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The Situation Room

Iraqi, Iranian Leaders Meet; A Look at the Afghan-Pakistan Border

Aired September 12, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, a complicated and potentially very dangerous relationship sealed with a kiss. It's 2:30 a.m. in Tehran where leaders of Iran and Iraq are having a meeting of the minds. Will it ease deadly threats emerging from their countries or will it make matters worse?

Also this hour, the power center of terror. Where does it lie with al Qaeda or the Taliban? Tonight, we're live on the Afghan/Pakistani border with a frightening new warning.

And an American al Qaeda fighter. A co-star of a new terror tape. Who is he? And why is he threatening U.S. troops?

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

Two nations once enemies forging a stronger alliance tonight in the violent vortex of the Middle East. Iran a developing nuclear threat. Iraq still waging a bloody fight against insurgents. Why are they uniting and where could this relationship lead?

Our Zain Verjee is here in Washington, she's standing by. Anderson Cooper on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let's get the latest on this Iran/Iraq relationship. CNN's Brian Todd watching the story -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a strong sign tonight of the always dangerous complications in the Middle East. Leaders of two countries who fought a devastating eight-year war now stand side by side.


TODD (voice-over): Given the Iranian nuclear showdown, its leader's denial of the Holocaust and the bloodshed spilled in neighboring Iraq, some say with Iran's help. This is the last thing you might expect to see, a man America considers a staunch ally, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in a controversial embrace with Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And if that wasn't enough... PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): We're ready to help the Iraqi nation create security and stability in their country.

TODD: A statement that at least this analyst finds outrageous.

MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: One of the major problems is that Iranians are actively supporting the militias inside Iraq. It's not just a matter of sending in arms. It's also active training. They've transformed them from a ragtag band of malcontents into really a lethal force.

TODD: An Iranian government official we contacted denies this asking why would Iran want to support violence in an country that is predominantly Shia, the same branch of Islam most Iranians believe in.

RUBIN: Iran is not an Arab country. Iraq is an Arab country. Iraqi Shiites tend to have no love for Iranian Shiites and so Iran is trying to again undermine stability so that they can have a nice compliant little brother, rather than have to deal with Iraq as an independent partner.

TODD: But Iraqis officials said al-Maliki would privately warn Ahmadinejad's government not to interfere in Iraq's affairs. A statement backed up by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't see a problem with Prime Minister Maliki going to Iran. The Iraqis will carry very strong messages that they expect Iran to behave like a good neighbor not a neighbor that is trying to destabilize the country.


TODD: What message might the Iranians send in return? One analyst believes a central point of this meeting in Tehran was for Ahmadinejad to say to his neighbor, we have more staying power in this region than the United States. America will eventually pull out. Iran will always be right next door, so let's solidify this relationship right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have more on this story coming up later this hour, Brian. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, a disturbing new warning about the Taliban from Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf. He says, and I'm quoting now, "The center of gravity of terrorism has shifted from al Qaeda to the Taliban. This is a new element. A more dangerous element because it has its roots in the people. Al Qaeda didn't have roots in the people."

That quote from the president of Pakistan. For more on the growing Taliban threat, let's go to CNN's Anderson Cooper. He's joining us from along the Afghan/Pakistani border. You've seen quite a bit of fighting over these past few days, Anderson. First of all, what do you make of what President Pervez Musharraf is saying now about the Taliban, presumably in Afghanistan where you are emerging as a greater threat than al Qaeda?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he certainly must be talking about just here in Afghanistan, because internationally, obviously, the Taliban doesn't have much reach. Al Qaeda, of course, still does. It's certainly true that Taliban has had a resurgence here. The Pashtuns who live on the eastern part of Afghanistan are the same Pashtuns who live in Waziristan in Pakistan. They don't really recognize this border.

They cross back and forth. The Taliban is very strong here. As you know, this is rapidly at risk of becoming a narco state. The opium crop, the poppy harvest this past year up 49 percent over last year. About more than 90 percent of the world's heroin supply comes now from Afghanistan. A lot of that money is funneled to the Taliban which takes a cut of the drug trade. They can tax it. They can provide security for the poppy farmers, so the Taliban has money.

But not to discount al Qaeda, every intelligence source that we've talked to, many U.S. military officers have said as well, they are seeing al Qaeda fighters here in this province. They hear them. They see them and they have killed them. We're talking about Uzbeks and Chechens, Arab fighters and the like, Tajiks, people who have come increasingly what we are being told by intelligence sources is that the al Qaeda fighters are linking with the Taliban, in many cases training the Taliban, helping them learn how to do IEDs, improvise explosive devices, vehicle-borne IEDs.

Suicide attacks are up in this province. There have been two suicide attack attempts on this base alone right along the border. So I don't know that you can really separate the two at this point. In fact, most soldiers when they are talking about it, they talk about al Qaeda and affiliated movements. And they link the Taliban as an affiliated movement with al Qaeda.

Critics of course of Pervez Musharraf will say well perhaps he's trying to sort of push more of the emphasis on the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan taking some of the pressure off what is happening in the western part of Pakistan along the border. As you know, Wolf, they -- Pakistan has now signed a cease-fire deal with Taliban militants and there are a lot of observers in Afghanistan including the Afghan government and U.S. intelligence sources who are very critical of the efforts that Pakistan has thus far made against the Taliban inside Pakistan. They say that no top Taliban leaders have been arrested. In fact, one U.S. source told us that he has no doubt that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is living in Quetta, in Pakistan. The government of Pervez Musharraf vigorously denies that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, you spent a lost time these past several days with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. How are they dealing with all of this? How are they coping?

COOPER: You know the sense of mission is very strong here. I mean many of the soldiers they joined up after 9/11. They can see a direct link from 9/11 to the people that they are fighting against now. They feel that very strongly and I think it does inform the mission. It's -- every one of the soldiers you talk about, especially the higher levels of command will tell you look this is a long-term mission. We're talking you know a generational change that needs to take place. A change in the mindset. A change in the way of life.

I mean you know they're starting from a very low level here. There are no roads. There's really no electricity in this part of eastern Afghanistan, of you know 40 percent unemployment. The -- people die by the age of 43. That's the average mortality rate. So to get change, to see change and to separate the people from the Taliban is going to take years and years and years.

We're talking 10-plus years is the figure a lot of military officers will quote to me. So I think there's some frustration, perhaps on some the enlisted soldiers, they don't see change day in and day out. But longer term, they feel they're making progress and they feel that they're here to stay.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Anderson, thanks very much.

And coming up at the top of the hour, this important note, Anderson is going to be joining Paula Zahn live from Afghanistan answering your questions. You can send them by video and by e-mail at Anderson is going to try to answer as many of your questions as possible at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" and remember at 10:00 p.m. Eastern "ANDERSON COOPER 360". He'll be reporting live from the border.

A man who has appeared in several al Qaeda videos may soon face more charges in this country. Let's bring in CNN's Zain Verjee. She's watching the story on this American al Qaeda member -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, more charges are expected to be filed against an American citizen who as you say is a member of al Qaeda. He appears to be an asset to the terror group. He's from the West and he speaks English, so he's in front of their cameras a lot.


VERJEE (voice-over): Wanted by the FBI, al Qaeda's American Mujahedeen, Adam Gadahn, AKA Azzam the American, his nom de guerre. He appears along with Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two in a videotape posted on a militant Islamic Web site. Speaking in English, he gives the thumbs up to the 9/11 hijackers, praising them.

ADAM GADAHN, AL QAEDA SUSPECT: All the brothers who took part in the raids on America were dedicated strong willed, highly motivated individuals with a burning concern for Islam Muslims.

VERJEE: He lashes out at U.S. troops for their alleged war crimes in Iraq and killing civilians in Afghanistan.

GADAHN: I know they've killed and maimed civilians in their strikes because I've seen it with my own eyes. My brothers have seen it. I've carried the victims in my arms. Women, children, toddlers, babies in their mother's wombs. You name it, they've probably bombed it. VERJEE: The 28-year-old was home schooled in rural California, converted from Christianity to Islam and then made his way to Pakistan. His family has had little contact with him. Two years ago, his father told CNN this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really couldn't imagine that he would do anything that would get him in this position. But I'm not really sure he's done anything.

VERJEE: There's a sealed indictment that charges Gadahn with material supports to terrorism. Two sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN more charges are expected to be filed against him.


VERJEE: Prosecutors are deciding whether or not though to charge him with treason -- Wolf

BLITZER: Zain, thank you. Zain Verjee reporting. Syria's ambassador to the United States says he suspects an al Qaeda offshoot group in an attack on the United States embassy in Damascus today. Four armed men tried to storm the compound after detonating a car bomb outside. Syrian security forces fought them off in a battle that left three gunmen and one guard dead. Fourteen people were wounded there.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, President Bush wants Congress to drop everything and quickly pass a law that will prevent detainees being held by the U.S. from bringing legal action against the government. It's all part of a White House proposal on standards for detainee treatment and rules for military trials of terror suspects.

Well forget about all that for a moment and focus on this. The bombshell hidden in this proposed legislation is this. The president wants to protect officials and civilian interrogators from being charged under the War Crimes Act. So part of his proposal will make this retroactive to September 11, 2001. The U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a felony to commit grave violations of the Geneva Conventions. You know, things like torturing people.

Translation, violations of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act that may have occurred during the last five years would go unpunished. President Bush wants his Republican buddies in Congress to legislate immunity for his administration and guess what. Congress appears to be ready to go along.

To hell with the law, you just call up your buddies, ask for a new law that says it's OK that you broke the old law and then everything is fine. Why the sudden urgency to get this done now? Well, it might just be the prospect of Democrats taking control of at least one House of Congress in the mid-term elections in November. If that happens, immunity might be a little harder to come by.

Here's the question -- should Congress pass a law that would prevent members of the Bush administration from being prosecuted for war crimes. E-mail us at or go to

Hubris might be a word that applies to some of the stuff that this administration tries to pull over on us taxpayers out here. That's unbelievable. If there were violations -- and there's reason to expect that there may have been -- we'll just get a new law written that will pretend these things never happened.

BLITZER: We'll see how our viewers think about this question, Jack. Thanks very much. Jack will be back with us shortly.

Coming up, a secret intelligence report that offers a very grim view on the situation in Iraq. Find out why the Pentagon is playing it down.

Plus, we'll take to you the ground for a reality check.

And the polls are now open still a little bit longer. Will an incumbent Republican senator be ousted in Rhode Island tonight? We're going to take to you to the polls.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A top U.S. military commander in Iraq is downplaying a very pessimistic assessment of the security situation in the Anbar Province contained in a leaked classified briefing. We'll get the latest from Baghdad and CNN's Michael Ware in just a moment.

First let's go to CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.



JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iraq's sprawling Anbar Province west of Baghdad is insurgent territory and headquarters for al Qaeda in Iraq. Anbar is also lost politically according to a classified analysis by a Marine colonel summarized in "The Washington Post" by Tom Ricks, author of "Fiasco", the current bestseller that's sharply critical of the conduct of the war.

THOMAS RICKS, "WASHINGTON POST": The military basically could win any tactical engagement it had, but there was very little security process coming from that and that the political and social systems were deteriorating and that al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent group was filling the vacuum.

MCINTYRE: The publication of the dire assessment drew a quick response from the superior officer of the colonel who wrote it. In the video statement, the two-star general endorses the reports still secret conclusions, but disputes the defeatist characterization. MAJ. GEN. RICHARD ZILMER, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE: Recent media reports failed to accurately capture the entirety and the complexity of the current situation in Anbar Province in Iraq.

MCINTYRE: In a later conference call with reporters, General Zilmer went farther insisting the war in Anbar was not lost.

ZILMER: I've never heard any description about the war being lost before last weekend. We are winning this war. We are certainly accomplishing our mission.

MCINTYRE: Zilmer conceded the recruitment and training of Iraqi security forces, his primary mission in Anbar is behind schedule. But he insisted additional U.S. reinforcements wouldn't make any difference in the long run because progress depends on social and political change, not military might.

At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said U.S. commanders know they're free to ask for what they need.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: If the president gets a recommendation from the combatant commanders to send more troops to al-Anbar Province, they will get them.

MCINTYRE (on camera): But reporters who embed with U.S. troops in Iraq continually hear complaints from lower level officers that they need more troops to complete their job. The question is why senior commanders don't seem to agree.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


BLITZER: For more of this very developing story, I spoke with CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad. He's been embedded with U.S. forces in Anbar Province. I asked him what he made of this latest assessment.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To be honest, I'm quite stunned that people are so surprised by this report. I mean the situation has not deteriorated. It's been like this for over a year, perhaps even two. I mean, it can still be reclaimed. I mean, it's not all is lost.

And I think people who suggest that fail to understand the true dynamic. But certainly what the Marine general in charge of al-Anbar said tonight on the conference call is that he admitted for the first time that right now, today, through the combination of either U.S. and/or Iraqi forces, he does not have enough troops to win against the al Qaeda insurgency. His mission is to train, he said. If his mission was to change and for that to be to win, then his matrix, his troop numbers would have to change. This is not new.

Al Qaeda has owned al-Anbar for quite some time. And the soldiers out there out are being left out there on demand just to hold the line. They've been screaming for more troops for at least a year and a half -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But it seems like the U.S. military has put a priority, as you know, Michael, on getting the job done in Baghdad and the surrounding areas of Baghdad. That's where they're bringing reinforcements. That's where they're moving troops. And they're sort of relegating the Anbar Province out in the west, which is a huge part of Iraq to a lesser priority. Is that accurate?

WARE: That's certainly what I'm being told by senior military intelligence officials. They're saying that al-Anbar and Ramadi can fester like a sore as long as we win Baghdad. But that's very short- sided. I mean if this is a global war on terror, President Bush put al-Anbar in the center of the war on terror and they're under-manning it. I mean this is making al Qaeda stronger, not weaker. This is giving them the oxygen they need to breathe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you've just come back from Ramadi, one of your many visits to this part of the -- of Iraq. Give us a little flavor. We're showing our viewers some video that you came back with, you and your crew. Give us a little flavor, Michael, of how the U.S. men and women, the military personnel who are deployed to the Anbar Province, how they're dealing with this, what kind of mood they're in. What's going on?

WARE: Well, I mean we've just seen a new brigade go in and the other brigade come out. There is some crossover. There are some units that I've spent a lot of time with. I mean there are some units out there that literally I've seen them bleed on the streets and one of them is about to go home.

And they stand by their resolve to fight where the president needs them. But the toll it has taken on them, out there, I mean, Ramadi is referred to as the meat grinder. And that's really what it's been. I mean it's just so hard to express, Wolf, what the battle is like out there. And it's a false measure.

I mean, America at the end of the day, in terms of fighting al Qaeda here in Iraq, is not committing to the fight. And it's the same across the country. Al-Anbar does not have enough troops. Iraq does not have enough troops. You either do this war or you don't. And that's the feeling of the men on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, our reporter. Thanks, Michael, very much.


BLITZER: And still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, war, terror and politics. Angry Democrats take on the president over his 9/11 speech.

Plus, Iran, Iraq and a firm shake and an uneasy alliance in the Middle East. Is this what the U.S. went to war for? We're going to have more on this story. Jack Cafferty, as you can imagine, he's outraged. He's speaking out. Stand by for Jack.



BLITZER: Welcome back. Tonight, open warfare over the president's 9/11 anniversary address to the nation. Democrats on Capitol Hill are accusing Mr. Bush of using a day of mourning to score political points. But Republicans say it's Democrats who are politicizing last night's speech.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel. She's on the Hill -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, while Democrats accused President Bush of using the 9/11 anniversary in order to jockey for a better political position ahead of the November mid-term elections, Republicans accused Democrats of being naive and short-sighted.


KOPPEL (voice-over): On the steps of the nation's Capitol, a brief show of bipartisan spirit on 9/11 didn't last long. Immediately after President Bush's primetime speech, Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy issued a scathing critique, saying, "The president should be ashamed of using a national day of mourning to commandeer the airways to seek support for a war in Iraq that he has admitted had nothing to do with 9/11." It was the president's defense of his Iraq policy that got Democrats fired up.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.

KOPPEL: But Kennedy also used the 9/11 anniversary to draw attention to Iraq. Hours before the president spoke, he sent a letter to his own supporters criticizing the president's Iraq policy. And today, others Democrats too jumped on the Bush-bashing bandwagon.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The American people last night deserve better.

KOPPEL: Democratic leader Harry Reid said on 9/11, especially, Americans deserved a break from politics.

REID: Sadly, it was a missed opportunity for President Bush, who obviously was more consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election year partisan politics and changing direction for this wonderful country.

KOPPEL: Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum fired back at Reid.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We play petty politics constantly here on the floor of the Senate, even after a solemn day of remembrance. KOPPEL: While House Majority Leader John Boehner went even further questioning Democrats' patriotism. Speaking to reporters off camera, Boehner said I listen to my Democrat friends and I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people.


KOPPEL: And late this afternoon, Wolf, congressional Democrats circulated this letter addressed to television news executives, including CNN, arguing that if President Bush continues to get live television news coverage of his speeches that have to do with national security issues between now and November, that Democrats should get substantial air time as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel, thank you.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, Iraq's prime minister makes his first official visit to Iran and asked the Islamic regime to crack down on al Qaeda militants in his country. The former enemy nations forging strong ties right now in this complicated and often-dangerous Middle East.

Tonight, the U.S. is saying thank you to a nation it accuses of sponsoring terrorism. That would be Syria. This after Syrian security officials stopped an attack on the United States embassy in Damascus.

And there's new information about how a controversial audiotape of the California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger became public. The campaign of Schwarzenegger's Democratic challenger now acknowledges it downloaded the tape that captures the governor suggesting Latinos are hot-tempered.

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

More now on our top story, Iran rolling out the red carpet for the prime minister of Iraq. The leaders of those two countries met in Tehran today. Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. What are they saying at the White House about this meeting? Because a lot of people are seeing this picture of the Iraqi leader meeting with the Iranian leader and they're saying is this why the U.S. went to war?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, you know, senior administration officials simply say they do not believe that this is a dangerous alliance. They believe it's a natural relationship between these two neighbors. They say it is really going to be determined by the sovereign government of Iraq, according to one senior administration official. He says, look, the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, Iraq does.

Now as you know, it is a very delicate balancing act here. On the one hand, this administration taking very aggressive moves to try to change Iran's behavior to isolate Ahmadinejad for the international community, to abandon his nuclear ambitions. Also to get him to stop what they say allowing insurgents to cross the border, to arm Hezbollah, many different things that the administration does not approve. But on the other hand, they are very mindful in this situation, in this case, they do not want to appear as if they're interfering with a sovereign nation, Iraq's diplomacy with its neighbor.

BLITZER: They're both Shia, the Iraqi and the Iranian leader. In fact, the Iraqi prime minister spent years living in Tehran while he was in exile. He also lived in Damascus. But the problem is a lot of Iraqi Sunnis look at that and they get very, very worried that a Shiite alliance is being forged. And that the Iraqi Sunnis, about 20 percent of the country, they're going to pay a huge price for that.

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely. There is definitely a perception problem here and this is something that the administration is very much aware of it. As you mentioned before, al-Maliki close ties with Iran, being in exile in that country for a number of years, has also been reaching out, trying to establish economic ties with Iran. As you know, the Shiite-led government and the majority Shiite in Iran perhaps forming that type of alliance.

Tony Snow earlier today was asked about this particular alliance in this meeting. And here's how he responded.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're still concerned about Iran's trying to support sectarian elements. But also we understand that Prime Minister Maliki has -- is doing what he needs to do as head of state, visiting a neighbor that is -- has some power and certainly some influence, there being a lot of Shia Muslims, including Prime Minister Maliki. And we will do everything we can, not only to support the prime minister, but also to see to the Iranians play a constructive role.

QUESTION: This administration clearly still believes Iran is interfering in Iraq.

SNOW: We want to make sure they don't.


MALVEAUX: And of course whether or not this is a good or bad thing, the White House refuses to characterize it either way. They simply say today that there is no concern that Iraqis will subjugate themselves to Iranian regime and they will simply leave it at that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much. I want to bring jack Cafferty back into THE SITUATION ROOM. Jack, what do you make of this development? The Iraqi leader going to Iran meeting with the Iranian president. It was only a few weeks ago that the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad said the Iranians were fomenting this insurgency, at least in large measure against the Iraqi government and the U.S. forces. CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know if that's true or not and they may well have a hand in fomenting the insurgency against the American military forces. My first thought is I bet there are days that Tony Snow wishes he'd never taken the job because this has to be a nightmare, to my way of thinking, for the administration.

For 11 years Iraq and Iran engaged in a bloody war when Saddam Hussein was running Iraq. The war was between the Sunnis in Iraq and the Shia in Iran. Well we went in there and overthrew the Saddam government and the Sunnis are no longer in power. The majority in Iran are Shia, just like the Shia in -- the majority in Iraq are Shia, just like the majority in Iran.

And in that part of the world, the religion is what matters. It's not about politics. It's about religion. And there's a religious brotherhood that transcends the geographical boundaries there. And Ahmadinejad is playing us like a cheap fiddle. He is bound and determined to make himself a player on the world stage and this was a pretty handy move he pulled off today, meeting with al- Maliki.

He's offering to come in there and secure the country. Obviously, that's something that we haven't been able to do as yet. Now, he may wind up being able to do it the way Saddam Hussein did it at the point of a gun and a fist. But the irony would be that the Sunnis, who subjected the Shia and Kurds to the humiliation and violence and mistreatment, would be on the receiving end of Ahmadinejad restoring order to Iraq.

I can't imagine -- this has got to be the kind of thing that makes President Bush wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I mean, this is a nightmare scenario. On the other hand, what about an opportunity, as one e-mailer wrote to us earlier, for the United States to say, you know, what? Go ahead and secure the country, we're out of here. We're going to keep an eye on things, you're not going to be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. You're not going to be allowed to torment your neighbors. But if you want to go in there and settle things down, God bless you. We're going to bring our troops home, but don't get out of line, or we'll be back.

BLITZER: A lot of U.S. friends in the Arab world, mostly, the Sunnis, they look at this picture, see this emerging Shiite alliance, they get very nervous as well. Jack, thanks very much. He'll be back with "The Cafferty File" this hour.

Just ahead, when you think of al Qaeda, you often think of Afghanistan. But might the terror group have found a new home in Pakistan? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Ousted from Afghanistan, has al Qaeda found a new home next door in the rugged mountains of western Pakistan? Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has been tracing the foot steps of terror. He's joining us now from along the border. Nic? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, in the last five years since al Qaeda was pushed out of Afghanistan, their top leaders have been picked up inside Pakistan, Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, have all been picked up there.

But in the past five years as well, there's been growing evidence from other terror attackers that Pakistan is becoming the new location, the new place of choice of al Qaeda.


ROBERTSON: With chilling premeditation, London bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer railed against the West. They were British born, but the terror attack in London last July was to leave a trail that led right back here to Pakistan, a trail that reveals how this country has replaced Afghanistan as al Qaeda central.

There are a few details of what they did. But this is what we know. Pakistani immigration takes their pictures. They passed through the airport and almost disappear. Just how Pakistan became the new center of gravity for al Qaeda has to do with history. Pakistan was founded on Islam. It is the only Muslim country with a nuclear bomb. Afghanistan is on one border, and the disputed region of Kashmir, which Pakistan wants back from India, is on the other.

Kashmir is where many young Pakistanis seek to do their jihad, and the country's political leaders have long been content with letting extremist groups open train, and then fight against India.

AMIR MIR, JOURNALIST: These jihadi organizations are the civilian face of the Pakistan army which are being used by the Pakistan army to advance its strategic agenda.

ROBERTSON: But these same Kashmir jihadists are the brothers in arms of al Qaeda. They've long shared training camps and recruits. It was into this Kashmir and al Qaeda nexus that the two al Qaeda bombers came. Western intelligence sources say they originally came to fight in Kashmir, but were convinced to turn their anger on Britain.

They got explosives training and other instructions here from al Qaeda's senior leaders, now using Pakistan as their base, relying on Kashmiri groups for help.

MIR: They're now training people in small groups.

ROBERTSON: Where would they do that?

MIR: At most of their -- you can say most of their offices, most of their headquarters.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The picture that's emerging is not pretty for Pakistan's western allies like the U.S. Al Qaeda seems to hide out here. It's where most of them have been captured since 9/11, and today's new terror attackers seem to gravitate here. Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is now al Qaeda's country of choice.


ROBERTSON: And that's something President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan rejects. He rejects the notion that al Qaeda is resident in his country. He says the country is doing everything it can to track terrorists down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, what have you learned about those British bombers, the Islamic British bombers, what they did in Pakistan?

ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, we were able to track the steps of one of them, Jazat Tamwir (ph). He spent time at a religious madras (ph) or a training place where young people go to learn the Koran by heart. The madras who we tracked him to denied it, but there are a lot of intelligence reports pointing to that.

We also went to his village in the center of Pakistan and there what we discovered was quite astounding. He visited family members. We tried to talk with the family. They didn't want to speak to us. He prayed at the local mosque. We talked to people in the local mosque about why he had come back to Pakistan, what were the reasons for him to come back, why didn't people try and put him off from his extremist views? Didn't it ring any alarm bells?

People there denied in the mosque that they had seen him, yet, after he blew himself up and killed people in London in the mosque in his family's village, they held a memorial prayer service. The villagers wouldn't tell me about that, but I heard from other sources that the villagers actually supported Jazat Tamwir where, in fact, he has a very large grave in the center of the village cemetery. He is their local hero, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson doing some world-class reporting for us as he always does. And Nic is going to have a lot more coming up on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" live tonight from the Afghan-Pakistani border. You're going to want to stick around for that.

And also coming up at the top of the hour, Anderson Cooper is going to join Paula Zahn live from Afghanistan. He's going to answering your questions. You can send them by video and by e-mail to Anderson will try to answer as many of your questions as possible. That's coming up now on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" right at the top of the hour.

Given the speed, reach and anonymity of the Internet, al Qaeda continues to turn to the Web to try to spread its message. But you may be surprised to learn where some of these videos are popping.

Let's bring in Abbi Tatton. She's investigating -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, uploaded to multiple Web sites here in the U.S. including one, it seems, of a Utah teenager. These are file sharing sites where anyone can go online and upload information, movies, videos, music, whatever they want, and it's hard to trace who's doing it. Counterterrorist analyst Laura Mansfield regularly checks in with two or three dozen of these file sharing sites where al Qaeda material regularly appears, and one she's been following closely after she says it filled up with videos over this weekend.

Indeed, if you look at the top 100 files, it looks like a greatest hits of al Qaeda material, and the site's owner appears to be an 18-year-old who has a MySpace page that lists that he's in Provo, Utah. We were unable to contact him.

We were able to get in touch with the owner of another file sharing site where the al-Zawahiri tape appeared over the weekend. 23-year-old Scott Weaver says he was taken aback to find that this was in his site, on his site. He tried to trace the anonymous poster but they had masked their identity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

And still ahead tonight, rebel Republican. A lot of people watching a primary race tonight that could toss an incumbent out of his job. We're on the campaign trail.


BLITZER: The last big day of the 2006 primary season is winding down right now. For many candidates the suspense is just beginning. But one of the biggest names on the ballot may be thinking beyond this day, and even beyond this November, thinking towards 2008. That would be Senator Hillary Clinton. She faces only token opposition in today's Democratic primary race in New York state.

We're keeping tabs tonight on the voting in nine states and the District of Columbia in the fall battle for Congress. That includes a key Senate race in Rhode Island that says a lot about party politics and strange bedfellows.

Our Congressional correspondent is covering this story. Dana Bash, she is in Providence, Rhode Island -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Chafee is about as famous a political name as you can have here in Rhode Island, but Senator Lincoln Chafee, seven year incumbent, is in danger of losing his seat tonight. The polls close in just a little more than an hour.

And in a year of strange races, this is about as strange as it has gotten because Senator Chafee has consistently bucked his party. He voted against President Bush's tax cuts, against his Supreme Court pick, against the Iraq war, even voted against President Bush himself in the 2004 election.

Yet, the White House and the Republican Party want Senator Chafee to win this Republican party tonight. Why is that? Because it comes down to simple math, Wolf.

Despite the fact that his Republican opponent Stephen Laffey is much more in line with the national party in terms of his conservative philosophy, they understand that this state of Rhode Island is progressive and that the best shot at them keeping the seat in November is for Senator Chafee -- as much as a maverick and a moderate as he is -- to win this primary tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Polls close a little bit more than an hour for now, as Dana said. Dana is part of the best political team on television.

Up ahead, Jack Cafferty is wondering, should Congress pass a law preventing members of the Bush administration from being prosecuted for war crimes? Jack standing by with "The Cafferty File."


BLITZER: Jack's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question is, Wolf, should Congress pass a law that would prevent members of the Bush administration from being prosecuted for war crimes? They're actually considering doing this.

Byron in Indiana writes -- "Do as I say, not as I do. It would send a bad message with the trial of Saddam Hussein going on. You can't ask the world to try leaders for war crimes, but exempt yourself."

Michael in California -- "Why would such a law be necessary if the war crimes had not already been committed or there was an intent to commit them? Just contemplating such a law is pretty much an admission of guilt. Contemplating such a law would certainly make us guilty in the eyes of the rest of the world."

Dan in Jacksonville, Arkansas -- "Congress should pass such a law to protect guardians of the terrorist detainees. No one passed a law to protect us from their depraved actions."

Jerry in Michigan -- "Jack, thank you for the question about the administration's attempt to hold themselves harmless from war crimes charges. Most of mainstream media wouldn't dare ask that question. They're probably listening to your phone calls."

Bill in Dallas -- "Of course I don't think Congress should be allowed to pass laws that allow certain people to avoid prosecution. However, what does it matter? At the end of the Bush administration, I'm sure there will be thousands of executive pardons."

Leah in Florida -- "You must be kidding. Is there no end to this administration's shenanigans? When will America wake up? I pray to God it doesn't come too late."

And Richard in Hawaii -- "I just gave myself immunity from a traffic ticket. If Bush can do it, I can do it."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to and read more of this stuff online, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. See you tomorrow. Let's find out from Paula what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. That would be in about five minutes from now. We're going to give all of you out there a chance to ask some questions of our reporters and terrorism experts in Afghanistan tonight.

Another top story we'll be following, the American member of al Qaeda. See how a California teenager became an alleged spokesman for terrorists.

Another top story we're looking at tonight, the growing number of doubters who think there is a conspiracy to cover up the truth about 9/11. We'll explain tonight how some of those theories took root, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sounds like a strong show, Paula. Thank you very much. Paula coming up in a few minutes.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, lost and not found. When you drop something while working in space, it's not like you can just bend down and pick it up. So might garbage in space cause problems now and in the future?


BLITZER: Happening now, might garbage floating around in space cause problems now and in the future? CNN's Jeanne Moos has our "Welcome to the Future" story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's easy enough for an earthling, but it's an uh-oh moment...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The poll -- uhh -- disappeared.

MOOS: ... when you're floating over 200 miles above earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost the washer too. It's gone away.

MOOS: Butter fingers in space.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just trying to clarify that you lost the lower left Alpha 1 bolt or 1 Alpha bolt...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I've had that happen to me in my garage.

MOOS: The thing is, when you're in your garage...

(on camera): Houston, we have a problem.

(voice-over): ... and you drop a bolt, you just start crawling around looking for it. Which is basically what astronaut Joe Tanner did as he and his fellow astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper space walked in preparation for the eventual deployment of solar panels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe and Heide did 167 bolts.

MOOS: And only one got way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like to get confirmation from Joe about what direction he saw that bolt depart.

MOOS: Sure, it could have been worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't get around it.

MOOS: The thing NASA scientists worried about is if the lost bolt were to get into some mechanism of the spacecraft.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question would be, did it go into structure or away from structure?

MOOS: Back on Earth, the missing bolt and washer were the stars of the NASA briefing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the bolt that came off the (inaudible).

MOOS: But what's a little bolt compared to the more than foot- long spatula that got away back in July?

Space debris can float around for years unless Earth's gravitational pull drags it into the atmosphere, where it usually burns up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could have gone right over Heide's head, but she would not have known to look up.

MOOS: But losing a bolt does not mean astronaut Tanner screwed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just really ecstatic with their performance.

MOOS: Still, the astronaut seemed to take dropping the bolt to heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, I don't know what to say.

MOOS: Blame it on the bolt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thing is pretty wimpy (ph), you know.

MOOS: As for the status of the bolt in question...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's presumably hopefully lost in space.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.