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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview With Mowaffak Al-Rubaie; Interview With Saad Hariri
Aired November 26, 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: It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4 p.m. in London and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll get to my interview with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al- Rubaie, in just a moment.
First, though, let's check in with CNN's Carol Costello for a quick look at what's in the news right now. Carol?
BLITZER: Thanks, Carol. And as the bloodletting in Iraq grows worse by the day, sharp divisions between Sunni and Shia lawmakers are threatening to collapse Iraq's government. Just a short while ago, I spoke with Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser in Baghdad.
BLITZER: Moffawak al-Rubaie, thanks very much for joining us here on "Late Edition." There's a headline in The New York Times today that says, "Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself."
According to a confidential U.S. assessment, armed groups believed to raise millions through smuggling and kidnapping. Is this insurgency now self-sustaining financially, as this report suggests?
MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQ'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is a missing piece of information on that report, which is the fund (ph) from the -- some of the Arab states around Iraq. Those countries are afraid of our democracy. And I wouldn't -- I'm not saying that these are the governments of these countries, but they are the businessmen. They are the Islamic movements in these countries, helping the insurgency to bring down the democracy in Iraq and tries to defeat the United States government -- or United States Army in Iraq.
BLITZER: Which countries are involved in allowing these businessmen or other individuals in these Arab countries around Iraq? Which countries are involved?
AL-RUBAIE: Well, it's not one country. It's not two countries. It is more than that. And there are so many extremists around in the region. This is -- mind you, this is a fight, or this is a war between the extremists and the moderates in the whole region. And that's why it is concentrating its effort in Iraq.
If they lose, they lose in the whole region. If they win, God forbid, they will disrupt the whole region again.
BLITZER: So you don't want to mention any specific names of countries where you believe money is filtering into the insurgency into Iraq?
AL-RUBAIE: We are working with some of these governments in the region, trying quell and stop these funds coming from these countries to the insurgents in Iraq.
BLITZER: You've mentioned Arab countries. What about a non-Arab country, a Persian country, specifically Iran? Is Iran financing, providing weapons to the insurgency, to the -- to foment the sectarian violence in Iraq?
AL-RUBAIE: See, we don't have solid evidence that Iran is helping al Qaida in Iraq. They are helping the Al-Mahdi. They are helping the militia. They are helping some of the extremist Shia groups in Iraq. But there is no evidence that Iran is helping al Qaida or helping the insurgents in Iraq.
BLITZER: Because the U.S. military has repeatedly pointed to improvised explosive devices, some of them rather sophisticated, and they have accused Iran of providing this technology, these weapons to some of the Shiite militia, the death squads in Iraq.
AL-RUBAIE: For the Iraqi government to come to an intelligent conclusion and analysis or decision on this -- these EFPs, they call that, we need to share intelligence information with the coalition. And we are in the process of sharing that. And we will come to a conclusion very soon.
BLITZER: A spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, says that if your prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, goes ahead this week and meets with President Bush in Amman, Jordan, the government -- his support, al-Maliki, the support for the al-Maliki government will go away from Muqtada al-Sadr.
"If the prime minister goes ahead and meets with the criminal Bush in Amman, we will suspend our membership in the Iraqi government."
Will Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, ignore this threat?
AL-RUBAIE: Absolutely. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that Prime Minister Maliki is going to meet President Bush in Amman in the next couple of days. And they are going to discuss the very serious issues concerning Iraq and future handover of the security responsibility.
And this is all political posturing. It is all a red herring. It is an empty threat. This is a very stable government. It has the support of the three major communities and the three major parliamentary blocs in Iraq.
So they enjoy a lot of support from some of the neighbors. They enjoy support from the United States government and the coalition countries. And they enjoy support from all sectors of Iraq. And we came through a parliamentary constitutional election.
This is a national unity government adopting a very good and aggressive national reconciliation and dialogue plan. And I don't think withdrawing or pulling a couple of people from the council of representatives off from the government, is going to bring down this government.
BLITZER: U.S. Senator John McCain, who's been outspoken on the Iraq issue, very supportive of the war, he's warning -- he's suggesting that Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, clearly influential with the government, should be removed from power.
"If we don't get this guy, al-Sadr, out of the picture, if we don't get the Mahdi Army under control, we are going to have very serious difficulties."
Is it possible, is it desirable for the government to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr?
AL-RUBAIE: John McCain is a very experienced politician and he has -- well, he's supported Iraq, and he's still a very strong supporter of Iraq. And he understands Iraq very well and he has visited us here. And I respect his view, and I believe we need to control all the elements of Jaish al-Mahdi.
There are people who are working under that banner. We need to control them, and we need to be very decisive about it. And we have made a very unpopular decision, in this government, to take on anyone who is showing arms or going to the streets with his arms.
BLITZER: But the notion of arresting or executing Muqtada al- Sadr --is that something on the agenda?
AL-RUBAIE: This is for the judicial system to do or to -- Muqtada al-Sadr, now, until this moment of time, is part of the political process. He has 30-plus members in the council of representatives. He has six ministers in the government.
He is working within the government. And he's part of the largest parliamentary bloc, which is the United Iraqi Alliance.
So we have no quibble with any parliamentary bloc. And what we have decided to do is to take on, through our Iraqi security forces, any of his rogue elements, or those who are criminals.
And by the way, he has renounced violence. He has renounced those elements who are either being supported by some of our neighbors, or they are taking the law into their hands against his own will.
BLITZER: What does it say, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, about the security situation in Iraq right now, that your prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has to go to a third country, namely Jordan, to meet with President Bush, that it's so, apparently, unsafe right now for an American president to go to Baghdad that he has to meet with the Iraqi prime minister in Jordan, 3 1/2 years after your country was liberated from Saddam Hussein?
What does that say about the current situation in Iraq right now?
AL-RUBAIE: Well, I don't know. I'm not aware of the reason why President Bush is not coming to meet Prime Minister Maliki in Baghdad.
But what I understand is that there is also a trilateral meeting there that is the -- President Bush has visited Iraq probably three times since liberation.
So I'm not aware of the reason why he is not visiting. He must have some other schedule and some other business to do somewhere else in the world.
BLITZER: Mowaffak al-Rubaie, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Good luck to you. We'll stay in touch. Thanks very for joining us.
AL-RUBAIE: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: And just ahead, Muqtada al-Sadr's power play: Is the radical Iraqi Shiite cleric a threat to his country's unity government as well as the United States?
We'll get insight from former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Then, should U.S. troops in Iraq go big, go long, or simply go home?
Two top retired U.S. generals assess the military options.
Plus, political analysis on whether President Bush can expect a rocky relationship with Congress when the Democrats take charge in January.
And don't forget, coming up for our North American viewers at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right after "Late Edition," it's "This Week at War," hosted by John Roberts.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Is Iraq's unity government on the verge of collapse right now?
And what role is Iran playing in the current chaos?
What should the United States be doing to try to help reverse a deteriorating situation?
Here to help us answer those questions and more are two guests: former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. He's joining us from Kent. Connecticut; and, here in Washington, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in.
Dr. Kissinger, I'll start with you. You suggested, a week ago, that a military victory per se, in Iraq, for the United States and its Iraqi partners, the international coalition that supports the U.S. right now -- in your words, "I don't believe that is possible."
I want you to elaborate why you think a military victory, now, 3 1/2 years after the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein, is no longer possible.
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What I said, precisely, was a military victory that establishes a government whose writ runs all over the country and which can end both sectarian conflict and the insurrection, it's possible within a time frame that the American public will support.
I believe that it's not possible, in such a time frame, to prevent the sectarian violence, verging on civil war, that is going on, and at the same time fight the insurrection.
BLITZER: How much time, Dr. Kissinger, do you believe the American public is prepared to give President Bush right now?
In other words, how much time is left for this current situation to either turn around or for the U.S. to get out?
KISSINGER: Well, what I hear on talk shows by both supporters and opponents of the administration is that they are all trying to put it into the time frame of the next two years.
I don't -- I personally do not like making it so dependent on the American electoral cycle. And I would rather discuss the issue in terms of the conditions that have to be met, rather than to gear it to an electorate cycle. Because the conditions -- if the conditions are not met, we may confront an absolutely chaotic situation all over the Middle East.
BLITZER: Some people are suggesting, Dr. Brzezinski, that the chaos in Iraq is, obviously, significant right now but could get a whole lot worse if the U.S. were to precipitously withdraw from Iraq.
I know you've been among those, for a long time, who are saying the United States has to start to cut its losses.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I haven't been saying that the United States has to cut its losses. I have been saying that this enterprise is fatal, that it was based on false premises. It's been badly conducted. And it is destructive of American national interests in the region.
BLITZER: So does that mean the U.S. has to pull out?
BRZEZINSKI: I think we have to pull out because we're, in effect, waging a colonial war in a region very sensitive, historically, to colonialism.
We are waging a colonial war which we're not prepared to win.
If we want to win, we, a country of 300 million people, extremely possible, of course we'd win. But we're not going to mobilize ourselves to the degree to win because common sense indicates it's not worth it.
BLITZER: So, when you say the U.S. should pull out, how quickly, in other words, does the United States have in your opinion to pull out? How quickly should it be done?
BRZEZINSKI: I think we have about a year. But the point is, the longer we delay, the worse it's going to be because the more fractionated the Iraqis are becoming. If we had done this earlier, we still would have had some core of coherence in Iraq. But if you read the reports these days, even Muqtada al-Sadr is now beginning to lose control over his own militia.
BLITZER: He's the radical Shiite cleric.
BRZEZINSKI: Exactly. And the fact is, if we pull out, the power will have to be based on the courts and on the Shiite militias, and perhaps with an authority like Sistani providing an overall political theocratic umbrella.
But the longer we stay, the more fragmented this will be because it is a civil war already. And in the meantime, and this is a key point, American position in the Middle East is being dramatically undermined.
BLITZER: All right. Dr. Kissinger, you agree with Dr. Brzezinski?
KISSINGER: No, I believe the opposite. I believe we should redesign our military strategy so that we are -- we get out of -- between the sectarian conflict and concentrate our military strategy on fighting the al Qaida forces that are there and the insurrection forces. In the course of...
BLITZER: So in other words -- excuse me for interrupting, Dr. Kissinger -- if the U.S. military were to see Shia militia fighting Sunni militia, the U.S. should stay out of that fight, per se, is that what you're saying?
KISSINGER: Unless it assumes genocidal proportions (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: It seems to be assuming incredible. Two hundred people killed in one day this past week. The numbers are staggering.
KISSINGER: Well, this is an issue that I believe that the Baker commission ought to address, and certainly my attitude will be to support any bipartisan conclusion that would be arrived at. But we have to navigate between a situation in which we are engaging in the civil war that is -- well, the sectarian war that is going on inside Iraq. And conditions in which we withdraw under circumstances in which, as we have seen in Lebanon and as we will see elsewhere, whatever structure exists in the region, disintegrates and a vacuum will be created that will be filled by the nearest powerful country, which in this case is probably Iran.
BLITZER: This is the argument that so many of the administration supporters, Dr. Brzezinski, are making, that if the U.S. were to take your advice and get out, let's say, over the next year, there would be this huge vacuum that Iran would presumably take charge of, but also that Iraq -- and I want you to respond to this -- would become the new Afghanistan, if you will, but even much more dangerous because of all the oil that Iraq has.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, it already is the new Afghanistan. In fact, the lethality is much higher. But the point to understand is that if you undertake a historically mistaken adventure, the longer you stick with it, the higher the cost you pay for it.
BLITZER: You're making the comparison to Vietnam.
BRZEZINSKI: Yes, our -- or to Algeria. And when Henry says that the Baker commission is going to help us resolve it, I think that's an illusion. The Baker commission will probably come out with some sound advice on dealing with the neighborhood, with Iran, with the Israeli- Palestinian issues, which is relevant but essentially will offer some procrastination ideas for dealing with the crisis.
The fact of the matter is, the undertaking itself is fundamentally wrong-headed. And I've been arguing this on your program with Henry for the last three years. And I invite viewers to go on the Internet and look what we have been saying, respectively.
This is a mistaken, absolutely historically wrong undertaking. The costs are prohibitive. If we get out sooner, there will be a messy follow-up after we leave. It will be messy, but will not be as messy as if we stay, seeking to win in some fashion.
BLITZER: Here's what Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Dr. Kissinger, writes in The Washington Post today, among other things: "Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs. America cannot impose a democracy on any nation regardless of our noble purpose."
Do you agree with Senator Hagel?
KISSINGER: As you probably know, I've been arguing that imposing a democracy is beyond our capacity in many parts of the world. On the other hand, standing for democracy is inevitable. The purpose in going in Iraq was related to our perception of the war on terror and on the danger of a jihadist movement throughout the region.
Undoubtedly, mistakes have been made. But the issue we are facing now is whether, if we withdraw under conditions in which the radicals can say they drove the Russians out of Afghanistan, they drove the Americans out of Iraq and that there is no vestige of an American position left, that this is bound to have serious consequences, not only through the region but wherever there are significant Islamic minorities that have radical cells implanted in them, including in countries like India and some of our European countries.
BLITZER: All right.
KISSINGER: So, therefore, I believe that our change of -- any change in policy, which on the whole, I favor, have to be done in a measured way and related to a strategic concept, and not simply say we made a mistake a few years ago, which I also don't agree with in such absolute terms. And therefore, we are simply just going to get out. We have to create a framework for the next phase in which America remains relevant.
BLITZER: All right. Dr. Kissinger and Dr. Brzezinski, I want both of you to stand by. We have to take a quick commercial break. We have lots more to talk about, including this week's assassination of a prominent Lebanese Christian cabinet member, and what could be done to shore up Lebanon's fragile democracy.
We'll also talk about Iran. But up next, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now, including today's protests in Turkey against the pope.
Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We're continuing our conversation with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Dr. Brzezinski, the vice president, Dick Cheney, has been in Saudi Arabia this weekend, meeting with Saudi officials, presumably trying to see what they can do to help out the situation in Iraq.
The president of the United States is getting ready to go to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah in Jordan as well as the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki.
Lots of diplomacy going on. To some observers, it looks like the administration is groping for some sort of solution, an immediate solution to what simply can't go on for a long time.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I certainly hope that's the case. Because otherwise, why all the scrambling. It's demeaning anyway, but it's a symptom of how seriously in trouble our policy in the region is.
We are not in trouble just in Iraq. We are in trouble regarding Iran, which is gaining influence. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is stalemated. Lebanon is on the verge of explosion and the region is seething with hostility for the United States.
So we have to change our position. But I'm afraid that, at the current stage, policy is still made by the same people who initiated this mistaken policy.
BLITZER: So you're not encouraged that Rumsfeld is leaving?
BRZEZINSKI: I think Gates is a terrific guy, but he's going to be surrounded by the vice president, his staff, the NSC staff, a president who has a sense of religious mission, a secretary of state who says that democracy is going through birth pangs in the Middle East.
We see the birth pangs, dramatically and sadly. So I don't see the administration reaching out to people like Senator Hagel and others who have had a different point of view throughout. They are essentially seeking reinforcement, and perhaps attempting to find a formula which makes the Democrats share the blame for the debacle.
BLITZER: Let me bring back Dr. Kissinger.
Dr. Kissinger, as you know, 3 1/2 years ago, when the U.S. helped topple Saddam Hussein, there was great hope among a lot of the president's supporters and advisers that this would turn the corner in the Arab world and democracy would flourish.
But listen to Jordan's King Abdullah, who spoke earlier today. He's a strong ally of the United States, as you well know. Listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN: We are juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it's the Palestinians, of Lebanon, or of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It was not supposed to be like this, was it, Dr. Kissinger, the situation in Iraq potentially escalating to not only civil war in Iraq but in the neighborhood as well?
KISSINGER: Well, I, as you know, have always questioned whether it is possible to develop democracy in the same time scale as it was necessary to deal with the strategic issues in the region. But I don't believe that the commitment to democracy is the cause for the difficulty.
Because of the difficulty, say, in Lebanon, it's the creation by Iran, of a military organization, a paramilitary organization -- they are called the Hezbollah -- which is better armed, better trained, than the Lebanese government, and that therefore, it is not the aspiration to democracy but the rejection of democracy by a significant group that wants to establish itself by force. And if that pattern continues in the rest of the region, then there is no solution to the problem, and the hostility about (inaudible) will become stronger and stronger.
So we have to distinguish between perhaps over-ambitious goals at the beginning. But these goals were not the cause of where we are today.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Dr. Brzezinski if he agrees with you.
Do you agree the U.S. ambitions, the goals set out 3 1/2 years ago are not necessarily related to this explosion of tension and violence, chaos in the region?
BRZEZINSKI: They are partially related. Some of the sources of chaos and violence in the region are indigenous and historical.
BLITZER: There has been fighting in Lebanon, for example, going back to the '70s.
BRZEZINSKI: Precisely. But it's also a failure of leadership.
The fact of the matter is we have plunged headlong into Iraq. We have neglected the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. We let it drift. Then we adopted a very one-sided policy of supporting Sharon only and letting the situation deteriorate. And the level of hostility between the Palestinians and the Israelis today -- it's very high on both sides.
We have adopted a, kind of, black and white posture in which the war on terror is defined as being waged on the central front in Iraq, which is an absurdity.
We maintain that Al Qaida was cooperating with Saddam against us, which was a fiction.
BLITZER: Maybe that was a fiction before the war, but isn't it a fact that, today, Al Qaida does have a base within Iraq itself?
BRZEZINSKI: Of course it does. And it does because it draws sustenance from the fact that it's fighting against a foreign occupier. That's what makes it more popular.
I think the Iraqis, on their own, would be far more effective in handling it than, essentially, a middle-size occupation army of 145,000 men, which were not ready or able to increase but which we seem to be stuck on leaving there almost semi-permanently.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but I want both of you to weigh in on the death of a former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned, radiation poison on his deathbed.
He was specifically blaming the Russian president, Vladimir Putin and his security services for killing him.
Dr. Kissinger, give us your assessment of what you think may have happened.
KISSINGER: I have no idea what happened, but the assassinated individual had been a member of the Russian secret police, and then had gone over to the British, and had turned on his former Soviets. And within the Soviet secret services, this is always taken extremely seriously.
So it's quite plausible to me that he was assassinated by his former comrades. At what level that order was given, I have absolutely no way of knowing.
BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, you've studied the former Soviet Union, the Russian situation for a long time. What's your assessment?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think Henry's basically right. I would only add to this that he was very much a critic of Putin's war against Chechnya. And so was Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who was murdered in Moscow some weeks ago.
And in neither the Politkovskaya case nor this case have the assassins been liquidated. But certainly, it gives you food for thought as to what the motives might have been.
BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, Dr. Kissinger, both of you, thanks very much for joining us once again here on "Late Edition." We'll continue this conversation in the weeks and months to come.
Coming up next, one top Democratic lawmaker is calling for its return, but is it really time for the United States military to reinstate the draft? We'll get the views of two top U.S. generals. And a reminder. Coming up for our North American viewers right after "Late Edition" at 1 p.m. Eastern, it's "This Week at War," hosted by John Roberts.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This week it was reported that an ongoing Pentagon review is considering three options for the way forward in Iraq: Go big with more troops, go long with fewer troops but a continued presence for a longer period of time, or simply go home. Joining us now, two top retired U.S. generals. In Tampa, Florida, the former deputy of the U.S. military Central Command, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael DeLong, and in Oak Brook, Illinois, Brigadier General David Grange. He's also our CNN military analyst. Generals, welcome back.
And General DeLong, I'll start with you. Charlie Rangel, the Democratic congressman from New York, made some waves over the past week suggesting, and I'll read to you what he said last Sunday. He said, "I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft." He wants to reinstate the military draft. What do you think about that idea? LT. GEN. MICHAEL DELONG (RET), MARINE CORPS: Well first of all it's not new from the representative, but I don't support that. The current way that we do business right now, the military, we've got the best young men, best young ladies, the best force that we've ever had. I joined in the late '60s when they had a draft. I came from the Naval Academy and watched the services grow. And each service brings its own unique style, but the way we're doing it right now with the all-volunteer force is by far the way to go.
BLITZER: What about you, General Grange? What do you think?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think there should be something with national service. I believe that deeply, especially when they just released from Washington, D.C., the National Civic Health Index showing a lack of sense of service or participation, volunteerism, trust in others. And I think that it's more than just the military. I think the sense of service is a national issue for just the civic health, the civic engagement, and if you look at homeland security, there's many organizations and agencies that need support. So I do believe in something, but not the draft.
BLITZER: All right. I think that that's a prevailing view among many current and retired U.S. military officers. Congressman Rangel is going to pursue this in hearings when the new Congress convenes in January.
Let's talk about various options right now. General DeLong, I'll start with Senator John McCain. He wants the U.S. military to deploy thousands more additional forces to try to ease the crisis, the chaos, in Iraq right now. Is that the answer, to deploy another 20, 30, 50,000 American troops?
DELONG: I listened to your program before, and I think both gentlemen had a good point. The issue right now in Iraq is the Iraqi army is pretty well trained. They've got some esprit. The Iraqi military, or the Iraqi police force is pretty well trained. Not as much as esprit. But you have a government that cannot control either one right now.
So bringing in more troops, I don't know what good that would do. I talked to John Abizaid and listened to him, and have talked to the other people over there right now. And I've been over there. I think they're doing what they need to do right now, but unless they get a different government, or a government that can control the security of that country, I think they're going to have a problem.
BLITZER: What do you think, General Grange?
GRANGE: Well, right now, I believe there's a four- to six-month critical window in order to get this thing in a positive position before the United States and the elected Iraqi government. I have five points, but two to answer your question. One is, I believe that the surge in training -- in other words, it's not just numbers going from ten advisors to 20 in each group but going to 10 to 20 with the right specialties in leadership. Because the toughest thing is not just to teach these Iraqi soldiers to shoot, move and operate, but to teach them the sense of loyalty to the government and loyalty to the people they serve. That's the hardest thing to make happen.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt, General Grange. Because we heard from the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA.
Lieutenant General Michael Maples testified the other day before Congress, suggesting that so much of the Iraqi police force, the interior ministry and even the military are now riddled with Shia death squad members, and that this is becoming a huge, huge problem for the Iraqi military and police force that you have these Shia death squad members, these militia already deeply ingrained into the security forces.
GRANGE: Well, no doubt in my mind that they are infiltrated. You train the police and the Iraqi military to be more proficient. You're also training infiltrators. But the majority, I think, you still have some that are very loyal to the government.
I think you've got to pick the toughest, most loyal generals right now to get on with some of these operations on the Iraqi side. It's critical.
The other point, though, I wanted to make on troop increases. I wouldn't put more American troops in the cities and in the populated areas, but I would deploy several brigades of American troops on the periphery, on the Iranian/Syrian border in Anbar Province, to demonstrate resolve and will and to do the unexpected, because that's what it takes to dissuade Iran militias and some others right now.
BLITZER: General DeLong, since you're suggesting it's mostly a political lack of will on the part of the Iraqi government, Senator Carl Levin, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is suggesting, you know what, you've got to put pressure on the government. And one way of putting pressure on them is over the next four to six months to start withdrawing U.S. forces. Maybe they will get the message to gather up the political courage and will to deal with the death squads and the militia. What do you make of Senator Levin's proposal?
DELONG: It's interesting. I mean, it's an option. But the issue becomes, it is political right now. If you ask the Iraqi government right now, make this happen, and they go out to the police forces in all the different provinces, and the army, as you said, it depends on whether they are going to follow that. The leaders, may not follow them that day. It may be a Kurdish company. It may be a Shiite battalion, and they're not going to do what they're told.
Right now, from what I've seen, the Iraqi government does not have complete control over the security of the country. And so, in order to do some of these things you suggest, you've got to get -- I'm saying that it doesn't appear to me -- as good as it may have been, that democracy may not work in Iraq. You need to have something else that will grip these groups of tribes and the three large groups of people and somehow bring them together under a stronger government, whatever that is.
BLITZER: General Grange, I want you to react to what the incoming, the new commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway, told reporters this past week about the strain on the U.S. Marine Corps right now, the current tours of duty in Iraq and elsewhere. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES CONWAY, U.S. MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: I think we may lose some of those folks. I think that the families, the young Marines, sailors will say that's just more than I think, you know, I'm willing to bear, and it could have some negative consequences for us in that regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And it's not just the Marines. It's the U.S. Army, as well, because if you send back these troops for a second or third or fourth tour of duty in Iraq, it puts an enormous strain not only on them but on their families.
GRANGE: Well, that's absolutely correct. I agree with the commandant, it's Marine and Army. Remember, now, some tours and special operations in the Marine Corps may be seven months, where some National Guard units have been activated maybe 12, 14 months.
But the bottom line is, it's back-to-back tours with a little bit of time in between where they can't train, refit, go to school. This is a very highly educated military that's constantly in training, and most importantly the time with the families, missing holidays, missing birthdays, weddings, all these different types of things.
It goes back that the military is too small. It was screwed up after the Berlin Wall fell in '89, when we started downsizing. And we're living with those results right now. The military needs to rebuild itself, not only for the current crisis but for the looming operations that we have in the future that I'm sure are going to happen.
BLITZER: And that's where Charlie Rangel where we started, and his desire to reinstate the draft may play a role down the road. Generals, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. We'll continue our discussion down the road, as well. Thanks very much for coming in, General DeLong and General Grange.
DELONG: Thank you.
GRANGE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Still ahead, with sectarian violence spiralling out of control, is the U.S. mission in Iraq losing ground? We'll talk with two key U.S. members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Late Edition" will continue right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Coming up on "Late Edition," looking ahead to a new year and a new Senate. What moves will Democrats and Republicans make on Iraq and other key issues? We'll speak with two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Jack Reed. We'll also get political insight from Maryland's Republican lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "Late Edition" continues right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL-RUBAIE: We have made a very unpopular decision, in this government, to take on anyone who is showing arms or going to the streets with his arms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER (voice over): Revenge killings and mass murder in Iraq. What can be done to stop the downward spiral? Should U.S. troops go big, go long, or go home?
We'll ask two key U.S. senators on the Armed Services Committee, Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Jack Reed.
Plus, a "Late Edition" exclusive, Lebanese politician Saad Hariri on the latest anti-Syrian political figure to be assassinated in Lebanon.
And what happens on the political home front when the news from abroad is bad?
We'll talk party politics with Maryland's Republican lieutenant governor Michael Steele and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll speak with Senators Cornyn and Reed in just a moment. First, let's check in with CNN's Carol Costello for a quick look at what's in the headlines right now. Carol?
BLITZER: Thank you, Carol. And let's get our guests take, now, on the best way forward in Iraq.
Joining us, two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee: In Dallas, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas; here in Washington, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
Senators, good to have both of you here on "Late Edition." Senator Cornyn, I'll start with you, and this headline in the New York Times this morning that the insurgents, basically, are now self- sustaining financially. They're raising anywhere from $50 million, $80 million a year to $200 million a year from their own various means, including extortion and blackmail, to sustain themselves.
And also, this ominous report, coming out of this story in the New York Times, which quotes a classified U.S. intelligence report: "In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorists and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq."
This is extremely disturbing, as you can imagine.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, it is. And it shows that criminal enterprises in Iraq of all stripes, whether it's smuggling oil or kidnappings and extorting ransom or other criminal activities are what are financing the insurgency.
That's why I believe we have to go big, in the terms of the Pentagon. We have to surge additional force there so that we cannot only clear areas in Baghdad but we can actually hold them.
BLITZER: How big do you want to go?
How many additional -- beyond the 145,000 U.S. troops already on the ground, how many more do you want to deploy?
CORNYN: Well, I would take the advice of our generals on the ground. But I think we're talking about 20 to 50,000 additional troops to embed them with the Iraqis, so that when we clear areas, we can actually secure them.
Then we need to disarm the militias. We need to arrest al-Sadr and make sure the government has a monopoly on the use of legal force.
BLITZER: All right, let me bring Senator Reed in. What do you think -- another 20,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops to deploy, to deal with the current crisis?
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think 20,000 extra troops would probably not be decisive in terms of changing the political dynamic and the security dynamic in Iraq.
And indeed, we'd have a very difficult time sustaining an additional 20,000 troops over, say, a year or more. A third of our brigades in the United States are reporting nondeployable because of personnel and equipment shortages.
So the prospect of a magic bullet with just more troops, I don't think is there. In fact, General Abizaid indicated in his testimony that he would not recommend additional troops.
This is a political crisis. I think Maliki said it today. This is a political crisis. And what we have to do is engage this government, the Maliki government and make tough political decisions, that they'll go after the militias, that they'll start providing adequate security for the people, that they'll deliver services.
This week, or a few days ago, the health ministry was attacked by Sunni insurgents. One reason is that the health minister is part of the Mahdi army and that he refuses to deliver any materials to hospitals in Sunni areas. So this is a political issue.
BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Cornyn back. Senator McCain agrees with you, and Senator Lindsey Graham, another member of the Armed Services Committee -- they agree the U.S. has to go big, deploying an additional 20,000, maybe more, as many as 50,000 is what you're saying.
But what do you say to General Abizaid, the U.S. military central commander, who says that is not necessarily a good idea?
CORNYN: Well, I respect General Abizaid immensely. And what General Abizaid, I think, is failing to take into adequate account is the political reality in the United States.
The fact is we need to surge the number of troops there so we can secure Baghdad and allow the political reconciliation and rapprochement that Jack Reed is talking about.
It's not going to happen in the face of this kind of lawlessness. We're not talking about an open-ended commitment. We're talking about a temporary surge and get that basic security to allow the political institutions to work out their differences.
BLITZER: So how long would 180,000 or 200,000 U.S. troops, according to your estimate, be deployed in Iraq?
How long would this surge last?
CORNYN: I think General Abizaid had it about right. He said he thinks we have about another four to six months to get this right. And I think that's what we're looking at.
BLITZER: Well, we'll see what the recommendations are. In addition to the New York Times story suggesting that this insurgency is now financially, Senator Reed, self-sustaining, the national security adviser of Iraq, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, was here on "Late Edition" in the last hour.
He also said there was another huge problem, sustaining the insurgency, the sectarian violence. Listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL-RUBAIE: The countries are afraid of our democracy. And I'm not saying that these are the governments of these countries, but they are the businessmen; they are the Islamic movements in these countries, helping the insurgency to bring down the democracy in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He didn't mention names, but he said several Arab countries, neighbors of Iraq, are sustaining the insurgency for various reasons.
Is that what you're hearing as well?
REED: When I was over there in October, there was clear indications that the Iranians, particularly in the South, were supporting the efforts of some of these sectarian groups.
BLITZER: He didn't say Iranians. He said Arabs. Iranians are Persian.
REED: I know they're Persian.
BLITZER: He was specifically avoiding any allegation against Iran, given the relationship between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself an Iraqi Shia, and the Iranian government. He was avoiding any aspersions on Iran deliberately?
REED: Well, he was deliberately doing that. But they in fact have a presence there.
Also the presence, in Al Anbar province, of funds coming from Sunnis, some, as he pointed out, individual bankers, business people, et cetera. That also contributes to the sustainability of this insurgency.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Senator Reed, with Senator Cornyn and Senator McCain and others that Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shiite cleric who runs this Mahdi army, this militia in Iraq, that he should be arrested?
REED: I think he should be marginalized, either by arrest...
BLITZER: What does that mean, marginalized?
REED: Well, if you can arrest him, you can arrest him. If you can somehow put him out of the political spectrum without arresting him. But he's not a positive force in the government.
And I think that has to be done. That's one of the key political decisions that Maliki has to make. And one of the problems is Sadr controls about 30 or more seats in the parliament. And he also has control of several ministries. And he is a key power base for Maliki.
That's where this government has to make a tough choice. And I don't think they can make it alone. I think it's about time for the president to step up and send some of their high-ranking -- maybe the secretary of state -- and get in a room with these people and iron out, as best we can, some tough decisions...
BLITZER: The president's going to be meeting with Nouri al- Maliki in Jordan this week.
REED: What I'm afraid of -- it's going to a photo session. They'll talk; they'll leave; and nothing will be done, consistently. We've got to follow up on the meeting. And let me commend the president for meeting with him. I think that is an important step. But just to have a photo opportunity and walk away is not going to get these political decisions made by the Maliki government.
BLITZER: Senator Cornyn, what do you want the president to tell this Iraqi prime minister when they meet in Amman, Jordan, this week, specifically about your recommendation that these Shiite death squads, these militias, that the government has to start taking charge and deal with them, especially Muqtada al-Sadr?
CORNYN: I'd like the president to tell Prime Minister Maliki that America's commitment is not open-ended but we are committed to securing Iraq, through surging additional forces there, to allow the political institutions to work out their differences.
But it's also going to require the government, the lawful government of Iraq, to claim a monopoly on the lawful use of force. You can't have armed gangs in essence running the place with the kind of retaliation and sectarian violence we're seeing there. We need to establish basic security there.
And then Maliki is going to have to deal with his cabinet and reshuffle it and deal with his political problems with al-Sadr and his Shiite allies the best he can. But our commitment is not open-ended, and he needs to understand that. But we need to have a strategy to win.
I hope our friends on the other side of the aisle who've been so critical of the administration will now come up with a proposal of their own. I think it's time -- past time for us to work on a bipartisan basis to try to find a solution to actually secure Iraq and allow the process, the political process to work, rather than just giving up.
BLITZER: Do you think -- I want to take a break, Senator Cornyn, but do you think it's enough for the U.S. or the Iraqi government to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr, this young Shiite cleric, or is it time to take him out as some are suggesting? In other words, kill him.
CORNYN: Well, I would say arrest him, and if he's unable to go peacefully, obviously I think he's a danger to the Iraqis and the Iraqi future in the entire Middle East. We need to disarm him and his militias. Arrest them.
Take them out of action whatever way we need to, and to provide basic security to allow the political process that Jack Reed and others have talked about to go forward. It's not going to do that in a period of such chaos and violence as we're seeing right now.
BLITZER: Senator Reed, kill him if necessary?
REED: I think what you -- that's a decision I think that the Iraqi government would make. But I think if he's -- an arrest warrant is authorized and they go after him, he resists, he becomes a combatant. I would hope we could get him off the scene without making him a martyr.
BLITZER: All right. Gentlemen, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
Lots more to talk about, including the draft. Will it be revived? We'll also talk about Afghanistan. Has that become the forgotten war? Then, another anti-Syrian political figure in Lebanon assassinated. Is Syria behind the killing? We'll talk with a Lebanese parliament member, Saad Hariri. His own father, the former prime minister, was killed last year.
Plus, what moves will the new Democratic-controlled Congress make to change the U.S. course in Iraq? We'll get insight from a prominent Republican, Michael Steele, and a prominent Democrat, Donna Brazile. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're talking with two leading members of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island.
Here's what Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, as you well know, Senator Reed, said in an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post today: "We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible Congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years."
That comes from a Republican, Senator, someone you know quite well. You're about to be the majority on the Senate Armed Services Committee. What are you going to do differently as far as funding the war in Iraq is concerned?
REED: Well, we have to make some real positive steps to make sure the funding is not, as Chuck described, just supplementals that come up. In fact, there's an indication that the administration is going to send up $120-plus billion supplemental, a huge supplemental.
First, what we have to do is put the increased size of the army in the regular budget. That's being funded by a supplemental. The army, the size of the army should be in the permanent budget.
And then we have to look for way to increase the overall size of the army, particularly, and the Marine Corps in a way that's included within the budget. Those are the first two steps.
But this is a huge challenge. I mean, this Congress, this Republican Congress is leaving without passing the appropriation bills. It's just a CR. It's kicking it over to us next year. So we've got some very difficult challenges. I should also point out that...
BLITZER: CR is a continuing resolution, a stopgap measure. REED: I should also point out that Chuck Hagel called for the phased redeployment of forces, which is similar to what Senator Levin and I have been calling for, for months now.
BLITZER: Are you going to cooperate with the Democrats when they're the majority in the Armed Services Committee, Senator Cornyn, in trying to restructure the funding of this war?
CORNYN: Absolutely. And I think Jack's exactly right. We do need to expand the size of the Marine Corps and the army to provide more ground troops so that we take pressure off of our troops who are seeing successive redeployments.
I respect Senator Hagel's views enormously as a veteran himself, but I do disagree with both Senator Reed and Senator Levin and Senator Hagel, who are calling for phased redeployment. I really don't what that means. To me, it sounds like we just want to leave without any plan to actually secure Iraq and allow the political processes to have any chance of working.
And as I said earlier, that's going to require us to take out people like al Sadr to disarm the militia and to give the Iraqi government, the legitimate Iraqi government, a monopoly on the use of force. We wouldn't tolerate that in this country. They can't tolerate it there and allow the political process to have any chance of working.
BLITZER: You want more troops deployed to Iraq, Senator Cornyn. Listen to what Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel said here on CNN in "The Situation Room" earlier this week in justifying and demanding, if you will, a reinstatement of the U.S. military draft. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CHARLES RANGEL, D-NEW YORK: If we're going to need more troops, I'm sick and tired of them coming to the same communities, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars and spending $4 billion in ads. Anyone that would tell you that the affluent are enlisting are just not telling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Is it a good idea to reinstate the draft, because the U.S. military right now, as you well know, Senator Cornyn, is stretched pretty thin?
CORNYN: No, it's not a good idea to reinstate the draft. And Mr. Rangel got two votes the last time that went up in the House of Representatives for a vote. We do need to build our military forces.
Even though we have 2.7 million men and women in uniform, we're seriously out of balance. We need more ground troops. And that's an area where I think that people like Jack Reed and I can work together on a bipartisan way to try to provide and take a little of the pressure off of our National Guard and our reservists and our active- duty military while we get the job done providing basic security in Iraq.
BLITZER: You're old enough to remember, Senator Reed, when there was a draft, you went to West Point. You weren't drafted.
REED: I commanded draftees.
BLITZER: You volunteered for military service when you were in the U.S. Army. But as Charlie -- does Charlie Rangel have a point?
REED: I think the point he made is the general point about the sense of service, the sense of sacrifice which is not being felt by all Americans. Our Army, Marine Corps, their families are sacrificing, serving tremendously. They need relief. They need help. I don't think the draft is the right way to do that.
In fact, one of the ironies in this operation is that many of the shortages are not military personnel. They're diplomats, agricultural specialists, federal employees who should, in fact, be summoned and not ordered to go over, but encouraged to go over.
As we traveled around Iraq, we saw lots of incidents where the military were asking not for more troops, but for more specialists in agriculture, more specialists in finance, et cetera.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but I want both of you to weigh in very quickly. Senator Cornyn, first to you on Afghanistan. It seems to be the forgotten war, if you will. A lot of U.S. troops are deployed there, and NATO now taking the lead.
General Michael Hayden, the CIA director, suggesting that the Taliban making a huge comeback right now. How worried are you about what's happening in Afghanistan, Senator Cornyn?
CORNYN: Well, I'm concerned, but in many ways, Afghanistan is a success story for those who have advocated multilateral engagement in the global war on terror. As you'll recall, I mean, this is a coalition of Americans and the Brits and of the willing, but now, we've got NATO deployed there. I think that's very much of a positive.
But we've got to cut off the illegal drug traffic, which has just really surged back and which is helping to finance a lot of the Taliban and other insurgent activities in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Reed?
REED: Well, I agree with John. We have to go after this drug trade. But the other thing we have to do is get much more cooperation with Pakistan. A lot of the areas in which the Taliban and some al Qaida elements are organizing and taking refuge are in Pakistan.
The Pakistanis have to be much more aggressive and diligent. They're trying. But they have to do more.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there. Senator Reed, Senator Cornyn, thanks to both of you very much for coming into "Late Edition."
And just ahead, a conversation with the Lebanese parliament member Saad Hariri about this week's assassination of a key anti- Syrian figure in Lebanon and what it means for the country's government. Up next, though, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including a new cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians.
Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. A major setback in Lebanon this week with the assassination of the country's industry minister, Pierre Gemayel. Gemayel was from a prominent Lebanese Christian family and a staunch opponent of Syrian influence on the Lebanese government. And there are now suspicions that Syria may be behind his assassination, although the Syrian government forcefully denouncing the killing.
Joining us now from Beirut is Lebanese parliament member Saad Hariri. His father, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was himself assassinated last year in Lebanon. Syria is accused of being responsible for his death. The Syrians deny that, as well.
Saad Hariri, thanks very much for coming in. Our condolences to you and all the friends of Pierre Gemayel who are still in mourning right now. Do you believe Syria had a hand in killing Pierre Gemayel?
SAAD HARIRI, LEBANESE PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Thank you, Wolf. Yes, I do believe that Syria has a hand in killing Pierre Gemayel, and they will keep on denying all these killings until they kill us all.
BLITZER: What would be the motive if the government in Damascus were behind this assassination?
HARIRI: Well, you see, this is the final stages of the international tribunal to pass in the council of ministers. And yesterday, the council of ministers voted or approved the international tribunal in the killing of Rafik Hariri, my father, and all the other assassinations.
And now it's going to go to the president to be approved by the president, which he himself, as a puppet of the Syrian government, will not approve. Then it will have to come back to the Lebanese council of ministers to be reapproved.
BLITZER: You're saying that the president of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, is a puppet of the Syrian government and won't authorize this tribunal to investigate the assassination of your father? HARIRI: I think he is protecting the killers. And I think it's very obvious that he had 10 months to study all the tribunal's main points. And he decided, at the last minute, to add some more points on the tribunal just to protect those who might have committed these crimes.
President Lahoud will not approve the tribunal, and he will keep on putting all sticks into trying to cripple this tribunal, or approving this tribunal.
BLITZER: Do you have any hard evidence that the Syrian government was directly responsible in the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, other than your own suspicions?
HARIRI: You see, the first two reports -- of the Mehlis report, and also the reports that were made by Bremetz (ph) -- the first two reports of Mr. Mehlis, the investigator, said that there were Syrian hands in the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
And then, in the Bremetz (ph) reports, it said that all the assassinations -- they might have been, or there is a link between all the assassinations. And we believe that, from day one, that the assassinations were committed by the Syrian intelligence and Syrian regime.
BLITZER: Is there any evidence, in your opinion, that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon or other elements of Hezbollah may have had a role in these political assassinations of these anti-Syrian figures?
There have now been five or six well-known Lebanese, anti-Syrian political figure who have been killed over the last nearly year and a half?
HARIRI: No, I am sure that Hezbollah doesn't have a role in these assassinations. Unfortunately, Hezbollah and some allies of Syria and Lebanon which are Lebanese nationalities are protecting the Syrian regime because of their own interests. And this is very unfortunate.
And this is something that, you know, from the beginning we believed that we need to work for the interest of Lebanon -- all political parties should leave their alliances aside and work for the interests of Lebanon.
Unfortunately, the withdrawal of Hezbollah and Amal from the cabinet, from the council of ministers at the time when the tribunal had come from the United Nations had a very negative impact and has really put the finger on those two parties in trying to protect the Syrian regime.
BLITZER: Let me read to you, Saad Hariri, from an editorial in the Chicago Tribune this past Thursday: "Lebanese law requires the government to dissolve of eight ministers, one-third of the cabinet, resign or become unavailable. The government of prime minister Fouad Siniora looks to be one assassin's bullet from toppling. Now, once again, Lebanon is a battleground. Once again, it may be tilting into civil war."
How close is Lebanon, right now, to civil war?
HARIRI: Lebanon is far away from civil war. It's the Syrian regime who wants the civil war in Lebanon, and Israel, also, that wants civil war in Lebanon.
The Lebanese leadership has asked the 14th of March -- and all the other political parties, Hezbollah and Amal are quite aware of what the Syrians and the Israelis are trying to flare up this civil war. We are very conscious of the tensions that are between the Lebanese.
You have to know, Wolf, that this is a political problem. It has nothing to do with a sectarian problem. It is a political problem on the international tribunal. It's a political problem on the 1701. And it's a political problem on who is going to be the new president.
Some people are trying to, in Lebanon and outside Lebanon, make it -- or trying to push a sectarian division on these political matters.
We in the leadership of the 14th of March -- and I'm also quite sure, in Hezbollah and Amal -- very, also, aware that any sectarian fights will devastate the country.
And we have suffered the civil war for 18 years. And none of us want to see that happening again. There is a huge political problem that we believe that -- the 14th of March -- we don't want to be an axis of any Western axis. And we definitely don't want to be in the axis of Iran and Syria. And Syria must stop meddling in Lebanese politics.
BLITZER: Are you suggesting -- and maybe I misheard you -- that the Syrians and the Israelis are working together to try to foment a civil war in Lebanon. Is that what you're alleging?
HARIRI: No. I think it is the interest of Syria to have destabilization in Lebanon. And, also, it is in the interest of Israel to get to Hezbollah to destabilize Lebanon.
So, in the end, you know, it's both of these interests joining together. I don't believe that this civil war will ever happen because we really know that, in Lebanon, the leadership in Lebanon, are working very hard not to see this civil war come about.
BLITZER: Listen to what King Abdullah of Jordan, though, said earlier this morning on ABC News here in the United States. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN: We're juggling with the strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it's the Palestinians, that of Lebanon, or of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's suggesting there could be a civil war among Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian community, between Shia and Sunni in Iraq and between Christian and Sunni, on the one hand, and Shia, on the other hand, in Lebanon.
Is his concern legitimate, as far as Lebanon is concerned?
HARIRI: It is, you know, in some ways, if we let the Syrians and this axis of Iran, Syria -- we let it sway through Lebanon.
You see the thing is -- what I think his majesty King Abdullah was talking about is the main interference in the region of these regimes into Lebanon or into Palestine or into Iraq.
The problem is, today, Syria is playing a negative role in Lebanon and it's playing a negative role in Palestine and a negative role in Iraq. And I believe some people are saying that Syria needs to be engaged. Well, to be engaged with what?
If Syria is playing a positive role, then you don't need to engage with it. But if it's playing a negative role, then you're engaging into being a hostage for blackmail.
BLITZER: Saad Hariri, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. But once again, our condolences to everyone in Lebanon, all the family and friends of Pierre Gemayel -- this brutal assassination this past week.
Good luck to Lebanon. Good luck to you as well. Thanks very much for joining us.
And just ahead, they'll hold the majority when the new Congress convenes, but what potential pitfalls await the incoming house speaker, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats? We'll talk about that with a prominent Republican -- that would be Maryland's lieutenant governor Michael Steele -- and a prominent Democratic political strategist, Donna Brazile. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." As Democrats prepare to take control of the Congress for the first time in 12 years, there's no shortage of advice for what they should do and what they should not do. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to chart a course for a comeback in 2008.
Here to help us look ahead from both parties' perspectives, two prominent political insiders. Michael Steele is the Republican lieutenant governor of Maryland. He ran a spirited campaign for the U.S. Senate but fell short in his bid. Donna Brazile is a Democratic political strategist. She's also a CNN contributor. Welcome to both of you to "Late Edition."
And Michael Steele, let me start with you. This is a CNN poll that came out in recent days. The Democratic victory in 2006, and you paid a price for that, was due to, we asked the American public, was it because of support for the Democratic programs? Only 13 percent said yes. Was it opposition to GOP programs? Only 16 percent said yes. Was it disapproval of President Bush? Sixty-three percent said yes. That's why the Democrats won.
LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE (R), MARYLAND: Absolutely.
BLITZER: And I assume you paid a personal price because of the dislike of his policies.
STEELE: Absolutely. And you saw it with our governor. Governor Ehrlich had a 60 percent job approval in the state of Maryland.
BLITZER: He's a Republican governor.
STEELE: Republican governor, and got ousted. What is that? That's the, I think, the result of the people's frustration and their anger for the administration and the Congress, Republican Congress in particular, not paying attention, not minding the store, not doing what they're supposed to do, not laying down the appropriate exit strategy for Iraq. Not laying down...
BLITZER: So to a certain degree, for the Republican Congress to simply go along with whatever the White House wanted, in the end, they weren't doing the president a favor.
STEELE: They weren't doing the president a favor. They weren't doing themselves a favor. And they weren't doing candidates like myself and Governor Ehrlich a favor. Because, at the end of the day, the president wasn't on the ballot. We were. And so then we became the natural outlet for that frustration and that anger. At 65 percent tells you.
BLITZER: That's not exactly a vote of confidence in your party, the Democratic Party, when you see a very, very sharp number like that. Let me get another number for you. We asked this question, was the Democratic victory in 2006 a mandate for Democrats? Twenty-seven percent said yes. Was it a rejection of Republicans? Sixty-four percent said yes. In other words, this wasn't a vote for Democrats, Donna, this was a vote against Republicans.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, in 1994, when you, you know, went to the American people and you asked the same question, 16 percent said it was a vote for the Republicans who took control. This was a repudiation of the president, his policies in Iraq. Repudiation of a do-nothing Congress. Democrats believe that their mandate is to restore civility, to restore bipartisanship and to begin to make things happen for the American people.
STEELE: I would say less mandate and more opportunity, though. I think if the Congress goes in with this mandate concept, you get on a very slippery slope. I think if you go in and you take advantage of opportunities in establishing leadership structure, in establishing the agenda, which the Democrats seem to have laid out, minimum wage, a few other things they want to touch on directly that they can put their hands around right now, that sort of create this momentum of success, I think that that's more on tap than trying to go and say, we have a mandate.
BLITZER: Was Iraq the single biggest issue that hurt you as a Republican candidate in the United States Senate in Maryland?
STEELE: In Maryland it was, because my opponent, all he said was, "I voted against the war."
BLITZER: And that was Ben Cardin...
STEELE: That was Ben Cardin.
BLITZER: ... who was elected a Congressman. If the president would have taken the step did he the day after the election, namely getting rid of Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, if he would have done that a few weeks earlier and said we're bringing in a new face, Robert Gates, to be the new secretary of defense, reviewing all the strategy, do you think that would have helped you?
STEELE: It would have made a difference. Whether or not it would have turned the tide for a win, I don't know, but it would have made a difference to this extent: The people wanted to see something by the administration that says, you understand what we're saying, that we're frustrated with the current course. Change it. And that action would have been a step in that direction.
BRAZILE: But when you look at voters across the country, I mean, they turned out popular Republicans. You mentioned Governor Ehrlich in Maryland. Conrad Burns in Montana, Jim Talent in...
BRAZILE: Correct. You had a number of Republicans who lost because they could not distance themselves from the president or distance themselves from what's taking place in Washington, D.C. So Democrats will take advantage of the opportunity, but voters also sent another message. And that is, they would like to see the administration change the course in Iraq.
And I think this week, the president has an opportunity when he sits with Mr. Maliki and King Abdullah to lay his cards on the table and say, you know what? The voters have spoken in my country, and they want us to end this violence and bring our troops home.
BLITZER: What do you want the president to say to the prime minister of Iraq when they meet in Jordan this week.
STEELE: Take the ball and run with it, and run as far as you can, because we're no longer carrying it. You cannot think, as was said earlier by Senator Cornyn and others, this is not, you know, an endless opportunity for us to continue to carry this water. It's your responsibility. It's your country. You voted three times for this democracy, now take the ball and run with it.
BLITZER: It's been three and a half years. It's approaching four years now. Hundreds of billions of dollars, a lot of U.S. lost lives and a lot more wounded. You would think at this stage the Iraqis would be able to step up to the plate, but the Democrats seem to, you know, be all over the place as well on what the next step should be.
BRAZILE: Well, look, we're waiting for the Iraqi study group to prepare a set of recommendations. Hopefully, they are dramatic enough so that this administration will also change course. The Democrats will have an opportunity when the supplemental comes up on the Hill, $130 billion by some estimates, maybe more, to hold oversight hearings.
BLITZER: They're going to have hearings, but it's going to be very difficult, and you're a lawmaker, for a Democrat or a Republican to vote against funding for U.S. troops who are being sent off to war.
STEELE: I think that any conversation in that regard is moot, that that's not going to happen. This is the key thing for me, though. It's ironic to hear Democrats say we're going to wait for the study group. We're going to wait for the study group.
They got through this election without really putting a plan down on the table of what direction we should be taking in Iraq. They now have the opportunity, as I note it, to step forward. And the study group can be one piece of that opportunity that they have to look at. There are many other pieces...
BLITZER: But some of the Democrats are stepping forward. We're going to continue this, but we have to take a break. Senator Carl Levin says start withdrawing over the next four to six months. They are coming up with some specific proposals. Senator Biden saying, you know what, semi-autonomous, a partition, if you will, with a strong central government controlling the oil. And there's a lot of oil, as all of us know, in Iraq.
Let's continue this conversation. A lot more to talk about, including the midterm campaign. It's barely over, but the political jostling already has started for 2008. When we come back, we'll also ask our guests who they think will emerge from the pack in the race for the White House. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're continuing our conversation with our political guests, Donna Brazile and Michael Steele.
Take a look at the Republican choices. According to our CNN poll, registered Republicans were asked who they like as a presidential nominee in 2008.
Rudy Giuliani comes in with 33 percent; John McCain, 30 percent; Newt Gingrich, 9 percent; Mitt Romney, 9 percent; everybody else at the bottom, right there.
Rudy Giuliani: Can he get the Republican nomination, given his views on abortion rights for women, gay rights, affirmative action?
STEELE: You know, I've said for some time that this is a transformative election for the Republicans in 2008. It is really where you see all of those issues that we've, kind of, locked in on -- not become irrelevant but not as fervent in terms of who the next president is going to be. Because we're a nation at war.
And so I think what Rudy brings to the table is a focus and a discipline that's, sort of, been born up out of 9/11. And I think, between him and McCain, they present an interesting dynamic and an interesting challenge for the party to come to grips with...
BLITZER: Because if a lot of Republicans conclude those are the only hopes; otherwise Hillary Clinton or someone might be president...
STEELE: Well, that's it. That's it.
BLITZER: ... they may hold their nose and go in there and vote.
STEELE: Exactly. So you've got a very interesting dynamic that's going to be fun to watch over the next year.
BLITZER: On the Republican side?
STEELE: On the Republican side.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at the registered Democrats' choice for nominees. It's still very early. Hillary Clinton with 33 percent; Barack Obama, now, coming in at second, 15 percent; Senator Edwards and former vice president Al Gore, both 14 percent; everybody else down in single digits.
It's Hillary Clinton's to lose right now. Is that fair?
BRAZILE: There's no question. I mean, she not only has huge name recognition. She has a war chest that's the envy of the party, of course.
BLITZER: Although she did spend a lot of money trying to get re- elected in New York state.
BLITZER: Most people didn't even know she had an opponent, but she spend millions and millions.
BRAZILE: Well, you know, consultants are not cheap these days. I don't know how much, but they're a lot.
But look, I look at what I call the second tier of candidates. You have John Edwards there at 14 percent; Al Gore, who, if he decides to run, clearly...
BLITZER: You were his campaign manager in 2000.
BRAZILE: And I believe he was cheated out of that election. I think, if he decides to run...
BLITZER: But you think he'll run?
BRAZILE: I don't know. But I believe that his name should remain on the roster, so to speak.
And you also have some interesting candidates right now that's in single digits, like Evan Bayh, of course, from Indiana.
BLITZER: Former governor of Indiana...
BRAZILE: Former governor of Indiana...
BLITZER: ... as he tacitly points out.
BRAZILE: Look, he also gave us a couple of congresspeople this session.
We also have Tom Vilsack, who kept his state in the blue.
BLITZER: The current governor of Iowa.
BRAZILE: So this is going to be an interesting election.
BLITZER: Who do you think, as a good Republican, the Republicans should fear most as a potential Democratic candidate?
STEELE: Wow, that's a good one. You know, probably -- I was going to say Vilsack or someone like an Edwards coming up. I think Edwards has that kind of cross-appeal that, kind of, really got lost in the last election.
BLITZER: You don't fear Hillary Clinton?
STEELE: No, I think, you know, Hillary is a polarizing figure in politics. And I'm still -- I'm of the class...
BRAZILE: That didn't keep George Bush from the White House.
STEELE: Well, but George Bush was not as polarizing as Hillary.
BLITZER: At that time, he wasn't very polarizing.
STEELE: He was not very polarizing when he first ran.
BRAZILE: But in 2004, he was.
BLITZER: Who do you fear the most among the Republicans?
Who would represent the greatest threat to the Democrats taking charge in the administration?
BRAZILE: I think McCain, because he has the stature and people see him as, sort of, a maverick. But the person that I look at on that side is Mitt Romney. He's an interesting candidate. He's a governor. I know he's from Massachusetts, but still, he's someone to watch as well.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there. Donna Brazile, thanks very much.
Michael Steele, thanks for coming in. Hope you'll be a frequent guest here.
STEELE: We hope so.
BLITZER: Good to have both of you on "Late Edition."
Up next, in case you missed it, "Late Edition's" Sunday morning talk show round-up. Stay with us.
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. On all of them, talk centered on the situation in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II: There needs to be some very strong action taken on the ground today. Obviously, the indicators are of tremendous concern to all of us. And I don't think we're in a position where we can come back and revisit the problem in early 2007.
There needs to be a strategy. There needs to be a plan that brings all the parties together and brings them today and not tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS): Obviously, the situation in Iraq is not acceptable and changes are going to have to occur. That's why the vice president was in the region meeting with the king of Saudi Arabia. And that's why the president is going to meet with Maliki.
There are problems with him. He's going to have to decide whether he's going to really try to control these militia groups, whether he's going to try to govern and protect the people and move forward or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, SENATOR-ELECT (D-MO): I think all of us know that we have made a terrible mistake in Iraq. There are no good answers right now, none.
But I know, as a new member of the Senate and a new member of the Armed Services Committee, I want to ask some questions. Because this supplemental appropriate of $150 billion the president is going to ask for -- clearly, we need to have some accountability. People have gotten rich off this war. And I want to make sure that we put a stop to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R) CHMN. ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Standing up the Iraqi forces is a key here upon which all else depends. If you had an Iraqi force, today, that was stood up, that could stabilize that country, we'd be on the way out right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows, here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. And that's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, November 26. Please be sure to join us next Sunday, every Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
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