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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Video of Saddam's Execution Surfaces; President Bush Gets Ready to Announce Troop Surge Into Iraq

Aired January 8, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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, there's a second shocking new video -- it has just surfaced -- apparently showing Saddam Hussein after his execution. Could this new image spreading right now all over the Internet cause new problems for the Bush administration?

A lot more troops and a lot more money -- sources say that's at the heart of the Bush administrations new Iraq strategy. But even as the president gets ready to unveil it, Democrats are voicing serious doubts. Will they try to tighten the purse strings?

And she's giving girls a chance to live their dreams. Oprah Winfrey speaks with CNN's Anderson Cooper about the school she's built in South Africa.

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

We begin tonight with a shocking new image out of Iraq. A new video has just surfaced online that appears to show the body of Saddam Hussein after his execution. This is now the second video of Saddam Hussein after his death -- second video to leak onto the Internet, and these gruesome images promise to further complicate the overall U.S. military mission in Iraq and cause more problems for Iraq's very fragile government.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is standing by but let's begin with our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the short but incredibly graphic video showed a bloodied Saddam Hussein with a gaping neck wound and bruises to his face. CNN can't independently verify the authenticity of this video. We're only showing the first part of its 27 seconds. The latter part is just too gruesome for air.

In the video, the former dictator lies on a gurney, apparently wearing the same outfit that he was hanged in. In the audio track that accompanies it, two male voices are heard. One apparently urging the other to take a quick look, take a quick photo, and then to leave. The video was posted on a Baath Party Web site, al-Iraq News (ph), a site that only publishes pro-Saddam Hussein views. Hussein loyalists have attempted to portray Hussein as a martyr.

The video is now circulating online and it's the second video to do so. A mobile phone video showing the hanging of Saddam Hussein emerged the day after. Iraqi authorities have been criticized for improperly handling the security of the execution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you for that. And the shocking new images can only pose more serious problems for the United States military in Iraq where earlier videos of Saddam Hussein's execution led to a storm of protests. Let's get some more from our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, this is not the way the U.S. government, certainly not the U.S. military, would have wanted the execution of Saddam Hussein to go forward.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: No, they absolutely didn't want to have any video record of this released in this fashion. Clearly, the object here is to inflame the passions of Saddam Hussein's supporters, and that's what this video Internet posting is likely to accomplish. The U.S. military has been privately very critical of the way the Iraqis were unable to have the kind of basic discipline that would prevent these videos from being taken and distributed.

You know these days, it's almost impossible to prevent from people taking videos with video cameras and cell phones and any place else, but still with strict security, it can be done. Clearly it's not helpful to have these kinds of images posted on the Internet. They have, however, since Saddam's hanging there have been videos that have been available on various Web sites and this is one of the more graphic ones. Again, not helpful, but not much the U.S. can do about it. The Iraqi authorities have pledged to prosecute people who have taken these pictures, but again that's after the fact -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And even though we're not going to show the gruesome, very gruesome disgusting images, a lot of people, millions potentially are going to go on the Web and see these pictures and they're going to further inflame passions, especially among Sunni Arabs. Jamie, thank you very much for that -- Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

The president will address the nation Wednesday night to take the wraps off his new Iraq battle plan. He may face serious political battles with Democrats who now control both Houses of the U.S. Congress, and more skepticism from a public grown weary with the war.

Let's turn to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux with what we can expect to hear from the president. First of all, Suzanne, these new images of Saddam Hussein coming what two days before the president's new speech. This is only going to further complicate what the president is trying to achieve.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Wolf. Certainly, those images don't help what the president is trying to do. And what we expect on Wednesday night when he addresses the American people, he will talk about calling for an additional 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq and other areas in the region.

This is likely to be in a phased sense, contingent on whether or not the Iraqis meet certain benchmarks, political and military benchmarks. Another really important aspect of this of course is the economic component. It's been described kind of as a new deal program, providing Iraqis with jobs, But Wolf, it's estimated that it's going to cost a billion dollars, so we'll see how Congress handles that one.

BLITZER: So we know he delivers the speech Wednesday night prime time. What about the selling of it afterwards? How is he going to sell it?

MALVEAUX: You know you could argue that he's already starting to sell it. We saw Republicans here meeting with the president, tomorrow it's Democrats, and then a full body on Wednesday, the leadership. We know the day after he's going to be traveling to Fort Benning, Georgia. He's going to be addressing the troops, trying to sell his plan there at home. And then overseas, that's where Secretary Rice takes over. She is going to be traveling on Friday. She's heading to the Middle East and then Europe to try to push this plan forward even more so, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Suzanne, at the White House. The Bush administration's new plan for Iraq will apparently involve as Suzanne just pointed out a significant troop boost, but can more U.S. troops actually suppress the brutal sectarian violence?

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's one very important question surrounding this new plan, and tonight there are other questions bracketed around that one -- questions that at this moment don't have answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The president plans to turn the corner. Sources tell CNN he'll line up at least 20,000 more troops for Iraq and will reaffirm his trust in the country's prime minister to go after those doing the sectarian killing.

(SHOTS)

TODD: What no one is saying at the White House or the Pentagon is how long the new American troops will stay.

ROMAN MARTINEZ, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: I don't think it would be wise to announce a sort of, you know, surge of limited duration that allows everyone to know when the good guys are going to be leaving.

TODD: Another key question not directly answered, will Iraqi troops confront Muqtada al-Sadr, the popular anti-American Shia leader, described as a kind of mafia don in clerical cover, whose Mehdi army is blamed for killing large numbers of Iraqis and Americans. Observers in Baghdad and Washington tell us this is where these two uneasy allies are in a vice.

Nouri al-Maliki was put in power with Sadr's backing. When I asked a top adviser to Maliki if Iraqi security forces will go after Sadr and his gangs, he said they would confront any illegal armed group. When I asked if they considered Sadr's forces illegal, he said, all militias are. Iraq's national security adviser did the same dance in an on camera interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if the Mehdi army shows up on the street, they will be arrested?

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NAT'L SECURITY ADVISER: There's going to be no differentiation between one militia and another militia.

TODD: Some observers believe that includes Sadr. Others say the Iraqi government has no intention of taking him on -- the consequences for Maliki, if he does.

ROBERT MALLEY, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: The notion of having an all-out confrontation between this Iraqi government and Muqtada al- Sadr and his militia is not only an illusion. It's also a dangerous illusion. Because that would not only, first of all, mobilize vast numbers of Shiites against the government, but lead to a civil war within a civil war. In other words, some Shiites against other Shiites.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: On the other side, some U.S. military and political leaders believe Sadr has to be taken out for Baghdad and other areas to be stabilized. But this is a man who controls several government ministries and dozens of seats in parliament. So Maliki is indeed in a very difficult position here. And one White House source tells us the question of what Maliki will do with Sadr has been at the core of the struggle over how to turn this conflict around -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And his army, the so-called Mehdi Army, may be more powerful than the Iraqi army itself, Brian. Thank you for that. What a mess. Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York with more -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the Democrats may not let President Bush get exactly what he wants with his new plans for Iraq and wanting to send 20,000 more American soldiers there. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he and other Democrats will consider blocking funds for the escalation of the war. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says if Mr. Bush calls for more troops to be sent to Iraq, he will have to show the Congress why the U.S. should pour even more money into the war.

She says the president will not be given the same blank check that he got from the Republican-led Congress. Republicans, on the other hand, warn that Congress shouldn't try to micromanage the war or cut off funding for U.S. troops. They say Democrats calls for starting a gradual pull-out of troops in the next four to six months could lead to a failed state in Iraq. As opposed to what -- that raging success we have over there now? Here's the question. Should the Democrats fight President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that, Jack. We'll see you in a few minutes.

Tomorrow, by the way, we'll set the stage for the president's speech Wednesday night with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. I'll talk to him about his call for congressional action to stop an escalation of the U.S. troop involvement in Iraq tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Stay right here also for complete coverage of the president's address to the nation. Paula Zahn will be joining me and the best political team on television for our two-hour special beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Wednesday night.

Coming up, a new scientific study that could turn the political debate over stem cell research upside down -- could it lead to a truce in the culture wars?

And Oprah Winfrey's promise fulfilled. She opens up with CNN's Anderson Cooper about her new school for girls in South Africa. Anderson is standing by to join us live with some of his interview with Oprah.

And the U.S. ambassador to Iraq now tapped to be President Bush's man at the United Nations. What would Zalmay Khalilzad bring to a job that has been the center of quite a bit of controversy?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Senator John McCain has positioned himself as a leading and some would argue a lonely advocate of a troop increase in Iraq. The future of the U.S. military mission in Iraq is right now hanging in the balance, and so is McCain's bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has more on McCain's gamble -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, can a presidential contender find success if on the premier issue of the day, he runs counter to the vast majority of American voters? We'll see.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): And you thought the argument over Iraq was about Bush administration policy. Perhaps you forgot there's a presidential campaign under way. Exhibit one: Democratic contender John Edwards. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I reject categorically what I call the McCain doctrine, which is an escalation of this war and a surge in troops.

CROWLEY: As they rev up for a presidential campaign in an anti- war climate, those close to John McCain say he recognizes his chances could be hurt by his super hawk stance.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To be a value, the surge must be substantial and it must be sustained.

CROWLEY: We're not stupid, said one McCain confidant, we see the polling against a surge, but off the record and on it, supporters say there are reasons to believe McCain's creds will keep him afloat.

DAN SCHNUR, FORMER MCCAIN ADVISER: Number one is his own military record and his own history as a prisoner of war. Second, as a senator and as a politician is his reputation as a straight shooter, as a straight talker. That means the voters are going to give him more of a hearing on his position even if it's something with which they fundamentally disagree.

CROWLEY: Outside the Senate, it's easier to float the issue until things gel. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have not taken a specific position on President Bush's soon to be unveiled plan. About to announce for president and currently in the Middle East, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas has said he would support it if U.S. military leaders agree and it leads to a political solution, but Democrats have focused attention on McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I announce my candidacy to be the next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: In one of his first acts as a presidential candidate, Iowa's Tom Vilsack called McCain the Republican frontrunner, his party's leading authority on military matters, and flat out wrong on Iraq. And the Democratic National Committee has jammed cyberspace, slamming McCain's position.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: A close friend says if this hurts his campaign, McCain's position is so be it, and the truth is, McCain's hawkish credentials have been so public and so consistent for so long, he can't walk away from them now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thank you. And Candy, as you know, is part of the best political team on television. More shuffles in the Bush administration ahead of the president's announcement of a new Iraq strategy. The Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice now confirming Mr. Bush will nominate his current ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to replace John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us now live from New York with more on this man, Zalmay Khalilzad -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Hello to all of you. If Zalmay Khalilzad is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he'll have to deal with a rambunctious organization, grapping with a whole lot of hot button issues, issues Americans care deeply about. Just one -- Iran, nukes, and how the world can control them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): His friends call him Zal and say in personality he's the polar opposite of the man he may replace, John Bolton. Whereas former U.S. Ambassador Bolton was in your face blunt, Khalilzad is known to be charming, slick. A U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, schooled in Beirut, and understanding of the Middle Eastern culture. Sources say he's a backroom wheeler dealer and knows how to deal with tribesmen and ethnic factions. As the United States special envoy to Afghanistan, after the fall of the Taliban, he helped to establish the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Zal played much the same role as our ambassador to Afghanistan, where he helped the people of his ancestral homeland to step out of the shadows of conflict and to begin building a new future.

COSTELLO: Zal has another quality the Bush administration requires, loyalty -- a long-time associate and adviser to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're delighted to be in Baghdad.

COSTELLO: He's publicly stuck to the company line. This is what he said a day after being confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMB. TO IRAQ: America's commitment to Iraq is strong and unshakable.

COSTELLO: But he's leaving Iraq still struggling to end sectarian violence even though he's credited for convincing the Iraqi government to come up with a U.S.-friendly constitution. Challenges he faces if confirmed, Iraq, Darfur, North Korea, and especially Iran. He's advocated talking to Iran directly, but CNN's Liz Neisloss at the United Nations asked Iran's ambassador how their country will see him.

LIZ NEISLOSS, CNN SENIOR U.N. PRODUCER: He said it depends. It depends on whether he wants to deal with the realities or whether he wants to make a name for himself.

COSTELLO: In other words, he can't be like his predecessor, John Bolton, if he wants to ease the nuclear crisis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And analysts tell me the choice of Khalilzad may signal a slight shift. In other words, while the administration feels a need to reform the United Nations, it also needs it to accomplish its international goals and perhaps as I said Khalilzad won't be as confrontational with the world body as John Bolton has been in the past -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch him in New York together with you, Carol. Thank you very much -- Zalmay Khalilzad himself a Sunni Muslim heading to New York.

Up ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, stem cell research on the Democrats' 100-hour agenda. But could the results of a new scientific study make their new political push moot?

And Oprah Winfrey shares her hopes and dreams for young girls in South Africa. Our Anderson Cooper has been speaking to Oprah. He's standing by to join us live to talk about that interview and his special on Oprah's promise -- all that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting word on a dramatic development in the hunt for al Qaeda. Let's turn once again to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Wolf, as you know, CNN's Barbara Starr, my colleague here at the Pentagon has been reporting all week on the hunt for al Qaeda operatives in Somalia. Now we can report that a U.S. Air Force, a U.S. Special Operations command, AC-130 gun ship, that's a special modified C-130, conducted an air strike in southern Somalia within the last 24 hours based on intelligence that suspected al Qaeda operatives were hiding in the southern part of Somalia.

A senior Pentagon official confirms to CNN that this air strike took place, again, in the last 24 hours. The AC-130 is again operated by U.S. Special Operations command. It has 105 millimeter cannon mounted on the side. It can deliver a withering -- a volley of cannon fire against a ground target and apparently that is what happened in this case.

In addition, Pentagon sources confirm that the U.S. aircraft carrier Eisenhower has moved within striking distance of Somalia in case it was needed to support the operation. But so far, no requests for the Navy asset has been made. Again, Wolf, suspected al Qaeda operatives hiding in southern Somalia have been struck by U.S. military aircraft conducting an air strike aimed at getting those operatives on the ground. Again, there's been no confirmation of exactly who was hit and no identification of the people on the ground who were struck by that target.

BLITZER: Jamie, stand by. We're going to get more on the story. I want to come back to you. But we're following this important development in Somalia and other developments as well, including these stories. Honor, sacrifice, and bravery -- American troops in Iraq face peril almost at every turn. Our Arwa Damon recently rode along with some U.S. troops. She has a unique look at the daily dangers. This is a story you don't want to miss. It's only here on CNN.

And Oprah and Anderson -- the queen of talk talks with our own Anderson Cooper about why educating African girls is so important to her and why it should be important to you -- Anderson's interview with Oprah Winfrey -- all of that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following an important story, a U.S. attack on what is being described as al Qaeda positions in Somalia. I want to welcome our viewers around the world on CNN International as well.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is getting details from top officials over there. Jamie, update our viewers on what we know.

MCINTYRE: Well, Wolf, a senior Pentagon official tells CNN that sometime within the last 24 hours, a U.S. Special Operations aircraft known as an AC-130 gun ship. This is a modified C-130 with a 105- milimter cannon mounted on the side of it, conducted an air strike against targets in southern Somalia based on intelligence that al Qaeda operatives were hiding at a location there. These were suspected terrorists who had apparently fled from Mogadishu when the Ethiopian government troops moved in to the capital of Mogadishu some time ago.

The U.S. had been hunting for these operatives, and again based on intelligence that they were hiding in that location, at least one of them was hiding at that location, the strike was ordered. In addition, the U.S. ordered the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, to move from the Persian Gulf closer to Somalia within striking distance in case its aircraft were needed as well.

But so far, we're told that the carrier has not taken part in any military activity. It appears at this point it was a single strike from this AC-130 gun ship against the target on the ground at which it was believed that the suspected al Qaeda operatives were hiding...

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTYRE: ... Wolf, at this point we have no confirmation of exactly who was killed on the ground, if anyone.

BLITZER: Our Barbara Starr has been traveling in the region lately and she's been reporting on the hunt for al Qaeda operatives in Somalia. The reason we're showing Djibouti is there are reports that this U.S. warplane actually came from Djibouti from an air base in Djibouti to make this strike. Is that right?

MCINTYRE: That's right. There are reports that CNN has not been able to confirm at this time, although we do believe that these kinds of aircraft are based in Djibouti.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment. David Grange, retired U.S. brigadier general, is on the phone. He's watching this together with us. Potentially, a significant development, I take it General Grange, if the al Qaeda operatives that were attacked, who may have been killed, if they were important players in the war on terror. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST (on phone): I believe so. Otherwise, I don't think they would have conducted that strike. We continually keep the pressure on any kind of terrorist organization, if we have the intelligence. I'm not sure who the strike would be coordinated with because of the chaos in Somalia right now with the kicking out of militant groups, but launching from Djibouti or a place like that is well within the capabilities of that aircraft.

BLITZER: A lot of our viewers will remember Blackhawk down in Mogadishu. That occurred in the early 1990s. Not a pleasant experience for the U.S. military.

GRANGE: It wasn't, but I'm sure those involved in that operation in October 1993 are feeling good about taking out terrorists players right now in Somalia.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch this with you, General Grange. Let me go back to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Jamie, as we watch the story unfold, an AC-130 gun ship, you hinted briefly that this has some powerful munitions on board. Describe a little bit of the capability of the special operations aircraft.

MCINTYRE: Well the AC-130 is designed to essentially hover over the target, to fly over the target in a circle. That's why the gun is mounted on one side. It can lay down really, a withering carpet of fire that can basically destroy a building on the ground.

You may recall, Wolf, back in, I believe it was 1993 or perhaps '94, an AC-130 was used in an air strike to attempt to get Somali leader Mohammed Farah Aidid. In fact, the U.S. believed at the time that they had killed him, but it turned out they had not even though they had destroyed his compound with that aircraft.

And that's the thing about these kind of strikes. You get intelligence that somebody is on the ground at a location, you bring the aircraft in, it can destroy the target, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have gotten the people that you intended to. It's going to take a little time for the United States to sort out again who, if anyone was killed, and whether the intended targets were among those who would have been victims of this strike.

BLITZER: Some suspicion already emerging, Jamie, that the targets, the al Qaeda operatives targeted may have played a role in the bombing of the U.S. embassies of Kenya and Tanzania back in the 1990s. What are you hearing on that?

MCINTYRE: Well those are some of the suspects that the U.S. was trying to track, as you said. Our Barbara Starr, my colleague here at the Pentagon has been in the region, reporting on the hunt for some of those al Qaeda operatives and the battle against al Qaeda in Somalia.

And so those were exactly the people they were looking for. So it's not a big jump to suggest that the intelligence may have been that those were the people at this location. We just have not been able to confirm that at this point.

BLITZER: And there's no word, after-action report, no indication that this operation was a success yet. Is that what you're saying? Is the Pentagon saying already what has been accomplished?

MCINTYRE: They're not saying and it's not clear how the United States will be able to tell. Without people on the ground and the U.S. does not have ground troops on the ground in Somalia, it's very difficult to verify exactly who is killed in an air strike like this.

And of course, while the AC-130 is a very precise weapon, that is, it in all likelihood hit exactly the target it was aiming at, that doesn't necessarily mean that the intelligence always tells you exactly the right target to hit. And as I said, the U.S. thought back in the early '90s that it had a successful air strike like this in Somalia against Mohammed Farah Aidid. It turned out he was not killed in that air strike.

BLITZER: And this follows the Ethiopian military advance into Somalia in recent days as well. Jamie, thanks very much. General Grange, thanks to you as well. We'll stay on top of this story for you, our viewers.

Meanwhile, as President Bush appears set to order more troops to Iraq, many are wondering about the practical impact of doing that. U.S. soldiers in Iraq faced fierce fighting every single day, and ending that has proven to be no easy task. Our Arwa Damon recently rode along with some troops and got a unique look at the dangers they face -- Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, whatever last minute discussions, debates, or details are being ironed out in the United States, here in Iraq, the mission for American soldiers just continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): In the back of this striker, there is some solace in the sound of home. But it doesn't last for long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't there an IE checkpoint like right here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a 100-pound artillery shell, it doesn't just appear, you know? It's not like you can put that in your pocket and drop it in the road.

DAMON: Out here, dark humor gets them through the day. First stop, their Iraqi army counterparts. Eight, in fact, executed by the gunmen after they ran out of bullets. The Iraqi commander tells us in hushed tones about families murdered in their homes. "The Americans are better armed and better disciplined," he says. He wants to see more, and for them to stay as long as it takes to secure Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you really can't go home until you complete the mission. If you're going to come over here and start something, you might as well see it to the end, whatever that end may be.

DAMON (on camera): Three weeks ago, U.S. forces say that they identified the Sunni/Shia fault line as existing about a half a mile that way. Now they say it has shifted three quarters of a mile. Sunni families have been evicted from their homes and now Shia families are squatting in them.

(voice-over): To help control that, these men say, bring in more troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would help us keep eyes on most of these areas that are problem areas, the ones where we roll in, nothing happens, and as soon as we roll out, something kicks off between Sunni, Shia. They'd help us spin that down a little bit.

DAMON: It's time for a quick hit on what these men call the sniper house. They already detained two men here with sniper rifles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third floor mat on the floor that we were hoping to find the third guy back here.

DAMON: But no such luck, and so ends another surreal Baghdad day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't explain. I want to leave, and you try to explain to it, but it's just too hard.

DAMON: These men will continue with the mission, no matter what the sentiment back home about this war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ignore it most of the time. I mean, like he said, they don't understand what's going on, what we do and everything. So most of the time, it's just one of those deals where you just blow it off.

DAMON: Blow it off and focus on finishing the job at hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: Other than the potential surge in U.S. forces, the troops that we were out with knew very little details as to how these extra troops might be used, but the thinking among most is that if they are used in the right way, the effort might help bring about the long- awaited decrease in violence -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting for us, doing some exclusive reporting. She's embedded with the U.S. troops on the ground, one courageous young journalist.

Let's get more now on what exactly this troop increase might look like. CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on this part of the story. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we say might look like because we don't really know. But mainly what we feel like most people are talking about is Baghdad proper. This is the city overall. We're going to give you a sense of what we know right now.

At this moment, coalition troops largely have control of right here in the middle of Baghdad. They have the airport out here under control, and they have some areas up north here. What is not so much under control and has to be considered are little pockets in here and here and here and most importantly, I put a big SC over here for Sadr City, the home base for Muqtada al-Sadr.

Let's go to our big maps up on the wall if we can and that will give us a better sense of what we're talking about. Those are the areas the coalition control. We've marked them off over there. But look, right in the middle, we talked a lot about the Sunni triangle. Well this could be sort of like the Shia pyramid in a way because there are these militia groups spread out in this area, along with some Sunnis as well, who are all in some conflict in this area.

These areas will have to be engaged if they want to stabilize Baghdad, and no area is going to be more important than Sadr City. That's the home of Muqtada al-Sadr. His forces have clashed with coalition forces before, and coalitions forces, if they're going to calm the city down, are going to have to engage this neighborhood. And as you can see, it's many blocks of tight, close together houses that can only be fought in tight quarters, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here is the problem, as you know, the last time the U.S. wanted to go into Sadr City, the Iraqi government was close to Muqtada al-Sadr said no way. It's going to be a key test to see if Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister stands with the U.S. right now or stands with Muqtada al-Sadr. We'll watch this closely Tom, thank you for that.

And still ahead tonight, details of a possible breakthrough in stem cell research. Scientists now say they can harvest them without destroying embryos. We're going to show you what that might mean for the debate over stem cell research.

Plus, CNN's Jeanne Moos on the big smell in the Big Apple. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, the new Democratic leadership in Congress. They're pushing Iraq higher up on their early to-do list. And they're preparing to take new steps to promote embryonic stem cell research as well. But a new scientific study could dramatically alter that emotional stem cell debate. Mary Snow, standing by with a lot more on that.

First, though, to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider on the Democrats and Iraq -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, House Democrats are all set to pass their 100-hour domestic agenda, but they don't seem to be talking about it much right now. Something else has come up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Iraq is like the elephant in the room. Democrats can't ignore it, even if they want to talk about other things, like their domestic agenda for the first 100 hours. Democrats knew the elephant was there.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Nowhere was the call for a new direction more clear from the American people than in the war in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are enraged by reports that the president will call for a buildup of U.S. troops. And it's not just Democrats.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I believe that the American people are way ahead of the Congress.

SCHNEIDER: But Democrats have a problem. There is not a lot Congress can do.

REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: Congress is not the commander in chief. The president has the authority, I suppose, to expand involvement, if he wants to.

SCHNEIDER: The first thing Democrats will do is exercise oversight responsibility on the war, which they say Congress has ignored for years.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: No foreign policy can be sustained in America without the informed consent of the American people -- the informed consent.

SCHNEIDER: The Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees will begin hearings this week, as will the House Foreign Affairs Committee and other House committees soon.

Democrats have pledged they will not cut funding for the troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will always support the troops who are there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: But, the speaker warned:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")

PELOSI: But there's not a carte blanche and a blank check to him to do whatever he wishes there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Suppose Congress cuts off funding for additional troops?

OBEY: The president would simply veto it.

SCHNEIDER: In a war, the powers of Congress are limited. But a president will have great difficulty pursuing a policy, in defiance of the people.

RANGEL: No president can -- can -- can be successful, in the conduct of any war, without the support of the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (on camera): The people spoke in the election. The establishment spoke in the Iraq Study Group Report. Now the Democratic Congress is speaking.

What will it take to persuade this president?

Probably pressure from his own Republican base if they see political disaster looming -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people anxious to hear what the president has to say Wednesday night.

Thank you for that, Bill Schneider.

And one item that is part of the first 100 hours on the Democrats' agenda in the House of Representatives, stem cell research. As Democrats discuss stem cell research, they're certainly weighing all of the possibilities, including a new study suggesting there may be a way around this politically explosive issue.

Researchers say they found some promising stem cells that offer the same promise as those found in human embryos.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching this potentially very significant discover -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is a discovery that could provide an alternative to embryonic stem cell research. While it won't alter legislation proposed later this week, many say it will factor into the debate. And the debate is fierce.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: As you might know, I care deeply about stem cell research.

SNOW (voice over): Michael J. Fox's election campaign ads this fall are perhaps the latest example of just how heated the debate over embryonic stem cell research can get. Fox supports the research to help unlock potential treatments for diseases like Parkinson's, from which he suffers. Critics argue embryos should not be destroyed for research.

But could science be moving toward eliminating the controversy? Researchers at Wake Forest and Harvard say they've drawn stem cells from amniotic fluid that don't require destroying an embryo.

DR. ANTHONY ATALA, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY: These cells actually -- not human embryonic stem cells, not adult stem cells, but they do have qualities of both. So it's a new stem cell class, if you will.

SNOW: A new stem cell class, but one that is just being learned about. Researchers say preliminary tests in patients are years away.

Embryonic stem cell opponents are wasting no time in applauding the discovery.

DAVID PRENTICE, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: You do away with the ethical problems associated with embryonic stem cells, but you get all of the positives that most scientists say they want.

SNOW: Other scientists say, not so fast, and argue that embryonic stem cells are unique and hold the power to potentially cure many diseases.

JOHN GEARHART, JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICAL INST.: They're the only ones we know about that can form all 220-some different cell types that constitute the human body. Now, that's remarkable.

SNOW: The new stem cell research comes as House lawmakers plan to introduce a bill Thursday to expand stem cell research. One of its sponsors says the latest study won't alter the debate.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: I do think that the study is fantastic news and I welcome it, but it's not a substitute for embryonic stem cell research. This research is going on around the world and has been for seven or eight years.

SNOW: But some conservative observers say this latest science only further heats up the debate.

RAMESH PONNURU, SR. EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think conservative groups are going to embrace the potential of stem cell research using amniotic fluid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (on camera): Now, last summer President Bush vetoed a bill to increase federal money for embryonic stem cell research. The bill has bipartisan support. The question is, if there is a veto this time, will there be enough votes to override it?

Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary, for that.

Mary Snow reporting on a potentially very significant development.

Up ahead, Oprah Winfrey answers critics, explaining why she chose to launch her new school in Africa instead of America. CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with her. He's standing by to join us. Plus, the mystery smell that seemed to cover Manhattan earlier today. CNN's Jeanne Moos has a nose for this type of news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Typically, when Oprah Winfrey does something, it's major and many people take notice. CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us now with more on her latest project. Anderson, you had a chance to speak with Oprah about what she's doing in South Africa.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. We spoke extensively with her. Also, our Jeff Koinange spent some time with her in South Africa, at the opening of the school that she has opened up, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

It's a massive effort on her part, $40 million of her own money. The first of what she hopes to be a network of schools, really, around the world, trying to address particularly the issue of young girls not being able to attend school in a lot of these countries. She hand- selected the finalists for her leadership academy. More than 150 young girls whose lives will be forever changed by just getting into the school.

Obviously, she's raised some criticism. Some critics have said perhaps the money could have been better spent to affect more young girls throughout South Africa, or even kids here in the United States. I talked to Oprah about that just the other day. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I know that people criticize and say, why didn't you do this for America? Well, you know, say what you may about our educational system, we do at least have a system. And we have a system that says, no matter who you are, where you live, in the United States of America, you have to go to school. You have to go to school. And if you don't, somebody is going to come looking for you.

Well, I have girls -- when I interviewed a little girl named Charlene (ph) back in August and I said, "why do you want to come to my school"? She said, because if I don't come to your school, school is going to be over for me. This will be my last year of school. And she represents the 100 million girls throughout the world, as you know, Anderson, 100 million girls who will never get a secondary education because their parents can't afford school fees. It's easier to keep the girls at home to do all the work.

And so this is an opportunity of a lifetime, and what's so amazing about it is, is that the girls and their parents know it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, tonight, at 10:00 p.m., at "360," we're going to spend an hour taking you inside Oprah's school, also inside the lives of these girls, the girls who got into the school, and some of the girls who didn't, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching it tonight. Good work, Anderson. Thanks very much.

Oprah's new school in South Africa. Anderson is going to have a special 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight on that.

Meanwhile, let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, a couple of days before the big speech, we're asking, "should the Democrats fight President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq?" He's expected to ask for 20,000 more troops to be sent there.

Paul in Houston -- "3,000 soldiers dead, $2 billion a week down the drain, our generals telling the president and Congress that more troops won't help, and still President Bush pushes on. The Democrats better fight him, withholding funds if necessary. If they don't, perhaps we need a new third party for 2008."

Judy in Muscatine, Iowa -- "If the newly elected Democratic majority does nothing to stop the escalation of this war, then with barely one month in power, they have already let down those who elected them."

Larry in Michigan -- "What's it up to now, 97.3 percent of the world doesn't want us invading sovereign countries to steal their natural resources? So yes, I'd say the Democrats should fight the escalation. Won't do any good, though. The other 2.7 percent are the guys with all the money."

Robert in Louisiana -- "If the Democrats or anyone blocks money for our troops in Iraq or ones that are needed there, then they should pick up a rifle and go themselves. Cutting off funds will only ensure the failure of what over 3,000 servicemen and women have already died for."

Jeremiah in San Francisco -- "Why in the world would they start fighting the president now? If they won't impeach him, isn't that an endorsement?"

And Tom in Pennsylvania -- "Jack, the Congress, not just the Democrats, had better fight President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. This should not be about the Democrats. It rather should be about democracy and the will of the people. The people spoke in November, and they'll speak again in two years if this group didn't get the message."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, see you tomorrow. Thank you very much for that.

Still ahead, New Yorkers wondering what's that smell? CNN's Jeanne Moos is on the story for us. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

Northeast of Baghdad, suspected terrorists are rounded up by U.S. and Iraqi forces after a raid.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, a street vendor sells DVDs on the life of Saddam Hussein.

In London, postal workers recreate the cover of the Beatles' "Abby Road" album. They're commemorating the release of a new Beatles postage stamps.

And at Disneyworld in Florida, a one-day-old baby rhino named Tom checks out his own home. Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

For many, it smelled like something was rotten in the Big Apple. Our Jeanne Moos sniffs out the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Was it comes from above ground? Was it coming from below? While utility workers took their readings, those with a nose for news struggled to name what their nostrils detected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That odor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This foul odor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A suspicious odor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This strange odor or whatever it may be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gas or whatever it may be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gases, if they are gases...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever it is.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK CITY: The smell.

MOOS: You could divide folks into two camps, the dids and the did-nots.

(on camera): Ladies, did you smell the smell this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What smell?

MOOS: Did you happen to smell the smell this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did earlier on. Yes. MOOS (voice-over): Some smelled it outdoors, some smelled it in the subway. Some smelled it at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It came into the window, the breeze. Definitely had a gas smell.

MOOS: So did our very own lobby here at the Time Warner building. Management announced over the PA system that air intakes were being shut off, while over at the offices of "Mad" magazine...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One guy had a sinus headache, and we were all teasing him that he was going to be the first one to die.

MOOS: But where did the smell come from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not me.

MOOS: There was plenty of finger pointing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Blame it on New Jersey, sure.

MOOS: Not so fast. The Web site Gawker's headline read, "Midtown Smelling Worse Than Usual." Though some out-of-towners thought this was just the way New York normally smells.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sure, it's a big city smell.

MOOS: Even after the smell seems to have dissipated...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm smelling it right now.

MOOS (on camera): Now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. If you're standing where I'm standing...

MOOS: Now, let me come over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can smell it. You smell like perfume. You're blocking my way.

MOOS (voice-over): The whole smell event reminded folks of the last time, more than a year ago, that there was a lingering odor over Manhattan. The odor of maple syrup. As if...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody was making a big stack of pancakes.

MOOS (on camera): Cake?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it smelled like cake. It would be like somebody was baking.

MOOS: But this time, the smell was far less pleasant, like gas from a stove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had chili. That's what I thought it was. It was a fine chili with refried beans.

MOOS (on camera): I think we have the answer.

(voice-over): The low-brow humor came even at the expense of his honor, the mayor, who urged New Yorkers to open windows and ventilate...

BLOOMBERG: Until this gas passes....

MOOS: And for that, Mayor Bloomberg earned this Drudge Report headline, "We Are Waiting for the Gas to Pass."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Leave it to our Jeanne Moos for that kind of report.

We'll be back tomorrow with Senator Ted Kennedy. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Until then, thanks for watching. Let's go to New York and "PAULA ZAHN NOW" -- Paula.

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