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The Situation Room

President Bush Gets Tough on Sudan; Iran Underground: Taking the Pulse in Tehran

Aired May 29, 2007 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: Dale in Philadelphia: "Today's 30-year-old gets lower wages because when you call customer service for an American company, you get someone working for pennies in India because our president wants guest workers here rather than paying U.S. citizens a living wage and because Detroit has people in foreign countries assembling U.S. cars for slave wages.
Should I go on?

America is broken and nobody in Washington gives a damn."

And, finally, Joseph in New York writes: "Obviously, it means the economy has never been as good as it is now, thanks to George W. Bush. The studies that say otherwise have obviously been engineered by Bush-bashers. Trickle down is working. That's why your leg feels wet" -- Wolf.


Thank you, Jack, for that.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a terrible toll among U.S. troops in Iraq -- a chopper downed and a rescue force ambushed. One of the bloodiest months of the war, and it's not over yet.

It's like a cold war nightmare -- Russia launching a new missile and warning it could carry multiple warheads that will penetrate any defenses.

Is America at risk for that?

And buying one of these Cuban cigars could put you in prison. Now, a new call to end the ban on Castro's stogies.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In Iraq, the deadliest month to for American troops. And in Baghdad today, a pair of car bombs killed at least 38 people, while in a stunningly brazen raid, five British citizens were kidnapped from a government ministry. We're going to have more on that in just a moment. Meantime, U.S. forces have suffered a series of losses, making this one of the deadliest months of the entire war for American troops.

Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

He's watching all of this very closely -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as the new U.S. strategy puts more American troops in the risky role of intermediary in a raging civil war, President Bush's grim prediction of last week is coming true. U.S. casualties are on the rise.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): U.S. deaths in Iraq this month have now surpassed both April and December highs, to make May the deadliest month in almost three years.

The worst months were back in 2004, when in both April and November, the U.S. was fighting major offensives in Fallujah.

What pushed May over the top was another helicopter shoot down in deadly Diyala Province, which has become the latest front line, as insurgents and Al Qaeda militants are squeezed out of Baghdad by the U.S.-led crackdown.

Small arms fire brought down that Kiowa Scout helicopter monitoring a major supply route, killing two Army pilots. A quick reaction force in a Bradley fighting vehicle fell victim to a roadside bomb as it rushed to the scene, killing five more soldiers. A second vehicle also hit by IED resulted in an eighth death.

If, as President Bush predicts, fighting is even heavier over the summer, 2007 could well be the deadliest year of the war, with more than 1,000 deaths, compared to the previous high of 849 in 2004.

The high price is all to buy more time for Iraqi politicians to meet key goals aimed at fostering political reconciliation -- goals that appear more elusive by the day.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The only thing that will prevent it from happening, of course, is lack of will on the part of Iraqi politicians and the chaotic nature of that country's politics in general. And I'm afraid once you factor in those latter points, even if compromise is theoretically possible, it's not very likely.


MCINTYRE: And, Wolf, of the three broad goals -- a new oil sharing agreement, bringing more Sunnis into the government, establishing local elections, only the oil law seems to be on track, which is why, by the way, the new strategy is focusing on brokering local peace agreements even if the national government remains in disarray -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, what happens if the benchmarks aren't met, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: Well, a lot of people are saying that that means it's time to start bringing troops home until substantial numbers. But it's equally possible that commanders and the administration could argue that the policy simply needs more time and the U.S. would have enough troops to maintain higher troop levels, at least until the early spring.

BLITZER: Jamie is watching this closely at the Pentagon.

We'll watch it with you.

Dozens of uniformed men storm an Iraqi government billing and carry off five British citizens. It happened in Baghdad today, a raid almost breath taking in its audacity with very, very ominous implications for everyone in Iraq now.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in the Iraqi capital -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the British Foreign Office has confirmed that five British citizens were kidnapped just before midday this Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in north central Baghdad.

Now, according to an Interior Ministry source telling CNN, it involved dozens of gunmen dressed in Iraqi police and Army uniforms, driving at least 19 Iraqi police vehicles. According to another Interior Ministry source, the entire kidnapping took half an hour and no shots were fired. We also understand from that source that two Iraqi guards were also kidnapped. Witnesses say the kidnappers looked as though they were heading east of Baghdad.

We also understand that one of those kidnapped worked for Bearing Point, a managing consulting firm in Virginia. A spokesman for that firm has confirmed one of its employees has been kidnapped -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula Hancocks watching this story in Baghdad for us.

Very disturbing.

She became a symbol of the anti-war protest -- a mother who lost her son in Iraq, then pitched a tent outside the president's ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Now, exhausted and disillusioned, she's calling it quits.

Let's go back to Carol Costello.

She's watching this story.

What is Cindy Sheehan saying -- Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I talked with Cindy Sheehan's sister today. She was on her way to a spa along with her sister, Cindy. She told me Cindy had lost everything -- her health, her family and all of her savings -- because of her fight to end the Iraq war.


CINDY SHEEHAN: What do we want?


SHEEHAN: When do we want it?


COSTELLO: Cindy Sheehan is walking way from the country's peace movement. In a Web diary, entitled rather bitterly, "Good Riddance Attention Whore," Sheehan says: "Casey did, indeed, die for nothing. I failed my boy and that hurts the most."

Sheehan's 24-year-old son Casey, an Army specialist, died fighting in Baghdad. His death fuelled her exhausting efforts to end the Iraq War.

In 2005, Sheehan created Camp Casey outside of President Bush's Crawford home, demanding he meet with her to discuss her son's death. Casey picture, her grief, on public display.

And this is where Sheehan says her life took an ugly turn. Because of her efforts, her husband left her. Her other children grew apart from her and she became the target of ugly criticism.

The worst accusation -- she used her son's death to promote her political agenda and became, as one conservative columnist put it, a howling at the moon, bile-spewing Bush hater, rather than an anti-war mom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cindy, go home!

COSTELLO: And as Sheehan's anti-war efforts grew, her sister says the name calling started to eat away at her.

DEDE MILLER, CINDY SHEEHAN'S SISTER: I mean she's a human. She lost her son. And for people to use -- I mean they can't attack the message, so they attack the messenger.

COSTELLO: Sheehan himself remained on the attack. She reportedly called Bush "that lying bastard," that maniac who killed her son, even accepting an invitation from the president's arch enemy, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're around the world, trashing the president, calling him a terrorist, calling him worse than Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: Still, Sheehan stayed in the game, writing a book called "Peace Mom.

But she tired of it for good when Congress voted to fund the Iraq war, writing in her Web diary: "Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. Good-bye, America. You are not the country that I love. And I finally realize no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it."


COSTELLO: Now, Sheehan spent $52,000 in insurance money she received for her son's death to buy that patch of land in Crawford, Texas. It's up for sale if you're interested -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A sad and tragic story all around, Carol.

Thank you very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack, that's Cindy Sheehan's story from beginning to end. Tragic, indeed. She loses her son and she's going through all of this.


This -- this next item is one of those that goes into that file that, you know, sometimes you come across stuff and you go, nah, this isn't happening.

Immigration/security -- two hot button issues for the roughly 20 people who would like to be elected president in 2008. And that's kind of odd, considering this piece in "The Washington Post" today.

The Secret Service plans to borrow 2,000 immigration officials and airport screeners and use them to protect the candidates during the campaign. Two thousand. Plus, 250 current Secret Service officials likely will be moved off investigations into areas like counterfeiting and cyber crime. And they, too, will be put on security detail.

The Secret Service could get squeezed even more. The budget of more than $110 million set by the Secret Service this year for campaign protection is already coming up short. Senator Barack Obama was given Secret Service protection earlier this month. And the agency didn't expect to have to begin providing protection to anyone until next January.

And, by the way, the budget for the 2004 presidential election?

That was just $65 million -- but there was an incumbent Republican president running, you'll recall.

So here's the question -- are our priorities out of whack when the Secret Service is considering borrowing immigration officers and airport screeners in order to protect the presidential candidates?

E-mail us at or go to One of those head scratchers, so...

BLITZER: Yes. I read that in "The Washington Post." It was pretty shocking, anybody who read it...


BLITZER: Jack, thanks for bringing it to us.

CAFFERTY: Oh, it's my pleasure.


CAFFERTY: I'm just here to help out.

BLITZER: Without commercial interruption either.

CAFFERTY: Yes, that's correct.

BLITZER: Excellent.

Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Up ahead, the U.S. military in desperate need of Arab language experts.

So why are so many being discharged?

We'll have details of calls for change in a controversial policy.

Also, echoes of the cold war -- a new Russian missile Moscow says can outsmart the latest American defense system.

Plus, hundreds of airline passengers possibly exposed to a rare from and frightening strain of tuberculosis.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: There are new calls for change coming from some members of Congress concerned about the military's dismissal of badly needed Arab linguists discharged for revealing they're gay.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us live right now.

How many of these Arab language specialists, Brian, have been discharged under the "don't ask/don't tell" policy?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Pentagon couldn't get us numbers immediately, but members of Congress and advocate groups tell us that now 58 have been kicked out for being gay, including three very recently.

Critics say this is sidelining some people who could be helping during this pivotal moment in Iraq.


TODD (voice-over): Ian Finkenbinder was what they call mission critical in Iraq. Fluent in Arabic, he moved with his Army unit into some of the most dangerous areas, gathering vital intelligence...

IAN FINKENBINDER, FORMER ARMY TRANSLATOR: Things like the location of weapon caches, the locations of insurgent headquarters, who was insurgents, etc. etc.

TODD: ... a skill U.S. forces now need more than ever. Finkenbinder could be back in Iraq helping them, if he hadn't made one remark.

FINKENBINDER: That I was a gay soldier and would like to continue serving in the Army as an openly gay soldier.

TODD: The Army had to kick him out. Under "don't ask/don't tell" regulations, gays in the military have to keep their orientation a secret. The Defense Department couldn't tell us how many Arabic speakers have been discharged because of their orientation, but advocate groups say the total is near 60 since the "don't ask/don't tell" policy was introduced in the early '90s.

STEVE RALLS, SERVICE MEMBERS LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK: There is a serious detriment to our national security when we disqualify gay and lesbian Americans who are trained, want to serve and are ready to serve.

TODD: Democrats in Congress also believe there's a dangerous shortage of Arabic speakers in uniform, on the ground in Iraq and in military intelligence, and they're calling for a change in policy.

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We cannot kick out highly qualified service members because of their sexual orientation.

TODD: Those who defend "don't ask/don't tell" say the military might lose other critical personnel if gay specialists were allowed to serve openly.

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: The military is a traditional, conservative institution and there are many people there who simply would not serve with an open homosexual if -- if they were asked to do so.


TODD: Still, Ian Finkenbinder says many people in his unit knew he was gay before he made that statement and they had no problem with it.

We pressed the Defense Department all day on the charge that the removal of gay Arabic speakers has damaged national security. A Defense official finally said they would address that issue if there were Congressional hearings.

We do know that the military is launching a campaign to recruit more service members with those skills -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're also trying to hire more Iraqis or get more Iraqis to serve as translators for the U.S. military in Iraq.

But there's a difference, Brian, between Iraqis serving as translators and Americans serving as translators.

TODD: That's true, Wolf. Many Iraqis are now reluctant to work with U.S. forces, as you know, fearing retribution there on the ground. And it's also a matter of security clearance. Many Iraqis cannot get the highest clearance. And one gay Arabic speaker who was discharged recently told me that they took two years just to do a background check on him. So it's a critical matter of time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as a lot of gay activists point out, a lot of militaries, including NATO allies in Britain and others -- including in Israel -- have no problem with gays openly serving in their militaries.

We'll watch this story unfold, Brian. Thanks very much.

A powerful new missile roars off a launch site in Russia.

A potential threat to America?

Along with Russian rhetoric, chilling echoes of the cold war happening right now.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara, the cold war is supposed to be over, right?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's supposed to over, Wolf.

But now, a new missile move by Moscow.


STARR (voice-over): Russia said it test fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile designed to defeat the U.S. missile defense system. The Russian missile has multiple warheads. Each can hit a separate target, hard for the U.S. to defend against.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that the test is part of Moscow's opposition to U.S. plans to place its own missile defense shield in Europe.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We consider it harmful and dangerous to turn Europe into a powder keg and stuff it with new types of weapons. STARR: Washington is trying to convince Moscow the U.S. program isn't aimed at shooting down any of Russia's hundreds of missiles, but rather to counter a launch from a known enemy.

TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We've got a system that we are planning that involves only 10 interceptors, a very limited quantity that is designed to defend against a limited attack by a rogue nation, including a nation like Iran.

STARR: President Bush isn't backing down.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I sent Secretary Gates to Russia recently to have a full and transparent conversation with President Putin and his cabinet, to make sure that the Russians understand that this missile shield is not directed at them but, in fact, directed at other nations that could conceivably affect the peace of Europe.


STARR: Now, the U.S. believes, in part, that Putin is doing this program, continuing with it, in order to bolster Russia's flagging image as a world super power.

For its part, the Bush administration plans to continue with its own missile defense program -- Wolf.

They've already spent $23 billion on it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

Echoes of the cold war, indeed.

Coming up, an alleged plot to kill American troops in New Jersey. Now, the man who blew the whistle tells us what made him suspicious and what made him come forward.

And Castro smokes them, but if you try to buy them, you could go to prison. Now a call to change the rules on Cuban cigars.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Let's turn to Carol -- Carol, what do you have?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's talk about a health scare, Wolf.

Hundreds of airline passengers possibly expose to a rare drug- resistant form of tuberculosis. Government health officials say a man infected with the disease took two international flights this month -- one from Atlanta to Paris, the other from Prague to Montreal. They want to test passengers and crews from those flights, specifically people who were seated near that infected man.

New fighting between Lebanese troops and Islamic militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp marking the end of a week-long truce. Lebanese partially pounded positions near the camp's ocean front in a possible attempt to keep the militants from fleeing by sea. Some Palestinian refugees have fled the fighting, but thousands remained trapped in the camp.

A tragic discovery in a Texas trailer home. A 23-year-old mother and her four daughters discovered hanged in what appears to be a murder/suicide. But one of the young girls, just eight months old, survived and is listed in good condition. This happened in Weatherford, Texas. That's about 30 miles west of Fort Worth.

The Bush administration is rejecting a sweeping European Union target for reducing carbon emissions. The White House point man attending meetings in Berlin says the U.S. isn't against reduction targets, but wants to focus on specific areas.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also in Berlin, on her own climate focus trip, which also took her to Greenland, where she met with researchers studying climate change.

That's a look at what's happening now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you very much.

He blew the whistle on an alleged terror plot targeting a U.S. Army base.



It was -- it was more of a moral dilemma at that point. I thought about whether or not it should be reported.


BLITZER: Now, he's being called a hero. Find out why he say his doesn't feel like one.

Also, stopping the genocide in Darfur -- the Bush administration launching some tough new tactics, but will they work?

The deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, President Bush ready to nominate a new World Bank president. A senior administration official tells CNN he'll tap former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zellick to replace Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned in a scandal over a promotion he arranged his girl friend. The president ready to make it official, the announcement of Zellick, tomorrow morning.

Also, plans underway to increase the number of Iraqi refugees allowed into the United States. State Department officials say the new regulations could allow as many as 15,000 by the end of the year. Only 69 Iraqi refugees have been cleared to enter since last October.

And in Venezuela, another day of angry protests. Thousands of people demonstrating against the president, Hugo Chavez, and his decision to take a popular TV station off the air. Now he's threatening to seize another one.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We told you recently about the charges against half a dozen suspects accused of plotting an attack on U.S. troops in New Jersey. Now the man who tipped the authorities to the alleged plot is going public.

Let's turn to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli, tell our viewers what you're learning.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the alleged plot was to gun down as many soldiers as possible at the Army base in Fort Dix, New Jersey. And we heard a lot about the plan, but not the whole story about how it was stopped -- until now.


ARENA (voice-over): Government officials say the terror plot never got off the ground thanks to a store clerk who was copying a video for the defendants. The government says the men, taped while training in the Poconos, were calling for Jihad and shouting in Arabic, "God is great!"


MORGENSTERN: Well, I saw men at a shooting range with handguns, rifles and what appeared to me as fully automatic weapons.


ARENA: Brian Morgenstern went public for the first time today, talking first with CNN about his decision to go to police with what he saw. He says the defendants seemed like ordinary guys.


MORGENSTERN: I thought about whether or not it should be reported. I actually waited that night and weighed out my decisions.


ARENA: Morgenstern says he had no idea what the group was allegedly up to until criminal charges were announced.


MORGENSTERN: It was pretty surreal. It was amazing, what I was reading and what I was hearing on the news.


ARENA: Circuit City, where Morgenstern works, says it completely supported his actions and Morgenstern says he's gotten letters from family members at Fort Dix thanking him.

The government calls him a hero.


that's why we're here today, thanks to the courage and heroism of that individual.

ARENA: It's all a bit much for him to swallow.


MORGENSTERN: All I did was to pick up the phone and make a call. The true heroes in this are our government and our law enforcement people who led a 16-month investigation.


ARENA: Five of the men that Morgenstern turned in face life in prison, if they're convicted. The sixth faces up to 10 years in president. They're expected to plead not guilty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for bringing us that report, Kelli.

Thank you.

They strike brutally and they're name itself strikes fear. Janjaweed, it's Arabic, meaning a man with a gun on a horse. These militiamen, allegedly backed by the Sudanese army and air force, have killed more than 200,000 people and driven another two million from their homes in the Darfur region.

In an effort to stop the slaughter right now, President Bush today imposed new sanctions against Sudan, saying that the government is "complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians."


BLITZER: And joining us now the deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte. Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the president's announcement today. It's been four years. Hundreds of thousands of people have died over these four years. And a lot of people are complaining, what's taking so long? Why not get this job done?

What's the big stumbling block in saving these people from genocide?

NEGROPONTE: Well, the big stumbling block is the government of the Sudan, and that's why today the president announced these additional sanctions against both Sudanese companies and Sudanese individuals to bring further pressure to bear on the government of President Bashir to comply with their undertakings to the international community.

BLITZER: What about sanctions against other third-country companies that deal with Sudan? Because that seems where a lot of the pressure might have an impact.

NEGROPONTE: Well, look, the focus of our effort at this particular time is to, first of all, impose additional bilateral, unilateral sanctions against Sudan. Secondly, to work with other members, like-minded members of the United Nations, to urge them to adopt similar types of measures. And thirdly, to prepare the ground now for yet another Security Council resolution that would impose multilateral -- additional multilateral sanctions on the Sudan.

BLITZER: Because it looks like China has this incredibly significant economic relationship with Sudan right now, helping to prop President Bashir in power, allowing him to support the Janjaweed to do what they're doing in Darfur.

Here's what the Chinese special representative on African Affairs says. "The cooperation between China and Sudan is helpful for the development of Sudan's economy and will fundamentally help Sudan to address the conflicts and wars in Sudan. Willful sanctions and simply applying pressure are not conducive to the solution of the problem and will only make the issue more complicated."

You can't be satisfied with the Chinese willingness to deal so robustly, economically with Sudan.

NEGROPONTE: Well, they have joined us previously at the United Nations in sanctions against Sudan in a Chapter 7 resolution last -- August of last year to deploy peacekeeping forces to that country. And they have also agreed with us that the issue of Darfur is an important subject in the bilateral...

BLITZER: But their economic relationship is robust. The oil trade is propping up this government in Sudan.

NEGROPONTE: Let me make this point. They have agreed with us, both in reply to conversations that President Bush has had with President Hu Jintao, the secretary with here -- Secretary Rice with her counterpart in Beijing, and mine with my counterpart that this is an issue on the bilateral agenda between us. And China has been counseling to the country of Sudan that it behooves it to seek to comply with its international obligations or it will ultimately have to suffer the consequences...


BLITZER: Because you know that there's pressure mounting domestically here in the U.S. to squeeze the Chinese to get the job done, including Mia Farrow, the actress, and even some members of Congress suggesting raising the possibility of boycotting the summer Olympics in Beijing unless the Chinese start to get tough with the government of Khartoum.

NEGROPONTE: I'm aware of that. And again, as I say, we have elevated to an important place in our dialogue with China. And I don't think we should let this discussion that we are having right now detract from the fact that it is the government of Sudan itself that is principally and fundamentally responsible for these problems, and it is they must who must take the requisite steps in order to put an end to this humanitarian tragedy. It is they...

BLITZER: But let me get back to China.


BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting.

How much time do they have to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk and start to take some substantive action to squeeze President Bashir in Sudan?

NEGROPONTE: Well, you saw President Bush gave a speech about a month ago and he warned, forewarned of these sanctions. He was then -- he had been persuaded by Secretary-General Ban of the United Nations to lay their implementation while the U.N. secretary-general worked his diplomacy. But now we've gone and imposed these bilateral sanctions, and we are preparing to advocate and to promote within the Security Council these multilateral sanctions.

So, I suppose you asked me how much time will China have. Well, soon, quite soon, we will be confronting them and other members of the Security Council.

BLITZER: Within days or weeks?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I wouldn't want to put a precise time frame on it, but the president indicated today we're going to start working with other members of the Security Council right away to shape a new Security Council resolution.

BLITZER: Here's what Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a Democratic presidential candidate, said on May 21st. "I think nations, at some point, cede their sovereignty. When they engage in the genocide, they forfeit their sovereignty. Were I to make the decision, I would impose a no-fly zone immediately and commit forces to stop the Janjaweed now."

The Janjaweed, the rebels who are out there in Darfur committing this genocide, with the backing of the government in Khartoum.

What do you think of Biden's statement? He's speaking out for himself.

NEGROPONTE: Well, I think he points to the fact that there is great insecurity in the Darfur region, and it's one of the reasons that we, along with others, advocate increasing the size of the international peacekeeping presence there from some 5,000 troops, which is what it is now, to some 17,000 to 20,000. And that's exactly what it is we are asking President Bashir to accept forthwith, is this expanded African Union-U.N. hybrid peacekeeping force. And it should be allowed to be deployed to Darfur as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Because there is a sense of urgency that people are dying and the suffering, the tragedy in Darfur, continues full speed ahead right now. Is that right?

NEGROPONTE: Despite the fact of a peace agreement last year which the government of Sudan signed, the number of internally displaced people is increasing, insecurity continues, and the government is is guilty of a number of different forms of very, very bad behavior, including bombing of villages, continued arming and support of these Arab militias, the so-called Janjaweeds, and a host of other activities.

BLITZER: You've got a tough job ahead of you. But let's hope this is resolved and resolved quickly.

The deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte.

Thanks for coming in.

NEGROPONTE: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: And still ahead, it's illegal to buy a Cuban cigar, but it's OK for U.S. companies to sell more than $1 billion worth of food and agriculture products to Cuba. Mary Snow's standing by, she's checking out this apparent double standard.

And underground in Iran. Our Aneesh Raman takes us places Americans rarely see. He's the only U.S. TV correspondent in Iran right now.

Stick with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Iran today said it has formally charged the jailed Iranian-American scholar with trying to topple the government. This comes just a day after historic talks between U.S. and Iranian officials, the first in three decades.

CNN's Aneesh Raman takes the pulse in the Iranian capital -- or actually under the Iranian capital -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a day after historic talks between Iran and the U.S., we took a rare trip on a Tehran subway to find out what the people think.

RAMAN (voice over): No confusion and no delays. Underground in Tehran, the trains run without a hitch. More than a million trips a day are taken on the Iranian capital subway, built with French and Chinese help, and equipped with Australian rolling stock, but of course no U.S. technology. It's where we've come to see what people think of Monday's historic talks.

In the first car, reserved for women, a range a range of outfits and a range of opinions. "Good relations have to start somewhere and go slowly between these two countries," this woman tells us. "God willing, from here it will get better."

But before it does, from those less eager to befriend the U.S., a mood of distrust. "Some governments," she says, referring to the U.S., "are bullies and power hungry and don't want to understand. Just dominate."

(on camera): Among most of the people we spoke with, there is optimism. But they also keep in mind that this is just another point along a process that could easily derail.

(voice over): And quickly. An American Tuesday was charged with working against the regime. Another officially in Iranian custody. Neither story getting much coverage here, nor did Monday's talks in Baghdad. A sign perhaps of limited expectations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen much. Even I think there is kind of pressure. I'm used to it. They don't make it something like headline, not that much.

RAMAN: The people here are used to their country and the U.S. heading in opposite directions, but the great majority hope that a head-on collision can now be avoided.


RAMAN: The overall attitude here, high hopes, but modest expectations for what will come next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman, reporting from under Tehran for us.

Thank you, Aneesh.

Up ahead, cigar fans fuming over the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. We're going to show you what they're trying to do about it right now.

Also, con artists using puppies in a new e-mail scam. Our Internet reporter is standing by with some new information online.

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


BLITZER: The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba is coming under new fire. One part of it specifically by cigar lovers.

Let's go CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York.

What do they want to see done, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they want to scrap the law that prohibits Americans from buying Cuban cigars. They say if U.S. companies can make millions exporting goods to Cuba, why are people being punished for buying cigars?


SNOW (voice over): They're considered forbidden fruit, and they carry a powerful aura. A former photographer writes in the current issue of "Cigar Aficionado" about smoking Cuban cigars in the Oval Office with President Kennedy. "The New York Times" once reported that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked Cuban cigars 20 feet outside his Sacramento office to comply with state law.

For Cuban-born Enrique Martinez, there is no mystery about the appeal.

ENRIQUE MARTINEZ, CUBAN-AMERICAN: The best cigar in the world comes from Cuba.

SNOW: But buying a Cuban cigar can carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 for individuals and $1 million for corporations. "Cigar Aficionado" magazine is calling to end the ban, and it's slamming the U.S. government for wasting resources in tracking down violators, saying in an editorial, "With the Castro era ending soon, the United States is in a position to influence the course of events in Cuba. Stop wasting our time and money chasing cigar smokers."

JOHN KAVULICH, U.S. CUBA TRADE & ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The Bush administration looks at it with a much wider spectrum. And that is, it's not only the money that Cuba's getting from having a Cuban cigar in the United States, it's the publicity.

SNOW: But critics of the U.S. embargo on Cuba question why cigars should be banned when U.S. companies have sold roughly $1.6 billion worth of food and agricultural products to Cuba since those exports were allowed beginning in 2001.

KAVULICH: Cuba now ranks anywhere from 30 to 45th amongst worldwide agricultural export markets for U.S. companies. So they -- it's a remarkable change in the relationship.

SNOW: But 69-year-old Cuban exile Juan Perez says he's a former political prisoner and he's not impressed. He says he doesn't want to see any Cuban cigars or any other Cuban goods in the U.S. until Fidel Castro ends his regime.

JUAN J. PEREZ, CUBAN EXILE: When Castro has the free election for that country, and then we sell whatever he want to do, and then we buy whatever we can buy from Cuba. For now, nothing, zero.


SNOW: And to underscore the change in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, a delegation of five members of Congress are in Cuba this week looking for agricultural trade opportunities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, do we know how big the illegal Cuban cigar market in the United States is?

SNOW: It's hard to tell, but there are estimates that it's a couple of million dollars. But it is said to be smaller than it was in the 1990s, when Cuban cigars were really popular.

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching the story for us.

Thanks very much.


BLITZER: It's the latest twist on those Nigerian e-mail scams that show up in all of our in boxes. Criminals are using puppies now to get money from pet-loving Americans.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

Jacki, how can we identify these scams online?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: It's tough to do, Wolf. The puppies are really cute, and these scam artists know that because coveted breeds like bulldogs run thousands of dollars, if they offer them up for free or a discounted price, all you pay is shipping, they know that they can possibly get you.

The Councils of the Better Business Bureau says they're seeing an increase in these scams. And what these people are doing is posting classifieds online, pretty much anywhere where you can advertise for a puppy.

The people say that they are a missionary having to go to Nigeria or Cameroon, for example. They say that they can only contact you via e-mail.

Then they get in touch with you. They say that they'll offer the puppy at a discounted price, all you pay is shipping. You wire them the money, and then the puppy never shows because the puppy never existed in the first place.

The American Kennel Club and the Better Business Bureau say you can protect yourself, that you never wire money to anybody you don't know, especially somebody that you have only met over e-mail. They say if you're going to buy a pet, buy it locally so you can check it out in person -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good advice. Thank you very much, Jacki, for that.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the hidden talents of GOP presidential candidates. We told you some of the hidden talents of Democrats. Now it's the Republicans' turn.

And Jack Cafferty is wondering if priorities are out of whack when the Secret Service considers borrowing immigration officers and airport screeners to protect the presidential candidates.

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


BLITZER: The presidential candidates are revealing their so- called hidden talents, and some are more surprising than others. We got a glimpse of the Democrats' secret abilities last hour. Now a sample of the Republicans' talents as they describe them to The Associated Press.

Let's start with Mitt Romney, who says he can sing.

Duncan Hunter's talent may be a little bit more obscure. He says he can make rifle scabbards out of leather. Those are holsters, if you will.

Rudy Giuliani says he's good at listening, a talent that certainly comes in handy on the campaign trail. He's listening.

And Tom Tancredo refuses to narrow it down to any one skill. He says after 30 years in politics, there's no talent that he hasn't exploited.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's a very talented man himself. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.


Remember those old B western movies where the cavalry would ride down on the Indians, and just as they'd get there the cowboy would reach down and pull that Winchester 30-30 out of a scabbard, which was that leather thing on the side of the horse attached to the saddle that held his rifle?

BLITZER: I remember "Gunsmoke" and all those movies.

CAFFERTY: Now you've had a lesson in the Old West.

The question this hour is: "Are our priorities out of whack when the Secret Service is considering immigration officers and airport screeners to protect presidential candidates?" Barry writes from New York, "The country's priorities have been out of whack for a long time, but that's not what's going on here. How about if the Treasury Department told the head cases running for president: 'Get back to us when the primaries start Until then, dip a shovel into your obscene war chests and hire your own private security.'"

Mike in Connecticut, "Only in America, Jack, will the authorities weaken our national security in order to protect the candidates that are running on a platform of strengthening our national security. You can't make it up."

Suzanne in Colorado, "Good idea using immigration officers as Secret Service agents. Better yet, let's use cheap illegal alien labor to protect the presidential candidates. Maybe they'd get the message they aren't all that important despite what they tell each other. Maybe they'd get a taste of what the rest of us feel like these days."

"Seriously, who decided we had to treat politicians like irreplaceable royalty? They aren't either."

Andrew in New York writes, "They might as well be used to protect the candidates. They aren't doing much else."

Jim in Georgia, since all the candidates are so good at raising money, they ought to all have to provide their own security and pay for them themselves. Imagine the fun -- Huckabee's posse gets into a brawl with Giuliani's posse at the next debate."

Chris in Virginia, "You couldn't make this up. All doubt is now removed as far as our government is concerned. The inmates have definitely taken over the asylum. You and Wolf and Lou Dobbs are about the last public figures I still trust. I don't even know what to think anymore."

And Rob in New York, "So, when we go tour the Capitol, should I take off my shoes and bring a Ziploc for my gels?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Jack will be back in an hour with the rest of us for another hour of THE SITUATION ROOM right after Lou.

Let's go to Lou right now. He's in New York.