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AMERICAN MORNING

Israel to Decide Whether to Expand Ground Operations in Lebanon; What Does Lieberman's Defeat Mean for Other Candidates?

Aired August 9, 2006 - 08:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone.

O'BRIEN: Have I mentioned how grateful we are to have you for this whole week?

HARRIS: No. One more time. One more time. Let me bask in it.

O'BRIEN: It's all right. You deserve that.

We are talking politics this morning. We're also talking about what's happening in the Middle East. And there is concern that fighting there could spread. Israel's going to decide today whether to expand ground operations against Hezbollah further into southern Lebanon.

Let's get right to CNN's Matthew Chance. He joins us from northern Israel this morning.

Hey, Matthew, good morning.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, as well, Soledad.

It could be a major expansion of Israel's ground operations in southern Lebanon over the course of the next few hours. The Israeli government made it quite clear that if the diplomatic process came to nothing to end this crisis, there was a military option that they had at their disposal and that they are prepared to use it. That would, of course, involve deploying many thousands more Israeli troops on the ground in southern Lebanon to join the 10,000 or more troops already there battling against Hezbollah strongholds across that territory.

I've been on the phone to the Israeli Defense Forces spokespeople, and they've been telling me the kind of areas at the moment where there is fierce fighting under way with Hezbollah guerrillas. They're talking about Bint Jbeil, Bebel Eital Shaab (ph), Maroun al-Ras, villages and towns across south Lebanon that we have referred to in the past as being areas where Hezbollah guerrillas dug in and where Israeli forces have been in close combat with them.

We also have heard that they've taken several of these towns a week ago, longer ago than that. But even now, there are battles going on there. And I think that describes or indicates the kind of tough guerrilla warfare that is currently being played out on the battlefield in south Lebanon. The Israeli troops going in and out.

And we have guerrilla fighters coming to harass them whenever they can, and causing casualties, as well. If there is a big expansion, this tough guerrilla force of Hezbollah is not proving this easy to dislodge. And so many Israelis are expecting the possibility of more casualties if that expansion goes ahead, as is looking likely at this stage -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Matthew Chance for us this morning. Matthew, thanks.

And Israeli officials are also showing off a videotape of a captured Hezbollah fighter. He says he was trained in Iran.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is live for us in Tehran, Iran. Hey Aneesh, good morning.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning to you.

Iranian officials have, since the start of this crisis, publicly and officially said they only support Hezbollah spiritually and morally. It's another Shia organization. They say it was an offspring of the Shia revolution that took place here in Iran.

But an interesting interview a few days ago in a reformist paper here, with the man who was the Iranian envoy to Damascus, Syria, in 1982. He said in that interview that he oversaw at least ten training camps that were taking place with Hezbollah fighters. He didn't specify whether they were in Iran or on Lebanese soil, and he didn't go much further than that.

So amid the widespread speculation, internationally at least, that Iran is behind much of what we're seeing from Hezbollah; they say they are not supplying them with arms, that Hezbollah has enough arms, it does not need any more. And again, they are saying they only support it in a moral and spiritual way, but that falls on a bit of deaf ears outside of Iran -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman with an update on what's happening in Tehran. Aneesh, thanks.

Anderson Cooper continues to report live from the Middle East. He's got a look at what's coming up on his program tonight -- Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, tonight on "360," targeting Hezbollah. Their fighters hide among women and children. When should Israel pull the trigger? When should it hold back? Cruel choices, life and death. "360" live from the war zone, tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern -- Soledad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: All right, Anderson, thank you.

(NEWSBREAK)

HARRIS: What does the defeat of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman mean for other candidates, both Democratic and Republicans? Let's talk about it.

Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville joins us from Washington.

James, good to see you. Good morning, sir.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good, all right.

HARRIS: All right, I asked this question of Jeff Greenfield about an hour ago. Let me put it to you. What do you think? Put it in some kind of perspective for us.

CARVILLE: Well, it's -- two very rare things happened. Number one is, you had an incumbent that lost a primary in the United States Senate. That happens very, very seldom in American politics. And two, you had a large turnout in a primary, which is very rare these days. So the confluence of those two events tells us that something pretty big happened in Connecticut. How big and what it all means, I think people like Jeff will be sorting that out for some time. But we know it's something pretty big.

HARRIS: No, I want you to help us sort it out. Why, why, why, why did this happen?

CARVILLE: Because there's -- I think the main reason is there's an anti-incumbent feeling, the likes of which we haven't seen in this country for a long time. If you look what happened in a congressional race in Georgia, congressional race in Michigan, if you look what happened across in primaries in Pennsylvania, it's abundantly clear that incumbents are going to be in for a very, very rough time in 2006. I mean, that's, overall, I think, the biggest message here.

HARRIS: Still, that could hit Democrats and Republicans pretty hard.

CARVILLE: Well, it could. I mean, you know, it could. I guess, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the way you look at it, there's more Republican targets out there. They've got more incumbents. But I think that there is a -- and I think Democratic incumbents are faring better across the board than Republican incumbents, but there's still a very, very large anti-Washington feeling in this country. And I think Connecticut and Georgia and Michigan and other places are demonstrative of that.

HARRIS: See, I got to -- I had to ask you -- Ned Lamont was saying to Soledad just a couple a minutes ago more than it was about this or that and the other and more than any kind of national implications to this, this was about Connecticut and the voters of Connecticut. What do you make of that?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I would expect a candidate for the United States Senate to say that. Especially a United States senator from Connecticut. So that in itself is not that surprising. And I'm sure, to some extent, it was. And maybe the voters of Connecticut, they don't like Democrats. Connecticut wanted change. They want somebody to pay more attention to them. That I can speculate. I think there's some truth to that. I wouldn't be surprised that he said that. But I do think that there is a very, very large and I think, growing anti-incumbent feeling across this country.

HARRIS: Are we going to spend the next couple months leading up to the November elections and then even further into the '08 election talking about the power -- maybe even overstating the power and influence of these bloggers and these activist groups like MoveOn?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, they've become an important part of the political landscape here. And I -- I don't -- how important, we're going to have to wait and see. I mean, it -- I think it was more about issues in Connecticut than it was the bloggers versus traditional Democratic constituencies.

But these are people, some of them very talented. They're making themselves heard in different ways and become a fundraising force. And they are people that have been on the scene here. But, you know, in the end, I think that blogger or no blogger, there's a real -- winds of change blowing across this country.

HARRIS: Hey, did I read that your wife says that MoveOn represents the core of the center of the Democratic party now?

CARVILLE: Well, I'll let my wife speak for herself, but...

HARRIS: Do you believe it?

CARVILLE: You know, I think that MoveOn or any of these people are all making themselves heard. But I think they're -- I think that what my wife and a lot of people in Washington realize is there's a tremendous desire for change in this country. And I think that, to some extent, a lot of these blogs are pushing that desire. But I think that's coming right from people's heart, and they're seeing what's going on in -- you know, in the Middle East and the economy and everything else. And they want this crowd out of here.

HARRIS: Hey, James, can you support Senator Lieberman's run as an independent?

CARVILLE: Well, I'm not from Connecticut, but I support the Democratic nominee. And that's what it is. I mean, the Connecticut Democrats have picked their candidate, and that's pretty clear there.

HARRIS: You know, James -- you know what I'm asking you here.

CARVILLE: Well, I know, yes. And I'm saying, I -- my support doesn't -- it doesn't matter. But I would -- I support the nominee of my part. Then that is Ned Lamont.

HARRIS: Well, there you go. Took us a second, but we got there.

CARVILLE: Well, yes, the Democratic nominee. I think he won the primary, last time I checked.

HARRIS: All right, James, thank you, Democratic strategist James Carville. Thanks, James.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about another race that was pretty interesting in Georgia. Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has lost her primary runoff to Hank Johnson. He is a former county commissioner. During a post-reaction rally, she sang along to "Dear, Mr. President." That's an anti-Bush anthem by the singer Pink. Listen to a little bit of what she did.

(SINGING)

O'BRIEN: McKinney drew national headlines back in March when she had a physical confrontation with a Capitol Hill police officer. In her concession speech last night, she complained about electronic balloting and a bunch of other things, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: Electronic-voting machines are a threat to our Democracy. So let the word go out, we aren't going to tolerate any more stolen elections!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman McKinney was beaten 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: And still to come this morning, would Iraq's sectarian violence simply stop if U.S. troops pulled out? At least one former coalition official thinks that might be the case. We'll ask him about it.

Then later this morning, controversial director Oliver Stone has got a new movie. It's called "World Trade Center." It's getting some support from some surprising places. We'll explain why, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And this just in to CNN, the U.S. military has announced the arrest of four men, four men now arrested in the kidnapping of U.S. journalist Jill Carroll. You'll remember that Carroll, a freelance writer for "The Christian Science Monitor" was released on January 7th, later released on March 30th. This news just in to CNN. The U.S. military reporting that it has arrested four men in the kidnapping of Jill Carroll. We will follow this throughout the course of the day and bring you updates.

Is the coalition mission in Iraq a failure? Could the growing sectarian violence there been prevented? Rory Stewart is the author of "The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazzards of a Year in Iraq." It details his year as a deputy governor for the coalition in remote regions of southern Iraq. Stewart is also the author of the bestselling book "The Places in Between," about crossing Afghanistan on foot. He joins me now.

Rory, good to see you this morning.

RORY STEWART, AUTHOR, "THE PRINCE OF THE MARSHES": Thank you for having me.

HARRIS: The title, where does that come from?

STEWART: "The Prince of the Marshes?"

HARRIS: Yes.

STEWART: It's a reference to a guerrilla leader who was a very charismatic figure who he led the opposition against Saddam out of the marshes. He then liberated the province, and is now a major politician in Iraq.

HARRIS: What has he been able to do that we've been able to do sort of, at least, in particular, in Baghdad?

STEWART: Well, he symbolizes one of the provinces. This man is a tribal figure. He saw himself as anti-religious, and he's now teamed up with Muqtada al-Sadr, so he's a symbol of all the strange shifting alliances which take place in Iraq.

HARRIS: I see.

Rory, help us with some new thinking here. First of all, are we watching a civil war in Iraq?

STEWART: I don't believe we, are and I believe what we need to do is empower the Iraqi politicians. We talk about this a great deal, but in reality, we micromanage, we interfere, we get in their faces. I think Shia politicians, in particular, are much more competent, much more courageous, much capable than we give them credit for being, that if we genuinely empower them and let them do it, they can find a solution.

HARRIS: How do you do that? Is that simply a matter of stepping back, letting them run more and more of the country? How do we you that?

STEWART: Yes, absolutely, and I think we need to step back. It's their country. They understand the country much better than we do. These people are now elected, democratically elected politicians. And I think Arab Iraqis genuinely have a sense of their nation.

HARRIS: Is our presence making the matter worse, not better?

STEWART: I think in two ways our presence is making the matter worse. Firstly, because we're there, the Shia politicians play hardball. They would make compromises if we weren't there which they're not making when they feel that we're there to bail them out.

And secondly, a lot of the support for the Sunni insurgency is an anti-foreign support. If we weren't there, I think some of that support would drop away.

HARRIS: Would that help in Baghdad? Now you know we're moving, the coalition is moving more U.S. troops into the area, not less. In your mind, sounds like you think that is a mistake?

STEWART: I believe that is a mistake. My experience day to day working in Iraq was that generally when we interfered and intervened we created parallel structures and we undermined the local government, not deliberately so, but in effect, that's what we did. What we really need to do is to take the risk, not to panic, and allow the Iraqi politicians to take control.

HARRIS: How did you become the interim governor? Is it a position that you sought?

STEWART: It was a position I went for. I'm a British foreign service officer. I served in Yugoslavia, in Indonesia and in Afghanistan. So it was a position that I thought I could contribute some of that experience.

HARRIS: You know, the sense is that these groups aren't taking to one another, that they won't get along. If you leave today, if, as you suggest, the U.S. pulls troops out, let more troops in, that it would collapse. We heard that this morning from Senator Joe Lieberman.

STEWART: I think we are being patronizing toward the Iraqis if we believe that. I think Iraq has held together in the past, and it can hold together again in the future. And we just have to believe that they can do that.

There is no way that we as foreigners can find a political settlement. This needs to be a political settlement, and politics is best done by local people.

HARRIS: Wow, Rory, I was asking you for new thoughts, and we had a bunch of them this morning. Thank you.

STEWART: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Rory Stewart is the author of the book "Princes of the Marshes."

Rory, thank you.

STEWART: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business," coming up next.

And later, we're talking about why more teens are getting burned out in high school. The author of a new book called "The Overachievers" will join us live. That's ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

O'BRIEN: Top stories coming up in just a moment, including political casualty on the part of Senator Joe Lieberman. He has lost Connecticut's Democratic primary. What's the impact of Iraq there?

And Israel making a major decision on escalating the ground war in Lebanon. We'll tell you about that.

Plus, BP, should they have noticed problems with the pipeline at the nation's largest oil field earlier than they did? We'll investigate that.

And a new movie, and it's a tough one to see, about 9/11 opens today. The director is controversial, but he's made some unexpected friends. We'll tell you why.

And two formerly conjoined Utah twins, 4-year-old girls, have made it through a risky surgery. We'll tell you what's ahead for the young ladies and tell you what they did last night that they've never been able to do before.

Back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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