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THE SITUATION ROOM

Is North Korea Ready to Give Nuclear Weapons Program?; Is Iran Behind Attacks on U.S. Forces?

Aired February 12, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, is North Korea ready to give up its nuclear weapons program? Is it the real deal? But what will the U.S. have to give in return?

And is Iran behind a series of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq?

The military offering some chilling new evidence of high tech bombs and triggers.

Why is that triggering doubts among critics here at home?

America's newest presidential candidate under attack Down Under.

What does Australia's leader have against Barack Obama?

And The Dixie Chicks win at the Grammies in spite of or perhaps because of that old attack on President Bush.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just a few month after it tested a nuclear weapon, has North Korea finally agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program?

There's new word of a deal at high level talks underway in China.

CNN's Arwa Damon, Barbara Starr, Michael Ware -- they're all standing by on the situation in Iraq.

But let's go to China.

CNN's John Vause joining us now live in Beijing.

So here's the question, John, is there really a deal on nukes with North Korea?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are never any certainties when it comes to dealing with a leader like North Korea's Kim Jung Il. An indication of that, the chief U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill, said he wouldn't go into the specifics of the agreement because, in his words, he didn't want to jinx it. He did, however, say that this was "an excellent, excellent draft."

All six parties are now waiting to hear back from their respective governments before announcing just precisely that was agreed to here in the early hours of Tuesday morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What do we know, if anything, about the specifics of this tentative deal, John?

VAUSE: Well, we have heard from a number of diplomats, it appears to be based on a one page document written by the Chinese.

Stage one would see the North Koreans freeze plutonium production in return for energy assistance.

Stage two, followed in a couple of months, would focus on nuclear disarmament.

Now, one of the sticking points in all of this has been a demand by the North Koreans for a massive amount of energy assistance. That almost brought these talks to the edge of collapse.

There was a consensus among the Americans, the South Koreans and the Japanese that if there was to be a breakthrough here, the North Koreans would have to scale back their demands -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story with you, John.

John is in Beijing.

Meanwhile, in Iraq today, there was a sickening slaughter of yet more innocents. A triple bombing in the Baghdad market causing hundreds of casualties. The blast echoed across Baghdad as Iraqi leaders paused to remember an event that may have triggered the sectarian warfare, at least the latest heavy round of it, last year's bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in the Iraqi capital -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today's tragic attacks another reminder of the countless challenges that lie ahead, coming on a day when the Iraqi government was commemorating another tragic moment in Iraq's history.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): Thick, choking smoke; flames raging out of control after three car bombs ripped through the clothing and perfume sections at Baghdad's main wholesale marketplace. Firefighters battled the blaze for hours. Black smoke filling the capital's skyline.

The bombings coming shortly after a roadside bomb detonated in another crowded commercial area of the city. The four bombs killed scores of Iraqis and wounded more than 170 in just 20 bloody minutes. The impact devastating. Further paralyzing a society already living in fear. Imagine a trip to the marketplace or heading out to work and then sheer carnage.

"I have a shop at Kinai Building (ph), the shop owner says, "a few meters away from the explosions. We felt the shock wave."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki also heard the blasts. Exactly at the moment he was calling for unity during a speech on the anniversary of the bombing of the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one year ago, on the Islamic lunar calendar, a grim event that catapulted Iraq's sectarian violence to new levels.

A second explosion heard, this time as Maliki was expressing his optimism about the new Baghdad security plan.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DAMON: On the streets of Baghdad, little optimism about this new plan. Its impact, if any, has yet to be felt. Hours after today's bombings, you could still see the thick plume of black smoke from the scene of the attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa, thank you.

And as Arwa just told us, the sectarian slaughter erupted after a shattering event 16 miles north of Baghdad, last year's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims.

The attack came early in the morning on February 22nd. Insurgents dressed as police commandos enter the mosque, seize the guards and planted a pair of powerful bombs. The explosions collapsed the Golden Dome and left the mosque in ruins.

The revenge killings began almost immediately, within a day scores -- scores of people were dead.

Are high tech weapons from Tehran taking a toll among American troops in Iraq?

The U.S. military has laid out what would seem to be some damning evidence of Iranian involvement. Iran strongly denying the allegations, even as critics here in the U.S. worry what the Bush administration might plan to do with that evidence.

Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

what are you picking up -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.S. military laid out all of this intelligence at a briefing for reporters over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): In picture after picture, the U.S. says these seized weapons are evidence Iran is shipping arms into Iraq, including explosively formed penetrators, EFPs, Iranian made bombs that shred the heaviest U.S. armor.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Iran is very much involved in providing either the technology or the weapons themselves for these explosively formed penetrators. Now, they don't represent a big percentage of the IED attacks, but they're extremely lethal.

STARR: EFPs have already killing more than 170 coalition forces.

There is a chilling new development -- look closely. This fake rock contains one of the armor penetrating Iranian bombs. But it's detonated by a special passive trigger. It simply detects the engine heat from a passing vehicle, or even a person walking by, and explodes.

U.S. troops have no easy way to detect the bomb and no defense.

Also seized in raids, .81 millimeter mortars with serial numbers indicating they are from Iran, missiles and attack rounds. Five Iranians remain in U.S. custody.

There is political skepticism that all of this is just a drumbeat for war with Iran, even from those who readily acknowledge the threat to U.S. troops.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I think there is a problem there. I don't doubt that at all. But there are far better ways to address this, in my view, than by invading Iran.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: Wolf, no one, especially no one here at the Pentagon, is forgetting the last round of slam dunk intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before the war. And there's a lot of skepticism about all of this.

So the military is proceeding very cautiously with this information -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As they should.

Barbara, do you have any new developments on those helicopters that have been going down over Iraq over the past few weeks?

STARR: Indeed, Wolf.

What we can tell everyone tonight is the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. military increasingly now moving to the conclusion that a CH-46 Marine helicopter brought down last week was, in fact, most likely brought down by hostile fire. It is not a conclusion yet, but many sources we are talking to say that inside the Marine Corps, that is now the conclusion they're coming to.

That would mean seven helicopters down in the last three weeks -- Wolf. BLITZER: That's a huge problem.

All right, Barbara, thanks for that.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military, as Barbara noted, laid out its evidence against Iran in convincing but careful fashion.

And the question is what took so long?

And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- Michael, why now? Why is the U.S. military briefing reporters about this -- this Iranian connection to the war in Iraq right now, since you yourself have reported it's been going on for at least a year or two?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you listen to the military, they say it's for two reasons.

One, in the last six to eight months of 2006, there was a massive upsurge in the number of attacks and casualties among coalition troops as a result of these explosive devices coming from Iran's Revolutionary Guard core.

The other reason, they say, is that it's taken them time to develop the kind of evidence that the public expects, that will persuade the public. It then took even longer to declassify this information, protecting sources and methods. So that's the military's story.

But none of this is happening in a vacuum. You see that there's a number of levels of competition between Washington and Tehran. One is in the ether, the environment of the U.N. Security Council, where they're wrangling over Iran's nuclear program.

Here on the ground, it's being fought in blood and armor with bullets and bombs. This is very much a real rivalry.

BLITZER: And some would suggest, Michael, it sort of sets the stage, potentially, for another war, this one between the United States and Iran.

Are there any indications you're seeing that that, potentially, is in the works?

WARE: Actually, Wolf, I see quite the opposite. Obviously, I'm reading a lot of speculation about that, that what the intention behind this briefing and the leaks of other information regarding Iran is really softening the ground in preparation for the next war or the last war of President Bush's administration.

Quite frankly, Wolf, I know that this is not going to happen.

Why?

Because -- not just because the American public no longer has the stomach for it. Nor is there political will for it in Washington. Simply, the American war machine cannot cope with it. It's already straining. The men and machines are at breaking point fighting the wars that are currently underway.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad.

Michael, thanks.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's in New York with us for The Cafferty File...

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Comforting words from Michael Ware.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: I feel better. He says it's not going to happen.

BLITZER: He's a straight shooter, though.

CAFFERTY: Oh, absolutely.

BLITZER: He tells it like he sees it. He's -- he does what a real reporter should do, not just, you know, be a stenographer, but actually give us a sense of what he knows.

CAFFERTY: I'd be more inclined to believe anything he said as opposed to almost anyone else in this country, particularly in the administration. I mean he's -- he's -- he has sources in the country, he does his homework, he travels around over there. He knows what he's talking about.

"The United States has overstepped its national borders in every way." That's a quote from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He came out with some highly critical comments of the U.S. over the weekend at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Putin accused this country of provoking a nuclear arms race with the development of ballistic missile defenses and undermining international institutions. He called American military actions unilateral and illegitimate.

Senator John McCain, who was also at the conference, called Putin's address "the most aggressive speech from a Russian leader since the end of the cold war."

And the White House said it was surprised and disappointed with Putin's comments.

An editorial in "USA Today" puts it this way: "For a moment this weekend, it might have seemed as though the cold war was back." And it goes on to suggest this: "Russia is resurgent, largely because it's flush with oil and gas money, it's paid off its debts, freed from the constraints of international financial organizations, it's now flexing atrophied muscles."

So here's our question -- how much do Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments about America's global role matter?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I saw this weekend in the newspaper supplement "Parade" magazine, he made the top 20 worst dictators of the world, Putin, number 20.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: He came in at number...

CAFFERTY: He's a real choir boy.

BLITZER: ... at number 20.

All right, Jack, thanks for that.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Up ahead, he's the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

But is he now breaking with the president on the war in Iraq and possibly this tentative deal with North Korea?

Coming up live, I'll speak with former Ambassador John Bolton.

He's standing by to join us.

Also, a war of words between Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Australia's prime minister over Iraq. We're going to have details of a growing trans-Pacific controversy.

Plus, Democrats said they'd make Congress work a five day week.

Are they making good on their promise?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back to our top story now.

Could North Korea actually be ready to give up its nuclear weapons program?

What would the United States have to give in return?

Joining us now from Washington, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

He's now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

As you know, there are now reports -- we just heard from our John Vause in Beijing -- of a tentative deal involving the U.S. and other countries and North Korea in which North Korea supposedly would give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a lot of energy assistance and other assistance.

Is this a good deal?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This is a very bad deal and I'm hoping that the president has not been fully briefed on it and he still has time to reject it.

It's bad for two reasons.

First, it contradicts fundamental premises of the president's policy he's been following for the past six years. And, second, it makes the administration look very weak at a time in Iraq and dealing with Iran, it needs to look strong.

So I hope with a few hours yet to go, the president might yet reject it.

BLITZER: But why do you say it contradicts his policy?

He's been insisting he wanted to negotiate some sort of deal with North Korea through these so-called six party talks.

Why does this contradict that approach?

BOLTON: This is, in many respects, simply a repetition of the agreed framework of 1994.

You know, Secretary Powell, in 2001, started off the administration by saying he was prepared to pick up where the Clinton administration left off. President Bush changed course and we followed a different approach.

This is the same thing that the State Department was prepared to do six years ago. If we were going to cut this deal now, it's amazing we didn't cut it back then.

So I'm hoping that this is not really what's going to happen.

BLITZER: Well, when you say that, do you suspect that the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, may have a different stance on this issue than, shall we say, the president?

BOLTON: I'm just going to say I hope the president is not yet fully briefed. He has a few hours to consider this. It -- really, it sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world -- if you hold out long enough and wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded, in this case with massive shipments of heavy fuel oil for doing only partially what needs to be done -- the complete dismantling of their nuclear program.

BLITZER: It sounds very similar to that deal that the Clinton administration made in the early '90s, '93, '94, with North Korea, a deal that the North Koreans eventually betrayed.

BOLTON: Well, exactly. And this deal says almost nothing about the North Korean program to achieve nuclear weapons through highly enriched uranium. This is the same fallacy as the Clinton administration, focusing like looking through a soda straw, at the Yongbyon nuclear facility and not looking at the broader North Korean nuclear effort.

I am very disturbed by this deal.

BLITZER: Well, why do you think it sends a bad message to the Iraqis and to the Iranians, President Ahmadinejad in Iran, for example?

The U.S. and its allies in Europe, Russia, China -- they're trying to work out a deal that would stop the Iranians from going forward with a nuclear weapons program.

BOLTON: Well, in both cases, the Security Council has imposed sanctions, on Iran and on North Korea. I think this deal with North Korea undercuts the sanctions resolution with respect to them. And I think the Iranians have only to follow the same example.

The Russians wore the Europeans down -- of course, that's not hard -- on the initial sanctions resolution. And then they wore us down.

If the would-be proliferators can simply, through persistence, get the United States to compromise on its basic principles, they're going to succeed in proliferation.

That's why this deal is such a bad precedent.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about Iraq, because I've read some of your recent comments, which seem to differ from the Bush administration's stance.

For example, the president said back in November 28th: "I'd like to see stability and a unified Iraq. A young democracy will provide the stability we look for."

In a recent interview with "Le Monde," you said: "The United States has no strategic interests in the fact that there's one Iraq or three Iraqs."

You don't think, necessarily, it would be bad if Iraq as partitioned into three separate states?

BOLTON: I think the United States has to focus on what its interests are. And our principal strategic interest in Iraq is that it not become a base for terrorist activity. Whether that can best be achieved through one Iraq in different kinds of arguments or three Iraqs is really not that much of a matter of interest to us.

It is a matter of interest to the Iraqis.

But we have to look out for the United States and have to frame our policies based on our best understanding of how that strategic objective we need can be obtained.

BLITZER: You also told "Le Monde," you said: "This is the last effort. If the Iraqis cannot straighten the situation, that's their fault."

Are you confident that this Iraqi government of Nouri Al-Maliki has what it takes to get the job done?

BOLTON: Oh, certainly not. I think it's -- it's clear that the United States has met the obligation that it incurred when it overthrew Saddam Hussein. And that's to try and provide some conditions of security for the Iraqis to determine what kind of country or what kind of society they want in the future.

We have met that obligation. That obligation does not need to be extended. And this is really the last chance for them.

After that, we need to pursue very narrowly what our strategic interest is, and that's making sure that terrorism doesn't find root in that country.

BLITZER: He's always been blunt and you've just seen him be blunt here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

BOLTON: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: And coming up, tough talk from Russia's president, blasting U.S. policy.

Are his frosty comments signs of a new cold war?

I'll talk about it with our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary, William Cohen.

Plus, Australia's prime minister under fire at home and here in the U.S. We'll have details of what he's saying now about presidential candidate Barack Obama and al Qaeda. Carol Costello working this story.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, major new developments in nuclear talks with North Korea. The U.S. diplomat in charge announcing a tentative deal. It would have North Korea freeze plutonium production in exchange for energy aid. The agreement still needs official approval in Washington and Pyongyang.

Also, a deadly new wave of Baghdad bombings, killing at least 90 people and coming on the anniversary of an insurgent attack on a sacred Shiite mosque, an incident that began a deadly new era of sectarian violence in Iraq.

And political columnist Robert Novak taking the stand in the "Scooter" Libby trial and naming names. He testified he learned the identity of the undercover CIA officer at the heart of the case from White House adviser Karl Rove and then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

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

Australia's prime minister throwing a political punch at Barack Obama, but taking a bruising himself back home. The war in Iraq at the heart of this escalating war of words.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us now live.

She's here in New York with the latest details -- what a battle.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's gotten pretty darned nasty, Wolf.

It is a trans-Pacific war of words. Australia's prime minister calling Barack Obama "al Qaeda's dream candidate."

It not only prompted Senator Obama to fire back, but the Australian parliament to take action against its own prime minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): A nasty debate in the Australian parliament over American politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime Minister, how can you credibly say to the parliament today that your statement yesterday only referred to Senator Obama when, in fact, Prime Minister, you explicitly attacked the Democratic Party as a whole?

COSTELLO: Opposition leader Kevin Rudd moved to censure the Australian prime minister for his weekend criticism of Barack Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by March, 2008.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March, 2008, and pray as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

COSTELLO: That comment set off a trans-pacific war of words, with Barack Obama firing back. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: If he's ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

COSTELLO: It wasn't long before Rudd weighed in, saying Howard's close friendship with George Bush colored his remarks and risks hurting Australia's relationship with the United States, since Democrats control the American Congress.

Howard, even in the face of being censured, was not backing down.

HOWARD: They seem to be running this line that I've interfered in American domestic politics. That's absurd. What I've done is to criticize Senator Obama's views on a particular issue and I don't retreat in any way from that criticism.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COSTELLO: He said he doesn't retreat in any way from that criticism. The censure vote itself eventually failed, but you can bet the war of words will continue. You heard what Representative John Murtha just said a little while ago in THE SITUATION ROOM: "Howard is trying to interfere in U.S. politics. It is just not proper" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people are saying that right now, improper interference in domestic American politics.

All right, Carol, thank you.

Meanwhile, there's a cold war chill settling in over U.S.-Russian relations. Sharp rhetoric from both sides in recent days, including an Arctic blast from the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

My next guest experienced it on several fronts, including that.

Joining us from Washington, our world affairs analyst, the former defense secretary, William Cohen.

He's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group.

Mr. Secretary, let me play a little clip of what Putin said in Munich over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way -- in economics, in politics, in humanitarian, all imposed by one state.

Who would like that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, now you were there in Munich. You were watching and listening. It was pretty stark. What do you make of this blast from Moscow?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, as you've indicated, it was a Siberian chill that went through what I would call greenhouse of goodwill. The people who were in attendance at that conference all were welcoming President Putin with open arms, wanting to see the establishment of a good partnership with Russia. And instead, I think they got the very real feeling that whatever partnership it's going to be, it's going to be limited in nature, at least for the foreseeable future.

He may have been speaking well over the heads of those in attendance and well over the heads of those of us in the United States. He was sending a message, no doubt, to the Russian people, but also to the general population of Europe and beyond, and not really dealing with the leaders who were there, because they were there to welcome him and he decided to take off the velvet glove, if he has one, and use the fist of steel.

BLITZER: Well, you know, he's not exactly pure on these matters. "Parade" magazine, the weekend supplement in a lot of major newspapers, they listed their 20 worst dictators this past weekend. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan was first; Kim Jong-il of North Korea second; number five was King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. But number 20, making the top 20, Vladimir Putin of Russia himself.

He's got his own problems right now. And some are suggesting his rhetoric against the United States designed to try to ease some of his political problems back home.

COHEN: Well, if that were the design, it may have helped him back home, but what it did, at least in my experience, was to solidify Western European and those in attendance, those leaders, with the United States more than any other factor. This was something that was really a gift to the United States and our European friends because he could have tried to drive a wedge between us, and that was not successful.

Just the opposite happened. So it's one of those cases where I don't think he misjudged his audience. I think he went there with a deliberate attempt to send a strong, hard message to the Russian people, but also to the people of Western Europe to try and paint the United States as being a unilateral or unipolar power that simply took whatever action it wanted to without regard to their consideration. So it was a message I think over the heads of the Western leadership and to the Russian people directly.

BLITZER: And you heard John Howard, Carol Costello's report, really blasting Barack Obama and his proposals for how to deal with the situation in Iraq.

Do you remember a time when a leader of a friendly Western democracy has spoken out, has, according to critics, interfered in domestic American politics so personally, saying that al Qaeda should be hopeful that Barack Obama is elected president? COHEN: I can't recall when a leader has specifically identified one candidate in our political system, but once again, what we have here is the law of unintended consequences. I think as a result of the statement by -- by the Australian leader, that we've seen Senator Barack Obama get a bounce on that comment of a backlash, so to speak, which has only served to enhance his posture with the United States and with the American people.

So, first of all, I don't think anything said by the Australian leader is going to harm our relationship with Australia. Mr. Howard has been a great friend of the United States, but the Australian people over the years, over all of the years that we have been together, they've been with us in the wars.

So, I don't think that that in itself will jeopardize the relationship. I think that obviously it will invoke criticism back home and it will invoke criticism here, but I don't think it will impact our relationship.

BLITZER: William Cohen, the former defense secretary.

Thanks very much for coming in.

COHEN: A pleasure to be with you.

BLITZER: And coming up, Democrats under pressure to hold lawmakers to a full five-day workweek. Are they living up to one of their key campaign promises?

Plus, the Dixie Chicks making a dramatic comeback after being boycotted over their opposition to President Bush.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It was one of the Democrats key campaign promises, to make Congress work an actual five-day week. Has the new majority been able to deliver?

Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us now. She's keeping them honest on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the new Democratic majority is finding out early it's not easy to campaign, to fulfill every single campaign promise, especially when some of their own rank and file say time back home with constituents is just as important as time here at the Capitol.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): 1:00 p.m., the Senate is gaveled in to session by the Democratic majority.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: There will be no roll call votes today. BASH: Working, but no votes scheduled, meaning senators don't really have to be here. Barack Obama, for example, is free to campaign for president.

Over in the House, Democrats will hold a series of early-evening votes. On what? One praising Homeland Security Department employees; two, naming post offices; and a bill naming a Missouri courthouse after talk show host Rush Limbaugh's grandfather, who was a well-known lawyer.

REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND (R), GEORGIA: Because all 435 members in this body have to fly back up here on Mondays to vote on naming a post office.

BASH: Democrats are under intense pressure to force a five-day workweek because they campaigned against Republicans with this...

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: What we see is a drive- by Congress -- Tuesday night to Thursday morning.

BASH: But here's the reality. Democrats have controlled the House and Senate seven weeks now. Not one has been a full five-day workweek in session with votes.

Democrats insist they are working harder -- 45 votes so far in the Senate, versus just 13 at this time last year under the Republican majority. And Democrats say committees are busy even when there's no action on the House or Senate floor, pointing to 52 hearings so far scrutinizing the president's Iraq policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are some good signs, signs of a seriousness of purpose to change the way of doing business. But so far, the signs of seriousness of purpose have not been met by action on the ground to turn this in to a model Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, this week the House floor is expected to be in high gear all five days. Tomorrow, there is going to be three days of debate that starts in the House on a non-binding resolution on Iraq opposing the president's plan to send more troops there, and that is planned, expected, for a vote, Wolf, on Friday.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you.

Dana Bash on the Hill.

Up ahead, government laptop computers full of classified information being lost now at an alarming rate. We'll have new details of a disturbing story.

Plus, the Dixie Chicks speaking out about their Grammy sweep. So how political did they get in their victory?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In the culture war, the country music trio the Dixie Chicks redeemed in the eyes of the music industry at the Grammy Awards last night. That comes after they were shunned by many country music fans for their comments opposing President Bush.

Our entertainment correspondent, Brooke Anderson, is in Hollywood with the story -- Brooke.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was the anti-Bush insult heard around the world, sending the Dixie Chicks into a P.R. tailspin. Well, the famed trio didn't just bounce back, they were officially flying high as belles of the Grammy ball.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Dixie Chicks.

ANDERSON (voice over): It was the apology of a lifetime -- five Grammy awards, including the rear trifecta of record, album and song of the year.

NATALIE MAINES, DIXIE CHICKS: I'm ready to make noise.

ANDERSON: It was nearly four years after singer Natalie Maines told London concert-goers she was embarrassed to be from the same state as George Bush, a remark that prompted her own apology for being disrespectful towards the president. Many thought it would cost the group their career as conservative country radio boycotted their music. But the Dixie Chicks walked away the night's big winners and, ironically, even claimed the country album of the year award.

MAINES: Well, to quote the great "Simpsons," ha ha.

ANDERSON (on camera): Is it vindication in a way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think it's vindication necessarily. We don't think in those terms. You know, I think it's a little odd for us to be up there accepting the country award because of, you know, the relationship that's happened. And, you know, radio not embracing us anymore.

ANDERSON (voice over): But with last night's victory, taking the long way is proving to be as much of a personal stance as it is political.

MAINES: Everyone said we shouldn't have written the songs that we wrote. Well, that's what songwriting is. I just don't know any other way. If I can't -- I just believe we only live once, and if I can't -- I'm not going to let celebrity dictate who I am and how I live my one chance at life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Wolf, I also asked the Chicks what's next? Will there be more political statements, more message-based lyrics? And they told me they don't know. They're not sure yet how they can top this.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Brooke. Thank you.

Brooke Anderson's good report.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you very much.

Charges tonight that sophisticated Iranian weapons are killing our troops in Iraq. The Pentagon says that Iran's government is supplying Shia extremist groups with those arms. Iran says the United States is lying.

We'll have the report.

Almost 20,000 people in this country die from drug overdoses. That's nearly double from just five years previous. Researchers say abusive sedatives and prescription painkillers the chief cause.

We will have that special report, our ongoing series of reports entitled "The War Within."

All of that and more straight ahead here tonight.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a question, Lou, I asked Michael Ware earlier. What do you make of the timing of these revelations, the evidence put forward in Baghdad yesterday that Iranian weapons, sophisticated munitions were killing American troops?

DOBBS: Well, the fact is, Wolf, that we've heard these charges for the better part of a year now. What is peculiar is that this -- if this has been going on over this extent of time, why this government has not responded?

There are so many questions here in terms of quality and the nature of the intelligence that it is -- it's troubling. And we need to get to the bottom of it very, very quickly.

BLITZER: All right, Lou. We'll be watching in a few minutes. Thank you.

DOBBS: See you.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs coming up right at the top of the hour.

And this note. Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, lifting the veil on the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial. For the first time, we're hearing audio of a leak involving that CIA officer. It's a tape filled with revealing details and expletives. We're going to play it for you.

And missing computers and weapons. The FBI unable to account, get this, for hundreds of them. We're going to have details of an alarming new report.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is joining us with a closer look at some other stories making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: In San Francisco this week, researchers from the chip manufacturer Intel are showcasing a tiny microprocessor capable of completing one trillion calculations per second. So what can it do and how soon will you be able to get your hands on this one?

Jacki Schechner has the latest -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Not soon enough for some people, Wolf.

This is what the supercomputer looked like in 1996. It could calculate one trillion mathematical calculations per second, something called a teraflop. But it also took up 2,000 square feet of space, it used 10,000 processors, and it used 500 kilowatts of power. A huge room of stuff.

Well, now Intel says it's created this tiny little chip. It's the size of a fingernail called the teraflop chip. And it can do the same amount of calculations, a trillion per second, and only use 62 watts of power. That's the same amount of power that you get on your desktop PC at home, your personal computer.

Now, again, this isn't going to be available in any form for about five to 10 years, but what it does is open the door for research in to some high definition entertainment online. For example, someone at Intel told me today that imagine if you had a video game of some sort where there was actually no hand-held device but you were on- screen in the game and your movements were being mimicked. That kind of content requires a teraflop.

So that's what this chip eventually will be able to do on your home computer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's mind-boggling what we're in store for.

Thanks for that, Jacki. Whoa.

Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know, how much do Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments about America's global role actually matter? Jack, standing by with "The Cafferty File."

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Baghdad, a vender pushes a trolley of produce away from the scene of a car bomb.

In China, a woman participates in a pillow fight in a bar.

Check this one out. The pop singer Mariah Carey signs a 16-foot tall replica of her legs. It will be auctioned off for a charity.

And in New York, a Yorkshire Terrier gets ready for the Westminster Dog Show.

Some of this hour's top shots, pictures often worth 1,000 words.

You like those pictures, Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What's that one of the little cat there? Do we know? The one at the top row that was next to the first one you showed?

BLITZER: I didn't see it. I didn't...

CAFFERTY: A great shot of a cat. We'll have to find out. It was cute.

BLITZER: We'll take a look. We'll get it ready.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, how much does Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments, critical ones, about America's global role really matter?

Richard in Louisiana, "The Russian bear is out of hibernation and on the prowl. They hold the fate of Western Europe's in their paws. They know it, Europe knows it and we know it."

Dicky in Corpus Christi, Texas, "Putin's remarks don't matter that much. He's attempting to bolster his own sagging image, and it's easy to criticize Uncle Sam in order to score cheap political points in Russia."

Noah, Baltimore, "Unfortunately, these are the spoils of hubris. Real powers such as Russia and China can capitalize on our self- created vulnerability. This myopic and greedy U.S. administration is the biggest threat to our national security. Terrorism is smoke. Bush and Cheney are fire."

Terry, "Putin's comments could mean a great deal if other nations would share the same perspective of America's behavior. Interpret the Russian president's comments as the beginning of resistance to America's 'We can do whatever we want' attitude. This may be the start of international pushback."

Matt in Louisiana, "Putin's comments matter only because they publicly confirm what I've suspected or have known for years. He obvious doesn't care about our goals for peace and stability in Iraq, has no regard for interests in the Middle East, and is quite clearly not a U.S. ally."

Jean in Naples, Florida, "Each day we become a little poorer and weaker while Russia gets wealthier and stronger. Thanks, Bush, Cheney. You're doing a heck of a job."

And Mark in Fort Wayne, Indiana, "No problem, Jack. We just need to send President Bush to Russia to look in to Putin's eyes and all will be well."

You know, our president said some silly things in the six years he's been in office, but that was one of the dumbest things that ever came out of his mouth.

BLITZER: I want to ask you another question, but let's take a look at that picture, first of all.

CAFFERTY: Oh, did you find out? Good.

BLITZER: I think we've got that picture. There it is.

CAFFERTY: Yes, on the upper right. Look at that.

BLITZER: That's a cat. Yes. It looks like a sweet little kitty cat.

CAFFERTY: It looks like a very angry little kitty cat about to rip your face off.

BLITZER: What about John Howard, the Australian prime minister, saying that Barack Obama's strategy is a win for al Qaeda?

CAFFERTY: You know, I don't think we should allow the guys in Australia to become involved in the American presidential debate almost two years before we have our election.

BLITZER: I think we should stay out of their debate and they should stay out of our debate.

CAFFERTY: My brain can't handle it. Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: That's a good idea.

All right. Let's go to -- let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's here in New York.

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