Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
"You Will Be Held Accountable"; "My Faith is with Those Women"; U.S. Strike Killed Civilians; "A Very Dangerous Moment"; Iran's Nightmare on the Net
Aired June 19, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And more on Jack's question involving North Korea -- if North Korea launches a missile at Hawaii, what weapons does the United States have to defend itself?
And how much are you paying to download music?
This mother of four is being ordered to pay -- get this -- $80,000 per song -- her case a warning to everyone.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's the speech all Iranians and much of the world were waiting for -- the country's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking out about the contested election that sparked a week of bloody and deadly protests.
And his message was very clear -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election and any further protests will be met with extreme reaction.
One analyst says the coming days will be a time of reckoning for Iran. Tomorrow, at least two protest marches are planned; three opposition candidates, including Mir Hossein Moussavi, meet with the powerful Guardian Council to voice their concerns.
And Khamenei, the ayatollah, reiterated that he's ordered the Council to investigate allegations of voting fraud.
What does all this mean?
Let's bring in our CNN correspondent, Brian Todd, who's been taking a closer look at all of this.
The speech was long, much more than an hour.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: It's pretty amazing, some of stuff in there.
But what else did he say?
TODD: Well, Wolf, he accused Iran's external enemies of using the media to stir up dissent. But he also had a veiled warning for his own countrymen -- that any further challenge to his own hold on power will be met decisively.
TODD (voice-over): In declaring definitive victory for his ally, Iran's supreme leader throws down the gauntlet to those he says are behind the unrest.
AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMEINI, SUPREME LEADER, IRAN (through translator): If the political elite want to ignore the law and break the law and take the wrong measures, which are harmful, willy-nilly, they will be held accountable for all the violence and blood and rioting.
TODD: And despite facing the most serious threat to his 20-year rule, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has more ability than anyone in Iran to hold people accountable. Once a midlevel cleric whose religious credentials were often questioned by grand ayatollahs, Khamenei has consolidated his power. He's in firm control of the feared Revolutionary Guard; appoints half the Guardian Council, which is holding the recount for this election; and appoints the head of judiciary, which selects the other half of that Council.
Experts say he picks the head of the influential radio and TV service, selects the hugely important prayer leaders in the cities and holds sway over several financial foundations which control much of Iran's economy.
Who influences him most?
Patrick Clawson is with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank often considered pro-Israeli. But Clawson himself has written several books on Iran and has researched Khamenei's inner circle.
(on camera): Really, three key people around Khameini. One of them everyone knows. The other two are in the shadows.
PATRICK CLAWSON, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Gholam Hossein Mohammdi Golpayegani, his longtime chief of staff and a key aide of Khamenei. But in recent years, it's been Khamenei's son, Mojtaba, whose star is rising. And now he is the gatekeeper for getting to his father. Mojtaba and Golpayegani are fighting about Ahmadinejad. Mojtaba thinks Ahmadinejad is great. Golpayegani says no, he's dangerous.
TODD (voice-over): Still, Clawson and other analysts say it's not likely any of those three would turn on the supreme leader.
What could bring him down?
CLAWSON: The key question is do the Revolutionary Guard commanders conclude that they can't take orders from the sky, because he's told them to do something unacceptable?
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Meaning, if these protests continue to grow and if Khamenei orders a forceful crackdown on them, analysts say if the Revolutionary Guard commanders realize their troops won't fire on their countrymen, they may turn on Khamenei. They say right now that's his main vulnerability. If the Revolutionary Guard -- if this grows any further and the Revolutionary Guard are ordered to crack down further and they might be ordered to fire on them, that's where the turning point may come and may expose Khamenei's vulnerability here. They may turn on him.
BLITZER: Is there any one thing he did to create this vulnerability -- to open it up?
TODD: Well, experts say that by showing some paranoia after this election and the actions that he took immediately, he's managed to unite his enemies -- people who were never unified before this -- the old clerics who helped start the revolution, the more moderate clerics, the reformers. All of those people -- none of them were together before this. He has managed to unite them by his miscalculations here.
BLITZER: And there were several very bizarre references in that sermon that the ayatollah delivered, including blasting Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton...
BLITZER: ...for the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas with David Koresh back in the '90s. We're going to have more on that, coming up this hour.
BLITZER: Just one of several bizarre statements that were made.
Meanwhile, Iranian women are taking a key role in this call for change.
Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.
She's taking a closer look for us -- Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, women young and old have been on the front lines in the call for reform. And here in the U.S. Iranian-American women are working to show solidarity.
SNOW (voice-over): Outside the Iranian mission in New York, 28- year-old attorney Bitta Mostofi organizes this prayer and protest. She is unfazed by the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declaring a victory for President Ahmadinejad.
BITTA MOSTOFI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN: What I have seen is that people have -- have really taken these amazing risks in the belief of something greater than themselves, of what freedom and the exercise of your democracy and civil rights means. And I think that's so profound.
SNOW: From Iran to the United States, seeing Iranian women front and center at demonstrations following last week's election gives hope to Azar Nasifi, who marched in the streets in Tehran in 1979 and later wrote her memoir, "Reading Lolita in Tehran."
AZAR NASIFI, AUTHOR, "READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN": I feel very proud. And that is why I'm not discouraged by either the violence that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been propagating, nor the position that Ayatollah Khamenei has taken today. My faith is with those young women in the streets of Tehran and here.
SNOW: Nasifi says over the past 30 years, women have been at the forefront of demands for nonviolent change in Iran and this election, many women's hopes were raised by opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi's wife, Zahra, an admired academic, seen as a symbol of change.
Unlike the past, social networking sites have been proven to be key. Kelly Gornush Niknejad, who runs the online newspaper Tehran Bureau in Boston says they are empowering, yet safe for women.
KELLY GORNUSH NIKNEJAD, TEHRANBUREAU.COM: You can make up any name, make up any moniker, you can make up any avatar. Of course, that's, in itself, like a veil. So it allows you to wear a veil and do something, you know, from behind the veil that you wouldn't be able to do.
SNOW: And author Azar Nasifi adds if you want to know where Iran is going, look at where its women are going -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow.
Thanks very much.
Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- this is a developing story, Jack. It's very, very fluid. And these coming hours could potentially be decisive.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: This is a great story. This is absolutely a great story.
Is this -- can they still see CNN inside Iran?
Do you know?
BLITZER: I don't know the answer to that. I assume that creative people can.
CAFFERTY: Well, that's a good point. The tech savvy ones can do about anything and they're proving that.
With the mostly peaceful protests for the last week in Iran, tomorrow could be crucial. Demonstrators may well be headed for a showdown with the Iranian government.
Iran's supreme leader warning of a crackdown now on the protesters if they continue these massive street rallies. The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says opposition leaders will be held accountable for "all the violence, bloodshed and rioting," if they don't stop.
He also says the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not rigged.
And the moon is made of green cheese.
He pretty much ruled out any chance for a new vote.
This leaves the supporters of the opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Moussavi, with two options -- either pack up and go home and forget all of this ever happened -- not likely -- or continue to protest knowing that things could get very ugly.
Khamenei insists Iran will not see another revolution and that the street protests won't have any impact.
He's wrong. They already have.
What if the 70-year-old supreme leader is not in tune with the majority of people in his country?
Seventy percent of Iranians are under 30 years old and they're tech savvy. Already, these protests represent the greatest challenge to Iran's Islamic rulers since the 1979 revolution.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters could end up influencing Iran's relations with nations around the globe, from the U.S. to Europe to Israel -- not to mention what a successful revolution in Iran might mean to the oppressed citizens in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
So here's the question: What would it mean to the rest of the world if the protesters in Iran are successful?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
This is just -- this is compelling, great, great stuff we're watching, I think.
BLITZER: Yes. Does the word earth-shattering come to mind?
CAFFERTY: Yes, yes. That, too.
BLITZER: Yes. I think so, too.
CAFFERTY: I think you're right.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
Thank you. Personal stories from inside Iran's unfolding nightmare -- people pulled from their cars and beaten for the backing -- for backing the opposition.
What can and should the United States do?
I'll ask Nicholas Burns, the former undersecretary of state, and the former top negotiator with Iran.
Also, a Democratic Congress, a Democratic president -- so why is health care reform hitting so many obstacles right now?
Plus, they put the future of their state ahead of party politics and now some California lawmakers are paying a price.
BLITZER: We're just getting this into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is getting this report from the Pentagon on an incident that occurred only a few weeks ago.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf. You know, it's a time and honored trick by the U.S. government to release bad news late on a Friday afternoon. That is what has happened.
This is a report from General David Petraeus' U.S. Central Command about an incident in May in which the U.S. military, by all accounts, conducted an airstrike in Southern Afghanistan that killed up to two dozen civilians. This report has actually been done for weeks now, but has not been released until 5:00 East Coast time on a Friday.
What the military found is not very good news -- that most likely some rules were not followed and that these civilians most likely died as a result of U.S. airstrikes.
In particular, there was a B-1 bomber strike when...
STARR: ...pardon me -- the pilot could not absolutely discern whether there were civilians in a strike zone.
That's a big problem.
And the reason, Wolf, this is so important, as U.S. troops ramp up the fighting in Afghanistan, there is great concern about more civilian casualties. And if the U.S. military can't get a handle on it, this is the way you lose a war.
BLITZER: Yes. It may be late on a Friday afternoon in Washington, but it's going to be early morning, Saturday morning, a weekday in Afghanistan. And that's going to be coming out very soon over there. Thanks very much for that, Barbara.
Protest marches are scheduled for tomorrow in the Iranian capital -- this time under a clear threat by the country's supreme leader of extreme against any marches. And he's warning of an extreme crackdown.
The coming days, possibly the coming hours, could be decisive in deciding the fate of the Islamic Republic.
Joining us now, the former undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns.
He was the Bush administration's top Iran negotiator.
He's now at Harvard University's Kennedy School.
Nick, thanks very much for coming in.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Is this the beginning of the end of the revolutionary regime, over the past 30 years, that we've seen in power in Iran?
Is this the beginning of the end of that regime?
BURNS: This is a very dangerous moment in Iranian political history -- and a compelling moment, because the supreme leader laid down two very clear challenges to the reform movement -- accept the elections, stop the demonstrations.
Now we have to see how the reformers respond to that and whether or not there's a Tiananmen coming for the Iranian government.
BLITZER: You were there in the State Department. You were a career diplomat during Tiananmen, all the lead-up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Do you feel what's going on in Iran right now is -- is sort of like one of those things or something else?
BURNS: I think the reform movement has the potential to transform Iran today. They have the potential to do that. But they're facing an extraordinarily difficult and extraordinarily strong security apparatus. And now the supreme leader, who's laid down the gauntlet, who's made no quest -- no question about what he wants to see happen in Iran. And that is, he wants the reformers to stop the protests. He wants them to accept the election. He wants there to be peace in the streets.
So where the situation goes is really to say over the next 48 hours.
BLITZER: It's going to be a critically decisive moment, potentially.
You worked at the NSC during the Clinton administration. You worked at the State Department during the Bush administration.
Take us behind the scenes.
What's going on right now, because we know there's been a very cautious statement coming from the president?
BURNS: You know, I think President Obama has been right to be balanced in his statements this past week. We had to, given the poisonous relationship between the U.S. and Iran over the last 30 years.
I think if he had done otherwise -- if he had come out with a loud and aggressive statement, it would have given Ahmadinejad the club to beat the demonstrators with and to say you are tied to the United States' government. I think Obama prevented that.
But clearly, now that the supreme leader has given his speech, it's time for the international community to warn Iran about the consequences of a Tiananmen-like crackdown of people who have been demonstrating piece peacefully in the streets and who, obviously, Wolf, represent a very broad-based movement in Iranian society.
BLITZER: Because it seems like the public statements coming from the leaders of France, let's say, or of Britain, are much more robust than the statements coming from President Obama.
BURNS: Again, I -- I would defend President Obama. I think he's done the right thing here. But the international community -- that means countries all around the world -- need to warn the Iranians -- the Iranian government -- that a severe crackdown is going to reduce their credibility even further than it's been reduced -- and that's quite a bit -- this week.
BLITZER: "The Wall Street Journal" published some really strong, firsthand accounts of what's going on in Iran from people -- regular folks.
Kaveh in Tabriz says this: "President Obama's speech was good. He says that he will support us. He also said that nations must decide the fate of their countries by themselves. I agree with him. But now we don't have any power to change the situation, so we need help and attention. We ask the president not to accept this coup d'etat."
What would you say to Kaveh?
BURNS: You know, I think that -- I think that we in America, private citizens, people all around this country, have tremendous sympathy for the Iranian reformers. We obviously don't want to see them denied in their quest for more openness and more freedom in Iranian politics.
But the practical -- the practical measures the U.S. could take right now are very limited. This is a drama that's going to be played out in the streets of Tehran, between the reform movement, perhaps, and the government itself. I don't think there's -- there's much that other countries can do.
BLITZER: Here's another, Alireza in Tehran says this: "My hand was hanging out of the taxi window with a little green ribbon, the color of the reformists, tied around my finger. One of the militiamen told me to throw that ribbon away. When I refused, 15 people attacked me inside the car. They beat me with their batons and tried to pull me out."
You hear stories like that and you're a high-ranking United States government official, what do you do?
BURNS: Well, I think what you've got to do is you've got to say what you think, in terms of the importance of maintaining human rights. And I think you -- you have heard that from the Obama administration this week. They've talked about the denial of rights. They've talked about police brutality. We need to hear more of that not just from the United States, but from countries all around the world.
BLITZER: How does this affect what is clearly a huge issue for the United States, indeed, for most of the world right now, the effort to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb?
BURNS: Well, I think there's near consensus internationally that Iran should not have a nuclear weapons capability. But...
BLITZER: But there's no indication they're slowing down at all.
BURNS: There's no indication. In fact, the reverse. If you read the latest reports from the IAEA, from Mohamed ElBaradei, they are accelerating their nuclear research.
But the point is this, Wolf. This is not the time to talk about engagement with Iran. It's not the time to talk about negotiations.
We've got to focus first -- and the world has to focus first on this massive denial of human rights...
BLITZER: Should Pres...
BURNS: ...and brutality in the streets of Tehran.
BLITZER: Should President Obama, assuming Ahmadinejad stays in power, perhaps ruthlessly, should President Obama continue to reach out to this Iranian leader?
BURNS: I think that the U.S. government has been right to leave open the possibility of future engagement, but not now. It would be wrong to negotiate with Iran now, when people are being denied their basic rights in that country.
BLITZER: Nicholas Burns, the former undersecretary of state.
Nic, thanks for coming in.
BURNS: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Iran's supreme leader blames Hillary Clinton for the deadly ending to the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas more than 14 years ago.
What is he talking about?
We're going to talk about that and more with Arianna Huffington and Tony Blankley. They're standing by.
And a man arrested for refusing to follow doctor's orders. We're getting details of a very unusual case.
BLITZER: Don Lemon is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Don, what's going on?
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, new details, Wolf, on a story that garnered national attention. Senator Roland Burris will not face a perjury charge. The prosecutor says Burris made some vague statements to a panel investigating his appointment by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, but they do not support a perjury charge. Now, Burris says the investigation was thorough and fair and the truth has prevailed. Blagojevich appointed Burris to fill President Obama's vacant Senate seat.
CNN affiliate KTVA reports a Kansas man infected with tuberculosis has been arrested for endangering the public. Authorities say John Lee Wilks refused to stay in isolation. The jail says Wilks also faces two charges of theft. Bail is set at $10,000. He is due to appear in court on Thursday.
One hundred and thirteen years old -- can you imagine?
Well, the world's oldest man died today in his sleep today in Japan. Tomoji Tanabe J. -- he liked fried shrimp and drank milk and he did it every day, we're told. He avoided alcohol, though. And he did not smoke. His title now passes to Henry Allingham. The World War I veteran celebrated his 113th birthday on June 6th.
And I want you to listen to this, Wolf, because Allingham says -- he once said that he lived so long because of cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women.
So let that be a lesson to us all.
BLITZER: Right. Not a good one.
LEMON: Not a good one.
I have one more story, though, Wolf. We'll come in on that one.
Getting gnarly, as they say, for fatherhood. Pro boarder Tony Hawks did his thing on -- for the White House Father's Day celebration. He took a brief ride in the grand foyer of the executive mansion and the nearby Old Executive Office Building. And here's what he did. He posted photos and he Tweeted on his Web site.
OK. So he joined other dads, athletes and celebrities at the Father's Day Forum hosted by President Barack Obama, of course, who is also a father.
That's a pretty cool picture there, Wolf -- Wolf, I've been trying to get you to Twitter.
LEMON: When are you going to do it?
BLITZER: It's going to happen. I'm going to Tweet one of these days.
LEMON: You're going to be a Tweeter, right?
BLITZER: I'm going to Twitter and Tweet.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Don.
Well, I hear people laughing in the newsroom behind me.
BLITZER: All right.
LEMON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by.
We're going to show you what's going on inside Iran right now. U.S. social Web sites like YouTube and Twitter are leading the way. We're going to take you to California and inside the world headquarters of YouTube.
And why is Iran's ayatollah talking about Waco and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
Stick around. We'll tell you what's going on.
And in our Talk Politics segment, is the Obama administration focusing too much on fixing Wall Street and not enough on turning around Main Street?
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, inside Iran -- CNN's global resources give you unparalleled access.
Our Reza Sayah is one of the few Western journalists reporting from inside the country. He's going to take us inside the controversy.
Also, Father's Day over at the White House. It's a few days early, but it comes with a very moving tribute from President Obama.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get back to our top story. Iran's supreme leader threatening an extreme crackdown if there are more protests against the country's presidential election results, as we've seen all week. The government will make every effort, he says, to keep the outcome -- the outside world from witnessing what unfolds.
But with millions of Iranians on the Internet, that's now virtually impossible.
Let's bring in CNN's Dan Simon.
He's over at the headquarters of YouTube near San Di -- San Francisco right now -- all right, what role is YouTube, specifically, Dan, playing in all of this?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're playing really an incredible role, Wolf.
And let me set the stage for you. We are inside YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, California. You see the monitors here behind me constantly streaming YouTube videos.
But we're going to go ahead and walk back in the political section, where they monitor all this content coming in constantly from Iran. So many videos coming in from Iran all the time, basically every minute. Really know way to tell how many videos have been uploaded from Iran. But we're here now to talk with two YouTube executives. We have Ricardo Reyes, director of communications, and Victoria Graham, head of policy. The first thing, Wolf, we want to show you is this Google map. And this is really fascinating because up close you can see all the videos that are being uploaded from Iran. And I'm going to let Ricardo explain what all those icons mean.
RICARDO REYES, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: What you're seeing, Dan, is these are the YouTube logos. I don't know if you can see them on camera, but they represent videos being uploaded from Tehran and from Iran, and these can be some -- as we've seen and been talking about are protest videos, some are videos of people like normal YouTube videos.
SIMON: And go ahead and click on one. Let's just see what we can stream there. So, this here, this here is a video that was posted a short time ago, Wolf. Hard to see, but a nighttime picture of a protest, people holding up flags, holding up candles, looks to be some kind of vigil. When you look at a lot of these videos, some of them are very graphic in nature, and normally it would be YouTube's policy to take some of that content off if, in fact, if it were too violent. And that's why we're going to talk to Victoria. Normally, as we said, you would take that off but you're keeping it on this time.
VICTORIA GRAHAM, HEAD OF POLICY: That's right, Dan. Normally, we would take it off. But we've got some pretty strict policies against graphic violence on the site and that's generally not permitted. We also say that YouTube is not a shock site. Here what we're seeing, on the other hand, is really we're seeing videos that have a clear documentary purpose, a clear documentary value, and so we want to do everything we can to keep these up so that the people on the ground can tell their stories to the world.
SIMON: So, Wolf, really a watershed moment for YouTube. As we've talked about a lot, a lot of these videos are being restricted according to YouTube. The traffic coming from Iran about 90 percent less than what it normally does, and that's because the government blocking a lot of people from accessing YouTube. But of course people still able to upload those videos by going to intermediary sites or proxy sites and still able to get the content on of course for the world to see.
BLITZER: Dan Simon over at YouTube near San Francisco thanks very much.
Let's assess what's going on with Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of huffingtonpost.com, and Republican strategist Tony Blankley, a former spokesman for Newt Gingrich. If you listened or read the entire sermon he gave today, the grand Ayatollah, there were several very strange parts to it, including this reference to Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and what happened in Waco, Texas, about 14 years ago with David Koresh. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHAMENEI (through translator): When they were in power in the U.S., at the time when the husband of this lady in America refers to Miss Clinton, 80 people, 80 blood people related to David and group were burned alive at that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. The Branch Davidian standoff. Arianna, Tony, both of you -- I'm sure all of our viewers remember that. But give us your assessment, Arianna, of what's going on with his sermon today.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, this is a potentially tragic moment, Wolf, because what the supreme leader decided to do today is to crack down on the reformers, on the demonstrations, as well as this irrational speech that he gave. He basically -- he and his government have said that there's going to be no lawful demonstrations tomorrow. Permits are not been give on the demonstrators. But they're saying they're going to demonstrate anyway and may be killed. It's a very moving blog, knowing if he goes and demonstrates tomorrow, which apparently tens of thousands are willing and ready to do, this may be their last day.
BLITZER: You've had some really moving and dramatic blogs coming in on Huffingtonpost from folks inside Iran, Arianna. But, Tony, you know, he's the grand leader. When he says, the Ayatollah, what he says, everybody is simply supposed to say OK, yes, sir. But I don't think that's going to happen this time.
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, we don't know. But, I mean, I've heard, I'm sure other people have heard, that some of the revolutionary guards have been trying to protect the demonstrators from other -- some of the thugs. So, this is a strange moment. You know, when -- sometimes leaders miss the changing of gears of history and don't get that it's not a normal moment. And perhaps Khamenei does not understand that. I think perhaps our president hasn't sensed that this is another moment to be neutral. In thinking about that odd statement Khamenei made about Hillary Clinton, I was wondering whether maybe he'd heard that she and the vice president were counseling the president to get much tough we are the language. Other than that, it's hard to explain why he would give such a non sequitur.
BLITZER: I don't think he's being neutral. Go ahead, Arianna.
HUFFINGTON: I want to really challenge what Tony said. A, he's not being neutral, and b, the worst thing the president could do right now is to take the bait, to take the Ayatollah's bait, to take a really strong stand on what's happening in some form or another. It would be counterproductive. And the American intervention in Iran has not been successful going back to 1953 and the CIA overthrowing the government and support of the repressive regime of the shah. So, the idea that somehow the president takes a stronger tone in what he said, it's going to help the demonstrators, makes no sense at all, especially if we are not prepared, which I don't see as being prepared to back it militarily.
BLANKLEY: Arianna, I really think that you're missing this moment. And the president is not going to -- whether he says something or not, the government there is going to do what they're going do. But we should be on the right side of the freedom that the people are going to fight and probably die for tomorrow morning.
HUFFINGTON: Of course we are.
BLANKLEY: And it's not just the neocons. It's David Ignatius in "The Washington Post," who's a strong supporter of the president, who's giving the same advice. And according to rumor near in Washington, the vice president and the secretary of state also giving the same advice. I think, you know, we've seen before where presidents, and not just Democrats, Ronald Reagan briefly didn't get the sense of what was happening during the coup against Gorbachev, and George Herbert Walker Bush didn't get what was happening when marcos was about to fall. It's easy when you're presidents to miss this moment. I think our president is missing this moment now and needs to be on the right side.
HUFFINGTON: Well, he's absolutely on the right side in terms of his rhetoric. But to step up the rhetoric would be to completely counterproductive because this is a great moment, it's a historic moment, but it's a moment for the Iran people. It's not a moment for the American people. Except for us to give our support in any way we can, as we are doing in every way we can through the media. I mean, this is another incredible defining moment in terms of the role of the new media in bringing to us directly every moment, what is happening there despite the best efforts of the regime to stop the flow of information.
BLANKLEY: But, you know, throughout history, people have been inspired by support from our side. We've all talked to people who were in the soviet gulag who were inspired by Reagan's words. I think your --
BLITZER: Tony, let me interrupt you for a moment because you'll remember this back in 1991 after the first gulf war when the then first Bush administration encouraged the Iraqi Shiites to stand up to Saddam Hussein and to finish the job. They did. They were crushed. There was no real support from the United States. They were left out there alone and are you saying the Obama administration should encourage these folks and then leave them on their own to be --
BLANKLEY: The difference was that in -- during the first gulf war we had a half a million troops there and they had some reasonable expectation that the president, the commander in chief of a half a million troops in the zone, in the theater, that they were going to help. Now, the Iranians understand we don't have troops in the middle of Iran right now. But the idea -- so, I don't think the comparison is the same. I don't think they're deceived into thinking they're going to be protected. I think they want to be inspired to know the world is on their side.
HUFFINGTON: With the greatest respect, Tony, I don't think they need us to inspire them. They sound pretty inspired. The movement is incredibly popular. You're underestimating.
BLANKLEY: I'm not underestimating.
HUFFINGTON: Look what happened organically.
BLANKLEY: I mean, I'm inspired by what they're doing in Tehran.
BLITZER: I think everybody's inspired. As they say, these coming hours are going to be potentially decisive. CNN will have complete coverage, so don't go away from CNN over the next several hours and days. This weekend could be critical. Guys, thanks very much.
Some major obstacles on the road to health care reform. Why are the Democratic White House and the Democratic Congress having so much trouble with the top presidential priority?
Plus, a potential target for North Korea. We're learning new details of how the U.S. would defend Hawaii from a missile attack.
BLITZER: One of President Obama's top priorities, health care reform, and it's not just hitting some bumps in the road right now. It's taking some serious potholes and detours, as well. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is joining us with more on this story.
All right, Bill. What happened to the health care steamroller?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the steamroller has run into a few obstacles, Wolf.
SCHNEIDER: Thought health care reform would be easy with a Democratic president in Congress? Think again.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is going to be a long process. Again, it's not going to be solved in a matter of weeks.
SCHNEIDER: This week, the Congressional budget office came up with a startling $1.6 trillion price tag far senate plan and said it would still leave many people out. Critics were emboldened.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And I suggest we not move forward until we have some provision as to how we're going to pay for it.
SCHNEIDER: Moderate Congressional Democrats want to make concessions to get Republican support.
REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: We're here to discuss the target we should be aiming at, which is bipartisanship.
SCHNEIDER: The one senator who has the knowledge and experience to lead the cause is on the sidelines. Senator Kennedy's close friends, Senator Dodd, is filling in.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: And I'm just still a believer that we can do this.
SCHNEIDER: How? What's needed is a greater sense of public urgency. Otherwise --
SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: For those of us who were here in 1994, this is really -- this just is deja vu all over again.
SCHNEIDER: In 1993, most Americans said the nation's health care system needed to be completely rebuilt. By the time the debate ended in 1994, fewer than 40 percent felt that way. And now, just 41 percent. Democrats are trying to build more urgency.
OBAMA: We do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM.
SCHNEIDER: They've begun a campaign to rally grassroots support, and supporters are running TV ads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Including a public health insurance option to lower costs and keep insurance companies honest.
SCHNEIDER: Because as the president himself has acknowledged -- OBAMA: As clear as it is that our system badly needs reform, reform's not inevitable.
SCHNEIDER: As the Democrats discovered back in 1994, even when there's one party in control of the White House and Congress, it's easy to stop things from happening unless you have that overwhelming sense of public urgency. Wolf?
BLITZER: Bill Schneider reporting for us. Sensitive issue, indeed.
Another important issue we're following right now, North Korea. The defense secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. is prepared if, if North Korea launches any missile toward Hawaii next month. He says the military has interceptors and radar equipment deployed in and around Hawaii. Barbara Starr is taking a closer look at what's going on.
What kind of defense systems, Barbara, are we talking about?
STARR: We thought we would take a look at what defense Secretary Gates was talking about when he said the defenses are in place. There's two things -- two pieces of equipment that the defense secretary now has ordered deployed to the region to protect Hawaii.
The first one is called the x-band radar. You see it there. It's basically a giant ball on a floating deck. It moves across the ocean. It was in Hawaii, but now it's put back out to sea and it will head to west of Hawaii to be ready. What can it do? It's a radar. It provides all the data, all the tracking, all the information. If there is a missile launch to a U.S. interceptor, what the U.S. would have to launch to counter the North Koreans. So, the radar gives them the intelligence, the signals about what the North Koreans are up to.
Piece number two is a set of missiles called THAD, Theodore High- Altitude Area Defense. These missiles also on their way to Hawaii according to the secretary of defense, and these are the missiles that would be launched to hit a North Korean missile if, once again, they launch those long-range missiles that come out that we've seen before on that trajectory that falls into the Pacific Ocean. Also, there are interceptors in Alaska.
So, everything's in place. But the question, Wolf, of course is, what are the North Koreans really up to? What are they going to do? U.S. spy satellites see a lot of preps on the ground but nobody's really laying any bets yet how soon the North Koreans will be ready to launch.
BLITZER: The past few days we've been talking about this North Korean ship that may be carrying either nuclear technology or illicit weapons, and the U.S. is watching it very closely. What's the latest?
STARR: This is a ship called the Kamnam. It's a North Korean cargo ship right now as we understand it moving off the coast of China. The U.S. Navy is shadowing the ship, their aircraft overhead. The belief is it could be carrying illicit cargo, illegal under the latest U.N. Security Council regulations, but sources say they really aren't sure. Next step, the Navy would have to ask permission to board the North Korean ship. The North Koreans are very likely to say no. But the important thing to realize here, the Navy is not going to board this ship in any sort of hostile action, and before they ask, that decision will be made by President Obama.
BLITZER: Amazing what's going on in this world right now. Thank you, Barbara.
Your e-mail on the global impact of the Iranian protests. We'll be checking in with Jack Cafferty in a moment.
And a Minnesota mom loses her file-sharing fight with the music industry to the tune of almost, get this, $2 million. Will record companies go after anyone else?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: What would it meant to the rest of the world if the protesters in Iran are successful?
Jerry says: "A crack has appeared in a 3,000-year-old conflict in this part of the world. The opportunity for choice has never been more evident and wanted by what appears to be the majority of Iranians. If Mousavi should prevail, which is unlikely, it could signal to other Islamic countries that freedom to choose is acceptable."
Tommy writes: "It would mean that a strong hold of Islamic controlled government is vulnerable and perhaps further liberalization of Islamic countries around the world, not to mention the potential for women's rights in Iran as well."
David in Tampa, Florida writes: "Not much, Jack. While the B.S. would abate, the Ayatollahs would be running things and except certain things from their president. Not to worry, if the green wave doesn't go home on its own, look for another Myanmar-style suppression. It's too bad their citizenry isn't armed to the teeth like ours is."
Richard in Montreal says: "It would mean that President Bush was right for preaching freedom and democracy in the Middle East and should be given credit for his foreign policy. It will definitely help his legacy."
Gary says: "Jack, the key to protestor success in Iran lie not with the Ayatollah or the protestors but with the Iranian army. They, like the majority of the protesters, are young and could well find reason to refuse to fire on or put down the demonstrations and, therein lies the key."
Steven writes: "If Iran protesters are successful, the next day, the largest oil field in the world will be discovered in Israel. At 260 pounds, I will ride the winner in the next Kentucky Derby."
And Rana writes: "Hi Jack. It would have a huge effect in the area. Iranians are in favor of relationships with the United States, Israel and any other country. They want a good economy and peaceful relationships with all countries. As an Iranian American, I thank you and CNN for bringing us the news." It's our pleasure.
If you didn't see your e-mail, go to my blog, CNN/Caffertyfile look for yours there among hundreds of others. Ordinarily I don't watch television on the weekends. I might make an exception this weekend and watch television. The stuff in Iran is going to be fascinating.
BLITZER: We are going to be all over it this weekend here on CNN. Some folks in Iran right now, they are watching CNN. In the next hour, our 6 p.m. eastern hour, THE SITUATION ROOM is simulcast on CNN and CNN international. So they will be watching you.
CAFFERTY: The government has prohibited CNN-I from being broadcast in the country.
BLITZER: Creative folks can get it.
CAFFERTY: I hear ya.
BLITZER: Stand by, Jack. We are coming right back to you.
Be sure to watch this entire weekend, including our special report, Christiane Amanpour will share her firsthand look. That's Amanpour report Saturday and Sunday nights 7:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN.
A tense run-in with the TSA on a passenger's Iphone. Now that encounter is at the center of a lawsuit accusing the federal government of unlawful searches. We are going to play it for you.
And why two dozen music downloads could cost one woman, get this, almost $2 million.
BLITZER: Let's go to Stephanie Elam in New York for a major victory for the music industry over internet file sharing. Stephanie, what's going on?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, how much would you pay to download 24 songs? One woman, a jury was leaf individual a chart- topping fine.
ELAM: Eighty-thousand dollars a song is how much a federal jury ordered Jamie Thomas Russet of Minnesota to pay in a copyright infringement case that went to trial. At issue, 24 songs the Recording Industry Association of America claimed the married mother of four posted on a file sharing site Kazaa so others could download them without having to pay. Russet denies posting the songs. While the songs would have cost 90 cents each while they had been downloaded legally, she was fined nearly $2 million. But it isn't likely the music label is behind the songs will see anywhere near that amount of money so says entertainment lawyer Steve Gordon.
STEVE GORDON, ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER: It's more like desperation. They are trying to get back a business model of selling individual units and making as much money as they used to, which I think is the wrong approach.
ELAM: In a statement, the Recording Industry Association of America said, "We are pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable. Since day one, we have been willing to settle this case and we remain willing to do so." This was the second trial on these charges for Russet. In 2007, a jury ruled she should pay more than $9,000 a song for a total fine of $222,000. The judge ordered a new trial after finding an error in the jury instructions. Russet's attorney says his client was shocked by the size of the fine, will appeal the ruling. At this point, he is not optimistic about the outcome.
ELAM: The RIAA isn't pursuing new cases, they are following through an older one, as is the case with Jamie Thomas Russet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: In THE SITUATION ROOM, a new crackdown. The supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei rules on a new vote and warns against new protests. The showdown could be a matter of hours away as reformers are planning another huge rally.
President Obama's health care reform is now on the rocks