Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Tony Snow; Interview With Hoshyar Zebari
Aired June 18, 2006 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's always a sad benchmark. One of the things the president has said, these people won't die in vain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A grim milestone for U.S. troops in Iraq. The death toll now more than 2,500.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. JOHN MURTHA, D-PA: Standing here does not solve the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: This is a war of necessity that we must fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: What is wrong with a clear timetable?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): We are not going anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And Congress turns its attention to a timetable for bringing U.S. troops home. Is President Bush ready for that? We'll ask the new White House press secretary, Tony Snow, about the fight for Iraq, the war on terror and more. Plus, two top members of the Senate intelligence committee weigh in, Chairman Pat Roberts and Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQ'S FOREIGN MINISTER: My government is acting fast to restore public confidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Can the new Iraqi government control the insurgency and unify the country? Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, joins us to discuss his country's next step.
And insight from two statesmen, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. "Late Edition's" lineup begins right now.
It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4 p.m. in London, 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank's very much for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll get to my interview with the new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow in just a few minutes. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield standing by. Hi, Fred.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Fred. Appreciate it very much. Happy Father's Day to all our viewers out there, in the United States and around the world. Stepping up the fight against insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a new operation in Iraq. This one aimed at militants in the largely Sunni Arab city of Ramadi. That's west of Baghdad. CNN's Nic Robertson is embedded with the U.S. Army's First Armored Division, which is spearheading the mission. He filed this report from the southern outskirts of Ramadi. This is something you will see only here on CNN.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the operation began just after dusk, was completed in the early hours of this morning, Sunday morning. U.S. military says it now has Ramadi isolated. It means tactically encircled. The U.S. military and Iraqi army now control all the roads in and out of Ramadi. Now the U.S. military says this will stop and this operation was designed to plug the last hole, if you will, in Ramadi, where insurgents have been coming in and out of the city to resupply for operations inside the city of Ramadi.
It's a city of some 400,000 people, the operation last night on the southern side of the city kicked off by a large 500-pound bomb being dropped on a bridge that blew away for this military advance to come into this neighborhood. This is a neighborhood where insurgents are known to operate. This is a neighborhood where there have been very, very few U.S. military operations.
The Iraqi army hasn't been able to go here. It is an area where insurgents have essentially had free reign. And the U.S. military now says this operation is a beginning to an end to that. They plan to put U.S. Iraqi army military installations in place around the city, and that ultimately to replace the Iraqi army with Iraqi policemen. But now this operation, the U.S. military says it is a turning point, a now completely isolation, they've tactically encircled Ramadi. They can begin with civil affairs programs and other programs inside the city of Ramadi designed to defeat the insurgents here. Nic Robertson, CNN, Ramadi. BLITZER: The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, has had one busy month on his new job. He made a stealth trip to Baghdad with his boss, the president of the United States, and has had to grapple with the hard questions: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, terrorism, illegal immigration, lots more. I spoke with Tony Snow just a short while ago.
BLITZER: Tony Snow, welcome to "Late Edition."
SNOW: Good to be here. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: I should say, welcome back to "Late Edition." More on that later. Let's talk a little bit about some serious issues in the news right now. These two missing American soldiers. What's the latest information you're getting? Were they taken? Were they kidnapped?
SNOW: We're still trying to figure it out. And we've been in communication with Baghdad, I have, very recently. And there unfortunately is nothing to report either way. We're still trying to ascertain their whereabouts. Obviously, there is a vigorous effort to try to locate them and to bring them back safely.
BLITZER: Because some eyewitnesses and some news accounts have said they were seen dragged away or taken away.
SNOW: Well, you know, I'm aware of the news accounts. But as you know, a lot of times, too, news accounts from a crime scene, they can be reliable, they can be unreliable. And guys on the ground are trying to figure it out.
BLITZER: So the assumption right now is they're alive, and they're just missing...
SNOW: Making no assumptions...
BLITZER: ... and hopefully, we'll find them.
SNOW: ... but certainly you will proceed on the assumption that they're alive, and try to find them.
BLITZER: This comes on the aftermath, what, two years ago, Sgt. Keith Maupin. He's still missing. What's the latest information on his whereabouts, his fate? Is he believed to be still alive?
SNOW: Well, once again, Wolf, as you know, there have been ongoing efforts. As a matter of fact, they were briefing out of Baghdad on that either yesterday or today, saying that they're still assuming he's alive. He's been promoted twice since having disappeared, but unfortunately, again, no word on Keith Maupin either. BLITZER: What's your understanding of the new Iraqi government's position on amnesty for insurgents, for terrorists, for Saddam loyalists, Fedayeen, former Baathists? Because it's causing a lot of confusion right now.
SNOW: Well, I think what happened is that there was a news account based on a comment by somebody who worked for the prime minister. Here's what we know. And this is based on the conversations that I sat in with the president on with the prime minister in Baghdad earlier this week.
The government of Iraq knows that you've got to have national unity if you're going to prevail in Iraq. You've got to find ways to tamp down sectarian strife. You've got to find ways to get different factions in Iraq not only to work together, but to work together as countrymen. And part of that is going to be, in some cases, figuring out proper ways to do amnesty.
Now, the prime minister's made it clear that he's not going to grant amnesty to anybody with blood on their hands, and I'll let him define that. But we've seen, now, 2,500 prisoners have been released from prisons by the prime minister. He's doing what he can to try to do outreach. He is working on trying to make sure that the police forces are reliable and trusted within Iraq.
So there is a wide-ranging series of efforts and steps that he is making so that Iraqis are going to get along regardless of sectarian history.
BLITZER: So at this point, based on everything you know, if there are insurgents or terrorists in jail who killed American soldiers or killed Americans, were involved in bombings, they are not going to be freed.
SNOW: Again, I'm going to let the Iraqi government spell it out. But Prime Minister Maliki did say anybody who killed Americans would not be eligible for amnesty.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about troop withdrawal potentials for the U.S. military, about 130,000 U.S. forces in Iraq right now.
In our most recent CNN poll that came out this week, should the U.S. set a timetable to eventually withdraw troops from Iraq, 53 percent said yes; 41 percent said no.
Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle today. She's going to be on this show, coming up.
She wrote this: "We have now been in Iraq for more than three years. And we believe that the time has come for that phased redeployment to begin. It is also time for the Bush administration to provide a schedule and timetable for the structured downsizing and redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq."
Does that make sense? SNOW: The president understands people's impatience -- not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?
But you cannot conduct a war based on polls. And you can't conduct this kind of activity. What you have to do -- and the president's been clear about this -- is take a look at the conditions on the ground. Let's think for a moment of the alternative.
If the United States pulls out -- and what's been interesting is that most people realize that simply pulling out would be an absolute, unmitigated disaster, not merely for the people of Iraq but the larger war on terror.
The United States...
BLITZER: What about a phased withdrawal with some timelines, some deadlines, some markers, to encourage the Iraqis to make sure their security forces are up to speed?
SNOW: Well, we are encouraging the Iraqis to do that. The president made it clear to Prime Minister Maliki, in private and public statements, that this is not going to succeed unless the Iraqi government is determined.
If you take a look at Operation Forward Together, which is going on right now in Baghdad, they're going after five bad neighborhoods in Baghdad. Fifty thousand Iraqi police and military are involved in that, 7,200 coalition.
So the numbers there, dramatic -- the Iraqis are basically running the operation.
As the Iraqis become more able to conduct these, obviously, the Americans are going to move back into support roles. And at some point, we are going to be able to leave Iraq.
But it is all based on the conditions on the ground. Polls, I think, are an accurate reflection of people's anxieties. But one of the things, I think, Wolf, as the American people begin to see that we're actually dealing with a reliable partner in Iraq and you've got an Iraqi government that not only is standing up but committing its forces in lead roles in troublesome places like Baghdad, like Ramadi, going into Basra -- and those are trouble spots within Iraq...
BLITZER: Here's our latest poll on how the president is handling the situation in Iraq. In May, 34 percent approved of the job he was doing in Iraq. It's gone up, now, to 39 percent in the aftermath of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the president's surprise visit to Baghdad. It's gone up five points.
That's good news for the president. The bad news is it's still only 39 percent of the American public that think he's doing a good job as far as Iraq is concerned. SNOW: Back to the point I was trying to make, you can't run a war based on polls. The president understands, and I think anybody would understand, that a war that is long and a war that, at many times, has been portrayed not in terms of the successes that are being enjoyed in 14 provinces which are now living peacefully but instead - what do you see?
You see exploding cars in marketplaces in Baghdad. You see pictures of gore, where the terrorists are able to define what is victory, simply by planting a bomb somewhere.
The president understands -- and this is the point I was, sort of, getting ready to get to...
Unfortunately, we have a little technical problem right there. We're going to queue that back up, fix it, come right back with much more of our interview with Tony Snow.
We'll also ask him about nuclear tensions with Iran and North Korea and his new job at the press briefing room.
Then, the debate over when U.S. troops should come home. Two top U.S. senators, Pat Roberts and Dianne Feinstein -- they're standing by live to weigh in.
And U.S. and Iraq troops mounting a massive security sweep. Has Operation Together Forward produced the wanted results? Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari is our guest. Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: A beautiful day here in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., overlooking the White House. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Earlier, I spoke with the White House press secretary, Tony Snow. Here's more of that interview.
BLITZER: How the president is handling the situation in Iraq. In May, 34 percent approved of the job he was doing in Iraq. It's gone up, now, to 39 percent in the aftermath of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the president's surprise visit to Baghdad. It's gone up five points.
That's good news for the president. The bad news is it's still only 39 percent of the American public that think he's doing a good job, as far as Iraq is concerned.
SNOW: Back to the point I was trying to make, you can't run a war based on polls. The president understands, and I think anybody would understand, that a war that is long and a war that, at many times, has been portrayed not in terms of the successes that are being enjoyed in 14 provinces which are now living peacefully but instead -- what do you see?
You see exploding cars in marketplaces in Baghdad. You see pictures of gore, where the terrorists are able to define what is victory, simply by planting a bomb somewhere.
The president understands -- and this is the point I was, sort of, getting ready to get to just a moment ago -- in the war on terror, the United States not only has to be a reliable ally, not only has to help the Iraqi people secure victory; if we do something like saying, OK, we're going to do a phased withdrawal; we're going to do this at this date, this at this date and this at this date, think of what the impact may be for people in Iraq.
If you are somebody who cannot decide, am I going to side with the insurgents, or am I going to go with the government right now? There are a lot of people in that position. They need to understand that the United States is not going to leave until, A, the Iraqi government wants us to leave, and B, the job is done.
BLITZER: The Washington Post published a fascinating cable today, a report written by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to the State Department -- it was signed by Ambassador Khalilzad -- in which it painted a very, very grim -- you read this cable...
BLITZER: ... a picture of what's going on in Iraq right now. I know that many have complained that the news media is only focusing in on the negative, but here the U.S. embassy in Baghdad paints a pretty stark picture of what's going on right now.
Let me just read a line for you. "Beginning in March and picking up in mid-May, Iraqi staff in the public affairs section have complained that Islamists and/or militia groups have been negatively affecting their daily routine," and it goes on to the harassment and the threats and the killings that have been going on. It's a pretty damning indictment of the current situation.
SNOW: No, it's actually a reflection of the realities there. And...
BLITZER: And the reality is gloomy.
SNOW: Well, that's taken in mid-May. Here we are, we are a month later, and I just told you, you've got 50,000 Iraqi troops that are now focusing on those problem areas in Baghdad.
The president didn't go there with rose-colored glasses, Wolf. We've been at Camp David the day before and received briefings from Generals Casey and Abizaid and from Ambassador Khalilzad. He had talked with scholars, some of whom have somewhat bleak views of what's going on.
And again, whatever the bleakness is, whatever the facts may be on the ground, the most important thing is you figure out how to win. And that has been the focus of the president's efforts. You can't do that by reading polls.
What you have to do -- and cables like this help add context and texture to the overall picture -- but this is not a president who's looking with rose-colored glasses.
What's interesting is -- hand me that for a second, because there was an interesting lead on this story, where it was -- it was said, "Hours before President Bush left on a surprise trip for an upbeat assessment of the situation" -- he didn't go there for an upbeat assessment of the situation.
He went there for a realistic assessment. And he got it from the prime minister, and he got it from the electricity minister and the oil minister and the minister for human rights and the minister for national reconciliation.
So this was not the president trying to do a victory lap. No, it was the president now realizing you got somebody you can work with to deal with problems like this.
BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about some other issues. I know your time is limited. Afghanistan. Is the Taliban making a serious comeback right now?
SNOW: I think what the Taliban is doing -- and it's predictable -- is that they are trying to test in the south, where the U.S. forces are handing over to NATO. There's been a test. Now, if you take a look -- A, there's been increased activity. As you know, air strikes by the U.S. have also increased. That's been reported.
But A, it's predictable, and B, in the encounters, as you know, the Taliban fighters have overwhelmingly been losing. Now, I think it is predictable as the Taliban tries to assert itself in Afghanistan, and furthermore, as the government begins to expand beyond the boundaries of Kabul -- and the other thing to keep in mind is that the government is taking control of more and more territory within Afghanistan proper -- and you can expect there to be pushback by the Taliban.
BLITZER: Any progress in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?
SNOW: There is -- I don't want to try to characterize anything that's going on, because the moment you try to do that, you could get in the way of ongoing activities. Let's simply say that the United States is determined to do everything in its power, and the president -- in the power of the administration to find him.
BLITZER: Why not simply shut down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, and move those nearly 500 detainees to military bases in the United States?
SNOW: The president said repeatedly he wants to shut it down, but you also have the Hamdi case that is still sitting before the United States Supreme Court, and there's some legal questions about the disposition of some of the prisoners there. And once that's resolved, then we can do an assessment...
BLITZER: So you're not going to do anything at Guantanamo Bay until the Supreme Court reaches its decision?
SNOW: No, no, as a matter of fact, as a matter of fact, Wolf, as you probably know, regularly, prisoners in fact have been repatriated out of Guantanamo. Now, there have been some interesting situations where human rights groups are saying, wait, don't send them back to their countries of origin. But there have been ongoing efforts as we try to take a close look at those who seem not to bear -- not to pose any further threat to the United States or to other innocents, and we send them back. So I think people believe that the situation is entirely static. As a matter of fact, the prison population has been gradually moving downward for a period of time, and will continue to.
BLITZER: Are you encouraged by the recent statements by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that there were some positive developments in this worldwide initiative -- the U.S., the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese -- to try to get them to stop its uranium enrichment?
SNOW: What would be encouraging is for the Iraqi government...
SNOW: Thank you, the Iranian government -- to meet the preconditions for sitting down at the table and making itself eligible for a package of incentives which the president has seen, that is, President Ahmadinejad. And that means that the Iranian government needs to suspend all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
Once they do that, once that is done, they can sit down at the table. They can negotiate. And we can move forward on a package of incentives.
What the United States wants to do is to make sure that Iran is in fact eligible for those incentives. So again, the most encouraging thing would be for the Iranians to go ahead and meet the baseline that's been set by the EU three, the P-5 plus one, the International Atomic Energy Administration, all of these groups have said to the Iranians the very same thing: Stop the nuclear program, at least the weapons-related program, and we can work together to make things very good for you.
BLITZER: Does the U.S. believe North Korea is on the verge of testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile that potentially could reach California, the United States?
SNOW: Not going to talk about specific intelligence, but the position's real clear. The North Koreans declared in 1999 a moratorium on missile testing. This was after the 1998 one, which led President Clinton to send warships to the area. We certainly hope and expect that the North Korean government will continue to abide by that. Furthermore, September 19th of last year, they sat down and signed a series of agreements. They need to sit down with the six parties with whom they've been negotiating, the regional partners plus the United States, to try to deal with concerns about the ongoing -- or about the nuclear programs within North Korea itself. Again, it's a situation analogous to Iran. They need to make the step to get to the table.
BLITZER: What if they go ahead with this test?
SNOW: Well, we'll have to -- if they go ahead with a test, then we will have to respond properly and appropriately at the time.
BLITZER: Can you outline what that means?
BLITZER: A little politics before I let you go. How is the president handling his job as president, in our CNN poll, it's at 37 percent right now. An interesting question we asked: If Bush supported a candidate in your area, would you be more likely to vote for that candidate? Twenty-seven percent said yes. Less likely to vote for him? Forty-seven percent said yes. No difference, 20 percent. How active is the president going to be going out for Republican candidates over the next several months leading up to November?
SNOW: Look, a lot of Republican candidates are happy to have him. He did two events on Friday. He's done more fund-raising events this year than he did in an analogous period in the year 2002. The president is going to campaign vigorously for Republican candidates. He's going to do what he can to help.
BLITZER: Here are some of the recent comments that you made before you became the White House press secretary. In September of last year, you said, "No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential powers and prerogatives." In November, you wrote, "The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment." Tony Snow in March: "A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget."
Did they not check your background when they asked you to become the White House press secretary?
SNOW: Not only did they check it out, I mean, they saw all those same quotes, and they did a very thorough job. One of the interesting things, Wolf, about the president -- and people don't give him enough credit for this -- is he likes to hear disagreement from people who still want to see him succeed.
So within the White House, there are regular and vigorous debates and disagreements about how to proceed on everything from Iraq to various policies. But the president is not somebody who shies away. But I've got to tell you, I'm loyal to the president. I'm there working for him, and I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to. BLITZER: Are you going to keep the White House press briefings open to television cameras?
SNOW: Yeah. I don't see any way to turn that one back. I know that there was some speculation before, but I certainly have no plans to turn off the camera.
BLITZER: We've got some video we're going to show you right now...
BLITZER: ... going way back to...
SNOW: How big is my hair?
BLITZER: ... a much younger -- take a look at this. There he is.
SNOW: Oh, there you go.
BLITZER: This goes back into the 1990s, when you were a regular panelist right here on "Late Edition." That's Tony Snow. You can see him with darker hair, a full head of hair.
SNOW: That's right.
BLITZER: But you still have good hair right now.
SNOW: I got a little (inaudible).
BLITZER: You remember those days when you used to be a panelist on "Late Edition," with Frank Sesno in those days.
SNOW: Every Sunday. I loved it. Yeah.
BLITZER: We're happy you're back on "Late Edition." We hope you'll be a frequent guest.
SNOW: Wolf, thanks so much. Great to be here.
BLITZER: You're feeling OK?
SNOW: I'm feeling great. Yeah. My hair's darker. Chemo helps sometimes.
BLITZER: You look great. You sound great. Happy Father's Day to you.
SNOW: Happy Father's Day to you, too.
BLITZER: Thanks, Tony.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And coming up on "Late Edition," two senior members of the Senate intelligence committee debate a troop timetable for a withdrawal in Iraq. Should a deadline be set? But up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on a possible missile test in North Korea.
And don't forget, for our North American viewers at 1 p.m. eastern, John Roberts has a CNN special report, "Iraq, a Week at War." That airs right after "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Joining us now to discuss the war on terror, Iraq, Iran, lots more are two key U.S. lawmakers. Senator Pat Roberts is a Republican from Kansas. He's the chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Also on the committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. She's joining us from our bureau in San Francisco.
Senators, welcome back to "Late Edition."
Senator Roberts, the chairman, let me start with you and read to you from the new edition of Time Magazine, our sister publication, an excerpt from the book, "The One Percent Doctrine" by Ron Suskind.
In it, this paragraph: "There would be several placed in subway cars and other strategic locations and activated remotely. This was well past conception and early planning. The group was operational. They were 45 days from zero hour. Then Ali told his handlers something that left intelligence officials speechless and vexed. Al- Zawahiri had called off the attacks," referring to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two Al Qaida leader behind Osama bin Laden.
A report that there were cyanide gas attacks planned for the New York subway system that were inexplicably called off. What can you tell our viewers about this?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, not very much, except to say the Intelligence Committee is briefed on these kinds of threats. I would simply say that we've had a briefing.
It points up, once again, the value of the terrorist surveillance program, the NSA program that's been in the news so much. We are able to detect and deter and stop such attacks. And we were very fortunate that that did not happen.
BLITZER: But can you confirm that there was such a plot in the works?
ROBERTS: I can't either confirm or deny, but I can just simply repeat that we are briefed on these kind of threats. And, as I say again, I'm very happy we have the capability to do what we do to stop these attacks. And that goes back to the statement you've heard a lot that, you know, thank goodness we've not had an attack of that nature since 9/11. But that's not by accident.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, I know you're restricted on what you can say about these kinds of sensitive intelligence-related matters.
Two former intelligence officials have told CNN there was such a plot in the works. We have not been able to confirm that they were only 45 days off of actually launching it. But go ahead and add whatever you want.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think the chairman said what could be said about it. I don't think that anybody doubts that there are people that want to do us harm, that there are those that want to launch these attacks. They will if they can.
And so, you know, there's the need for eternal vigilance. And I think Senator Roberts is correct. The terrorist surveillance program is an important tool in this area.
And there's only one defense and that is good intelligence. And there is a very real need for us to do everything we can on the Intelligence Committee to see that the intelligence community, all 16 agencies, have really recovered from what led to the Iraq adventure, which was mistaken information, and that we get it correct.
And in fact, good intelligence has stopped what were real threats. And I think that's important for the American people to know.
BLITZER: I want to move on, Mr. Chairman, but a quick follow-up: There's some suggestion that the number two Al Qaida leader, Ayman al- Zawahiri called it off because he felt it wasn't spectacular enough after 9/11, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon; he wanted the next one to be even bigger and more destructive. And that would explain why this was called off.
Can you comment on that?
ROBERTS: Well, no, but I can say that your premise is accurate. I think, when any terrorist considers an attack, they also consider the public reaction.
And I can't tell you what was in his mind, but again, I'm very happy we were able to, A, detect and deter and stop this kind of a situation. And once again, it just goes back to the fact that -- on the committee, what we're doing now, we're not taking anything at face value.
We ask the analysts and we ask the Terrorist Threat Center, what do you think, what do you know, what don't you know and what's the difference?
And we scrub pretty hard. And so, consequently, our intelligence is better. We have made progress. It's not perfect, but we're in better shape than we were, certainly, since 9/11.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iraq and a potential for a U.S. timetable for a troop withdrawal. Senator Feinstein, listen to what the president said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's an interesting debate in the Democratic Party about how quick to pull our of Iraq.
Pulling out of Iraq before we accomplish the mission will make the world a more dangerous place. It's bad policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You have written a piece in one of the San Francisco papers, today, suggesting it's time, after three years plus, for the United States to begin a phased withdrawal, including a timetable. I want you to explain why you disagree with the president.
FEINSTEIN: Well, three years and three months into the war, with all of the losses, the insurgency, the burgeoning civil war that's taking place -- what was it, seven bombings in Baghdad yesterday -- an open-ended time commitment is no longer sustainable.
I don't think it's sustainable from the military point of view in terms of troops commitments.
I don't think it's sustainable in terms of what Americans think about the war. A timetable, some goals, some discussion with the Congress by the administration. The president might not have wanted to have done that early on, but three years and three months and a bogging down, I think, suggests that the time has come for some discussion as to where we go from here.
Now, last year, in a resolution for the defense authorization bill, we passed an amendment which said that 2006, the Iraqi government, its permanent government, will be standing up, that that would be the year for a phased redeployment of troops. And it's June, and nothing has happened.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let me let...
FEINSTEIN: So, Tuesday will be a day when we will debate this on the floor. Senator Levin, Senator Reid and I will have a resolution which we hope will capture the votes of a number of Democrats. I can't speak for everybody, but it will say the time has come for phased redeployment. And I think that's correct. I think...
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: All right. You want me to stop.
BLITZER: I know. I want to let Senator Roberts weigh in. Is there anything that she said you would disagree with?
ROBERTS: Well, yes. I have not had an opportunity to read the article, and I must say that I value Dianne's friendship and her work on the committee. She is an outstanding member of the committee. But why would you give the opportunity for the terrorists to simply rejoice and simply wait us out. If you get a timetable, you know, that's one thing. I think every American wants to see the day that our troops come home at the earliest possible time. But we may have turned the corner in terms of our intelligence capability. It was that that led us to the killing of al Zarqawi.
And when you're seeing the Iraqis starting to step away from fear and starting to really cooperate like they have, when you see a new president really setting priorities on the electrical grid and water and better life for the people of Baghdad, and when you see progress, at least to some extent, I don't think now is the time to set a timetable. And if you set a timetable, what does that say in terms of American resolve? Over there it's a battle of wills. Here it's a battle of wills, and it's a battle of wills in the Congress as to whether we're going to be resolved to at least have some stability or not.
BLITZER: Let me let Senator Feinstein respond to that. The argument you just heard, Senator Feinstein, if you give a timetable, what stops the terrorists from simply waiting out the U.S. departure and then trying to take over the country?
FEINSTEIN: Well, last weekend on your show, Wolf, the Iraqi national security minister essentially set a timetable. He said that he believed we could be down to under 100,000 troops by the end of this year and virtually everyone out by end of '07 or into '08. Now that was at least from the Iraqi perspective. This is the national security minister. He is new. I assume he knew what he was saying. He's suggesting a timetable.
I don't know why we are so afraid to stand up and say, look, we want to see an end to this thing. We want to transition the mission. We want to have logistics and training. We need to redeploy our people. Afghanistan has major problems. Other areas have problems. It seems to me that the time has come. Three years and three months into a mission that was supposed to take 30 or 40 days. That isn't cutting and running.
BLITZER: I'm going to pick up on that right after a quick break. Senators, stand by. Senator Feinstein's referring to our interview last week with Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, when he did suggest that there could be under 100,000 coalition forces by the end of this year and almost all of them out by the end of next year or into 2008, as the senator accurately reported.
When we come back, more with the two senators, nuclear tensions with Iran and North Korea. What should the U.S. do next? And don't forget, for our North American viewers, at 1 p.m. eastern, please be sure to join John Roberts for a CNN special report, "Iraq, a Week at War." CNN's team of correspondents and analysts from around the world will bring you the only in-depth look at a major event in the war on terror. That's coming up right after "Late Edition." But first, this.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Ben Roethlisberger, what's his story? The quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers was released from the hospital this week after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle crash. Roethlisberger, who suffered a concussion, broken nose and broken jaw, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
He now says if he does ride again, he will use one. In February, Roethlisberger became the first quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl. The 24-year-old Steelers signal caller was my guest this spring at the White House correspondents' dinner here in Washington. We wish him a speedy recovery.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're talking with two senior members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the chairman, Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. We just heard Senator Feinstein make the point that if the Iraqi security advisor can put out a timetable of under 100,000 coalition forces by the end of this year and almost all of them removed by the end of next year or into 2008, why can't the U.S. Senate sort of call for the same thing?
ROBERTS: Well, the whole point is, he said that. And he expressed hope that that would take place. And we hope that that is correct. I don't know anybody in the Congress or for that matter anybody in America who doesn't want our troops home as fast as they can.
But if you set a timetable, it signals to people that our resolve is very shaky, that the battle of wills is also shaky. What does that say to Mr. Putin in terms of what happens with the Ukraine? What does that say to Hugo Chavez and what he's up to? What does it say to Kim Jong Il and also North Korea? What does it say to the 31 different collaborating terrorist organizations who are planning attacks even as we speak? What does it say to the people in the sleeper cells in the United States?
I think that message would be very difficult, and I think it would just prove more problems down the road when people would really question our resolve. I hope with the progress that we're making that we can accomplish what the defense minister indicated. If we can't, obviously we have new challenges.
BLITZER: Let me just pick up on one point. Are you saying that there are al Qaida or al Qaida-related sleeper cells in the United States right now?
ROBERTS: Well, let's just say the NSA program that we have that is monitoring the calls coming from a terrorist camp from al Qaida to the United States, they're not calling the United States simply to be calling the United States. And I'll just leave it at that.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, let me talk about North Korea for a second. There are indications apparently that North Korea may be prepared to launch a test missile, an intercontinental ballistic missile test potentially that could reach California, your home state.
We heard Tony Snow, on this program, the White House press secretary, earlier say there would be consequences if North Korea were to launch such a test.
What do you make of this potential escalation in the nuclear tensions with North Korea?
FEINSTEIN: Well, first of all, I don't know that that's correct. I don't know that this particular missile and the stage that would be required to reach the United States is what they would be launching. So I really can't comment about that.
I can say this, that in my view, the more a country is isolated, the more the behavior becomes renegade and the less the country has to lose.
And I think that very robust diplomacy, a greater pressure by the Chinese, really has to be made, and that essentially, Kim Dae Jung in South Korea had it right with the Sunshine Policy and, bit by bit, opening up North Korea so that there is other thought, people aren't hungry and you can begin to move this renegade regime away from this very frightening dependence on nuclear power.
BLITZER: Senator Roberts, are there serious indications that North Korea could launch such a test in the coming days?
ROBERTS: Well, there's always serious indications that that is the case. But Kim Jong-Il -- the only card he has to play on the world stage is to do something like this.
And I think he's seeing a lot of headlines about a lot of different things. And I would not be surprised at all -- we have intelligence reports on the probability of something like this happening, but those have been ongoing for some time.
And I think that Dianne is right. The key is China. The key is the six-party talks. The key is to convince him to come back to the six-party talks and work this out on a diplomatic basis.
I'd be a little (inaudible) of that because, under President Carter, as I recall, we really went in and offered them, look, we will help you develop your capability in regard to your domestic energy.
BLITZER: President Clinton.
ROBERTS: OK, President Clinton, but I think he sent Carter. I think that's what got me confused there, a little bit.
But at any rate, I think you have to be very careful with that. It would not surprise me. But the answer, again, is the six party talks. And I think Dianne hit the nail on the head.
China has to be much more aggressive. Now, they don't want all those refugees over there. I've been to Pyongyang. This is not a regular government, as one really thinks about it. It is a theocracy. It is very surreal. He calls the shots. And as I say, it's the only card he has to play to be on the world stage.
BLITZER: We have to leave it right there, on that ominous note.
Senator Roberts, happy Father's Day to you. Thanks very much for coming in.
Senator Feinstein, always a pleasure having you on "Late Edition" as well, appreciate it very much.
And don't forget our Web question of the week: "Should the United States close the Guantanamo Bay prison?" Log on to CNN.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I also can tell you that when America gives its word, it will keep its word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush makes a surprise journey to Baghdad, to meet face to face with the new Iraqi prime minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZEBARI: A large security operation is under way in Baghdad, conducted jointly by Iraqi forces and the multinational forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And tens of thousands of Iraqi and U.S. troops go on a major offensive against the insurgents. We'll get the inside story on the president's visit and the push for a more secure Iraq from Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The goal of this country ought to be to end tyranny in the twenty-first century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And in the coming days, President Bush hits the road again, this time to a European summit and tough talks on everything from Iraq to the war on terror. We'll get analysis from two top diplomats, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
We'll get to my interview with Iraq's foreign minister in just a few minutes. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield standing by. Hi, Fred.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred. U.S. and Iraqi forces are stepping up the fight against insurgents, this time west of Baghdad in Ramadi. CNN's Nic Robertson is embedded with the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, which is spearheading the mission. He filed this report from the southern outskirts of Ramadi.
ROBERTSON: A 500-pound bomb slams into barricades on a strategic bridge, marking the beginning of an attack designed to stop insurgents getting in and out of Ramadi. In the hours that followed just after sunset, hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi troops and armor pour over the rail bridge to the southern outskirts of the city, penetrating areas controlled by insurgents and completing, officers say, the isolation or strategic encirclement of Ramadi.
CAPTAIN MIKE MCLUSKER, U.S. MARINES 1ST BATTALION: Terrorists have had what we would call freedom of maneuver, or freedom of movement, and they have gone uncontested for a while so I would say that they're used to being able to operate freely in the area we're moving to.
COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, U.S. MARINES 1ST BATTALION: They are going to go up across this canal and establish a patrol base.
ROBERTSON: It's a joint U.S./Iraqi operation. Although the U.S. provides most of the firepower and logistics, the plan uses U.S. strength to get Iraqi security forces into parts of Ramadi off limits to them until now.
MACFARLAND: One piece at a time going to take back parts of Ramadi that the insurgents have been able to gain the upper hand.
ROBERTSON: The details of this operation have been a closely guarded secret, but as the troops get ready to move on out here over the bridge into Ramadi, the concern is the insurgents may have figured out they're coming, pulled back and laid plenty of IEDs or roadside bombs in their wake.
MacFarland and other commanders have been keen to play down the size of the attack, possibly concerned about sparking panic among city residents, hundreds of whom, they say, have recently left the city of 400,000. For soldiers on the leading edge of the attack, there was no doubt about the scale of what they were getting into.
MCLUSKER: As the first part of the big one, you know, first part going in, so I guess we're all a little nervous, excited, scared. I think it will work out for the best, though.
MACFARLAND: It's a big day so make sure this is the one we get everything right and bring all our guys back.
ROBERTSON: CNN wasn't taken along for the actual attack, but sleeping soldiers the next morning spoke volumes for the intensity of their overnight effort and lack of immediate insurgent response. But among commanders, little doubt insurgents will strike back.
UNKNOWN: My concern is the first thing they're going to bring on us is sniper fire, and they're going to probe us to gauge our reaction. ROBERTSON: The overnight operation was also made easier by the fact many people had fled their homes. When troops arrived here in this suburb on the south side of Ramadi, their objective, they found that about half the families had gone. Commanders concluded that reports they had that people were fleeing in advance of their attack were accurate.
Their challenge now is to convince those people it's safe to come back home and convince them, as well, that they can defeat the insurgents. Nic Robertson, CNN, embedded with the 1st Battalion, the 37th Armored Regiment on the south side of Ramadi, Iraq.
BLITZER: Iraq grabbed headlines throughout the week. The surprise visit by President Bush to Baghdad, a new show of force by Iraqi troops and police in the Iraqi capital, and a deadly stream of attacks on Iraqi and U.S. forces. Here to help us better understand all of what's going on, Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. He's joining us live from New York. Mr. Minister, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks very much for joining us.
ZEBARI: Not at all. I'm very pleased to be with you again, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. What can you tell us about the incident involving these two missing American soldiers who were at a checkpoint near Yusifiyah? That's outside of Baghdad. We're now being told by eyewitnesses that four or five masked gunmen abducted these two American soldiers. What do you know about this?
ZEBARI: Well, what you know, that, unfortunately, this incident happened and two soldiers were taken prisoner by a group of insurgents, and there are efforts under way to look for them by the multi-national forces and by Iraqi security forces. We hope they will be found and join their units safely, but these incidents happen, actually. It's a state of conflict, of confrontation, so hopefully that they would be found and released as soon as possible.
BLITZER: This area around Yusifiyah is well known as a very, very dangerous area. Describe to our viewers who aren't familiar with Yusifiyah specifically what it's like there.
ZEBARI: Well, there are a number of districts south of Baghdad -- Latifiyah, Yusifiyah, Iskandariyah -- has been a hotbed for insurgents for members of al Qaida. Even Zarqawi before his death actually was operating from that area, not permanently, so it has been a hotbed for activities of the insurgents to launch attacks into Baghdad.
And the current Operation Together Forward launched jointly by the multi-national force and the Iraqi forces in Baghdad and in the suburb of Baghdad, the aim is to cordon off Baghdad or certain parts of the capital from infiltration or penetrations by insurgents and terrorists to carry out attacks. So this operation is going well according to my latest information from Baghdad. Yes, there has been some attacks by the insurgents to prove that they can defy these measures, but I believe the operation is moving very smoothly.
BLITZER: Explain to our viewers also what your government's position is on amnesty for insurgents, for prisoners, specifically those who were involved in direct attacks on U.S. troops.
ZEBARI: Wolf, the formation of this government is different from formation of previous government. This is a national unity government. It's a constitutional government. It's a full-term government. And it has an opportunity to make a difference, and we have the support of the international community. President Bush's visit was a very good sign and demonstration of continued support to our efforts. And we welcome that and appreciate that very much.
But the point is, this government has an opportunity and a challenge at the same time. It needs to reach out to all Iraqis to include them in the political process, so it is embarking on an initiative for national reconciliation, started by releasing 2,500 detainees who haven't proven to have committed any serious crimes but were detained on suspicions and other charges. Also, it's thinking of presenting a comprehensive package to look at those areas that has made people in the insurgency marginalized or they fear that they have not been included properly.
This includes the amnesty. The amnesty is debated within the Iraqi government, that it has to be within the legal framework. I mean, it should not apply to those who have killed or have committed atrocities against the Iraqi civilians or the Iraqi people, as well as the coalition.
This still, actually, has not been clarified yet in Baghdad. But I believe it is part of that package of reaching out to other Iraqis who are taking up arms and so on.
BLITZER: But you can assure the viewers here in the United States, at least, I assume, that your government is not going to give amnesty to those insurgents and other detainees who were directly responsible for killing American troops?
ZEBARI: Well, definitely, the amnesty has to be very clear. I mean, you issue an amnesty to those who have committed acts of violence, who are resisting or rejecting the current government or political system. Otherwise, why would you declare an amnesty?
But that has to be very clearly defined, whom it should be applied to. Definitely, I mean the blood of Iraqis or Americans is the same. Therefore, I believe the government has to come up with a very clear language about this amnesty.
BLITZER: What can you tell us about this man named Abu Ayub al- Masri, who, supposedly, is now the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who Zarqawi who was killed by U.S. air strikes in recent days?
What can you tell us about this new leader, supposedly, of Al Qaida in Iraq? ZEBARI: Well, Al Qaida nominated Ayub al-Masri to replace Zarqawi. He was a close associate of Zarqawi, according to intelligence information, has been working and operating in Iraq for some time.
But there is no way, Wolf, anybody can replace Zarqawi, because of his knowledge, his expertise, the period he has spent in Iraq, the networking he has done, the funding he has managed.
So I believe Al Qaida has suffered a major, major blow. And they are admitting it every now and again. But the terror network of Al Qaida will continue, in my view, in Iraq because their agenda is completely different from what we in the new Iraqi government are trying to achieve.
BLITZER: The president of the United States made a surprise visit to Baghdad this week, As you and everyone around the world by now knows.
What was interesting, one more little nugget of that -- the White House says it was only five minutes before he met with the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, that U.S. officials actually informed the prime minister that the president was about to walk into the room.
That was seen by many as embarrassing to the Iraqi government, that in effect, the U.S. couldn't even trust Iraqi leaders with this information, given the security sensitivities.
What does it say to you, that the prime minister was only told about the president's arrival five minutes before they shook hands?
ZEBARI: Yes, it was a daring visit, a surprise visit and a timely visit, in my view. And somebody of the president of the United States's status coming to visit Iraq during these difficult times, the visit has to be kept secret, definitely, for security reasons.
And it came as a surprise to the Iraqi government, to the world, as well. And that measure was taken, I think, in order to ensure maximum security.
But my government was aware that some senior, high visitors may come, without identifying the president. But the visit, in my view, was a good visit. And it showed clear support to the new government.
BLITZER: But it's sort of embarrassing that even the prime minister of Iraq could not be told in advance, given the security sensitivities, that perhaps someone around the prime minister could have tipped off insurgents. It does say something about this fragile state of the new Iraqi government, I assume.
ZEBARI: No, it is the situation; I'm not trying to underestimate the difficulties, Wolf. But the nature of the visit and the person who was involved in this visit, really, was the most important visitor to Iraq after the formation of the country.
I mean, we had other visitors, as well. But for security reasons, purely for security reasons, I think it was kept or managed by the U.S. embassy and the multinational force to make it a surprise visit in Baghdad and for the president to show and to meet the Iraqi cabinet and to explain to them the U.S. position and policy.
And that was -- the visit was appreciated. I think it surprised many, many people, not only the Iraqi government but the world over.
BLITZER: Your national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie was on "Late Edition" last Sunday, almost exactly around this time. And I asked him about U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. I want you to listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I believe, by the end of the year -- of this year -- I believe that the number of the multinational forces will be, probably, less than 100,000 in this country.
And by the end of next year, most of multinational forces will have gone home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you know, U.S. officials, members of Congress are debating imposing a timetable for a U.S. and coalition troop withdrawal. Can you back up what Mowaffak al-Rubaie said on "Late Edition" last Sunday?
ZEBARI: Wolf, the government has a plan and a mechanism that is working with the multinational force in order to hand over security responsibilities from the multinational force, American and other members of the coalition, to Iraqi security forces.
But this is dependent on conditions on the ground and the readiness of the Iraqi forces and troops. This will happen. This is taking place in the South. It's taking place in some part of Baghdad now.
And much of it is under the Iraqi security forces. But, really, it would be extremely difficult to set a timeline for any fixed date. But the plan is really for the Iraqis to assume more security responsibility and for the multinational forces to step down or to leave those provinces and areas.
But I believe, as we build our troops, as we move forward, there will be less reliance and dependence on the American and other forces of the coalition countries.
BLITZER: As you watch this debate intensify here in the United States, are you worried that U.S. public opinion, public pressure might force an early withdrawal or a speedy withdrawal from Iraq?
ZEBARI: Well, we are aware of the pressures, definitely, and the American public opinion attitude to the war, to the presence of the multinational force. We share many of the concerns of the families of those people who were killed or have sacrificed their life for the people of Iraq and for the case of building freedom and democracy.
But I believe the debate that we watched recently in Congress demonstrated that the legislator, also, is mindful of the dangers of setting a fixed timetable for an early or premature withdrawal.
The stakes are high for us, for the Iraqi government, for the United States and for the region. And that's why we have an opportunity -- I believe the next six months of this government will be extremely important. We've just finished our review of the Security Council meeting for the mandate of the multinational force. It was a rollover until the end of December.
But I believe, come December, that we have to do our homework very well in order to seek some arrangements or new arrangements for the presence of the multinational force in the country.
BLITZER: Hoshyar Zebari is the foreign minister of Iraq. Welcome to the United States, Mr. Minister.
ZEBARI: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll speak to you, hopefully, in the not-too-distant future. Thanks very much for joining us on "Late Edition."
ZEBARI: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, a former U.S. secretary of state and a former U.S. national security adviser look at President Bush and his policies around the world.
And later, in case you missed it, we'll have the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: There's still time for you to weigh in on our web question of the week: Should the United States close Guantanamo Bay prison? Cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of the program.
Straight ahead, Lawrence Eagleburger and Zbigniew Brzezinski on Iraq, Iran, North Korea and more. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The challenges that remain are serious. And they will require more sacrifice and patience. And our efforts are well worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush Wednesday after his return from Baghdad, saying work remains to be done in order to develop an Iraq that can govern and defend itself. Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Joining us now, two men who know their way around Washington and the White House, the former secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger. He's joining us from Charlottesville, Virginia. And the former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He's joining us here in our studios in Washington.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in. I'll start with you, Mr. Secretary. Is it a good idea for the U.S. to impose a time line, a timetable for a withdrawal of forces from Iraq?
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it's a terrible idea. I think the answer has to be that we will withdraw as we win, but if we start now to indicate we're going to withdraw at x time, we're simply sending our enemies an agenda that they can now follow and see.
You know, they hold out knowing at the end of this time we'll leave whether we've won or not. And in the meantime, it also should, I would imagine, would shake up the Iraqi government if, in fact, we can't succeed by the time of this indication of withdrawal. I think it's a very bad idea.
BLITZER: You don't, Dr. Brzezinski, think it's a very bad idea.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, I don't think it's a bad idea at all. First of all, to talk of winning or the victory begs the question, how do you define that victory or that winning? Notice a difference of tone in the president's comments which you have just played with the comments he used to make a couple of years ago, "mission accomplished" and that sort of stuff.
The fact is, we're stuck. All micro and macro indicators suggest that we're not improving, that actually the situation is deteriorating. And in that context, you have to ask yourself, what is your definition of an acceptable outcome? Not sloganeer about winning or victory. And I would say an acceptable outcome is one in which the Shiites and the Kurds, who have the preponderance of power, can strike some sort of arrangement with some of the Sunnis and perhaps repress the others.
BLITZER: Well, that's what they're trying to do, the new Iraqi government right now.
BRZEZINSKI: And in that context take over from us the task of pacifying a country which can no longer be treated as a colonial object tutelaged by us as dictating the kind of political system it has.
BLITZER: I want Secretary Eagleburger to respond. But your time line, your timetable would be for a withdrawal over what period? BRZEZINSKI: I have formulated a four-point program, which I think would give us what we deserve to have, but which is no longer guided by fantastic notions of victory. One, talk to the Iraqi government as to when in its judgment we could withdraw, and offer some ideas of our own as to when we could leave and hand it over to them. My sense is that some of those leaders would say to us, don't leave, don't leave, you can't leave. And they're the ones who would leave when we leave.
The real Iraqis, whether it's the Kurds or the Shiites, would in all probability agree to our departure because most Iraqis dislike our presence.
BLITZER: But when do you think U.S. troops could (inaudible).
BRZEZINSKI: I would suggest roughly a year or so.
BLITZER: A year from now, all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Well, let me let Secretary Eagleburger respond to that. What's wrong with that?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, there's a lot wrong with it. First of all, I don't know how many times in our history we have said publicly that we were not up to accomplishing a task when we set our minds to it. That's the first point. Secondly, I'm -- in terms of the description of what Dr. Brzezinski has said, within limits, I don't agree -- I don't disagree with it in terms of trying to set it so that the Iraqis can take over.
And, in fact, essential to all of this is that the Iraqis must at some point be able to defend themselves and maintain their own security. That to me, by the way, is pretty much a question of winning. I'm not saying that we have to march through Washington with a great victory parade.
I am saying, however, that we should not leave Iraq until such time as we can in confidence turn it over to an Iraqi government made up of Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds. And the Sunni issue, I concede, is the most difficult of these.
But until it's made up of an Iraqi government that can defend its own security and can deal with it -- and I think, frankly, that is very much accomplishable. I don't agree with the doctor at all that all of the indicators are that we're losing, not winning.
But I will say this. The more we say that, the more it must impact not only on our own public opinion, but on what those GIs over there are thinking about what we are and how much we're supporting them back here at home.
BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski...
EAGLEBURGER: I think it's very bad talk.
BLITZER: ... there were some developments, encouraging developments from the U.S. perspective in recent days: the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaida in Iraq, the formation of this new Iraqi government that includes Sunnis, Shia and Kurd, and the president's visit there, in which, presumably, during the six hours he was on the ground, he told the Iraqi government, you know what, this is your country, you have to take charge.
BRZEZINSKI: I'm glad Zarqawi's dead, but whether that will stop the insurgency, I'm doubtful. I'm glad the president was able to visit the Green Zone, an isolated American fortress in Baghdad, in which the so-called free democratic government of Iraq is actually hiding. But I don't think the indicators are that the insurgency's abating.
Let me give you some statistics. The Iraqi civilian deaths, 50 percent higher than two years ago. Bombings, nine times higher, kidnappings, 3 1/2 times higher. Iraqi optimism about the future, half of what it was two years ago. U.S. troop fatalities plus coalition, roughly the same. Estimated number of insurgents, 20,000. Now, I have...
BLITZER: Those are reports from a Brookings Institute study that came out.
BRZEZINSKI: That's right. There's also another study by Anthony Cordesman, who is sympathetic to Larry's point of view, that we should hang in. But he says that the analysis by the defense department does not prepare the Congress or the American people for the years of effort that will be needed even under the best-case conditions, and the risk of far more serious forms of civil conflict is high. BLITZER: Well, let me ask Doctor -- Secretary Eagleburger this fundamental question, at what point would you say, you know what, enough is enough, the U.S. has invested already too many lives, too much treasure, hundreds of billions of dollars. At what point, if it got to that, would you say, time to get out?
EAGLEBURGER: The only way I can answer that, Wolf, is to say I suppose that if I come to -- you know, in terms of my own personal view, if I were to come to the opinion that the Iraqis either are incapable or do not intend to try to put together a unified government and to defend themselves and don't move in those directions, then I would say, OK, we're going to have to tell the Iraqis, you've screwed it up on your own, and we're getting out.
But I don't know when that happens. I have to see it to believe it. And the statistics that Dr. Brzezinski has given us, you know, in wartime, these sorts of things go on. This is not some simple attack on some bedouins or something. This is a war, and under these circumstances we have to understand that this is a war, and it's going to last for some time. We can win it only so long as the American people are prepared to see us win it.
BLITZER: Let's take a quick break and continue this conversation, gentlemen, after this break. Much more with Lawrence Eagleburger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Please stay with us. We'll go across the map, talk about North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, other hot spots. Up next, though, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the U.S. military offensive against Iraqi insurgents in Ramadi. And coming up in the next hour, right after "Late Edition" for our North American viewers, don't miss our comprehensive look at Iraq, "A Week at War." Our John Roberts hosts a special CNN report. That's coming up at the top of the hour. Stay with "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's continue our conversation with the former secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger and the former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Dr. Brzezinski, if North Korea tests an inter-continental ballistic missile in the coming days, potentially one that could reach California or the continental United States, what should the U.S. do?
BRZEZINSKI: The United States faces the same dilemma with North Korea that it is facing with Iran. Namely, the use of force would set off such regional convulsions that it really is not a very credible option.
So what is the alternative?
The alternative is to apply maximum pressure through the international community but also offer some inducements which convince the North Koreans that the cost of pursuing their unilateral programs are higher than the benefits of accommodation and there is no other option.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, what do you say?
Well, unfortunately, I guess I agree with the doctor, although I would remind everybody that, in the North Korean case, we spent a decade, or most of a decade, in fact, giving them inducements. And they would make promises and then they would turn against those very promises.
I'm not at all sure there is anything we can do in the way of inducements that will convince the North Koreans not to continue with their programs.
And if that is the case, where I guess I disagree is that, at some point, with regard to nuclear weapons in general and this question of proliferation, either the western world, the civilized world, comes together and says, we will have no more of this, whether it's Iran or North Korea and applies force, otherwise, 10 years from now, we will all regret the fact that we let this process continue.
I think it is probably the most serious problem we and our allies and friends face in this world. And that is the continuation of nuclear proliferation into the hands of wild men. And once it starts with the North Koreans or the Iranians, you can bet your boots it'll end up in some terrorist's hands at some point. And I think that's a future not to be contemplated.
BLITZER: Is that doomsday, nightmare scenario one you agree with, Dr. Brzezinski?
BRZEZINSKI: Yes, except I don't agree with the, sort of, sense of futility which that analysis conveys.
I think the problem with North Korea has been that not only inducements were offered but that there was zero credibility to negative consequences for North Korea.
We should have been more prepared earlier on to make some credible threats, such as, for example, a naval blockade of their maritime trade. What could they have done about it, as a practical matter? It would have imposed some real costs on them.
The point is, if you want to be effective and at the same time, you realize you just can't start a regional war. It's easy to talk about it, but doing it requires you to ask what would be its consequences.
The alternative is to offer inducements but to match them with credible sanctions that really have a serious bite to them. We haven't done this with the North Koreans. We're now seriously beginning to think about it, in this double fashion, with the Iranians. I think that's a step forward.
BLITZER: Second Eagleburger, here's what the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday.
He said, "I believe we should remove the word "sanctions" from the world's political literature. Sanctions should not be used as a leverage of pressure or intimidation against countries of the world."
What do you make of the current standoff right now. Because the international community, the U.S., the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese have offered Iran a package of incentives and they've also offered some pressure points if the Iranians don't suspend their enrichment program.
All right. Hold on one second because I think we have a technical problem with your audio. We'll try to fix that. Let me ask Dr. Brzezinski to weigh in.
Why on earth would the Iranian government of President Ahmadinejad stop its nuclear program, assuming they're trying to build a nuclear bomb?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, first of all, that's a big assumption. We assume that they may be, but we don't have real convincing proof that... BLITZER: You don't think the intelligence...
BRZEZINSKI: I don't think it has been proven, no. No one claims it has been proven, in fact. I think what he talks about, Ahmadinejad, when he talks about sanctions, he has in mind some of the sanctions adopted by the United States in the course of the preceding decade which were unilateral sanctions by the United States against Iran and which the Iranians viewed essentially as one-sided punishment of Iran for its posture.
I don't think the issue is the word "sanctions." The issue is, can we convince the Iranians that they will benefit more by accommodating and they'll pay more by not accommodating?
And I think that we can do even if we don't use the word sanctions. We can talk about the consequences. And we can say it very clearly: the consequences of accommodations by you will be beneficial to you; the consequences of non-accommodation will be uncomfortable for you. And then we have to proceed with these negative consequences.
BLITZER: But I just want to pinpoint you on this point. You're not convinced that Iran, under this government of President Ahmadinejad, is in fact trying to covertly develop, build a nuclear bomb?
BRZEZINSKI: All I know is the evidence that's publicly available. And no one claims that it is an established fact that they're actively pursuing nuclear weapons.
But it is clear, I think, that they're positioning themselves, perhaps, of having that capability. But you have to remember, for example, that Japan is in that position. Japan has the potential capability for nuclear weapons, but it is not actively pursuing the construction of nuclear weapons.
BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, we've re-established our technical contact with you.
Do you have any doubt that Iran is covertly trying to build a nuclear bomb?
EAGLEBURGER: No, I have no doubt of it at all. And, you know, again, you can't prove it, but the point would be, I think, that if, in fact, we're ever going to find out whether they have one or not, we have to begin with an assumption that they do.
That does not mean that I want to go to war tomorrow morning and -- but what I was trying to say before you and Dr. Brzezinski cut me off from my eloquence was that, in fact, sanctions almost never work, almost never have worked.
I happen to agree with the doctor that we should have applied more painful sanctions on North Korea some time ago. And I think the failure to do so on the part of several administrations was a serious mistake.
I think it's much tougher to think about sanctions that will work with Iran because, for one thing, since they have the oil weapon to play against us, we have some difficulty, I should think, with making our sanctions stick.
All I'm trying to say with regard to either one of these states is -- and I think, in the North Korean case, it's now so clear that, if we do not as a collective international collective, take these situations very seriously and, in fact, if we need to apply not only sanctions but armed intervention if necessary, particularly in the North Korean case, I think we will regret that.
I am not saying that that's the first step we ought to take, but I will say that in the end, in both cases, whether it's Iran or North Korea, if, in fact, they are building these weapons and we let it go on, at some point we will deeply regret it.
And I think, under those circumstances, as a last resort, we need to be prepared to use force.
BLITZER: I'm going to let you give the last word, Dr. Brzezinski, since Secretary Eagleburger had the first word. But keep it brief because we're almost out of time.
BRZEZINSKI: You know, to talk about the use of military forces in order to accomplish this or that objective is very easy. That's very easy. One can sit somewhere at home and talk about this.
But in each case, you have to ask yourself the consequences. What would be the consequences of U.S. military action against North Korea, which already has some atomic weapons?
How would that impact on South Korea, on Japan? How would China react? The consequences would be enormously, horrendously destructive. You can go through the same game of looking at the problem in Iran and calculate the consequences of military action.
It's easy to talk about it. As a practical matter, the fact of the matter is, we don't have the choice. We can put sustained pressure on them, make them poor, make them uncomfortable, make them more unstable, potentially.
But we cannot simply start a war because no one will come along with us; we'll be all by ourselves and the people who are advocating that, in most cases, are the same people who are advocating the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it right there. Secretary Eagleburger, Dr. Brzezinski, thanks to both of you for joining us, a good serious discussion.
Coming up next, in case you missed it, we'll have the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. And don't forget, right at the top of the hour, for our North American viewers, CNN will bring you the only in-depth look at some of the major events in the war on terror.
BLITZER: Our CNN special report, "Iraq, a Week at War," is hosted by John Roberts. That's coming up. But first, this.
BLITZER: From under the sea to up in a tree. Darryl Hannah, what's her story? She once played a mermaid in the movie "Splash." But this week, Darryl Hannah drew attention on land. The actress spent 22 days up in a tree in a Los Angeles County garden to protest a plan to clear the grounds for a warehouse.
On Wednesday, she was forced down by authorities and arrested with eight other activists. Hannah said she felt it was important for her to show her commitment to the cause of saving the garden. She was cited and released.
BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. Not surprisingly, all of them, the way ahead for the U.S. mission in Iraq and the politics of the war were key topics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D-PA): You open up this plan for victory, there's no plan there. It's just stay the course. That doesn't solve any problems. It's worse today than it was six months ago, when I spoke out initially. When I spoke out, the garbage wasn't being collected, oil production below prewar levels. All those things indicated to me we weren't winning this. And it's the same today, if not worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): I don't think we should challenge anybody's patriotism because we disagree with each other over what we should do in Iraq. But I am a little bit frustrated with my Democratic friends who want to make a laundry list of criticism and can't see success when it's right there in front of you.
Jack Murtha is a great American in the sense he's sacrificed for his country. But if you're waiting for Jack Murtha to tell you good news about Iraq, it's never going to happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON: There's a lot of agreement on reducing the force. I think the real question -- and it's a serious question -- is, '06, '07, as we proposed, which we think is more sensible, or no deadline at all, is the right posture. But I think that as opposed to the sloganeering and the politicization that you saw by the Republicans, they have unity, but it's really around politicizing the war in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. Up next, the results of our web question of the week: Should the United States close Guantanamo Bay prison? And this reminder, it's been another major week of new developments in the political battle over Iraq. Coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, John Roberts will give you a comprehensive look at Iraq, "A Week at War."
BLITZER: Our "Late Edition" web question asked this: Should the United States close Guantanamo Bay prison? Here's how you voted. Eighty-one percent of you said yes. Nineteen percent said no. Remember, though, this is not a scientific poll.
Let's take a look at what's the cover of this week's major newsmagazines in the United States. Time's cover story is "India Inc., Why the World's Biggest Democracy is the Next Great Economic Superpower, and What it Means for America." Newsweek explores "The Pirate in Johnny Depp," and U.S. News and World Report looks at "Making Fitness Easy."
Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'm in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m. eastern, as well as 7 p.m. eastern as well. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. For our North American viewers, "Iraq, a Week at War" comes up next. First, let's get a check of what's making news right now.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com