tv The Sixties CNN August 7, 2014 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
obviously, our coverage is going to continue on now through the evening. cnn coverage continues now with wolf blitzer and alisyn camerota. >> this is cnn breaking news. >> good evening. this is "cnn tonight." i'm wolf blitzer reporting from washington. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. we're following breaking news. events in iraq now spinning out of control as isis, the group that is being called even more violent than al qaeda is spreading its vicious reign of terror north, leaving a trail of death and destruction amid fears that isis will target american military and possibly civilian diplomatic advisers in and around the area of erbil in northern iraq. president obama has just authorized air strikes to protect the americans. >> to stop the advance on erbil. i directed our military to take targeted strikes against isis
terrorist convoys should they move towards the city. >> i'm alisyn camerota in new york. over the past few days, with much of the world focused on gaza, these brutal terrorists struck iraq's largest christian town, giving residents a stark choice. convert to islam or die. isis stormed the northern iraqi town of sinjar, forcing its people, tense of thousands of men, women, and children to run for their lives. those villagers have been trapped for days in the mountains without food, water, or medical care. according to unicef, 40 children have already died from violence and dehydration. this evening, a u.s. mission to air drop humanitarian aid began. >> meanwhile, alisyn, more breaking news. this time in gaza. israel defense forces spokesperson has just posted a tweet on the official idf account saying two rockets have now been fired from gaza into southern israel. we're going to have much more on this story tonight. as well as that ceasefire over. but right now i want to bring in
our senior white house correspondent jim acosta, our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto and chief congressional correspondent dana bash. jim acosta over at the white house, the president was very precise. he says the air drops for humanitarian purposes, those have taken place. but he has only authorized air strikes against various isis targets. no air strikes yet. >> that's right. we have not gotten word that any air strikes have been conducted yet. the president did authorize that humanitarian aid drop. that did occur earlier this evening. but as for these air strikes, wolf, we heard this earlier in the day from a top white house official who said the president's top priority in iraq is protecting american personnel. so you heard the president say during his remarks 30 minutes ago that if those personnel are threatened and they're in the city of erbil, there is an american consulate there. there are u.s. military advisers there placed there by the president earlier this summer, that he would decide to take action, that there would be air strikes against the isis targets.
here is what the president said earlier tonight. >> to stop the advance on erbil, i have directed our military to take targeted streaks against isis terror convoys should they move towards the city. we intend to stay vigilant and take action if the terrorist forces threaten personnel or facilities anywhere in iraq including our consulate in erbil and our embassy in baghdad. >> now those air strikes could also be used in the effort to protect those humanitarian victims who are being persecuted and brutalized by isis in the mountains in northern iraq, the yazidis. the president said he is not going to turn a blind eye to those atrocities, and if the united states can act, it will act. but wolf, the key question here at this point is how far the president is willing to go. i asked him earlier this summer when he sent those advisers into iraq, what about mission creep?
obviously the door has been opened to that with this decision made by the president tonight to authorize these air strikes if u.s. personnel are being threatened in iraq. the president says he will act. he will direct military to launch airstrikes. >> and the white house, jim, is holding firm. they say no boots on the ground. no u.s. ground forces. >> that's right. they're sort of ruling that out, right? >> no boots on the ground. and you heard the president say that earlier in his remarks. he said, quote, he will not allow the u.s. to be dragged into another war, into fighting another war in iraq. that is the president. the former candidate barack obama who ran in 2008 on the platform that he would shut down the war in iraq. he pulled the troops out of iraq. as we know, nearly three years ago. and so those words coming from the president are aimed at reassuring a lot of democrats out there, a lot of independents out there, frankly some republicans out there who are very much worried about the prospect of a widened military conflict in iraq to go after those isis targets. but as you've heard from the president's critics for the last several months, they have been
warning of this scenario. the president obviously was prepared for the possibility of launching air strikes against isis. he said as much earlier this summer if this u.s. personnel is threatened. but what they did not anticipate is this humanitarian crisis that is unfolding and potentially getting much, much worse by the hour in northern iraq. the yazidis taking shelter in the mountains with absolutely no protection from those isis militants, wolf. it is a very dire situation. and it puts the president in a very tough spot as he is about to go on a vacation to martha's vineyard in a few days, wolf. >> it certainly does. let me bring in jim sciutto. i guess a lot of people watching say this are a few american diplomats in erbil. there are some military personnel. why not just bring them out, get them out of there asap and then there are no americans you have to worry about? >> principally because the president sent the military advisers in there for a reason
that is to support the iraqis, the iraqi military, which has not proven up to the task of countering the threat from isis, which frankly has continued to advance and gather more territory in iraq. so those military inventories have a serious role there. but as jim acosta has said, the president of course wants to keep them safe. you know, it's interesting. there is criticism and there will be criticism from democrats and other lawmakers about mission creep. but there is criticism from the other side as well. and i've spoken to democrats. and i know dana has as well. even members of the president's own party who frankly want to see more. i spent this morning with senior intelligence officials, wolf, who talked about their alarm at isis' growing threat not just in iraq and syria, but also to the u.s. they know they're training and aspiring to send fighters, veterans from the fighting in iraq and syria back home, including to america to carry out attacks here. and the prospect, just the idea that isis controls so much
territory now to train, you know, to equip, to arm fighters, not just to threaten iraqis and syrians, but to threaten americans is a very alarming prospect. you will hear from lawmakers here in washington in both parties who say they want to see more. they want to see air strikes not just to protect americans, but to push isis back, to gain back some of this territory, which iraqi forces have not been able to do because it is a real threat. and i'll tell you, you hear that, and i know you have gotten briefs like that as well, wolf, from intelligence officials. they're very worried about the threat that isis poses. >> isis represents a major, major threat not only the people of iraq, the christians there, the kurds there, the yazidis, the shiites, if you will that represent a threat to a bunch of sunni muslims as well who don't agree with them. this is a major, major terrorist organization. dana bash, you know the republicans. a lot of the republicans on the hill, the lindsey grams, the john mccains and the others, they're going to say, mr. president, this was all too
predictle. when you pulled out all u.s. troops, did not leave a residual force in iraq, this was going to happen. we hearing that already? >> not any i told you so's yet, because this is the initial stages. and this is exactly what the lindsey grahams and the joms wanted the president to do, go much, much further, as jim sciutto was saying. i think what is most interesting is you are seeing a real mix when it comes to capitol hill. i talked to the top democrat on the armed services committee earlier. he had been briefed by the white house before the president made his statement. and he was pretty aggressive in saying that he supports not just humanitarian aid or dropping humanitarian assistance, but also dropping bombs, if necessary. and that is not something that you heard many democrats saying, not that long ago, the words iraq and dropping bombs. remember, as the president said, he ran on getting out of iraq.
the house democrats took the majority on iraq. and this is very, very difficult for them. and i just want to sort of put this in context to give a sense of how much the country's stomach for going into iraq especially has changed. not long before congress went into summer recess, there was a resolution that passed. the white house was able to water it down a lot. but it passed overwhelmingly by republicans and democrats. saying to the white house, if you're going to do something big, which has to do with combat troops. but still, if you're going to do something, you have to come to us first. that would never have happened several years ago. but it is because the mood of the country has changed so much when it comes to iraq. but the white house, i can tell you, just based on a conversation they had tonight privately with people on capitol hill feel that this is a very, very different, very specific situation. and a lot less complex than the sectarian divide that they perhaps had to wade in when we're talking about isis going
into baghdad. this is very different, much more cut and dry they think with regard to these people who are in very dire situation. and they are a bunch of christians that are being persecuted a lot more simple than the, again, very complex situation. >> only within the past month or so. maybe 200,000 people have fled their homes. mostly christians. they are on the road. but 40,000 yazidis, this other ethnic group. they're afraid of genocide, if you will. and that's one of the reasons the president authorized the humanitarian air drops that have now gone in to try to save these people's lives. all right, dana, jim acosta, jim sciutto, stand by. i want to go back to alisyn in new york. >> thanks, wolf. we'll be back to you in a minute. for now we're going to ivan watson. he is in irbil, iraq. ivan, we've been talking about these u.s. advisers and personnel who are in the same town as you this. do we know what the plan is for
them tonight? >> well, actually, the sun is starting to rise over irbil. i believe the kurds as they wake up will be very encouraged to hear that president obama has effectively threatened to use air power if this city is threatened further, and recall that the isis militants have advanced to within 35 miles of the city where i'm stand right now, and also to help relieve the pressure, perhaps break the siege around sinjar mountain, where these tens of thousands of yazidis are reportedly stranded. people will be likely encouraged. it will boost morale for a region that has been shaken by the recent advances of the isis militants. and it is basically answering a call that the senior kurdish leadership publicly made earlier on thursday, an appeal for the u.s. and/or nato to use air power against isis militants.
the foreign minister of the kurdistan regional government told me he publicly was asking for this. and so likely they will hope to see that some kind of air power would in fact be used here to help tilt the balance in the favor of the kurds who are increasingly under pressure to protect their homeland at the same time they're facing a huge influx of displaced people. i have been watching some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been fleeing areas that isis has moved into within the past 48 hours. people moving in any kind of vehicle they can find, packing into tractors, trailer, trucks. some of them walking all night to escape. and they all tend to come from religious minorities. these people scared for their lives of the forward movement that the isis militants have made against the poorly armed
kurdish peshmerga militia. >> and we heard the president say he is willing to use those air strikes against the isis convoys if they were to come in and try to take irbil. do you have any sense if they're on the move and how close they are? >> as of thursday morning, they -- the militants had taken control, kurdish officials told me of a town called guar which is about 35 miles to the southwest of irbil. they had been fighting over another town about 45 miles directly south of here. the kurds had withdrawn to an area about 40 miles west of where i am right now. so there had been movement forward by the isis militants. kurdish officials saying the isis militants were using armored vehicles that they had captured from the iraqi army, armored vehicles that had been supplied initially by the u.s. government to help push back the
kurdish peshmerga fighters. and i do have to say the threat of u.s. air power here, again, going to be welcomed in part because kurds have positive memories, recall that for more than ten years, the u.s. helped lead a no-fly zone that helped protect northern iraq, the coast guard stan regiokurdistan reach hussein up until 2003. the u.s. has long been looked at as a protector by the iraqi kurds. and many of them again are likely to see this as another example of that, even though no airstrikes have taken place yet. regarding the people stranded on that mountain, kurdish officials have told me that there are efforts by kurdish fighters on the ground to break through the isis fight lines to rescue some of those yazidis. and some, according to kurdish media, have succeeded in being smuggled out of there. but the situation, again, still dire. the temperatures here soar during the day to more than 120
degrees fahrenheit. if people have been stuck, the elderly, the young under the sun, under those mountains as the kurdish officials have said, some of them had been expiring, dying as a result of exposure to the elements and shortage of water and of course food. so these new air drops will be a big help. but probably not enough if we're talking about tens of thousands of people stranded there. >> absolutely. but let's pray that the u.s. air drops can get water to them at least in that desperate situation. ivan, thank you so much for your reporting. stay safe and we will check back this with you. when we come back, our other big breaking news story tonight. an idf spokesperson tweets on its official account saying that two rockets have been fired from gaza into israel. cnn's jake tapper is live for us in jerusalem with more. life with crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is a daily game of "what if's". what if my abdominal pain and cramps end our night before it even starts?
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welcome back to this special coverage. i'm alisyn camerota in new york, along with wolf blitzer in washington. we have much more tonight on the breaking news out of iraq. but first, we want to go to jake tapper in jerusalem for all of the developments there. an idf spokesperson has just posted a tweet on the official account saying that two rockets have been fired from gaza into israel. jake, what can you tell us? >> well, that's right, alisyn. the ceasefire, the 72-hour ceasefire is set to expire in roughly three hours. israel and egypt and the palestinian authority have all been pressing in negotiations in cairo, egypt for that ceasefire to be extended. but hamas announced earlier
today, or rather yesterday that they were not in favor of extending the ceasefire unless their demands were made. and now we have news from the israel defense forces that there were at least two rockets fired from some terrorists in their term from gaza into southern israel. we are still awaiting information as to where exactly they landed. there is a press report in the newspaper here in israel that says they landed without hurting anybody in an area called eshkol, which is not far from ashkelon. we should point out the context of this, hamas, the armed wing of hamas, the military wing, the qassam brigades had announced on thursday evening israel time, egypt time, gaza time that unless their demands were met,
they would consider the ceasefire expired as of 8:00 a.m. in this part of the world local time. those demands were demands to alleviate the suffering of opinions they say, which included lifting the blockade and allowing easier access in and out of gaza, as well as a seaport. israel considers those to be requirements -- rather requests that they would be -- that they would discuss when it came to a larger agreement. they want the demilitarization of gaza. in any case, there was no chance that israel was going to give hamas any sort of -- any sort of bounty, anything that they could have won and shown the palestinian people look, we didn't do this for nothing. here is what we got from firing rockets into israel. there was no chance that israel was going do that. hamas, of course arguing they needed to bring that to the palestinian people, needed to
show that the last month wasn't for naught. regardless of all of that, that stuff for negotiation, those are issues for negotiations. we now have word that someone in gaza and the israel defense forces is very clearly blaming hamas, saying even if they didn't fire these rockets, fire these mortars into israel, hamas is responsible for rockets not being fired in this ceasefire. we now have word from the israel defense forces that has happened and the ceasefire, according to israel, has been violated, alisyn. >> jake, stand by for a second. we want to bring in wolf blitzer. you just spent a month in israel. are you surprised that the ceasefire seems to be over? >> i was hoping the ceasefire would go on. there is still a chance. it's remote there is still a chance it could go on. i suspect the israelis are going to wait to see if it was just these two rockets. these could be isolated rockets. they could be something random, if you will. not necessarily fully coordinated. if more rockets come in, the israelis will strike back.
the israelis will also make the point if there are more palestinian civilian casualties, and there almost certainly will be a lot more palestinian civilian casualties, they will blame hamas. they will say they were willing to accept a continuation of the ceasefire. the palestinian authority, as jake says, was willing to accept the continuation of the ceasefire. egypt wanted a continuation. hamas violated the ceasefire. israel will say as a result, israel will go back. now, their mission to destroy the tunnels, the 32 tunnels that hamas built from gaza going to israel, israel says that mission was completed. so they don't have to worry about the tunnels at least for now. but the hamas militants still believe at least three maybe 4,000 rockets and missile launchers inside gaza some place. so the israelis will continue to search for those rockets and those missiles. and they'll make the case hamas has itself to blame if the violence will continue. i suspect let's see what happens in the next hour or two if there are more rockets and missiles coming in, then the ceasefire is
definitely dead. and you can believe the israelis might not send ground forces back into gaza, but they will launch air strikes, artillery shells across the border. they'll do what they think needs to be done. and as jake can point out, he has been there now for several days. there is still a growing chorus in israel says basically finish the job. >> yeah, jake, what about that? what about any peace talks? over? >> well, again, i think wolf is accurate when he says that we have to see whether or not this was a random individual firing mortars or a plan by hamas authorized by hamas to fire rockets into israel. but wolf hits the nail on the head when he talks about the pressures that prime minister netanyahu is under. it may be surprising to people in europe or even in the united states that the pressure on benjamin netanyahu was not
pressure for more restraint as the west would have it. with president obama and other european leaders are urging the israel defense forces to try to exercise more caution and restraint in retaliation in responding to these hamas strikes when they attacked hamas and hit many civilians in gaza. but the pressure, the political pressure on prime minister netanyahu from within his own cabinet was actually from the right. actually from individuals who wanted him to be more aggressive. there were individuals pressing him to do more, to occupy gaza, even though there were generals and others in the command of the israel defense forces saying if israel were going to do more and occupy gaza, it would take months. it would cost thousands of palestinian lives, hundreds of israeli lives, and billions of dollars just a couple of days ago i spoke with the former
deputy defense minister for netanyahu, danny danone who was criticizing netanyahu for having state head would agree to a ceasefire several weeks ago. so that pressure, political pressure within israel is very strong on netanyahu. we'll see now how he responds to this apparent violation of the ceasefire. >> all right, jake tapper, thanks so much for all that information. stand by and we'll come back to you as developments warrant. let's go back to wolf. >> all right, allison. thank yo alisyn. that will be significant to see if the israelis retaliate. i assume they will if rockets and missiles keep coming in. we have much more ahead tonight on other breaking news out of iraq. tens of thousands of people are now running for their lives from the isis fighters, trapped without food, water, or medical care. can the u.s. humanitarian air drop reach them in time? plus who are these islamic
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wolf blitzer and i are back for special coverage tonight. we have more on our breaking news this evening. president obama authorizes air strikes in iraq. listen to what the president said about the yazidi people of iraq. >> in recent days, yazidi women, men, and children from the area of sinjar have fled for their lives in the thousands, perhaps tense of thousands are now hiding high up on the mountain with little but the clothes on their backs.
they're without food, they're without water. people are starving and children are dying of thirst. >> all right. we want to bring in jim sciutto now to talk more about the yazidi people. jim, can you hear me? >> i can hear you well. >> okay. so there are something like 40,000 yazidis trapped on top of this mountain surrounded by isis. they have been starving. they have been hungry. what do we know about them? >> let me tell you where they are. it's in the north of iraq, here to the east of mosul, which is the largest city in northern iraq and was taken over some weeks ago by isis. it has become in effect the capital of this caliphate that they declared in northern iraq. so the yazidis, who normally live just to the east of there and lived quite peacefully for years, decades chased out of town to a mountaintop here away from their homes. 120-degree heat during the day. no food, no water. and that's why as they're
surrounded by isis forces here, avoiding a massacre, they're dying from the elements. they're just dying from the simple fact that they don't have things to eat and water to drink. particularly the young and the elderly have been vulnerable. now this is also close to about here, which is where irbil is. and this is the kurdish controlled area of iraq, which to this point has been very safe. in fact, so safe that when the u.s. evacuated, some of its staff from the embassy in baghdad, they sent them up to irbil, thinking it was safe. but as isis has advanced, the concern has been that even the american personnel here are under threat as well. but the most immediate threat really to the yazidi people because they are truly surrounded with no hope, now they have some food. the next stlep be opening up some sort of humanitarian corridor to get them safely into kurdish controlled areas. >> and jim, we heard the president talk about the humanitarian aid that the u.s. had just successfully dropped
for the yazidi people. do you have any more information about that? >> we're getting some more details now, alisyn, about what they dropped. it was three aircraft that took part in dropping the supplies, in addition to fa-18 fighter genetics. one c-17, two c-130s. they were flying from multiple air bases in centcom command in the area, including an air base in turkey but elsewhere as well. they dropped 72 bundles of supplies. 5,300 gallons of water, 8,000 mres. those are the military meals ready to eat. but even the president acknowledges and defense officials acknowledge this is a short-term supply, just to get them through the next couple of days to survive while they think of next steps. while the u.s. thinks of next steps, including developing this humanitarian corridor to get them safely to kurdish controlled areas. what can the u.s. do to help? it will be advising. it might be offering air strikes to open up that air corridor. it will not have boots on the ground. the boots on the ground will be
iraqi forces and most likely kurdish peshmerga forces, the kurdish militias. >> jim, for some of us, today is the first time we heard of the yazidis and their sect. i just want to read to people a little bit what we have learned about those 40,000 people there trapped on the mountain. they're one of the tiniest minorities. they're of kurdish descent. their religion is considered a preislamic sect that draws some tenets from christianity, some from judaism. it's one of the oldest religious communities in the world. they have often been persecuted. in fact, some extremists have branded them as devil worshippers. so they are now the focus of this humanitarian aid from the u.s. because as the president said we don't turn a blind eye when we see genocide happening. and particularly when unicef says something like 40 children have already died of thirst. >> what it shows you is when it comes to isis, everyone is under
threat. it is the yazidis simply because they're not sunni muslims like isis. but it's also the christians. christians fleeing by the hundreds from towns in the north, what christians remain in iraq. many have fled already. but shia muslims who live principally in the south, they are under threat. anyone who is a sunni muslim. not just a sunni muslim, but a sunni muslim of this particular bastardization of the faith is under threat. and the yazidis now in the cross harr hairs. they're not the only once in the crosshairs. to folks back home, they may say gosh, we've never heard of these yazidis. this are thousands of years of history here. you have so many religions represented here. it was a rich culture through the years. and in effect isis trying to rob that area of the culture, one group at a time. >> yes, absolutely. jim, thank you so much for all of the information. we'll check back in with you. meanwhile, let's go back to wolf blitzer. >> alisyn, i want to bring in a
guest right now, a member of the yazidi community who was at the state department speaking with the officials. thank you so much for joining us. i know you moved from iraq to lincoln, nebraska about three years ago to escape the terror and the oppression. first of all, tell us what you're hearing from your family, your friends back in iraq right now. >> well, first i'd like to appreciate giving us this opportunity to talk. as of today, we were protesting in front of the white house. and i received a couple of calls from the mountains. the people were trapped. and the massacre that isis committed in iraq, it's unbelievable. we are not still like -- the number that we get in the media absolutely it's not correct, which is more than 300,000 people got trapped, not 40,000, which is what the estimated number as we know from the people that they are still in the mountains, like some
leaders. his name is has sam and some other friends there. and i am originally from an area called shehan, which is 45 miles in the north in the city of ninewa. in august 6, the isis informed the shehan area that they needed to evacuate and all the christians evacuate to the turkish border. currently they're stuck there at the border. and the krg, which is the kurdistan government don't let them to get into turkey. and there is catastrophe there's. the people, they are suffering. and our folks right now and the people trapped in the mountains, at least these people are in the safe area. and i would like to mention a couple of points that she mentioned earlier. we are not a muslim religion. we are yazidi. we believe in a one god, as
everybody believe and in seven angels and the head of the angels. and i'm very disappointed and surprised that even in 2014 with all this technology, people still do not know much about our background and its -- i'm very disappointed, honestly to see this like devil worship. no, we are not. we are very peaceful. we have played a major role in many civilization in thousands of the years in iraq. >> basim, the yazidis have a very rich and beautiful history. the only point that i think we were trying to make is that to these isis militants, these muslim extremists, they consider you devil worshipers, which is obviously horrible. and they basically have threatened to kill all of the yazidis unless you convert to their brand of islam. is that right?
>> right, sir. on august 2, i apologize, sorry, on august 6th the isis suddenly showed up in sinjar because the krg, basically, they just -- from throughout the sinjar region. and some people were -- they were aware, and they just defend themselves until the last minute to protecting the kids and the females to get in the mountains and the elderly. some of them, they made it. some of them they died on the way. and hundreds of the kids got killed because of the heat, like about 120 degrees. and it was very hot and a severe situation. and it take a couple of days until we try to raise awareness in europe and the united states, trying to see if there is any way we can sent humanitarian aid to the mountains, and also thousands of the yazidi females
being kidnapped and right now there is -- and being raped by the insurgency group. and we would like to separate our message from the united states. we would like to thank the american people and the u.s. government and the obama administration, which we conduct several meetings today in washington, d.c. our movement was from lincoln and nebraska and other state like texas and new york, buffalo, and ontario, canada, coming to the d.c. and we know that the u.s. is the mother of the nation, that the only path. and we appreciate. i was very glad. >> basim, i was just going to say that the u.s. is now trying to help the yazidis, your people in iraq, humanitarian supplies have already been dropped. more are on the way. and the president of the united states has authorized air strikes if necessary, if
necessary to further help this situation. this awful situation, not just for the yazidis, but also for iraqi christians, iraqi shiites. all sorts of people right now are threatened. this is a horrible situation. and we're going to stay on top of it and report the news as fairly and responsibly as we possibly can. basi alali, thanks very much. good luck to your family and friends, all of the yazidis in northern iraq, a community rich with history and tradition. coming up, president obama has approved these air strikes against the isis terrorists in northern iraq. but the kurds, they are battling these isis forces on the ground. much more on this part of the story as we continue the breaking news. ♪ [ woman ] if you have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis like me, and you're talking to your rheumatologist about a biologic... this is humira. this is humira helping to relieve my pain. this is humira helping me lay the groundwork. this is humira helping to protect my joints
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i'm alisyn camerota in new york, along with my colleague wolf blitzer in washington for special coverage of breaking news. as isis marches through iraq, murdering other ethnicities in their way, the kurds, an ethnic group that was killed by the hundreds of thousands during saddam hussein's reign, had been the lone group trying to battle isis on the ground in northern iraq. joining me now to talk about what the u.s. should do is joe reiter, former undersecretary of the army, and lieutenant general michael barbaro, a former director of the joint ide defeat organization. gentlemen, thanks so much for being here. we have a lot to talk about.
general, i want to start with you. just so that our viewers know, you spent four years in iraq you. did three tours of duty. you have been there six times in the past year. you have been to irbil many times. describe for us what you see happening there now. >> well, alisyn, i spoke to several kurdish leaders in irbil this morning. one was from sinjar. he said his family is from sinjar, and he made three comments. he said first this is an urgent situation. second, why isn't anyone from the west helping us? and third, where is america? the kurds have requested arms, equipment, and ammunition. they're not requesting us to come in and fight for them. they'll fight. the peshmerga will fight. the tragedy is this weekend when there were reports of peshmerga forces breaking contact and withdrawing, i was told by another kurdish leader today they ran out of ammunition.
so what the kurds need and what we should be providing to them are the arms, the ammunition, and the equipment that they need to fight isis. these air strikes are nice, but you can't air strike your way out of this. we have to enable the kurds to be able to fight and defend themselves. >> mr. reiter, what do you think? >> well, i couldn't more violently agree with general barbaro. you can't do everything. i applaud the president, finally, for making the decision tonight to support with air strikes. but you can't close here. this is on the ground with a vicious, merciless force. the kurds are the very best friends we have in the middle east. they've always been there. second only to israel. we have no better friends there. they're under threat. and as you put it, alisyn, they are the only ones facing off on
an enemy of the united states of america. and they're facing off against an enemy that armed with u.s. equipment taken from iraqis that abandoned that equipment. the kurds are fighting with obsolete equipment. and it's absolutely imperative, as mike barbaro said to get them equipped immediately. >> i'm so glad you made that point. general, i do want you to follow up on that. we have learned that isis has all of these weapons that were left behind when the iraqi army fell apart. some of them are u.s. weapons. and so what is the peshmerga to do. we've heard they're an impressive fighting force, but they're outgunned. >> they're outgunned and overmatched, alisyn. another kurd told me a story about our up armored humvees being used by isis as suicide vehicles. and the kurds say we have no weapons that can penetrate that armor. so we have a force that is willing to fight. we have a force that has
requested america's aid weeks ago. they're not requesting boots on the ground. >> so why are we resisting? if that's the answer, mr. rheeder, why are resisting giving them weapons? >> well, some of the resistance has come from trying to support a one iraq, which at this stage is a fiction. i believe it should be supported, but not at the expense when you have an existential threat ongoing today. we know that -- we gave weapons to ma malaki. we know we haven't given any weapons to the kurds. and it's time right now. and when i was in the pentagon with the general back in the
mid-'90s, saddam hussein rattled his saber, and we were able -- we didn't know we could do it quite that well. but we were able to muster enormous equipment in 96 hours. he backed off. we could turn this thing around in 72 hours once we have the resolve. >> we can turn this around in 72 hours. that would be an impressive feat. general barbaro, mr. reeder, thank you so much for your expertise. >> when we come back, reaction from john mccain and lindsey graham on tonight's air strike against isis in iraq.
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statement from senators john mccain and lindsey graham, a statement very, very critical of the obama administration's policies towards iraq all along. while the statement goes on to say that they applaud the president's decision to provide humanitarian relief to iraqi civilians, especially those stranded on mount sinjar, about 40,000 yazidis and tens of thousands of christians who are endangered right now. the statement goes on to say, and let me put it up on the screen, we need to get beyond a policy of half measures. the president needs to devise a comprehensive strategy to degrade isis. this should be to provide military and other assistance to our kurdish and other partners who are fighting isis. it should include u.s. air strikes against isis leaders, positions in iraq and syria. it should include support to sunni iraqis who seek to resist isis about, and none of this should be contingent on a new government in baghdad.
a new statement from lindsey graham. they do call the president's policy in the middle east disastrous. fran townsend is joining us right now. friend, you worked in the bush administration. you were an adviser on homeland security. it shouldn't be that surprising that lindsey graham, john mccain, they hated the president's position in withdrawaling all u.s. troops from iraq in 2012. they wanted some u.s. troops to remain. the president says the iraqi government of nuri al maliki refused to give those troops immunity, and as a result, the u.s. had no choice. lindsey graham and john mccain said the president just wanted those troops out. didn't fight the iraqi government of nuri al maliki very hard. what do you say? >> wolf, i actually think their statement, i agree with the idea that we need a more comprehensive strategy to address and degrade isis, but perhaps for different reasons than john mccain and lindsey graham. i don't know. my real concern here is we need to degrade isis because of the direct threat to the united states.
there is no question we've heard a lot about the thousands of foreign fighters, many with western passports, including american passports. so as we increase humanitarian aid, as the president authorizes potential air strikes against isis, i worry about the direct threat against american interests around the world and actually here at home. >> all right. >> with the foreign fighter threat. >> fran, stand by. i want everyone to stand by. we're going to take another quick break. much more of the news. major news. the u.s., the president of the united states has authorized airstrikes. they haven't yet started. authorized air strikes against isis terrorists in iraq. each year, 95% of homeowners won't have a claim. that's why allstate claim free rewards gives you money back for every year you don't have one. and why if you're part of the other 5%, allstate offers claim rateguard. so your rates won't go up just because of a claim. no matter what comes your way, your home protects you.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> good evening. this is "cnn tonight." i'm wolf blitzer reporting tonight from washington. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. alisyn camerota is joining us from new york. we have breaking news tonight in gaza, as well as in iraq. the president of the united states has authorized air strikes in iraq as isis terrorists spread their vicious reign of terror north and threatening american military advisers and consular officials in irbil. >> to stop the advance on irbil, i've directed our military to take targeted strikes against