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Former President Gerald Ford Recovering at Hospital; Deadly Violence Claims Four More in Iraq; Deadline Nears for Tehran to Respond to International Demands

Aired August 21, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and stories are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Developing news in Minnesota. The former president of the United States, Gerald Ford, recovering at a hospital. He's getting a pacemaker. We'll have the prognosis.

It's 1:00 a.m. in Iraq, where deadly violence claims four more U.S. lives, just the past two days. Is it time for U.S. troops to get out? President Bush says that would be a colossal mistake. But do Americans agree?

It's 12:30 a.m. in Iran. The clock is ticking as the deadline nears for Tehran to respond to international demands it puts its nuclear program on ice. President Bush warns there could be serious consequences if Iran refuses to comply.

And it's 2:00 p.m. in California, where the man suspected of killing JonBenet Ramsey sits in isolation in a jail. There are no windows, no phone. John Mark Karr's surreal flight from Thailand was a completely different scene. We'll take you there.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll begin this hour with the developing news we're getting out of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on the former president, Gerald Ford. Keith Oppenheim is joining us once again on the phone. He's 93 years old, the former president, Gerald Ford.

Keith, what has happened?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like pretty good news for former president, Gerald Ford. A statement from the Mayo Clinic that we got just minutes ago says that he's completed an evaluation and series of tests and the result is an implantation of a cardiac pacemaker to enhance his heart's performance.

Keep in mind that he has been hospitalized four times since December. In January he had pneumonia. He was hospitalized for two days in Vail last month for shortness of breath, and he came here to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota last Tuesday.

And up until today, spokespeople here really didn't give us any idea as to why he was here and what was wrong. But today they have indicated that he got a pacemaker, the procedure went smoothly, without incident, they said.

They also said that President Ford is resting comfortably, with his wife, Betty, and his children and is expected to continue his recuperation at the Mayo Clinic for the next several days.

So, again, Wolf, as you say, he's 93 years old. In general, it sounds like he is dealing with the complications of being in a frail condition at his age, but perhaps this pacemaker will give him a better prognosis for the next weeks and months ahead.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Keith, thanks very much. And we wish him a speedy recovery. Gerald Ford, the former president of the United States, now with a pacemaker.

The current president says he's frustrated about the situation in Iraq, where at least 10 more people were killed by gunmen today. Another U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb.

President Bush today conceded the conflict may be heading toward civil war, but he still vows to stay the course.

Iran's supreme leader today vows that his country will stay the course with its nuclear enrichment program. Is that the official answer to an incentive package offered by the West for Iran to halt its program?

And as France falls short on its commitment to help keep the peace in Lebanon, signs today that Italy may be willing to step up. But does a new clash threaten the truce?

CNN's Aneesh Raman is standing by live in Tehran, a report that you'll see only here on CNN. We'll get to our Beirut bureau chief, Brent Sadler, in a moment.

Let's go to the White House first. Ed Henry is standing by with more on what the president had to say today.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there was plenty of excitement in the air when word came down unexpectedly this morning that the president would be holding this press conference at the temporary press offices across from the White House.

I saw a few government workers actually out with brooms, on hands and knees, literally sweeping one of the staircases to make sure everything was nice and clean for the president's arrival.

But as soon as he reached the podium, it was clear the president could not tidy up the situation in Iraq. He was very blunt in saying that he's very concerned about potential civil war in Iraq. This as a new CNN poll shows the mission in Iraq has reached its lowest level of support since the beginning of the conflict, only 35 percent of Americans now favoring the war, 61 percent opposing.

Last week, as you know, White House Spokesman Tony Snow denied a published report about a private meeting, charging that the president was frustrated about progress in Iraq. Today the president suggested otherwise.


BUSH: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated, rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. You know, a war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times and are difficult times. And they're straining the psyche of our country, I understand that. Nobody likes to see innocent people die.


HENRY: But in the next breath, the president declaring he has no plans to change course, saying so long as he is president, the U.S. will not withdraw troops from Iraq. Quickly, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid firing back today, teeing off on the fact that the president was talking about the American people's psyche in dealing with this conflict.

Reid saying this is not a question of resolve from the American people, it's a question of strategy. And in the estimation of Reid and other Democrats, they think that strategy in Iraq is failing.


BLITZER: What about in Iran? The Iranians, tomorrow they're supposed to give their official response to the United Nations whether or not it's going to halt its enrichment of uranium. Everybody suspects that response is going to be a no, but what did the president have to say about it?

HENRY: The president said he hopes, if, as expected, Iran goes ahead and defies the international community again, he hopes the United Nations Security Council acts swiftly to actually impose sanctions, saying that basically the U.N.'s word will mean nothing unless it finally holds Iran accountable, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, thank you very much. And the United States and other powers have offered Iran some incentives to give up is nuclear enrichment program. A response due within hours.

The Iranian supreme leader may have already delivered the answer, though, even as another deadline looms.

Let's bring in our Aneesh Raman. He's the only network correspondent here in the United States who's inside Iran right now.

Aneesh, what's the latest as this deadline comes near?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the official response, as you say, is set to take place tomorrow, but you couldn't have asked for a better preview than what we heard today. The country's supreme leader, the end point of all decision, the Ayatollah Khamenei today saying Iran had made its decision that it would continue to pursue its program for nuclear energy.

He didn't mention specifically uranium enrichment. He did not mention specifically the U.N. But Iranian officials, from the start, have maintained theirs is a peaceful civilian nuclear program. Doubts have been raised, though, by the IAEA, coupled with doubts by the West, specifically the U.S., who thinks Iran is out for a nuclear weapon.

That is what led the U.N. to set this deadline at the end of the month for Iran to suspend its program. No sign it will do so. In fact, officials are telling me they're essentially even prepared for sanctions that could come and prepared , they're showing on Iranian TV today, for any military strikes.

Massive war games launched over the weekend continued today. They are taking place over the next five weeks in about half of the country's provinces. The weapon on display today was an air missile defense system. Yesterday it was surface-to-surface missiles. They've stopped short of essentially saying that Iran will protect its nuclear sites against any attack by the West, as they continue to defy the U.N., Wolf.

BLITZER: So the bottom line is that it looks like they're not budging whatsoever, Aneesh.

RAMAN: Not budging at all. Iran has shown no signs it was going to do so. Iran basically was saying, Let's give more time to talk, that we are willing to negotiate," but the second U.N. resolution that set this deadline really came amid that Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. It caught Iran a bit off surprise. It had hoped that Russia and China, for example, would continue to keep the negotiation process going.

And it could be, keep in mind, there's a week between tomorrow and the U.N. deadline, that Iran is just posturing and hoping for a new deal. That, though, seems unlikely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman, reporting for us from Tehran, in Iran.

The help wanted sign is up in Lebanon where more peacekeepers are urgently needed. France, expected to play a major role, has committed only about 200 troops so far, but Italy now offering to lead the United Nations force.

Meantime, Israel today freed five Lebanese captured in a raid in the Bekaa Valley on August 2nd, but the Israeli military says its troops today shot three Hezbollah fighters in south Lebanon. Let's turn once again to our Beirut bureau chief, Brent Sadler.


SADLER: Hi, Wolf. First of all, those five returned Lebanese came from Israel. They were handed over to U.N. peacekeepers in the south and they're now under the control of Lebanese military intelligence just outside Beirut, expected to be released tomorrow after an intelligence debriefing and then returned to where they were taken from, abducted by Israeli commandos in the Bekaa Valley, expected to return to something of a heroes' welcome there.

We'll be following up on that story tomorrow, Wolf.

Elsewhere, here in the Lebanese capitol today, there's been strong, unequivocal support for Lebanon's resistance, meaning Hezbollah, from a close U.S. ally. The emir of Qatar was here, saying basically that the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, had delivered a victory over Israel, a victory the Arabs had long since wanted to see, a victory which the emir hopes could prod Israel into entering serious negotiations to create a multilateral Middle East peace.

Now, that was the theme picked up after the Lebanese cabinet meeting today, when the prime minister here, Fouad Siniora, emerged to say he, too, hoped the post-war conditions might well prove fertile ground to kick-start the moribund Middle East peace process.

At the same time as that's been going on, continuing efforts and concern, Wolf, among Lebanese officials here that the dithering over- sending more U.N. troop reinforcements into Lebanon could jeopardize the cease-fire, now just starting its second week.


BLITZER: What's the reaction to, A, France is so far willing to only offer a few hundred troops as opposed to several thousand and, B, Italy now stepping up to the plate saying, "You know what? Italy is ready to send thousands of forces to this U.N. peacekeeping force and to take the lead?" What's been the reaction in Lebanon?

SADLER: It had always been expected that the French would step up to the plate. After all, France is a colonial power, former colonial power here and was expected to put a force of at least 1,000 to 2,000 strong.

Italy, I also saw today, could well be involved in behind the scenes negotiations to get those two Israeli captives, those two soldiers released by Hezbollah, that was the abduction, the kidnapping that sparked off the 34 days of war, Wolf.

So Italy, it seems, is being put into a position by Israel and likely to be accepted by Iran, as well, for Italy to play a high profile role both behind the scenes in exchange of prisoners and also in leading a new force, if and when there are new rules of engagement put down clearly on the table.


BLITZER: Well, let's hope the Italians can do the job. Thanks very much, Brent Sadler, reporting from Beirut.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, toured the war damaged north today, pledging quick rebuilding and defending his government's handling of the conflict.

The prime minister rejected a proposal by some members of his own cabinet to resume peace talks with Syria, saying Damascus would first have to stop supporting groups like Hezbollah.

Let's check back with Jack. He's got the "Cafferty File" in New York.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So the French are going to put 200 troops into that deal over there, Wolf, is that?

BLITZER: Yes, they've already sent 49 engineers in by rubber dinghies over the weekend. You may have seen the video come in.

CAFFERTY: Why does that sentence make me laugh? It just does, that's why. Sending French engineers into Lebanon by rubber dingy. I mean, it conjures up a strange visual. Another triumph of form over substance for the French, 200 people they're going to come up with.

That's not what we're talking about this hour. We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and there's a new poll out that indicates that storm's devastation and destruction is still being felt by most of its victims. Twenty-six percent of the people surveyed in the "USA Today"-Gallup poll say things will never be back to normal. Fifty-six percent say they're not back to normal yet, but they will be. Only 16 percent of the people interviewed for the poll say things are completely back to normal.

When asked what kind of assistance they need, people say they need money, help with contractors, they need help from FEMA, they need housing, they need a job.

Meanwhile, their opinions of the government's response to all of this remained pretty dismal. Two-thirds say the response by federal and state officials have been only fair or poor. Here's the question. Will things ever get back to normal for the victims of Hurricane Katrina?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to I wish we had some tape of the 59 French engineers arriving in rubber dinghies. I'd like to see that.

BLITZER: We do and we're going to show it to you when you come back. We do have video of that, very good. And it was actually 49, just to be precise, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up ahead, the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case gets a business class ticket back to the United States. We're going to take you aboard the very bizarre 15-hour flight that left other passengers stunned. After weeks of questioning and searching for evidence, charges are now filed in the alleged airplane bombing plot in Britain. Find out what authorities say some of the suspects in custody plotted to do.

And remembering one of the most iconic images of World War II. Young U.S. servicemen raising the American flag over Iwo Jima. We'll look back at the life and legacy of the man who took the Pulitzer prize winning photo.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: First there was Bangkok, Thailand, now L.A. Next stop, we think, Boulder, Colorado. The man accused of killing JonBenet Ramsey almost ten years ago is being held at the high security Twin Towers correctional facility.

But John Mark Karr likely won't be in L.A. for too long. An extradition hearing is now set for tomorrow morning. Karr faces charges in Colorado in JonBenet Ramsey's death.

John Karr arrived in L.A. after a rather surreal 15-hour flight from Bangkok, Thailand. Passengers were stunned as the 41-year-old suspect in the Ramsey case sat in business class, as immigration and customs enforcement officials looked on.

CNN investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, was in a seat in business class not very far away. I assume you were in business class. I hope you were in business class, at least, Drew.

Give our viewers a little sense of what that flight was like.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a routine flight, except for that one man in the last row of business against the window, Wolf, surrounded by two large men. One was from immigration and customs enforcement. The other, an investigator with the DA attorney's office in Boulder, Colorado, and a third immigration officer, Ann Hurst.


And there is Mr. Karr sitting in his seat. There were lots of media on board, maybe a half a dozen cameras or so swarming him. So that is when passengers noticed there was no ordinary man.

And because they were all coming from Bangkok, Thailand, where M. Karr was big news, they all new exactly what he was wanted for and why he was on this plane.

It was uncomfortable to several of the passengers I talked to and at least one Thai Airways flight attendant told or CNN photographer she was very nervous, especially when she had to serve Mr. Karr the three meals that we had aboard this very lengthy flight.

BLITZER: One of the surprising things, here he's a suspect in a murder case. He wasn't handcuffed. He was given champagne, flew in business class. He was wearing a necktie. If you're watching out for suicide watch, that would not be normal.

And when they gave him a meal, I understand they gave him a real knife, not a plastic knife. He had a real metal knife in his hand. What was all that about?

GRIFFIN: You know, I know it really does sound bad, but, you know, Wolf, I think we have to defer to immigration and customs enforcement. These agents had developed a relationship with the guy. He is not a physically imposing person.

He was never alone. The large custom agent there, his name was Gary Philips (ph), was right next to him, Wolf, at all times, watching over him and confided in me that there would be no trouble, if Mr. Karr wanted to cause any trouble.

Their job was to get this guy back to the United States and in custody without any trouble at all, and there wasn't any trouble at all. They chose this business class primarily because it offered the most isolated spot you could find on a full plane. They certainly didn't want him back in coach. That's where most of the families were on this flight. This was the last row of business class.

So nobody behind him, but a wall, nobody in front of him, but Ann Hurst, the other immigration officer and the DA investigator. So they chose the right spot.

Whether or not he had a glass of champagne or a nice meal, that was all served to everybody in business class and I think that a lot is being made about very little here.

BLITZER: Very briefly, you got a chance to look at him, to study him a little bit. What are your thoughts about this guy?

GRIFFIN: I really can't make heads or tails. I mean, he has kind of a vacuous look in his eyes, but if you ask him a question, which we did many times, he will alert his eyes straight over to you. He's well aware you're asking question and almost, without turning his head, thinking about answering, and then darts his eyes right back, Wolf.

He is an odd duck, I'll tell you. He's very neat. He went to the bathroom. He spent a lot of time when he did go to the bathroom, combing his hair, changing his shirt, putting on his tie, especially right before he landed. He apparently, for wont of a better word, quaffed himself so he could exit that plane looking good.

He exited the plane right into the hands of customs officials and was escorted straight out. So I don't think he got quite the reception he was after. But that's my impressions of him, he's just an odd guy.

BLITZER: Drew, thanks very much. Drew Griffin, back in L.A. for us. And for more on the JonBenet Ramsey case, tune in tonight, an exclusive "Larry King Live." Larry's guests include Professor Michael Tracey, the man who led police to John Mark Karr, and the Ramsey family attorney, Lin Wood. "Larry King Live," that airs tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

And coming up, the National Hurricane Center is keeping a worried eye on what's being called a tropical depression number four. We're going to give you a closer look and see if it gets a formal name.

Also, it's been a troubling day on the Virginia Tech campus, with classes shut down and a wanted man on the run. There are now new developments. We're going to have the latest. Stay with us. You're in "the Situation Room."


BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain. She's got a quick look at some other important stories making news.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, weather forecasters watch the fourth tropical depression of the season. The storm formed today in the far eastern Atlantic, southeast of the Cape Verde Islands. Top winds are about 35 miles an hour and officials have issued tropical storm warnings for the islands. The hurricane season has quiet so far this year, but officials say there are signs that's about to change.

An escaped prisoner blamed for killing a sheriff's deputy and a security guard has been caught in southwest Virginia. William Charles Morva had been on the run for almost two days, after overpowering a jailer during a hospital visit in Blacksburg. Police scoured the Virginia Tech campus.

Classes were cancelled and the schools 25,000-plus students were warned to stay indoors and on alert.

Britain has brought formal charges against 11 of 22 people still being held in connection with a suspected terror plot. Investigators believe the group was planning to blow up planes bound for the U.S. from Britain. Charges range from conspiracy to murder to failing to disclose material assistance in preventing an act of terrorism. The other 11 detainees are still being held without charges.


BLITZER: Thank you, Zain. Coming up, President Bush says Iraq may be heading into a civil war, potentially at least. Critics say it's already raging. We're going to get an update from the Pentagon.

Could it be a false confession in the JonBenet Ramsey case? DNA testing may hold the key. I'll speak with forensic expert, Barry Scheck.

That's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour tonight, right here in the "Situation Room."

(COMMECIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Four more American troops were killed in combat in Iraq over the past two days, but the Iraqi death toll is skyrocketing. President Bush today said he's concerned about a possible slide into civil war, but many analysts say it's already raging.

Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at that press conference today, President Bush said he understood why some people were discouraged, but he said that success in Iraq will simply take time.


(voice-over): Sunday in Iraq, sniper fire from houses and rooftops cuts down Shiite worshippers as their religious procession winds through several Baghdad neighborhoods. The toll, 17 dead, more than 250 wounded. At the Imam Ali Morgue, in Baghdad's Sadr City, the bodies pile up. The violence between Shiite and Sunni Iraqis is now claiming 100 lives a day.

But President Bush is still not sure it's a true civil war.

BUSH: You know, I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course. No question there's sectarian violence.

MCINTYRE: President Bush insists the basic strategy is still sound, support the new Iraqi government, and that the tactics are being adjusted as needed, with the dispatch of a U.S. Army striker brigade to the capitol to shore up Iraqi forces. Iraq's ambassador to the United States argues as does the Bush administration that Iraqis yearn for peace and freedom.

SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: It is harder to survive now than it was at any time, yes, that's true, but the bulk of the Iraqi people I am absolutely clear in my mind, and I am absolutely certain, the bulk of the Iraqi people are behind the political process.

MCINTYRE: Critics like former democratic presidential contender John Kerry were quick to condemn the current strategy as an unmitigated disaster. In a statement Kerry said, "Our troops are stuck in a civil war and called for the U.S. to set a date to force the Iraqis to stand up for Iraq." That, President Bush argued at his press conference, would be a huge mistake.

BUSH: There's a fundamental difference between many of the democrats and my party, and that is they want to leave before the job is completed in Iraq.


MCINTYRE: President Bush admitted that he is at times frustrated and he said he understood why people were discouraged, but he said whether or not people agreed with his decision to go into Iraq, which he said was still the right one, he said they needed to understand that the consequences of failure in Iraq were, in his words, unacceptable. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right Jamie, thanks very much. Good to have you back at the pentagon.

Is President Bush right? Would it be a disaster for U.S. troops to leave Iraq now? And joining us now, U.S. army major general William Caldwell, he's with the multinational force in Iraq. General Caldwell as usual, thanks very much for coming in. Listen to what the commander in chief, the president of the United States said earlier today about the U.S. military mission in Iraq.


BUSH: We're not leaving so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake. You'll send an unbelievably terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we have abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror.


BLITZER: And General Caldwell, he says, quote, "We're not leaving as long as I'm president." He's going to be president until January 20, 2009. From the military perspective, that means, what, you're planning for two and a half more years of military operations in Iraq? Is that a fair assessment?

MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Well, Wolf, I think as everybody's always said it's conditions based over here. No question there will be some withdraw-down of our force levels before that time period, but I'm sure there will be some kind of residual military training teams working with the Iraqi security forces for some period of time still.

BLITZER: It looks like the situation, from the perspective of those of us outside of Iraq, seems to be getting worse. July turned out to be the deadliest month yet, more than 3,500 casualties among civilians in Iraq. Does this suggest that at least in the short term, you may need to augment the U.S. military structure in Iraq?

CALDWELL: Well, Wolf, when you take a look at those casualty figures, you know you find that they're occurring in four of our provinces out of our 18. And the other 14 provinces are relatively calm, and almost experience no incidence. So what we have done, we've taken a three-pronged approach and we've moved some forces into Baghdad City, we're taking a very deliberate effort there, where we're bringing down the sectarian violence, and thus far in the last two weeks of this new operation which we call phase two of "operation together forward" we're seeing some very promising indications that this portion of the operation is being very successful.

BLITZER: Those four provinces though are the largest of the provinces, including the capital area, in and around Baghdad. This is where most of the people live. CALDWELL: That is correct, that's why we have our focus in that area, and we're putting a lot of time and effort in there, but it's like anything, Wolf. If the incidents are occurring in the city of Baghdad, that's where the insurgent elements know that they can make a spectacular show, that they can gain media attention, that they can try to show that the Maliki government, the prime minister's government is not working, so that's where they continue to strike and they do most of the strikes against innocent civilians when they do.

BLITZER: In our brand-new CNN poll that's just coming out today, we asked the American public, do you favor or oppose the war in Iraq, only 35 percent right now say they favor the war in Iraq, 61 percent oppose it. This is the lowest number since the start of the war. When the troops -- and there are more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now -- hear that only 35 percent of the American public now favor the war in Iraq, what impact does that have on the morale of the fighting men and women out there?

CALDWELL: Well, I'll tell you as far as the morale goes, Wolf, the men and women here know that the people back in American support them as an individual. They know they may have different opinions as to policy, but that the love for that person serving in uniform, that young man and woman that's over here willing to give their life for our country, they know that that support is there, and that's what counts the most. They're disappointed when they hear that public support for the war is dropping like that, because most of them are out there each and every day and see the difference they're making on the streets. They see it in Baghdad, they see it in Falluja, wherever they're operating, they see and they know that they're making a difference. To them they just sometimes have a hard time understanding how other people don't see the same thing that they're able to see each day.

BLITZER: Yesterday Senator John McCain who's a supporter of the war, had some provocative comments about the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. He said that Sadr has got to be taken out of this equation and his militia has to be addressed forcefully. Militias cannot control Iraq, we cannot allow that to happen, that's a direct quote from John McCain. The U.S. killed Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the well known terrorist in Iraq, is it time to kill Muqtada Al Sadr right now?

CALDWELL: Wolf our policy is to only go after those elements that are operating outside of the law. To go after one individual like that that's a decision the prime minister would have to make in this country, not us. We right now are conducting operations deliberately each and every day to target those people who are operating outside of the law and not conforming to the norms that this prime minister has established for his country. So that's how we're continuing to operate.

BLITZER: General Sanchez, one of the earlier commanders did blame Muqtada Al Sadr for organizing efforts to kill American troops. He said he had blood on his hands, but right now he's emerging as an influential Shiite cleric there, I think that's a fair assessment. CALDWELL: He does have a following here in Iraq, there's no question, and a lot of the people do look to him. There are Shia elements that look to him, but I think what's more importantly is when you go back and you look at the voting that occurred in this country, the number of people that turned out to be a part of the political process and wanted to be involved, they now realize for the first time they have the ability to be part of this political process. They proved that in May when this new government stood up. Now just 90 days into being, we're all attempting to give this government a chance to take hold, to provide the leadership, to demonstrate its willingness to take care of its people, just like the people want it to.

BLITZER: General Caldwell, as usual, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

CALDWELL: Absolutely, Wolf.

BLITZER: And still to come, the threat of a nuclear showdown with Iran grows. How big can it get? I'll speak with former defense secretary William Cohen. That's coming up.

And later, as the anniversary of hurricane Katrina approaches, Jack Cafferty wants to know, will things ever get back to normal for storm victims. We're taking your email, he'll read them later in the show. Stay with us.


BLITZER: In today's "Welcome to the Future" report, does the future hold a showdown with Iran over its nuclear program. Tehran is already signaling it will not stop enriching uranium ahead of a U.N. deadline. All this comes as Iran carries out several significant missile tests. Let's get some more now from our pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf there are new concerns about Iran's military capability.


STARR (voice-over): Iran's latest military exercises, these missile firings, designed perhaps to send a message that Iran is determined to be a player on the world stage. These maneuvers come just as the country's leaders say Iran will not suspend its nuclear enrichment program despite international pressure. For President Bush publicly there are no alternatives but diplomacy.

BUSH: Imagine how difficult this issue would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon. And so therefore it's up to the international community, including the United States, to work in concert to -- for effective diplomacy.

STARR: But there is little indication that U.N. sanctions, if imposed, would change Iran's mind. So what next? COL. SAM GARDINER (RET.), NATIONAL WAR COLLEGE INSTRUCTOR: The primary military option on the table right now with respect to Iran seems to be an air operation, an operation that would involve maybe four or five nights of very intense air attacks, it would include cruise missiles, b-2 bombers, b-52 bombers with cruise missiles, striking the Iranian nuclear facilities and probably other military targets.

STARR: Analysts say support for a strike against Iran would be tough. U.S. forces in Iraq would have to be protected from Iranian retaliation. U.S. military assets such as tanker aircraft and ships must be put into position. A U.N. peacekeeping force first must be deployed in Lebanon to protect Israel. But perhaps toughest?

GARDINER: The long pole in the tent is to convince the world and the American people that Iran has reached the category of serious enough that it requires a strike.


STARR: Wolf, to be clear, senior military commanders tell CNN there are no current plans for a strike against Iran, but they also acknowledge that Tehran certainly seems emboldened especially after the war between Hezbollah and Israel. Wolf?

BLITZER: Barbara thank you very much. So will Iran formally thumb its nose at demands to halt its nuclear enrichment program? Joining us from New York, a key member of the CNN Security Council, our world affairs analyst, former defense secretary William Cohen, he's chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group here in Washington. Mr. Secretary it looks like Iran is going to say no, so what happens next?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well we've had this discussion before Wolf. You and I discussed this back in June when the Iranians indicated they needed almost two months to have a reply to the proposal put before them. At that point I think you asked whether or not we were being slow-rolled, and the answer was yes, and now we see clearly what Iran is seeking to do. I am not optimistic that diplomacy is going to prevail here. I have seen no indication that the members of the Security Council are prepared to back up any kind of sanctions against Iran, and so I think at best Iran will indicate ambiguously that they might talk about some way they may resolve this sometime in the future and keep on developing their program. So I'm not optimistic that the Security Council is prepared to take any economic action against Iran.

BLITZER: The supreme leader of Iran, the ayatollah is very optimistic. Listen to what he says, he says, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has made up its mind based on the experience of the past 27 years to forcefully pursue its nuclear program and other issues it is faced with and will rely on God. Be patient and hopefully we will taste a sweet outcome." I assume he's referring to a sweet outcome when they formally have a nuclear bomb, but I could be wrong.

COHEN: I think that clearly is the signal that he's sending, that they are bent on pursuing nuclear weapons. The notion that they're seeking only to develop nuclear power for their energy needs I think is pure nonsense. This is simply a cover and a very thin one for them developing a nuclear weapon capability. I think it's correct to then raise the specter what does that mean as far as stability throughout the Middle East and perhaps beyond? So I think the world community has a substantial interest in this. Unfortunately, I think events between Israel and Hezbollah have only strengthened Iran's commitment to go forward and its disinterest in having any kind of meaningful discussions about how they can proceed with a nuclear energy program, but not a nuclear weapons program.

BLITZER: They're going to make their formal response tomorrow August 22nd, a date that the famed Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis says is significant. He wrote this in the "Wall Street Journal" a few weeks ago. He said, "What is the significance of August 22nd? This year, August 22nd corresponds in the Islamic calendar to the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the profit Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem and then to heaven and back. This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world." I read that piece in the "Wall Street Journal" and I said, you know, if anyone else had written that I thought it would have been off the charts, but Bernard Lewis is highly respected.

COHEN: Well I doubt very much whether Iran is considering launching a destructive launch against Israel at this point. They know that they would be destroyed in the process not only by Israel but by others, including the United States, if that should ever be the case. So I think that they may engage in some other symbolic act on August 22nd. What that will entail, I am left to speculate like everyone else, but clearly they feel very confident now that the international community is not going to do anything in taking any kind of action against them, so they feel confident that they can thumb their nose at the United States and others, the British, the Germans the French, the other European countries who are engaged in these discussions. So I think that unless the Security Council is willing to back up its own resolutions, to go to Iran and say you've been undermining 1559 resolution 1701 now, you've been supplying weapons to the Hezbollah in violation of our resolutions, unless they take some kind of strong action in response to this disobeying and violating and flaunting -- flouting, I should say, the Security Council resolutions, I expect Iran to continue to do what it's doing and that's very bad news I think for the rest of the world.

BLITZER: William Cohen, the former defense secretary. Thanks so much for doing this.

COHEN: Pleasure.

BLITZER: There's another developing story we're following in Georgia. Zain Verjee has details. Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, the "Associated Press" is reporting a shooting at the Jackson County Courthouse in Jefferson, Georgia. It's quoting dispatchers in Jackson County as saying there are two confirmed victims. We don't know the extent or the seriousness of the situation. There are reports too that one of them is the Jefferson County Deputy. We have no way of confirming that. The "Associated Press" is quoting another report that's indicating that. The AP is also quoting a report saying that it appears as though a prisoner may have taken the deputy's gun. There are many conflicting reports at this point, Wolf, but that's what we're hearing now from the "Associated Press," that a shooting's being reported at the Jackson County Courthouse in Jefferson, Georgia. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right Zain, thank you very much. We'll continue to watch the story. Up next, a defining image of World War II, the photographer who shot it has died. We look back at his work, his legacy, and the signpost of the greatest generation.

And later, was John Mark Karr really there when JonBenet Ramsey was killed? The answer could lie in the DNA. I'll talk with the reigning expert on DNA litigation, the famed attorney Barry Schecht, that's coming up in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain for some other important stories making news. Hi Zain.

VERJEE: Hi again Wolf. A new development today in the case of accused terrorist Jose Padilla and two codefendants. A federal judge in Miami dropped the first count against him saying it duplicates other counts in the indictment. Padilla and two other men go on trial next year on charges of conspiracy and providing material support to extremist groups. Padilla has been in custody since May of 2002 when he was detained as a material witness in the 9/11 attacks.

Saddam Hussein's second trial has begun and the former Iraqi leader remains defiant as ever. He refused to lodge a plea to charges of crimes against humanity and genocide. An estimated 100,000 or more people died in a series of attacks by Saddam's regime on villages in Iraq's Kurdish region back in 1998. It's believed that poisoned gas was used. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

The image is iconic, six World War II servicemen raising an American flag over Iwo Jima. This weekend Joe Rosenthal, the award- winning photographer who took that photo died at the age of 94. Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton has more now on the photographer and that immortal image.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf it was February 23rd, 1945, when "AP" photographer Joe Rosenthal scaled Mount Serebachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He was with a marine photographer and recorded these moving images of the raising of the U.S. flag. It was the second and larger of the two flags raised after four days of intense battle. The photograph from Rosenthal won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945, it's sense been reproduced millions of times as part of a war (INAUDIBLE) tour, also on postage stamps. It also forms the basis of the Iwo Jima memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. There's an interview that Rosenthal gave which you can find online about the taking of this photo, in which he said, I could only hope that it turned out the way that I looked at it through the finder. Rosenthal died yesterday at the age of 94. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a photo indeed. Thanks very much Abbi for that.

Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know, almost a year after hurricane Katrina hit, will things ever get back to normal for victims of the killer storm? Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty in New York. Jack?

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf. The question is, will things ever get back to normal for the victims of hurricane Katrina. We're coming up on the anniversary of that storm, and a lot of people feel that enough has not been done. I hope the people along the gulf coast recover. Steve writes from Columbus, New Jersey, "I read today the U.S. has pledged $230 million to help rebuild Lebanon, as far as I know the victims of Katrina only get low-interest loans. Doesn't our government realize the Lebanese people hate our guts and will continue to hate our guts, no matter how much money we give them? What a waste, forget about Lebanon, rebuild New Orleans."

Josh in Texas, "I'm tired of hearing about all the things the government did or didn't do for the victims of Katrina. I agree what happened was horrible, but the government has to draw the line somewhere and people have to start helping themselves." Mitzi, Memphis, Tennessee, "Not this week, this year or maybe even in our lifetime Jack. I was just in Gulfport, Mississippi on a business trip a few weeks ago. Shocked to see that it still looks like a war zone: heaps of rubble, trees stripped, absolutely lifeless. Businesses weren't just closed, they were nonexistent."

Ronald writes, "I'm sitting here in Baton Rouge waiting on a car service. The survey of Katrina victims tells only part of the story. We housed evacuees from both Katrina and Rita last year in houses throughout our city, Baton Rouge. I don't know of anyone who got so much as a thank you note from the Katrina evacuees. But our Rita guests were just the opposite. Apparently a long diet of entitlements has led to ungratefulness." And finally Fluffy writes from Lovelock, Nevada, I used to hunt there when I was a kid, "What about me Jack? I run a daycare center for 2-year-olds, and I have to clean up hurricane Katrina every day. And then I go home and I clean up Hurricane Katrina there too. And nobody gives a hoot about me." Hang in there Fluffy.

If you didn't see your email here go to, we post some more of them online. Wolf you promised to show me some movies.

BLITZER: I have the videotape, the French arriving on the beaches of Lebanon to take charge, check it out. Here they come, these are some of the engineers. They left that war ship but they're now coming in. They're coming in to Lebanon to take charge. About 49 engineers.

CAFFERTY: That's nice. Not exactly the Normandy invasion, but nice nonetheless.

BLITZER: Yeah, we didn't show you the real shot of the rubber dinghies coming in and that was a very cool shot. Maybe we'll show it to you later Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We'll be back here in one hour in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're on weeknights 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. eastern, until then thanks very much for joining us. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Kitty Pilgrim filling for Lou, Kitty?