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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Hunting Down Al Qaeda That Have Slipped Out Of Baghdad; Defending Against Cyberattack; Iran Bracing for Military Confrontation with U.S.? North Korea to Shut Down the Pyongyang Nuclear Reactor
Aired June 24, 2007 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: It's one of the biggest military operations since the invasion. Thousands of coalition troops and their Iraqi allies have gone on the offensive.
But the enemy is striking back. An enormous car bomb leaves dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Are we seeing the final round in the battle for Baghdad? THIS WEEK AT WAR, right after this quick look at what's in the news right now.
MCINTYRE: I'm Jamie McIntyre. Here's where we are going in THIS WEEK AT WAR, we'll ask Aneesh Raman, in Tehran, about disturbing new reports that Iran is supporting terrorists in Iraq.
Ben Wedeman has gone into Gaza where the situation is getting worse as Israeli jets retaliate for Hamas rockets.
State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee reports on what could be a break through on North Korea's nuclear weapons.
General Spider Marks on why the U.S. and NATO are finally dealing with the dangers of cyberwar.
But first, Karl Penhaul is back in Baghdad after being embedded with the troops fighting a new military offensive. One that's too close to call as tactical objectives are being met, but casualties are rising, THIS WEEK AT WAR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired from the roof top!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two-hundred meters!
KARL PENHAUL, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): No casualties, the Iraqi police have held their own.
SPC. JORDAN DOWNS, U.S. ARMY: That's a huge step. I never even seen that. Usually it's just spray and pray with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: That was Karl Penhaul embedded with U.S. and Iraqi troops under fire on Thursday in Samarra. This time Iraqi troops stood and fought with their U.S. allies. Across central Iraq, this week, coalition troops and Iraqi forces went after insurgents in their strongholds. But haven't we seen this before? In Ramadi? In Fallujah? What makes this different?
Karl Penhaul is in our Baghdad bureau; my colleague Barbara Starr is holding down the fort at the Pentagon; and with me, in Washington, Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Karl, let's start with you. It's been quite a week. Give us your perspective from the front lines. How's it going?
PENHAUL: Well, we've been in both Baqubah, which is now the center of operations for a new U.S. offensive, and as you saw from some of those pictures, we were in the city of Samarra. You can see from both those locations the insurgency is very much alive and well.
The two characteristics you can say are happening in both these locations, is that the insurgency remains a very elusive enemy, it remains very difficult for the U.S. military to pin down, to capture, and to kill. We see more often than not insurgent cells popping up, grabbing weapons from safe houses, taking a few shots at the military, slowing the advance, maybe wounding or killing one or two soldiers, and then pulling out. It's a very frustrating enemy in both locations for the U.S. military to fight, Jamie.
MCINTYRE: Well, this operation is being commanded by Lieutenant General Ray Odierno. Let's hear what he said in a CNN interview this week about how this operation was going. This was on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO, MULTI-NAT'L. CORPS-IRAQ: I would say 60 to 90 days from now, we can give an initial assessment on how well the surge is doing. In order to comment on the surge now, in my mind, it's much too premature. Because it is just now beginning in its full glory.
MCINTYRE: Just beginning in its full glory. Barbara Starr, Ray Odierno talked to reporters again on Friday. Give us an update of how he thinks things are going?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what General Odierno said is there going fairly well. He does think there's one crucial difference this time -- that's that U.S. troop also stay in this areas, he says, until he is certain that Iraqi forces can really move in, take over, and assure continued security.
He said it's way too soon to make that final judgment, but that he hopes it may be possible he could recommend a U.S. troop reduction sometime this spring, Jamie.
MCINTYRE: Michael O'Hanlon, as we said at the top, we heard this before, we soon it before. What is different this time?
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, the main thing is that we have a doctrine that is trying to secure neighborhoods, one by one. If we don't succeed in that I'm not so sure this theory of passing along the process to the Iraqis is that compelling. Because, frankly, if we can't do it, why can they?
Even if in theory they could continue the fight with less American role, if the whole mission is going to fail, even with Americans in the lead, I doubt Iraqis can turn it around either. We're going to have to see some improvement in the security environment and the talk about the transition from U.S. to Iraqi lead role in the security operations is not enough to make me think we're being successful, or even seeing the initial signs of hopefulness. That's the main concern I have.
MCINTYRE: Karl Penhaul, I know it's hard to get the big picture when you're right there in the thick of the action. But what's your impression about whether this strategy is working this time?
PENHAUL: We certainly got a glimpse of that, you're right, maybe it's not the whole picture, maybe it's not the whole of Iraq, but certainly the situation when we saw those Iraqi police fighting alongside U.S. forces in Samarra, a very mixed picture.
Now, yes, the U.S. military was very pleased with the way the Iraqi police fought back, actually contained their fire a bit. Pointed, aimed, shot, rather than just sprayed and prayed as one of the GIs put it.
Nevertheless, the whole back story to that, before we went out on patrol with them even, these police did not have adequate water supplies, a lot of them were sick with food poisoning, their food supplies were very bad. Their mechanical situation, a lot of their vehicles is very bad. All things that are pointed to in numerous congressional reports, to say it's not just the fighting ability of the Iraqi security forces you need to look at, it's the whole logistics and supply train, you also need to look at.
Because if you can't feed them, if you can't equip them, if you can't keep their vehicles going, they certainly not going to be able to fight for very long. As one U.S. soldier put it: "We believe this week," he said, "the Iraqi police have taken two steps forward -- and only one and a half backwards" -- Jamie.
MCINTYRE: One thing that is different is the extent that U.S. military commanders are trying to get local support, even to the extent at times arming people who had fought against the U.S.-led coalition.
Here's what Defense Secretary Gates said in defense of that policy on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If we refuse to work with, or ally with, everybody who has been on the other side of the fence, then the prospects for making progress in Iraq are pretty slim.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MCINTYRE: Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon, I take it that came up again on Friday when General Odierno briefed reporters there?
STARR: Well, it did, Jamie. The question, of course, is how far is this assistance and aid to these Sunni groups really going. Is the U.S. giving weapons to extremists in Iraq who may have been responsible for the death of U.S. soldiers or may have been in combat against U.S. troops?
General Odierno was adamant. He said, no, there was one minor example where they gave some weapons to some people providing security for a local mayor in Iraq, but that's it. He says no. The U.S. military is not arming Sunni insurgents, but it is working with some of them as long as they turn towards helping the Iraqi government and U.S. troops.
MCINTYRE: Michael O'Hanlon, what happened in Al Anbar Province, where the local sheiks began to ally themselves with the Iraqi and U.S. forces, is something that the U.S. would like to see in other places. Are we seeing anything like that in Diyala Province, where they're going after the Al Qaeda stronghold? Is that something that is transferable to other parts of the country?
O'HANLON: I hope so, but not yet. We haven't seen progress. In fact, General Petraeus was quite specific on that point in a June 16th press conference, in which he said things have been worse in Diyala than I would have hoped, substantially better in Al Anbar than I might have dreamed possible.
And the main distinction I think is that Al Anbar is primarily, almost exclusively, Sunni Arabs, you don't have the civil war, to be blunt. Whereas in Diyala, you do; you have Sunni/Shia tension. In that Sunni/Shia mix, Al Qaeda can infiltrate and do its terrible deeds. But where you have just one group, fearing Al Qaeda, then there's a chance of consolidating against them.
MCINTYRE: Karl, when U.S. and Iraqi troops go into the strongholds are they finding the Al Qaeda, the insurgents, or are they slipping away?
PENHAUL: That is one of the problems. The enemy is very elusive. The Al Qaeda insurgents are very elusive. We watched one day at a combat outpost in ol' Baqubah, and possibly the U.S. forces fired two shots in the whole day. That because Al Qaeda will fight, will fire at U.S. positions but then because it's the sniper-type war they melt away into the background.
But, of course, flipping these other insurgents, the national insurgents is a key strategy in Baqubah. And Diyala Province, we saw that firsthand. We had the chance to talk to some insurgents who freely admitted that they were former members of the 1920s Brigade, Jaish Mohamed (ph), of the Islamic Army, of the Salah Hadeem (ph) Brigades, former nationalists and Saddamists elements, who are now fighting against Al Qaeda.
Many of them said, that as recently as two and three months ago, they were indeed shooting at U.S. forces, and many of them did say they had received some initiation, starting to receive weapons from the U.S. forces, Jamie.
MCINTYRE: Well, Karl, thank you for that really important and dangerous work that you're doing there in Iraq. And also my thanks to my colleague, Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon and Michael O'Hanlon with me here in the studio.
Later this hour, we'll look at the turmoil in Gaza. And what the U.S. and its allies are doing to make sure instability there does not spread across the Mid East.
And straight ahead, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General James Spider Marks takes to us "The Map" for the command view of the latest U.S. offensive.
But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR" remembrance.
MCINTYRE: Private 1st Class Michael Pittman of Davenport, Iowa, was killed late last week, when his unit was attacked in Baghdad. Pittman worked as a painter before moving to Kansas and joining the Army in 2005.
His family says he reenlisted just two days before the attack. Pittman's mother Sandra Hughes says she never imagined her son would become one of the fallen.
SANDRA HUGHES, MOTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: I really never believed that Michael would be a casualty. I thought Michael would come home. I prayed for that.
MCINTYRE: Michael Pittman, and his wife Jennifer, have four children, all under the age of 13. He was 34 years old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: It's still early in this latest U.S.-led military offensive against insurgent hot spots, but what will define success for coalition forces? And where can they expect the biggest resistance from enemy fighters? Retired Brigadier Army General and CNN Military Analyst James Spider Marks joins us now.
Spider, let's go to "The Map". Give us the commander's eye view of what's happening with this offensive.
BRIG. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Let's open this up and get into a little more detail. The provinces that are now experiencing operations are Anbar, Saladin (ph), Diyala, and Babavi (ph) Province.
MCINTYRE: And the whole idea is to move outside Baghdad? MARKS: The surge is in Baghdad. As result of that, bad guys, Al Qaeda in Iraq, have moved outside. So these operations are going after where those new locations are that have been identified by good solid intelligence, in terms of where the U.S. forces can find them.
MCINTYRE: The overall operation, Operation Phantom Thunder, but within that --
MARKS: Phantom Thunder is being run by Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, in charge of all ground forces in Iraq. Within that there are multiple operations that are taking place. For example, up to the north and east of Baghdad in Baqubah, Arrowhead Ripper, which we have heard a lot about.
What the U.S. is trying to accomplish in this, is identify the bomb makers, those making the improvised explosive devices. What are the precursors? Where are they hidden? Who transports these things? Who brings these finished products into Baghdad?
MCINTYRE: Baqubah in Diyala province is an Al Qaeda stronghold, or has been?
MARKS: Absolutely. All of this has been dominated by the Sunnis for the very, very long time. That's where Saddam and his folks were up in Tikrit.
MCINTYRE: So, what's happening down south?
MARKS: Down south, just south of Baghdad you have Operation Marne Torch. Again, it is intended to go after, identify targets, and to block any additional moving that is coming out of Baghdad.
See, the key thing is you want to grab these bad guys, not let them move back into Baghdad or try to reestablish positions in the south.
MCINTYRE: That's what happened before. They call it whack-a- mole, they hit them here, and they just pop up some place else.
MARKS: Absolutely right. We have achieved some success in Baghdad, now they are going after where the bad guys have moved outside of the city. In additionally, to the west, Jamie, what we've had is some individual operations that have taken place in the vicinity of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Now, let's move into Baghdad, what has happened with this, is this ink-stained operation, it has taken place in Baghdad, it has now moved out. One of the things that has not been addressed is the use of the Tigris River as a means to transport the IEDs and kind of facilitate the network, into the city of Baghdad.
MCINTYRE: In fact, we reported that those operations to the south actually destroyed 17 boats that were being used to transport material.
MARKS: Absolutely. MCINTYRE: So, where is it going down the Tigris?
MARKS: Very critical to point out, that this is a major route into Baghdad and it's going into those Al Qaeda in Iraq locations, which are predominantly Sunni. Here's an example. To the east of the Tigris, up to the north end of the city, it is in the vicinity of the Shordja (ph) Market, which we have talked about many, many times, and the point I'm making is proximity to the river, and the type of complex terrain that Baghdad presents, you come off the river, bring the IEDs, you now have them into this very difficult labyrinth of city streets and bi-ways. It is much more difficult to go after that target in here, than it is to try to go get them where they originate.
MCINTYRE: So how do you keep Al Qaeda, the insurgents, the Sunni, the Shia militias, how do you keep them escaping this large territory we're looking at?
MARKS: That's the intent and overall objective of Phantom Thunder, which is to identify them outside the city, go after the bad guys where they are creating the IEDS, not try to go after them once they have gone off.
MCINTYRE: And, is it working?
MARKS: Yeah, there is some great success. There are some casualties. There will always be casualties associated with these military operations. That's the sad part of this. But that should not obviate the mission and task that is at hand.
MCINTYRE: Brigadier General James Spider Marks. Thank you very much.
General Marks will be back with insight on the latest battle from cyberspace.
But next, THIS WEEK AT WAR turns to tensions in Gaza. And efforts by the U.S. and Israel to strengthen the hand of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A fundamental choice confronts the Palestinians, and all people in the Middle East, more clearly now than ever. It is a choice between violent extremism, on the one hand, and tolerance and responsibility on the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday, urging all sides of the Arab/Israeli conflict to show a renewed commitment to peace. But the U.S. has clearly picked its side and is moving quickly with Israel and moderate Arab states to shore up support for Palestinian President and Fatah member, Mahmoud Abbas' new government. But can Hamas, which won both democratic elections and a fierce street battle over Fatah, be easily dismissed? Ben Wedeman joins us from Jerusalem. Here in Washington, Robert Malley, director of the International Crisis Group's Middle East Program and CNN's State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee.
Ben Wedeman, let's start with you. Has the situation clarified, as Secretary of State Rice seems to indicate? What does it look like on the ground over there?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT, Certainly, Jamie, it does appear that the United States is very busy trying to line up its allies in the region and its Palestinian allies against Hamas, to isolate Hamas, and probably in the short-term they have a good chance of making that happen.
But the mistake that some countries have made over the years is to really downplay Hamas' viability as a political organization. We have to keep in mind that they have been operating since the late 1980s. As far as most Palestinians are concerned, it's far more than simply a terrorist organization. As I saw in Gaza, they run a lot of things; hospitals, schools, clinics, and now they are the traffic policemen, as well.
So, to dismiss them offhand and try to isolate them may be what Washington would like to do, but it may be easier said than done, Jamie.
MCINTYRE: So, Bob Malley, is Gaza simply going to become a Hamas state?
ROBERT MALLEY, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS: Well, more -- it's not a state, first of all. And Hamas knows that.
MCINTYRE: I guess a semi-state?
MALLEY: It doesn't have sovereignty over air, over it's water, over it's checkpoints, but it will be dominated by Hamas, governed by Hamas, for the foreseeable future.
MCINTYRE: Zain, tell us about this summit that is coming up. What is that all about? What are the objectives? How did it come about?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: One of the main objectives is really, as Ben had indicated, the U.S. really wants to get Arab leaders, Arab countries in the region, to come down behind Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, give him a boost, and show him their support.
Now, for the United States' part, they have been trying to do that. Definitively, so Secretary Rice this week said, look, millions of dollars are finally going to flow from the United States to the empty coffers in the West Bank, to give President Abbas that kind of boost. They said that the U.S. is going to start letting American banks and companies do business in the West Bank. They will help Palestinians deliver aid, and also just things like roads and basic needs, water.
Also significantly the U.S. has earmarked something like $86 million to boost Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian security forces. So really what the U.S. is try do here is present a stark choice, for Palestinians you can have the chaos of Hamas in Gaza, and isolation. Or you can go behind Abbas, and relatively calm in the West Bank, money, international engagement, and a possible prospect for peace down the road.
MCINTYRE: Well, Ben Wedeman, give us a quick update. What is the situation right now in Gaza? What is the situation in the West Bank?
WEDEMAN: Well, I just got back from Gaza. And Gaza -- it's fairly calm. It does appear that Hamas has established its form of law and order. Life seems to be getting back to normal. But many people, Jamie, there are worried that economically, they don't know how viable the current arrangement is. There will be no funds coming to the Palestinian Authority. It's not clear how wide the gates to Gaza will be open from Israel and Egypt. So there's a lot of uncertainty there.
In the West Bank we have seen a variety of actions by the Fatah- dominated government to crack down on Hamas. There's a lot of talk of lots of money now flowing in from these unfrozen Israeli tax revenues, from the United States, from the European Union.
But there's also worry in the West Bank because many people are well aware that Fatah has a horrendous reputation for corruption and mismanagement. And there's lots of people who think the leopard simply cannot change its spots; that corruption will become worse because there's going to be more money to corrupt Fatah, Jamie.
MCINTYRE: Well, Bob Malley what does all of this say about the U.S. ability to affect events there? Is the U.S. policy effective at all? It seems like the U.S. is backing all the weakest leaders in the region.
MALLEY: If you look back at what U.S. strategy was from the day Hamas was elected, and the goals that we set, which were to strengthen Abbas, weaken Hamas, preserve Palestinian institutions, move the peace process forward, moderate the Palestinian public, on all of those we moved backwards rather than forewards.
I think, as we move now, in this new phase, we better learn the lessons of the past before simply repeating the mistakes we have already committed.
MCINTYRE: Zain, who is the big winner? Who is the big loser the way things have played out here?
VERJEE: Well, I mean, you know, it depends who you ask. Hamas would say they're the victors here, and they managed to grab Gaza from Abbas and from Fatah. And really, I think, the biggest losers are the Palestinian people because the prospect of a future Palestinian state seems more remote than ever. And it remains to be seen to what extent the U.S. strategy of isolating the extremists, and boosting the moderates, to what extent that will succeed. Because there's an enormous amount of support and viability on the ground for Hamas, and they are not viewed in the region by many as merely a terrorist group.
MCINTYRE: Thank you Zain Verjee, and also Ben Wedeman and Robert Malley.
Straight ahead, how two computer failures this week have exposed our vulnerability to a major cyber attack.
And if you have concerns about the Middle East or Iraq, or anything else for that matter, this is your chance. Next month CNN and YouTube will host the first live interactive presidential debates. Submit your videotaped questions at CNN.com/youtube debates.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar at CNN Center in Atlanta.
Now in the news, at least two Spanish U.N. peacekeepers were killed by a suspected roadside bomb in southern Lebanon today. At least five were wounded.
A major break in the case of that missing pregnant Ohio woman. Officials there have found a body believed to be that of 26-year-old Jessie Davis. And her police officer boyfriend, Bobby Cutts Jr, is in custody on murder charges. He the father of her 2-year-old son and is likely the father of her unborn child.
In Pakistan, collapsed houses and severed electrical cables killed more than 230 people after thunderstorms lashed the port city of Karachi. The storms knocked out power in most of the city.
Death by hanging, that's the sentence for Saddam Hussein's cousin, nicknamed Chemical Ali. Ali Hassan al Majid was one of three former Hussein aides sentenced to death for war crimes. Two others got life in prison and all plan to appeal.
In Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents threaten to kill 18 mine- clearing workers kidnapped while working in the southern part of the country. After decades of conflict, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily land mined countries in the world.
More news at the top of the hour. Now back to "THIS WEEK AT WAR."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALINA CHO, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: On Wednesday a computer malfunction at United grounded all of the airline's departures for two hours, 268 planes stuck on the tarmac coast to coast.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN HOST: That was CNN's Alina Cho reporting Wednesday on a computer meltdown that left thousands of passengers stranded. If this disruption can be caused by a simple computer glitch what kind of damage would a real cyberattack cause? What can be done to prepare?
Here to discuss this, Cal Temple, senior vice president for intelligence and analysis at Total Intelligence Solutions in Virginia. And we welcome back retired Brigadier General James Spider Marks, who in his military days served as an Army intelligence officer.
It wasn't just civilian computer systems that went down this week. On Wednesday, the secretary of defense's unclassified e-mail system was hacked and 1,500 users were taken off line. As the secretary said it was not an unusual event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The reality is that the Defense Department is constantly under attack. We get perhaps hundreds of attacks a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Secretary Gates did say he doesn't do e-mail, so it didn't affect him personally. But it shows the level of attacking that's going on.
What happened in Estonia? Which we may think of perhaps not the computer capital of the world, but they are very computer dependent there.
CAL TEMPLE, SR VP OF INTELLIGENCE AND ANALYSIS, TOTAL INTELLIGENCE SOLUTIONS: Jamie, they are computer dependent there, in fact, very advanced. What happened in Estonia was a denial-of-service attack, a distributed denial-of-service attack in which a lot of computers out there, entire networks have been hijacked and began flinging spam at all these Estonian computers.
MCINTYRE: Denial of service means you can't use your computer because it's overloaded, right?
TEMPLE: You've got it. It's a disruption. It a cyber sit-in almost. And it can really bring computer networks to their knees without breaking them but still being disruptive.
MCINTYRE: One thing we saw here, Spider, when you have an attack like this, it's not often against a secure military system, like at the Pentagon, for instance, where the classified system was completely protected. It's against the computers that everybody uses in every- day life.
JAMES SPIDER MARKS, RETIRED BRIGADIER GENERAL, FORMER ARMY INTELLIGENCE: As a matter of routine, a lot of command and control- type mission orders that are not classified are sent over the net.
So the operational impact of what happened in Estonia can only be multiplied when you look at the impact on NATO. Or if you took that and brought it over to the United States and you said, if you are trying to send out normal information to the force, you'll have some problems because you may send out inappropriate information, erroneous information, or it may not even get there.
MCINTYRE: At the Pentagon, for instance, 1,500 people couldn't use e-mail for a while. Doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world, but what does that a harbinger of?
TEMPLE: It shows us what life could be like if there was a large-scale disruption, or worse, a real penetration or intrusion, which is more espionage related at the Pentagon.
As the general pointed out, even disrupting unclassified e-mails has an effect. If you manage to get a wide network of unclassified e- mails, or worse, into classified networks, it can have serious national security consequences.
MCINTYRE: Spider, how bad could it get?
MARKS: Jamie, this is a form of warfare. It has to be defined appropriately. When you go home at night and try to flick on your computer, you routinely have problems. I have problems. Multiply that into a force, into an military operational base, and you're going to have problems. It needs to be defined accordingly. You need do forensics. You need to figure out what it is, but you have to assume the worst and go after it.
MCINTYRE: If this was an attack in Estonia against a NATO member -- of course, NATO is an defensive alliance, so it's an attack against the entire alliance. What can do you about these things? These messages were coming apparently from all over the world.
TEMPLE: It was a disruption against the alliance. NATO has some work do to find out if it was an attack or how they proceed in the future for disruptions like this. What do you do is exactly what NATO did.
The Estonians reached out to a lot of NATO partners to help resolve the situation. So they reached out to European allies in the NATO alliance. They shut down some servers that were involved in the disruption-of-serve attack. And they leveraged human technology and capability in order to understand how they were being attacked and how to prevent it.
MCINTYRE: Spider, they say the best defense is a good offense. What kind of offensive capability does the United States have in this cyber warfare arena?
MARKS: Computer network attack is classified. So you can't really talk about the capabilities. Bear in mind they exist. But what's reassuring is that routinely the Department of Defense conducts operations, rehearsals, if you will, contingency operations against these types of occurrences that will inevitably come back up again.
So they are routinely working the network and working scenarios that bring the network down and they identify what needs to be done. So the key thing is deciding in advance what you want to do and then doing it once you determine what happened to your network. MCINTYRE: Are we really ready? The subject they don't talk about. Can we really deal with something like this on a massive scale?
MARKS: On a massive scale it depends upon exactly what has occurred. My short answer to that, having done this for quite some time, yes, we'll be OK. And we practice it.
MCINTYRE: What happened in Estonia was clearly a wake-up call. The "New York Times" editorial called it the canary in the mine shaft.
Thank you both for being with us today.
Coming up, a top U.S. diplomat makes a surprise visit to North Korea. But did he convince the rogue nation to shutter its nuclear plans?
And straight ahead, we'll go to Tehran where CNN's Aneesh Raman has been looking into questions of Iranian involvement in Iraq, "THIS WEEK AT WAR."
MCINTYRE: As U.S.-led forces in Iraq press ahead with their offensive, commanders on the ground say there is increasing evidence that support for insurgent attacks can be traced back to Iran. Is Iran bracing for the prospect of a military confrontation with the United States?
CNN's Middle East Correspondent Aneesh Raman is in Tehran.
On Wednesday, General David Petraeus told the times of London, "The Iranian involvement here, we have found to be much, much more significant than we thought before. They have, since about the summer of 2004, played a very important role in training, funding, arming."
Aneesh, we have been hearing these statements from U.S. commanders and top U.S. officials and NATO commanders as well about Afghanistan. What is Iran saying about all this?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN NEWS MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Jamie, Iran issues blanket denials on all of this, that it is arming any group inside the Middle East. When it comes to Iraq these accusations have been made for well over a year. Evidence has even been presented.
But Iran says there's no evidence that shows the government, the leadership in Tehran is actively putting these weapons into Iraq.
When it comes to Afghanistan, it caused a lot of reaction within Tehran. The comments made by Nicholas Burns that there is irrefutable evidence that Iran is arming the Taliban. The Taliban and Iran are historic enemies, a Shiite bureaucracy, a Sunni group. The deputy foreign minister said the allegations are completely false.
Iran, though, at some level, could be trying to hedge its bets in Afghanistan as it is doing in Iraq in terms of who might come out on top. That's the fear, even if Iran does not admit to this, there are weapons coming across the border.
Iran does not deny smuggling is taking place. But how do you get the regime here, if not actively behind it, to stop it? That's what no one's been able to do just yet -- Jamie?
MCINTYRE: That's one thing that the U.S. has not been able to do, which is connect the dots directly to the central government of Iran. Nevertheless, they continue to present evidence both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Regarding the Taliban, Defense Secretary Gates suggested that they might be going against their own interests just to make things difficult for the U.S. Does that make sense?
RAMAN: It does at one level, again, if they're hedging their bets. And that sort of line came as well from the top NATO commander inside Afghanistan. He fell far short of any irrefutable evidence that could come back. Even the afghan defense minister has suggested it is difficult to make links between arms going to the Taliban and the Iranian government.
What this all stems from is a convoy of arms that was stopped as it came into Afghanistan. That is a very porous border where drug and weapons smuggling takes place routinely there. Again, everyone is having a tough time making the link from those weapons to the government here.
The larger context is, as Secretary Gates mentioned, it is counter intuitive because the Taliban once actively tried to end the Islamic Republic in Iran. They are historic enemies. It's a Shiite bureaucracy, a Sunni group there. So it does not make logical sense.
It only makes somewhat sense if you look at this as a maneuver by Iran to keep troops bogged down in Afghanistan. But give the historical context, a lot of analysts suggest they don't think it's anything more than weapons being smuggled outside the purview of the Iranian government.
MCINTYRE: Aneesh, the other place where the United States and Iran is at loggerheads is the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions. The U.S. is pressing for another round of sanctions.
Listen to what the Ali Larijani said -- Iranian nuclear negotiator said on Thursday.
He said, quote, "Have the past two resolutions impeded our activities? They can pass another resolution, and we would make another, longer stride. Therefore they cannot solve the Iranian nuclear program."
Aneesh, your view on the continued Iranian defiance?
RAMAN: It's hard to find anyone who thinks a looming third round of sanctions would do the trick, would get Iran to stop its nuclear program. The crux of the issue is this. It's been this and for the foreseeable future will be this. Iran says we are willing to cooperate and answer all the questions of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, but their file must be transferred from the U.N. Security Council back to the IAEA.
The U.S. and other western nations say, "Wait, we're not going to transfer it back. We need the threat of sanctions to get you, Iran, to stop your nuclear program."
So the U.S. isn't going to stop pursuing sanctions. Iran isn't going to stop its nuclear program. It doesn't seem there can be any break through to stop that. Instead Iran is simply going to expand.
As you mentioned, Larijani said if there's a third round of sanctions, Iran will do what it's done the past two times, announce soon after that it expended its nuclear program in overt defiance.
MCINTYRE: Aneesh Raman, good to get your perspective from inside the Iranian capital.
Coming up, a diplomatic dialogue with North Korea. Will the Communist country make good on its promise to suspend its nuclear weapons program -- "THIS WEEK AT WAR?"
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CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. AMBASSADOR: Indeed, the DPRK indicated that they are prepared promptly to shut down the Pyongyang facility as called for in the February agreement.
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MCINTYRE: A new push on the North Korean front this week. On Friday U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill spoke about the results of its unexpected and unannounced visit to the communist country.
With us again is CNN State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee, and in New York, Michael Levi, a fellow for science and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations and the co-author of "The Future of Arms Control."
Zain, why all the secrecy surrounding this visit and what happened to all those preconditions the U.S. was looking at before it talked to any substantial people in North Korea?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN NEWS STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: The State Department is saying that, first of all, the invitation actually came at the last minute while Chris Hill was on the road and in the region trying to get some sort of traction on the stalled process here. They say it was a last-minute decision. Secretary Rice and President Bush got together and said OK, go for it. U.S. allies said go for it.
So he got on a plane and went and he realized he would do that several days ago. They say they didn't tell us and they kept it sort of under the radar because just in case it didn't happen, they didn't want to be embarrassed.
MCINTYRE: Did they accomplish anything? What was determined? Anything?
VERJEE: Chris Hill basically spoke to his counterpart in North Korea, Pak Gil Yon (ph), and said, look, you have the $25 millions that you wanted -- the U.S. had frozen at a bank at a bank in (inaudible). And it had taken a while to get to the North Koreans.
They said we're not going to shut down our reactor at Pyongyang if we don't get this money. Yesterday it appears as though the money was sent to an account in Russia. And they got it.
Chris Hill said basically no more excuses, step up, let's see the procedures you'll take to shut down the reactor and denuclearize the peninsula per our agreements in February.
MCINTYRE: Michael Levi, is the U.S. suddenly being a little too accommodating? What's going on here?
MICHAEL LEVI, FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS AND AUTHOR: The United States is not being particularly accommodating beyond what it has done before. It is engaging in discussions and trying to make progress. What we have got now is what looks like a shut down of the Pyongyang facility. Something people have been trying to do for several years. We have gotten there. The expense has essentially been releasing $25 millions from a frozen bank account.
If that's what it takes to get North Korea to stop its nuclear progress, that's a pretty cheap cost.
MCINTYRE: Zain, why was it so difficult for the United States to agree to release that $25 million?
VERJEE: The U.S. said they had agreed to release it. One of the reasons was that the U.S. said basically that that money is tainted. The bank has been involved in activities of counterfeiting, money laundering, all the rest of it. So they froze it the difficulty apparently has been technical.
But in a nutshell, when the U.S. said all right we'll help the process along. North Korea, you can get your 25 million. The banks that the money could have been transferred to said, hang on a minute, we're not so sure we want this North Korean money. So North Korea was having a difficult time getting the bank transfer -- its money transferred out. That's one of the reasons for the big hold-up.
MCINTYRE: Michael Levi, we've seen agreements with North Korea before. We've seen North Korea not hold up their end of the agreement and complain about the U.S. holding up its part of the agreement. Is there any indication this will be different? How do you know that North Korea is not going to simply have a nuclear program someplace else?
LEVI: North Korea could develop a nuclear program someplace else. That was the rationale back in 2002, behind stopping the focus on diplomatic process and essentially ignoring the plutonium production at Pyongyang. We focused on everything else, which was in an elementary stage of development, while North Korea continued to produce weapons-grade plutonium at Pyongyang.
Are there other possibilities? Could North Korea cheat? Absolutely. Do we have anything to lose by trying here and engaging in this process? No, it doesn't hurt to engage in it. We shouldn't be Pollyannaish and expect everything to go smoothly.
VERJEE: If I may add too, Jamie, the thing with North Korea, it's excellent at playing games of brinksmanship. It's famous for it. On the one hand, this is great. Hopefully the U.S. is saying we'll see some real progress here. Let's see if they made a strategic decision. They're good at taking it to the edge and coming back, and taking it to the edge and coming back. So, there's a degree of caution, I think, that we should also put a dose on this as well.
MCINTYRE: Michael Levi, how easy is it actually to shut down the Pyongyang nuclear reactor at this stage? That's a complicated set of circumstances. And how does the U.S. verify that?
LEVI: Technically, it's easy to shut down. Reactors are shut down all the time all over the world for maintenance. We are also looking at shutting down a fuel production facility and the facility that takes used fuel from the reactor and converts it to weapons- usable plutonium. Those are all very easy to shut down. It's also easy to tell if they're operating. Each of these give off a lot of heat. You can tell whether they're giving off heat because they're operating.
If we have people on the ground, we can also tell what's happening inside buildings, particularly inside the fuel production facility where you can't tell as much remotely.
The verification is straightforward. The shutdown is straightforward. What is not straightforward is making sure North Korea sticks to this and doesn't decide somewhere down to line to break out of it. This will require continuing engagement. We can't have this agreement, leave it, disengage and expect it to hold.
MCINTYRE: Thank you Michael Levi in New York and CNN's Zain Verjee with me here in Washington.
Up next, the inside story on the leaks floating around Washington this week about closing the prison at Guantanamo.
But first, a look at some of those who fell in "THIS WEEK AT WAR."
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MCINTYRE: Now, a final thought from my perspective inside the E- Ring. The E-Ring being the outer ring of the Pentagon where the top brass have their offices. My office, by the way, is on the much less impressive D-Ring.
There was a lot of talk at weeks end about the Bush administration nearing a decision to close Guantanamo, a story that was quickly discounted at the White House.
At the risk of over simplification, here's what's going on. There is a growing consensus that Guantanamo has to close. The State Department is leading the charge and is butting heads with the Justice Department, which is dead set against it. Justice argues that given access to the courts, dangerous terror suspects would end up free to attack the United States again.
Now, the Pentagon, the jailer, is stuck in the middle. But new Defense Secretary Robert Gates is among those who think Guantanamo must go. And his view is that, no matter how well run, how humane, how much of a model prison Guantanamo becomes, it will always be a stain on the U.S. image.
So what to do? As one senior official told me this week, if there was an easy path, we'd be on it. Stay tuned.
Turning now to some of the stories we'll follow in the next "WEEK AT WAR," on Monday, IAEA officials visit North Korea to discuss the shutdown of the Pyongyang nuclear facility.
On Wednesday, key U.S. ally, Tony Blair, officially resigns as British prime minister when he formerly tenders his resignation to Queen Elizabeth.
Thanks for joining us on "THIS WEEK AT WAR." I'm Jamie McIntyre. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines. Then CNN's "Special Investigations United: How to Rob a Bank."
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