Party voters.
So maybe there is something happening right now in which this part of the party is turning and saying maybe we won't support him because maybe he can't win in a general election. You know, that always happens at a certain point in a primary.
BLITZER: Let's not, though, forget Donald Trump is still the front- runner among all the Republicans.
BORGER: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Just ahead, Hillary Clinton gains some ground in our new exclusive CNN/ORC poll, while Vice President Joe Biden fuels speculation about his future with a very revealing remark.
Plus, ISIS defectors sharing horror stories about what they witnessed inside the terrorist forces.
BLITZER: The breaking news: the Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, dropping out of the Republican race for the White House.
[18:34:07] We're also watching the Democrats, and our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll shows Hillary Clinton now widening her lead over Senator Bernie Sanders, who had been gaining ground on her. And the vice president, Joe Biden, he's the wild card in the Democratic race. He's making revealing new remarks about whether he will jump in.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's joining us from Little Rock, Arkansas, right now.
What's the very latest on the Democratic front, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as Joe Biden weighs whether to even get in this race, we're getting some mixed signals from him, as well as his wife, Jill Biden.
And right now here in Arkansas in the building behind me, Hillary Clinton is speaking. She may be breathing a cautious sigh of relief, looking at these new CNN/ORC poll numbers. Her campaign certainly hopes that it is a well -- it is a data point that could signal the beginning of a turnaround. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
[18:35:03] KEILAR: Today in Baton Rouge, Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail, previewing changes she would like to make to Obamacare as she railed against Republicans for trying to repeal the law.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to let them tear up that law, kick 16 million people off their health coverage.
KEILAR: She's buoyed by a new CNN/ORC poll that shows she's opening her lead in the Democratic field. She stands at 42 percent nationally, with Bernie Sanders at 24 and Joe Biden still mulling a run at 22 percent. It's good news for Clinton after months after sliding poll numbers as Sanders and his passionate following have sapped away support.
Clinton told CBS she does not intend to run a negative campaign against Sanders.
CLINTON: I know Bernie. I respect his enthusiastic and intense advocacy of his ideas. That's what I want this campaign to be about.
KEILAR: But a major unknown for her campaign, will Biden run? If he stays out, this new poll shows most of his support goes to Clinton, putting her almost 30 points ahead of Sanders.
In an interview with the Catholic magazine "America," Biden, who just lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer three months ago made clear he is not ready to make a decision.
BIDEN: It's not quite there yet; and it may not get there in time to make it feasible to be able to run and succeed, because there are certain windows that will close. But if that's it, that's it.
KEILAR: One person close to Biden, long thought to be resistant to a run, his wife Jill.
BIDEN: I've got to talk to my wife about that. I've got to talk to my wife about that.
KEILAR: But after reports she is now supportive of a run, a spokesman for the second lady issued this statement: "Of course, Dr. Biden would be on board if her husband decides to run for president, but they haven't made that decision yet."
A possible Biden candidacy comes as the Clinton campaign tries to make her seem more spontaneous and accessible. She's giving more interviews and making appearances on late-night TV.
CLINTON: Let me -- let me grab my pen.
KEILAR: When asked on CBS to give three words that described the real Hillary Clinton, she struggled.
CLINTON: I mean, look, I am a real person with all the pluses and minuses that go along with being that.
KEILAR: Meanwhile, here in Arkansas, Wolf, Hillary Clinton is talking about changes that she would like to make to Obamacare. This comes ahead of her visit tomorrow to Iowa, where she'll be talking in more specific terms about the exact policy proposals that she wants to see. But this is really a way that she's trying to differentiate herself, certainly from President Obama but also from Republicans who want to repeal the law all together.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure she's encouraged; her supporters are encouraged by these latest CNN/ORC poll numbers which show for the first time that her numbers are going up, as opposed to going down. There you see them right there.
All right. Brianna, thanks very much.
This important programming note for our viewers: CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate. That's on October 13 in Nevada.
Just ahead, Israel voices strong concerns to Russia about its rapid weapons buildup in Syria. So what did the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, tell the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
And we also have new details of ISIS brutality. Defectors are sharing real-life horror stories about what they witnessed.
[18:43:10] BLITZER: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow. But in a rare move, Netanyahu brought along several top Israeli military and security officials, underscoring Israel's growing concern over Russia's rapid buildup of weapons in Syria.
CNN's Oren Lieberman is in Jerusalem with more.
Oren, what are you picking up?
OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a very quick meeting but a very important meeting for Prime Minister Netanyahu as he tries to figure out what advanced Russian military forces are doing in Syria so close to Israel's border.
In this meeting, Putin telling Netanyahu that he understands Israel's security concern. Netanyahu is looking for some sort of assurance that there won't be conflict, there won't be tension between these two forces, these two leaders, and these two interests: Russia, as it tries to prop up the Syrian regime, and Israel, as it tries to make sure its northern border is secure.
LIEBERMAN (voice-over): Israeli F-15 fighter jet giving the country a technological and military edge in the region. But now a new presence in the Middle East, the advance Russian Sukhoi
flanker fighter jet in Syria, according to U.S. officials, and other Russian military arms, threatening that edge.
Satellite pictures of Latakia inside Syria show a rapid build-up of an air force base, with lots of Russian military equipment moving in.
Analysts Jonathan Spyer says these new weapons put pressure on Israel's aerial control of the region.
JONATHAN SPYER, ANALYST: If you have Russia aircraft in the sky east of Latakia province, if you have Russian anti-aircraft systems there in Latakia, the potential for friction and collision in that regard and the vulnerability of Israeli aircraft becomes much, much greater.
LIEBERMAN: In northern Israel, we've seen Israeli infantry and tanks in military exercises. But Israel's policy has been to stay out of the Syrian war happening right across the Golan Frontier. And Israel says it has red lines and will not allow advance military equipment, like Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, to fall into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon or other militant groups.
[18:45:09] Foreign media reports that Israel has in the past struck weapon shipments headed for Lebanon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simply, there has been previous cases of intents by Assad regime to transfer weapons to Hezbollah from what we're told at least, Israel has acted over Syrian territory to prevent that on a number of occasions in the course of the last four years, during the time of the Syrian civil war.
LIEBERMANN: Israel and Russia aren't exactly on a collision course but with two military so close, he says the country wills have to work together to ensure a collision won't occur.
LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu said after his meeting with Putin that they worked out, and I'm quoting, "a joint mechanism for preventing misunderstandings." Wolf, as to what that mechanism is, how it works, how it goes into effect or when it goes into effect, none of that was answered but with the speed of this Russian military buildup, these are likely answers that Netanyahu will be looking very soon.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's intriguing he brought top military and intelligence advisors with him to Moscow.
Oren, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little deeper on what's going on. Joining us, the former CIA counterterrorism official, our CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, and Julia Ioffe, she writes for "The New York Times Magazine".
Julia, how do Israel and Russia avoid some sort of collision because potentially it's there? JULIA IOFFE, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: There was a former Bibi
Netanyahu advisor who told "Reuters" earlier today that they might do something as simple as one flies during day, one flies at night. I think we have yet to find out what details are going to be. I think what's interesting, though, is how Russia is moving into traditionally American spaces.
There was a report on Russian, the main Russian newscast this evening that said that, you know, Israel has suffered because of its relationship with the U.S. It has relationship with the U.S. exposed it to threat of Islamic terrorism and Russia would be a more worth wile partner for Israel to have.
BLITZER: How easy, Phil, would it be for this Russian equipment that's now being moved into Syria to fall into the hands, let's say, of Hezbollah or al Qaeda or ISIS for that matter?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think the big question Israeli has got to have is the first question you asked, that is Hezbollah. They fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006. It's not the first war they fought. They've got to worry about things like surface to air missiles.
I've got a belief as well that the conversation between Netanyahu and Putin had to do with not only with what kind of weapons are being transferred and how they coordinated, but whether there's a mechanism to ensure the Russians say something, advice Israelis if they lose control of any of these weapons.
I think if they lost control, the close partnership between Syria and Hezbollah suggests that that is an issue, that's the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah that the Israeli should be really worried about.
BLITZER: Does it benefit, Phil, the U.S. for Russia to have not only equipment, whether planes, tanks, missiles, anti-aircraft equipment but also boots on the ground in Syria going after ISIS?
MUDD: This is a really complicated but fascinating question. You're right, the boots on the ground, Russians have -- they are obviously to help Bashar al-Assad kill ISIS. The American government is going to stay this is destabilizing, you're trying to protect a brutal dictator that everybody in North America and Western Europe wants to go.
But what are the other issues you have to think about is something nobody is saying, Wolf. That is, with the influx of refugees into Europe, there's got to be pressure on the Americans and the Russians and Europeans to figure out a political settlement that leads to Bashar al-Assad's ouster. I wondered whether the Russian commitment will give them greater latitude to tell Assad we can protect your regime, but we can't protect you. You got to get out.
BLITZER: Julia, you're an expert on Russia. What's Putin up to right now by moving this equipment and troops into Syria?
IOFFE: Well, I think he's trying to claw back a lot of influence that Russia lost the Arab spring. Gadhafi and a few years before that, Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, people that he had gotten used to doing business with. So he's clawing back a lot of this influence. Assad is one of the last bastions of Russian influence in the region.
And all of this is part of something larger. It's part of what we're seeing for example in Ukraine. This is Putin clawing back Russian influence on the world stage, trying to make Russia a contender, not just spoiler, not just somebody that's a minor partner, you know, kid sitting at the at adult table but a counterweight to American power, somebody that has to be dealt with, someone that has to, that you have to go to, to solve huge crisis like this.
BLITZER: Is Putin a your opinion, Phil, trying to recreate the influence the Soviet had during the battle days of the cold war in the Middle East?
MUDD: Absolutely. I think there's no question about it. I think this conversation is on mark.
Look what's happened with that shoot-down of the airliner using Russian military equipment, the move into Crimea, the move into Syria.
[18:50:03] In every circumstance, the Russians are using military power and Western Europeans and the Americans are almost powerless. They sit back and say, we can impose sanctions while Putin moves to extend influence militarily. I think the story is clear.
BLITZER: What worries the Israelis also, Julia, is that the Russian efforts to help Bashar al Assad sort of coincide with the Iranian efforts and the Hezbollah efforts to Bashar al-Assad. The Israelis get nervous when they see that kind of collaboration.
IOFFE: That's right. And they probably should be. It looks like this is -- Syria is becoming a problem we didn't want to deal with when we had much easier options to deal with it. Now, it's becoming increasingly more costly to deal with it as other actors move into the vacuum that's been left behind Assad shrinking territory, and the U.S. not willing to do that much.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Putin is going to be in New York new week, at the United Nations general assembly. I'm sure there will be intense discussions.
IOFFE: It will be a big show.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.
Julia, appreciate it.
Just ahead, they defected from ISIS. Now, they're revealing details of the brutality and horror. Stay with us.
[18:55:58] BLITZER: We are learning chilling new details of ISIS brutality from defectors who are now speaking out about the horrors they witnessed and endured.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with us.
Brian, what are these defectors revealing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Wolf, they relaying stories about being used as cannon fodder, about being tapped for suicide missions as soon as they join. These accounts come in a new report taking us inside ISIS, and giving horrifying details of how they treat even their own people.
TODD (voice-over): She was once a member of ISIS' fear women's brigade. She says she patrolled the streets of ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. She grabbed other women who weren't wearing the proper clothing and would sometimes lash them.
When CNN spoke with her, she said some other women who married ISIS fighters had a worst fate.
"HADISHA", ISIS DEFECTOR (through translator): The foreigners are brutal with women, even the ones they married. There were cases the wife had to be taken to the emergency ward because of the violence, the sexual violence.
TODD: Hadisha, not her real name, is in her mid-20s and is now an ISIS defector. New details are emerging tonight from Hadisha and nearly 60 others who fled from ISIS. Their accounts were compiled in a new report for the International Center for the Study of Radicalization.
Mubin Shaikh once defected from a jihadi cell.
MUBIN SHAIKH, AUTHOR, "UNDERCOVER JIHADI": A lot of these kids, they're just not prepared for the reality on the other side. I doubt they have taken a bullet. They're going to find out real fast that it's not the video games they have been practicing on all this time.
TODD: Nearly two-thirds of the defectors identified in the new report left the terror group this year. Why did they leave? The report says some are upset they are fighting against other Sunni rebels, others were horrified by the brutality of the group.
HADISHA: The worst thing I saw was a man getting his head hacked off in front of me.
TODD: Some fighters found ISIS corrupt and racist.
PETER NEUMANN, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR STUDY OF RADICALISATION: One particularly striking example is that of an Indian defector whom ISIS had forced to clean the toilet because of his color of skin.
TODD: Many left because they thought they were being used as cannon fodder, some complained that when they arrived on the scene, they were immediately expected to become suicide bombers. U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN, ISIS fighters have limited exit
options, that the group's barbaric treatment of those they believe deserted them makes it hard to walk away. What could ISIS defectors provide to Western intelligence?
NEUMANN: From tactics that are used from the layout of the particular installation where in Raqqa is the Islamic State, where, for example are prisoners being held? Where is training being conducted?
TODD: U.S. intelligence won't comment on the information. Officials tell us some defectors may be able to shed light on the group. But others may have motivations for engaging with intelligence or law enforcement, which make it difficult to assess their value -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because I'm sure various intelligence agencies, including U.S. intelligence agencies would like to recruit some of these defectors, maybe send them back to infiltrate ISIS and report back to these intelligence services.
TODD: That's right. Now, we are told, U.S. intelligence officials are not going to comment on that and how they are using some of these potential assets. But Peter Neumann, who runs that Center for the Study of Radicalization says he believes there are several defectors who have been debriefed by Western intelligence and then sent back into ISIS to infiltrate and report back, giving them crucial information. They could be giving really crucial information to the allies right now on the battlefield.
BLITZER: Is there indication they are going to publicize extensively on social media these horror stories to deter various people from joining ISIS to begin with, make that trek over through Turkey and to Syria and Iraq?
TODD: They could do that, Wolf. The State Department is engaged into a program to kind of counter some of the ISIS propaganda. They have a new video out online, really sarcastic video saying this is what's in store for you when you come into ISIS. They could really use that on social media to great effect.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much. Good report.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Please go ahead, tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show. You can tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.