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THIS WEEK AT WAR

Week's War-Related Activities Reviewed

Aired July 29, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: If you believe any politician who says the U.S. troops can be out of Iraq in a matter of weeks, forget it. If you think it's going to be easy to blow al Qaeda out of their camps in Pakistan, it's not. If you don't realize that a deal between the Arabs and the Israelis is key to just about everything else in the Middle East, well, think again. Some reality checks coming up on THIS WEEK AT WAR right after a look at what's going on in the news right now.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rick Sanchez and here's what's going on right now, Tom. The Bush administration is readying a $20 billion arms deal for Saudi Arabia, another Gulf nation. It's aimed at giving the Saudi military the capability to counter Iranian aggression in the region, among other things. At the same time the U.S. is said to be working on a $30 billion military assistance package for Israel.

Vice President Dick Cheney is recovering today after minor surgery to replace his heart device. Doctors say there were no complications and he's back on his normal schedule. An Indian doctor was flown home after prosecutors in Australia dropped a terrorism charge against him. Dr. Mohammed Hamid (ph) was arrested shortly after the recent failed terror attacks in Britain. Prosecutors said that his cell phone sim (ph) card was found in a Jeep used in one of the attacks, but it turns out it wasn't even his to begin with. I'm Rick Sanchez. Certainly if news breaks out, we'll break in for you and bring it to you. In the meantime, let's go back to Tom and THIS WEEK AT WAR.

I'm Tom Foreman and here is where we stand and where we are going in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Barbara Starr looks at Pakistan, a country that could go either way. Will this rugged land continue to be a safe haven for al Qaeda? Sean Callebs reports on Americans who see military justice getting worse. Are we prosecuting our fighters for doing what they have to do to survive? Aneesh Raman is on assignment in Iran where diplomatic relations with its neighbors in Iraq are getting better, but can a free Iraq ever survive in this very tough neighborhood? From her beat at the State Department, Zain Verjee will lay out how things are getting better between Arabs and Israelis. Can they overcome the long, bitter history that divides them and what does it mean to us? But first, Arwa Damon is in our Baghdad bureau where the military situation is improving. But does that mean U.S. troops are coming closer to coming home or does it mean they will stay much longer? THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Progress in Iraq, improvements. It's something we're almost hesitant to talk about for fear of jinxing it, but it's important the rate at which U.S. troops in Iraq are dying is declining. Listen to what Lieutenant General Ray Odierno said on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN RAY ODIERNO, DEP. CMDR, U.S. FORCES IRAQ: This is what we thought would happen once we got control of the key areas that are controlled by these terrorists. And so we'll see if the trend continues. It's an initial positive sign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: So what's the real situation on the ground? Arwa Damon is in our Baghdad bureau. CNN military analyst Brigadier David Grange, U.S. Army retired joins us from Chicago and here in Washington Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, just back from Iraq. Michael, let me start with you. The basic question, is the surge working?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: In military terms, yes. Two big reasons, one, we are doing very well against al Qaeda in Iraq. I don't want to jump into this whole debate about whether they're taking orders from Osama bin Laden or not, but they have an extreme ideology and they have gone so far that the Sunni-Arab tribes are now fighting against them. I walked through the streets of Ramadi a couple of days ago without body armor. That city is turned around, 95 percent reduction of violence because the Sunni sheikhs and tribes are with us now against al Qaeda. That's going great. The sectarian violence much less well resolved so far, but at least we've put a bit of a cap or a lid on it with our greater troop strength. So that's the more long-term problem. But the fight against al Qaeda is going brilliantly at the moment.

FOREMAN: Arwa, is there a sense in Baghdad on the ground that that's exactly what's happening?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, actually not when you speak to the Iraqi people. In fact, most of those that I've spoken to will not really say that they feel that the situation is getting better. Remember, they're not measuring their own security in terms of numbers of U.S. casualties or numbers of bodies that were found unidentified throughout the entire capital. They are measuring their sense of whether or not things are getting better by the level of comfort with which they can leave their homes. For most Iraqis, they are still just as petrified of falling victim of sectarian violence or any other sort of attack that could take place in the capital today as they were before the surge began.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at the map for a moment Arwa with that in mind and talk about Baghdad and the outlying areas. Michael, you've spent some time in al Anbar province which not long ago was considered absolutely untouchable, incredibly dangerous and yet it seems like there's been a change in plan. Originally the idea was stabilize Baghdad and then move out. Now there's more of a sense of local agreements that are calming areas down. That seems to be what you see working.

O'HANLON: I think that's right. The Baghdad political environment is still a mess and of course Baghdad itself as a city is still very dangerous. I think the greatest sign of progress is in an ethically pure region like al Anbar where the Sunnis don't have to worry about the Shia and they can just focus on al Qaeda and they have turned against al Qaeda. It's much more complicated as we just mentioned in places where there is still a lot of sectarian tension. I think we have reduced the amount of violence overall, but not to the point where the psychology has fundamentally changed and Iraqi political leaders are not helping much yet in this process.

FOREMAN: General Grange, militarily why is this working now? Is it a different approach or is it just the sheer numbers of the surge?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it's something to do with numbers, but it's really the new strategy. And it's funny you hear the debates going on politically about we need a new strategy. We need a new strategy. In fact, there is a new strategy. It was just really implemented full force mid June. So it has to have a little bit of time to work, and I think the new strategy of clear, hold and build - in other words, once you go in the area and you do what you have to do against any adversaries, you start to give people some confidence in the security forces whether it be U.S. or Iraqi and then you actually show you're going to improve the lifestyle of the area, the quality of life. You start to get in locales, these different locales, a sense of achievement and improvement. I think that's what's happening.

FOREMAN: Do you have a sense, general, when you look at the situation there, what do you think when you hear the talk from Washington from politicians here who keep saying, no, no, no, we can't wait until September. We got to move on.

GRANGE: I think they're rushing it a bit. There is, obviously, a political influence and that's part of our democratic society. It's to be expected. But overall, you know, we do need a little bit of unity of effort just because we have committed so many resources in life, monetarily, time, et cetera, diverting from other things, and so, yes, I think that you should have these debates but make sure they're based on what's actually happening and give this new effort that has been supported a chance to work. I mean, why just let everything be lost in a rush of time for just September? It just doesn't make sense to me.

FOREMAN: Arwa, what are you hearing in Baghdad from the people there who are concerned about their security as you've mentioned, about the possibility of a troop pullout now? Are people on the street there saying, yes, let's move that direction or, no, the U.S. really needs to stay a long time even if it's difficult?

DAMON: Well, you'll hear from the Iraqi people pretty much both of those things being said. There are those that strongly feel that U.S. troops should withdraw and the Iraqis should just come up with their own solutions to the problems that exist here. And there are those that feel that if American troops would withdraw before the Iraqi troops are ready, before there was a genuine government of national unity, the current one most certainly not being viewed as that, if U.S. troops withdrew before those two crucial things were put into place, that it would be a massacre throughout the entire nation. So really Iraqis right now are fairly divided as to how they feel and really uncertain as to what the future is going to bring. There's very little optimism to be found here either way. Most of them just feel that they are pretty much doomed.

FOREMAN: Michael, you look at the progress of the surge. Do you see in that the seeds of saying, good, we're making progress, we can prepare to get out, or we're making progress, all the more reason to stay?

O'HANLON: Getting out's going to be hard in the sectarian troubled areas. In other words I think we can make a transition to a strategy where Iraqis increasingly fight al Qaeda. They hate al Qaeda especially the foreign bombers but even the home grown who have converted. But I think in places like much of Baghdad where you have Sunni pockets here, Shia pockets there, if we left, almost unquestionably the violence would get worse before it gets better. In fairness to the critics of this war, you could say well, that's going to probably happen anyway, why not get it over with. Consolidate the ethnic lines and then try to negotiate a peace. I'm an advocate of considering the idea of a soft partition where you do help people move. But I think if we left, make no mistake, the violence would get worse in those areas before it gets better.

FOREMAN: General, there's been a lot of talk now in the past week about not just the plan for the next six months or the next year but even into 2009. If you were on the ground there commanding now, would you be planning for 2009?

GRANGE: Oh, you can be sure that these commanders are. Yes, I would. Planning is something that you take to extreme levels in the military. There's plans for everything and they're adjusted every day. And so, yes, the plan would be to -- how to solve the situation now if the strategy that's implemented, then what to do when you start moving people out because, by the way, withdrawal, coming out of Iraq, is much more difficult than attacking in actuality. It's just a very difficult, very vulnerable -- there's a lot of unknowns and so I would be planning in detail for that but then also in detail of the advisory element that must stay and a reaction force that must be prepared to go in if things really get bad in certain areas either against Americans or against your ally and the Iraqi government so, yes, plans are very detailed and they're ongoing, and I would do the same.

FOREMAN: A subject we'll pick up another day. Thank you, general, Michael and Arwa. OK. Getting out is not an easy option, but staying in Iraq isn't easy either. U.S. troops are fighting against enemies who have proven that they will stop at nothing to try to drive them out. So in a war without rules, is it right for the military to step in and punish you to put you in jail for doing what it takes to stay alive? We'll have that straight ahead.

But first a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Private First Class Cory Hiltz of the second brigade combat team second infantry division was killed when the Humvee he was driving was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad. His father recalled how his son wrestled with the decision to return to Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE HILTZ, FATHER: The night before he was to go back to Iraq we were talking out on the patio and he said, you know, dad, I really don't want to go back but I made a commitment and I'm going to honor my commitment and I'm going to go back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Ten days later Private Hiltz was dead. His parents have set up a scholarship at Laverne High School in southern California to honor his memory. He was 20 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: It's a pretty simple question. How do you tell someone caught up in the middle of a firefight that he has to wait, has to check, has to make sure that that shadow in front of him is an armed insurgent when if he hesitates too long he could be dead? There are soldiers and Marines on trial for the decisions they make in split seconds. And as Sean Callebs reports, there are a growing number of people here who are supporting them against the system of military justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patrick Barnes, himself a decorated Vietnam veteran, says his fight to defend American military personnel goes on.

PATRICK BARNES, MILITARY COMBAT DEFENSE FUND: I know what it's like to kick a door down and sweep a house, so when I read about these kids being charged with crimes for fighting a war the way they're supposed to, it was somewhat enraging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Joining me from Boston is the man you just heard from there, Vietnam veteran Patrick Barnes. And with me in the studio another veteran, Gene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Patrick, you're raising money to help folks who are accused of things over there. Why do you think this is needed?

BARNES: Most of these young Marines, soldiers, sailors, they're not rich people and to have an adequate civilian defense in an article 32 hearing or court-martial is going to be over $100,000. They just don't have the money.

FOREMAN: Do you feel that they're being inadequately or improperly accused of this, or do you simply feel like in the modern day and time they need protection?

BARNES: I think they need protection. You know, if you've got an 18-year-old PFC and you've got a 45-year-old colonel going after him and asking him questions, there's a big authority gap there. And I think getting a civilian attorney in between them just keeps the honest honest.

FOREMAN: Gene, let me turn to you and ask this basic question. How do people decide what to engage in wartime? If you're a troop in the field, what are the general rules you follow?

EUGENE FIDELL, NATL INSTITUTE OF MILITARY JUSTICE: Well, the military has issued rules that are called the rules of engagement, that do give in fairly common sense terms a sense of what's permitted and what isn't. Would it be OK if I --

FOREMAN: Let's see a laundry list.

FIDELL: Here are just some examples of the rules of engagement for U.S. military forces in Iraq. The use of force including deadly force is authorized to protect yourself, your unit and friendly forces, other members of the coalition. Enemy prisoners of war, we have to protect them because they're within our control. Civilians have to be protected from crimes that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. You can protect a third party. You have to treat all civilians and their property with respect and dignity. You can't steal local property. These are common sense rules. That's not to say that things can't get pretty complex when bullets are flying or an IED has just gone off, but the basic outline, I think, is pretty much a matter of common sense.

FOREMAN: Patrick, is it one of your concerns, though that in this type of war when we're fighting enemies who seem to follow none of the rules that we more potentially wind up in gray areas where our troops are accused of things they have a hard time defending themselves against?

BARNES: Well, and I think -- listening to the Iraqis give their statements and their so-called truths, I don't trust them. I think you need a lawyer in between them to interpret what's real and what's not real. And a lot of them, their motivation is getting money. We're seeing that in some of the Hydetha (ph) situations at Pendleton.

FOREMAN: Gene, do you feel the same concerns about that, about the veracity of the civilian witnesses there?

FIDELL: I'm uncomfortable making sweeping evaluations. There are witnesses, unfortunately, who are, let's say, economical with the truth right here in Washington in the courthouse every day in the week. That can happen anywhere, and that's the purpose of the adversary system. That's why we have lawyers involved, civilian lawyers but also military lawyers. That's why we have military judges. That's why there's somebody making a recording of everything that goes on in court.

FOREMAN: Let me go back to the rules of engagement you brought up just a moment ago. When you're engaging an enemy who plays by none of the rules, can we realistically play by these rules or do we have to adjust our own sense?

FIDELL: We have to keep with our rule book for a couple of reasons. War is a terrible, chaotic environment. It brings out, unfortunately, the worst in people, and I'm not talking about the United States. We have a wonderful military. Everybody is trained and, you know, it's a large, very well trained, very intelligent force. But the fact is that war doesn't bring out typically our finest instincts or at least there's a danger of that. That's why for hundreds and hundreds of years society has grappled with the problem of rendering order out of chaos and we've done a reasonably good job of that. The one thing you can never do is simply throw out the rule book and say this is like the movie "Road Warrior," the Mel Gibson movie where there are no rules, every man for himself, every woman for herself. We have to keep with the rules and that's why we have a trial system so that we can sort out cases that are, you know, nothing (INAUDIBLE) and cases that really don't have any factual support from the cases that are well-founded. You can never simply shut down a courthouse. If you do that, then we're back in the dark ages.

FOREMAN: Patrick, Vietnam also presented a lot of challenges like this. When you were there, how did you and your fellow soldiers balance the discipline, the rules that you engage people with with the behavior of the enemy?

BARNES: Well, it was a different war being that it was a jungle war for the most part. It changed rapidly one day when we were ambushed in - during Tet in (INAUDIBLE) City. We went from a bunch of guys who were taught to fight in the jungle to now street fighting. So it's -- in rules of engagement when you're in the middle of an ambush, I don't think they exist. It's just survive. And I think a lot of times going through Fallujah and (INAUDIBLE) that it's pretty scary stuff.

FOREMAN: Well, it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Good luck with your efforts to get legal help for young men who are charged so they will get justice, whatever that may be. Appreciate you being here, Patrick and thanks so much you being here as well Gene.

FIDELL: It's my privilege.

FOREMAN: Next up, a problem in U.S. foreign policy as complex and difficult as any of these gray legal areas we just discussed. Is the government of Pakistan our best defense against al Qaeda or possibly the terrorists' biggest supporter? The answer may surprise you.

But first, let's stop and we'll take a moment to remember some of those, as we always do, who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bush administration is pressuring Musharraf in light of evidence al Qaeda is once again running training camps and planning operations. Any U.S. military help would be limited.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We're not going to be on the ground in Pakistan. We're not looking to cross any borders into Pakistan.

STARR: So in the nearly six years since 9/11, one essential problem remains unchanged -- how to attack terrorists inside Pakistan which has at some times questionable commitment to the war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: A terrific report by our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. So is Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a friend or a foe to America or quite possibly both? Barbara joins us now. She's just back from the region where she made some trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, close by the Pakistani border there. This weekend started with more news of violence very close to the home base of the Pakistani president as he clashed with Islamists there. Is he fighting the radicals in his country now because we want him to or because he has to now?

STARR: Oh, Tom, the answer clearly is both. He is caught right in the cross hairs. The Bush administration has been pressuring him to crack down on al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalists. They are now spreading their operations clearly. The red mosque incident in Islamabad in the capital has gone far beyond what anybody expected and he has to crack down and the Bush administration is telling them he has to crack down. .

FOREMAN: So this clash at the red mosque is only a few blocks away from his own base there. Obviously, if we go to the map and look at Pakistan here and consider this, one of the concerns for us clearly is if al Qaeda starts running this, this is a country with nuclear weapons. We don't want them to have a hold on that. They've been operating largely freely in Waziristan (ph). Tell me about this area and why can't the Pakistanis go in there and bust this up?

STARR: This is the tribal region. This is Waziristan. When Osama bin Laden left Afghanistan several years ago, he crossed the border by all accounts into southern Waziristan. Now he and his cronies have apparently moved into the north. This is the safe haven that the CIA and the intelligence community is so concerned about. They were all supposed to be on the run. That's the expression we heard. Al Qaeda's on the run. Well, the latest national intelligence assessment shows, no, they're not on the run. In fact, they're pretty well tucked in and cozy.

FOREMAN: Why isn't he on the run? (INAUDIBLE) into the country?

STARR: Number one, it's geography, very remote, very mountainous, tribal leaders with tremendous loyalties to both the al Qaeda and the Taliban and the U.S., as General Pace, you heard say, has no intention of crossing the border. This is sovereign Pakistani territory, a little bit different in the tribal region. Musharraf is not openly going to let the U.S. into his country. If he does, he's only under more pressure from the Islamic fundamentalists.

FOREMAN: Very quickly here, do we have any faith that he can finally handle this region even as now he seems to be engaging them? STARR: Everything we heard out there was a great deal of skepticism. There is a new Pakistani military crackdown, 100,000 troops in the Waziristan area, the U.S. is offering aid. Very skeptical that even this time it's going to work.

FOREMAN: Well, thanks for the update, Barbara. We appreciate it.

Pakistan is proof that the war on terror isn't easily divided into good guys and bad guys as we just heard. There are shades of gray absolutely everywhere. And Pakistan isn't the only nation playing both sides. Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, all of the countries that surround Iraq have a complex web of interests that have profound consequences on U.S.-Iraq policy and not always for the better. We're going to tackle that next on THIS WEEK AT WAR. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: I'm Rick Sanchez in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here is what's going on right now. More of THIS WEEK AT WAR in just a little bit. A very interesting development in the cloak and dagger politics of Pakistan with President General Pervez Musharraf reportedly meeting in secret with former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. The subject a possible power sharing deal, a potential sticking point, Bhutto's demand that Musharraf give up his post as army chief.

More apparent cracks in the fractured state known as Iraq. Another car bomb went off today in the predominantly Shia area of eastern Baghdad killing at least five people. This while the country's largest Sunni political bloc threatens to withdraw from parliament. Palestinian politics forced them out, but politicians from Egypt and Israel have brokered their return. An estimated 6,000 Palestinian Gazans displaced during last month's power struggle between Hamas and Fatah will be allowed to go back into the Gaza with tomorrow's reopening of the Rafa border crossing. That according to some Palestinian officials we've been in contact with.

I'm Rick Sanchez. News breaks, I'll break in and bring it to you. Until then, let's get you back to Tom now and THIS WEEK AT WAR.

FOREMAN: As always, we're keeping an eye on some of the other hot spots around the world in THIS WEEK AT WAR. Let's take a quick tour of them. In Afghanistan U.S. troops search in the area where Taliban forces are thought to be holding a group of South Korean missionaries captive. We head down into Africa where in Zimbabwe protesters against the rule of President Robert Mogabe are severely beaten and hospitalized. That's something that's happening on a regular basis in that nation, which is described as being in total meltdown right now. And up in Turkey, Prime Minister (INAUDIBLE) conservative Islamist party claimed victory in national elections, raising new fears of an increasing influence of religion in the government and an escalation of Turkey's current battles with Kurdish rebels. That's a big deal because that battle could spill over the border into northern Iraq as thousands of Turkish troops amass on the border. It's only one of the many dangers facing Iraq from all the countries that surround it, all of whom have vital interests in what happens in Iraq and pretty much are willing to do whatever it takes to protect them. Joining me to discuss the situation in this tough neighborhood is Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations. He's the author of "Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic." Aneesh Raman also is coming to us by broadband from the Iranian city of Esfahan. Let me start with you Aneesh, what do the Iranians want in Iraq?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Well, officially the Iranians say they want a stable Iraq, they want a neighbor that they can have peace with and that they can engage with. Of course unofficially there are other actions taking place. The U.S. has said since the historic talks that took place in May that Iran is making things worse not better in Iraq. Now Iran continues to deny it's arming any Shia militias in Iraq. It denies it's arming essentially anyone in the Middle East. The denial is twofold, the reasons for it. First, Iran says, look, our borders are porous. We cannot control black market arms smuggling. But the more fundamental reason is that Iran has two governments, the elected government with President Ahmadenijad at its helm and its various ministers and the more powerful political backbone, the unelected government with the supreme leader and the revolutionary guard. He has an army at his disposal, an army that at times acts completely on its own. So it is near impossible to pinpoint anything coming out of Iran and figuring out who exactly gave the green light within the country. So officially Iran continues to say it wants a stable Iraq, it is open to talking to anyone that is eager for that, and of course, on the ground many other groups are saying Iran is doing just the opposite.

FOREMAN: So, Ray, if Iran wants to expand its influence as so many people say, that's one part of the equation, but they must also fear an unstable Iraq if they push too hard.

RAY TAKEYH, AUTHOR, "HIDDEN IRAN": Well, for Iran, the Iraq situation is a series of balancing acts. Sometimes those acts are in contradiction with one another as Aneesh was saying. On the one hand they do want some degree of stability and cohesiveness on Iraq. But they also want the Americans out. Some of the ammunitions that are coming in are designed to pressure the Americans as they're getting out. Now, as I said, that's the balancing act. On the one hand you want to arm the Shia militia yet you also want to have Shias and Sunnis come to some sort of an arrangement whereby they can preserve at least the territorial integrity of Iraq.

FOREMAN: Let's take a look at the map very briefly here, there's Iraq in the middle, Syria over here, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran. Listen to what the Iraq Study Group report said that these folks wanted at that time. Turkey, no independent Kurdistan in the north. Concerned about influences up there. Iran wants to project Shia power. Syria, no more refugees. They don't want people pouring out of Iraq into their country. Kuwait, no more Iraqi invasions. This is the Iraq Study Group Assessment. Ray, is that a fair idea, Saudi Arabia wants to project Sunni power, other people want a stable region? A fair assessment?

TAKEYH: It's a fair assessment except in case of Syria I would suggest that the situation in Iraq also gives the Syrians some sort of a leverage in terms of the U.N. report on the assassination of Hariri and in terms of the role in Lebanon. In case of Iran, they also would call this share the Kuwaiti objection, namely not having further invasions of Iraq. That's why the Iranians further invasion from Iraq. That's why what Iranians want is have a weak central government in Iraq because historically weak central governments don't have strong standing armies and that effectively eliminates Iraq as a competitor with Iran for domination of the Persian Gulf waterways.

FOREMAN: Aneesh, how much of this is being decided by ethnic loyalties, by people saying, yes, we have boundaries you see on a map but if we're the Saudis, we like the Sunnis, they're part of us. If we're the Iranians, we like the Shia, they're part of us.

RAMAN: It's a big part of it. We just recently had reports that in Saudi Arabia, fatwa was issued against Shia holy shrines in Iraq. Today -- Friday prayers in Iran, almost all of them condemn that fatwa. Both governments, Iran and Saudi Arabia are trying to downplay the implications. But it gives you a window into the tensions that exist, the Sunni Shia tensions, a power struggle that exists within this region. You know these historic talks between Iran and the U.S., there are PR benefits to both sides. The Bush administration, according to the Iraq Study Group, looks like it's engaging the Iranians and the Iranians are sitting face-to-face down with the U.S. There power increases by virtue of sitting at that table. There is a power play between Saudi Arabia and Iran really on the extremes with Egypt, Jordan, other countries, Syria caught in the middle and Iraq is really sort of a window into that. So I think ethnic allegiance and as Ray was talking about a weak central government also gives power to the regions and Iran would like that. A powerful southern Shia region as we've heard before that Shia crest that extends also to southern Lebanon, that would be good for Iran. So this is a country built on a Shia theocracy, so Shia allegiance is critical.

FOREMAN: Ray, there's a lot of talk about these neighbors maybe being part of the solution, too. How could they be?

TAKEYH: Well, as the United States gradually pulls out of Iraq, which seems to be the case, they increasingly have ownership of the situation and responsibility for its improvement. If they just stand aside and watch Iraq implode, they will suffer the spillover effect in terms of refugees, in terms of insurgency, in terms of a larger Sunni- Shia divide in the Middle East. So the idea is as the external power everybody blames for this conflict withdraws, they kind of have to take some responsibility for what happens in Iraq because it affects their own tangible suffering.

FOREMAN: Will they do so in a responsible way?

TAKEYH: I think it's possible that they will do so and there has been some ideas between Iranians and Saudis about actually mediating the Iraqi civil war, the Iranians as the leading Shia power, the Saudis as the leading Sunni power coming together and having some sort of arrangement that benefits the Iraqis but also the neighboring states.

FOREMAN: All right, Ray, thank you so much for your time. Aneesh as well.

As you've just heard what the Iraq Study Group had to say about its Iraq neighbors, we're going to turn to a key conflict that the Iraq Study Group also said has to be worked out before anything, anything can be resolved in this volatile region and now maybe there's progress in this bitter struggle over this critical area outside of Iraq. More on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: When they released their report last December, the Iraq Study Group said that all of the key issues in the Middle East from Iraq to Iran to political reform to the war on terror depended on one thing, "The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab- Israeli conflict." But we've been trying to deal with this for years, lots of smiling faces. Back in 1978 Jimmy Carter, The Camp David Accords. We moved on and then in 1993 we had the Oslo Accords, again in 2000 we tried to make a deal. In 2002 another attempt at a deal. And now comes Tony Blair stepping in and trying to solve this. How can he get it done? The simple truth is we've got to start with a look at history. We bring in Zain Verjee from the State Department to help us. Let's look at the map of Israel. Back in the 1940s Israel is formed, immediately troubled. Why?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Israel is greater than 1948 and immediately you've got two Arab armies coming in. You've got Egypt, that holds Gaza, and you have Jordan that holds the West Bank.

FOREMAN: Now this lasts until the 1960's when another war breaks out between Israel and its neighbors. What happens then?

VERJEE: Well in 1967 Israel occupies all these areas including east Jerusalem as well as a strategic area along the Syrian border known as the Golan Heights.

FOREMAN: And none of the neighbors like this very much because suddenly everything goes into a big, long pause. And now in the middle of all of this, Tony Blair steps in the modern situation and says maybe he can solve it. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, MIDDLE EAST ENVOY: I will be here now talking to people in Israel, talking to Palestinians as well, getting a sense not just of the challenges and the issues but also some of the potential answers and solutions.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Joining the discussion now Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He also served as an advisor to the Iraq Study Group. So back to the map for just a moment here. Right now the West Bank is largely controlled by Fatah and over in Gaza it's run by Hamas, and they don't get along. What can Tony Blair do about this?

JON ALTERMAN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Tony Blair has a fundamental problem because Fatah says we're the government. We don't need these guys. Hamas is challenging him for the control and saying we are the elected government. And right now the world doesn't know how to deal with a Fatah-Hamas split. Tony Blair has to help heal that split if he has any hope of ever making a Palestinian peace.

FOREMAN: You have a sense of what the guidelines are, what you think he's trying to aim for, that he has to aim for. Let's take a look at the guidelines. Develop a strategic discussion among Israelis and Palestinians alike about the bottom line, what they want to accomplish, get international consensus on dealing with Hamas, and prevent the collapse of the Palestinian authority, which would mean there was no Palestinian party to make peace. Zain, you look at the region. Big goals. Does he have a chance and if so, why?

VERJEE: Well like Jon said, he's in an extremely difficult position. His mandate is essentially fairly narrow, officially it's to focus on building infrastructure. But there are indications from diplomats that we've spoken to from the quarter that he really wants to broaden this mandate simply because of the hurdles and the obstacles that he faces. But the real difficulty is how do you deal with Hamas? When you get to that point, what exactly do you do if at all? Colin Powell said, you know, someone from the U.S., but someone needs to engage Hamas. I mean, the United States' strategy has basically been alienate and isolate Hamas and give the Palestinian people a choice and say you can choose between the chaos of Gaza or the relative stability of the West Bank, but it's going to be tough for Blair.

FOREMAN: Look, Jon, Tony has been trying to reach in there and say let's build up Fatah, let's get their government working, let's make the system work. If they do that successfully, can they simply overpower Hamas by making the Palestinian people say, hey, I'd rather live here than there?

ALTERMAN: First, that's a big if. Fatah has been trying to build up government services. They've been trying to build up the government. They've never been as successful as Hamas. They've always been more corrupt and less effective. That's part of the reason that Hamas won the election. The other problem is can you ever really alienate Hamas' supporters down to the point where they're irrelevant? Let's say they're about 40 percent of the population. Let's say that 10 percent of the population opposed to a peace deal can stop it, can you strangle it down to 10 percent? I think ultimately you're going to have to bring at least part of those people into a deal.

FOREMAN: How much does it help or hurt that the Arab neighbors seem to be making noise now about saying, come on, for once and for all let's get this settled, about the Palestinians?

VERJEE: Well I mean it's a difficult thing. I mean, officials that we've spoken to said there's a real sense of fatigue almost among various Arab countries saying you know we've seen this before. We've done this before but when the chips are down and we really need serious U.S. engagement, it either doesn't come or it's come too late. So there is a sense of fatigue but this is a difficult issue and no one is under any illusions that it's going to take time and no one is under any illusions that anything will happen quickly particularly with the situation and the standoff with Hamas.

FOREMAN: Is the U.S. welcome there, Jon?

ALTERMAN: In helping solve this?

FOREMAN: It seems like everybody says they have to be there but then wish they weren't.

ALTERMAN: Everybody says the U.S. has to be there but there are two elections that make the timing really, really bad right now. First, Israel is probably going to have new elections next spring. The current government is incredibly unpopular and the two competitors Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barack are waiting in the wings but how can you negotiate a peace deal while you're in an election campaign.

FOREMAN: If you don't know what the other side is going to do once you get past the election.

ALTERMAN: When you're campaigning, how can you negotiate peace? It's really an inauspicious time to start making serious compromises. The other part of this is the American political campaigns, the presidential campaigns, the sense the Bush administration no longer has the juice that it had, no longer has the public support. Is the United States in the position to bring the parties to a deal?

FOREMAN: All of that said, is Tony Blair's mission hopeless or is this a legitimate step toward ending this thing which we seem to be unable to ever end?

ALTERMAN: I don't think those are contradictory. He can plant the seeds, he can begin to shape his strategic thinking of both sides. But I think if anybody is saying, as Abu Mazin(ph), the Palestinian president said, I want a deal in the next year, there's not going to be a serious deal in the next year. It just can't happen given the politics in the Palestinian community, in the Israeli community and in the United States.

FOREMAN: So Zain, to wrap it up, where is Tony Blair going? Good steps in the right direction but no solution in the near future.

VERJEE: It's always good to have a degree of engagement, someone as high profile as Tony Blair also who can pick up the phone to the U.S. president or the secretary of state and say, hey listen, you know, so that's always a positive thing. Just to build a little bit on what Jon was saying, too, the thing is that both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides, they don't have their own internal houses in order so the timing issues and the election issues are important but the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas does not have control. He's a weak leader and is viewed that way by many people and is not really representative of all of the Palestinian people and the internal Israeli issues for the reasons that Jon pointed out is also problematic.

FOREMAN: Well then we'll see if this is a turning chapter or just another chapter. Jon, thanks for being here, thanks so much, Zain. When we come back, the toughest battle in the Iraq war seen through the eyes of the men who were there. You do not want to miss this. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: We have a very special event coming up later this week here on CNN that I'm sure you won't want to miss if you're interested in this war. I had the privilege over the past few months of visiting with many of the marines of the 18 bravo company, who were involved in the battle of Fallujah. Often this war looks all the same but Fallujah was the only time that insurgents have tried to stand in large numbers and battle against American forces. And the bravo company folks were right in the middle of it. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): The cultural center a half mile in is a stronghold to be taken and used as an anchor for bravo's charge. As they approach at sunrise, Sergeant Lonnie Wells is near the front. He's in his late 20s, always calm, the younger marines naturally follow him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been around a while. He's older. He knows what he's doing.

FOREMAN: The wide road in front of the cultural center is comparatively quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running this way.

FOREMAN: Sergeant Wells starts running across, and the dawn explodes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were bullets coming in from every side of us -- from in front of us, from the east and west, and then behind us. It looked, sounded, and felt like a nightmare.

FOREMAN: The heaviest interlocking fire is coming from a nearby mosque and a building down the street. Shots, however, are all around so bravo cannot sit. The center must be taken. But in the middle of the street, Lonnie Wells is down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first sign of combat is extremely confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up.

FOREMAN: Joel (INAUDIBLE), whose job is to record the battle for the military, sees Wells fall. And as he lifts his camera, he sees a gunnery sergeant run to Wells' rescue, a medical corpsman not far behind. The gunnery is shot and thrown several feet. The corpsman is hit too. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a movie. It was extremely surreal. I didn't think. You don't think. You don't have time to think. You just react.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: That's only a small part of the one-hour special report on this brutal and terribly important battle, "The Anvil of God," a special edition of "AC 360" this Friday night. Set your TiVo, mark it on your refrigerator, but don't forget it. I can't say enough good things about these young men for the importance of understanding what happened in Fallujah. Make sure you join us. Up next, army ranger Pat Tillman. More questions surrounding his death by friendly fire. THIS WEEK AT WAR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOREMAN: Finally, almost 60 years ago this week in war, President Harry Truman signed an executive order calling for equality of treatment for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. Never mind that a million African-Americans had just served in World War II, they were still seen as second class soldiers.

The world has changed. Look at the faces of all the young people serving now and you'll see the face of America. It's not perfect but today's military is pretty close to the civilian population. They are our sons and daughters, friends and lovers, co-workers and neighbors, many older than you might expect but many tragically too young. Whether or not you agree with this war or any war, we live in a democracy and so we share responsibility as well as power. We share a responsibility to respect their courage and determination to heal them if they are wounded and to honor and remember them all if they fall. There is no segregation in this roll call, as there never should have been.

Turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next WEEK AT WAR. On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to travel to the Middle East to discuss how Iraq's neighbors can help that war torn nation. Wednesday a congressional committee investigates what top Pentagon leaders knew about the circumstances surrounding army ranger Pat Tillman's death from friendly fire. And on Thursday, an extradition hearing begins for two men accused of plotting to blow up fuel supplies at New York's JFK airport.

Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead, CNN Special Investigations Unit, TWA Flight 800, No Survivors.

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