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THE SITUATION ROOM
Dramatic Rescue Mission in Northern Iraq; U.S. Obama Statement on Iraq; U.S. Welcomes Naming of New Iraqi Prime Minister; New U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq; FBI Investigates Police Shooting of Teen
Aired August 11, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a daring rescue. CNN is aboard a desperate flight to deliver aid to stranded refugees besieged by ISIS jihadists. You're going to see the dramatic pictures as some are plucked to safety.
A bitter power struggle plays out in Baghdad, where a new prime minister is named, as troops and armored vehicles are deployed in the streets.
And shooting outrage -- the FBI is now investigating the killing of an unarmed teen by a police officer that sparked violence and looting in a town near St. Louis.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: But let's get to the breaking news right now.
We're awaiting a statement from the president of the United States on the situation in Iraq.
We're also seeing, for the first time, up close, a desperate battle for survival in Northern Iraq, where the Obama administration is now warning of genocide, as ISIS targets Iraqi minority groups, including thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain.
Let's go to our chief -- our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
He's in Martha's Vineyard for us.
I understand the president, momentarily, will be making a statement on the situation in Iraq -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We're expecting the president to make a statement on the situation in Iraq at any moment. One thing that is holding things up, we should report, are some of the technical difficulties. The president did not elect to come to the location where we're at, where the White House press corps is assembled to follow his developments here in Martha's Vineyard. Instead, a signal is being set up at his home, where he's staying with the family here in Martha's Vineyard. And so we're waiting on that to be put together in order to see the president.
We may only hear him, audio only. I just want to pass all of that along, in case we only get an audio only signal from the president here in the next several minutes.
But, Wolf, we expect the president to talk about some of the kinetic movements that have been underway in Northern Iraq over the last several days, those air strikes that have been going after those ISIS targets in North Iraq. And in addition to that, these humanitarian air drops being aimed at those refugees trying to hide from ISIS militants in the Sinjar Mountains.
So we hear -- we do think the president will talk about that.
But, really, I think the big purpose of this presidential statement, which you don't see very often on presidential vacations, but it does seem to happen to this president very often when he goes away. We do expect the president to address the political situation that is unfolding in Baghdad.
As you know, Wolf, the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has been clinging to power, but his support has been crumbling in the Iraqi government. And right now, as we know, the Iraqi president has appointed or designated a new prime minister, al-Abadi.
And all day long, we've been getting statements, Vice President Joe Biden called Haider al-Abadi earlier today, expressed his support to him being designated the new Iraqi prime minister, encouraged him to form a more unified government, something that they think that Nouri al-Maliki has failed to do over the last several years. And then Secretary of State John Kerry, in the last couple of hours, put out his own statement, saying very much the same thing.
So I think, Wolf, what we're going to hear from the president, he's going to come out and he's going to make very similar comments. I think he's going to be encouraging of Haider al-Abadi as the new Iraqi prime minister. And, you know, if you read between the lines, Wolf -- and we've seen this for several weeks now -- I think the message from the president is that it's time for Nouri al-Maliki to go -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
That will be a clear message one way or another.
We're going to, of course, have live coverage of the president once he gets to the microphones, gets in front of the cameras. We'll hear what he has to say about the situation in Iraq, a situation that is pretty much everyone here in -- everyone agrees is awful right now, as there's a genuine threat of genocide against a whole lot of people in Northern Iraq, including a small Yazidi community, as well as Christians and others. Let's go to the Pentagon, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, as we await the president, what's the latest as far as U.S. military air strikes on ISIS terror targets in Iraq, as well as humanitarian airlifts?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there was very tough talk from a top general here at the Pentagon a short time ago, making clear air strikes alone are not going to push ISIS out of town.
STARR (voice-over): The faces of an emerging genocide at the hands of Islamic militants. But the Pentagon has no orders to stop the militants, only to blunt their attacks.
LT. GEN. WILLIAM MAYVILLE, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, JOINT CHIEFS: In no way do we want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed by ISIL.
STARR: That threat is on display in CNN's dramatic video from Ivan Watson, as machine gunners opened fire during an Iraqi attempt to drop food and water to trapped Yazidi civilians.
MAYVILLE: It does not surprise me that there will be small arms fire during the ingress of those aircraft or the egress of those aircraft, just because of the way that ISIL formations are moving around.
STARR: The Obama administration now considering, short of U.S. ground troops, how to get everyone out.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The next step, which is going to be complicated logistically, is how do we give safe passage for people down from the mountain?
That's the kind of coordination we need to do internationally.
STARR: The U.S. has conducted more than a dozen air strikes since Friday. But most have been near Erbil, to stop the advance on that city. The U.S. is flying armed drones and fighter jets over Mount Sinjar, ready to attack militant advances. But terrorists have already changed their tactics.
MAYVILLE: One of the things that we have seen are the ISIL forces is that where they have been in the open, they are now starting to dissipate and to hide.
STARR: Pushing back the militants has given the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters time to rearm. The Iraqi government has sent in arms and ammunition.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And pay attention to President Obama's words there. There is, in fact, a lot of work going on behind-the-scenes to see if there is a way, with the international community, to get all of those desperate people off that mountain -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thousands and thousands of people who are desperate, indeed.
Barbara, stand by.
We're following the breaking news.
We're awaiting a statement from the president of the United States on the situation in Iraq. He's on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, but he's about to go before the cameras and tell us what's going on.
We're also seeing, for the first time, up close, a really desperate battle for survival in Northern Iraq, where the Obama administration and many others are warning of genocide, as ISIS targets Iraqi minority groups, including thousands of Yazidis trapped on top of a mountain.
Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, went along on a harrowing relief and rescue mission carried out by an Iraqi helicopter crew with Kurdish Peshmerga troops on board.
Ivan is standing by -- Ivan, I'm going to just play, as we await the president of the United States, a little bit of what you saw.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go. No, no.
BLITZER: All right, here's the president of the United States.
Let's listen in.
OBAMA: For the past few days, American forces have successfully conducted targeted air strikes to prevent terrorist forces from advancing on the city of Erbil and to protect American civilians there.
Kurdish forces on the ground continue to defend their city and we've stepped up military advice and assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces as they wage the fight against ISIL.
At the same time, we've continued our daily humanitarian efforts to provide life-saving assistance to the men, women and children stranded on Mount Sinjar and deployed a USAID disaster assistance response team to help.
Some have begun to escape their perch on that mountain and we're working with international partners to develop options to bring them to safety.
I want to thank, in particular, the United Kingdom, France and other countries working with us to provide much needed assistance to the Iraqi people. And meanwhile, our aircraft remain positioned to strike any terrorist forces around the mountain who threaten the safety of these families. This advance -- this advances the limited military objectives we've outlined in Iraq -- protecting American citizens, providing advice and assistance to Iraqi forces as they battle these terrorists, and joining with international partners to provide humanitarian aid.
But as I said when I authorized these operations, there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government, one that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis and one that can unify the country's fight against ISIL.
Today, Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort. Last month, the Iraqi people named a new president. Today, President Masum named a new prime minister designate, Dr. Haider al-Abadi. Under the Iraqi constitution, this is an important step toward forming a new government that can unite Iraq's different communities.
Earlier today, Vice President Biden and I called Dr. Abadi to congratulate him and urge him to form a new cabinet as quickly as possible, one that's inclusive of all Iraqis and one that represents all Iraqis.
I pledged our support to him, as well as to President Masum and Speaker Jabouri as they work together to form this government.
Meanwhile, I urge all Iraqi political leaders to work peacefully through the political process in the days ahead.
Now, this new leadership has a difficult task. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve. The United States stands ready to support a government that addresses the needs and grievances of all Iraqi people.
We're also ready to work with other countries in region to deal with the humanitarian crisis and the counterterrorism challenge in Iraq.
Mobilizing that support will be easier once this new government is in place.
These have been difficult days in Iraq, a country that's faced so many challenges in recent history. And I'm sure that there will be difficult days ahead.
But just as the United States will remain vigilant against the threat posed to our people by ISIS, we stand ready to partner with Iraq in its fight against these terrorist forces. Without question, that effort will be advanced if Iraqis continue to build on today's progress and come together to support a new and inclusive government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you have a message for Maliki?
BLITZER: All right, so there you saw a brief statement by the president, only about a two or three minute statement, in fact.
But basically saying he welcomes the fact that there could be a new prime minister of Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, to take over for Nouri al-Maliki. There's no doubt the Obama administration and so many others want Nouri al-Maliki to go.
The only problem here is that Nouri al-Maliki apparently does not want to leave and is taking steps to resist this new leadership in Iraq.
This is, potentially, a very, very serious problem. The president says you need new leadership in order to work forward and deal with the threats that ISIS poses to so many people in Iraq.
Elise Labott is our global affairs correspondent -- Elise, is there any guarantee that the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is ready to peacefully step down?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Far from it, Wolf. You saw that the prime minister deployed his troops throughout Baghdad and also said that he's going to contest this appointment of this designate, Mr. Al- Abadi, because he's saying, listen, he deserves a third term according to the constitution and the deadlines that have been laid out, that he's the one that should be forming a government.
And today, Secretary of State John Kerry issuing a very stern warning to Prime Minister al-Maliki to basically step aside saying, listen, U.S. support is at risk if you do not allow this constitutional process to work out.
Clearly, he's -- al-Maliki is clinging to power, digging in his heels. But the U.S. really starting, I think, to pull -- really tighten the noose, Wolf, on al-Maliki, and saying that this is the only way that the Iraqis can move forward and start to beat back ISIS as a united -- as a united country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the U.S. clearly, with so many others, doing everything they possibly can to prevent Nouri al-Maliki from staying in power. They think he has been, especially in the last few years, a total disaster as far as peace in Iraq is concerned.
We'll see what happens. There could be, some U.S. officials fear, an actual coup that Nouri al-Maliki could undertake. But there are plenty of forces in Iraq, military troops who are loyal to Nouri al- Maliki and not to this new designated prime minister, Haider al-Abadi.
We're going to continue to watch this.
Elise, stand by.
Up next, more on breaking news. U.S. warplanes are hitting these ISIS terror targets and the U.S. is now arming Kurdish forces.
But is it too little too late?
I'll speak with a top Kurdish official. And President Obama opens up about global crises. I'll ask Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" about his wide-ranging interview with the commander-in-chief.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Officials now tell CNN the United States is arming Kurdish forces who are badly outgunned by ISIS insurgents in Northern Iraq.
All this comes as U.S. air strikes may be slowing, but certainly not stopping the brutal ISIS onslaught that has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Joining us now is the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Qubad Talabani.
He's joining us from Erbil.
Qubad, let me get your reaction, first of all, to what we just heard from the president. He said it's promising, there may be a new prime minister in Iraq.
But do you believe, Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, is going to step down willingly or will there be a coup?
QUBAD TALABANI, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT: Thank you for having me back, Wolf.
We are -- we're hopeful that the prime minister, the former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, steps down and follows the constitutional process, follows the political process in Iraq, that we can hopefully get this country out of this difficult situation and toward a more stable and brighter future.
We're concerned about some of the things that we're hearing, about troop deployments throughout Baghdad and about the tensions that are existing in the city.
But we're -- it's a positive step that a prime minister designate has been -- has been appointed. And we're hopeful that the political process can continue and we can have a new government in a very short period of time.
BLITZER: What happens if Nouri al-Maliki refuses?
What if he says, I'm the prime minister, this other guy is not the prime minister, and I've got a lot of troops loyal to me and I will resist any move to get rid of me?
What happens then?
TALABANI: That would be a huge mistake. It would be a very bad decision on behalf of the former prime minister. It would lead the country toward more turmoil and even further instability at a time when the country is ravaged by political stalemate, by a terrorist state that has taken over a big part of the country. And this would be a catastrophe, a political and security catastrophe for the country.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what the U.S. is doing to help the immediate crisis where you are, in the northern part of Iraq, in Kurdistan, up in that area.
I spoke with one of your colleagues earlier today, Massoud Barzani, the head of Kurdish intelligence. He said, yes, the CIA is providing some ammunition to the Peshmerga, Kurdish fighters, who you're very obviously familiar with, but it may be too little too late as far as the tens of thousands of minorities, the Christians, the Yazidis. Many Kurds are concerned.
Is it too little too late, what the U.S. is now doing?
TALABANI: We're hoping for greater support. We're hoping for -- for increased cooperation. What has happened in these areas, what has happened to these communities, to the Christians of Iraq, to the Yazidis and to others in that part of the country is a catastrophe. It's a real calamity.
And the only way that we can counter these forces is with increased firepower, with increased air support from the United States and increased cooperation that can allow our fighters, the Peshmerga, to take back some of these territories and to defend these towns and cities where these minorities are living.
BLITZER: Do you believe the ISIS terrorists are engaged in genocide?
TALABANI: You could sit here and debate the definition of genocide, the legal definition of genocide. But when you try to -- to wipe out a community, either in part -- in whole, in part or in whole, I think that constitutes genocide, Wolf.
What has happened to the Yazidis and the attempted destruction of the Yazidis, the attempted destruction of their shrines, of their temples, of their heritage, it's a catastrophe and it's nothing short of genocide, in my opinion.
BLITZER: Because the pictures we're showing viewers right now are so painful, the faces of these little kids and these elderly, they're trying to squeeze onto an Iraqi military helicopter that the Peshmerga, your fighters, are really involved in rescuing these people, dropping some food. But they saved, what, 20 people on this one helicopter, and there are tens of thousands who are in danger right now, in your word and so many others, of genocide.
What else do you want the president of the United States to do?
TALABANI: We need all the support we can muster, all the international support, from the United States, from our European colleagues, to create a humanitarian corridor, to create a corridor that will allow these people safe passage away from this mountain, away from the terrorists and into safety. I want to commend you ever guys, as well, for participating in that run today, to show your viewers around the world the catastrophe that these people are facing. I think, hopefully, it will have the impact that's necessary to get the kind of international attention required to assist us in creating this humanitarian corridor that can get these people to safety.
BLITZER: I think we still have you over there, Qubad. I lost you for a second.
Are you still with us?
TALABANI: Yes, I'm still here, Wolf.
BLITZER: So the bottom line right now, this is a disaster. You need a whole lot more military hardware, not just some ammunition.
You need sophisticated weaponry to immediately come into bolster the Peshmerga, your fighters, is that right?
TALABANI: That's correct, Wolf. We need -- we need -- our -- we need the kind of firepower that's required to pierce the armor that these armored Humvees and other mechanized vehicles that the Islamic State have. We need the increased air support from your air force, from the Iraqi Air Force, that can -- that can pound these guys from the skies and allow our Peshmerga, with the new machinery, with the new weaponry, to -- to take back these areas and to protect our people.
BLITZER: Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Let's check in with you once again tomorrow, Qubad.
And we'll continue with our reporting about what's going on.
TALABANI: Thank you.
Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Qubad Talabani, thanks very much.
Coming up, he got President Obama to speak very frankly about the crises erupting around the world, including the current situation in Iraq. I'll ask Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" about his interview -- a wide-ranging interview with President Obama.
And disturbing new details of an arrest of an American said to be an ISIS sympathizer.
Is that just the tip of the iceberg?
New information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A dramatic rescue of stranded refugees in Northern Iraq underscores the desperate situation of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the brutal advance of ISIS jihadists.
In a "New York Times" interview, President Obama has spoken bluntly about this and other crises he's facing around the world.
Let's get a closer look.
And Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" is joining us right now.
Tom, you spent an hour with the president of the United States. Let me just try to get into his head via you for a moment. These dramatic pictures we're seeing now of rescue operations, religious minorities in Northern Iraq and Kurdistan, it's really unbelievable what we're seeing, and Kurdish officials warning that these ISIS terrorists want to commit genocide against these people.
How much pressure is this going to put on president to maybe revise his strategy and go in there and rescue people, as opposed to just providing food or having some bombs hit artillery pieces?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think the president's made clear, Wolf, both in his public statements and in the interview, that he believes a humanitarian crisis on this scale in a country we were involved in where we can make a difference, that he's going to be involved.
And he certainly followed up over the weekend by making clear that it's going to be long-term. I think there's two issues here. One is what you have got this dramatic footage of, of the humanitarian crisis involving this minority, the Yazidis.
And there is also the strategic question of Kurdistan, this kind of island of decency in Northern Iraq, one of the few good things to come out of the Iraq war, now is also threatened, and that humanitarian and strategic -- those humanitarian and strategic interests combining I think are bringing us in there.
BLITZER: In the interview -- and I'm going to play a little clip, because this sort of jumped out at me. You were referring in your article to the president's policy of no victor, no vanquished.
Let me play this little clip for you. I want you to explain what the president has in mind. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what the Iranians have done is to finally realize that a maximalist position by the Shias inside of Iraq is over the long term going to fail.
And that's, by the way, a broader lesson of -- for every country. If you want just 100 percent, and the notion is, is that the winner really does take all, all the spoils, sooner or later, that government's going to break down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is no victor, no vanquished, is it fair to call that an Obama doctrine? Did he actually use those words?
FRIEDMAN: Well, first, no victor, no vanquished is my formulation, which he agreed with, and then really re-articulated just the way you showed it there.
And it really is animating. I think it's one of the biggest lessons he's taken away from the whole experience in the Middle East, which is that, if you don't have a politics where people are ready to share power, Sunnis, Kurds, Shiites in Iraq, you know, Shia, Alawites, and Sunnis in Syria, and throughout the region, if you don't have people ready to share power, yes, we can suppress violence, we can hold places together.
But without that the underlying power-sharing agreement, nothing good is going to happen and be sustainable. And I think that was his overall -- I think it's a very important message. I happen to agree with that. I think if you look at the two countries or two regions that have come out of the Arab spring decently, they're Tunisia and Kurdistan, two places we actually had virtually nothing to do with in recent years.
And it's because they came to a politics of really sharing power, no victor, no vanquished. And without that in Iraq, nothing is going to work.
BLITZER: But there are certain groups like ISIS, for example, you can't share power with terrorists like this, right?
And the point that the president was making -- and certainly something I have been making in my columns as well -- is that the reason ISIS emerged and the reason it cut through Iraq so quickly, Wolf, there are only, what, 18,000, 20,000 of them, but they had a huge amount of passive support from Iraqi Sunnis, precisely because Maliki, the longtime prime minister, refused not only to share power, but was really using his power to abuse, you know, Iraqi Sunnis and the Iraqi Sunni mainstream.
And that made the ground so the tinder there, so easy for ISIS to light that fire.
BLITZER: You were in Israel a week or so ago. I was there as well. Here's a clip of what the president said, because this jumped out at me as well, about Israel and its survival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Because Israel is so capable militarily, I don't worry about Israel's survival.
Others can cause Israel pain. It's a really bad neighborhood. And they can inflict, you know, casualties and destruction in parts of Israel, but Israel's going to survive. That's not the issue. I think the question really is how.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. And then he goes on to explain the answer to that question of how. But tell us what the president has in mind.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, Wolf, you remember Abba Eban, the former Israeli foreign minister for many years. And Abba Eban used to say of Israel, we are not a disarmed Costa Rica.
Israel is a powerful country. And it can take care of itself against the basic conventional threats it now faces on its borders. I think what the president is saying -- and, as you know, some Israelis are also saying, more than a few -- is that, how are we going to survive? Are we going to survive as a country that is forced, you know, to occupy 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank? Or if we can find an alternative -- and maybe they can't. Maybe there is no secure Palestinian partner for an alternative.
But if they can find an alternative, that's going to be much more healthy in the long term for Israel as a Jewish democracy. And I think that's the issue that he's really raising.
BLITZER: Does he have in these final two years -- he's approaching his last two years as president of the United States -- some sort of vision, an Obama doctrine, shall we call it, for dealing what seems to be so many plays on earth right now on fire?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I think that -- I wouldn't begin to presume I could declare what his doctrine is.
But what came through to me in the interview, Wolf, is that one of the things he's learned -- and I really go back to the beginning of our conversation -- is that, you know, without partners on the ground who are ready to build a politics, a decent politics of sharing power, without those kind of partners, nothing America does will be self- sustaining.
Yes, we can intervene with force. We can hold things together. But the two most important, you know, words in foreign policy are self and sustaining. And what we saw in Iraq and what we have seen in Libya is, we go in, we do these things militarily, but without leaders who are ready to share power and build a future together, nothing we do will be self-sustaining.
And I think the president, I sense in listening to him, is deeply wary of investing another trillion dollars of U.S. treasure, not to mention lives and energy, in kind of trying to do things for people who don't want to do it themselves.
BLITZER: Tom Friedman is the columnist for "The New York Times."
Tom, thanks very much for joining us.
FRIEDMAN: Pleasure, Wolf. Any time.
BLITZER: Let's turn quickly to the political battle for 2014 and a deadlocked race in Hawaii that could leave two Democratic Senate candidates fighting for votes in an area hardest-hit by the weekend storm.
Damage forced officials to close two polling places early Saturday, leaving the primary contest between the U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa too close to call. Those who didn't get the chance to vote are being given an unspecified number of days to do so.
When we come back, we're going to have much more of the breaking news coming out of Iraq. In fact, we're just getting word into THE SITUATION ROOM right now of new airstrikes in Iraq. We will go to the Pentagon for details when we come back.
BLITZER: Following the breaking news, getting new details just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about a new round of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as the world attention focused on Sinjar Mountain today and those thousands of people trapped up there, we have now learned that the U.S. military has conducted four rounds of airstrikes against that mountain in a three-hour period, the Pentagon just issuing details a short time ago.
U.S. warplanes attacked a number of ISIS checkpoints, trucks, armored personnel carriers, and even a Humvee. And, you know, ISIS didn't exactly go out and buy a Humvee themselves. That's American military equipment that was sold to the Iraqis in the past.
The U.S. warplanes to a large extent have come off the George Washington F-18 aircraft. But we also know now that U.S. Air Force aircraft have also joined this operation. I think it's very interesting to note that we're now getting these details that the U.S. warplanes have gone after ISIS checkpoints near Mount Sinjar, because if they want to get those people off that mountain, there are so many of them.
It will take a ground operation. And before you can start a ground operation, you have to clear out the checkpoints and roadblocks of the enemy forces. We don't know for sure that that's what's in the works, but that would be a very typical tactic. So, for the first time today, we're hearing about U.S. warplanes going against ISIS checkpoints near Mount Sinjar -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And these were all fighter aircraft, not drones with these Hellfire missiles. These are supposedly F-18s.
Are they saying when it's optimal to undertake these kinds of U.S. airstrikes against these ISIS targets in Iraq?
STARR: Well, Mount Sinjar in particular, this area, what we know now is that drones are keeping watch 24/7 on the lookout for ISIS on the move. We learned today at the Pentagon ISIS fighters in the region are beginning to go into hidden positions. So it is becoming increasingly difficult to target them even as they fire potentially against those civilians as we saw today when Ivan Watson was on that chopper with the Iraqis and the Peshmerga fighters.
So this is very tough business now. They want to target them as they move and get them out of there. And one of the reasons, of course, is because the civilians are getting hurt by these people but also in -- when they go into drop food, water and emergency aid to the people who are trapped, the U.S. transport planes fly pretty low, pretty slow. And they need to make sure the ISIS fighters are nowhere where they can attack those airplanes.
So you tend to see this either before an air drop might go in or when a U.S. drone might see ISIS fighters and be able to advise that there's a clear shot to get them.
BLITZER: The ISIS fighters do have shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles other surface-to-air missiles that could endanger those U.S. jet fighters as well as helicopters, other aircraft, right?
STARR: They do, Wolf. What we have been told is so far no U.S. aircraft either going into this area in Iraq or into nearby Irbil going in or coming out have run into any problems from ISIS fighters. They haven't been, you know, targeted by them. They've had no problems with it so far, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope it stays that way.
All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Just ahead at the top of the hour, we'll have much more of the breaking news. Some of the most dramatic video we've seen yet from the escalating humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
Our own Ivan Watson was right in the middle of a daring attempt to rescue refugees. We're going to show you his video, we'll speak with Ivan. That's coming up live right at the top of the hour.
Plus, there's growing outrage over the death of an African-American teenager shot by police. New information coming in. That's coming up, as well.
BLITZER: Back to the latest developments in Iraq in just a few moments, but we're also learning some dramatic new details about the investigation into the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown, 18- year-old African-American, just outside St. Louis. The FBI is now officially involved.
CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll is joining us now live. He's got more.
What is the very latest -- Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now a press conference is taking place with Michael Brown's mother and also her attorney. As you say, the FBI and also the Justice Department involved in this investigation, this as the family calls for peace after a night of violence.
CROWD: No justice, no peace.
CARROLL (voice-over): A peaceful yet angry crowd confronting police, demanding action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
CARROLL: Calls for justice coming after what some say was an unprovoked attack on an unarmed teenager, recent high school graduate, Michael Brown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You took my son away from me. Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? Do you know how many black men graduate? Not many.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your warning. Leave the area. Disperse.
CARROLL: Saturday's shooting led to a weekend of racial tension and violence between protesters and police. Many were simply angry, others took advantage of the chaos, looting shops, throwing rocks and bottles at police.
The Ferguson police chief said he was shot at three times. During the tense standoff one police officer was caught on camera calling the protesters animals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) animals. Bring it.
CARROLL: Some protesters tried in vain to keep the peace. Thirty-two people were arrested.
The circumstances of Brown's shooting are still in dispute. Police claim Brown physically assaulted the police officer and tried to take his gun away before he was shot 35 feet from the police car. But witnesses tell a different story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His weapon was already drawn when he got out of the car. He shot again and once my friend felt that shot he turned around and he put his hands in the air and he started to get down. But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and he fired several more shots.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He ran for his life, they shot him, and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know he was compliant and that he was unarmed and they shot him twice more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
CROWD: Justice. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?
CARROLL: Today city officials urge calm as protesters marched outside police headquarters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want them to be able to air their grievances and to express their frustration but we can't have another night like last night.
CARROLL: You know, Wolf, after spending the day here, I spoke to -- I spoke to a number of people in the community. They are standing behind the woman who you see standing up at that podium right now. That is Michael Brown's mother. Still clearly very emotional, very -- at some points, unable to speak about what happened.
One point that she did want to make about her son is that this was a young man who, she said, had never gotten in a fight his entire life. And that is why all of this violence does not reflect who he was.
And, Wolf, after speaking to the chief of police out here, speaking to people who live on the block where Michael Brown lived, you know, speaking from both points of view, what you have in this community is a fractured relationship between the police and certain members of the African-American community. And what happened to Michael Brown was really the tipping point. So not only do they have to get to the bottom of this investigation, they have to find some way to heal the fractured relationship -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly do.
Jason Carroll watching the story for us, a very tense situation, outside St. Louis right now.
Jason, thank you.
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