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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Strike on Iraq; Bush Asks Countries to Expel Iraqi Ambassadors

Aired March 20, 2003 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: In the days ahead, certainly. But Today, I suspect in every office, they are thinking about the war.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, very questionable that anybody in Washington is spending much attention on the domestic agenda right not.

But it is actually a point of contention between the White House and its allies, the Republicans in Congress and the Democrats. The Democrats want to call a time out right now and pause the business of the Congress. The Republicans say, No let's keep going with the Bush tax cut, let's keep going with the Bush budget. Democrats say, Let's pause for at least a few days to reflect on what is happening overseas. So there is, actually, a domestic political despite going on even in the early hours of this war.

But as you noted, the president point here was to show the American people he is at work and that he has team together here in the White House and overseas, the president's point was trying to make the case despite the criticism we're hearing in France, in Russia, at the United Nations and elsewhere Mr. Bush trying to make the case there are now more than 40 nations in this coalition against Iraq. Only a few are actually providing hardware, military hardware and military personnel on the ground. But the president trying to make the case that across Europe, across the Arab world, across Asia and elsewhere he does have support for this operation still in its early hours in Iraq.

BROWN: John, would I be -- would it be fair to say that the Republicans wanting to move the domestic agenda at this point might have something to do with the fact that at a moment like this, the president's popularity, the president's political strength is higher than it might otherwise be in any other time, and so those agendas have more popular support, perhaps, and a more likelihood -- and a greater likelihood to pass.

KING: You hit the nail on the head and it is one reason the Democrats do not want to deal with this right now. They do not want to be on the floor of the house or the floor of the Senate saying the president's tax cut would favor the rich, the president's spending priorities are out of whack, the president's trying to spend too much federal money at a time of war. Those are arguments the Democrats very much want to make, not arguments they want to make in front of a camera to the American people right now, when they say it is time to rally, especially around the troops, but also rally around the commander-in-chief. BROWN: John, thank you. John King at the White House.

Andrea Koppel at the State Department, to what extent is there a diplomatic story that is unfolding right now?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, even as the Bush administration and its allies are moving now to forcibly remove Saddam Hussein from power, the Bush administration is also asking governments around the world, any country that has diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein's government to expel their ambassadors, the Iraqi ambassadors, to tell them to leave immediately and to temporarily suspend the services of those embassies around the world.

Now, that certainly raises the question, because usually, when you expel a diplomat, they go home. When we asked State Department spokesman Richard Boucher as to where they'd go, he said, Frankly he didn't care. That they -- if they wanted to make requests for asylum, they could do that. But the Bush administration clearly trying to delegitimize the regime of Saddam Hussein, paving the way for the next government, which we have as yet to know who would that -- would be comprised in that government, but paving the way for a post-Saddam Iraq -- Aaron.

BROWN: Quickly, two questions, then.

Is there precedent for this? Is this the normal thing that happens in moments like this?

And secondly, have any governments responded to this request?

KOPPEL: The answer to your second question is we don't know. The State Department said that they wouldn't let us know whether or not they had gotten positive responses from any of these governments.

And the answer to your first question is, Yes, there is precedent. If you remember, back at the beginning of the war with Afghanistan, even before that, the U.S. asked the handful of governments that had diplomatic relations with the Taliban to sever those diplomatic relations.

They're doing it slightly different -- differently this time around. They're just saying put your diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government on hold right now, expel the ambassador, protect the property, protect those Iraqi records, because who knows what's in them, and also make sure that the building and whatnot is protected -- Aaron.

BROWN: Andrea, thank you. Andrea Koppel at the State Department.

Nic Robertson in Baghdad, the noise -- we can hear the sirens again. Are these all-clears or are these warnings?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Aaron, this appears to be an indication that another air raid may about to be under way. If recent experience is anything to go by, they've led any signs in that attack on Baghdad by perhaps about 10 to 15 minutes and the sirens only went off a few minutes ago.

We are now hearing, however, from Iraqi television, perhaps building that bigger picture we've been talking about -- about what is happening elsewhere in the country. Iraqi television saying that overall, 72 missiles have hit Iraq tonight. They also say that one military site in Basra, in the south, close to the border with Kuwait, that site has also been hit.

They also talk about a strike in Akashat. Now this is about 450 kilometers, almost 300 miles northwest of Baghdad, toward the border -- very close to the border with Syria. Iraqi television also reporting that a site close to that town, close to the border with Syria, has been hit. And Iraqi television also saying that four Iraqi soldiers have been killed today as well, Aaron.

BROWN: And again, you're hearing the precursor signs, if you will, of another air raid warning. It doesn't necessarily mean there's another strike coming. It simply means the Iraqi suspect it might be coming, right?

ROBERTSON: That is correct. Exactly. They perceive a threat. They've alerted their air defense (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- and the civilians across the city through the means. And they believe that potentially, they could be under attack again very shortly.

BROWN: And just again, give us a time check. It is what time now in Baghdad?

ROBERTSON: It is now six minutes after 11:00 in the evening. 23:06, Baghdad time.

BROWN: So we're well into the evening. We are well into the time of day, the time of night when we would expect to see more activity. It is just safer for coalition fighter jets and bombers to operate in the darkness.

We've seen this all before. And whether we're about to see it unfold again, we can't say. In fact, the guidance has been somewhat confusing on this, that it may -- events may unfold quickly. John King reported a short time ago. Whether that means -- quickly means this day or tomorrow or even the day after, no one at the Pentagon is willing to say. And we understand that. There's no reason to tip anyone's hand at this point. You have a lot of American/British lives at stake -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Aaron, to borrow a phrase from football, American football, they may be calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, meaning they may be improvising as they're go along, depending upon what's happening on the battlefield. Let's get some more insight, though Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, is standing by -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are indications from officials here that this activity we have been seeing over Baghdad tonight now should not be considered really the opening hours of the war, the full blown air and ground campaign. There are indications that we really should be paying a lot of attention to what Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld said earlier today that we'll all know this when we see it, that when the "shock and awe campaign," so to speak, begins, it will be something like we have never seen before.

What we are seeing here, we have, of course, seen many times before, individual targets being bombed, then a lull in the bombing, and then coming back for additional waves. Officials here saying there is every indication we should not consider this the beginning of the war.

But what they are doing is very important to them. What they are trying to do is finish the psychological warfare phase of this campaign. A lot of what you're seeing here is an effort to ratchet up the tension within the Iraqi military, within the Iraqi high command, make sure they think that the American planes are coming after them each and every night until the full blown campaign starts.

Another part of this psychological effort to make the Iraqi leadership realize that if it does come to full blown war in the coming hours, that they have no hope of winning against the United States.

In addition, officials are saying they are watching that oil sabotage situation in the south very, very carefully. They have no firm evidence that wells are wired up yet, but they are at the point where they are saying it is their working assumption, for safety's sake, that they are going to assume that wells are wired to blow. No firm evidence, but that's now the assumption, as U.S. troops begin to advance on those southern oil fields -- Aaron.

BLITZER: Well, let me -- let me just bring you back for a second, Barbara, because I want to ask you a follow-up question on what you reported earlier, breaking the story here on CNN that elements of the first Marine Expeditionary Force moving into southern -- southern Iraq. How does that fit into the bigger picture which you're suggesting may be trying to rattle the Iraqi leadership, trying to get them jittery?

STARR: Well, the southern cities along the peninsula, Basra, near the southern oil fields, these are all places where the population is certainly not very close to the leadership regime in Baghdad. The assumption had been that if U.S. forces could begin to move through this area, they would find a relatively friendly population that might largely welcome U.S. and British now forces moving into that region, that that would give them some quick type of victory. In other words, they would not run into heavy fighting and that that might further rattle the leadership in Baghdad and make the leadership believe that they were vulnerable. That Southern Iraq was going to welcome U.S. and British forces coming in. So this was always one of the first moves they wanted to make. But once the real ground campaign gets going, if it does in the next 24 to 26 hours, we'll see much more than the 1st Marine Expeditionary force moving into Southern Iraq. There will be a much broader movement of hundreds of thousands of forces -- Wolf. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks, Barbara, very much.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is standing by at the CNN center with more on the military maneuvers -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, you've heard the expression, the fog of war. We've been trying to lift the fog as much as possible here through the good graces of some of our experts, retired Major General Don Shepperd, chief among them right now joining us to talk about how an air campaign is put together. I want to say at outset, what we're about to show you is an animation we've put together which does not reflect anything necessarily happening now. What it does is draws upon U.S. military doctrine and the tools of the tool box, if you will to see how they all kind of integrate together. Fair to say?

GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Indeed. We want to be very careful not to show operational details or tactics that would put our crews at risk.

O'BRIEN: With that caveat, let's show the tape -- this animation, which is actually coming live on our computer. This is material which is produced by a company called Analytical Graphics and they help visualize battlefield scenarios for people at the Pentagon and so forth. What they've done is created an air package, is the term, and Don Shepherd, help us understand as we take a big picture view, these red rings here indicate Iraqi radar sites. Those are things you want to stay away from.

SHEPPERD: Early warning radars trying to figure out what's coming in.

O'BRIEN: The blue here orbiting around an aircraft is what?

SHEPPERD: That's an airborne warning and control system, AWACS airplane looking in, watching for Iraqi things coming out and acting a as a command and control mechanism for our fighters and bombers going in.

O'BRIEN: All right. What we are seeing here with that zigzags (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tomahawk air-to-land missiles. That is what initiated this thing several hours ago. They come in low. They skirt below radar. They don't have a big infrared or heat signature. Very useful early tool, isn't it?

SHEPPERD: Extremely useful, comes off cruisers and destroyers and out of sub marines in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea on this. Goes in to attack targets. And it's unmanned so it's fearless.

O'BRIEN: It does draw upon a couple of things. It looks at terrain. It has a kind of built into a computer. It also gets signals from satellites above to give it tremendous accuracy, right?

SHEPPERD: It's very, very good accuracy. A 1,000 pound bomb and has all kinds of trajectories (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It can go off from level flight. It can take a dive and go in and penetrate. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about one of the other things. When you start putting pilots in the picture, you talk stealth. The B-2 bomber is something we're going to take a look at. For the first time in history, forward deployed in Diego Garcia that British Island in the Indian Ocean, for them, a fairly short run. They've done, after all, missions to Afghanistan, taking off out of Missouri. Let's look at what they would be doing and how they'd fit into the overall big picture as we took take a look back at the analytical graphics imagery.

The B-2 mission comes up across into the Gulf, and the B-2 flying low, high, what's the typical profile?

SHEPPERD: Well, again, I don't want to give anything way. They can fly anywhere from low to high. You know, always, you'd like to fly high if you could.

O'BRIEN: Looking ahead, you see this representation of the early warning radar you were talking about that the Iraqis might have. The B-2 doesn't care about that, or does it?

SHEPPERD: It does care, because it is not invisible. At some point, it will burn in, but it normally burns through close to missile guidance and acquisition radars. But it's essentially, the idea is to make it invisible. It usually uses jammers to help with it as well.

O'BRIEN: All right, Tom Johnson, take us upstairs now, one more time. Lets get a big, wide picture. As we do that, I want to bring you in on some of the radar systems which are employed by the U.S. military, which are airborne systems. These are very critical toward coordinating this air package, which is the term the Air Force uses, right?

SHEPPERD: Indeed. These are strike packages, and again, the Airborne 1 Control System Airplane can see out maybe to 300 miles. The closer to the target, the better. But it watches for things attacking the U.S. forces and guides and commands and controls the strike packages going into their targets.

O'BRIEN: They didn't draw the radar here, but it's clearly 300 miles probably not doing it justice there. It would give you a ring of coordination and protection. And the people on board there are literally air traffic controllers telling F-15s, 16s, 14s, whatever that it may be. Doesn't matter whether it's Navy or Air Force or Marines. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHEPPERD: They're air traffic controllers and they're weapons controllers, as well. These guys know how to direct fights and control fights as well as give warnings.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's -- one more big picture there just to give you a sense of what really amounts to a moving minuet. We speed things up to give you a sense of the motion, but basically, things are happening in a very dynamic way, I guess?

SHEPPERD: You've got aircraft from five carrier battle groups. You've got airplanes from numerous land abases in the Gulf. Various countries, all airborne at the same time. You have to command and control them. You have to air traffic control them so they don't run into each other. And you have to sort the good guys from the bad guys and Jam radars and attack targets. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) big job.

O'BRIEN: All right. Once again, just a representation of the doctrine, not necessarily what is happening right now. Even if we knew what was happening now, we wouldn't want to show it to you, because for obvious reasons. Don't need to go into that.

Now. let's take a look at something that will give you a sense of these tools in the tool box and how they might come into play here, as we move into another animation. There's the AWACS.

SHEPPERD: There's the AWACS airplane looking out for command and control and early warning. Here's the J-STARS aircraft, looks for ground targets, such as tanks, and enemy formations to warn ground forces. If forces are massing against them.

O'BRIEN: So, looking down for stuff on the ground?

SHEPPERD: Passes information to AWACS and ground control units. This is refueler, which are the key to everything. Big gas tank stations in the sky. Might have 100, 150 tankers airborne at one time, refueling Navy and Air Force. Here it's refueling a EA-6 Prowler jamming aircraft. That's going to go in with F-15 and F-14 air-to-air assets, protecting strike forces going in from enemy fighters. Here's a KC-10 refueling a B-2 aircraft. This will be done over the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea. A B-52 loaded with cruise launch -- cruise missiles and a B-1 that will carry JDAMs later as the air defense network is later put down.

O'BRIEN: B-1 will be involved later presume...

SHEPPERD: A Navy F-18 loaded with JDAMs and later on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) perhaps. This is a navy F-14 as well. I think it may have been an F-15, I'm sorry. Here's an F-15E, loaded with air to ground ordnance. A F-177 Stealth Fighter that we've seen in the gulf war and also early on, F-16. It's a tremendous armada and the F-15 air to air asset as well. We have the full range in our holster.

O'BRIEN: As you see the technology that all that represents, it's hard not to imagine how tilted this, certainly the air campaign is. It really is on paper, anyhow, a rout.

SHEPPERD: Tilted, but not easy. There will be losses, there will be accidents, there will be aircraft lost to enemy fire, hopefully very few. This takes years and years of training and many dollars to put it together. It's joint, it's paying off -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: General Don Sheppard, thanks for the big picture -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you. Just watching you both, one -- at least this one gets the sense of what a remarkable logistical effort is involved in carrying out an operation. We saw these pictures of the central command in Qatar. These men and women sitting in front of their laptop computers keeping track of every unit, every soldier, every plane, every ship, all of this. It is a remarkable logistical process. This is in many respects, of course, a two-front war. There is the war in Iraq, but there is also the effort to secure the homeland. And that is also a complicated and especially critical effort in these moments, given the high state of alert the country finds itself in as it is now in the early stages of this war.

Kelli Arena has been doing some reporting on the concerns about a terrorist attack which was described the other night by officials as almost certainty, an attempt -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, the FBI has issued a be on the lookout for an individual named Adnan El Shukrijumah. He wanted in connection with the FBI for possible threats against the United States. FBI says he's possibly involved with al Qaeda terrorist activities. And that he could pose a serious threats to Americans and U.S. interests abroad. He's 27 years old. He was born in Saudi Arabia. His whereabouts at this time are unknown. The FBI does not know whether he's in the United States or abroad, but they're asking the public for help. They've posted his picture on the FBI website. Www.fbi.gov.

Asking their state and local partners for help in finding this individual if he's, indeed, within U.S. borders. Our sources say that this man, again, his name, Adnan El Shukrijumah is a trained pilot. As matter fact, his nickname by some is Jafar (ph) the pilot. And they say recent intelligence suggests he could be an integral part of a new al Qaeda plot against U.S. interests. That is all we know about this individual at this time, Aaron. We are working the phones and we'll get back with more when we get it.

BROWN: I apologize, I was writing as you were speaking, taking notes.

Do we have a picture of this person on the air?

ARENA: We are trying to get that from the FBI Web site. The FBI is having a problem processing that right now.

The information, though is there. And I can read some of it. He's 27-years-old, again, born in Saudi Arabia. He's approximately 132 pounds, he may be a little bit heavier today, the FBI points out. He's between 5'3" and 5'5". He's got a Mediterranean complexion, black hair, black eyes and occasionally wears a beard. Obviously he should be considered armed and dangerous.

FBI again asking not only the public, but its state and local partners for help in finding this individual. As I said before, sources indicate that recent intelligence suggests he could be an integral part of an al Qaeda plot against the U.S. or U.S. interests abroad.

BROWN: And just to underscore, is there any reason to believe that this man, this 27-year-old, very slight man is in the United States of America today? ARENA: We don't know, Aaron. And that's why the be on the lookout was issued. The FBI has a great interest in finding and questioning him. They simply do not know.

BROWN: Kelli, thank you. I know you'll continue to work on that. Kelli Arena. And when we get a picture, we'll be able to put that up. And that shouldn't take long -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, news that we're still working on. We've been told by the deputy director of the al Amady (ph) oil facility in Kuwait, which is south of Kuwait City, that they saw a missile, according to the deputy director of that facility, coming from the north and landing several hundred yards off the coast in the water. As I say, we're still trying to confirm that.

What we're being told is that there has been no damage or nothing has been hit, but that the deputy director is telling CNN he saw a missile come and land off the coast, off the coast where that oil facility is and in the water.

In the meantime, we're going to go to Ryan Chilcote, one of our CNN reporters, who is, quote, "embedded with the troops," this time with the 101st Airborne. He has news from the northern parts -- Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, I can tell you the 101st Airborne has moved out of its camps and is now in assembly areas. The 3rd Infantry Brigade that I'm traveling with is now in an assembly area in the Kuwaiti Desert. We pulled out a while ago.

In terms of offensive action, all I can report is that I heard the thump if you will, of some artillery north of here. Someone farther up, some soldiers farther up in the convoy that weren't so enveloped in the dust like I was said they could see what looked like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that was thunder and lightening of that artillery on the border.

We have now gone through three bunker calls, if you will, three times we have gone through Scud alerts and donned or masks, only to learn -- only to, five, ten minutes later, be told that all is clear and that we could take our masks off.

In the first two cases, I was told that it was surface-to-surface missiles that landed nearby that were intercepted by Patriots. So that's pretty much what I have from here -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Ryan, you talked about artillery. Are you talking outgoing from your position?

CHILCOTE: Artillery, not from my position. Artillery going from south to north. U.S. artillery.

AMANPOUR: All right, Ryan. Thank you very much, indeed.

And we're now going to go to Lisa Rose Weaver, who is up in Northern Kuwait for developments she has there -- Lisa. Northern Iraq.

LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, similar story in the last few minutes. I saw bright, very bright lights on the horizon, looking north toward Iraq. One a sustained brightness earlier about 15, 20 minutes ago now. Long, sort of seven to eight second periods of low rumbling, heavy artillery.

I'm told by military sources here, with the intent to sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) take out those border crossings to facilitate the entry of U.S. forces across the border at some point and presumably the near future.

Also, about half an hour ago, I saw in the sky something that a military source here told me are Attack 'Ems. Now Attack 'Ems are big rounds used by field artillery. What was visible to me here were yellow streaks, almost like shooting stars, going off into the sky over the border area. Again, all of this is aimed at softening that border and facilitating the entry of coalition and from our position, mostly U.S. forces.

I'm with a Patriot missile battery which has really just sort of watched the fireworks, frankly, for the last several hours. We have seen here no incoming Scud missiles toward our position. And the Patriots that I am embedded with have also not fired -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Lisa, thank you. I was right the first time, it's Northern Kuwait, obviously, and not Northern Iraq.

Just again to go over what we've been hearing from U.K. spokespeople, up where they call coalition forces, where there are British and American forces based towards the north of this country, that they had seen some ten or so missiles coming in, missed their locations, caused no damage or casualties. But according to one person we spoke to up there, one official, they believe some were Scuds.

Back to you, Aaron.

BROWN: Coming up on 3:30 here in the East. Nic Robertson in Baghdad, the last time we talked to you, there were the sounds of air raid sirens, a sense of a precursor to perhaps another attack. What has happened since?

ROBERTSON: Nothing at this stage. The city very quiet, very much at rest. No sounds of detonation, no aircraft visible, no anti- aircraft fire visible, no sounds of distant anti-aircraft gunfire going off.

The only thing that stands out on the horizon at the moment that government building about a mile from where we are that was struck earlier, still burning. Still burning right at the bottom. Plumes of smoke still rising slowly from that multiple story building -- Aaron.

BROWN: You don't hear sirens, fire sirens going off, any of the things that say something is happening? ROBERTSON: At this time, nothing to indicate that anything is happening at this moment. The air raid warning going off half an hour ago.

I think is probably reasonably accurate to say that on each occasion that it has gone off, the warning has gone off, and I believe this is the fourth occasion that it's gone off, the third or fourth in the last 20, 24 hours, it has been followed by anti-aircraft fire. And, indeed, has been followed by impacts of missiles or bombs in the city.

Right now, it is -- there is nothing happening, Aaron. It is very steel. An eerie quiet, compared to earlier in the evening.

BROWN: It is an eerie quiet. Iraqi TV, if you didn't see that on the super underneath the banner, says 70 missiles hit. I think it's interesting to me at least that they'd report that. But that's what Iraqi TV is reporting -- Wolf. Wolf, are you able to hear me?

BLITZER: I hear you fine. Can you hear me OK?

BROWN: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, I was just going to say there's an eerie quiet in Baghdad. There's also an eerie quiet here in Kuwait City. It's now approaching about 11:30 at night here and the street's pretty much deserted. People in their homes. They're waiting to see what happens next.

But I want to go to along the border with Iraq, along the Jordanian border with Iraq, another key location in the potential war, the war that has already taken hold of this region. CNN's Matthew Chance is along the Jordanian-Iraqi border. He's standing by. What are you seeing and hearing from your vantage point -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, like there, it's very quiet here in Jordan as well. But as we wait to see what happens next in Iraq and as that conflict unfolds there, Jordan is just one of the countries that is really bracing itself for the possibility of a humanitarian crisis that threatens to follow in its wake.

Already, there have been refugees crossing over from Iraqi territory, across the Jordanian frontier here. Most of them, though, I have to say, are citizens of third countries. We saw earlier today about 70 Sudanese students and workers with their families who had left Iraq, being processed in Jordanian camps before being sent on their way back to their home countries. Many saying they felt it was simply too dangerous for them to stay in Iraq any longer.

Very few, I have to say, though, Iraqi nationals coming out at this stage from Iraq itself into Jordanian territory. But, and I think this is very important, Wolf, that situation may change very rapidly, indeed, that once, in the words of the aid organizations, the invasion by the United States-led coalition goes ahead in earnest. Jordanian officials certainly hoping that they will be spared the problems of a refugee influx in this country. But aid officials, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees, saying very much that they are preparing for the worst. They're preparing camps here for at least 10,000, possibly as many as 30,000 refugees to come across. And a lot of other people they're preparing to provide relief to inside Iraq once it's safe to do so, Wolf.

BLITZER: We saw those emblems of the Red Crescent, those humanitarian workers, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross working along the border. Are there a lot of humanitarian aid workers already in place, Matthew, to deal with this emerging human flood that is expecting to go from Iraq into Jordan?

CHANCE: Well a lot of the humanitarian workers are certainly based out of the Jordanian capital, Amman, but up here in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they're very close to the Iraqi frontier. There is a lot of aid activity under way. Aid workers, in conjunction with the Jordanian authority.

Authorities have been very busy building makeshift camps that are still very dusty, perched in the middle of that very dusty, dry, barren desert in preparation for a possible influx of Iraqi refugees. I have to say, though, that influx has not materialized as yet. The aid agencies, as I say, as well as the Jordanian authorities, are very much bracing still for the possibility.

BLITZER: Indeed. The stakes for King Abdullah, the leader of Jordan, enormous from all aspects: economic, military, diplomatic, political. Matthew Chance, along the border, thanks very much.

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