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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Israeli Air Assault; Americans Leaving Beirut; Thousands of Lebanese Seeking Safety in Syria; More Than 15,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed in Insurgency; Bashar al-Ja'afari Interview; Niall Ferguson Interview; Deported Illegal Alien Returns to U.S. and is on the Loose for Shooting Two Children

Aired July 20, 2006 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Israeli special forces are driving deeper inside Lebanon. They're meeting fierce resistance from radical Islamist terrorists, Hezbollah. Two Israeli soldiers killed in the fighting. Israel tonight refuses to rule out a full-scale ground invasion into Lebanon.
Also tonight, U.S. Marines land in Beirut for the first time in more than two decades. They're there to help in the evacuation of thousands of Americans from Lebanon.

And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the United Nations at this hour for talks on a widening conflict in the Middle East, and she may be headed to the region next week.

Should the United States be playing a more aggressive diplomatic role? We'll be talking with one of the nation's foremost historians, Neil Ferguson, about the prospects for a widening conflict. And our guest tonight, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, July 20th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Fierce battles between Israeli special forces and radical Islamist terrorists are raging within Lebanon tonight. At least two Israeli soldiers have died in that fighting. The Israeli air force is again pounding southern Beirut and other Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

Israel says its nine-day air assault has eliminated half of Hezbollah's military and fighting capacity.

The USS Nashville is just off the coast of Cyprus at this hour, and aboard, 1,000 American evacuees. Forty U.S. Marines today landed in Lebanon to aid in their rescue.

Christiane Amanpour tonight live on the Israeli-Lebanese border on this second day of ground clashes between Israeli special forces and Hezbollah within Lebanon.

Nic Robertson reports live from Beirut on Israel's new air strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And Barbara Starr aboard the USS Nashville, where Marines took part in today's dramatic rescue on the beaches of Beirut as Israeli warplanes flew overhead.

We begin tonight with Christiane Amanpour on the Israeli-Lebanese border, where Israel says at least two of its soldiers were killed -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. Two soldiers killed and six others wounded.

This is the second day. We witnessed the first day of fighting in Avivim, which is right on the southern Lebanese border, and this is because Israeli forces are going in to try to take out those positions, outposts, bunkers, trying to get rocket launchers and the like, things they cannot get from the air.

We can see also because we were at the air force today that the sorties continue. We talked to them about the difficulty of getting these rocket launchers and preventing the fire coming into Israel. And according to Israeli censorship, we are not allowed to fully reveal the faces or the names of the fighter pilots.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Wave after wave of Israeli fighter jets take off from Ramat David Air Force Base on the hunt for Hezbollah leaders, infrastructure, communications and logistics centers. Last night this squadron dropped 23 of this one-ton bombs on what Israel says was a Hezbollah leadership bunker in Beirut.

Captain Y was among those doing the dropping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that it was a bunker and we know we hit the targets. I don't know the exact result or how much of it was destroyed.

AMANPOUR: Nor does the Israeli military. And Hezbollah says the target actually was a mosque under construction and denies its leaders were hit.

(on camera): Despite more than 1,000 sorties, and despite the onslaught of the command and control infrastructure, it doesn't seem to have had an immediate effect on the ability of Hezbollah guerillas to fire their rockets from near the border.

(voice-over): The military says Hezbollah Katyusha cells can still operate relatively autonomously at the border. They can't easily be seen. And Major E admits it's virtually impossible to get their rocket launchers from the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a tremendous effort to get those launches. And as you know, it can be a single guy with a rocket launcher on his deck. So it's very, very difficult.

AMANPOUR: But hunting them is the main focus up here at Israel's northern command.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't go and occupy the territory, which we don't want to do, you can't stop the one single rocket that they want to launch.

AMANPOUR: A ground invasion would be painful, as Israel already knows from its 18-year occupation of Lebanon that finally ended six years ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And right now we've just had confirmed the story that we've been chasing for the last several hours. There have been two Apache helicopters, Israeli, American-supplied Apache helicopters which have crashed into each other not far from Avivim, according to the Israeli military. And there are casualties.

We don't believe that this was about hostile fire. We've been told that they crashed into each other. And colleagues on the scene and others suggest that this was an issue of a crash, not under hostile fire. But if more details on that become clear, we will let you know.

In the meantime, Lou, of course, big problems for Israel as it tries to take out Hezbollah, and at the same time faces mounting concern about the massive toll of casualties on the Lebanese side.

Back to you.

DOBBS: Christiane, thank you.

Christiane Amanpour from the Israeli Lebanese border.

Israeli warplanes tonight launched new airstrikes against Beirut's Hezbollah targets in its southern suburbs. Israel also launching air assaults against suspected Hezbollah positions in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and in the southern city of Tyre.

Nic Robertson with a live report in Beirut tonight. He has the latest for us -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, over the last five hours since dusk here, there have been a number of loud explosions. We've been able to sigh bright orange flashes lighting up the sky in the southern suburbs. Again, the targets, the area that is supportive of Hezbollah appears again to have been the target. We don't know exactly where the bombs are landing, but some very, very loud explosions sporadically going off.

Also, we've heard on television this evening from -- from the leadership of Hezbollah, from Hassan Nasrallah himself, saying on television that the Israelis are unable to damage Hezbollah. It seems a rebuttal to the accusations, the reports that there were strikes against him yesterday. Appearing on television, again, in effect, showing that he is still alive, still around, and saying that the strikes not impacting -- not damaging Hezbollah. Also, in the south of the country, the strikes continue there. What we've seen is a steady stream of people, steady stream of Lebanese flowing up from the south, flowing in from the east, from the Bekaa Valley, and beginning to camp out in parks here in Beirut to take over schools, looking for shelter.

I met with families today who told me they've been on the move for several days. They were living in a school classroom, they had nothing, no mattresses for the children, no blankets for the children. And the bombing in the east and the south is beginning really to wash up here in Beirut. Thousands and thousands of people beginning to arrive here now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Nic, assess for us, if you will, the extent of the damage as best you can judge it. And also, the degree to which Hezbollah has been degraded, again to the best that you can possibly assess that.

ROBERTSON: To the extent that Hezbollah is an organization that doesn't have a stand-alone military force, that the military of Hezbollah is something that -- is people that live in an urban environment and they go out during the day, and they may be a professor or a mechanic during the day, by night or on their days off or whatever, they go off and fight for Hezbollah -- in as much as the areas that they live in Beirut are damaged, that some parts of those neighborhoods apartment blocks are completely collapsed and reduced to rubble, inasmuch as that, Hezbollah's ability to operate as a normally organized group is degraded.

Hezbollah, though, would say that they are more than -- more than a military structure, more than a political structure, they're an organization. And what we see now is, in these schools where Hezbollah -- Hezbollah is now taking over and managing the refugees as they come, as they arrive in Beirut, and organizing them in the schools, so Hezbollah just shifts out of one area and into another.

Their influence is maintained within the community. So they would argue that their strength isn't degraded. Very difficult to target a military structure that is essentially integrated into a civilian community -- Lou.

DOBBS: Nic, thank you very much.

And, in fact, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah saying as much today that, so far, the Israeli military has been unable, he claimed, to hurt Hezbollah.

Nic Robertson from Beirut.

The pace of rescue operations from Lebanon is accelerating tonight. The USS Nashville is due to arrive in Larnaca, Cyprus, this evening. One thousand Americans are aboard. So far, the United States has rescued almost 3,000 Americans from Beirut, 2,400 over the past 24 hours.

Chris Burns now in Larnaca, Cyprus, with the very latest for us -- Chris. CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, and there should be about 6,000 Americans out of there by the end of the week. Over my shoulder there's an Italian destroyer that it looks to me like it's being -- about to be pulled out from this mooring.

It arrived here a few hours ago with 400 people, mainly Italians, but also other nationalities. And behind it, further back, you can see this French-commissioned ferry that takes about a thousand people. It's already moved 2,000. It's expected to move back to Lebanon within the next few hours to pick up more people.

And just a few couple of docks away there's a Danish-chartered ferry that can take about 900 people. It's not clear if it has people on board, but it's picking up some other cargo.

That has been very busy as well. And, as you say, the USS Nashville is due within the hour here to bring those thousand Americans here. They'll be placed on buses, brought over here to the Customs building, processed through, and either put on planes or taken off to hotels or even fairgrounds near Nicosia that's been set aside to take people -- to put them in large halls as they wait for their flights.

So, it's really gotten under way here. A very, very busy night. Some seven ships as part of this international flotilla. Just tonight seven ships are supposed to be bringing in a few thousand people, and we're going to be seeing this kind of thing through the end of the week at least -- Lou.

DOBBS: Chris, thanks very much.

Chris Burns covering the evacuation from Larnaca, Cyprus.

Tonight, the U.S. Navy, the Marines, Air Force all involved in rescue operations off Beirut. The Navy has now nine warships in the region helping to evacuate Americans from Lebanon. Six U.S. Marine and Air Force helicopters are being used in this ongoing evacuation operation. Three civilian ships have been hired by the U.S. government to evacuate Americans, including the Greek-owned Orient Queen.

And 40 U.S. Marines today were in Lebanon involved in today's evacuation from Beirut. It is the first U.S. Marine operation in Lebanon in 22 years.

Barbara Starr reports from aboard the USS Nashville in the Mediterranean Sea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an extraordinary journey that brought hundreds of Americans to this Navy warship sailing off the coast of Lebanon.

At first light, CNN joined a group of Marines headed for Beirut. The Marines went ashore from a landing craft to get stranded American citizens who had been told by the embassy to gather.

Suddenly, the Americans emerged by the hundreds. A man still recovering from surgery. Young and old. Families with children on vacation in Beirut caught in a war that nobody had expected. It was the second time in a year that this young mother had sought refuge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm from New Orleans. Last year I lost everything during Hurricane Katrina. Second time I've evacuated -- from Lebanon this time.

STARR: The small boys were like small boys everywhere, trying not to show how scared they might have been by the bombing in Beirut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was scary because I thought they were going to bomb, like, our building. So I was a little scared.

STARR: When the landing craft finally got to the Nashville, the Americans were met by delighted troops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, USA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, USA.

STARR (on camera): At the end of the day, it was the best kind of day for the U.S. military, rescuing Americans and bringing them home.

Barbara Starr, CNN, on board the USS Nashville off the coast of Lebanon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: As our Marines were rescuing people, evacuating Americans from Beirut today, others in Iraq were under fire, and there were casualties.

A U.S. Marine assigned to the 1st Armored Division died in Anbar province in western Iraq. A soldier was killed in an IED attack in Ramadi. Twenty-three American troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month.

In all 2,557 of our troops have been killed in Iraq.

U.S. and Iraqi soldiers today launched a new military operation against al Qaeda at positions in Kirkuk.

In Baghdad, insurgents targeted Iraqi civilians again. Six people were killed in three separate car bomb attacks. Another car bomb exploded in northern Iraq.

One hundred seventeen Iraqi troops and policemen have been killed this month, 710 civilians have died.

The U.S. military today announced that attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad have spiked by 40 percent over just the past five days.

Coming up here next, the very latest on the developing conflict. And two Israeli Apache helicopters have collided in northern Israel. We'll have an update for you from Israel.

We're live at the White House, where President Bush still has not announced when Secretary of State Rice will be heading to the Middle East. Should the United States be planning a larger, stronger role diplomatically in the conflict?

We'll also be live in Syria, where fears of a massive refugee crisis are growing. Tens of thousands of Lebanese are now streaming across the Lebanese-Syrian border. I'll be joined by the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations here tonight.

And live from London tonight, Neil Ferguson, one of the most respected historians in the country, joins me with his thoughts on Israel's military aims, U.S. policy in the Middle East, and the prospects for a widening of this conflict.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in New York tonight. She is set to meet with Secretary-General Kofi Annan at any time regarding these Middle East peace talks that have been proposed. We'll have the very latest for you.

But first, the refugee crisis that is building in Syria. Syrian authorities tonight are reporting more than 140,000 have entered Syria from Lebanon since the hostilities began. As many as 50,000 people reportedly passing through one border point Thursday alone.

Aneesh Raman is in Damascus tonight, joins us live with a report -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, good evening.

Of that 50,000, 40,000 today alone, we're told, were Lebanese refugees coming here into Syria. Since the crisis began, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the violence into neighboring Syria.

A sea of people at the border. I've been there a number of times. A scene of chaos, a backlog of cars, a backlog of people. And they come here with no idea of what will come next.

We are here -- it's just about 1:00 a.m.-- at the biggest refugee center in the capital, Damascus. You can see the kids are out playing. They are trying to pass the time, trying to forget what they have left behind.

I spoke to some of them, and they detailed stories of the destruction that they saw, of the people that were killed. But really, the people here are trying to give them some semblance of normalcy. Syrian officials say at the moment this is a manageable situation, people are at the moment. People are being linked up as well into Syrian homes that are making themselves available. They are giving them hotel rooms when they can.

This facility is maxed out. Five hundred people are here. There's about 50 rooms. In some rooms, there's 20 to 30 people, single families packed into a room. But they have the food, they have the supplies to continue, but they're starting to turn people away.

And the fear, of course, is that in the days and perhaps weeks ahead, if the rate of refugees continues, 50,000 people alone today streaming across that border, Syria could soon face its own refugee crisis -- Lou.

DOBBS: Aneesh, what has been the mood in Damascus today? We understand there have been some anti-American demonstrations.

What can you tell us?

RAMAN: Anger, really. There was a Hezbollah demonstration not far from here earlier today. I should say it was organized right outside Syrian television, and within that demonstration they were burning the U.S. flag, burning the Israeli flag.

The refugees that are coming here voicing anger as well, saying that the world is turning a blind eye to the death and devastation in Lebanon. And there is growing support for Hezbollah.

One woman here -- and they range in age here from seven days to 90 years old -- six of her sons have stayed in Lebanon to join Hezbollah and fight. Mainly women and children here.

The fathers and the brothers have stayed behind, sending their families here. But there is concern for the West, of course, because if Syria welcomes these families here, there's growing support for the country here, as well as for Hezbollah -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Aneesh Raman, from Damascus tonight.

And shortly, I'll be joined by Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari. And he defends strongly his country's support of Hezbollah. He joins us here later.

In our poll tonight, the question is, do you believe U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United Nations are capable of resolving the Middle East conflict?

Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have those results later in the broadcast.

Today, President Bush had little to say about the ever- intensifying war between Israel and radical Islamist terrorists of Hezbollah. The White House apparently has no intention of getting diplomatic efforts ahead of Israel's military progress. The Israeli defense forces need more time to degrade Hezbollah's numbers and strength in southern Lebanon.

And at the White House tonight, Suzanne Malveaux with the story -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, White House officials continue to reject this call for an immediate cease-fire, but they also reject the suggestion that they are simply giving Israel time to neutralize Hezbollah, of course, while these civilian casualties mount. But we heard from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying that there's a humanitarian crisis that is brewing.

Now, U.S. officials said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be traveling to the region, of course, as early as next week, upping the diplomatic stakes, if you will. They are focusing on two areas.

One, getting donors to help reconstruct Lebanon. The other, of course, is trying to create a lasting change in the south. But the question, of course, is just what kind of diplomatic mission will she have? How will she broker this peace?

The Bush administration has no diplomatic ties with Iran. It does not recognize Hezbollah, and so far has dismissed talks with Syria.

So what are we looking at? U.S. officials say she will go to the region, look to Israel, look to Lebanon and some of those key Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for that consensus to come together -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

Israeli soldiers tonight engaged in fierce fighting with Hezbollah terrorists. We'll be going to the region for the very latest for you.

Israeli air craft, warplanes continuing to pound Hezbollah's strongholds throughout southern Lebanon, including southern Beirut. We'll take you to the Israeli-Lebanese border for a special report from our Christiane Amanpour.

And then, the USS Nashville is expected to arrive in Cyprus within the hour. The ship, its crew rescuing some 1,200 Americans fleeing the war zone from Beirut. We'll have a live update for you on that developing story.

We'll also be going to Baghdad, where it has been a deadly week, a month so far, of rising violence. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in bloody sectarian violence.

We'll have that special report and a great deal more coming right up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We've just reported to you Christiane Amanpour has received word tonight of a major Israeli military accident in northern Israel in the midst of this conflict. Two Israeli helicopters have apparently collided in northern Israel. There's no definitive word tonight on casualties or the exact cause.

Also tonight, the Israeli military has confirmed two of its soldiers killed today in fighting with Hezbollah within Lebanon.

And the House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed a resolution, a symbolic resolution, demonstrating U.S. support for Israel and Israel's right to self-defense.

In Gaza today, Israeli troops killed three Palestinians during new fighting near Gaza City.

In a moment, we'll be going to the Israeli-Lebanese border for a special report from Christiane Amanpour. She has the very latest for us on what tonight has turned out to be, a fierce engagement.

Also tonight, we'll be going to the USS Nashville for a live report as Americans are evacuated from Beirut.

And I'll be talking with the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations about Syria's role in this conflict, its support of Hezbollah, and what it expects to be the likely outcome.

First, while the violence in the Middle East conflict is escalating, violence in Iraq tonight is raging unabated. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in recent days in brutal attacks all across the country. So far this year, more than 15,000 Iraqis civilians have been killed in the insurgency.

Arwa Damon reports tonight from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is little one can do here to avoid death. Hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed this week while going about their normal day-to-day lives.

Twenty-two in Tus (ph), northeast of Baghdad, died because they happened to stop by a coffee shop when explosives went off.

Less than 12 hours later, and 120 miles to the south in Mahmudiya, over 40 Iraqis killed because they were shopping for fruits and vegetables when armed gunmen set off explosives and opened fire.

Panic in Kufa just over 24 hours later and 70 miles to the south. At least 59 more Iraqis killed. This time, day laborers just looking for work.

Countless indiscriminate attacks sparing no one, not even the children. The kidnapping industry continued to boom. Over the weekend, the head of Iraq's Olympic committee was kidnapped, along with at least 30 others in broad daylight by gunmen wearing the same uniforms as Iraq's security forces.

Four days later, 20 employees of Iraq's Sunni endowment also taken hostage.

Sunni victims, Shia victims, unidentified victims. The violence continues to spiral.

MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, U.S. COALITION SPOKESMAN: We have not witnessed that reduction of violence one would have hoped for in a perfect world.

DAMON: Life here is anything but perfect. And the figures are chilling -- 5,818 Iraqi civilians killed in May and June alone, according to the most recent report issued by the United Nations mission to Iraq.

(on camera): Perhaps the most gruesome story in that report is that of 12-year-old Omar (ph). He had been kidnapped, and his family paid a $30,000 ransom only to have Iraqi police find his body in a plastic bag. He had been sexually assaulted and hung with his own clothes.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Tonight, the leader of Hezbollah insists that Israel's relentless assault has not harmed the terrorist group. We'll have the latest for you from the Israeli-Lebanese border on the fighting tonight.

The Israeli air force is continuing its round-the-clock assault on Hezbollah entrenchments in southern Lebanon. We will be there for the latest on that air campaign.

And Thursday the Israeli military reported casualties from close combat with Hezbollah. I'll be talking with General Grange about the tactics and strategy. General Grange, who has firsthand experience in war with Hezbollah.

And Neil Ferguson, one of the leading historians of this country, he'll be joining us to discuss the U.S. policy in the Middle East and the prospects for a widening conflict in the Middle East.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, Hezbollah insists it's not suffered significant harm from nine days of Israeli counterattacks. Hezbollah's leader, Nasrallah, made the claim on an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera Television today. Israeli air force tonight is continuing its round-the-clock assault against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. We'll be going to the Israeli/Lebanese border for the latest on that fighting, that engagement between Israeli and Hezbollah ground forces.

Today, Israel reported new casualties from close combat with Hezbollah. I'll be talking with General David Grange. He has firsthand experience in fighting Hezbollah. And I'll be talking with a leading authority on the limits of American influence in the world, the risks that come with the exercise of power, leading historian Neil Ferguson.

As we've been reporting here, there's been a major Israeli military accident in northern Israel tonight. Two helicopters have collided. Christiane Amanpour is on the Israeli/Lebanese border. She has the latest for us -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Lou, it wasn't far from Avivim, which has been the site of all these clashes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas for the last two days that these two Apache helicopters this evening crashed into each other, according to the Israeli military.

It was an accident, we're told. It's not to do with hostile fire, and there were casualties, although we have no full details on that under the Israeli censorship rules.

Now, as we've also said, this fight in Avivim is designed, according to the Israeli military, to insert ground commandos, ground troops to take out tunnels, to find weapons caches, outposts and the rest. And also, we understand now, to remove some of the brush, the brush that has provided refuge and sort of a hiding for the Hezbollah guerrillas on the other side.

What they're doing, what they're trying to do with this campaign, according to the Israeli defense minister, is to create a Hezbollah- free buffer zone along Israel's border with Lebanon. So that is what they're trying to do.

When we were at the air force base that's in northern Israel, we talked to some of the pilots who have been conducting among the 1,000 or more sorties that have taken place over the last nine days. They say that what they're able to do is go after the command and control and all sorts of infrastructure, but what's a lot more difficult for them to do from the air is to actually have the real intelligence in real-time and the ability to see those small target rocket launchers and those small Katyusha firing cells of Hezbollah, Lou.

DOBBS: Christiane, thank you very much. Christiane Amanpour from the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Israeli troops are engaged in what has been described as heavy fighting with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. General David Grange has fought against Hezbollah in the region. He says the only way to defeat this terrorist organization, Hezbollah, is through face-to-face fighting on the ground. General David Grange joins us tonight from Chicago. General, good to have you here.

You said at the outset that a ground operation on the part of the Israelis would be necessary if they were to inflict heavy -- were to inflict heavy damage successfully on Hezbollah. Is this unfolding as you would have guessed?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think so, Lou, and it's no different than when we fired years ago missiles into Afghanistan, and it had little effect on the Taliban and al Qaeda. I mean, you had to put people on the ground, you have to go in there and root them out and dismantle them, and that's what you're seeing now.

You're seeing Israeli special operations raids, and you're seeing armored task forces starting to move around. And they're going to continue to do that to establish a buffer zone, and probably some other strikes deeper into the territory.

DOBBS: Christiane Amanpour, General, just reported that the Israelis are trying to create a buffer zone. Having moved into Lebanon, invaded Lebanon in 1982, occupied it until six years ago, but still unable to control that territory. What are the prospects for success in this operation, in your best judgment?

GRANGE: I think the prospects are that we have to do everything in our power to use the Lebanese army, and I believe that can be done. There's a lot of training with factions in the Lebanese army in the past, and use them to move into the south. It's going to be dangerous, it's going to be hard, and they're going to need to be supported by some type of international force -- not a peacekeeping force, but a peace enforcement force.

In other words, pretty powerful that can really whack somebody if they get out of line. I think that's the only way that they're going to be successful. Otherwise, it's going to be one of these attrition warfare things, fighting guerrillas forever and ever, like they've experienced in the past.

DOBBS: There are charges -- in fact, the secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, while recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, referred to an excessive use of force. Is there such a thing as excessive use of force on the part of Israel when it's trying to defend itself, its interests, its citizens from attacks from Hezbollah?

GRANGE: Not in war. In war, it's not fair. You use the force you need to destroy the enemy.

Now, what's important, though, is how much care is taken not to have collateral damage, not to harm civilian bystanders where it's possible. But excessive force, you use the force you need to accomplish your mission.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, General David Grange, appreciate it.

Israel's ambassador to Spain tonight is outraged about the Spanish prime minister's display of solidarity with Palestinians. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatera yesterday wore a Palestinian scarf, known as a kuffiyeh, and criticized Israel for using what he called abusive force in Lebanon. The socialist prime minister's comments drew fire from Spain's conservative opposition. Israeli ambassador Victor Harel, said criticism of Israel here has been very harsh and very unjust.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the United Nations tonight. We'll bring you the latest developments on those discussions with Kofi Annan.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese refugees are streaming across the Syrian border tonight. I'll be joined by the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations to discuss his nation's support of Hezbollah and its likely course of action in this conflict.

Two Israeli military helicopters have collided. We'll bring you the very latest from the region. I'll be joined by one of America's leading historians, Neil Ferguson, who says that if this Israeli offensive continues, Lebanon could implode. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The White House today said the United States is not willing to begin talks with Syria. The House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Hezbollah and Hamas and holding Syria and Iran accountable for their support of those terrorist organizations.

Joining me now is the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Ja'afari. We thank you for being here, Ambassador.

BASHAR AL-JA'AFARI, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Hi, Lou. Nice to be here with you.

DOBBS: This -- the role of Syria in this, the United States government is clearly stating straightforwardly that Iran and Syria's support of Hezbollah is responsible for the ability of Hezbollah to inflict injury, to invade, to kidnap, and to murder Israeli soldiers. How do you respond?

JA'AFARI: Demonizing Syria or Iran or anybody else in the area, refusing to compromise, refusing to negotiate, assuming that everybody in the area is just mere terrorist amounts to a policy of cowboy. This is not a policy of a big power.

We were hoping for decades to see the American administration engaged, the way the Clinton administration did it, in the peace process, because the United States has a great responsibility, a moral and a political one, to solve this conflict in the area. We have been suffering for six decades from this conflict. The issue is not about capturing a soldier in here or two soldiers over there.

DOBBS: For Israel it is?

JA'AFARI: Maybe it is for Israel, but for the international community this is not the case.

DOBBS: Why should the world community, you're talking about the moral responsibility of the United States. But why should the world community be called upon to tolerate the actions of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, and an organization that kidnapped, without contradiction or contravention on the part of Hezbollah, the Syrian government or Iranian government or the Lebanese government.

In point of fact the Lebanese government says squarely, straightforwardly, Fouad Siniora says Hezbollah overstepped itself, exceeded any kind of rightful action. Why should the world community tolerate this and continue to tolerate this? As you suggest, for six decades we've witnessed this kind of behavior. Why can't Syria, Iran, and Israel exist with a civility, with order, with mutual respect?

JA'AFARI: This is exactly what we were working for, actually. The issue stopped on the year 2000 when the former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon visited the Mosque of al-Aqsa. At that point the whole peace process collapsed. That was the big mistake committed by the Israeli prime minister.

DOBBS: Ambassador, let me ask you a question ...

JA'AFARI: And then, if you allow me, please.

DOBBS: Sure.

JA'AFARI: For Israel, Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. But this Hezbollah has a great merit and highly respected in the area, in the world, in the Arabic world and the Islamist world and then Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, backed by the American administration.

Hezbollah has three ministers in this government, in the current Lebanese government, and has 18 representatives in the parliament. So what is terrorist for somebody is part of the Lebanese government for somebody else.

DOBBS: I'm not one of those journalists, ambassador, who is excited or interested in semantics, because like you, I have lived this story, I've covered this story, we have all witnessed it. You know what a terrorist organization is. Hezbollah has other roles within your society and within the region.

It also has a terrorist role and I think you would, as an honest man, acknowledge that. What I'm asking you straight forwardly why will Syria not constrain Hezbollah, why will you not come to terms with Israel and why would you expect any less of a reaction on the part of Israel to this kind of provocation?

JA'AFARI: The issue is wider than talking about only Hezbollah. The Arab/Israeli conflict did not start yesterday.

DOBBS: I'm quite aware of that.

JA'AFARI: It's as old as the United Nations. DOBBS: Why must we all fail to learn from history but waste our time in discussing what we all know. We all know what's happened for 58 years. What's critically important is what happens in the future. If there's no possibility for discussion of the reality that exists in your region and for which Syria has great influence, both in Lebanon and obviously in Israel, through Hezbollah, then we have very little to talk about.

JA'AFARI: Lou, you are right when you talk in generally speaking. But Lebanon and Palestine have been violated daily, on a daily basis for quite a long time and all complaints are registered in the United Nations. These violations were Israeli ones, in the sky, on the ground, and in the sea. So why now people are just focussing on kidnapping an Israeli soldier while the Palestinian, the Lebanese, and the Syrians have 10,000 prisoners in Israeli jails?

DOBBS: I will tell you straightforwardly. My heart goes out the Palestinians, three-fourths of whom live in poverty, who are illiterate, who have been absolutely disrespected and abused by their leaders or their titular leaders, but also by the Arab states that surround those Palestinians and the reality is this is a black mark against the Arab nations of the region. It is a black mark for the world community that has not been able to come to terms with realities and create a new reality over 58 years. Would you disagree with that?

JA'AFARI: What is a reality ...

DOBBS: The reality is poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, and absolute zealotry that is leading to the most barbaric behavior over the course of the last 50 years.

JA'AFARI: Absolutely, this is because of the Israeli foreign occupation of our land, in Palestine, in Lebanon, and in Syria. This is why we call for just and comprehensive peace, lasting and sustainable peace in the area. Arabs issued the initiative in the summit of Beirut in 2002. We're waiting. We are extending peace to Israel.

DOBBS: Ambassador, don't wait. Do something positive for all of us. We appreciate you being here.

JA'AFARI: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thank You Ambassador Ja'afari. Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, tell us all about it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you Lou, hundreds of U.S. citizens now are out of harm's way, about to arrive safely in Cyprus aboard the USS Nashville. We're going to go there to hear about their escape from a war zone.

We'll also take a closer look at Israel's military strategy. Is it a wise one? I'll speak with a military expert.

And the search for a diplomatic solution, Condoleezza Rice and Kofi Annan having dinner plans tonight. All that, Lou, coming up right at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: A lot ahead. Thank you very much.

A reminder now to vote in our poll, do you believe U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the United Nations are capable of resolving this conflict in the Middle East? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results in just a few minutes

Israeli troops tonight battling Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. We'll bring you all the developments on the ground war under way in southern Lebanon and from London I'm joined by one of America's preeminent historians, Niall Ferguson will be talking about the conflict and the prospects for its widening and U.S. policy. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: From London Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard University, the author of "Colossus, the Price of America's Empire," one of the country's, certainly, preeminent historians. Niall, it's good to have you with us.

NIALL FERGUSON, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Good to be on the show, Lou.

DOBBS: Let's begin directly with the prospects here because this conflict between Hezbollah and Israel is dominating our airwaves in this country as Americans and Iraqis by the hundreds are dying in Iraq. What is the prospect for a widening conflict? Give us your perspective.

FERGUSON: Well, a nightmare scenario is the World War III scenario that I think former speaker Newt Gingrich was talking about the other day. I don't think that's terribly likely. This isn't 1914 or even 1939. I don't think it's even 1967 or 1973, the big wars that Israel fought against its Arab neighbors because I don't see a full- scale escalation of this war into a war that involves Syria, or for that matter, Iran.

All this -- if you like, all the surrounding powers have an interest in avoiding the escalation of this conflict including, I think, Israel, so I'm not too pessimistic on this score. Most wars that have involved Israel have been very short wars, and I suspect that will be true of this war against Hezbollah, too.

DOBBS: And we will hope that Niall Ferguson, as is often the case, is correct. That leaves us with what will follow this conflict because as we've been reporting here, Aneesh Raman in Damascus tonight, 50,000 Lebanese refugees, as many as 100,000, 180,000 estimated have fled into Syria. It seems we're certainly no closer to anything resembling peace in the Middle East tonight.

FERGUSON: That's for sure, and I think one of the many casualties of this eruption will probably be the peace process itself between the Israelis and Palestinians. Actually, I think there are wider and more troubling implications than even that. In many ways, the big worry in the Middle East at the moment isn't a war between, say, Israel and Syria, an old-fashioned war. It's a civil war or multiple civil wars. I think what's going on in Iraq is particularly troubling in this regard.

The key thing at the moment is the possibility of a civil war between Sunnis and Shias that could escalate, not only throughout Iraq, but right across the region. And that's the big story that I think is largely being missed.

DOBBS: And while the conflict between Hezbollah, sponsored by both Iran and Syria is dominating our airwaves, the focus has moved away from Iraq where violence is intensifying. It is worsening, daily, but that -- we are hearing very little discussion, as we did for sometime, about being on the verge of civil war. Give us your assessment, in your judgment, as to what is likely to happen there.

FERGUSON: Well, I'm inclined to say the civil war has already begun because more and more of the casualties in Iraq with every passing day are, in fact, victims of sectarian violence, Sunnis killed by Shias or vice versa. And less and less is this a story about an insurgency against the United States led forces.

Things are really changing very, very fast in and around Baghdad, and this has big implications for the wider strategic position. After all, about the only thing that Syria and Iran have in common is hatred of Israel. Syria is a majority Sunni and Iran is majority Shia. It's very hard to see them remaining on the same side if this civil war that I'm talking about spreads out of Iraq.

DOBBS: And the role of Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, in becoming involved and perhaps even brokering and creating sufficient pressure to generate something positive within Iraq and also in Lebanon -- what would you say the prospects are there?

FERGUSON: Well, the prospects are very poor in many ways, because although in their different ways both the Saudis and, for that matter, the Syrians have to be very nervous about widening instability in the Middle East -- after all, ultimately their regimes would be threatened if fundamentalism were to spread into those countries any further than it already has.

And yet at the same time, they're the ones who sponsor the fundamentalist terrorist organizations. And with oil hurdling upwards in price, there's ever more money for them to carry on doing that. So they're really rather caught in a dilemma.

On the one hand, they want to sponsor terrorist organizations; on the other hand, they want to keep their seats. They don't want to be overthrown in the way that other regimes were overthrown in the past.

DOBBS: The region, immensely poor with the exception of two, perhaps three countries of the Arab states. Oil, however, exploding in price. We're watching an incredible demographic shift. What is -- do you see this as a watershed moment for U.S. policy? Do you expect to see a shift in U.S. policy as a result of what is occurring now? FERGUSON: Well, I don't expect to see a shift. In many ways, U.S. policy has been quite consistent and if we're right in thinking that the U.S. is essentially giving Israel a window of opportunity to try to finish off Hezbollah, I don't think anything is changing radically there.

The trouble is, I think more generally the United States exerts much less leverage over the region as the whole than it did, say, in the 1970s when the U.S. really could intervene and turn the tide of a conflict between Israel and the Arab states. My sense is that the big story here going right back some way, even to before the beginning of the Bush administration, is the decline of American power in the Middle East.

Increasingly, the United States isn't, in fact, in a position to dictate terms to anybody, including, for that matter, the Israelis. And that's rather troubling, because it's when great powers begin to lose their control of a multiethnic, fragmented region like the Middle East that wars can really spiral out of control.

So if you like my rather pessimistic prediction, it's for a kind of generalized civil war, sectarian conflict across the region which the United States is powerless to stop.

DOBBS: Niall Ferguson, as always, we appreciate your insight. Thanks for your time. Niall Ferguson, the author of "Colossus."

Still ahead here, "Broken Borders," a nationwide manhunt underway for a criminal illegal alien tonight. We'll be going live to Los Angeles for a special report on "Broken Borders."

And we'll have the results of our poll coming right up. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A disturbing report tonight on a criminal illegal alien who was already deported from the country once. The ease with which that former gang member was able to reenter the country underscores the urgent need to secure our borders and ports.

Casey Wian in Los Angeles with a report on what is now a nationwide manhunt for that criminal illegal alien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Los Angeles gang member Mauricio Jimenez was deported to Mexico in March after serving time on weapons charges. Saturday night, police say, the illegal alien was back in L.A., armed again and firing into a crowd attending a baby shower.

His shots critically wounded six-year-old James Hernandez and his 3-year-old year brother Jeremy. The young boys are expected to survive. Jimenez is now the target of a manhunt. MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: Is it a good thing that he came back? Obviously not, you know, but the city of Los Angeles doesn't have responsibility for securing the borders. It's a federal responsibility.

WIAN: A responsibility the federal government apparently refuses to take seriously. In the past week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up more than 200 illegal aliens in Ohio and North Carolina, some at the Ft. Bragg Army Base. But in Phoenix, ICE refuses to deport 17 illegal aliens arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies under a new Arizona anti-alien smuggling law.

And just 50 miles, away more evidence of porous borders. Sheriff's deputies found more than a hundred illegal aliens abandoned by smugglers in the triple-digit Arizona heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to walk them out. Some of them were pretty bad.

WIAN: Meanwhile, National Guard troops continue to arrive at the southern border, but without the authority to apprehend anyone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The response of the nation's lawmakers continues to be more congressional hearings, and the acknowledgement by many of them they're not likely to approve any new border security legislation this year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Casey Wian, reporting from Los Angeles.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts tonight.

Daniel in Pennsylvania wrote in to say, "Lou, you're an amazing journalist. I can't believe -- and that's sad -- how honest you are. We're so used to bandwagon hopping, copy-cat, pseudo-reporters and its sad. The press used to have a pair and actually did viable evaluations and research. We're so lucky to have you. Your 'Dobbs: Not So Smart When it Comes to the Middle East" -- my article on CNN.com -- "is short but accurate and to the point. Thank you for having a pair, Lou."

There seems to be a theme here. And from a viewer who chooses to identify himself only as John Doe in America, "Lou, you are a coward. Grow a set."

And Will in North Carolina: "I disagree with your comments in 'Not So Smart When it Comes to the Middle East' posted on CNN.com. It's perfectly clear to me that neither money nor food had anything to do with creating radical Islamic terrorist organizations. Radical religion is at fault here and the United States had no hand in spreading it."

Those are just a sample of the thoughts. Send us your as LouDobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America."

The results of our poll, 88 percent of you don't believe that the United Nations is capable of resolving the Middle East conflict.

That's our broadcast for tonight. Thanks for being with us. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Goodnight from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer begins now -- Wolf.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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