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THIS WEEK AT WAR

This Week at War

Aired August 20, 2006 - 13:00   ET

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


(NEWS BREAK)
ZAIN VERJEE, ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: This week in Lebanon, the bombs stopped dropping, the rockets stopped flying, the guns fell silent, but in Iraq, the deadly carnage continues. The war, bloodier, the politics even messier. Are we seeing a shift in power in this troubled region? If so, what does it mean for U.S. troops in Iraq and is there a greater danger of a new terror attack here at home? I'm Zain Verjee, filling in for John Roberts. Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day. Monday, as the shaky U.N. cease fire takes hold, civilians on both sides of the Lebanese border head home to assess the damage and mourn their losses.

Tuesday, another suspect arrested in Britain as the investigation continues into an alleged plot to blow up U.S. airliners. Wednesday, Israeli forces begin to leave Lebanon, abandoning their positions to U.N. troops. Thursday, a pair of car bombs in Baghdad leave 10 dead, as the civilian death toll rises to its highest level ever. Friday, U.N. diplomats scramble to find troops to enforce the cease-fire in Lebanon, after France, who had been expected to lead the effort, committed only a token force. "This Week at War."

It's clear who lost the war, the battered civilians caught in the cross-fire on both sides, but who really won the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, and can this fragile cease fire really hold? Joining me to discuss this, Jim Clancy in Beirut, Chris Lawrence in northern Israel and our CNN military analyst, retired Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, here with me in Washington. As soon as the fighting stopped, civilians on both sides took stock of a very uncertain future. We have reports from Chris Lawrence in Israel and Ben Wedeman in Lebanon.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Evidence of the war is everywhere, including the craters from Katyusha rockets buried in the middle of busy streets. This woman was hit by a rocket, just hours before the cease fire took effect. Dana (INAUDIBLE) says the Katyushas damaged more than just her body. They punctured a myth that she and other Israelis were safe from Hezbollah.

TRANSLATOR: They could fire Katyushas any day. The kids are outside playing. It's frightening. It's very hard to go back to routine.

LAWRENCE: Four-year-old Ali is going home, in the back of the family pickup. Down the street, Ali's grandmother, 80-year old (INAUDIBLE), struggles up the steps to the ruins of her home. In a daze, she goes from room to room. She's lived here for decades. Where am I going to go, she mutters to herself.

VERJEE: Let's go to Jim Clancy first in Beirut. Jim, from what you've been able to see and assess, how are Lebanese civilians trying to put together their lives?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, with the help of Hezbollah, Hezbollah funneling in huge amounts of cash. It is said to be coming from Iran some $600 million to $700 million. One source telling me this money is being handed out in $12,000 chunks. We saw some of it going out today in the southern suburbs. This is a huge amount of cash. This is double, three times what the people in that area normally make. So Hezbollah trying to buy its way out of the grumbling on the streets. But this was a stupid war. It was really the result of a kidnapped capture stunt on the border and stunt is just how some Lebanese describe it, really a waste of life, a waste of infrastructure, a lot of bitterness about the war. Hezbollah trying to buy itself, along with Iran, back into favor here. Zain?

VERJEE: Chris Lawrence in northern Israel, who won the war? How is it being presented on both sides?

LAWRENCE: Well, I spoke with some Israeli officers who say, at the end of this fight, we're still going to be in this neighborhood and Hezbollah will be north of the Litani River in Lebanon. They consider that a victory, but when you talk to some of the Israeli people, the damage to their psyche has been very severe. People just saying that they just had no idea that they were that vulnerable to this kind of attack and that's something they're going to have to deal with for a lot of months, maybe even years to come.

VERJEE: General, is a cease fire going to hold?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, US ARMY (RET): The cease fire will hold only if a certain number of conditions take place. First of all, Israel will not abandon positions in the south. There will be a very deliberate relief in place between the international force that comes in and what that looks like, and the Israeli forces, and the next thing is, the key issue is, what will those international forces look like, and what will be their rules of engagement? Will they be able to get in between potentially warring factions or are they to report, observe and surveil?

VERJEE: Jim Clancy in Beirut, where do we stand on the international forces, and where do we stand, too, on the movements of the Lebanese army?

CLANCY: Well, the Lebanese army moving into position very quickly. They're not of much value, I think as most people have heard now, but they do have political significance. They are of value to the Lebanese people. And let me say, I don't think it really depends on the military force whether the cease-fire holds. It's really up to the U.S. and Israel on one side and Iran and Hezbollah on the other. It's going to hold just as long as they want it to hold. I think that means they're not going to have an exchange of missiles and bombs between the two nations any time soon. Both have been too badly burned. Now, what we're seeing really on the ground is, nobody wants to come. Nobody wants to commit the troops. There isn't the right conditions on the ground for it. They don't have the right authorizations and you're just seeing a trickle of forces being committed.

VERJEE: Chris Lawrence in northern Israel, what about that, the reality on the ground. What are Israeli officials telling you about the kind of confidence they have in any force on the ground?

LAWRENCE: Well, Israel has been very clear that, unless that U.N. force is in place to the strength that has been described in that U.N. Security Council resolution, they will not pull out of south Lebanon entirely. I spoke with one woman who runs her business literally right on the border. She can look over the hill and see Lebanon and she said that she has no faith that the Lebanese army will force Hezbollah to disarm and she is very, very worried. She does not like any kind of a future picture with the Lebanese army in control of that area without Israeli troops. She feels she's very, very scared of that prospect.

VERJEE: Karl Penhaul earlier this week spoke to someone in Hezbollah. We don't ordinarily get an opportunity to do that, but he did, and here's what was said.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were hiding in the houses and lived on what food was available. We'd tell the Israelis, they're welcome to try again, but next time, we will resist forever he says. This poster of Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah hangs like a battle scarred symbol of that resistance. Most of the fighters in the village are now in civilian clothes and have hidden their weapons. They don't want to be filmed. (INAUDIBLE) tells me he and 60 of his comrades held off Israeli tanks, aircraft and around 150 soldiers for a month.

VERJEE: The disarming of Hezbollah General said to be one of the hottest issues out there on the table and also the issue that Hezbollah may have infiltrated the Lebanese army, of which there are many sympathizers, it's said. How do you see the situation?

MARKS: Well, first of all, Hezbollah will not be disarmed. Iran will continue to resupply. That will take -- that's normal. That will occur, and there certainly will be Lebanese and there are Lebanese sympathizers within the Lebanese army for Hezbollah. So the separation of those forces is going to be very difficult to monitor.

VERJEE: General "Spider" Marks, Chris Lawrence and Jim Clancy, thanks so much for joining us at "This Week at War."

Next we turn to the home front and whether the United States is any safer, after almost five years after 9/11.

But first the human cost of fighting in the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALEZ: We're going to do everything that we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue because it is effective, has been effective in protecting America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez reacting to Thursday's ruling against warrantless surveillance of terrorist suspects, but will this be enough? What else needs to be done? Why is the U.S. still apparently so vulnerable to terrorism, five years after 9/11? Joining me to discuss this, homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve in New Orleans, and here with me in Washington, White House correspondent Ed Henry, and former deputy director of the CIA and CNN national security adviser John McLaughlin. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs-Taylor (ph) issued a decision rejecting the government's argument that warrants were not required to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists. She wrote this: The government appears to argue here that because the president is designated commander in chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress, but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution itself. There are no heredity kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. Ed to you, first. How much of a setback is this for the Bush administration?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Short-term, there is no doubt, this is a slap at the president of the United States, especially coming on the heels of the Supreme Court recently saying in the (INAUDIBLE) decision that in terms of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the president does not have a blank check in the war on terror. But in the long- term, Republicans are privately very happy about this decision because they're willing to frame the November mid-term elections all about terrorism and they think both legally and politically, the president is on the right side, by defending the surveillance program that, they feel the American people need to be safe, especially in the wake of this foiled British terror plot.

VERJEE: That's the politics. Let's talk about the people and let's go to Jeanne Meserve in New Orleans. Jeanne, you've done a lot of good reporting on this story. How should Americans view this? Is this a program that made them safer?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the crux of the argument. The administration would say this is a program that makes them safer. It's a program that we need to detect terrorism, to prevent terrorist acts, but then you have people on the other side saying no. The tools the administration has now are absolutely adequate to the job and it's very doubtful that you get those two camps to have a meeting of the minds.

VERJEE: What do you think, John? You've been on the inside track. You know what's going on. You've seen things that we haven't. How should Americans view that? Are warrantless wiretaps necessary for national security?

JOHN McLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The kind of wiretaps that were authorized under this program were essential, did help in the fight on terrorism and I strongly believe continue to be very essential.

VERJEE: Let's talk a little bit about another big story this week, the foiled British plot. Ed, how did the president handle that this week? How did he harness that for his own political capital?

HENRY: Very quickly, he jumped on it to defend the very terror program that this Federal judge slapped down and tried to shut down. The bottom line is that the president is pouncing on the foiled British terror plot to say this surveillance program is the very kind of tool he needs to conduct a good, effective war on terror. You're going to hear Democrats complaining about that and raising civil liberties concerns, but again, this plays right into the Karl Rove playbook that Republicans think won the 2002 and 2004 elections, focus on the war on terror.

VERJEE: Jeanne Meserve, what can you tell us about British terror laws versus terror laws here in this country.

MESERVE: They're quite different. There are certain sorts of surveillance that they could conduct and probably one thing that people have keyed in on this past week, is the fact that the British authorities can hold a suspect for 28 days without charging them. Here they have to be charged within 48 hours. The administration right now is doing a side by side comparison to see which system is better, what they might be able to draw from the British system. When it comes to this matter of the 28 days, being able to hold them, most experts inside government and outside say that's a non-starter here. It's not going to happen with our Constitution as it is.

VERJEE: When we talk about the issue of home-grown terrorism, John, I'm wondering if you can shed some light. We see it happen in Britain. How much of a danger is there of that happening here in the United States and how is it being addressed?

McLAUGHLIN: I think the danger of that happening in the United States is somewhat less than in Britain or even Canada.

VERJEE: Why?

McLAUGHLIN: We tend to assimilate people I think more effectively. In the British case of course, you've got approximately 1.6 million Muslims, about 500,000 Pakistanis, most of whom have arrived in the period since the end of World War II. This is a phenomenon true across Europe as a whole. I don't want to minimize, though the danger to the United States. I'm just saying that I think, in fact this plot shows us once again that the United States is still the brass ring. Why would a bunch of British terrorists, British- raised terrorists be targeting the United States? I think increasingly as we learn about this plot, it begins to have a more convincing al Qaeda character to it. So I don't want to minimize the danger to the United States. If anything, this plot shows we are still at danger. I don't think this plot by virtue of being disrupted is over. The British are investigating a lot more other people and plots and so I think we need to be on our toes. VERJEE: So you're saying we're not necessarily safer than we were five years ago?

McLAUGHLIN: I would say we are safer than we were five years ago by virtue of the fact that this plot was disrupted.

VERJEE: OK, right.

McLAUGHLIN: But these guys are still trying to attack us and they only have to get through once, of course.

VERJEE: Where, Jeanne Meserve, is it said that the greatest vulnerabilities are here in the United States?

MESERVE: That depends who you talk to. Everybody has their list. But there are some things that come up over and over again, chemical plants, security, port security, cyber security. Those are the big three you hear about, and of course, despite all the money that's been spent, just this week, more questions about aviation security and whether we've gotten bang for our buck there.

VERJEE: Some good perspective from Jeanne Meserve, Ed Henry and John McLaughlin. Thank you so much.

In a moment, we'll turn to Iraq, and new efforts to bring safety to the streets there, coming up on "This Week at War."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR GEN. JOSEPH PETERSON, CIVILIAN POLICE TRAINING TEAM: As you can see, it's a digital pattern, very similar to U.S. Army green uniform, but as you look very closely, embedded into the pattern is the Iraqi flag.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: This week, Iraq's police forces got a glimpse of their new work clothes. They were unveiled on Monday in Baghdad. In theory they will be harder to copy, making it less likely that death squads can pose as police.

Anything would help. Iraqi officials reported this week that more than 3,400 Iraqi civilians were killed last month. That makes July the deadliest month of the insurgency. With these statistics, are Iraqis any closer to being ready to stand up in the words of the Bush administration and how much further off is the day when the U.S. military can stand down?

With us from Baghdad, Michael Ware, from the Pentagon, Barbara Starr and in our New York bureau, Jane Arraf of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former CNN Baghdad bureau chief. Thanks to you all for joining us. Michael Ware in Baghdad, to you first. Over the past months, it appears that the insurgency has gained momentum. What is the reality on the ground? What is your assessment? MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much the insurgency is still here and in fact, many in the U.S. military would argue that it's picked up pace. I mean let's just take four days this week from Monday to Thursday. We saw more than 200 IEDs or roadside bombs detonated. That's in four days. Over that same period, there were 10 car bombs. This is three years into the war where one would have expected, according to military predictions, that things would be improving, not worsening. That's one part of this war. Another part of this war is the sectarian strife, the civil war. That has definitely picked up steam and that's accounting for the bulk of these civilian deaths, which has reached horrific proportions.

VERJEE: Jane Arraf, how should we understand that issue that's fueling the situation to such horrific proportions, the sectarian issue in Iraq?

JANE ARRAF, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think, Zain what, we're finally seeing is some acknowledgment with those new uniforms, with statements from General Abizaid and other military officials here that this is really a very complicated, almost intractable problem. You'll remember for the longest time they didn't even say the word insurgency and now what we're seeing is an attempt to pin down and fight increasingly sectarian violence. They've done a pretty good job on al Qaeda, on foreign fighters. They found that home rooted, increasingly entrenched insurgency much more difficult to tackle.

VERJEE: Because it's so difficult to tackle, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, a lot of people on the ground saying you know what, there's already a civil war on the ground in Iraq. The Bush administration has rejected that notion and says you know, there is no civil war. What is the assessment of military officials that you've spoken to?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's very much what Michael and Jane are already saying. The U.S. military believes that now the number one problem is sectarian violence in Iraq, in contrast with the insurgency, the Baathists, the Saddamists that they had been dealing with, the Sunni insurgency for so long. Now they really do feel it's sectarian violence backed by various elements of al Qaeda in Iraq. What to do about it remains a very difficult problem. Nobody's got any real new ideas on it. Stay the course seems to be it and as for civil war, the military says officially it's not a civil war. They do believe the government is holding, that the government does control the security institutions and forces in the country, but the violence on the street is a very difficult problem.

VERJEE: One of the new ideas out there, Michael Ware, that's proving to be extremely controversial is this idea that local committees should be set up in different areas, where the Shias protect and patrol their own neighborhood. The Sunnis will protect and patrol their own neighborhood and in mixed areas, you have mixed patrols. What is the sense on the ground? Would that fuel or prevent more sectarian violence from escalating?

WARE: Honestly, it's not a new development. These things sprung up a long time ago, ad hoc, street by street. In some places they're called night guards. Otherwise it's just like a local militia group or vigilante group, simply protecting their homes. This is rooted in some basis. We saw elements within the original CPA led by Paul Bremer and elements of the CIA, experiment with divesting power, just like Saddam did, to local groups, local sheikhs, local tribal identities or power blocs. We also saw Saddam doing this, decentralizing power in this way. I mean this has some similarities the way security is maintained or not in Afghanistan and other places. So this really is not a new development. The military is acknowledging it publicly is the only development. These facts have been here clear and evident on the ground for a long time. It's only now that the military's rhetoric is catching up with the insurgency and the reality of the sectarian violence.

VERJEE: Jane Arraf, what should the Prime Minister Nuri al Malaki do to address some of that and deliver real security to Iraqis?

ARRAF: Well, he is obviously in a really tough position when we talk about the government holding. We're seeing cracks, the threatened resignation of the Sunni speaker of parliament, for instance. So as to what he can do, his hands are tied to some extent, because he does have a relatively fragile coalition there. But I believe that what they're doing now with the insertion of some more U.S. troops and there aren't a whole lot of them to put into there, into Baghdad and particularly trained advisers, U.S. advisers, whether they're military police or U.S. soldiers with those Iraqi forces, will try to ease the potential that some of those forces are actually going out and inflicting violence themselves.

VERJEE: To the Pentagon and to Barbara Starr. Nuri al Maliki said recently Iraqi forces are prepared to take over security in some areas in Iraq from the U.S. How are the military commanders seeing that on the ground? Is that a benchmark that they're using to gauge their success on the ground?

STARR: Well, having the Iraqi army take over certain areas is one issue but U.S. military commanders believe that until the problem of the Shia death squads and that is what they call them, and the infiltration of the militia movement into the security services, the ministry of interior security services and the police services across Iraq, until you solve that and you have the loyalty of those people, that the change in violence will not be substantial and that that will keep the Iraqi forces from really taking over in a substantial way.

VERJEE: Barbara Starr, Jane Arraf and Michael Ware, thanks so much for joining us.

This week we remember Joseph Tomci. To the town of Stowe, Ohio, the loss of Corporal Tomci was the loss of a real life hero. While serving in Iraq, Joe Tomci exchanged letters with a second grade class back home. He even stopped by on leave.

BEN KOCH, PEN PAL: I think he's one of our great heroes.

VERJEE: The children who met and admired Tomci are now learning about sorrow, but that won't last forever. TRACY PRIATT, TEACHER, FISHCREEK ELEMENTARY: Joe will always be in their hearts so he will live on forever and he will change the world and that's what he wanted to do.

VERJEE: Corporal Joseph Tomci served with the second Marine division. He was killed on the 2nd of August by a roadside bomb in Iraq's Anbar province.

When we return, we'll get the latest headlines and then a guided tour of the war zone in south Lebanon.

But first a look at some of those who fell in this week at war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. ALON BEJA, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: Yesterday, you fought against someone and he tried to harm you and you tried to harm him. Now you see the same guy 50 meters from you, so better that they will be away from us and we will be away from them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Lebanon, south of the Litani River -- if there was an interstate highway there, you could cross it in about 11 minutes. It's so small an area that even as they draw apart, Israelis have Hezbollah guerrillas are still far too close for comfort.

How will any cease-fire be enforced?

Here to explain that is CNN's military analyst, retired Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks.

You know, the whole idea of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 essentially is between the Israeli border and the Litani River.

If they clear that out of fighters and of weapons, except for the presence of the Lebanese Army and of UNIFIL, give us a sense, a little bit, on the ground, what the distances are, what the terrain is like.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Zane, what you have in this area is 23 miles by 15 miles in this boxed area, which is most important. When you look at the entire buffer zone, what you have is 574 square miles.

Now, what's significant about this is that within this terrain, Zane, there are about 103 villages that dominate this entire area. Now, within each one of those villages you are 200 to 300 personnel, maybe, for an entire about 30,000.

Now, connecting each one of these villages, there's a very elaborate road network.

Now, what that means for the soldier on the ground is that this takes manpower to control each one of these villages and to conduct controls along those roads to ensure that Hezbollah doesn't get back into South Lebanon.

VERJEE: And the kind of manpower we're talking about, 15,000 Lebanese Army troops that they're looking for, a 15,000 strong international force.

Give us a sense, firstly, about Lebanese troop movements that are coming into the region.

MARKS: The Lebanese forces right now primarily are coming into this very shortened area up here in the vicinity of Kayem (ph). And that's where they are now beginning to replace the Israeli forces. But it's not an entire replacement. Israel will look very closely at the condition of those Lebanese forces and they will not abandon any of their locations until there is some degree of confidence that the Lebanese forces can do some good and can assure the Israelis that there isn't just a wanton return of the Hezbollah fighters.

VERJEE: What about the U.N.-led international force?

Give us a sense of some of the challenges that they're going to encounter on the ground and also what's not clear is the rules of engagement and the mix of that force.

MARKS: Zane, you made a very good point early on, and that is that nations are now scrambling to make contributions to this force. In a military arrangement, you don't want anybody to scramble and then to build the team and then go execute the game plan on a bunch of thrown together peace parts. That's what's going to come together here unless there is an effort to really normalize the type of relationships these forces are going to have and establish some standard operating procedures. Or we're going to be all over the map with guys doing a bunch of different things.

VERJEE: Well, you can see on the map, there will be 13 existing U.N. outposts.

What about disarming Hezbollah? I mean are they going to be able to do it? I mean is this the kind of force that's capable of doing that? And even in terms of its numbers, I mean even if you compare it to other missions, how does it stand?

MARKS: Yes, the disarmament of Hezbollah is the major problem. These U.N. forces that are coming in will not be given, I don't think, the authorization to put hands on and to remove stuff. What's going to have to happen is Hezbollah is going to have to come forward and drop off the weapons...

VERJEE: And they've said that we're not going to do it.

MARKS: They're not going to do that. And then you have to assume that they're going to resupply and that Iran is still in the game.

VERJEE: OK, general, thank you so much. Some good prospective.

Thank you.

MARKS: Thank you.

VERJEE: Thank you.

In a moment, we're going to take a step back for a broader perspective of the Middle East and the effect the recent cease-fires have had on the balance of power here on THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem in the Middle East today is not that people lack the desire for freedom. The problem is that young democracies that they have established are still vulnerable to terrorists and their sponsors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: President Bush speaking at the State Department on Monday. The United States is committed to developing strong democracies living in peace in the Middle East.

But has this happened? Is the Middle East any safer? Or has this recent conflict made it much more dangerous?

Aneesh Raman joins us via broadband from Tehran in Iran. From Beirut, Lebanon, CNN's Jim Clancy and Michael Young, opinion editor of the Lebanese newspaper "The Daily Star." He's also written for the "New York Times Magazine."

On Tuesday, Aneesh reported on how the leaders of at least two Middle East countries celebrated the cease-fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Syria and Iran have grown closer by the day during the war. Now, their leaders clearly think they are growing stronger, as well. In response to talks from U.S. officials of a new Middle East, Ahmadinejad declared his own view, saying Middle East nations are wide awake and they also envision a new Middle East, but one that is free of United States and British domination.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: To Jim Clancy first in Beirut -- Jim, the Bush administration has really made the policy of bringing democracy to the Middle East one of its centerpieces.

How should Americans understand the success or failure of that policy in the region? JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Giving it a new name like the new Middle East, this is another policy -- you know, successive administrations have tried to sell this. I sat down at the home up in the Shuf Mountains of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt this week. And he said it's all a failure. It's a facade. The U.S. has failed repeatedly to address the issue of the Palestinians' rights.

He said they're the subject of aggression daily. The entire Arab world sees it. They see the lack of balance in U.S. policy and they see that successive governments in the U.S. successive administrations failed to address the problem. They try to go over it. They don't accept a democracy as when Hamas was elected in the Palestinian territories. And they see a double standard here.

So he says that's the real problem. That's why it's failing and that's why he and so many others see Iran spreading their influence now not only into Iraq, they see is spreading in Syria and, of course, here in Lebanon.

It's Iran that's becoming more powerful. It is shaping the Middle East today more than the United States.

VERJEE: Michael Young, is that how you see it?

What are some of the regional calculations that you observe?

MICHAEL YOUNG, OPINION EDITOR, "THE DAILY STAR": I think that there is certainly some truth there. On the other hand, the fact is that in Iran, in Syria, these are deeply undemocratic regimes and the idea that democracy -- that America is screwing up the democratic message is certainly true, in part. There are double standards.

On the other hand, this has become an essential part of the region's future. And I think that perhaps in the future, any new administration will have to take this into consideration, even if it does improve the methods of spreading this democratic message.

VERJEE: Aneesh Raman in Tehran, you were in Damascus before. You're now in Tehran.

What's your perspective from there?

RAMAN: Well, I think we are seeing, as you heard in the report, Iran and Syria grow closer. They see themselves growing stronger. When the Iranian president talks, it's important to note, as well, he's always speaking to two audiences. One is his domestic base of support among the hard-line conservatives in Iran.

The other, though, is the broader Muslim world. He has undeniable allegiance on the streets of Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, in Iraq, as well. There's a Shia geographic belt that spreads and that they share support.

So he sees himself as really the defining voice of disenfranchised Muslims worldwide who see the U.S. policy in Iraq as a failure and who are worried that that is going to spread further. And that is what he's tapped into.

And that is, in a large sense, his base of support. It is, in part, why Syria has become not an obvious ally -- a secular state there, theocratic here -- a closer friend of Iran. They see themselves as a voice of the Arab street and the Muslim street at a time when a lot of Arab and Muslim leaders did not, at the beginning, come out against Hezbollah.

But these two countries did -- did not come out in favor of Hezbollah. These two countries did -- Zane.

VERJEE: Jim Clancy in Beirut, you've spent an enormous amount of time in this region. You know it well. You know the people and the culture well.

What do you think are their perceptions of Israel after this war, the image of Israel, you know, often seen as invulnerable? Has it changed?

CLANCY: Oh, absolutely it's changed. There's been a realization here that you can stand up to Israel. You can, if not defeat them, draw them down to a stalemate, make them bleed and make them want to get out, make them want to withdraw. That was a message that went not only here in Lebanon, right across the Arab street around the Middle East.

This is where Iran and its ideology of confrontation with Israel is getting new subscribers all over the Middle East. This is where one of the problems really remains to be solved, to be answered, even, by the West.

VERJEE: Michael Young, what's the reality of Hezbollah today, after the war? And what are the perceptions of it in the region?

YOUNG: Well, there's a difference between the reality of Hezbollah and the perception. The perception, of course, as Jim was saying, is that they were successful in this military battle in the south.

The reality, of course, is rather different. My own reading of Hezbollah's performance in the last month is that it actually lost. It's a net loser in what happened. Had, a month ago, you told Hassan Nasrallah that he would have the Lebanese Army in the south, that hundreds of thousands of Shiites would be, essentially, returning to destroyed villages, that Hezbollah would have to take care of them; had you told him that, in effect, the deterrence against Israel would have been lost, had you told him that international forces would be in South Lebanon and much more, I think he would not have, in fact, launched that abandon of two Israelis a month ago.

But the fact is that Hezbollah has successfully managed to sell its good performance in the south as a military victory.

VERJEE: OK...

YOUNG: But, overall, Lebanon is a net loser and I think Hezbollah is, too.

VERJEE: Aneesh Raman in Tehran, Aneesh, Iran is a center of Shia power. A lot of Sunni Arab leaders a little bit nervous about what they say is an extension of the growth of Shia power in the region.

How does that play into the geopolitical calculations today?

RAMAN: Well, I think early into this conflict we saw the U.S. trying to use Saudi Arabia as a balancing force with Syria to get them away from Iran. That didn't really work as the war went on. Iran is stepping in where it sees a void. And it is bringing Shias and Sunnis alike, the largest support among Shias, to challenge the West -- Zane.

VERJEE: Aneesh Raman in Tehran, Michael Young and Jim Clancy for us in Beirut, thanks so much.

It was only six days after 9/11 when President Bush made this promise to the people of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I want justice. And there's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said "Wanted: Dead or Alive."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: When we come back, we'll look at Osama bin Laden -- almost five years later, still at large.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda -- today, there are few in the United States, probably few in the world, that don't know those names.

It was a different story in August of 1998 when al Qaeda first struck against the U.S. with the aid of an American soldier.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Two American embassies, two truck bombs. Two terrorist attacks just nine minutes apart in neighboring countries along the coast, Kenya and Tanzania. More than 200 dead. More than 4,000 injured.

Who was behind this carnage and why?

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: We get their faces torn off the building. It looks like a tornado has gone through and sucked every piece of furniture out of every room and into the hallways.

AMANPOUR: Within eight days there were leads and suspects and a stunning realization. Osama bin Laden had lived up to his threat. His al Qaeda terrorists had just struck their first direct blow in their holy war against the United States. The attacks were carefully planned. ALI MOHAMMED, AL QAEDA OPERATIVE: My name is Ali Mohammed.

AMANPOUR: This man, Ali Mohammed, was no ordinary al Qaeda operative. He married a Californian in 1985 and became an American citizen. He joined the U.S. Army and eventually would help train U.S. Special Forces. He appears here on a military panel.

MOHAMMED: The fundamentalist, it means that the people they try to establish an Islamic state based on the Islamic Sharia.

AMANPOUR: In 1988, still serving in the U.S. Army, Ali Mohammed made an unauthorized trip to Afghanistan. He joined the war against the Russians being fought by Afghan militias and Mujahedeen like Osama bin Laden. Yet, the very next year, he received an honorable discharge from the U.S. military.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Ali Mohammed is a very interesting character. He's sort of like a double agent. At the same time that he was a U.S. Army sergeant and actually working at Special Forces headquarters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he was also intimately involved with al Qaeda, training Osama bin Laden's bodyguards.

DAN COLEMAN, FORMER FBI AGENT: Ali Mohammed had done what they call casing of the American embassy in Nairobi in December of 1993, a five year span between casing and operation.

AMANPOUR: And listen to what Ali Mohammed said in a U.S. call.

MOHAMMED: My surveillance files and photographs were reviewed by Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden looked at the picture of the American embassy and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: For much more on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, make sure you join us on Wednesday night -- that's the 23rd of August, for a "CNN PRESENTS" special investigation -- "IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BIN LADEN."

Our team traveled to four continents and 10 countries to learn more about the real Osama bin Laden and his influence on those who do his deadly bidding.

That's Wednesday, the 23rd of August, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, here only on CNN.

Coming up, will there ever be justice from the Kurdish men, women and children who died from Saddam's poison gas attacks?

THIS WEEK AT WAR returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: Here are a few of the stories we'll be watching next week. On Monday, Saddam Hussein will go on trial again, this time for the murder of as many as 100,000 Kurds in the 1980s, some killed by poison gas on the streets of their villages.

And on Tuesday, Iran has said it will make a formal response to an offer by six major world powers announcing whether or not it will halt its nuclear enrichment program in return for a package of incentives.

Finally, if you, like most of us, wonder how a cease-fire could ever take hold in the war torn Middle East, here's an instructive story. When the Israeli Army took the city of Mazyun (ph) last week, they captured a Lebanese military base. This videotape, shot and edited by an Israeli, shows the commanding general greeting the Israelis and offering them tea.

The Israelis spend the day with the Lebanese and then release them. It may well only be a story, one that can easily be used for political advantage on both sides. Lebanon and Israel are not friends. In fact, they are officially enemies. Lebanon has never signed a peace deal with Israel. But on this day, whatever the political and military motives may have been here, they talked over tea, a brief interlude of camaraderie in a war that has brought nothing but grief.

Thanks so much for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR.

I'm Zain Verjee filling in for John Roberts.

Straight ahead, a check of the headlines.

And then "CNN PRESENTS: TERROR 2.0."

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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