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THE SITUATION ROOM
Along Israel-Lebanon Border, Cease-Fire Has Brought Peace; In Lebanon, Tens of Thousands Heading Home; Bush Administration Says Cease-Fire Means Diplomacy Is The Winner; Side-By-Side Comparison of U.S. and British Counter-Terror Tools; Grave Concerns About Potential of Terrorists Getting Into U.S. from Canada by Water; Iran Continues to Deny That It's Arming Hezbollah
Aired August 14, 2006 - 16:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, it's midnight here in the Middle East. The bombs and the rockets have stopped falling, a cease-fire is holding so far. But is there a winner in the war between Israel and Hezbollah? Both sides now claiming victory in what's becoming a war of words.
It's 12:30 a.m. in Tehran, Iran. Is Hezbollah already being re- supplied with rockets? The U.S. has words of warning for Iran.
We're inside Iran with a report you will see only here on CNN.
And it's 5:00 p.m. in Washington, stepping up security after an alleged transatlantic plot. Should American authorities borrow a tough counterterrorism tool from Britain? Would the American people accept it?
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
For more than a month, explosions echoed in Lebanon and northern Israel. Now the cease-fire brings an eerie silence, except for the verbal shots fired by both sides. Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says Hezbollah has suffered a major blow. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declares a strategic and historic victory and says the time is not right to talk about disarming.
Thousands of civilians, meanwhile, are streaming back into southern Lebanon, where towns and villages are devastated by Israeli bombing. Israelis are emerging from their shelters, but many are in no return -- no rush to return to their battered northern homes, mindful of a government warning the rockets could still fall again.
And an Israeli icon and a symbol of an earlier war in Lebanon that went very wrong. Hospital officials say the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has taken a turn for the worse following a massive stroke suffered in January.
With the smoke clearing, both sides now assessing the damage and facing an uncertain future.
CNN's Jim Clancy is in Beirut.
Suzanne Malveaux is standing by at the White House.
But let's begin our coverage this hour with our Chris Lawrence. He's joining us live from northern Israel -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here along the border, the cease-fire has brought peace, but not necessarily peace of mind. This is one of the many Israeli tanks that have crossed back over into Israel, but Israel is still keeping thousands of its troops in southern Lebanon right now, and the commanders on the ground are calling it a fragile truce.
That was proven earlier today when Israeli soldiers shot five Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon who they say were threatening the Israeli soldiers. One of those Hezbollah fighters was killed. Many of the commanders here that we spoke with say it is a situation like this that could spiral out of the control, which is why they want the multinational peacekeepers to get on the ground and take their place as soon as possible, but we're hearing that might not happen until late this week, possibly early next.
Now, again, there are other scenes around this part of northern Israel as well. In places like Haifa, life is starting to come back to the town.
It was almost deserted for the last month, but now we're seeing people coming back, reopening their businesses. Families are also starting to return to their homes as well.
We spoke with one family who evacuated a month ago out of Kiryat Shmona. Since then, more than 240 rockets have hit the town. They came back on the first day of the cease-fire, but that doesn't mean they necessarily feel safe. The mother told me she feels that she's very, very skeptical about the truce, she doesn't know if Hezbollah will honor it, and she is worried that this peace may not last.
She also, interestingly, said that she thought that because this war dragged on so long, she felt in her mind that because Hezbollah held out that in some ways it has strengthened its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in the eyes of the Islamic world. And when I asked her, she felt that Hassan Nasrallah was the one who ultimately might come out the winner in this war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence in northern Israel.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are heading home to the devastated southern part of the country, while Hezbollah's leader is claiming a major victory.
CNN's Jim Clancy joining us once again. He's live in Beirut -- Jim. JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we did have celebrations and fireworks, a declaration of victory. A lot of people on the long road home, and it is a long road to make this cease-fire work.
Let's look at the celebrations first.
Hassan Nasrallah declared victory, and Hezbollah set off fireworks in the southern suburbs that were visible all over the capital city of Lebanon. And then hundreds of people on motorcycles or in cars also joined in the celebration. They went around the city honking their horns, shouting, "Hezbollah, Hezbollah, Nasrallah, Nasrallah!"
For his part, Hassan Nasrallah has not yet come out of hiding. But it's never too early to celebrate. He did just that when he declared victory on television. He also talked about a very delicate issue, disarming, and here he really went on the counterattack against critics and his own government, in the Lebanese government, as well as at the U.N.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): Who come today dare to say that we ask Hezbollah to disarm and give up his weapons to the government of these great ones with them, the land of Shebaa Farms, with the owners of these farms to go back to it? They come asking us this, and they have with them the prisoners in Israeli jails. Did they come bringing with them real guarantees to protect Lebanon?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY: The point is, Hassan Nasrallah and his party did agree that they would abide by the resolution, 1701. Now he seems to be backtracking, saying his forces will not disarm south of the Litani.
It's kind of confusing, because there's the national issue of disarmament for Hezbollah, which is separate, and 1701 which states that as the U.N. peacekeepers and as the Lebanese army goes in, then Hezbollah has to pull back to the Litani River, from the very far south in the country.
Meantime, in that south today, it was nothing but a traffic jam, Wolf. When you looked at the situation, people trying to get home by the tens of thousands. They were in cars and traffic jams, over bombed-out roads and bridges.
It was an awful scene for some people, but they were still happy to be going back and checking up on what they owned. They're hoping they can put the pieces back together again.
Still some risk there, those Israel warning when they go south of the Litani River, they are exposing themselves to the possibility that they could come into contact, into conflict zones that could still erupt at any time. So far today, things seem to be holding pretty quiet.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There was, Jim, a meeting involves United Nations officials along the border, Lebanese officials, Israeli officials. What was that all about?
CLANCY: That was all about the mechanics of how the deployment would go ahead. And as I understand it now, the United Nations was talking separately with Israeli generals and then separately again with the Lebanese officers that are to command that force, and trying to work out some of the details and logistics of all of this.
A very, very delicate operation. And what all sides need to know, including the Lebanese army, they want to know, will Hezbollah be disarmed in the south of Lebanon? It is still a deal-breaker if Israel says it won't pull out of south Lebanon.
BLITZER: Jim Clancy reporting for us from Beirut.
The Bush administration says the cease-fire means that diplomacy is the winner in Lebanon, and it says a successful cease-fire will mean a setback for Iran and Syria.
Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Bush, of course, has been huddling with his security -- his national security team, the defense team all morning and into this afternoon, but the bottom line is, President Bush really is in the same position that we're all in here, and that is to wait and see whether or not this cease-fire really holds, wait and see whether or not the Lebanese government really is going to be able to ultimately disarm Hezbollah, so that bolstered U.N. force is going to be able to give it the kind of support it needs.
So, what is President Bush doing now? Essentially, he is trying to convince the American people that despite the violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, that he has a plan, ultimately this plan to bring democracy and freedom to the Middle East, that this is something that is worth supporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are terrorists who kill innocent people to stop the advance of liberty. And that's the challenge of the 21st century. And the fundamental question for this country is, do we understand the stakes and the challenge, and are we willing to support reformers and young democracies? And are we willing to confront terror and those who sponsor them? And this administration is willing to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So, ultimately, Wolf, what we heard is President Bush saying the lesson of last week is that this war on terror is fully engaged, and he is using the foiled attacks of last week, as well as really coming together, this cease-fire, to illustrate a couple things. First, that he believes that there's still a threat against Americans, and secondly, that he is justifying the war on terror, trying to get Americans not to lose support here in the broad scheme of things, the broad goal, his theme, but also, of course, in the weeks to come as those midterm elections approach -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux reporting for us.
Thank you, Suzanne.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again. He's in New York -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, one of the best investigative reporters in our business says the Bush administration was knee deep in the planning of Israel's attacks on Hezbollah before they ever happened. Seymour Hersh writes in this week's "New Yorker" magazine that Israel had a plan for attacking Hezbollah and shared it with administration officials before the July 12th kidnappings of the Israeli soldiers.
Hersh suggests it's all part of a long-term plan to target Iran. He writes, "The president and vice president were convinced that a successful Israeli attack on Hezbollah could be a precursor to a potential U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities."
The White House, as you might expect, denied the report. President Bush called it patently untrue. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said Hersh's piece, "abounds in fictions."
I've followed Mr. Hersh's career for a lot of years. I'm not sure I would bet against him.
Here's the question: What does it mean if the U.S. was involved in the planning of Israel's attacks on Hezbollah?
E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
A lot of people thought Sy Hersh was crazy when he reported there was prisoner abuse going on at Abu Ghraib.
BLITZER: I certainly do. He was on "LATE EDITION" yesterday. We had a lengthy discussion on the very subject.
Jack, thank you very much for that. And if our viewers would like a sneak preview of Jack's questions, plus an early read on the day's political news and what's ahead here on THE SITUATION ROOM, you can sign up for our daily e-mail alert. Just go to CNN.com/situationroom.
Up ahead, pressing problems and multiple threats. Today we're looking at some urgent situations that the U.S. must confront, including the Iranian connection. Is Iran sending weapons to Hezbollah, possibly to Iraq?
Our Aneesh Raman will have the story.
Also, when British police officers nab terror suspects, they can hold them without charges for up to 28 days. But why can't the U.S. do that?
Jeanne Meserve will answer that in our series, "Target: USA."
And Canada is playing a prominently significant role in the war against terror.
Zain Verjee is in Toronto right now looking at that country's efforts in the war on terror and the dealings with its own Muslim communities.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's the first day of a cease-fire here between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. So far, no Hezbollah rockets on this day have come into Israel. No Israeli air strikes into southern Lebanon, or elsewhere in that country, including Beirut.
We're monitoring this -- what some are calling this eerie silence emanating in this war that has continued for, what, 33, 34 days. Much more on this story coming up.
The other important story we're following, the war on terror.
In Britain, things are getting back to normal, yet the threat of terror remains. Britain lowered its terror threat level from critical to severe, where it was before the revelation of that alleged plot to blow up airplanes bound for the United States. British officials say that although the terror level was moved down a notch, it does not mean the terrorists are not hungry for another attack. The British home secretary, John Reid, says a severe threat level means there is still a high possibility that terrorists could attempt a strike.
Meantime, just a short while ago, President Bush talked about the ongoing threat of terror, saying al Qaeda and others are bet on doing Americans harm. But how easy or difficult might that be? Where is America most vulnerable to terrorist attacks?
Today in a series called "Target: USA," CNN is pondering that question, and the answers are chilling. Let's begin with our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, homeland security isn't just about protecting things. It is about preventing attacks.
The British have some investigative powers currently unavailable to U.S. law enforcement, but the U.S. is now taking another look.
MESERVE (voice-over): The British bust of the alleged plot to blast airliners out of the skies is spurring the U.S. government to do a side-by-side comparison of U.S. and British counter-terror tools, officials say. One senior Justice Department official says the attorney general "... is not ruling anything or ruling anything out."
One significant legal weapon available to the British, their ability to detain suspects for up to 28 days without charges.
ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That may be something that we might want to look at, but, again, is it consistent with our Constitution? We have to look at that.
MESERVE: U.S. law enforcement must bring charges within 48 hours of detaining a suspect. A former FBI official says sometimes more time would be useful.
PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: To be able to detain those individuals a little bit longer to conduct some interviews would be something that could be looked at in this country, something that would be helpful to law enforcement authorities.
MESERVE: But the idea of extending the amount of time suspects can be held without charges makes civil libertarians bristle.
LISA GRAVES, ACLU: Just a blanket authority to hold anyone, to round people up at will without any evidence that they've done anything wrong is a step in the wrong direction.
MESERVE: Few people inside our outside government believe the U.S. would or could following the British model.
The Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, expanded U.S. law enforcement's powers, making it easier, for instance, to conduct wiretaps. But some say it is essential to adopt some of Britain's other terror tools.
DAVID RIVKIN, REAGAN JUSTICE DEPT.: More surveillance, particularly in areas that really do not implicate constitutionally- protected expectation of privacy, A. B, more data mining and ability to really combine information from different databases and disciplines. And C, and I know it's a dirty word in some circles, a more rational attitude towards profiling.
MESERVE: Though Congress did expand law enforcement's powers after 9/11, it is unclear how it would received any such requests to do so now. This, after all, is an election year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you.
Meanwhile, a new poll gauges the public mood regarding terrorism. The CBS News poll taken after the terror arrests in Britain shows that 17 percent of Americans now cite terrorism as the most important problem facing the country. That's up from seven percent in July.
The CBS poll also asked Americans how they felt about President Bush's current handling of terrorism. Fifty-one percent say they approve. That number unchanged from the president's terror approval rating back in July.
Coming up, America's neighbor to the north is facing some of the same problems as the U.S. faces in the war on terror. Our Zain Verjee is in Toronto. She'll join us live with more.
And how easy would it be for a determined terrorist to walk a bomb or explosive into the United States by walking, walking through the open U.S.-Canadian border?
Mary Snow is following that.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We'll have much more on the crisis here in the Middle East coming up, but let's check some other important news happening right now.
Betty Nguyen joining us from the CNN Center.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf.
There is no date yet for the reopening of the eastern half of the nation's largest oilfield. British Petroleum closed it down last week for a fix of the pipeline corrosion problems. Well, it accounts for about 200,000 barrels of oil a day. And the western half of the oilfield is still operating, but analysts caution even a partial shutdown could cause supply disruption.
We'll keep our eyes on that.
In the meantime, as many as 110,000 FEMA trailers housing hurricane evacuees in the Gulf Coast may have to get new locks, of all things. FEMA says it's discovered that many of the trailers can be opened with the same key. There have been no reports of break-ins, but FEMA workers will put on additional locks and increase security at the trailers just as a precaution. Well, a garbage truck driver was injured after his vehicle collided with a vintage steam train carrying tourists. Take a look at the video here.
No one aboard the S16 (ph) train was reported hurt in today's accident in Connecticut. A train official says the truck driver may have tried to beat the train across the track.
You know you should never do that.
And listen to this, Wolf. A Florida newborn will have a big story to tell about her birthday.
Police say the baby's mom was driving to the hospital to give birth when a contraction caused her to lose control of the car. It slid off the road into a canal. The woman gave birth by herself in the mangled vehicle. Can you believe that?
A sheriff's deputy spotted the car and took mother and daughter to the hospital. Both are doing just fine.
What a precious baby. Hey, you can't stop baby when she's ready to come.
BLITZER: A lovely baby, indeed. Thank you -- thank you very much for that, Betty.
We'll be getting back to you.
Coming up, Iran. The Iranian regime in Tehran has made it clear it hates Israel and the United States, but is Iran helping to arm enemies of both countries? Is Iran sending weapons to Hezbollah and possibly to insurgents in Iraq?
Also, might the Iranian president's new blog have anything to say about that? We're going to tell you what it says and some things it does not say.
Stay with us. Much more coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Jerusalem.
The United States hopes to close down every hole that could give terrorists an open opportunity. We want to talk more about a very important question we've been exploring. How vulnerable is America to terrorist attacks?
Today, in a series called "Target: USA," CNN is pondering that question, and the answers simply are chilling.
We have three reports.
Tom Foreman is standing by in Washington. Mary Snow is in New York.
Let's begin with CNN's Zain Verjee. She's joining us now from Toronto with more on how Canada is battling homegrown terror -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, there are fears and questions about homegrown terrorism here in Canada. We are in Toronto t find out just how serious it is.
VERJEE (voice-over): Music and maze, tourists and tailors, a popular stroll on one of the liveliest streets in Toronto. It's one of the most multicultural cities in the world, where tolerance is practiced and preached. But the colorful and delicate fabric that weaves together this unique city is being tested after an alleged homegrown terror plot was exposed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got terrorism from the foothills of Tora Bora come down to the doorsteps of Toronto.
VERJEE: Seventeen Canadian men arrested this summer, accused of plans to behead the prime minister, attack the parliament, and blow up buildings. But some terror experts in Canada say the threat is exaggerated.
ERIC MARGOLIS, TERRORISM EXPERT: I think these are a bunch of kids, little, young Muslim would-be Rambos, who were adolescents shooting off their mouths. But I don't think this was in any way construed as a hotbed of terrorism.
VERJEE: But Canada has had its close calls. Just seven years ago, Canadian intelligence helped foil a plot to blow up Los Angeles airport. U.S. Customs arrested millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam as he crossed the Canadian border into Washington State. And just last November, the head of Canadian intelligence warns a terror strike is now probable.
So, is Canada a fertile ground for recruiting terrorists? Muslim leaders say images from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza fuel frustration and anger. For a few, that anger can turn into violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The predator imams who are trying to pick on young men use the plight of the Muslims to recruit them for their own political goals.
VERJEE: Not all Muslims here recognize that a serious problem is brewing in their own backyard, but at least one man offers this suggestion.
ALNOOR SAYANI, OWNER, LAHORE TIKKA HOUSE: Mr. Bush bring us Osama bin Laden, and we want to kick his ass too.
VERJEE: Wolf, most people we spoke to here in the Muslim community say that they believe that the alleged plot is essentially an isolated case, and that homegrown terrorism is not really a widespread phenomenon here in Canada -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Zain, thank you. Zain Verjee reporting from Toronto.
How easy would it be for a terrorist to smuggle in explosives across the Canadian/U.S. border? Our Mary Snow is in New York, she's been watching this story -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, thousands of miles of that border is made up of water, and earlier this month a Coast Guard commanding officer told a congressional panel he had grave concerns about the potential of terrorists getting into the U.S. from Canada by water.
SNOW (voice-over): On the water separating the U.S. and Canada, the Coast Guard checks under bridges for suspicious packages and checks even small leisure boats.
VOICE OF CHRIS ROMOSZ, U.S. COAST GUARD, BUFFALO SECTOR: If they pull into a port over here or one of these docks or just drop somebody off or meet another boat and that boat goes ashore, those are things we're looking for.
SNOW: This boat turns out to be an ordinary leisure boat. The challenge is, what do you look for?
ROMOSZ: There's not really a fit mold for a terrorist.
SNOW: During our trip with the Coast Guard in May, they told us that there is no fit mold for crossing these waterways. They've caught illegals making their way across swimming, some on rafts, but the waters can be treacherous in parts. But with so many small boats on the water and hundreds of miles to patrol, it's virtually impossible to physically seal this border.
(on camera): One of the big concerns about border security here outside of western New York is just how close the Canadian border is. Canada is right here behind us, and here on the Niagara river, there's less than a mile between Canada and the United States.
LT. CHRIS SWEENEY, U.S. COAST GUARD, BUFFALO SECTOR: Right we have Toronto, which is a huge city in Canada and a lot of people can fly into Toronto from overseas a little easier than you can go through JFK or La Guardia.
SNOW: Canadian officials say their security is strong and the Coast Guard boasts of its good relations with their Canadian counterparts. Still it worries them that the vast space of two thousand plus miles of water along the border could be an entryway for terrorists.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: And to give you an idea of how vast their job is, the Coast Guard estimates there are six million registered recreational vessels along the waterway between the U.S. and Canada -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you very much.
Let's get some more now on this very important story regarding terror threats in the United States. Tom Foreman is in Washington, he's got some additional perspective. Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mary's story points out a big problem here, the vastness of the United States and all the targets that are offered. Just look at Chicago. These are all the railways in Chicago alone. The metro railways, the El in Chicago, that's a whole other system of potential targets there. You have the waterfront offering targets out here, you have great big national landmarks like the Sears tower that people pay attention to.
Beyond that, you have sporting venues all over, targets which haven't been hit, but security analysts are worried about that. Besides that, you have airports, not only the big ones, but the smaller ones where planes might be taken. And then beyond that, shopping malls and centers. Look at that. That's Chicago alone.
This is one of the greatest challenges in looking at target America. All the targets that are out there. Look at this, we're talking about a nation where we have 6,000 power-generating stations in this country, transmitting power over a half million miles of bulk transmission lines. This is a huge difference.
We have 12,000 miles of coast, Mary mentioned a little bit over there. 141,000 miles of railroad lines across the country. 11 major seaports, there are more than 5,000 airports in this country alone that have paved runways. There are 47,000 shopping centers in the country, attracting, get this, nearly 200 million Americans every month. That's why this is such a big issue.
And if you talk about cyber attacks, another area we're worried about, almost 200 million internet users in this country. When we talk about target America, you can see Wolf the real problem is there are just so, so many targets, many industry analysts say you simply can't protect all of this. What you can do is try to develop intelligence that will stop the assaults before they reach any of these targets, not unlike what just happened in London -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Such a chilling, chilling thought. Thank you very much, Tom Foreman for that.
And remember to our viewers, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what he's got on tap at the top of the hour, Lou?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf thank you very much. Coming right up, we'll be reporting on the war in Iraq, a war that on average is killing two of our troops each day, 100 Iraqis each and every today. President Bush today strongly defending his conduct of this war. We'll have reports from the White House, Baghdad and the Pentagon.
Also Hezbollah claiming victory in the war with Israel, Israel says the conflict will continue for the foreseeable future despite the cease-fire.
We'll be going live to Lebanon and Israel for the very latest reports and the acting Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations joins us here tonight.
And we continue our exclusive reports on the Justice Department's decision to prosecute two border patrol agents while giving immunity to a Mexican drug smuggler. What is our government thinking about? We'll have that special report. We hope you'll be with us at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Wolf, back to you in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: Thank you, Lou. And still to come, will Iran help Hezbollah rearm? Warnings from Washington, a response from Tehran. We're inside Iran, that's coming up.
And in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour, with the latest security scare, what can you bring aboard an airliner? CNN's Jeanne Moos has a carry-on quiz for you. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Iran is closely watching events in Lebanon. But how closely is Iran involved in Lebanon? And how much might it be helping Hezbollah right now? Our Aneesh Raman is the only U.S. television network reporter in Iran right now, and you can see his reports only on CNN -- Aneesh.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in Iran, continued denial that the country is arming Hezbollah.
RAMAN (voice-over): For every Hezbollah rocket fired on northern Israel comes an allegation that it came from Iran, and now the head of the country's supreme national security council, in an exclusive interview with CNN, responds.
Is Iran at all arming Hezbollah?
TRANSLATION OF ALI LARIJANI, IRANIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Hezbollah does not need Iranian weapons. You can find anything on the market. The type of weapons Hezbollah uses are not that hard to find. And by the way, the Americans haven't admitted that they're supplying Israel with weapons.
RAMAN: It seems the Iranian strategy, for every question about their actions, comes a response that challenges the United States. When asked about comments made by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, that Iran is festering civil unrest there, Larijani said it was the opposite. LARIJANI: Yes, they want civil war. This is not an analysis. We have information. The same ambassador you just mentioned had a meeting not long ago with terrorist groups inside Iraq. He asked for three things - one, to aim their guns away from the U.S. forces, two, to aim their guns at the Iraqi Shias, and three, to aim their weapons at Iran.
RAMAN: A startling accusation he says came from Sunni insurgents. Interesting because Iran is a Shia nation. In Iran, there is no doubt this day that Hezbollah won the war, that Iran is now in a stronger regional position, and they feel the U.S. must respect that.
LARIJANI: I think the Americans are wise enough not to entangle themselves with Iran. They're still struggling in Iraq. What did they gain in Lebanon? Can anyone claim that Israel has won in Lebanon. Why should the U.S. act unwisely? We're prepared for all eventualities.
RAMAN: Including the August 31st deadline set by the United Nations for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment. Larijani says there are no plans to do that, leaving Iran on a collision course with the west.
RAMAN: Iran sees itself as, A, if not the rising power in the region and the main voice that can challenge the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Aneesh, thank you very much.
The bombs and the rockets have stopped falling here in the Middle East, but is there a clear winner in the war between Israel and Hezbollah? Joining us now from Washington, our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary William Cohen, he's a key member of our CNN Security Council and chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group back in Washington. Is there a clear winner in this 34-day-old war, Mr. Secretary?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well Wolf it's clear that we're in the spin zone right now, that each side will try to spin the story, so to speak, in a way that presents them as having benefited most from this conflict. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, it reminds me of the Jake Lamata story that was played by Robert DeNiro where he said, "You may have knocked me down, but you didn't knock me out."
So Hezbollah is going to claim victory in the sense that they're still standing. Israel by contrast can claim some measure of success, but if this peace accord holds as such with a fuse and becomes a permanent peace accord, then driving Hezbollah back away from the Israeli border in southern Lebanon, and providing a security zone for them, they can claim victory as well.
Right now I think the momentum or the spin zone is being won, that war is being won so far by Hezbollah, simply because they stood up to Israel and weren't militarily defeated. Something interesting and ironic about what has taken place, namely -- I'm sorry, go ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: No, I was going to say President Bush earlier today insists that Hezbollah was defeated in this war, and he specifically blamed Hezbollah backed by Syria and Iran for starting the war. I want you to listen to what the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told "CBS News'" Mike Wallace about the Bush administration. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN PRESIDENT: Please give him this message, sir -- those who refuse to accept an invitation to good will not have a good ending or fate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That sounds like a serious threat from a country, the U.S. and the Europeans and others accuse of trying to build a nuclear bomb. How serious would you take that kind of threat from Iran?
COHEN: I think any threat that comes from Iran has to be taken seriously, but in order to counter that, I think the United Nations really has to belly up to its responsibility, so to speak. You recall that it was in June that the U.N. said to Iran that it must not pursue its nuclear weapons objectives, or else face the possibility of sanctions and perhaps even more.
At that time, you and I had the discussion that were they trying to slow-roll it by saying we can't respond, we're going to study this until the end of August. And it appears that they have been studying it until the end of August and now saying we don't have any intention of responding, period. If the U.N. allows that to stand then for all practical purposes, the U.N. has lost any authority, moral or otherwise, in terms of imposing resolutions on given countries.
So I think it's a real challenge here that the U.N. has to measure up to. That means including China, Russia, as well as the other members of the security council. This is a very serious issue as far as Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
BLITZER: Is the U.N. up to policing, monitoring, disarming if you will, Hezbollah in the southern part of Lebanon under this expanded, beefed-up United Nations military presence?
COHEN: Well as we all know, the U.N. doesn't have a military force. It depends upon the contributing nations. I would expect that there will be NATO members and others who will be willing to commit troops and have very substantial rules of engagement that if a conflict breaks out, if they become targets, they will respond very seriously to any kind of provocation. That would have to be the situation.
That means those countries who have contributed armed forces to the NATO organization, and to others, including Indonesia, Malaysia, other countries who are now volunteering to send troops to the region. I think that if you have a substantial force backed up by very robust rules of engagement, they can in fact produce a cease-fire that will be lasting, that will benefit both Lebanon and Israel.
BLITZER: William Cohen, the former secretary of defense, thank you very much for joining us.
And one more note on Iran. The country strictly controls expression and access to the internet. And yet the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be taking a rather unusual step, launching, get this, his own web blog. Our internet reporter Jacki Schechner has details. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the president already had his own Web site in Farsi and English but now he has launched a separate blog in four languages -- Farsi, English, Arabic, and French. And while it's not very fancy, it does have some interesting features.
For example, on the left hand side there is a poll that asks if you think that the U.S. and Israel intended to trigger another world war by attacking Lebanon. With more than 30,000 votes in, 58 percent say no. There's only one entry so far, it is titled "autobiography." It runs more than 2,000 words and it is very hostile to the west in general, and the United States in particular. He calls the USA the great Satan USA like the Ayatollah Khomeini did.
Also on the site, there is an opportunity for you to comment, there's one in Farsi translated congratulating the president on his new site. But we tried to put in our own comments in English, and they just went off into the void. We couldn't find them any where online.
We spoke to two organizations today that track press freedoms around the world, and while neither one of them condemn the blog, they did condemn Iran for cracking down on free speech online, saying that Iran is known for torturing, threatening, detaining, arresting bloggers and journalists, those are their words. And Wolf, we just wanted to let you know that we can't confirm that the president actually wrote these words himself, but he does promise future entries, and we're going to keep an eye on the site and see what shows up.
BLITZER: I assume he has some speech writers on his staff as well. Thanks very much, Jacki for that.
Up ahead, the latest photos of Cuba's Fidel Castro. And a get well visitor, our internet team standing by to bring that to you.
And can new uniforms, yes uniforms, keep Iraqi insurgents from posing as Iraqi police? What the U.S. is doing about that. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Take a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow. First Nantucket, Rhode Island, a World War II veteran is joined by the mayor and U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy at a ceremony honoring "Victory over Japan Day."
Near Tyre, Lebanon, a woman cleans a mirror after returning to her home following the cease-fire with Israel.
South of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers march during a transfer ceremony.
And in Toronto, the former President Bill Clinton listens to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates speak at the 16th annual World Aids Conference. Some of the today's hot shots, pictures often worth 1,000 words.
Let's check in once again with CNN's Betty Nguyen, she's joining us with a closer look at some other important stories making news. Betty?
NGUYEN: High their Wolf. The U.S. military is unveiling a new tool aimed at foiling insurgents in Iraq who pose as police officers to carry out deadly attacks and kidnappings. It's unveiling a new Iraqi police uniform. Take a look. Officials say it has a special pattern that is very difficult to copy. Now the uniform should be available in October. The U.S. military also plans to change the markings on Iraqi police cars.
The U.S. military and Iraq's government, while they disagree about what caused a series of deadly explosions in a Baghdad Shiite neighborhood, dozens of people died when the blast turned a building into rubble yesterday. Iraq's prime minister blames car bombs or rocket attacks from a nearby Sunni neighborhood, but the U.S. military says a gas line explosion may have triggered the blast.
And a possible strain of bird flu has turned up in wild swans in Michigan, but federal health officials say initial tests show it is not the lethal H5N1 strain that's killed more than 100 people in Asia. Final test results are expected in about two weeks.
Former cross dressing pop star Boy George, take a look, had on a different kind of uniform today, shall we say. He put on an orange vest and a broom to sweep New York City streets. He's doing five days of court-ordered community service for falsely reporting a break-in at his apartment. As you can see, so many reporters swarmed him, police moved Boy George to a gated sanitation parking lot for the afternoon. Very interesting. There you go, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thank you, Betty. Betty Nguyen reporting.
Will a visit from one of Fidel Castro's key allies speed the Cuban leader's recovery? Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a trip to Cuba over the weekend to visit his bedridden friend. Now the pictures are showing up in Cuba's state-run newspaper. Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton standing by with details. Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're now seeing two sets of photos of the Cuban president appearing online, the most recent uploaded to the state run newspaper, Granma, and they show a bedridden Castro being visited by his friend and close ally there Hugo Chavez over the weekend on the occasion of Castro's 80th birthday. The caption reading unforgettable afternoon between brothers. And if you look around this photo gallery, you'll see that Castro's own brother is feature there, there is Raul.
Himself the subject of some speculation over the last couple of weeks, because he hadn't been seen in public. Now these pictures come a day after other photos were put online of the communist publication Rebel Youth, showing Castro clad in Adidas there. Now CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of any of these photos. In this one here, Castro is shown holding a recent newspaper, as if to say, look here, I'm still alive -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much. Coming up, Jack Cafferty, "The Cafferty File." His question, "Was the U.S. in on the planning of Israel's campaign against Hezbollah?" Jack Cafferty wondering about the implications of that. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty, he's in New York -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, Seymour Hersh writes in "The New Yorker" this week that Israel came up with its plans for attacking Hezbollah and shared them with the Bush administration before the July 12th kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers. The White House is strongly denying the report. The question we asked is, "What does it mean if the United States was involved in the planning of Israel's attacks on Hezbollah?"
We heard from Mike in New York, "It means hopefully the United States has learned from Israel's mistakes and will be able to do a better job when they finally take out Iran."
Michael in Cleveland, Ohio, "It means the administration's following through on its promise to congress, the U.S. public and the world to seek out and destroy terrorist groups and those who harbor and support them."
Dave in Vancouver, "An invincible army takes on guerrilla fighters in a foreign land, gets bogged down, apologizes repeatedly for tragic civilian deaths, claims victory and then stays there any way. Does anybody actually believe the U.S. didn't have a hand in this?"
Mike in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, "It means the U.S. took twenty some years to do what Reagan was afraid to do when our Marines were killed in Lebanon in 1983."
Kevin in Fort Walton Beach, "I wouldn't care if the U.S. helped Israel in their war; Iran and Syria are helping Hezbollah, so what's the difference? We need to help any country that wants to rid this world of these morons. I really pray the civilized world can snuff these groups out before our children's generation has to deal with them too."
Nick writes from Houston, Texas, "It means the Bush administration is just as incompetent planning other country's military operations as they are planning ours." That's harsh.
And if you didn't see your e-mail here, we invite you to go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, you can read more of them online. I got one from a guy who said, "Welcome back form vacation, I have a very difficult time thinking of you enjoying yourself." Not sure what to make of that, Wolf?
BLITZER: I hope you did enjoy yourself. You know, it's interesting, staying here and watching the recriminations begin in Israel as a result of this 34-day-old war reminds me to a certain degree of the recriminations we heard in the United States as far as the Iraq war is concerned. Briefly, what do you think, Jack?
CAFFERTY: Well I don't know. But I hear rumor changes may be coming in the Israeli government as a result of all this. So it's going to be interesting to watch.
BLITZER: All right Jack, we'll continue this in an hour. Let's go to Lou in New York, Lou?
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