tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN January 12, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm PST
president obama's speech writing team into a precarious state of limbo. the state of the union is just a few hours away. what does the president say about this? national security likely a central theme of the president's address. this urgent development could change what the president says tonight. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. i turn you over to wolf blitzer and "the situation room." happening now, breaking news, u.s. sailors seized. ten u.s. navy sailors they are now in iranian custody after two small u.s. navy vessels entered iranian waters. urgent high-level effortsed up way to try to secure their release. suicide blast. isis blamed for a bloody attack on u.s. ally. a bombing in istanbul's tourist district kills at least ten foreigners. turkey said the assailant recently arrived from syria.
moscow says it will create new army divisions based in europe and make five nuclear missiles ready for combat. president put. says it's possible they could give syria's president asylum. the president puts finishing touches on his last state of the union address. he'll speak just hours from now. can he get his agenda on track or is he already just a lame duck? we want to welcome our 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. >> breaking news, ten american sailors are now being held by iran after their two small u.s. navy vessels apparently entered iranian waters. u.s. officials say they hope the matter will be settled quickly. the secretary of state, john kerry, already made an urgent call to his iranian counterpart.
shattering blast ripped through historic district in turkey's ancient city of istanbul. at least ten foreigners killed, most of them germans. turkey blaming isis for the suicide attack and says the bomber recently arrived from syria. crisis after crisis, president obama's preparing for his final state of the union address, only four hours from now. aides say he'll strike an optimistic tone trying to portray nation on the rebound and seek to draw contrast to negative messages from the republican presidential trail. i'll speak with republican senator tom cotton of senate armed services and intelligence committees. our correspondents, analysts and guests will have full coverage of the top stories. ten american sailors held by iran right now after two small navy vessels apparently entered iranian waters.
u.s. officials scrambling to get them released as quickly as possible. let go to our pentagon correspondent barbara starr for the very latest. what are you learning in. >> reporter: a senior u.s. official told me sailors may be spending the night in iran, at least hours of darkness at this point. it is not expected they will be released, put back out to sea, on their boats until the daylight hours. two u.s. navy small patrol aircraft equipped with .50 caliber machine guns and 10 u.s. navy sailors to be pier side on farcy island in the persian gulf an iranian island. the two boats making a trip from bahrain to kuwait. we are told that right now, what the u.s. thinks may have happened is that one of the small boats experienced a mechanical problem, perhaps losing propulsion, perhaps beginning to drift, and of course, the other navy boat
would not leave those sailors behind. it was at that point, the theory goes now, that they drifted into iranian territorial waters. it is believed they were picked up by iranian naval personnel from iran's revolutionary guard corps which operates around farcy island. this is one of the most aggressive elements of the iranian military and national security apparatus in that country. right now, iran has assured the u.s. that all ten u.s. sailors are safe, that they are being treated accordingly, and that they will be released, they will be allowed to continue their journey up to bahrain, one ship, a boat, disabled. we don't know the status of that. but this could go on for several hours, wolf, about of it is finally resolved. >> this comes on the heels last year of several incidents, as you will know in the persian gulf in the same very region where the u.s. suspected iran
was engaged in aggressive behavior. video of iran firing rockets near warships, that was in december back in july, iran flagged ships targeted, the u.s. -- some u.s. navy vessels with lasers, in may five iranian boats fired shots in the persian gulf not far a way from u.s. ships. a ship intercepted by iranian patrols. looks luke a pattern but a long time since iran taken u.s. military personnel under arrest everybody that's what the news agency is saying ten american sailors are under arrest by iranians right now. this is a big deal. >> reporter: this is avery big deal and substantively militarily quite different than the incidents you're quite accurately recounting. because what you're talking about in this case is small, vulnerable u.s. navy craft in
these very tight, very tense waters. they are quick with .50 caliber machine guns but consider this. these are not big warships. they have a limited ability to defend themselves and if the iranians come alongside and essentially say you're coming with us, the prospect, very dismal, of seeing u.s. navy sailors potentially -- i'm saying potentially -- with the surrendering weapons with hands up is a very dismal prospect. but this has happened in the past. it happened to the british navy, several years ago during the height of the iraq war in the persian gulf. small boats were boarded by the iranians, the british naval personnel were taken to iran for several days. a lot of propaganda value for the iranians out of that incident. the british, not able to defend themselves. and very little remembered incident in the very opening days when a very small u.s. knaving craft also its personnel
drifted into contested waters and a small number of u.s. military personnel were taken into iran overnight. they were later released. that's an incident very few remember. but the issue is on the small craft, very limited ability to defend themselves. the military, u.s. military always says everyone has the right to defend themselves. no reports at this point that shots were fired. that's a i have difficult prospect in the face of iranian naval authorities. >> small vessels indeed. but the u.s. has big vessels, the fifth fleet in the persian gulf headquartered in bahrain, two vessels going from kuwait to bahrain. the u.s. has major fire power in that region. let see what the iranians do next. stand by for more. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto. what are you hearing? >> i've been in touch with the senior administration official in the last few moments who tells me nothing to indicate anything hostile on the part of iranian authority in the detention of the u.s. sailors
and repeat the point you mentioned, wolf, the u.s. has received assurances ten sailors are in good health and they will be released very soon. whether that's tonight or possibly several hours until daylight, that is what the administration is saying now. keep in mind, the u.s. and iran wouldn't have this kind of contact, for instance, secretary of state john kerry reaching out to his iranian counterpart. they have channels there they didn't have before. version of the story presented to the iranian public tonight is different. the news agency, a state news agency in iran reporting these ten sailors and in fact, it has this detail, just the iranian news agency, nine men, one woman, they were arrested. also goes on to describe in great detail the weapons that were on these american boats, it says .350 caliber machine guns, gps detects were confiscated by the iranians, and keep this detail in mind as well, this is
very key, iranians are reporting that this was an iranian revolutionary guard corps personnel who picked up these u.s. sailors. that is key because the rev unusualnary guard corps, hard-liners have their own military, they have their own ground forces and naval forces, and often in the past those other cases you mentioned, wolf, firing rockets near u.s. ship, chasing and detaining for a while u.s. cargo ship, that was done by the revolutionary guard corps. it shows division in iran. the iranian president whether negotiated this deal, a different camp from the revolutionary guard corps. they have a different agenda. i will make this note based on barbara's reporting, if sailors are held until daylight in iran, talking about six, seven hours from now, with the time difference, keep in mind that would bring those sailors to be in iranian detention during the
president's final state of the union speech tonight, when he is almost certain to mention the iran nuclear deal negotiated with tehran. >> as you well know, u.s. officials long said there are two irans out there, the iran revolutionary guard corps, which operates on the one hand, and the other government that the u.s. has been dealing with, kerry has been dealing with, foreign minister, the president, on the other hand the ayatollah, the supreme leader makes the final decision, if the revolutionary guard wants to parade the sailors show they were arrested, they can do that. >> absolutely right. the other key piece of timing. the state of the union address tonight. iran nuclear deal, looks like, will be implemented in the next several days as soon as friday, i've been told, by administration officials. but some time this month. and went that happens implementation means lifting of these punishing economic sanctions on iran. so the timing of this, even if it was an accident, wasn't planned, impossible not to make
that connection between those two. not to say that was the motive but that timing does not look good for the administration. >> we'll find out from the u.s. navy what two small vessels were doing. where the u.s. has a major naval facility, on their way to bahrain, headquarters of the u.s. navy's 5th neat in the persian gulf. we'll find out what they were doing. stand by. i want to bring in republican senator tom cotton of arkansas key member of the senate intelligence and armed services committee. also a combat veteran, served in both iraq and afghanistan. your reaction, senator, to the fact that iran is now holding ten americans, they say they've arrested these ten american sailors and they are in iranian custody, together with two small vessels. >> wolf, this kind of openly hostile action is not surprising exactly what i and others predicted when president obama was negotiating the nuclear deal with iran, that it would embolden their aggression towards the united states and
our allieallies. also reacting to something jim sciutto said, he said according to senior administration official there's no sign of hostile intent by iran. think about that for a second. senior members of barack obama's administration are apologizing for iran seizing two u.s. navy vessels and holding ten sailors hostage. the white house, tonight, is a hotbed of cold feet. >> comes just before four hours before the president's address, before joint session of the u.s. congress and in that speech, we were told that president would mention the iran nuclear deal as a positive step you with all of the republicans voted against it. it's about to be implemented as jim sciutto said. billions of dollars in sanctions about to flow to iran. is there anything you can do to stop that? >> wolf i don't think the timing of this intercept of the two naval vessels in the persian gulf are coincidentally. rarely are matters coincidental
when dealing with ayatollahs. it's humiliating to have american sailors held hostage in the timele state of the union. the nuclear deal about to be implemented, maybe this week, iran will get hundreds of billions of dollars to continue its campaign of terror aggression throughout the world. the this is the ayatollah to inflict maximum humiliation on the united states and president obama. unfortunately, that's been the story we've seen since the nuclear deal was signed in the summer and it's what we can expect to continue for the next coming months. it won't be the final humiliation. it just one more sip from the bitter cup offered again and again. >> you used the word "hostages" senator. a lot of us remember, 1979, 1980 american diplomats at u.s. embassy in tehran, they were taken prisoner. they were held hostage for 444 days, when you used the word
"hostage "s are you referring to that experience? that would be awful, obviously. >> welling iran has a history of holding american hostages and trying to kill americans whether it's in iran or iraq or lebanon. and now, they've seized two u.s. naval vessels. i would say put the map of the persian back up on the screen and viewers can see how improvable it is from naval vessels go from kuwait to bahrain would have ventured into iranian waters. it would seem like iran waited the time they'd have maximum leverage to conduct this operation. as jim sciutto noted by the revolutionary guard corps, the shock troops of the iranian regime. >> i've always suspected -- i know u.s. intelligence analysts always suspected -- the iranian rev unusualnary guard corps more hostile to the united states than the government, the foreign
minister or the president, there are two irans, one supports the iran nuclear deal, trying to make it work but the revolutionary guard corps skeptical, opposed but forced to go along because the ayatollah says they should go along. how do you see that division within iran? there there may be two irans but the division is between hard-liners and harder liners. the revolutionary guard corps is intent on spreading the islamic revolution around the world. that's the founding principle of the islamic republic of iran. the revolutionary guard korpts is keeper of the revolution and they are largely responsible killing our soldiers in iraq and afghanistan. intercepting two vessels holding sailors hostage. >> some suspicion already out there that this iranian revolutionary guard corps would
like to scuttle iranian deal. stay with us. foal lowing breaking news, ten american sailors held by iran as well as two small navy vessels. we'll be right back. does printing from your tablet give you a jolt of confidence? then you might be gearcentric. right now, all hp ink is buy one get one 50% off! office depot officemax. gear up for great. gegiving up all the thingsan she loves to do.
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following breaking news with republican senator tom cotton of arkansas. stand by. ten american sailors and nine men, one woman, they are being held by iran after their two small u.s. naval vessels, if you believe the iranians, entered iranian waters. u.s. officials say they hope the matter will be settled quickly. i want to get an update from chief national security correspondent jim sciutto. you're getting more information coming in. >> i spoke with a senior defense
official now. they're trying to examine how to this happened. two working theorys are either engine stopped working, drifted into the waters and went assure because of that, or perhaps navigational error. but from both defense officials and administration officials, i'm being told that this was not an overtly hostile act. they weren't surrounded, taken in, this kind of thing. that's at least what the administration is saying now, based on what it knows right now. to be clear, as we said a few minutes ago, what you're hearing from the iranian press is somewhat different. talking about these two small u.s. naval boats armed detailing how many weapons saying they confiscated gps equipment on board from this and also detail, this is -- taken by forces from the iranian revolutionary guard corps which is from the hard lined camp in iran. whether that is significant, we will only know as more details come out. but in past hostile acts, in and around u.s. assets in the persian gulf, including a couple
of weeks ago firing at missiles close to u.s. aircraft carrier, it was the same irgc, revolutionary guard corps, that did that. taken at the time certainly as a message of toughness. but what the administration is saying right now, keep in mind the timing, a couple of hours from the state of the union address, they're not reading anything overtly hostile, they've been given assurances the sailors are safe and released soon. barbara starr is saying they may not be released until daylight. they may be in iranian custody while the president is making the state of the union address. >> is there any indication the vessels had mechanical problems? >> that is what they're investigating now. one of their possibilities it was a navigational problem which led them to go onshore in an iranian island. it's 2:00 in the morning. would it be safer to be repatriated as it were in the morning during daylight hours as opposed to immediately?
none of that can minimize the potential -- not just potential but the actual difficulty of this here. u.s. and iranian forces in close contact here, questions in particular, here's the key question were these u.s. navy boats taken under duress at gun point? there nine men, one woman -- >> according to iranians. >> according to the official iranian news agency. senator cotton, you're still with us. your reaction to the latest information that we're getting. i want to point out we have a picture of a vessel similar to the two vessels in the custody of the iranians. this is what that vessel looks like. this is similar to what is now under iranian control and the iranian news agency says these ten americans are under arrest. your reaction? >> well, i'm glad you have that image up so americans and can see. very small vessels.
jim sciutto's reporting remains to me astonishing. the administration is rushing out officials to say there's no hostile intent in iran's seizing our ships and holding our sailors in communitiny cat toe the administration seems intent on protecting iran and the nuclear deal than getting our sailors back. put. the map of the persian gulf, americans and can see how unlikely it is those two ships drifted from the coast of saudi arabia, the path they were taking, into iranian waters. even if they did, even if they did enter iranian waters what we would expect a responsible, civilized country to do? immediately let the sailors contact the u.s. 5th threatt in bahrain. if we had a mexican ship that came into our waters or one of the ships in the saudi arabian waters, that's what we would dodo for them.
the fact they feel comfortable holding the ships and sailors and parading weapons on iranian tv shows how embolden the nuclear deal has made aran. >> the official iranian government news agency, they say these two american vessels were each equipped with three patriots .5 call caliber machin guns, one on the front, two on the side. they illegally entered iranian waters two kilometers inside iranian waters. the information recorded by gps devices and now the americans and two vessels in the hands of the iranian revolutionary guard. specifically says the iranian revolutionary guards it done say iranian navy. there are differences, right? >> yes, the revolutionary guard corps are the shock troops of the islamic revolution.
the reason over the last 37 years export revolution around the world and support terrorism around the world, including against american troops in iraq and afghanistan, diplomats in places like lebanon. it not surprising the revolutionary guard corps would be in charge of holding american sailors' ships nor in my opinion is it surprising it happens hours before barack obama gives his final state of the union and days before we might be releasing over $100 million to iran. this is an effort by iran, in all likelihood, to humiliate the united states and barack obama and to exert maximum leverage with the emboldened happened barack obama gave them with the nuclear deal. >> if the iranians hold ten americans hostage, if you will, if they keep this u.s. -- two u.s. vessels under their control, that whole iranian nuclear deal, that could go away and some suspicious, i've heard it, i'm sure you have, the revolutionary guard corps they never liked this deal to begin with. they'd like nothing better than to see it go away.
do you buy that? >> one would certainly hope if iran doesn't promptly release these sailors that president obama would not proceed in releasing $100 billion to them. i have my doubts. take stock of a few of the things that happened over the last six months. iran violated u.n. security council resolutions about ballistic missiles, fired rockets within a few hundred yards of u.s. naval ships in the strait of hormuz, convicted a "the washington post" reporter held hostage on trumped up false charges, it's taken two more americans hostage, raided and burned the embassy of a u.s. ally, and now it seized two u.s. navy vessels and held ten sailors, that's a picture of emboldened iran and white house conciliated and apieced iran to keep its nuclear deal. >> with saudi embassy in tehran the other day, ransacked and burned in the aftermath of the saudis executing about 40 convicted terrorists including
one top shiite cleric. you believe the revolutionary guard corps was directly responsible for the takedown for the burning of the saudi embassy in tehran? >> wolf, i believe that in a dictatorship like tehran, embassies aren't raided and burned without the implicit or explicit support of the key factions within the regime. >> we're now getting more information from another iranian news source, they claim two vessels were, in their word, rescued by the iranians because they were going through some technical difficulties. have you heard that? >> i have not, wolf. again, if these ships experienced technical difficulties and happened to drift into iranian water so far away interest their path, why have we not heard from the sailors? why not iran not allowed them to use the radio to say we're okay, iranians will help us get back to bahrain? i think the reports are saying on iranian television tell the
accurate story. not what you're hearing from iran out of 0 the obama administration. >> what do you want the obama administration, senator, to do? >> president obama should make it very clear, these sailors and both vessels are to be put on radio or tell with navy officials to assure safety and where about thes and immediately released. if they're not released, the iran deal will not go forward and military force will be on the table to retaliate for this act of aggression. >> what do you mean military force? >> all options, wolf. >> specifically, would you see this as a justification for the u.s. trying to go in and bring back these ten american sailors? >> well, wolf, anytime american service members are held hostage we always have justification for trying to free them. but iran's continued rein of terror and aggression in the middle east gives more than ample justification to lead all allies in a campaign against
iran. best way to avoid that now account for our sailors and immediately return them to u.s. cuss i. >> when position officials and other u.s. officials say they have information ten americans will be released promptly, are you accepting that? >> well, it defends what you mean by promptly. iran 2007 seizes british ships and sailors and didn't release for 13 days. at the time, they claimed they were in iranian waters about wu learned those british sailored had been in international waters. whether they release troops in the next 13 minutes, hours, or dayser it still goes to show how embolden iran feel after the nuclear deal. >> is there a difference in interpretation and definition of iranian international waters in the persian gulf or are the u.s., iranians other countries in the region all on the same page which is international waters, which is iranian waters for example, kuwaiti or uae
waters? is there some sort of problem there? >> here and there, there are some disputed waters, wolf. but it's clear under international law what is and is not a country's territorial waters. if you'll put the map of persian gulf on the screen americans and key how improvable it is a ship broke down and drifted across the gulf from the western side of the gulf on the saudi coast to the iranian territorial waters. even if they did, why is iran not let the soldiers communicate with headquarters, why not immediately make provisions for returning them to the 5th fleet? it's because they feel emboldened and they can act in a reckless fashion. >> if one of the vessels did suffer mechanical failure, it hard to believe both suffered mechanical failure. but if one did, would the other vessel automatically stay close to the vessel for protective purposes? >> i share your skepticism. but you're also right that those two ships were not separated. another point to raise is that if one vessel did have
mechanical problems and lost power and begin to drift it possible the other vessel that had power, might have moored up to. i'm skeptical of the claims out of iran and some from our administration. >> you're like everyone anxious to hear what the president of the united states is going to say about is in tonight. i assume he'll have to mention this in the state of the union. what words would you like to hear from him? >> i welcome relief to americans and the world the president took a hard line and said iran must release sailors immediately otherwise the nuclear deal with iran will be immediately canceled and they won't receive $100 billion. this is something similar to what jimmy carter did in the last year of his presidency after three years of beckless foreign policy, once the soviet union invaded gan and taye began took over our embassy and held americans hostage he toughened up. after seven years of barack obama's impotent foreign policy
i don't expect to hear that tonight. >> senator, hold on. jim sciutto is still with me. jim, i just wanted you to update viewers here in the united states and around the world the latest information coming in to cnn. >> let go through the details here. two small u.s. navy boats encountered a problem, whether navigational or mechanical, the administration, d.o.d., is now attempting to confirm, when they encountered that problem they either voluntarily or involuntarily ended up in iranian territorial waters, from a trip from bahrain to -- from bahrain -- >> kuwait. >> kuwait to bahrain. and that is when those sailors, who the iranians say included nine men and one woman, were taken or chose to be taken or went assuhore of their own vo volition, we are in iranian hand on this island.
officials tell me that this was not a hostile act and they've received assurances from iranians that, one, sailors are in good health, safe, and they will be released very soon. the reason they're not being released at this very moment is because it's past 2:00 in the morning in the persian gulf and to release mariners in those conditions at night would be unsafe. they're considering it prudent to wait until daylight and they have assurances that's when they will be released from the iranian side, at least this incident's being reported in the news agency, iranian state news agency, they iced the term arrested to describe how these sailors were picked up but we have i recent report with aan iranian news agency saying rescued. they describe the iranians weapons on board the ships and talk about equipment being confiscated and i'll add a point i made before, these iranian forces that took these americans were from the revolutionary
guard corps, this is the military wing of the hard lined element in the iranian government. certainly a different approach and view to the u.s. than others in the iranian government including those who negotiated the nuclear deal. so, from the administration, they're saying this is not a dire situation. but let's be honest here, it's taking place hours from the president's final state of the union address when he's likely to mention the iran nuclear deal which will be implemented this weekend and that, of course, time and key. nuclear deal with iran meant to be implemented this weekend and this difficult, to say the least, diplomatic issue of u.s. sailors in the hands of the iranians. the key question now, is that voluntarily? did they go ashore because they had a problem and because of safety went ashore because of their own volition or under duress, guns drawn? >> murky situation. but a dangerous situation. bottom line, though, ten american sailors, according to the iranian news agency, nine
men, one woman. they are, according to the iranian news agency, under arrest. separate iranian news agency says they were rescued because they were -- two vessels suffering mechanical problem. i want to go back to senator tom cotton. what always has been intriguing to a lot of people why in the process of negotiating the nuclear deal the other americans including "the washington post" reporter, a former u.s. marine, a u.s. citizen who is a christian cleric, why weren't they released as part of the iranian nuclear deal? why still held, some of them now, for years? >> that's a very good question that i and many others and democrats had throughout the course of the negotiations. iran holding at least four american hostages. they've since take two more. rather than releasing jason, they convicted him on trumped up, false charges the obama administration should never sat
town with the regime holding american hostages. that should have been precondition not a term that was excluded from a final deal. again, it one example of the long series of concessions that the president has made towards iran that has emboldened them to feel, for instance, today, like they can hold vessels and american sailors under arrest as their own news agencies say. >> i want to thank you very much for helping us. senator tom cotton of arkansas has been with us. senator, thank you very much. we're going to get white house reaction. that's coming up. the president's communications adviser will be joining us as well. following breaking news, ten american sailors, nine men, one woman, according to the iranian news agency fares they are under arrest. two u.s. navy vessels, they've been detained by at iranian revolutionary guard corps.
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following breaking news, ten u.s. navy sailors, nine men, one woman, now being held by iran after their two small u.s. navy vessels, according to the iranians, entered iranian waters in persian gulf. iran's news service says sailors have been arrested, urgent efforts under way right now to try to gain their quick release. let's go to our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta. what are you learning? >> reporter: this is like an october surprise right before the state of the union, but the white house, at this point, urging calm. i talked to u.s. official just a few motels ago who said that the administration has ever
expectations that this matter will be resolved promptly and the sailors will go on their way. this official did note, as jim sciutto mentioning, it is the middle of the night in iran. it not the best time for these sailors to resume their journey. that is an indication that this is probably not going to be resolved before the state of the union. but clearly this is not what the president wants to be deal with just hours before his final state of the union address. keep in mind, an address that is expected to highlight, i'm told it will highlight, the iran nuclear deal. this is a legacy-defining issue for the president. senator cotton saying the president should issue an ultimatum, if the sailors are not release the promptly, the iran deal goes away. this is a multilateral dealing not just between the u.s. and iran but other countries. and i can't imagine the white house issuing that ultimatum tonight. >> i think they want the ten american sailors out as quickly as possible. they don't want to do anything that's going to undermine that
effort and issuing a direct threat presumably the hard-liners in iran would react fiercely. i certainly understand why the administration would want to see if this can be resolved quickly, quietly without a lot of fanfare. the priority, get ten americans out of iranian cuss did and get two u.s. navy vessels back in u.s. control as opposed to iranian control. but you say the president was going to talk about the iranian nuclear deal. i understand he was going to talk about the normalization of diplomatic relations with cuba citing these two issues as great foreign policy achievements. >> that's right. i'm told tonight the president is going to present a defense of the obama doctrine, diplomacy first, unilateral action second, and according to a white house memo that we obtained on the state of the union address, president obama will be forward looking, i'm told in tonight's speech. he'll be vowing to the american
people he will keep them safe in the battle against isis and talk about things hi wants to get done. as one of the president's top advisers told me hoping this would be the big headline but it's being overshadowed by the situation in the persian gulf. the president is going to push back against these, quote, embarrassing republican comments that are being made on the campaign trail, according to valerie jarred, senior adviser to the president i talked to today. white house officials tell me the president will make one last push for gun control, passing criminal justice reform and defeating isis. the president wanted to come out and talk about the obama doctrine, talk about how the country's gone through two wars and that he is essentially tried to get them out of this war and this is no time to go it alone with any unilateral action and starting a large ground war in the middle east. he was going to talk about the iran nuclear deal, talk about normalizing diplomatic relations with cuba, but all of it has a
cloud hanging over it, the situation with iran. you have to think inside the white house now, they are extremely nervous about what is happening, minute by minute, with this very tense situation. >> ten american sailors in custody of the iranians. this is an awkward moment, especially for the president right now, a few hours from the state of the union address. jim acosta, thanks very much. we'll get back to you. more reaction from the white house. standing by to speak with jen psaki, the communications adviser to the president. her take on what's going on as far as the iranian situation is concerned as well. i want to bring in -- bring back jim sciutto with our chief political analyst gloria borger and cnn political commentator ryan lizza. following breaking news, a little bit more than three hours away from the president's state of the union address. stick around, more information is coming in. let's take a quick break.
we're following the breaking news. ten u.s. navy sailors, nine men, one woman, they're being held by iran right now after two small u.s. navy vessels, according to the iranians, apparently entered iranian waters of the persian gulf. iran's news agency says the sailors have been "arrested." want to bring back chief national security correspondent jim sciutto along with analyst gloria borger and our political commentator ryan lizza.
you're getting more information on what u.s. officials are saying. >> two quick points. one, we're learning that these two small u.s. navy boats were in the vicinity of this iranian island to be refueled by a larger u.s. ship. it's not clear that they were refueled, so it raises another possibility as to what the maintenance issue was, and that's that they simply ran out of gas. we don't know that at this point. but another point, these are revolutionary guard troops, or sailors, i should say, that took them into detention. their area of responsibility is the entire persian gulf from the coast up to the straits of hormuz, so they would be the ones they'd come into contact with. but the news agency that said these sailors were arrested, that is the media arm of the iran revolutionary guard corps. so, the revolutionary guard's story -- i'm not saying that's a hard news organization -- but the revolutionary guard's story on this is that they were arrested. that's the message they're putting out there. >> or rescued, which is it? arrested or rescued? >> the revolutionary guard are
saying arrested. >> yeah, revolutionary guard are saying arrested. some more moderate iranians say rescued, if you will. >> right. >> this is an awkward moment, hours from the president's state of the union address, during which he was going to hail the u.s.-brokered iran nuclear deal. >> sure, you know, talk about stepping on your message, right? this was a moment for the president to look at his legacy, to talk about -- to set the table, essentially, for the democratic nominee for the presidency, whomever that is, to talk about his achievements. and obviously, he looks to the iran nuclear deal as one of his major achievements of this administration. and here you have this embarrassing situation. the question i have, wolf, is does the president mention it, or can they actually get it resolved before 8:00 tonight when he goes on the air? i think that's what they would like. they're clearly downplaying it n now in every interview the white house press secretary has given,
including to jake tapper. so, we have to see whether they can move quickly enough so he doesn't have to talk about it. >> by daylight, there won't be enough time. >> exactly. >> the president delivers the state of the union on at 9:00 p.m. eastern -- >> we're on at 8:00. stay tuned. >> which is about 5:00 a.m., as sunlight is just beginning over the persian gulf -- >> i'm looking at the countdown clock. three hours, right. >> as i was saying, ryan, the president was going to be welcoming the iranian nuclear deal, saying this has effectively ended iran's nuclear program. >> i think whether he addresses it or not tonight will depend whether the white house thinks talking about it publicly will help or hurt the effort to get these sailors back home. you know, on the one hand, his whole argument tonight about national security was going to be about diplomacy and the benefits of diplomacy, and his view is that this nuclear deal with iran pushes relations with iran forward. and when things like this happen, when there are incidents where our sailors come in contact with theirs, and if they're arrested, if that's accurate, that actually having
some kind of a relationship with iran will help us resolve this more peacefully. so, in a sense, an issue like this, a conflict like this is exactly the kind of test of the obama doctrine that he was going to talk about tonight, so -- >> what's clear is that secretary of state john kerry immediately got on the phone. i assume he called zarif, the foreign minister or another high-ranking official to get these americans out. >> two years ago, you wouldn't have had that channel. >> that channel is a very robust channel. stand by. we're following breaking news, ten american sailors now in the custody of the iranian revolutionary guard. we'll get white house reaction. jen psaki, communications adviser to the president, she'll join us live. here at the td ameritrade trader group, they work all the time. sup jj, working hard? working 24/7 on mobile trader, rated #1 trading app on the app store. it lets you trade stocks, options, futures... even advanced orders. and it offers more charts than a lot of other
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happening now, breaking news. americans held by iran. ten u.s. sailors taken into custody by the revolutionary guard in iran after the u.s. loses contact with their vessels in the persian gulf. tehran assuring the u.s. the sailors will be released soon. will the iranians keep their word? president obama's last chance. the president set to give his final state of the union speech just three hours from now. we're learning new details of what he will say tonight, and we'll also talk about what the president will say with the white house communications director, jen psaki. an isis suicide mission. a terrorist bomber strikes in a busy square filled with tourists, killing at least ten people, including many westerners. tonight we're learning new information about the bomber who had just arrived from syria. did authorities there even know he was in the country?
we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're following breaking news. a senior u.s. defense official telling cnn ten american sailors, they are now in iranian custody after their two small u.s. navy vessels apparently briefly entered iranian national waters. another source saying the u.s. lost contact with the two ships which were on route from kuwait to bahrain, home of the u.s. navy's 5th fleet. we're also following a suicide bombing that killed at least ten people, many westerners, in a crowded square in istanbul and officials are blaming isis and a terrorist they say just arrived from syria. we're also counting down to president obama's final state of the union address. in just under three hours, he'll
address a joint session of the u.s. congress. he'll also address the nation, indeed, the world. we're standing by for the first excerpts from the president's speech. we're covering all of that and a lot more this hour with our guests, including congressman adam kinsinger, u.s. air force veteran who served in both iraq and afghanistan, and our correspondents and expert analysts. they are also standing by. let's begin with the breaking news, the ten american sailors now being held by iran. our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr, is working her sources. barbara, you have new information. share it with our viewers. >> reporter: wolf, at this hour, ten u.s. navy sailors, nine men, one woman, will be spending the night inside iran on iran's farsi island in the gulf along with their two small boats, according to u.s. officials. the iranians promising to release them but not in the hours of darkness, not safe for them to be put back out to sea, so the promise now appears to be, according to u.s. officials, they will be released in the
daylight hours, but all of this very much remains to be seen. ten of them were traveling on two small riverine boats from kuwait up north to bahrain. by all accounts, one or both boats may have run into some sort of mechanical or propulsion problem. the u.s. navy is reporting they lost contact with the boats. not clear if that happened before or after those boats were approached by the iranians, and they were taken to farsi island. this is an area in the gulf that iran's revolutionary guard corps navy controls to a large extent. this is the most aggressive part of the iranian naval military, so there is a lot of concern tonight about the iranian personnel that have them. secretary of state john kerry had -- actually was with the defense secretary, ash carter, at the state department when both men were informed at midafternoon about this.
secretary kerry very quickly getting in touch with his counterpart and getting assurances that they were safe, that they were well and that they would be released. but still, the big question tonight, the iranian naval personnel that have them, they are a very aggressive bunch, and i don't think anyone at the pentagon tonight is resting easy until these ten sailors are back with the u.s. navy. tonight the chief of naval operations maintaining his schedule, admiral john richardson on his way to capitol hill to attend the state of the union, but the chief of naval operations, the defense secretary, the secretary of state watching this minute by minute. wolf? >> i'm looking at the navy's description of these riverine command boats, and i want to show a picture of one of these small vessels looks like, as i describe what the navy says. they're assigned to the commander task group that transits the iranian or persian gulf during patrol operations. they say they're used in shallow
water in tropic environments. the 5th fleet, which operates in the persian gulf, uses these boats for open sea patrol. it says it conducts maritime security operations to ensure freedom of movement for strategic shipping and naval vessels operating in the inshore and coastal areas of the u.s. 5th fleet operations. in other words, barbara, it means these two boats, they're supposed to be operating close to the friendly side of the persian gulf, whether kuwait or bahrain, as opposed to the unfriendly side, the iranian side. >> yeah, wolf, absolutely. but that said, these are very tight waters in these portions of the persian gulf. these small riverine boats, which are only equipped with 50-caliber machine guns, move quickly up and down those waters. they often approach fishing vessels, merchant vessels, that the large navy warships cannot approach to query them, to ask the shipmaster, what do you have
on board, where are you going, what are you up to. it's all done with the coordination of the allied nations along those coastal waters, except for iran, to keep that freedom of navigation going. because it's such tight space, you can imagine a large navy aircraft carrier could not approach a small fishing vessel. so, these are the boats that go out, the small boats that go out and do that kind of work. that said, they are very vulnerable. if they get into a hostile situation, such as being approached by an entity that may not be very friendly to them, they have the right to defend themselves, but they have a very minimal ability to do it. they have 50-caliber machine guns. they have their own weapons they're holding. but if they are approached by iranians or others with hostile intent, defending themselves and living through it, to be very candid, wolf, becomes a very
difficult proposition. so, we will be looking to see exactly how the iranians approach them. was this a rescue mission by iran of disabled sailors on a disabled boat, which is the law of the sea out there? the u.s. navy often rescues disabled sailors on their boats. was this a rescue or was this something, even though the iranians say there was no hostile intent, was it perhaps less than a friendly encounter, at least initially? wolf. >> and quickly, barbara, the family members of these ten american sailors held by iran, have they been notified? >> reporter: we asked that question, wolf, and right now, what the pentagon is telling us is, quite frankly, they don't know if at this point the family members have been notified. i asked that question, wolf, because that would be standard protocol. if there are u.s. military personnel in a situation being held by a foreign government, regardless of the politics of it, regardless of what the pentagon or washington wants to
call it, very frankly, there is a real obligation to inform those military families about where their loved ones are. wolf? >> all right, if you find out, let us know. barbara starr at the pentagon, thank you. i want to go to the white house. our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta, is getting more information. what are you learning, jim? >> reporter: wolf, that's right, president obama, we can tell our viewers, has been briefed on this situation with iran holding these ten u.s. sailors. but again, the administration trying to caution that they believe that this situation will be resolved promptly, that these sailors will go on their way as soon as possible. that may not happen overnight because it may not be safe to do it overnight, but wolf, as you know from covering this for a long time, having this come down, having the president needing to be briefed on something like this as he's preparing for the state of the union, this is not the kind of interruption that they wanted over here at the white house today, especially when we know that the president will be touting that iran nuclear deal in the state of the union later tonight, wolf. >> the president was planning on
saying it's an important breakthrough in stopping iran from developing a nuclear bomb wand going to tout the relations with cuba as well. i want to bring in chief national security correspondent jim sciutto. jim, do we know if the iranians have at least allowed these ten american sailors to communicate with the u.s. navy in bahrain, the headquarters of the u.s. navy's 5th fleet? >> we don't know. what we do know is that the u.s. says they lost communications with these boats, which could send the message that, no, they were not allowed to communicate, and that was the first sign of trouble, in fact, when the u.s. navy lost communication with these boats. let's describe what this encounter would have been like, because we know those u.s. fast boats, they're armed with 50-caliber machine guns. the irgc, the iranian revolutionary guard corps that has responsibility for the waters of the persian gulf, they have many fast attack boats like that as well. they would likely be armed as well. so, you would have an encounter of two armed boats.
hard not to call that hostile conditions. now, what we're told by u.s., both administration officials and defense officials, that there was nothing hostile about it, and in fact, they say that at least at the leadership level, that there was a quick reaction at the highest levels, including john kerry, of course, speaking to his iranian counterpart. new information i've received is that these two fast boats were in the area for refueling. they were close to this iranian island to be refueled by a larger ship. it's not clear that they were, in fact, refueled, so it raises the possibility of another explanation as to why these boats came into trouble, that they ran out of fuel. possibly mechanical, possible that they navigated themselves into those waters by accident. it's also possible they ran out of fuel because they were not refueled. but one more point here. just in terms of the way the revolutionary guard corps is describing this -- they have their own media service. keep in mind, the revolutionary guards are in effect the military arm of the hardliners of the iranian government. they also have their own media service.
they are using the term arrested. they say that these u.s. sailors who they say were nine men and one woman, were arrested. but they have made one change in the last few minutes. they first described the sailors as military personnel and now are describing them as passengers of the seized boat. not clear as to what the meaning of that change is, but still, the key, at least in their description of this, is an arrest. they do not say rescue. the media wing of the revolutionary guards, who have now in custody these american sailors, is that they were arrested. >> and if there was nothing hostile in all of this, why not allow those sailors to at least communicate -- >> no question. >> -- with u.s. officials and say don't worry, we're fine, we're about to get out of there. but so far, no communication as far as we can tell. jim sciutto. i want to bring in representative adam kinsinger, congressman from illinois, a u.s. air force veteran who served in both iraq and afghanistan. as you know, the iranian revolutionary guard, they say they have arrested these sailors. are you getting more information on what is going on, any back-channel information you can
share with us? >> not at all. you're actually doing some of the best reporting on it. you know, look, i think it's quite obvious, this was probably hostile. i think first and foremost, obviously, our thoughts are with the families and with these ten sailors and hope they get returned safely. i trust that they will. and then we figure out what happened. i mean, if they strayed into iranian territory, that's one thing. i have a hard time understanding how two small boats could stray into, frankly, a really small island in the persian gulf and then, you know, as was mentioned earlier by barbara starr, we've rendered aid to sailors before and we've done what they needed to do and let them go on their way. so, when you hear that the iranians say they were arrested, when you hear they can't let them go in the dark, which is interesting to me, i think this is a serious situation, but we hope they get returned safely and shortly. >> there's no guarantee they will be, as you know. there's no guarantee, really, of anything right now because there is some suspicion, there are the
hardliners, there are the moderate elements of the iranians and the sailors were taken by the iranian revolutionary guard corps, not the regular iranian navy, and that's a source of considerable fear. >> yeah, it is. and we all know the revolutionary guard's not our friends. they have not been nice to us in the past. some of these folks are responsible for the death of americans in iraq during that war. so, yeah, it's something we're very concerned about. but like i said, at the end of the day, hopefully, these sailors are returned safely. and then we can figure out what happened. and if, in fact, iran acted hostily, they ought to be punished for that. >> if you can stand by, congressman, i want to bring jen psaki, she's the white house communications director. she's obviously getting ready for the president's state of the union address. we're all getting ready for that. jen, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. >> what's the latest information you're getting on the breaking news, ten american sailors now being held by iran? >> well, wolf, obviously, we're watching this very closely. we've been in touch with the iranians. we have been assured of their
safety and that they will be able to move forward on their journey promptly. obviously, any situation like this we take very seriously, and that's why we acted very quickly to get in touch and determine as much as we can what the situation is. >> and we can confirm -- i assume you can confirm that the secretary of state, john kerry, he called jahvid zarif, the foreign minister of iran, is that right? >> that's my understanding, wolf. that's my old boss, but as you know, i don't work there any longer, but he has a close relationship with foreign minister zarif and that would be a natural point of contact. >> he and rowhani are considered more moderate among the iranians than the iranian revolutionary guard corps. here's the question, jen -- can they deliver on a situation like this when the iranian revolutionary guard have, they say, arrested these ten american sailors? >> well, we've seen a range of reports out there, some that you've been talking with members of congress and other guests about in the past couple of minutes. i don't want to jump ahead of where we are and what we know.
obviously, we've been assured of their safety and that they will be able to proceed on their journey promptly. obviously, if they're not, that would be of concern, but we're focused on kind of seeing that move forward at this point in time. >> do you know if these two american vessels accidentally or for whatever reason did, in fact, violate iranian territorial waters in the persian gulf? >> i think you're raising some really good questions, wolf. i just don't have more details that i can get into with you at this point in time. >> will the president address this issue in the state of the union, less than three hours from now? >> there are no plans to address this issue. this is an issue, like many others, that as president of the united states and commander in chief of the country, we address things that come up every single day, and he's certainly working today, even though the state of the union is tonight. so, he's tracking this closely, following this closely, but the state of the union will not be about this issue. >> if the iranians refuse to release these ten americans -- nine men, one woman -- if they
don't release these two vessels, will the u.s. go forward with the iran nuclear deal? >> wolf, i'm not going to get ahead or predict outcomes like that. that certainly would not be a lined with what we want and what we want to see with the nuclear deal. you've seen progress made on the nuclear deal, you know what else needs to happen, but this is a situation, again where we've been in touch, we've been assured of their safety, that they'll be able to move forward on their journey promptly, and that certainly is our hope. >> we know the president was planning on highlighting some of the foreign policy achievements from his perspective in his address to the congress tonight, including the normalization of diplomatic relations with cuba and the iran nuclear deal. none of the republicans voted for that iran nuclear deal. do you believe he will still -- will he mention that as an achievement tonight? >> absolutely, wolf. the united states is leading around the world. we're leading coalitions that have made incredible progress around the world on issues like
climate change, bringing a number of countries together to come to agreement on a trans-pacific partnership agreement, and we've opened up kind of lines with cuba that have really changed our role and our relationships with the western hemisphere. so, he'll certainly talk about that as well as the steps we all took with a number of countries over the course of the last couple years to prevent iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. those are achievements that the united states should be proud of, he's proud of, and we want to build on those moving forward. >> because there could be a negative reaction from at least the republicans as some of those democrats who voted against the iran deal. is there any consideration of that? because i don't know if there will be any booing or murmuring or anything along those lines. i'm sure members of congress and senate will be respectful of the president, but i assume you're bracing, maybe, for some of that. >> well, wolf, i think there are certainly issues -- the president will talk a little bit about the rancor in this
country. and you know, it's certainly beyond this issue. but the fact that we need to disagree without being disagreeable, that we need to find ways to address some of the big challenges we're facing without kind of getting into the partisan rancoring that has been so troubleing to this country. the american people expect more and the country is far less divided than washington. so, he'll certainly be talking about that in his speech. and i think there's no question that preventing iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is a significant achievement for any president, any country, and one that we should be proud of. >> but it would seem -- correct me if i'm wrong, jen -- if the president does mention the iran nuclear deal and praise it without mentioning anything about these ten american sailors, that could be awkward. >> well, wolf, look, i think we've always said that there are still concerns we have with iran. they are still a state sponsor of terror. they are still holding american citizens. there are things we remain concerned about, but there's no question that not just for the united states but for countries
in the region that preventing them from acquiring a nuclear weapon to take steps forward, that would be hugely problematic for the world is an achievement and something that we should applaud and be proud of. the president is the commander in chief, he is the head of the country every day, even on the day of the state of the union and he is working on this issue, tracking this with his national security team, even while preparing for the state of the union. >> let's hope the ten american sailors and two vessels are released quickly. i'm a little concerned about the iranian revolutionary guard corps. you agree, i assume, with me, and you studied this. you were at the state department. that these are the hardliners in iran, more hardline than foreign minister zarif or even president rowhani, right? >> every country has politics, including iran. there have been things we've seen stated by some that are more hardliners over the course of time, including our pursuit of the nuclear agreement that were to appeal to a certain add against iran.
i don't have any particular analysis about these recent comments, but there's a long history about that we have talked about. >> jen psaki, if you could stay with us, there are more developments. i want to talk about the president's state of the union address and also ask you about king abdullah of jordan. he's in the united states right now. he's in washington, d.c., has been for a couple days. i'm going to be interviewing him tomorrow, but he's not meeting with the president. i want to find out why the president is not meeting with king abdullah. much more with jen psaki when we come back. i think it landed last tuesday. one second it's there. then, woosh, it's gone. i swear i saw it swallow seven people. seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson. [dog bark] trust me, we're dealing with a higher intelligence here. ♪ the all-new audi q7 is here. ♪
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iran. the iranian news service reporting they were "arrested." all this comes just hours before president obama delivers his final state of the union address. we're going to talk to jen psaki about that in a moment, but i want to go to our senior white house correspondent, jim acosta. he's getting new details. jim, the president has been briefed, first of all, on the breaking news, these ten american sailors being held by iran. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. the president planned on talking about iran tonight, but not like this. according to a white house memo we obtained on the state of the union address, president obama will be forward-looking in tonight's speech but will also vow to keep the american people safe in the battle against isis and talk about what he still wants to get done. and as one of the president's top advisers told me, he will push back against "embarrassing republican campaign rhetoric." in his final state of the union address, aids say president obama will focus on his unfinished business. >> we've gotten amazing things done over the last seven years. >> reporter: on the president's
mind, featured in this video today, his inability to follow through on a campaign promise, to heal a bitterly divided nation. >> a lot of what we can do is to change, you know, the political environment. it's a regret. and part of what i want to do in this last address is to remind people, you know what, we've got a lot of good things going for us. >> reporter: hyping the speech for days across social media sites, including millennial darling snapchat. white house officials say the president will make one last push for gun control, closing the prison at guantanamo, passing criminal justice reform and defeating isis. republicans including house speaker paul ryan complain president obama's taken it too lightly. >> he said that the president does not have a plan for defeating isis. what do you think of that? >> well, of course he does. >> reporter: senior white house adviser valerie jarrett says the president will offer an
optimistic outlook on the country instead of what the left wing sees as toxic republican rhetoric. >> you wonder why the country is going to hell. >> reporter: according to this memo, the president will raise questions for the candidates running for the white house about the challenges for the next president. >> contrasting with donald trump's vision of america or the republicans' vision of america? >> i think there's a lot of rhetoric we're hearing on the campaign trail that tears down america, that's insulting to our country, that implies we're not a country that's a unifying country and it's embarrassing on the world stage. >> reporter: which is why the president will instead point to the first lady's box at the speech and note the empty seat symbolizing the victims of gun violence as well as guests representing syrian refugees, gay rights and women in the military. but progressives still want the president to go after donald trump. >> he's going to have the last best opportunity to push back on some of this really offensive rhetoric from donald trump. i hope he'll explain to the country why demonizing a whole religion makes america less safe.
>> reporter: now, aides tell me the president will also stand firm on the obama doctrine and his strategy for defeating isis, that this is no time for another ground war in the middle east. the president will point to the iran deal and normalizing relations with cuba as proof that diplomacy works, no matter what his critics say, but given the events of today, wolf, that is going a tougher sell tonight. >> jim acosta at the white house, thanks very much. i want to bring back the white house communications director, jen psaki. together with some other journalists this morning, jen, i had breakfast with the house speaker, paul ryan. and he was asked specifically at that breakfast if he agrees with donald trump that the state of the union, in trump's word, is a mess, and the speaker said yes, he agrees, the state of the union is a mess. and then he went on to say that the foreign policy of the united states is a mess now as well. your reaction to the speaker of the house? >> i have to say i think there's going to -- the american people are going to hear a much different tone and a different sense of optimism and hope from
the president tonight in his speech. he believes, the president believes we have an economy that is second to none, we have a military that's second to none. we're a country that leads in the world. we have led on things like climate change, we have led on things like trade and opening up markets around the world. and he is very optimistic about our potential. and it really raises some questions about why some on the republican side are talking about the demise of the country and a country that, frankly, we already believe is great. america is great already. >> because normally in the state of the union address, a president, any president very often says the state of the union is strong, the state of the union is healthy, the state of the union is good, is excellent. how will the president describe the state of the union tonight? >> well, i'm not going to get into specific lines of the speech. i know we'll have some excerpts soon, wolf, but i think people will come away with a sense that
there's no question the country is in a better place than it was before the president took office. just look at economic data, look at the number of months of private sector job growth, look at the fact that the view of countries around the world is much more positive about the role of the united states than it was before. so, you know, i think some republicans don't let facts get in the way of talking points, and that certainly is their prerogative, but we have quite a different view of the country, the potential we have and how we can build on that. >> let me read a little bit. the white house has just released some excerpts from the president's state of the union address. one paragraph i want to read, jen, and get your reaction. the president will say this -- it will only happen, all of these issues we talk about, if we fix our politics. he says "a better politics doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. this is a big country with different regions and attitudes and interests. that's one of our strengths, too. our founders distributed power between states and branches of
government and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and imperatives of security, but democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens." is the president suggesting now those basic bonds of trust do not exist between republicans and the president and democrats? >> well, the president believes that washington is far more divided along partisan lines than the country and that the country expects that we can work together. the american people expect we can work together to address problems. but the way he'll talk about this is, is also about things we need to do to change a broken system -- money in politics, gerrymandering of districts, the fact that not enough people vote. people really need to participate in the process. and this is something that remains a cause of his a time in public life and he'll continue to talk about as president. >> will the president do more
during this election year to reach out to republicans to try to forage compromise, some common ground on these most important issues? >> he will, wolf, and he'll talk about those tonight. issues like criminal justice reform, the opioid epidemic in our country, trade, where we can and we think there is a path forward. but he also wants to have a conversation with people in this country. he did a very -- an interesting discussion last week on cnn, wolf, with a bunch of people who are different sides of the gun issue. he wants to do more of that and have a discussion with people who may have different points of view, and that's something you'll see him do in the months ahead. >> he's been president for seven years. now his final year as president of the united states. how much responsibility does he have for this problem, this lack of communications, this unwillingness to work together, the partisan divide, if you will? how much responsibility does he have? >> well, one of his few regrets -- and he'll talk about this tonight -- is that people
still feel -- many people still feel they don't have a voice in this system and in this process. and he knows that that's not something that any president can change. it requires people from both sides of the aisle, it requires people in this country continuing to have discussions, even when they disagree. but certainly, he'll talk about that and how there's more work that can be done and more work that he wants to do on that particular issue. >> will he go backwards and look back on what he could have done better in order to avoid this partisan divide? >> this is a forward-looking speech, wolf, not a backward-looking speech. i'm sure we'll have plenty of time to talk about that in the months ahead, but he believes we still have time to change our politics, we still have time to address some of these issues that he'll talk about tonight, like money in politics and people participating in the process and that this is one of the issues that we need to address to change the course of our country for the better in the years ahead.
>> the president, as you know, he's been getting ready for his state of the union address. the visiting jordanian king, king abdullah of jordan, one of america's best friends in the middle east, he's been here now for a few days. he's going to be here tomorrow. i'm going to interview him tomorrow. he's met with the vice president, he's met with the secretary of state, he's met with the defense secretary, but surprisingly, at least to me, he has not been invited to a meeting with the president of the united states. why is that? >> well, wolf, we've met with him several times before. the president's been to jordan, as you know. i'm sure we'll meet with him in the year ahead. as i think you can understand, there's quite a bit going on today. the vice president of the united states met with him. but jordan remains an important partner on really important issues like fighting isil, and i wouldn't read too much into it beyond the fact that today's the state of the union. >> yeah, but it's just, you know, you would think that one of the key players in the region, a country that has accepted hundreds of thousands of syrian refugees, clearly on the front lines working with the
united states, the president would find some time to meet with king abdullah while he's here for a few days. >> well, wolf, that's exactly why he met with secretary kerry and with vice president biden, and certainly, that's a reflection of the important relationship and partnership we have with jordan. >> jordan and the united states have an excellent relationship and they've had an excellent relationship for decades, going back to the father of this king, king hussein. all right, jen psaki, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. >> jen psaki is the communications director over at the white house. my interview with king abdullah tomorrow here in "the situation room." stay tuned for that, 5:00 p.m. eastern. let's take a quick break. we'll get back to the breaking news, iran holding ten american sailors right now. performance... ...reimagined. style... ...reinvented. sophistication... ...redefined. introducing the all-new lexus rx and rx hybrid. agile handling.
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we're following the breaking news, ten u.s. navy sailors, nine men, one woman, they're being held by iran right now, the iranian revolutionary guard corps, after two small u.s. navy vessels, according to the iranians, apparently entered iranian waters in the persian gulf. iran's semi-official news service says the sailors have been "arrested." our pentagon correspondent, barbara starr, is getting new information. update our viewers, barbara, on what you're hearing. >> reporter: wolf, we have now been told by a senior u.s. official that the families of these ten u.s. navy sailors, nine men, one woman, are now
being informed about where their loved ones are. this notification expected to go on through the night as the u.s. military, as the navy locates the family members. what is now expected to happen at first light is the sailors, according to the plan, we are told, will be put back on their boat. we don't know if one boat is still disabled. they will go back out into the persian gulf waters. they will be met out there in international waters by another u.s. navy ship that will pick them up as quickly as possible. the u.s. navy now extremely anxious to talk to all ten sailors, of course, and find out exactly what happened. so, they will not continue their planned trip to bahrain. they will be picked up by the u.s. navy in international waters in the early daylight hours, according to the current plan. now, a u.s. official told me they are still trying to put together all the pieces, but
they think at this point this notion that both ships lost communication and the u.s. couldn't find them may well be because the iranians took the communication and did not inform the u.s. immediately that they had these u.s. military personnel. this official telling me we consider that pretty hostile, not very happy about that. the u.s. launched aircraft and ships to look for them when they couldn't maintain -- when they had no communication with them, but still, apparently, it was some minutes or some time before the iranians actually said that they did have a disabled navy boat and ten sailors from those two vessels. not standard naval procedure, not something the u.s. navy tonight is very happy about, wolf. >> and just to be precise, barbara, those ten sailors, they have not been allowed by the iranians to communicate with the u.s. navy's 5th fleet headquarters in bahrain?
>> reporter: there is no indication tonight, wolf, that they are communicating with any u.s. military personnel. there is a report that the u.s. navy had some bridge-to-bridge communications at sea with the iranians while they were searching for these ten missing sailors. but right now, one of the reasons the navy is so anxious to pick them up at first light and get them back, obviously, is they want them back and they want to find out everything they can about exactly what happened to them. wolf? >> let's hope they are out of there very, very quickly. barbara, thank you very much. you get more information, you let us know. i want to bring in our chief national correspondent, anchor of cnn's "inside politics," john king, our chief political analyst gloria borger and senior political commentator, david axelrod. we're getting more information. i want to dissect exactly what we're getting. let's take a quick break. much more right after this.
american sailors being held by iran in the state of the union address tonight. i was a little surprised to hear that, what about you? >> i'm sure that's an interesting piece of the conversation. the white house hope, of course, is this would be resolved and they would be released, but now if it's true and even if things go well and they are released after first light, that's after the president's speech. we know in the speech he wants to talk about what he views, as republicans disagree with him, but as achievements, including the iranian nuclear deal, saying they're less of a threat, and that we started a dialogue with an important player in the middle east and perhaps in the future we can get something from it. i don't know how you do that if there are ten servicemen, nine men and one woman, being held -- we won't put a term on it. how do you not say something about it? you've been in the white house when doing the final tweaks. i know you don't want to make too big of a deal about it, if it's going to be resolved, but -- >> i know there are discussions we're not privy to, even though this is "the situation room."
they've got another one over there where there are other discussions going on, and they may have a sense of where this thing is going, the magnitude of it, and they may not want to elevate it. and therefore, they want to go forward with their speech, they don't want this story intruding on their as to the -- i'm sorry, gloria. you could make the argument this validates the urgency having gotten that enriched uranium out of iran so they are not months away from a nuclear bomb. >> i think they have been down playing this from the get-go. we saw josh earnest immediately go on the air. i don't think they would be talking about it this way if they were thinking that there was great peril. i don't know. i think they don't want to step on their message tonight on the iranian nuclear deal or anything
else. i think they are just trying to figure out whether they insert something or whether they have to hold back. >> they don't want to do anything to further endanger these ten american sailors. >> exactly. >> they've got to be cautious. david, you've been on the inside over there they want to use john kerry's relationship with the foreign minister of iran to get these things done. >> i'm sure all the buttons being pushed. there is great conflict within the iranian institutions. the guard don't see eye-to-eye with the president and foreign minister. i'm sure all the calls to be made are being made. >> how does the congressional audience react when the president talks about the iranian nuclear deal. is there going to be some rumble? >> i'm sure the warm reaction will not be muted. >> we are getting more information in from the pentagon
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we are getting new information on breaking news. ten u.s. sailors are being held by iran after two u.s. small navy vessels apparently entered iranian waters. let's go back to our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. >> a short time ago a senior u.s. official told me there now has been voice contact with senior members of this navy crew. that the u.s. has spoken to them and they are reporting that they
are fine. there is a plan in place now. if it all works, for them to be released in the daylight hours tomorrow morning. it is expected that they will go out to sea. not clear if they will be in one or both of their boats. they will be met in international waters by a u.s. navy vessel brought onboard. the navy wants to get them back as quickly as possible. we are told tonight the government-to-government communications between the u.s. and iran are very professional and helped to facilitate whatever this voice communication has been tonight with members of the crew who are reporting they are okay. all of this coming as we also know the u.s. navy is reaching out tonight to ten military families to tell them where their loved ones are. >> let's hope those ten sailors are released quickly. what about the two vessels? are the iranians going to hold
on to those vessels? >> we don't have an answer to that yet. one apparently disabled, so it may have to be towed out of there. it is not clear whether the first vessel can tow the other one out what we do know is it is not expected that a u.s. navy vessel would go into iranian waters to get it to tow out a disabled vessel. that still remains to be seen on what vessel they will come out tomorrow morning into these international waters to be picked up by the u.s. navy. >> ten sailors released would be great news, thanks, barbara. we said earlier, i suspected from the tone of their comments to you and others that they knew that the situation was on route to being resolved. that's why they said they weren't going to mention it in the speech. i'm sure there is great relief.
>> it won't be resolved until those ten americans are back in u.s. hands. let's make sure that happens. >> right. the fact they established voice contact and letting journalists know about that makes it pretty clear that this is going to be resolved. now that it might be resolved, perhaps the president will mention it. >> he seems locked in on his speech. >> let's pray and hope this is resolved and those sailors are safe and back in bahrain this time tomorrow. it is proof of the two worlds we live in politically in the sense you have half dozen of the republican presidential candidates saying iran is doing things like this to test the president because he is weak. let's hope this is resolved, but that political debate will continue through november. >> there will be a lot of looking back to see how this incident occurred. lessons learned, very important. thanks very much. that's it for me. thanks for watching.
i'll be back later tonight an hour from now 8:00 p.m. eastern for cnn's special live coverage of president obama's final state of the union address. thanks for watching. a special edition of "erin burnett out front" starts right now. next breaking news, american sailors seized by iran. revolutionary guard arresting ten american sailors in the persian gulf. all of this as the president prepares to come here to deliver his final state of the union address. how will he respond tonight? hillary clinton one-on-one. bernie sanders beating her in iowa and new hampshire. could she lose the nomination again? let's go "out front." good evening, i'm erin burnett "out front" tonight. ten american navy sailors,