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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah; ISIS Terror; Catastrophic War; Jordan Vows "Earth-Shaking" Revenge Against ISIS; 200+ Civilians Killed as War Escalates
Aired February 3, 2015 - 18:00 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, revenge against ISIS. Angry crowds in Jordan are demanding an eye-for-an-eye after their captured F-16 fighter pilot was burned to death. Retaliation against the terrorists could happen at any time. President Obama is being consulted this hour.
Will the coalition crack or grow stronger? I'll speak live with a foreign minister of a critical U.S. ally and a base for airstrikes against ISIS, Qatar.
Plus, prisoner swap fallout. We have new information about the Taliban detainees who were exchanged for a U.S. soldier and whether they are now in contact with terrorists.
And catastrophic war. A new United Nations warning about the bloodshed in Ukraine, as the United States now considers lethal aid against Russian aggression.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
The breaking news tonight, Jordan's military is promising what they call earthshaking retaliation against ISIS terrorists who put their captured pilot in a cage, set him on fire, and watched him die. The king of Jordan is here in Washington. He's getting ready to meet with President Obama at the White House this hour.
They will discuss this new level of brutality, targeting a Muslim country and one of the critical members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. The foreign minister of Qatar, another important Arab ally of the United States, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by. They are covering all the angles of this breaking story.
First, let's get the very latest.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, joins us -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, I'm told that Jordan is preparing a broad-based response to the murder of their pilot, a wide range of options on the table. The king now gauging public reaction and support in Jordan.
If the execution was intended to weaken public support for the fight against ISIS, tonight, at least in public demonstrations, it has had the opposite effect.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): In Jordan tonight, mourning and anger, hundreds gathering in Amman and the hometown of Lieutenant Muath al-Kaseasbeh demanding revenge.
ISIS released gruesome images of the pilot's death that CNN has decided not to air. They show him burned alive, confined to a cage, raising ISIS' already brutal terror tactics to a new and shocking level.
Jordan announced that the killing likely took place a full month ago and vowed what a spokesman called -- quote -- "an earthshaking retaliation."
MOHAMMED AL-MOMANI, JORDANIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (through translator): His blood will not be shed in vain. For those who assassinated Muath, their punishment would be a revenge that equals the tragedy that has befallen the Jordanians.
SCIUTTO: The horrific news his coincided with a visit by Jordan's King Abdullah to Washington. He quickly cut short his trip to return home.
President Obama and other U.S. officials expressed solidarity with a close ally in the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIS.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization. And it I think will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated.
SCIUTTO: The pilot was captured in late December by the terror group when his F-16 jet went down over Syria. Kaseasbeh's fate became entangled in the failed effort to the free the Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, who ISIS executed just on Saturday.
ISIS claimed it would release Goto if Jordan freed a female jihadist imprisoned for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing. If the demands were not met, ISIS threatened to kill both Goto and Lieutenant Kaseasbeh.
Throughout, Jordan repeatedly demanded proof of life for the pilot, which never came. Now it turns out that Lieutenant Kaseasbeh may have been dead long before any negotiation began.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If the pilot was killed weeks ago or shortly after his apprehension, then it means that all of this by ISIL in the last few weeks has been a charade designed to con Jordan into giving up this terrorist, al-Rishawi. (END VIDEOTAPE)
SCIUTTO: The ISIS video, and I have watched it, and it's difficult to watch, ends with new threats to other Jordanian pilots involved in the air campaign. It lists names and ranks of several pilots and provides photos and offers a reward to ISIS supporters to kill them, pilots it dubs crusaders.
It's an alarming threat in a country that was home to the founder of ISIS' predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, that is, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and is known today, Wolf, still to have ISIS supporters.
BLITZER: This is so shocking indeed. All right, Jim, thank you very much.
Take a look at this. We're going to show a live picture of the West Wing of the White House. Jordan's King Abdullah is due to arrive there any moment now for talks with President Obama in the Oval Office.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.
Michelle, this meeting is very significant. We know King Abdullah is cutting short his visit to the United States. He's going to get right back to Jordan, but he and the president decided that they need to consult and that's what is going to happen right now.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. He's coming over for this last-minute meeting with President Obama before he cuts that short said, as you said, rushes back to Jordan to deal with this crisis.
But while he's been here in Washington, he also met with the vice president today, the secretary of state, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And when you consider that the king of Jordan was here just in December meeting with President Obama, that speaks to the significance of this relationship and we know the important role that Jordan has played as a regional partner in the fight against ISIS, Wolf.
BLITZER: What does this mean for the president's strategy in his efforts to try to destroy ISIS going forward?
KOSINSKI: I think what really jumped out as interesting from the president's own words today was when he talked about this latest brutal murder by ISIS, causing a redoubling, he said, of the vigilance and determination of the coalition.
Well, what does that mean? Does that mean we're going to see some difference in the U.S. strategy? From Jordan, we're hearing talk of revenge and an earthshaking response. But the White House has said was that there is always room to add to the coalition, but they thought what the president was referring to was more the general commitment internationally to the fight against ISIS.
From the Pentagon, they were asked the same question today and they said simply that they are not going to talk about future operations. I think what we might see more in the immediate sense is not necessarily a change in the U.S.' leadership of or action within the coalition, but likely more from at least Jordan and possibly other Arab partners -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're standing by. We will be hearing from the president of the United States and the king of Jordan momentarily over at the White House. We will hear what they have to say.
Let's go live to Jordan, though, right now, where cries for revenge against ISIS are growing louder.
CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, she's in the Jordanian capital of Amman for us.
What's the latest there, Jomana?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, so much anger here in Jordan on the streets of Amman.
We saw hundreds of people this evening taking to the streets as the news broke. People are in shock, really, angry, but also in shock. There had been some hope over the past week or so with these talks of possible negotiations, a possible prisoner swap, that the pilot could return home.
Of course, many are just absolutely shocked by the news this evening. And as you mentioned, calls for revenge, calls for things like burning of the prisoners of ISIS in Jordanian prisons, and they are hoping that their government is going to respond, of course something that we have heard from the Jordanian government and the Jordanian military tonight, Wolf, saying that they will retaliate and it's going to be a harsh retaliation.
While there's been this debate ongoing in this country about whether Jordan should be part of the coalition against ISIS or not, this is a debate that's ongoing, but just this evening, Wolf, we get a sense of a united country with its anger directed towards ISIS right now.
BLITZER: Jomana, we have been monitoring Jordanian television and the images we are seeing are pretty significant, a lot of military activity. We see the tanks. We see the fighter jets. We see the missiles with martial music being played underneath. It sounds like they are getting ready to take military action against ISIS.
Is that a fair interpretation of the images that the Jordanian government is putting on Jordanian TV?
KARADSHEH: Wolf, it does feel like this country right now is declaring a war. It's declaring a war that has been ongoing. But right now, with one Jordanian soldier killed, this has really shaken this whole nation.
It has shaken its military and its top leadership and they are under a lot of pressure to respond. What kind of response is this going to be? We're going to have to wait and see how King Abdullah, how the government here is going to take action, but a lot of pressure on them to strike back at this point in time.
BLITZER: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, we will get back to you. She's joining us live from Amman, where the anger is intense right now.
Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a top representative now of one of the most significant U.S. allies in this war against ISIS, the foreign minister of Qatar, Khalid al-Attiyah.
Mr. Minister, thanks very much for joining us.
KHALID AL-ATTIYAH, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: If this was a Qatari fighter pilot, whose plane went down, was captured by ISIS, and then burned alive in a cage, what would Qatar do?
AL-ATTIYAH: I would like to have a moment, Wolf, please, to -- on behalf of the state of Qatar to, you know, pay our condolence to the family of Lieutenant Kaseasbeh and the government of the Kingdom of Jordan for this brutal, barbarian crime against the pilot.
BLITZER: No one want to be in this situation, Wolf. And no one will predict what can be done in such a situation.
BLITZER: What would you do in a situation such like this? Because you understand, King Abdullah is here in Washington. He's flying back tonight to Jordan. He's got to make some major decisions.
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, in no situation we don't blame him on any action that he would think to do.
BLITZER: Whatever Jordan does, Qatar would support?
AL-ATTIYAH: We always stand firm with our ally to fight terrorism, whatever it is.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, there have been suggestions that Qatar has not necessarily been fully supportive of this war on terrorism. The money from Qatar -- you've heard U.S. Treasury officials suggest that maybe there's a permissive atmosphere that you've allowed money to go from individuals in Qatar to ISIS. To which you say?
AL-ATTIYAH: This is not true, Wolf. Actually, Qatar does not endorse terrorism. And as I told you, we always stand firm with our ally, the United States of America, to combat terrorism wherever it is.
BLITZER: So you're with the United States right now?
AL-ATTIYAH: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: There are thousands of U.S. troops in Qatar right now, right?
AL-ATTIYAH: Yes. We are -- we have -- when they asked us to have the air base in Qatar, we facilitated this. And the Americans are our friends and are there in Qatar. They are present in Qatar. BLITZER: Because I've been to those bases. There are maybe 8,000
American troops right now in Qatar. And from which they launch air strikes against ISIS. Is that right?
AL-ATTIYAH: They are, to be honest with you, the terms of the operation I don't have exactly. But, yes, we have the bases in Qatar and the bases on the other ally countries. And we have one objective in this, is to combat the terrorists.
BLITZER: So you're with the United States in this war of terrorism. Have you launched air strikes against ISIS in Iraq or Syria?
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, technically, there is a technical issue. But we are the ally, and we are doing our role in the allies. There is some technicality on the accountability. This is what maybe --
BLITZER: But you have an air force, right?
AL-ATTIYAH: That's right.
BLITZER: And you're capable of launching air strikes?
AL-ATTIYAH: Absolutely. And the range --
BLITZER: So when you say technical, what does that mean?
AL-ATTIYAH: Within the ranges and the range which you can get there.
BLITZER: Because they have to be refueled -- from Qatar all the way to Iraq?
AL-ATTIYAH: This is why we want to buy your F-15.
BLITZER: You want to buy U.S. F-15s.
But I just want to be precise. You don't have a problem at all with the U.S. launching air strikes from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar against ISIS targets in Iraq or Syria?
AL-ATTIYAH: As I told you, our position is firm in combating terrorism. Whatever it takes to eliminate terrorism, we will be standing.
BLITZER: Were you surprised that these is terrorists burned alive this Jordanian pilot? Did that surprise you?
AL-ATTIYAH: Indeed. It is a barbarian act. This has nothing to do with Islam whatsoever. And I was really shocked when I saw this video.
BLITZER: What would be the reaction in the Arab world to the images, this horrific video that has been released? It's about 22 minutes, the whole video. But at the end, they show him in a brutal way in this cage beaten. And then they pour some sort of gasoline on him. Then they send a torch in there and they light it, and they watch -- you can watch him actually being burned to death. A 26-year-old lieutenant in the Jordanian air force.
AL-ATTIYAH: This makes the Arab street furious. And it's shocking, to be honest, to see the scenes. And I'm speechless to say how, you know, barbarian this act is.
BLITZER: So this will -- is this a turning point, do you believe, when you talk about the Arab street? Because as you know, ISIS has had a lot of support out there. Social media, the recruits, they've taken over huge parts of Syria and Iraq right now. And they seem to be on the move.
AL-ATTIYAH: But in this scene, Wolf, this is nothing close to our Islam. The Islam we know is the Islam of mercy. This is no way, you know -- and you know, someone who can cover Islam on this act.
BLITZER: This is, by the way -- Minister, we're about to see King Abdullah's motorcade arrive. You can see it over there in the West Wing of the White House. They are going to be pulling up there momentarily. We'll see King Abdullah get out of his limousine, going into the Oval Office for this meeting with the president. We can hear the sirens coming down Pennsylvania Avenue, and they will be pulling into the White House.
I want to quickly -- Minister, bear with me -- go back to Michelle Kosinski at the White House right now. This meeting was just hastily arranged, wasn't it, Michelle? It wasn't on the schedule of King Abdullah. But all of a sudden, they arrange it tonight because he's cutting short his visit. He wants to get back to Jordan.
KOSINSKI: Right. He's arriving right now. You can see parts of the motorcade arriving behind me now.
It wasn't on the books. It wasn't expected for today, but we fully expected that they would meet at some point during his visit to the United States. Again, they just met in December. He would take the time to meet with the president, and now that's going to happen. Obviously a much different tone than it would have, knowing that this video was released today during his visit. And that may not have been a coincidence, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we see the vehicle that has King Abdullah of Jordan there. That's clearly an armored vehicle pulling into the West Wing of the White House. Security clearly very, very tight for the visiting king of Jordan. King Abdullah is going to be going into the West Wing. He's being received by a protocol officer there. He'll go into the West Wing.
The foreign minister of Qatar, Khalid al-Attiyah, is with us. What's goes through your mind, Minister? You see King Abdullah, I assume a man you know. You have met King Abdullah over the years.
He's going through an awful period right now. The Jordanian F-16 fighter pilot was burned to death, maybe a month ago, but the video just released today. What is going through your mind as you see what's happening over at the White House? AL-ATTIYAH: Well, I can understand the situation that King Abdullah
is in. He has to address the family of the pilot. We have to wait and see what is the result of his meeting with President Obama. Then we can, you know, find out what is the new approach that they are going to take.
BLITZER: But I just want to be precise, that whatever they decide -- let's say there's a joint U.S./Jordanian retaliation, revenge as the Jordanian army chief said today, Qatar will be with the United States and Jordan in this war against ISIS.
AL-ATTIYAH: Absolutely. We don't want to, at this stage, to jump conclusions. We have to wait and see what is the result after the meeting of King Abdullah and Obama.
But let me put this straight. The whole world now is in a war against terrorists -- and everywhere. And this is -- we have to be all together standing by each other to combat these terrorists.
BLITZER: Minister, stand by if you can. I know you have a lot going on. But please stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to hear what the president of the United States says King Abdullah says. I want to hear more about what Qatar is up to right now.
Much more of the breaking news coming up right after this.
BLITZER: The president of the United States is now in the Oval Office and he's sitting down with Jordan's King Abdullah, who arrived over at the West Wing just moments ago.
There, you see King Abdullah arriving. They will be making joint statements momentarily. We will have coverage for you, of course. We will hear what the president says. We will hear what King Abdullah says, this in the aftermath of the release of that ISIS video showing the burning of a captured Jordanian F-16 fighter pilot.
There you see him right there. It's a story that we have been covering.
There's the pilot, Lieutenant Muath al-Kaseasbeh. We're going to get back to King Abdullah and the president as soon as they start speaking.
We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the visiting foreign minister of Qatar. He's here with us right now, Khalid Al-Attiyah.
We have got more questions for you, Minister. Stand by for a moment.
But we're getting new information on another angle in the war against terror. It is controversial and it involves the nation of Qatar.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us from the Pentagon.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: More details tonight, Wolf, about a situation that only underscores another potential threat to national security.
STARR (voice-over): One of the Taliban detainees in Qatar received two visitors with possible ties to the Haqqani Network, a terrorist group based on Pakistan, CNN has learned, that detainee also believed to be the one who made a phone call to an extremist contact. It's what President Obama says he hoped would not happen.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The release of the Taliban who were being held in Guantanamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them.
STARR: One of the visitors said he was a relative, but after the U.S. learned these visitors had possible terrorist connections, it notified Afghanistan to be on the lookout for them, a U.S. official says. It's not clear if anybody now knows where they are.
The U.S. isn't saying which of the five detainees is the concern.
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Two of them were senior commanders who were responsible for the death of 5,000 religious minorities in Afghanistan that they had liquidated. It showed us, just the release of those five, how dangerous that is.
STARR: Mullah Mohammad Fazl was the Taliban army chief with ties to al Qaeda. He wanted by the United Nations in connection with a massacre of thousands of Afghans during the Taliban era.
Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa was the Taliban interior minister. He is alleged to have been directly associated with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Iraq's deceased leader, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
Mullah Norullah Noori was a Taliban governor with access to top officials. Abdul Haq Wasiq was a senior Taliban intelligence official with ties to al Qaeda intelligence.
Mohammed Nabi Omari is believed to also be a member of the Taliban with ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups. When the five are released from Qatar later this year, there may be nothing to prevent them from going back to fighting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Besides notifying folks that these terrorists have gone back into business, there's very little at this point the DIA could do, besides monitoring of their continued operations.
STARR: Always the worry, Wolf, that they may return to the battlefield -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara Starr, thanks very much. We're here with the Qatari foreign minister. Mr. Minister, you see there is the president of the United States, there is King Abdullah. They are in the Oval Office. I want to listen in and see if we can hear what they are saying.
BLITZER: All right. So, clearly they were not anxious to make a public statement. They were just speaking themselves. You have a picture of them sitting in the Oval Office. Maybe they'll make a statement later. We'll see if they do.
Khalid al-Attiyah is the foreign minister of Qatar. Let's talk about these five Taliban detainees who were released by the Unites States from Guantanamo Bay, sent to Qatar, in exchange for the release of that American, Bowe Bergdahl.
You're watching these five, right? But now, there are these reports. You heard Barbara Starr say that at least one of them has tried to make a connection with a Haqqani network, which was supposedly not going to happen. What's going on? Are you watching these five?
AL-ATTIYAH: Let me start with this, Wolf. When we've been asked by our ally to help with this, we stand for the United States and we take them in. There is so many steps and mechanisms in these procedures. We take this matter very seriously. And you know, we have the first contact between His Highness and President Obama. Then we have the agreement. And we look closely into the agreement --
BLITZER: You negotiated the swap. Bowe Bergdahl the sergeant in exchange for these five Taliban detainees who were held for years at Guantanamo. Was this your idea to do this swap?
AL-ATTIYAH: No, no. We've been asked to do this swap, and we stand for our friends.
BLITZER: Who asked you? Who asked you to do --
AL-ATTIYAH: I wouldn't like to speak of the details, Wolf, on this. But I want to tell you something, that we looked into this matter very seriously. And we monitor...
BLITZER: These are five bad guys, right?
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, they have been released in an agreement, which I cannot provide the details of it. But I can tell you something: that if we see behavior, we'll be reporting this to our ally --
BLITZER: To the United States?
AL-ATTIYAH: To the United States.
BLITZER: Did you see one of them try to make contact with the Taliban, the Haqqani network, with terrorists? AL-ATTIYAH: This is not true, Wolf. This is not true. The news
which we are hearing is not true. There is a close monitor. There is a close corporation between our agencies.
BLITZER: Between the U.S. and Qatar?
AL-ATTIYAH: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: So you're watching all these five guys? Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?
AL-ATTIYAH: Seven days a week.
BLITZER: You monitor all their phone calls?
BLITZER: When will they be able to leave Qatar?
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, they will have a time when this time elapse and they have to leave.
BLITZER: When will that be?
AL-ATTIYAH: I cannot reveal the details of that.
BLITZER: But it will be this year sometime?
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, I can't --
BLITZER: I think that's been public, that's been announced.
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, no, I don't know the exact date.
BLITZER: When they leave, they can go back to the battlefield, they can go back to al Qaeda, they can go back to the Haqqani network? They can go back to whatever they want?
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, we will fulfill our obligation until they are allowed to go back to their homes.
BLITZER: And so the U.S. agreed they will stay for, what, a year in Qatar and then they will be freed?
AL-ATTIYAH: Well, I cannot talk about the details. But the thing I can assure you is that we are working closely to fulfill the obligation of that agreement. With the equal cooperation and coordination with the United States, concerned agencies.
BLITZER: So the U.S. is with you as far as -- I know you've been meeting with the secretary of state, John Kerry, with other U.S. officials. Have they complained to you at all about the way that you've been dealing with these five Taliban detainees?
AL-ATTIYAH: I never get a complaint from our colleagues.
BLITZER: Nobody has complained?
BLITZER: So they trust what you are doing? But part of the deal is that these five guys would be able to leave and go do whatever they want?
AL-ATTIYAH: Let me put it this way. They not only trust us, but they are with us day and day. So they are with us, monitoring. We have a joint monitoring. That's the obligation on the agreement as fulfilled.
BLITZER: Any more deals that you're, working on right now?
AL-ATTIYAH: Not one I --
AL-ATTIYAH: Not one-- I don't call any now.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Well, Foreign Minister --
AL-ATTIYAH: I'll tell you when I know.
BLITZER: You'll let us know if there is.
Khalid al-Attiyah is the foreign minister of Qatar.
Thanks very much for joining us, obviously, a very, very hectic, horrendous news day. Appreciate your thoughts very much.
AL-ATTIYAH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.
Up next, we'll have more on the breaking news. Our terror experts are standing by with fresh insight into this horrific new ISIS execution.
Plus, the deadly and disturbing escalation of the fighting in Ukraine right now. What is the United States, President Obama going to do about it? I'll ask a top American diplomat who's standing by.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. King Abdullah has been meeting with President Obama over at the White House to discuss the latest ISIS horror, the murder of a Jordanian fighter pilot who was caged and burned alive.
It looks like that vehicle is now leaving the West Wing of the White House. I think King Abdullah is there. Michelle Kosinski is our White House correspondent. I assume King Abdullah is in that armored vehicle, Michelle, is that right?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. He's leaving now. This was an extremely short meeting, and the mood in there was described to us in one word. Somber, given that situation.
And you saw that they didn't make any statements, as were hoped. That might have been because of that mood but also because the time was so short as he now rushes back to Jordan to deal with things there.
But I think we can expect a similar line of conversation from what we saw between the king and the vice president earlier today. The readout of that meeting said that the vice president expressed his deepest condolences, condemned the actions of ISIS in the strongest possible terms, and expressed what was called an iron-clad support for Jordan by the U.S. Also saying that this would only reinforce the resolve of these two countries to defeat ISIS together.
Also interesting today, Wolf, we saw the president put out this unusually long and detailed statement on the death of this pilot, almost eulogizing him, using language like "this pilot will forever personify the bravery of a true son of Jordan." We don't usually see language like that in one of these statements. The president lauded his courage and service, saying that these human values stand in opposition to the cowardice and depravity of ISIS. The White House also said today that if ISIS's point in putting out this video was to shock and weaken the resolve of the coalition, the White House fears it will have exactly the opposite effect and only steel that resolve, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. They spent about 20 minutes together in the White House. The king, obviously, anxious to get back to Jordan. There's a crisis right now.
Michelle, thank you.
Jordan's military says it's preparing what one official there calls an earth-shaking response to this new level of ISIS brutality.
Let's dig deeper with our CNN counterterrorism expert Philip Mudd; our global affairs analyst, Lieutenant Colonel James Reese; the former Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muashar; and the former U.S. congresswoman, Jane Harman. She served on the Homeland Security Committee. She's over at the Wilson Center right now.
Marwan Muashar, you know Jordan. You know King Abdullah. You were the foreign minister. What's Jordan going to do?
MARWAN MUASHAR, FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER OF JORDAN: I think the king is going to go back to a very united country, and that's the most important development, even more important than the retaliation. We've seen this situation ten years ago when another, you know, predecessor of ISIS bombed three Jordanian hotels, killing more than 60 people. The country became very united then. And I expect it will be even more united now.
BLITZER: Well, what about this earth-shattering response, revenge, revenge? We see these protesters outside the palace in Amman. They clearly want revenge. What does that mean?
MUASHAR: One can probably expect intensified air strikes. I don't think that we will get into, you know, sending ground troops. There is certainly a public call for the four ISIS terrorists in Jordanian prisons who have already been sentenced to death to be, you know, taken and for that sentence to be implemented.
BLITZER: To be executed right away?
MUASHAR: To be executed.
BLITZER: What about the woman terrorist, Sajida al-Rishawi? Do you think that Jordan will execute her?
MUASHAR: I have no way of telling, but certainly, the government is going to be under severe pressure to do so.
BLITZER: The U.S., Jane Harman, what is President Obama going to do now? He says the U.S. strategy is to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS. But this looks like, potentially, a turning point in this war.
JANE HARMAN, FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, it may be. Let me applaud your network first for not showing the video and not showing any freeze frames of the video. I think it's very responsible.
It was a good thing to me that no statement was made after that White House meeting. I think King Abdullah should speak first to the Jordanian people. And President Obama has already put out a statement. And he called again for the coalition to stick together. So I think our action will be part of a coalition. I think it's Jordan's first move here.
And sure, there will be an additional kinetic response. There has to be. And the Jordanians are very strong fighters. I don't know about the sentences of the people. Maybe so. Certainly not burning them to death. I think that would be barbaric.
But the other piece is, this pilot was part of a very important tribe in Jordan. We don't understand well enough tribal societies. And I think this time -- you asked about a tipping point. ISIL may have blown it. I don't think they understand it either. And I think tribal alliances across into Syria and Iraq with these Jordanians are going to end up causing an enormous, enormous backlash.
BLITZER: All right. Philip Mudd, I don't know what the options are for Jordan. What do you anticipate?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: There's a couple of things you've got to look at. One is tactical, what happens tomorrow. The next is strategic: what happens over months and years. If you want to have a major response, you've got to have the targets to respond to, and you've got to have an intelligence picture built up over time that gives you that -- those target options.
I think the Jordanians are signaling that they'll be with us in a years'-long fight against ISIS that will have a lot of reverses. But if you're looking at perfect targeting tomorrow that allows you to show reaction overnight, I don't think you have the targets to do that. BLITZER: What about that, Colonel Reese? Because this is really, you
know, a new level of brutality by ISIS right now. And you heard the foreign minister of Qatar say he thinks this is a potential turning point. I assume for Jordan, they're going to -- when they say that they're going to have earth-shattering revenge, they mean it?
LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), CNN GLOBAL ANALYST: Wolf, Phil is right. The targeting is not going to come out in the next couple of hours, but what you're going to see here is just this. ISIL made a mistake. We watched this with Zarqawi, too, with his brutality in Iraq. And that turned the tide with the Sunnis there.
The one thing this is, this gives us a great opportunity here to actually step back and be the consultant for the coalition of the Arab countries here and allow them to take a lead and have -- allow us to help guide, mentor them into what they can do and literally turn this into the Arab coalition's fight against ISIL.
BLITZER: Marwan Muashar, you're the former foreign minister. You know -- you understand Jordan well right now. Do you understand why they -- ISIS may have waited a month to release this video if, in fact, as the Jordanian military says, he was really burned to death on January 3? Why would they wait a month to release the video? Some suggest maybe to coincide with his visit, King Abdullah's visit to the United States, to embarrass him?
MUASHAR: That could be. I have no way of telling. But what I do know is that the king's message that this is a war of values, that this is a war to determine who is going to speak, you know, on behalf of Islam is going to resonate much louder now after this incident if ISIS, by doing this, thought they would, you know, take the Jordan society with them and against the government, they made a terrible mistake.
BLITZER: You want to make a point?
HARMAN: Yes. Just two more points. This will galvanize people on the ground, and if we need targeting information, I think we'll get it from some people who haven't been giving it to us.
But the second point is, I and others have been calling for a counter narrative against these people. This is our counter narrative. It is their barbaric -- barbarism and their incredible uncivilized behavior. They -- they cannot be called Islamist terrorists. They're just creeps and terrorists. I mean, this is anti-Islam.
BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by.
We have much more on the breaking news coming up. We'll continue our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: We're covering the breaking news.
After a brief 20-minute meeting with President Obama and the Oval Office, Jordan's King Abdullah is heading home. His military says it's preparing for what one Jordanian official called an earth-shaking response to this new level of ISIS brutality.
Our experts are here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But, first, let's go to our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
What else is going on, Jim? What are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're hearing from the Jordanians and seeing real muscle flexing. If you see this video that accompanied the military statement in response to the killing, all of Jordan's fire power there, including that F-16 there, of course, that's what Lieutenant Kaseasbeh went down with. But I'm told Jordan is now considering a broad base response to this. What could that broad-based response look like?
It could certainly include military action, taking advantage of some of those military assets that you're seeing in that video there, and you also just heard across from you there, Wolf, the former foreign minister of Jordan making the point that it can also include the execution of prisoners in Jordan, ISIS prisoners who had already been sentenced to death, although the death penalty had been put under a moratorium in Jordan. That list includes former ISIS commanders as well as the failed female suicide bomber who was at first offered as a possible exchange for the pilot.
So, you have these whole range of options and then these early signals from the Jordanians, a sign that they are going to have a very strong response. And really, Wolf, they need a strong response. When you look at the protests on the streets now of Amman and the other cities, the home town of this pilot, the angry cries for blood, in those exact words, the king is going to have to respond in some very strong way.
BLITZER: You know, Phil Mudd, for days now I've been saying that if they killed this pilot, Jordan will respond in a brutal way and clearly they are going to do something.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. You've got to look at two targets. First, the king is not just the head of the country. He's the monarch responsible for the security of his people. So, you're going to be seeing something over the next few days about ISIS military installations. For example, the military presence or paramilitary presence of ISIS in Syria.
The background question, though, is who is responsible at the leadership level for the killing, the murder of this innocent airman and that question is going to take months to resolve to get enough target specificity to go after the people who did this act.
BLITZER: This is a critical moment, Marwan Muasher, for Jordan right now.
MARWAN MUASHER, FORMER JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Absolutely, and I totally agree with Phil. Jordan has to have a strong response to satisfy people. At this stage -- BLITZER: I'm sure Jordan and the United States will be on the same
page in this response, giving the close alliance between these two countries.
All right. Everybody, stand by.
Just ahead, an escalating war and surging civilian death toll in another part of the world. Ambassador Daniel Baer is here to talk about the crisis in Ukraine, the U.S. response, the situation there escalating, becoming more dangerous by the hour.
BLITZER: We're following the fiercest fighting scene in Europe in a long time, the deadly escalation in Eastern Ukraine. That's where the battle between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. The battle has now killed more than 200 civilians recent weeks, according to the United Nations.
Let's get some more. Daniel Baer is joining us. He's the United States ambassador to the organization for security and cooperation in Europe. He's back here in Washington for a few days.
Apparently, 5,000 people have been killed, have died in this fighting in the last few months alone. That's an accurate figure, right?
DANIEL BAER, U.S. AMB. TO ORG. FOR SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE: That is the updated U.N. figure that I saw released by the high commissioner this morning. And, obviously, Wolf, it's a real tragedy, obviously, because 5,000 lives have been lost but this is a chosen tragedy. This is a manmade tragedy. There's so much bad happening in the world that we can't avoid.
And this is a chosen tragedy that is caused by Russian actions on the territory.
BLITZER: And you believe Russian troops -- not just pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels but Russian troops have moved into Ukraine in big numbers and they're fighting Ukraine military forces.
BAER: Look, what we know has happened is since the end of December, the Russians have passed hundreds of pieces of heavy military equipment. They have been re-enforcing the separatist. We know that the Russians continue to provide tactical support on the ground. This is an ongoing escalation that they have mounted. It's happened several times.
We saw an escalation at the end of August, with the exertion of Russian forces. They have never observed the cease-fire that was -- that they signed in Minsk in September, and we've seen an ongoing step by step escalation. It's really mounted in the last few weeks. So, we've seen the death toll.
BLITZER: But I want to be precise. Russian troops in big numbers are in Ukraine fighting the Ukrainian military, not just the rebels but Russian regular members of the Russian military. BAER: There are certainly Russian operatives who continue to provide
tactical support on the territory in Ukraine, coordinating separatist activity, et cetera. And I assume coordinating the delivery of the weapons that the Russians continue to provide to the separatist.
BLITZER: Because it's one thing to provide weapons. It's another thing to provide actual troops. You used the word operatives. What does that mean?
BAER: These are Russian, yes, there are some people who work for the Russian government, who are coordinating, providing tactical support to the separatists. You know, whether they call themselves volunteers. We're they are people without insignia who are serving currently in the armed forces, there are a significant number who are in the territory, there's a much larger number of separatist fighters who they've provided these heavy weapons to.
And we're seeing massive amounts. They are providing tanks, rockets. Heavy artillery, and that is the direct cause of the skyrocketing violence and death toll, and it is a manmade tragedy.
BLITZER: Yesterday, sitting in that seat, he was at the White House, Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security advisor, and he said that the president will meet with Angela Merkel I think on Monday, the chancellor of Germany. And they will consider, A, whether to start providing lethal aid, weapons, offensive military equipment to the Ukraine military and whether to further strengthen sanctions against Russia.
What's going on here?
BAER: Well, as the president said, from India after the tragic shelling of Mariupol, the civilian area in Mariupol about ten days ago, the escalation that has opinion caused by Russia's massive supply changes the situation on the ground. It does change our desired outcome, which is a peaceful, diplomatic solution to this crisis.
But it changes the situation on the ground. And we will continue to evaluate the range of options in response to that situation, to make sure that our reaction is appropriate, calibrated response to that situation.
BLITZER: You all have to make some major decisions on weapons and sanctions. I want you to look at this video. Our Nick Paton Walsh went to the Donetsk airport. Two years ago, recently, it was a beautiful brand new airport, hosted a major international football game, a soccer game. And look at it now, it's been totally leveled.
What's, for all practical purposes, a brand new airport is now destroyed.
BAER: That's true. And this is the kind of destruction that Russia's proxies have brought all across the territory in which they're operating. Right now, there has been for several days now massive shelling of a town 13 kilometers away from the line that the Russians agreed to, back in September, where civilians are trapped in basements. There's terrible, terrible suffering going on.
The shelling of the pro-Russian separatist continues, taking a huge, huge toll on civilian lives.
BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story. Ambassador Baer, thanks very much for coming in. That situation is obviously getting worse.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer, tweet the show @CNNsitroom. You can always watch us live, DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.