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THE SITUATION ROOM
Rice Says Russia Must Leave Immediately; Russia's Missile Shield Threat; Tornado Warnings in New York City; Pressure on Musharraf to Step Down
Aired August 15, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, GUEST HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Russian tanks still not ready to leave Georgia despite U.S. pressure for a pullout. And a new threat from Moscow over a planned U.S. missile shield in Russia's backyard
Could push come to shove?
I'll ask the former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark.
Iraqi militants being trained inside Iran as assassination squads. The U.S. military is very worried about their mission.
And is retail giant Wal-Mart warning against a Democratic victory?
Some employees complained they've been told how to vote.
Is there a law against that?
We'll find out.
Wolf Blitzer is off.
I'm Tom Foreman.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Russian troops and tanks are in no rush to leave Georgia, despite that cease-fire deal. Breaking news this hour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on the scene pushing for a Russian pullout, as America uses its diplomatic muscle to counter what President Bush called Russian bullying. And while tens of thousands of displaced people are on the move in Georgia, it's not clear what the latest Russian troop movements mean.
CNN's Zain Verjee is standing by at the State Department.
We'll get to her in a moment.
But we begin on the ground in Georgia with CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.
What are you learning -- Frederik? FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom if the Russians are planning to pull out of the areas here in Georgia, they certainly aren't giving indications that they're going to be doing that very fast. They are still firmly in control of that strategically so important town of Gori. What we're hearing -- the latest from Georgian officials is that they aren't in the center of town, but they certainly are on the outskirts of Gori and, also, of course, controlling the roads into that town and also out of that town, as they have been over the past couple of days.
And I've been in touch a lot with Georgian officials over the past couple of days -- really, over the past three days. And every day they've been telling me they've been negotiating with the Russians about a pullout. The Russians are saying at some point they want to pull out. But certainly they are in absolutely no rush to do that, even after today, as Secretary of State Rice has told them they should be pulling out immediately.
Now there is some more movement on the humanitarian front here in Georgia. Condoleezza Rice today, of course, visited a hospital in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, to see some of the wounded there. The U.S. dramatically stepping up its aid here to this country. Several aid flights have come in with a lot of humanitarian goods.
Nevertheless, what I'm hearing from aid organizations, relief organizations on the ground, they say there are still many areas they cannot get any sort of aid to. And what's even more important, there's a lot of areas where their workers can't get to, to get people out who are either injured or in any other way in danger.
The UNHCR -- or, rather, the UNICEF -- has been telling me that they are trying to start an aid convoy in Gori, but that has not materialized yet -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Thanks very much.
We'll look in with you later on, too.
Get out and stay out -- that's the message to Russian invasion forces from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today. She went to the war zone to convince Georgia's president to sign a cease-fire deal.
CNN's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joins us.
Georgia's president is already warning this is not a done deal.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And that's very worrisome at this stage, particularly so quickly after he signed the deal.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is saying that Russia needs to stick to its word. She did, though, achieve what she needed to today.
VERJEE (voice-over): A cease-fire after more than five difficult hours with Georgia's president. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Russia must act.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: All Russian troops and any irregular and paramilitary forces that entered with them must leave immediately.
VERJEE: President Mikhail Saakashvili says he signed to stop the Russian assault, but would never surrender an inch of Georgia.
PRESIDENT MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, GEORGIA: This is getting all of these (INAUDIBLE) off the streets of my towns and of my roads and of my seaports.
VERJEE: Under the cease-fire, all Russian forces deployed after August 6th must get out of Georgia. The only Russian presence to remain, about 1,500 peacekeepers in South Ossetia that were already on the ground before the fighting started. They will be allowed to patrol about three miles outside the breakaway province -- and only until international monitors take over.
RICE: We will turn immediately to reconstruction. And people who are displaced from their homes must be allowed to return and to live in security.
VERJEE: An emotional Saakashvili blasted the West as Rice stood silently. He accused the U.S. and Europe of ignoring his repeated warnings the crisis was about to explode.
SAAKASHVILI: Who invited this arrogance here?
Who invited these innocent deaths here?
Who is this -- not only those people who perpetrated are responsible, but also those people who failed to stop it.
VERJEE: He says NATO gave Russia green light to invade by not fast tracking Georgia's bid to join the alliance.
Before she left Tbilisi, Secretary Rice visited Georgian victims of the fighting. She then headed to Crawford, Texas to brief the president.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VERJEE: And U.S. officials, Tom, say that they expect Russia to sign that cease-fire agreement when the Russian president gets back to Moscow -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Many thanks, Zain.
Georgia's president, Mikhail Saakashvili, is just a little bit worth looking at here. He's 40 years old. He studied law in the United States and returned to Georgia in 1995, when he was elected to the parliament there.
In 2000, Mr. Saakashvili was appointed minister of justice, but he resigned within a year to protest government corruption. He won fame in November of 2003 holding the red flower of the Rose Revolution. He stormed the parliament building, charging election fraud. Two months later, Mikhail Saakashvili was elected president, with 85 percent of the vote.
He lives with his family in a three room private apartment in Tbilisi. And I will speak to him live in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM about the situation there.
Meanwhile, Moscow is up in arms over a new agreement between the U.S. and Poland that would base missile interceptors in Russia's backyard.
CNN's Brian Todd is looking into that -- Brian, this deal has led to a very sharp warning from Russia, hasn't it?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has, Tom.
The Russians believe this was clearly done to hit back at them for their push into Georgia. The U.S. denies that. But this deal has interesting timing and strikes a nerve with Russian national identity.
TODD (voice-over): U.S. officials are clear -- America's new deal for a missile defense shield in Poland is not payback, not timed to punish Russia for its incursion into Georgia.
RICE: We were going to sign that agreement as soon as Poland and the United States had come to terms and we've now come to terms.
TODD: But the Russians believe the timing's not coincidental, that they're being targeted. And they've responded with a strong threat. A top Russian general says by agreeing to put the missile shield on its soil, Poland could be swept up in any potential conflict between Russia and the U.S. "Such targets are the priority to be destroyed, possibly," he said, "by nuclear weapons."
MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think he's talking about a war plan, not an actual military operation. And the way Poland would be viewed, as essentially part of the U.S. nuclear complex from this point onward.
TODD: The Russians, observers say, still want to project their influence over territory they used to control, like Poland. But U.S. officials and experts say a defense shield in Poland wouldn't protect America against Russian missiles. First, they say, the Poland base would only have 10 interceptors and not enough kill vehicles to take out hundreds of Russian missiles that would be fired in event of war. Second, interceptors in Poland will be there to counter any ballistic missiles fired from Iran. John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org explains using a telestrator.
JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The Iranian missiles are going to be going straight overhead as they're coming down here to try to hit North America. The Russians do have a base over here that's going to go right by the edge of it. It might be able to get a few of their missiles. But almost all of Russia's missiles -- they're going to be coming out of Siberia, coming out of all of these other locations that this interceptor facility isn't going to be able touch.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Still, Russian officials hold the line on all of this. They say the U.S. hasn't presented evidence to show that these interceptors wouldn't target Russian missiles and they say Iran doesn't have the delivery systems yet to launch their missiles over Europe and toward the U.S. -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Brian, you used the word yet there. That's important, because Iran certainly could get this capability eventually, couldn't it?
TODD: Absolutely, they could. Weapons experts have been telling us for a long time that Iran is developing long range ballistic missiles. In a few years, they could have those missiles with that range that could target the U.S.
FOREMAN: All right. Brian Todd, thanks so much for your work.
Jack Cafferty in New York with The Cafferty File standing by -- Jack, what are you thinking?
CAFFERTY: When it comes to the money race, it appears that Barack Obama is ahead on the battlefield. Members of the U.S. military are donating more money to Obama than to the military man, John McCain -- a lot more money.
A nonpartisan organization called the Center for Responsive Politics reports U.S. troops serving abroad have given almost six times as much money to the Democrat, Obama, as they have to the Republican, McCain. Those are pretty shocking results when you consider that historically, military donations favor Republicans. Also, McCain's a decorated war hero. He spent five years as a POW in Vietnam, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He was a naval aviator for 22 years. His military experience is a big part of his candidacy for the White House.
Obama, on the other hand, never served a single day in the military.
It just might mean that Obama's message of being against the war in Iraq is resonating with the people who have been called on to fight it. Obama says he'd pull out all combat troops in Iraq within 16 months. McCain has been a staunch supporter of the war and insists the U.S. will only withdraw its troops when the conditions on the ground are right. At one point, we all remember McCain suggested the U.S. could be in Iraq for a hundred years.
So here's the question -- why are members of the military donating more money to Barack Obama, despite John McCain's military background?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Thanks, Jack.
A great question.
We'll see what comes of it.
He knows something about a shooting war in Europe, Russian tanks in Georgia and threats over a U.S. missile shield in Poland.
What would it take to make this new cold war get very hot?
I'll ask former NATO supreme commander, General Wesley Clark.
Also, Iraqi militants being trained as assassins at secret bases inside Iran -- why the U.S. military is deeply worried about their mission.
And is Wal-Mart telling employees how to vote?
Why the world's biggest retailer may feel it has a very big stake in this presidential election.
Stay with us.
FOREMAN: The Soviet Union is long gone. But now there's a cold war chill between the U.S. and Russia. With Russian tanks in Georgia and new threat over a U.S. missile shield in Poland, things could suddenly get very hot -- maybe.
Joining me now, retired General Wesley Clark, former supreme allied commander of NATO. Thanks so much for being here.
I'm looking forward to our talk.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Nice to be here.
FOREMAN: Let me start off by asking you a basic question. For all of the concerns about Georgia, for all of the saber rattling right now, you've been there and you've done that.
How worried should we be about the relations between the U.S. and Russia right now?
CLARK: Oh, I think we should be very concerned. And it's not just the U.S. and Russia. This is really about NATO. It's about the U.S. leadership role in Europe and how European countries respond to the United States.
So we need to be focusing on not just a U.S./Russia bilateral relationship, but we need to be focusing on transatlantic unity and using that transatlantic unity to shape the behavior of Russia.
That's one of the areas in which I think the administration has, frankly, not been as effective in the last seven years as it could have been. Because there's been a lot of emphasis on U.S. unilateral relations with Russia and elsewhere, and not enough emphasis on transatlantic unity.
FOREMAN: Even if we consider that, though, what do we make of moves like this talk about the missile shield in Poland?
Certainly, the Russians say that is a direct slap at them over this problem in Georgia.
Is it, to your read?
And is it a smart move?
CLARK: Well, no it's not a direct slap at them. And it's something that's been on the books for a long, long time. We've talked about this for a decade. And they've been consulted on it. They've met with it. They know what the capabilities of this system are.
This is just an example of Russian rhetoric aimed at intimidating Europe. It doesn't intimidate the United States. But the United States reaction then can either bring Europe together with the United States or we can chill the relations with Europe.
So we want to be careful. This is not something that the Russians have a right to respond on and their response is unjustified. But, on the other hand, we want to make sure our European allies all see it our way.
FOREMAN: How do you read Putin's intentions right now, when you look at Georgia and his response to the rest of the Western world over issues like Iraq and Iran and oil supplies and everything?
CLARK: Putin believes in reestablishing Russia's power. He wants Russia to be an important factor in every issue in the world. He would like to regain the empire that Russia lost with the breakup of the Soviet Union. He'd love to see the reintegration of Ukraine.
Belarus wants to be reintegrated. The Russians have put that on hold because it's such a basket case.
But with the Ukraine and Belarus together, then the absorption of some of these other countries, he believes, that are on the periphery, could happen and Russia would once again be a much greater -- it would be a superpower, unlike what it is today, except through the nuclear capacity, of course.
And so, Georgia, in Putin's mind, is probably the first step. They've long prepared Ossetia South Ossetia and Abkhazia, along with other areas on the periphery of Russia, as -- as grips into the near -- what they call the near abroad.
This is a strategic crisis. It's been building for a long time. It just broke out into the open now, but we've seen its roots back more than a decade.
FOREMAN: President Saakashvili in Georgia is blaming the West for making this breakout right now, because, he said, the West entertained the idea of bringing Georgia into NATO, in which case NATO would have been bound to defend them against the Russians, but didn't bring them in. And that sort of poked Russia in the chest and made this happen.
Do you buy his complaint that the West is to blame?
CLARK: Not exactly. I think that -- first of all, I've been -- I've been very pleased to see NATO enlarge as it has over the last few years. But every -- every step has to be carefully looked at. It has to have the backing of all NATO members. And there are some membership criteria that have to be met.
One of those membership criteria is all that the territorial issues have to be resolved. They weren't involved in the case of Georgia. The United States proposed Georgia for membership. The European allies asked some tough questions. It was decided that to give it a little bit more time.
So I don't think that the United States or NATO is responsible for this. But I do think that we could have seen this crisis coming. I think we should have worked for years to diffuse this and protect Georgia's claims on South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Russian encroachment.
FOREMAN: How would you have done that?
CLARK: I would have insisted on a neutral peacekeeping force, not Russian peacekeepers in the area, and a real process of addressing the alleged grievances between Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia.
FOREMAN: The Georgians are very concerned about the idea that the Russians are still there, despite this agreement.
If the Russians will not leave and will not leave quickly, what should be done?
CLARK: What has to be done, regardless, is we've got to get the neutral observers in there. France first proposed this in the cease- fire agreement. I think it's absolutely essential. Barack Obama has called for it. We've got to have people on the ground, with all due respect to CNN and BBC, we've got to have real observers in there who can tell us where the Russian forces are and what they're doing and help us serve as the link to say -- to go right back to Moscow and say Mr. President, or prime minister, you said the forces were pulling out, but they've just moved to this village and that village. Get it stopped. And you've got to have that kind of instant communication from the bottom to the top. That can't be done only through the news media. We've got to have observers in there. And then we've got to use our leverage -- economic leverage, political leverage, legal leverage. Russia's done one heck of a lot of financial damage to Georgia. I think they should be held accountable. Take them to court.
I mean this is a world that has law. And we don't know what the economic consequences of this are, but they're profound. And I think Russia needs to leave the Georgian military equipment and bases, some of which were paid by the United States, leave them alone. They're no threat to Russia. Pull out and pull out now.
FOREMAN: Are we anywhere near talking about a military option in that country or is that something way off in the future?
CLARK: I don't think we're talking about a military option there. I'm glad to see a humanitarian airlift in there. I think that's great. But putting...
FOREMAN: But we have a lot of talking to do between now and that sort of position?
CLARK: Well, putting U.S. troops in there just doesn't make sense. It's not what -- it's not necessary and we just shouldn't be talking about this.
What we really have to talk about is transatlantic resolve. Russia has to behave as a responsible member of the international community. It's not behaving and we need to call it on this bad behavior. And to call it, it takes the united resolve of all the nations of the West, not just the United States.
FOREMAN: We're going to have to see how it turns out.
General Wesley Clark, thanks for joining us, as always.
CLARK: Thank you, Tom.
FOREMAN: Iraqi hit teams being trained inside Iran -- the U.S. military deeply concerned that they will return to Iraq with a list of assassination targets.
Pressure is mounting on a key U.S. ally to step down before he's forced out.
Will Pakistan President Musharraf heed the warnings?
And it was not a fairy tale ending at Disneyland -- why protesters dressed as Cinderella, Snow White and Tinker Bell are handcuffed, frisked and loaded into police vans. You'll want to know why.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. FOREMAN: We have breaking news coming out of New York City and Chad Myers is standing by to explain -- Chad, what's up?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Tom, unbelievably, a tornado warning for Manhattan County and also up toward Bronx County. Circulation in the cell -- a tornado cell in New Jersey near Bergenfield. And it's going to be crossing the river and getting into the Yonkers and up into the northern sections of New York City. I'm not talking about lower Manhattan. We're not talking about Central Park.
But to the north of there, up in the Yonkers and the Bronx, this tornado warning is still in effect for another 20 minutes. Rotation in the clouds, but nothing so far on the ground. If anything does drop out, we'll certainly get back to you -- Tom.
FOREMAN: Is that area up there, Chad, mainly sort of more residential and light industry, that sort of thing, not the big buildings like downtown?
MYERS: Yes, you know, Tenafly, Englewood. And so these are residential -- these homes, not big tall skyscrapers. But, you know, I mean very expensive homes and a little bit of damage goes a long way when you have so many people packed together, you know?
FOREMAN: Unbelievable. You so seldom see things like this near big cities.
FOREMAN: Of course, we had the big hit in Atlanta not long ago.
FOREMAN: But right now, we're just looking at the northern edge of New York.
And generally a pattern like that would tend to move north and east, I guess?
MYERS: Yes. A little bit -- a little bit to the east, I'd say, northeast. That shot was right up the Hudson there, toward the G.W. Bridge. And that's the direction that this storm would be coming from.
We can't tell where this is panning around to, but the gray clouds that were up on that other shot right where it's coming from, right up Englewood, right up through the Palisades, across the cliffs up there. You can just begin to see the G.W. Bridge there in the distance on the top of the screen. That's the direction that this storm is heading -- Tom.
FOREMAN: And at the very least, I'm guessing this can turn a little bit wild with people trying to commute home there.
Any special warnings you should give to people who might be trying to head into this way, going to commute home? MYERS: You know, sure. The whole thing is, if you see a tornado get out of your car and get in a ditch -- well, that's all great if you're in Kansas. But it's very difficult to do if you're in traffic.
So far -- I mean especially at this time of hour -- at this hour, 5:25, with hail coming down on the bridge and things like this, you just need to slow down, take your time and don't overdrive your car, because if you get into some hail, driving on that hail can be like driving on ball bearings, whether there's a tornado out there or not.
This is still very dangerous weather all up and down the Tristate.
FOREMAN: Well, and even a little upset in the commuter hour there in New York can be such a problem there.
Thanks so much, Chad Myers.
We'll check in a little bit later for some more.
MYERS: You're welcome, Tom.
FOREMAN: Our Carol Costello is monitoring other stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?
COSTELLO: Well, Tom, Colombian rescue teams scramble to help more than a dozen people after a bomb in a trash can detonates, killing at least seven people. The explosion ripped through a town northeast of Bogota last night, where townspeople were having a music festival. Authorities are blaming the attack on the violent FARC rebel group.
Notice that you're spending less money at the pump?
It could be. Gas prices have fallen for the 29th straight day. A AAA survey shows the nationwide average of regular unleaded is now $3.77 a gallon. Prices continue to slide since hitting a record high of $4.11 a gallon in July and are in step with the decline in oil futures.
Disneyland far from the happiest place on earth for more than 30 protesters. The costumed demonstrators were arrested yesterday after sitting at the theme park gates. More than 2,000 maids, bellhops and cooks of Disney-owned hotels are disputing what they consider unaffordable health care.
And, you know, he wore his finest tuxedo for the occasion. There he is. That's a fine looking tux, isn't it? Nils Olav, famed penguin of the Edinburgh Zoo was knighted by the Norwegian king's guard today. Sir Nils already has the dubious distinction of colonel in chief. He is the third bird of the same name. The original died back in the '80s. Congrats -- back to you, Tom.
FOREMAN: That's quite an accomplishment for a penguin there.
FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Carol.
COSTELLO: He looks good.
FOREMAN: I guess he does. He is all dressed up.
Let's go back to Chad Myers and ask him a little bit more about what's happening up in New York there.
Any new developments for that -- Chad, with that storm?
I know these can move quickly.
MYERS: Yes, they can go quickly. And what they also can also do is they also have what we call back build. Back build means even though the storm, the circulation is up by Yonkers now, another storm can develop behind the first one and kind of work its way to the southwest. And that's this tail that you're seeing here. This is really toward -- I mean this is -- if you're looking south down the Hudson now and you're looking toward Hoboken, and this is the next storm that's going up.
You don't see any rain falling out. This is now the updraft of a developing storm that very well could get over Manhattan in the next few hours, maybe even in the next 15 or 20 minutes, depending where you are in Manhattan -- East Side, West Side and so on.
But the rotation itself would have to rotate that camera around 90 degrees to the right and go up toward the Palisades, up toward Tenafly, now east of Bergenfield, east of Wycoff and on up there.
There's the shot. If we could tilt it up -- and we can't -- then you would see the big cloud there, the big storm cloud just to the north of that bridge, of the G.W. Bridge, and then on up toward the Bronx and well up north now, even north of Harlem. And that was probably a lightning strike that that camera took or at least the power hit that it was trying to do.
We're getting a little bit of tilt there. Here's where you go. This is where we're talking about. That storm is -- you can see the demarcation of no rain uptown. And all of a sudden, you get to that bridge, and that's exactly where that storm now fires. This is where the southern edge of the storm is -- the rotation a little bit farther to the north.
I don't want be to you an I-Reporter with this storm, even though maybe you're close to it. The rotation is wrapped in a blanket of rain. There would be no way to see the tornado anyway. Stay inside. Stay away from the windows. Get inside to the lowest level of your house, if you can. Find your neighbor downstairs if you live in an apartment. If you live on the third floor, that's not the floor to be in. We want you to be a little bit farther to the south, a little farther -- lower in the building than that.
We have a brand new update for you here now. Now we're talking about Southern Westchester County in Southeastern New York. This is until 6:00. A brand new tornado warning just handed to me here. This is near Bronxville and about six miles south of New Rochelle and up toward Scarsdale by 5:40. So that's another 10 minutes. So it's the same storm. They've just now extended that warning across from New Jersey, where it was, across the river and now up into New York itself, here north of Yonkers.
This purple box right there, that's the new tornado warning. And I would suspect that it's going to be right in the middle of that box. We don't have to worry about the cone of these boxes. These boxes are right where the speed -- there you see it right over Yonkers, the circulation itself moving to the east-northeast at about 20 miles per hour -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An ominous new threat for U.S. troops and Iraqi officials alike. Iraqi hit teams trained by experts inside Iran. Let's go straight to CNN pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for that. Barbara, tell us what this is all about.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, the latest information is that Iraqi Shia fighters are now being trained inside Iran as assassination squads. The U.S. military has handed over the evidence to the Iraqi government. A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad confirming these details now to CNN. The official said that details are being made public in part to pressure Iran to stop the training. Here's what got the U.S. so deeply worried. The training is being conducted by Iran's (INAUDIBLE) force and elements of Lebanese Hezbollah at four locations inside Iran. At the city of Qom, in Tehran, Ahvaz and Mashhad. The U.S. this week gave the Iraqi government the list of expected targets of the assassination squads which would include Iraqi judges, Iraqi government officials and U.S. and Iraqi troops. The training believed to include weapons training, terrorist cell operations and the use of explosively formed penetrator weapons, those IEDs that can shred armored vehicles. The U.S. believes many of these Shia fighters fled from Iraq into Iran for this training during the security crackdown earlier this year. The fighters aren't yet believed to be back in Iraq. But the U.S. remains deeply concerned. Tom?
FOREMAN: All right, thanks so much, Barbara.
Iraq and Iran share a long border, and an uneasy mix of ethnic and religious groups. In the north the Kurdish minority, which has made a strong push for autonomy straddles the border. In the south, Iraq's Arab population is divided between the Sunni and the Shiite Muslims. Iran is mostly Persian and mostly Shiite. But in the south it has a large Arab minority. Amid a wave of terror bombings and rising anti-American feelings, a key American ally is feeling an awful lot of heat now we must say. CNN's Reysa Sayah has the story from Islamabad.
REYSA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tom, in Pakistan pressure mounting on President Pervez Musharraf to step down. Two of his closest allies telling CNN talks are under way to enable Musharraf to step down without an ugly impeachment. If Musharraf is to step aside, that will shift pressure, say analysts, to Pakistan's young civilian government to turn things around for a country that's a crucial ally in the U.S.-led war on terror. Despite billions of dollars in military aid, the pentagon says al Qaeda and the Taliban are still active in Pakistan's tribal region. And the suicide bombings continue and anti-Americanism is rife. Many here believe that Pakistan is fighting America's war on terror on its soil.
Up until now, Pakistan civilian government has blamed President Pervez Musharraf for what it calls a failed strategy. Some analysts say if Musharraf steps aside, that will unite Pakistanis in the fight against extremism. But many say his ouster will not make a difference, because this young civilian government has already tried its strategy to talk and negotiate with militants and Washington has quickly made it clear that it prefers a more aggressive approach. Pakistan has gotten more aggressive against militants, but the bloodshed continues. This week alone, in back-to-back attacks, in two of Pakistan's largest cities, 20 people have been killed. Analysts do agree that if Musharraf steps aside, that will strengthen democracy, and democracy, they say, is often the most effective way to fight extremism. As for Musharraf, on Friday he is still clinging to the presidency, but certainly the pressure growing. Tom?
FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Reysa.
The U.S./Russian war of words over action in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, harkens back to cold war days. Just ahead, CNN's special correspondent Frank Sesno ponders what if the Russian bear has awakened.
President Bush on vacation. Does it send the wrong message that he's in Crawford for the next 11 days? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
FOREMAN: Could the United States soon be facing a powerful new foe looking a lot like its adversary from the cold war? CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno is here. Frank, is America feeling that cold war chill once again?
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what's worrying people and that's the big if of course. Take a look at the map though. I think we need to understand this and take a moment to look at this from the Russian point of view. It's certainly what they talk about there. There is Russia, there you see it. And what they complain about a lot is the breath that they're feeling that's moving from the west, countries that were in their orbit that have now gone to NATO. Here are some of the NATO. Here are some of the NATO members and others to include Georgia, we see those in yellow, want to be part of that. Some say that we didn't see the bear. Others say maybe we poked the bear, prodded the bear too much. So did we not see it? Did we prod it? It's about to change the landscape many say, and the campaign?
SESNO (voice-over): What if the Russian bear is back. And not the cuddly bear, but the scary bear.
There's a bear in the woods.
SESNO: The species we saw during the cold war.
Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it's vicious.
SESNO: Featured famously in this campaign ad for Ronald Reagan 24 years ago. In the end he and Mikhail Gorbachev changed the world. The Soviet Union fell, the wall came down and George W. Bush saw Vladimir Putin's soul.
BUSH: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.
SESNO: That was 2001. And there they were just a few days ago at the Beijing Olympics. But now this. It shows how much and how fast things can change, forcing candidates to respond. What if this isn't the only curveball that gets thrown at us this season? The possibilities are endless. What if Pakistan implodes? It's a volatile place. Or what if the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program suddenly turns into a showdown? Or oil prices spike again? The Mideast explodes? Or after the Olympics, China flexes its muscle with Tibet or Taiwan. But if there are more bears out there, the game changes. America's lame duck president becomes more relevant. He's still commander in chief, after all.
BUSH: A contentious relationship with America is not in Russia's interest.
SESNO: The debate between John McCain and Barack Obama over who's equipped to tame world events gets even sharper. That 3:00 a.m. phone call will surely be back. The reach and the limitations of American power will be tested. At a time when the country is stretched thin and tired of its foreign entanglements.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
SESNO: This is by no means the first time, or the only time that crises and the world have had a big dark shadow over American politics. For years for example, in this picture here, the Soviet Union shaped the foreign policy and the political debate in this country. Famously, Jimmy Carter and the hostages. It was a crisis that really created a showdown in his campaign. Bin Laden and 9/11 have been certainly defining our politics for a long time, Tom. So I think the big question here is, what if something else unexpected happens? How do these campaigns adjust? How do they say their candidates are going to deal with it if they win?
FOREMAN: That will be the ultimate autumn surprise.
SESNO: Or October surprise? We've got one now in August.
FOREMAN: We'll have to see. Thanks so much Frank.
John McCain is a decorated veteran. A new study is a little surprising. It shows that more troops donate to Barack Obama. A lot more. And this is an official flier from Birmingham, England. Problem is, it uses a picture from Birmingham, Alabama. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll explain in a bit.
FOREMAN: A nonpartisan watchdog group that keeps an eye on campaign fund-raising has made a startling discovery. It says that it has found that military personnel stationed abroad are sending more money to Barack Obama than to John McCain. A lot more money. Up in New York, hiding from the tornadic winds, CNN's Jim Acosta is checking it out. Jim, how significant are these numbers?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDEN: Tom, we should caution this is not a public opinion survey, but the numbers are surprising. Troops serving in the armed services overseas have so far donated more money to Barack Obama than John McCain, by a big 6 to 1 margin.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Barack Obama can do more than sink three- pointers with American troops. The Illinois senator is also netting plenty of campaign contributions from military personnel stationed overseas.
MASSIE RITSCH, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: I don't think anyone thought that an anti-war candidate, a democrat, would be the favorite among donors who are in the military in 2008.
ACOSTA: According to a study from the Nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Obama has raised nearly six times as much money from troops deployed abroad than John McCain. Anti-war republican Ron Paul actually came in second. The center's Massie Ritsch stresses these donors are small in number but they aren't shy about who they're supporting and why.
RITSCH: They're proud and certainly ready to serve their function and do the mission. But personally, they believe that we're on the wrong track in Iraq and that's what this contribution is sending a message for.
ACOSTA: One army specialist Jane Navos is quoted in the center's study as saying, "We all know that Iraq was a big mistake." And Iraq war veteran Brandon Woods says he's heard those sentiments firsthand.
BRANDON WOODS, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: They want to see a change, a change in direction. I think they favor some type of strategic disengagement or timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.
ACOSTA: McCain gains a little ground when donations are tallied up from all service members at home and abroad, but he still trails Obama though by not nearly as much.
We changed strategy in Iraq and the surge worked.
Now that's change we can believe in. ACOSTA: The numbers don't account for all of those donations to groups like Vets for Freedom, who hope to have a big impact in the general election. The money from the troops overseas is just a drop in the overall fund-raising bucket. It is a far cry from the oil and gas industry's lop-sided support for McCain and nowhere near the amount Obama has raised from lawyers. Tom?
FOREMAN: Thanks so much, Jim. This is exactly what Jack Cafferty has been looking into, getting your messages. Jack, what are you finding out?
JACK CAFFERTY: The question this hour is why are members of the military donating more money to Barack Obama despite John McCain's military background? And for purposes of this segment, all of the e- mails that we're going to read now are from veterans or active members of the U.S. military. Beginning with Michael in Greenfield, Wisconsin, "As a Vietnam era ex-marine veteran with a son in the army who was wounded in Iraq in 2003, I wouldn't give a penny to John McCain. I personally don't know any other veterans who are donating to McCain either. Veterans hate war, Jack. Wrong wars and the people who talk so cavalierly about waging them, usually those who have never served during war or never served at all are the ones who talk so loosely about war."
Ronald writes, "As a resident of Arizona and a combat veteran, I have had occasion to contact our senator, meaning McCain, on a matter of interest to veterans. Not only did his staff do nothing, they didn't even have the courtesy to acknowledge that they received my e- mails, two of them. McCain can say he's always there for veterans but that's just hot air. Contrary to what George Bush said, both he and McCain opposed the new GI bill."
Shana writes, active duty sailor who's been in the navy for the entire Bush administration, "I'm tired. Sick and tired of fighting in a war I opposed from the beginning. I did donate to Obama's campaign because the U.S. needs change and not more McBush."
David in Florida writes, "The reason is the lower ranks, the guys with their butts on the line doing the dirty work want to return home quickly. They'll support the candidate who will extract them from harm's way, they hope. The higher-ranking officers who spend most of their time brown-nosing for their next promotion and are in the rear areas and pretty much out of harm's way support those who they believe will increase their lot in life." Signed respectfully, a Vietnam era vet.
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at cnn.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there among hundreds of others. Tom?
FOREMAN: Thanks so much Jack. Tensions mount in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia as Russian troops bear down on its capital city. CNN's Michael Ware is on the ground in Tbilisi as reports come in that Russian troops are just miles away.
Plus, President Bush heading for his ranch in Texas for nearly two weeks. Does going on vacation now send the wrong message? You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
FOREMAN: News now from our political ticker. The Republican National Committee says it has raised $26 million in July. That means the party almost matched presidential candidate John McCain's $27 million campaign haul for the same period. Together, they entered August with $96 million in ready cash, which may keep pace with Barack Obama's campaign, combined with the cash poor Democratic National Committee. Both have yet to report fundraising totals for July.
Billionaire T. Boone Pickens and Senator John McCain met in Colorado today. McCain traveled to Aspen to discuss the Texas oil man's plan for energy independence. Pickens has been running a national ad campaign to pitch his ideas for weaning the U.S. from foreign oil. The pair met in private. The meeting was closed to reporters. McCain also planned to meet with campaign advisers later on today as well.
Remember, for the latest political news any time of the day, check it out, cnnpolitics.com.
We have a program reminder for you as well. You'll want to be right here on CNN tomorrow night for the McCain Obama Faith Forum, it's hosted by Reverend Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." It will be a fascinating program where you'll learn a lot. Make sure you put a note to yourself on the refrigerator. CNN's live coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern. And as always on the weekends, we hope you'll join me for "This Week in Politics." It comes on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern. A show worth checking out. We'll be talking about faith and traveling across the country to talk to voters just like you.
Speaking of traveling, city officials in Birmingham, England are fessing up to a big mistake. And it involves their American cousin. Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton joins us now. Abbi, tell me about this mix up?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Tom, we're talking about the city in England, the one that's pronounced Birmingham. Where more than half a million people received one of these recently, one of these flyers through their letter box, reading, "Thank you, Birmingham. It was sent by their city council thanking residents for their recycling efforts. That message perched atop a city skyline. The thing is that's not Birmingham, England. That's Birmingham, Alabama. It looks like the city council had gone online for a stock photo. It had the right title, Birmingham skyline, just the wrong city. This is the one they were looking for. The city in England with about a million residents, also known as Brum. This is the one that they chose instead. Birmingham, Alabama, about 4,000 miles away. Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic, poking fun at the city council for this. The city council admitting this was just human error. It's actually not the first time it happened. Local lawmakers in Birmingham, England made the same mistake with the skyline on one of their websites earlier this year. Tom?
FOREMAN: Thanks Abbi. I think that's my favorite story of the day.
Happening now, Russian troops accused of outright evil. Georgia's president signs a cease-fire agreement but has bitter words for Moscow. We're standing by to talk to Mikhail Saakashvilli, live.
President Bush sharpens his rhetoric, portraying Russia as a bully. His once warm relationship with Vladimir Putin turning cold as ice.
And a test of faith. Barack Obama and John McCain are set to appear side by side and talk about religion. What they need to say and what they better not say.