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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Militants March towards Baghdad; Oil Prices Spike; Oil Rises on Iraq Fears; Violence and Protests in Brazil
Aired June 12, 2014 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: George H.W. Bush. That's the former president just moments ago jumping out of an airplane. Happy birthday, sir. Our hats off to you.
"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Is the United States about to rejoin the Iraq war? Talks of a possible American air strike or even a set of air strikes as militants threaten to storm Baghdad after overtaking Iraq's second largest city.
And also this hour --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like protesters want to start get moving and there's some pushing back, as you can see. We may have to - if they shoot the - got to go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Welcome to the World Cup. A CNN crew caught in the crossfire with protesters. Isn't this supposed to be about soccer?
And a humanitarian crisis right here in America, and it's growing worse by the hour. Unaccompanied, undocumented children, moms with babies, pouring across the border by the hundreds. And wait until you hear what the border patrol is doing with them.
Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Thursday, June the 12th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.
It was bound to happen, some say, when U.S. forces pulled out. Others say it was bound to happen when next door neighbor Syria fell into a civil war. But either way, it is happening.
A familiar sound. There is breaking news yet again from Iraq. Highly armed, highly trained and highly motivated fighters tearing across the northern half of the country. And their name tells you exactly what they're about, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS as they're known for short. On Tuesday they seized Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, as government forces simply collapsed and melted away. Today, Iraqi war (INAUDIBLE) fighting back, but ISIS is still pushing
on. A spokesman today ordered fighters to, quote, "don't give up a hand's width of the ground you've liberated, only over your dead bodies, and march towards Baghdad because we have scores to settle there."
The White House calls it a, quote, extremely urgent situation. And we've got it covered as only CNN can. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins me live now from Amman, Jordan, right next door. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Washington. And we're also joined by Chris Heben, a former Navy SEAL who was in and out of Iraq and the wars there between 2003 and 2008.
Nic, first to you. The story and what's happening. The Iraqis say that they're able to actually effectively carry out air strikes, but do we really know that what the government is saying is true in this complete mess that seems to have developed?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They say they've carried out an air strike overnight that targeted the largest military base just outside of Mosul. They say that's where ISIS forces were. We don't know what was actually hit. Were they actually trying to take out some of their own ammunition dumps there so they couldn't fall into ISIS' hand. That's not clear.
Another narrative that's not clear. Late yesterday ISIS said that they'd taken control of the town of Tikrit. Today, the Iraq government, on state television, said, no, they've taken control back again. They offered no video graphic or picture evidence of that.
But guess what, ISIS offered video of what they said was Tikrit. It was stunning. It showed what they said were Iraqi security forces, policemen, all lined up, being marched down the road by just a handful of ISIS fighters. That as the Iraqi government, today, was supposed to get together, the parliament rather, get together on a vote on a state of emergency. They couldn't do it. Why? Because the parliament was boycotted by parliamentarians. Apparently a lack of faith in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. It underlines the deep divisions and why perhaps this situation is only getting worse and murkier.
BANFIELD: And, Nic, I just want to play really quickly a sound bite from the foreign minister from Iraq as to just exactly what they want from the Americans. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: Nobody has called, let's say, for the reintroduction of American troops into Iraq or to have a very proactive engagement. I think that is not the case. We know what's happening. But an inaction also not a solution. There is a great deal between do nothing and do something to help the Iraqis' security forces or have the government decide the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: Nic, I'm sorry, I don't clearly understand what he wants. He saying no one's asking for American boots on the ground, but inaction won't work either. What do they want?
ROBERTSON: He wants a united government. He wanted everyone to get together to make compromise. A government, a national unity, they would have compromised over political differences today to vote for a state of emergency. He's a pragmatist, the foreign minister. He's a Kurd. He's not sort of part of the political or sectarian mix-up, if you will, between the Sunnis and the Shias. He has a different perspective, but it's not the winning perspective right now in Iraq. He has been a strong friend of the Americans over the years, Hoshyar Zebari. And what he is saying is, yes, we want help. We don't want boots on the ground. I wish my country could get itself together.
ROBERTSON: I'm telling them they should. They're not doing it. His warning of (ph) worse to come, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: So, Jim Sciutto, if you could weigh in on this group, ISIS, who they are, what they are, and what the Americans think they can do about them?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, ISIS, it's a Fortune 500 merger of two really bad terrorist groups. It started with the Islamic State in Iraq. Remember, this is the group started by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, guilty of some of the worst crimes at the worst moments of the Iraq War back in the mid-2000s. It joined up with Jabhat al Nusra, which was one of the - arguably the worst militant group in Syria battling Assad's regime. They are now together. They have the aim of an Islamic caliphate across borders, Iraq, Syria and broader in the Middle East. They are too -- arguably too harsh even for al Qaeda, caused a split with the core al Qaeda leadership, brutal.
And just -- just to put a point on it for Americans, they are also the most attractive group to join for foreign fighters, in part because they have such low requirements. You have a lot of Europeans and Americans as well going on jihadi vacations in Syria. And the concern -- and Iraq. And the concern being, and this is something that U.S. intelligence officials have told me repeatedly, what happens when they come home?
BANFIELD: So -
SCIUTTO: There's already been an attack in Brussels which has been pinned on a veteran of that conflict. So this is about a regional problem, but also about a real threat to Europe and the American homeland.
BANFIELD: So while all that sounds strategically doable, Chris Heben, look, you've spent a lot of time there, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008. You helped as a part of SEAL Team 8 and as a contractor afterwards, you helped to liberate Mosul and you have a very specific point of view as to the foundation that started this. And it has to do with the Iraqi generals who had a big, big position before the Americans came in and then just dissolved the whole army.
CHRIS HEBEN, FORMER NAVY SEAL, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Absolutely, Ashleigh. They -- Jim makes some very good points. The organization was started by two very high level individuals, but they went on a recruiting spree when Iraq fell in 2003. There was generals and colonels that were basically kicked out of that army, not give an place to go, they were welcomed by the ISIS, or what it was initially called at that point in time. They found employment. They found financial gain.
And these guys are very familiar with all the cities in Iraq. And the equipment that we left behind in 2011, when we pulled out of there, is being used right now by these guys. I'm seeing pictures of equipment left behind, Humvees, military trucks, up armored Humvees, M4's with $1,500 scopes on them. These are very accurate weapons. They're man portable. These guys can do some damage right now immediately.
And, you know, from what I understand, we were supposed to drop off Apache gunships and F-16s that hadn't made it to Iraq yet. I'm thankful that those aren't there.
BANFIELD: It's remarkable. We're seeing some of the pictures right now. And I just have to ask you quickly, and I do mean quickly on this one -
BANFIELD: Something as stupid as severance packages for high level ranking military members weren't given out back in 2003 and effectively that made these people unemployable, angry and with great skills.
HEBEN: Right. Right.
BANFIELD: And they know their enemy now more than anybody. Is that basically how simple it is?
HEBEN: That is a very - a very accurate and fair assessment of that situation. We could have avoided some of this misery by handling that situation appropriately back then.
BANFIELD: It's just so sad to see this happening now. Thank you all, Chris Heben, Jim Sciutto and Nic Robertson, doing the work for us on this particular story. It's a never ending story as well it seems. So what is the impact that the silence is going to have not only in Iraq but you because there is a lot. We're going to check the latest oil prices and what that means for you at the pump. And, guess what, hasn't even been hours of fire and yet you are already going to notice a change.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BANFIELD: And we are continuing to follow the breaking news here at CNN, the turmoil in Iraq. It's on fire effectively and it is now leading to a fight in oil prices. The prices that you pay. We are hearing that insurgents have now seized parts of the small town that is home to the country's largest oil refinery. And can I remind you that Iraq pumps out more than 3 billion barrels of oil every day. It is the second largest crude producer in OPEC after Saudi Arabia. So that's huge. CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans knows a thing or two about this.
We've been talking about the $1 trillion that America spent in the Iraqi war effort and here we are talking about oil prices here going up because the situation there is going down.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. When violence flares, and you're talking about some of these towns falling even briefly to these other groups, it's a really big problem. The oil markets are very concerned.
Let me show you a chart of what's happening in the oil markets right now. You've got crude oil above $106 a barrel. That is - that is really a big spike for the year so far. And you've got analysts this morning who are telling me that if this continues, if this continues, you're going to see another $5 to $10 on top of that. And when you're talking about what you will pay at the pumps, 10 cents, 15 cents, 20 cents. It depends how long this lasts and whether the government can get control of what's happening there. So you've already been seeing threats, destruction at some of the oil fields.
BANFIELD: You mentioned a statistic that I found fascinating. Seventy- six percent of your pump price here in the United States is from international crude pricing.
BANFIELD: Is a lot of this about the optics, though? If they can't control their largest cities, good God, what about their energy?
ROMANS: Look, one of the - one of the most important factors right now oil prices around the world is Iraq coming back online. This is something that's baked into the assumption for oil prices around the world. That's why you've got oil prices back above $100 a barrel because of these concerns about what's happening there. Around the world you have other geopolitical hotspots. You've got Libya that's - problems there. Nigeria, problems there. Venezuela, whatever - whenever that oil comes offline, Saudi Arabia -
ROMANS: Makes up the difference. Saudi Arabia can't make up the whole difference of Iraq. I mean Iraq is the second largest OPEC producer.
BANFIELD: Call me crazy, but I could have sworn things were getting better, at least in the southern part of Iraq. What happened?
ROMANS: And the oil minister telling reporters yesterday that that part of the country is secure, that part of the country is secure. There's a lot of oil coming out of there.
But oil, they've been -- 3.3 million barrels per day is what they're putting out and a lot of people are expecting them to, every month, putting out even more oil. This slows that optimism about Iraqi oil coming to the market.
BANFIELD: America's response, look, they're asking for help in some way. They're asking for global response, but what the White House and this administration decides to do now, is there a yes/no factor for making the oil problem better or could it go either way?
ROMANS: Here's a funny thing, not so funny ha-ha, but funny, meaning odd, things about markets. Sometimes when governments respond, it makes it worse, because then you think it is so bad there is a U.S. response, or if the U.S. response were to be complicated in some way, that could mean another spike in oil prices
BANFIELD: You mean a quagmire.
ROMANS: I mean a quagmire would be very bad for oil prices.
BANFIELD: If you just leave them alone?
ROMANS: Sometimes that's bad, too, because you're watching pictures of refineries being encircled by non-government tanks and trucks, and then you're worried about that as well.
Look, this is a country that's trying to get its oil to the market. It's got truckloads of oil that's going to Jordan, it's got pipelines that are feeding oil out of the country, and that oil has been slow to recover after these long years of war. All of this is why you have nerves frayed in global markets and oil prices moving higher.
BANFIELD: I think that's why the talk of exit strategies is so important when one embarks on a campaign like Iraq.
Christine Romans, you're always on the ball with this. Thank you for your invaluable information.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
BANFIELD: At the top of the hour, I want to make sure that you know Wolf Blitzer, my colleague out of Washington, is going to have a one- hour special on Iraq in crisis and what it means to you. He's going to have reports from all around the world. I encourage you to tune in. This is an important topic and we are perhaps just at the tip of the iceberg.
And, also, the World Cup, kicking off today and it is certainly not fun and games. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Moving and there is some pushing back, as you can see. We may have -- if they shoot -- got to go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Not a good situation, a CNN crew caught in the middle as police respond to protesters.
We're going to take you there, the latest from Brazil, right after this.
BANFIELD: And additional breaking news out of another part of the world, and it is South America. The World Cup is officially beginning today and it's supposed to be a global festival of sport and excitement and unity and competition.
And guess what? It is not, at least not in one particular area. Things are getting very ugly down there in Brazil. Take a look.
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DARLINGTON: ... if they shoot the -- got to go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That is our correspondent, Shasta Darlington, in the middle of a big mess in Sao Paulo a short time ago. Riot police fired tear gas canisters to disperse a group of people who were on a protest march through the city.
Shasta and her producer were both hurt, although I'm happy to say not seriously. I want you to watch Shasta in the moments before that riot went from bad to worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARLINGTON: Things are getting pretty crazy here. There was a skirmish a short while ago. The police fired tear gas. They ended up arresting one person.
Looks like protesters want to start moving, and there's some pushing back, as you can see. We may have -- if they shoot the -- got to go! Here, I can come back up. I can come back up now. As you can see, they -- if you guys can see us -- if you can see us, they did -- OK, they shot the tear gas. This is obviously getting very tense.
There isn't actually a large group of protesters, but the police are firing tear gas. It's clear they do not want protesters getting anywhere near the stadium.
At this point we're 11 kilometers away. The idea is to march as close as they can get, but police have said they will keep a perimeter of at least five kilometers and we're obviously not going to get much closer than that.
I've got to say, things are very tense. These are people who feel the World Cup should never have been held here in the first place. They think the $11 billion spent on the event should have been spent on things like schools and hospitals, public transportation.
And they want to make sure that today, the opening game day, people aren't just thinking about the games; they're also thinking about what's going on in Brazil, about what they feel are very poor services. And they also accuse the government of using a lot of the money for their own personal gain. So this is something I think we're going to be seeing all day, not letting up anytime soon.
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BANFIELD: In the report, what you saw was, as Shasta was reporting and the tear gas canisters being fired, while it was very uncomfortable, it was not dangerous at that point.
But then the stun cannon, the stun grenade went off, and that is what actually ended up injuring Shasta and her producer, Barbara Arvanitidis. I'm happy to say that, while they were both injured, it wasn't serious, and they are both getting medical attention and help right now.
I want to show you another picture right now of Barbara being helped in Sao Paulo after that clash and close ups as well, and I want you to read this from Shasta's Twitter feed.
She writes, "Thank you to Wyre Davies and a cordon of protesters who helped us after we were hit by a canister at the protest." And Wyre Davies is a BBC correspondent who had helped her.
Isa Soares is in Rio right now. She joins us live to talk a little bit more about what happened.
Has anything settled down? Is the situation still as dire as it was when Shasta was hurt?
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The protests are still ongoing. Here in Rio de Janeiro, Ashleigh, it's a very different picture. It's more of a party atmosphere.
Of course Brazilians here feel hard done by. Remember, this cost $11.5 billion. And they have to fork $4 billion of taxpayers money out of their own pockets, so of course people will feel very hard done by.
Only the last couple of days, to be completely honest with you, have I seen a change of mood, a change of sentiment here on the streets of Copacabana. I am starting to see flags being put up in apartments, also people carrying flags on the streets.
But if you look behind me at the crowds, they're not so much Brazilian national (inaudible), but rather we're seeing a lot of Australians, we're seeing a lot of Colombians -- after all it's the first time in 16 years they've made it to the World Cup -- and a lot of Americans and England fans of this World Cup, which tells you, really, the tone of this World Cup.
And one person I was talking (inaudible) from Rio de Janeiro was telling me, this is no longer a time for protests. Protests need to end. Anything that needed to be done, anything we have to achieve, should have been achieved. Now is the time for our support of our team and continue on with the World Cup. Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: Isa Soares, reporting for us live from Rio de Janeiro, thank you for that. And I hope the party overtakes the protests at some point for those people there.
Are things really changing at V.A. facilities across the country? The FBI is looking into things. There might be some criminal behavior, the FBI thinks. At least, they want to take a look. And then this afternoon, the V.A.'s new acting boss will be in North Carolina to see for himself. We're going to find out what he's looking for, next.
BANFIELD: The investigation into the V.A. scandal has now gone criminal. The FBI is working with that agency to see if anybody should actually go to jail over the fact that veterans died while waiting for health care.
CNN broke this story, the news of the scandal, a few weeks ago, and now the investigation has proliferated. It has spread to 69 facilities. The scandal is already pushing lawmakers to action. The Senate has now approved an overhaul at the V.A.