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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Fighting Continues in Libya; Japan's Nuclear Fears
Aired March 23, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
We begin with breaking news from Libya, just within the last hour, reports of a loud explosion heard in Tripoli, Reuters reporting residents say they saw smoke rising from a military base. We are going to take you live to Tripoli in a few moments. We will talk to "New York Times" reporter David Kirkpatrick. It is 4:00 a.m. in Libya, the early hours of the sixth day of coalition airstrikes.
This video taken a view hours ago, new rounds of tracer fire seen over Tripoli. We also just got new pictures from the French military, planes taking off from an aircraft carrier. The coalition flew 175 sorties over Libya in the last 24 hours. Officials now say that Gadhafi's airpower has been rendered ineffective, and they have shifted to targeting Gadhafi's ground forces in Ajdabiya and Misrata. In those cities, however, attack continue.
Watch what happened to NBC's Richard Engel just outside Ajdabiya while he was reporting on how outgunned the opposition is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It's a toy gun. This is amazing. He just handed me his gun. I didn't realize until he put it in my hands, it's actually just made of plastic. It's a toy.
ENGEL: Three explosions 50 yards away.
So, as we were doing the interviews, incoming rounds just landed in this area. And the rebels are now starting to flee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Engel reports that incoming fire was from Gadhafi positions some five miles away from where he and the opposition forces were standing. We also have new video of the scene from the ground in Misrata posted on YouTube, sent to us by one of our sources in that city. We cannot independently of course confirm when it was shot. Take a look.
Witnesses in Misrata say that Gadhafi forces fired on the main hospital there today, with shelling going on for 40 minutes at a time, killing at least two people and leaving patients and doctors rattled.
Also tonight, new information about Gadhafi's inner circle reaching out to the United States. Senior U.S. officials tell CNN that one of Gadhafi's closest confidants, a brother-in-law, has been calling the State Department almost every day.
Arab allies say they're also getting calls from Gadhafi's inner circle. We heard this talk yesterday by Secretary of State Clinton yesterday. Though U.S. officials say the intention behind these calls is murky, it could be a sign Gadhafi's regime is exploring its options, looking for a way out. It could also be disinformation being put forward by the U.S. and others to make Gadhafi not trust the people around him.
In an interview with CNN Espanol, President Obama said that Gadhafi could hunker down and wait it out, even though his forces have been weakened. Today, Secretary of State Clinton said Gadhafi and his inner circle have some choices to make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It will be up to Gadhafi and his insiders to determine what their next steps are. But we would certainly encourage that they would make the right decision, and not only institute a real, comprehensive cease-fire, but withdraw from the cities and the military actions and prepare for a transition that does not include Colonel Gadhafi.
The quickest way for him to end this is to actually serve the Libyan people by leaving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Gadhafi shows no sign that he's ready to back down. He and his government continue to insist that the airstrikes are killing and injuring civilians, though they have presented no evidence.
In a Pentagon briefing today, the chief of staff for the Odyssey Dawn joint task force said there's no evidence of any civilian casualties. And when journalists in Tripoli asked to be taken to hospitals where civilians are allegedly being injured or injured civilians are being treated, instead government minders take them on trips like this, bus trips to pro-Gadhafi rallies where the minders themselves help whip up the crowds.
ITN's Britain Channel 4 Jonathan Miller asked to see some of those alleged civilian targets and wounded. The minder took him to an old naval warehouse that had been hit in a strike, clearly a military target. And when he confronted the government minder, the guy had no answers. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN MILLER, ITN REPORTER: Why did you bring us to a naval target? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's who attack, attack it here. Why attack it here?
MILLER: Yes, it's a military -- but it's a military target.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just for study and just for..
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why bomb it here?
MILLER: But, Saleem (ph), you told us that many civilians have been killed, many civilians injured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this? What is this?
MILLER: This is a military...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our people. It's our money. It's our land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, if you really want to see how surreal the propaganda gets, you just have to watch a little Libyan state television. We found this on YouTube. A man who appears to be some sort of television news anchor or presenter actually pulls out an AK- 47 and pledges allegiance to Gadhafi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me a man or a president in the whole world who dares to arm his civilian people if these people are not genuinely loyal to the leadership. In the name of almighty God, I pledge to you, my dear leader, that I will sacrifice my last breath, my last bullet, my last drop of blood, last baby and child for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A show of loyalty on Libyan state-run TV.
There's no evidence of civilian casualties in coalition airstrikes, but according to eyewitnesses in Misrata, civilians continue to get killed by Gadhafi forces. We spoke with a number of people in Misrata today. One opposition member told us via text message that Gadhafi ground forces fired from tanks, killing seven people.
Earlier, I spoke with another opposition member in Misrata who said the problem is that they just don't have enough ammunition and they don't have enough strong, heavy weapons that can take out Gadhafi's tanks. Again, as always, we have to point out we cannot independently verify what this person is saying.
COOPER: What's the situation in Misrata now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, Misrata has been attacked, attacked by tanks. At 10:00 or 9:00, the tanks at Tripoli Street are trying to attack the clinics where the injured and dead are kept.
COOPER: Are opposition fighters now trying to fight back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are defending the hospital right now. And we just heard that there are -- a few of the snipers have been killed.
COOPER: Last night, there were coalition airstrikes near Misrata. Were you able to see those or hear those?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The airstrike was taking place at the air force academy. That's about 30 kilometers away from the center of the city and where the supplies for Gadhafi forces come from.
COOPER: That's where their supplies are from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's -- yes. That's very helping for us.
I think their ammo is just about finished. The Gadhafi forces are just been patrolling the Tripoli streets. That's it for them. And the uprising has taken control, like they are blocking them inside the street. They will not let them go out. It's just a matter of time to win this battle.
COOPER: You believe it's just a matter of time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the air-striking has just helped us a lot.
COOPER: The airstrikes have helped.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
COOPER: So what gives you confidence that it's just a matter of time before you're able to defeat the Gadhafi forces?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We just need more ammo shortly. It's just ammo we need.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
COOPER: Thank you very much for talking to us. Stay safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Thank you very much. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: A voice from Misrata tonight.
Now let's get the latest from Arwa Damon in Benghazi and in Tripoli David Kirkpatrick from "The New York Times."
Arwa, you -- we just heard from the resident of Misrata there. You were on the front lines hours just ago outside Ajdabiya. What did you see there? Where are the rebels?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they're only a short distance away from the northern gate, the northern gate to Ajdabiya, but that is where they appear to be slightly bogged down. The airstrikes have allowed them to advance this far. They have been trying to break through Gadhafi's tanks. The artillery that he has, this barrage has been raining down on them and they have not been able to do so.
And I think this is where we have an example of where the opposition is at a point where the airstrikes have helped it gain momentum but where it now needs to fight out the last part of the battle on its own. It needs to be able to deliver that final blow to Gadhafi's forces.
But it is here where they are struggling, because also outside of Ajdabiya, we're hearing from the opposition that they need better weapons, better equipment. There's very little that they can do in the face of this ongoing artillery barrage that they're coming up against. They have been trying to loop around, go through other entrances in the city, outflank Gadhafi's forces.
But they're really struggling in this case. And this is where it is going to be very challenging and very difficult for them to gain this momentum and to try to move forward through various cities and towns, Anderson.
COOPER: David, we just heard new airstrikes in Tripoli, or at least explosions being heard. CNN has now confirmed that. I know you didn't hear it yourself.
You say, though, anti-aircraft fire there is markedly down. We saw some a few hours ago, but it's markedly down since the bombing campaign began. What does that suggest to you?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, one theory was that they have taken out a lot of the anti-aircraft weapons. That's certainly possible.
I can't of course rule out that the Gadhafi government has, for their own reason, decided to conserve their ammunition. But nothing about the way this government runs tells me they like to conserve ammunition. They shoot their guns in the air at the slightest opportunity all the time.
COOPER: David, also, ABC News is quoting U.S. officials that Gadhafi is increasingly anxious and they say -- quote -- "moving around a ton." That was the quote. We obviously -- do you know -- we don't know where he is, obviously, do we?
KIRKPATRICK: No, we don't. That's the subject of a great deal of rumors around Tripoli today.
Gadhafi made an appearance last night at his palace -- I guess it was two nights ago now -- gave a speech that included the lines, I am here, I am here, I am here. His main point seemed to be showing people that he was still alive and in the palace. Whether he immediately left for another more secure (INAUDIBLE) or not, I have no idea. Certainly, if I was Colonel Gadhafi right now, I wouldn't let everyone know exactly where I was.
COOPER: Arwa, there had been a report, I think it was in "The Wall Street Journal," that opposition forces maybe had been receiving weapons, I think it was through Egypt. Have you seen any evidence that they have new weaponry at all?
DAMON: No, Anderson, we haven't. And we have also heard various reports that weapons have been coming from Egypt and from some other countries. We have been asking the opposition leadership, their military leadership about this.
They're denying that any sort of government is sending them weapons, that they are receiving weapons from the outside. What we do see is opposition fighters alongside the main routes here going from Benghazi to Ajdabiya trying to put together whatever weapons they have managed to recuperate from Gadhafi's forces following those airstrikes.
You see them on the side of the road trying to put together the damaged multiple-barrel rocket launchers. We see them trying to haul the tanks away. They tell us that they're trying to repair those. And this is really how they have been arming themselves. They have basically been cobbling together bits and pieces of weapons that they're finding.
What they carry into the battlefield is whatever they have recovered from weapons storage facilities, from arms depots. And this is exactly why they say they need weapons and equipment. Now, the chief of staff for the opposition military did tell us that they specifically have asked various foreign countries for weapons and for equipment, because these fighters out there, Anderson, they don't even have flak jackets.
But the army chief of staff is saying that, as of now, they have not received anything.
COOPER: David, we saw this anchor or television presenter basically whip out what looks like a pretty brand new AK-47. I know you were on the road today in a town where also people had been armed, given new AK-47s. That would seem to be a sign of some confidence by Gadhafi, if he's willing to arm some of his people.
KIRKPATRICK: Yes, I thought it really was a sign of remarkable confidence. We were in the town of Bani Walid, which is a stronghold of the largest Libyan tribe, the Warfalla.
And the Warfalla are extra important because not only are they the biggest tribe and everyone here says you sort of can't rule out them. They're the bedrock of the Gadhafi military forces. This is a town where so many young men go in the military. The local university is pretty much all women, because military jobs are a good source of income and prestige here.
And yet we have been hearing murmurs that the Warfalla were wavering in their loyalty. And there has been Warfalla coup attempts in the past, and the Warfalla were to defect, as we have been hearing from some people who (INAUDIBLE) credible, that would be a real bellwether event.
And yet, in this context, here's Colonel Gadhafi handing out a new Kalashnikov to every household. We saw middle-aged women and young boys, teenagers, showing off and trying to figure out their new guns. And on the way back in, we saw six or more pretty heavily armed checkpoints with machine guns surrounded by sandbags and heavily artillery into the road, which suggests to me that they're hedging their bets a little bit. They have fortified the path to Tripoli if some of those residents of Bani Walid decided to turn their guns the other way.
COOPER: And just very briefly, Arwa, are you aware of any coordination between opposition forces, between the military force and the coalition forces? Are they in communication about locations of their fighters?
KIRKPATRICK: I have heard opposition figures...
DAMON: Yes, Anderson, according to the army chief of staff here, General Younis, he was telling us that there is, in fact, direct coordination between himself, between coalition forces. They are very much sharing intelligence on locations that they would like to see hit in these airstrikes, and that the coalition is also sharing various intelligence that they have as well.
Interestingly, Anderson, the general was telling us that they have not asked the coalition to hit Gadhafi's compound and that in those strikes that we have been seeing there in the past, they're saying that was not specifically their request. When it comes to Gadhafi, the opposition very much insisting that they want to be the ones who actually take him out at the end of the day.
COOPER: Arwa Damon, David Kirkpatrick, appreciate it. Thank you very much. Stay safe. Be careful.
Let us know what you think. We're at Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter at AndersonCooper. I will also be tweeting throughout the hour tonight. Strong criticism coming up over the United States' role in Libya. Some say it cost too much. Some say there's just no reason for the U.S. to be there, strategic reasons. We will hear from Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, next. We will also talk to former General Wesley Clark, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Jill Dougherty and others, different vantage points, different viewpoints.
Also ahead, yet another setback at the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan and another pressing problem. Word today the water is contaminated, too dangerous for infants to safely drink, even in a city like Tokyo. We will have the latest on that, coming up.
COOPER: New pictures from the French military, planes taking off from an aircraft carrier as part of the allied airstrikes in Libya.
Here in the United States, especially on Capitol Hill, there's criticism on both sides of the aisle over America's role in the operation. House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to President Obama today complaining that military resources were committed without the president clearly explaining to Congress what the mission is.
Then there's the cost. Using figures from the Navy, CNN estimates the U.S. will spend $800 million to establish the no-fly zone over Libya and after that $100 million a week to maintain it.
Beyond the price tag, there's political, philosophical criticism.
Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the former chief adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Richard Haass joins me now in New York.
And we could about -- I know you don't think there were vital interests at stake in terms of getting the U.S. involved and we're kind of getting involved on the fly.
Let's talk about where we move forward from here, since we are involved in this. How do you see the operation going and what are your biggest concerns now?
RICHARD HAASS, AUTHOR, "WAR OF NECESSITY, WAR OF CHOICE: A MEMOIR OF TWO IRAQ WARS": Well, you're right, we are where we are, whether you thought this was a great idea or a terrible idea.
My hunch is the operation will take longer than people think; it almost always does. Plus, the opposition is almost better seen as a plural, rather than as a singular organized fighting force. They really weren't prepared for something like this. The allies really weren't coordinated much among themselves, much less with the opposition. So I think you have probably got to prepare for something that could be quite messy and quite prolonged.
COOPER: When President Obama says days, not weeks in terms of U.S. leadership on this, or U.S. the most prominent role in this, do you buy that? HAASS: Well, let me put it this way. If he's right, then someone else had better be prepared to step in. Could be the Arab League, but that's a long shot. Could be the French or some other European.
But you are ultimately going to need either an awful lot of military help on behalf of the opposition. And then if you succeed, you're going to need probably some kind of a peacekeeping force, because there's going to be a security vacuum, because the one thing we could probably predict, that if the opposition ever does get rid of Gadhafi, then their one common thread will have disappeared and for all we know, then they're start fighting among themselves.
So you're going to have to provide some sort of national order, because Gadhafi never allowed an army to really grow up that has a national reach. This is -- even if we're successful, this is going to be extraordinarily messy.
COOPER: There are people who say, look, we know who the opposition is. Look at the makeup of the council that is running Benghazi now, that they are doctors, former government people, secularists. Do you buy that, or do you feel like we don't really know who really is the opposition?
HAASS: No, because in civil wars, the people who are active at the political level aren't necessarily the people who really have the power.
Plus, in Libya, you have got an unbelievably complicated mosaic, an overlay of tribes and families and the rest. So I think anyone who speaks with any confidence that we know what would succeed Gadhafi, if in fact Gadhafi were to fall or fail, I simply don't buy that.
COOPER: So do you not see this as a democratic uprising that just turned violent or do you see this as a civil war that the U.S. is now siding with one group in a civil war?
HAASS: Absolutely the latter. This is a civil war. Whether you think it was humanitarian intervention or not, this is a civil war. We have sided with one side, the opposition to Gadhafi. We don't, though, know exactly who it is we're siding with.
We certainly don't know who on the side we're working with would prevail with in the end. And again civil wars are nasty and often the people who come to the fore are not people who necessarily are reading the Federalist Papers...
COOPER: Could anything be worse though than Gadhafi, a guy who has been -- Fouad Ajami says he's run the place like a penal colony.
HAASS: As bad as he's been and as bad as he could be, sure. You could have situations of massive chaos. You could have people come to the fore who are say aligned with various radical Islamic groups. You could have a central government that doesn't control big chunks of the territory.
COOPER: Right. Essentially, before Gadhafi, there were sort of three main areas that made up Libya. It really wasn't much of a country.
HAASS: Right. You could have ungoverned spaces, to use the wonkish term, where groups like al Qaeda could put down roots. So, yes, as bad as things are -- one of my few rules in the Middle East is things have to get worse before things get even worse. They don't necessarily improve.
So, sure, I can spin out scenarios where things in Libya get better, but I think we have also got to be prepared for the fact that things could get worse, that Gadhafi could prevail. He could simply hang in for a long time, or even if the opposition were to prevail and oust him, that that's not the end of things. That's really simply the beginning of phase two. And that could be extraordinarily complicated.
COOPER: So, bottom line for you, is this operation is going to take a lot longer than people have been led to believe?
HAASS: Whatever the U.S. phase is, the operation, until Libya is functioning as a normal country that in any way is a positive place, that could be a matter of years.
COOPER: Can you see a situation where Gadhafi remains in power and this operation ends?
He could hang tough. By and large, if governments stay intact and are willing to kill their own people, they can remain in place. And then the international community would have to decide whether to escalate. And we don't know whether the Arab League or all the Europeans and the United States would be willing to escalate.
The president said he wants Gadhafi to go, which is quite ambitious, but he also said no American boots on the ground. Right now we have a disconnect between the ambitions of our goals and the limits on our means. And unless someone else is willing to provide those additional means, sure, it's quite possible that Gadhafi could survive or you simply have a standoff. You could imagine Libya fighting this out for some time to come.
COOPER: Richard Haass, appreciate you being on, raising a lot of good questions.
COOPER: Joining us now from Paris, foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty, in Princeton, New Jersey, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department's former director of policy planning, and in Little Rock, Arkansas, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations. Anne-Marie Slaughter, you just heard Richard Haass talking about the many -- or raising many of the questions about where we go from here. What do you make of that?
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, DEAN, WOODROW WILSON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, I'm afraid, much as I like Richard, I disagree on just about every point.
Let's look at it in terms of where we were a week ago, where we had -- really a week ago, we didn't even have a U.N. resolution. Then we get a U.N. resolution that is supported by a remarkable coalition of countries, including Lebanon, and Colombia and Nigeria, other countries. Then Saturday, the first troops are -- the first planes are in the air. That's only three-and-a-half days ago. In three-and- a-half days, we have stopped Gadhafi in his tracks, we have prevented a massacre in Benghazi.
We are making progress and enabling the rebels to make progress outside other towns, as we just heard. In Tripoli, people are starting once again to make clear that they really don't support Gadhafi, that they're emerging from the blanket of fear.
And what we're hearing now, in only three-and-a-half days with nine nations in the coalition, we're hearing that members of Gadhafi's inner circle are reaching out to lots of governments, which is exactly consistent with the strategy we have been following. So I think three-and-a-half days in, that's not a bad track record.
COOPER: General Clark, what about you? There are a lot of things we don't know about the opposition forces, the makeup of them, what they would do afterward, and where this operation goes from here. We are doing this on the fly. I think it was Gates himself said today that really we're doing this -- I can't remember the exact quote, but it's something like we usually don't do this kind of thing on the fly, as we have been.
WESLEY CLARK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Well, this is not a conventional military intervention, because normally you would say, OK, what's your military objective and how does it support the decisive outcome that you're seeking? Here we have a decisive outcome we're seeking, which is to get rid of Gadhafi, but the military objective doesn't exactly lead to that outcome necessarily.
It might. And this is a situation, it is on the fly. It's being put together. It could work. It's going to take a lot of work behind the scenes with allies, with Arabs and with the Libyan opposition to pull this off. And there are limits apparently to what the military is going to be enabled to do.
So that means there's got to be other means employed to get the desired outcome. It could work. But it's not a conventional way of going at it.
COOPER: Anne-Marie, it does seem what that we're looking for ultimately is a political solution to this, meaning a political outcome, Gadhafi leaving or being taken out. Is a military -- is the military force really the best way to get a political outcome; in the past, does that work?
SLAUGHTER: Well, I think we're combing force with diplomacy and each has a distinct mission.
The use of force is designed to protect civilians, and it is succeeding in that goal, remarkably, in a short period of time. We are protecting civilians. We're basically forcing Gadhafi to fight much more fairly rather than invading cities and taking retribution.
At the same time, we have a diplomatic strategy of isolation and pressure to try to force Gadhafi out. Now, the military strategy has leveled the playing field. At the same time, we're working in many different ways, economic sanctions, political pressure, to change the calculations at least of the people around Gadhafi and it looks like that may be working as well.
So it's never one or the other. It's never just force or just diplomacy. Real statecraft is using them both in ways that reinforce each other. And I think there really are -- there are two missions here, but they do reinforce each other.
COOPER: Jill, what's the latest on the debate over allied command-and-control?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest we're hearing in fact from European diplomats is that the stopping -- what's stopping NATO really from, you know, being the central focus here is the French, that they simply don't want it.
Now, why don't they want it? They say that the Arabs wouldn't like it. But then some of these diplomats tell us the Arabs really at this point couldn't care less. It would be OK with them.
And then there's also that, how do we pull it delicately, the ego issue of President Sarkozy. And some people have talked about that, that he right from the beginning wanted to be seen as the person who was leading this, and perhaps that's part of the motivation.
COOPER: General Clark, there are plenty of people who aren't so thrilled about the U.S. involvement in this who would say, well, great, let President Sarkozy take the lead on this and run the whole thing.
CLARK: Well, that's true. And if it works out OK, maybe that's going to be fine. But, first, it's not clear that the French have the wherewithal to do the important political/military coordination, nor is it necessarily the case that they can do all the political work that Anne-Marie is talking about.
So I think the administration is committed in this, and the way the politics of it will work out is that this will eventually sort out to the harder the U.S. tries, the deeper we are involved politically, the more the president's reputation rides on the outcome, and the less likely we're going to be willing to defer to President Sarkozy, unless he's producing quick results. COOPER: Anne-Marie, just finally, do you agree with Richard Haass that we have now taken sides in a civil war? And if that is true, do you have a problem with that?
SLAUGHTER: I don't. I think that's exactly what Colonel Gadhafi wants us to believe. He wants us to see this as a civil war. But if it's a civil war, why is he having to pay foreign mercenaries to attack his own people?
As far as I'm concerned, there's very little evidence that this is not a popular uprising, and the minute you give people the ability to actually express their views free of fear, they are opposed to him. Indeed, even tribes that have been with him for a long time, you're seeing lots of fissures.
So I'm not saying there's nobody in Libya who supports him, but he is much closer to a popular uprising against a tyrant whose ruled for 42 years than a civil war.
COOPER: Jill, General Clark, thanks very much.
Ann Marie, stay with us. I want to talk about what's going on in Yemen and also in Syria.
Up next, security forces launching deadly crackdowns in Syria, Yemen. Bahrain we've seen, as well. We'll look at the growing violence, see how U.S. interests in the Middle East might be affected.
Also ahead, a setback for workers at the damaged nuclear plant in Japan. And new radiation concerns, this time linked to tap water. We're also going to speak to a man in Syria.
COOPER: Anti-government protesters in Syria clashed today with security forces in the city of Dara. About a dozen vehicles were set ablaze. Human rights activists say at least 15 people were killed by security forces.
While the United States, Western Europe and even most Arab nations are focused on Libya, parts of the Mideast are boiling over. They've been cracking down in Syria since last week. At times, security forces fired tear gas to disperse protestors.
President Bashar al-Assad's government has tried to isolate Dara, cutting off electricity, telephone service. Activists say at least 21 people have died there since Friday.
In Yemen, which has seen massive protests, the president finally agreed today to government reforms. But at the same time, Yemen's parliament extended his emergency powers for another 30 days.
Last week, Yemen's security forces launched a violent crackdown on protesters, killing more than 50. On Sunday, thousands turned out for the funerals of many of those who died. And in Bahrain, weeks of peaceful demonstrations against the ruling family turned violent last week when security forces launched a crackdown, chasing protesters out of a main square they've been occupying in the capital, Manama, killing some protesters.
Saudi forces had also moved in into -- into Bahrain.
Earlier tonight I spoke by phone to Wissam Tarif, human rights activist in Syria, on the violence unfolding there. I want to point out that we offered to talk to him without using his name, but he insisted that he wanted his name used. We considered not doing in the interview, but in the end, we believe he is well aware of the dangers he faces. And we decided to respect his request.
COOPER: Wissam (ph) today, Syrian authorities arrested a prominent rights activist, and yet you want us not only to talk to you but you want us to use your name. Why do you want us to use your name? Why is that so important?
WISSAM TARIF, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST (via phone): Well, it is important, the high wall of fear in Syria is fallen. People -- the Syrian people who are living in exile, Syrian people who are living abroad, who are calling Arab networks, TVs and hiding their names and disguising their voices should stop it now.
People are dying right now in Dara. We have been living in this country for 50 years under emergency law. This element of fear has to be broken.
COOPER: What is the situation on the ground there?
TARIF: Well, in Dara, Dara has been in blackout. There is no land lines working. Mobile phones are not working. There is no electricity at the moment.
The security forces have invaded the Omariya (ph) mosque last night and killed six people. A lady of 88 years old was injured, and she died at 10 a.m. in the morning. The security forces prevented the funeral because they know that during the funeral, people gather and people become more excited. And that causes much more anger.
And people gathered again around 2 p.m. around the mosque, and they were seized by security forces, who put around barricades (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And the security forces created more brutality. We have -- we have confirmed a few names of people that have been killed. Another eight names are being circulated, and we are trying to confirm the names. People are being slaughtered right now in Dara.
COOPER: The protesters, though, unlike in Tunisia, unlike in Egypt, they're not calling for the end of President Assad's regime.
TARIF: No. Up to now, no one has told the president to leave. They are asking for a very simple and realistic demand. They are asking for the release of prisoners of conscience. They are asking for the abolishment of emergency law. They are asking for reform in the country.
Syria is full of young people with lots of potential who would love a quality education. They should -- they have to be given the chance to prove themselves and to build the country. This is not the way that the president should be managing this. He should -- he has to start listening. It's the time to start listening and acting.
He can't afford any more promises. Reforms should have started 11 years ago, not now. This man has to start listening to the demands of his people now.
COOPER: Wissam Tarif, I applaud your courage, and I appreciate your talking to us. Thank you.
TARIF: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Let's talk more about the growing violence in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, all very different situations. Back with us, Ann- Marie Slaughter, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and a former director of policy planning at the State Department.
First, the situation in Syria, what do you make of the government's crackdown?
SLAUGHTER: Well, the first thing to say, as you just did, is the courage of these people is absolutely amazing.
COOPER: Yes, incredible.
SLAUGHTER: Our hats go off.
You know, the government is going to try to continue to use the tactics that it has used for a long time, which is just to snuff out any protests.
But what we just heard, which I think is -- is most important, is the wall of fear is coming down. That people are realizing that other people are willing to speak out, that other people are willing to take risk, and then they're more willing to take risks. And then, as you heard, as people sacrificed their lives for this -- in protest, then you have funerals, and that begins to escalate. That's a cycle that we've seen in many countries. But in Syria, it really takes tremendous courage.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, the police state in Syria is omnipresent. It's the same phrase, "breaking down that wall of fear," same phrase we heard in Egypt early on, people saying fear had been defeated.
It's interesting, though, that the demonstrations in Syria, that so far at this point the people have not been calling for the president to actually step down. And yet he's not taking that as an opportunity to kind of show his willingness to, you know, go after corruption, go after reform. SLAUGHTER: Well, that's right. Although of course they are asking for things that would make it much harder for him to rule. They are asking for the release of political prisoners. They're asking for the lifting of the emergency law. Those are the tools with which you keep enforced stability.
But they are doing, actually, exactly what you would recommend, which is they're demonstrating peacefully and they're asking for reform. And that is, in fact, a position that the United States has supported for many years now, where we've been pushing governments to meet the needs of their people, to evolve, so they have evolution rather than revolution.
And here you're seeing a state that doesn't look like it's likely to take that route. And at that point things can turn violent.
COOPER: In Yemen, it's obviously a very different situation. You have two -- two wars basically going on in the north and south and insurgency battles against al Qaeda forces, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. You have a very real al Qaeda presence in the country.
Is that the lens through which U.S. officials look at the situation in Yemen?
SLAUGHTER: This is an incredibly complex set of choices for the administration. We need the cooperation of the Yemeni government. We get very valuable intelligence, obviously for counterterrorism. Instability in the region does mean havens for al Qaeda.
At the same time, we know that, unless the government begins to meet these demands, begins to reform in ways that people are satisfied with, you can have an explosion that really would produce the kind of chaos or ungoverned spaces that Richard Haas was talking about, that really would be worse even in the situation now.
So we need to push the government and we need to support the right to peaceful protest. But we really don't want a revolution there in terms of our interest or, frankly, for the interests of the people.
COOPER: And obviously in Bahrain, you also have a completely different situation, which you now have Saudi -- Saudi forces in Bahrain, also I believe forces from the UAE, from this Gulf Cooperation Council, so called. How do you see the situation there?
SLAUGHTER: So there again, one of the tenants that we are following is, look, it's up to the regional organizations to take the lead here. That's why we waited for the Arab League to actually ask for a no-fly zone in Libya.
And here you have the Gulf Cooperation Council, who have an agreement to come to each other's aid, and we are not going to override what countries have agreed among themselves.
At the same time, we've been very clear that to the extent, the point of those troops is to crush peaceful protests, that is -- that may seem like a smart tactic in the short term, but it's not in the long-term. And it's certainly not in our interests, or we think, in those government's interest, that they have to reform, to meet the demands of their people.
COOPER: You also have the sectarian split, the Sunni-Shia split there in Bahrain. Concerns about -- I'm sorry, in Bahrain, concern about Iranian involvement in the region. We'll be talking about this a lot in the weeks to come and the days to come. Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor, thanks very much for being with us.
COOPER: One more note from the Middle East tonight, a terrorist attack at a bus station in Jerusalem today killed at least one person, injured dozens of others. Israeli officials said the explosive device was left inside a bag. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed a trip to the deal -- to deal with the attack. The Palestinian prime minister called it a disgrace, said it hurts the Palestinian cause.
Next, the breaking news out of Japan. Parents in Tokyo warn that tap water in Japan's capital is unsafe for infants, tainted by dangerous levels of radioactive iodine.
Plus, at the stricken nuclear plant that's leaking radiation, another setback in efforts to contain the crisis. Why workers had to leave the site again today. Details ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When the earthquake happened, students at Ishinomaki (ph) Elementary evacuated out of the school. They had no idea a tsunami was coming.
Out of 108 students at the school that day, 77 are either dead or missing. That's 70 percent of the children at this school.
(voice-over) Only a shell stands where children learned. Backpack after backpack sits for parents to retrieve, along with a picture of the school Little League team, the bats they used, art bags filled with crayons, all waiting to be identified and brought home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's hard to believe. One school, one town, Ishinomaki (ph), Japan. CNN's Kyung Lah reporting.
The death toll rose to nearly 9,500 today, with more than 15,000 still missing. So many stories still to be told, so many people to be recovered. Fewer than ten Americans are unaccounted for right now, according to the U.S. State Department.
Tonight, breaking news on several fronts in Tokyo. Officials warning residents not to give tap water to infants or use it in formula after tests found levels of radioactive iodine twice the limit for babies.
Stores are seeing -- seeing a run on bottled water, as you can imagine.
Tokyo's government said it's going to give water to 80,000 households with babies, according to Japanese television. Keep in mind: Tokyo is 150 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
At the plant today, another setback: smoke began pouring from the badly damaged No. 3 reactor, forcing more evacuations of workers. Late word tonight, they've reportedly resumed their work inside.
We have new pictures to show you taken inside the control rooms of No. 1 and No. 2 reactors. The plant's owner, TEPCO, said two owners were injured at the plant today while working with an electrical panel.
Earlier today I talked to an American technician who was working inside the plant when the earthquake struck. Here's what Danny Eudy told me in our exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANNY EUDY, AMERICAN TECHNICIAN: It went on for a long time and then, while we were there, we just got into the corner, myself and my other co-workers, and friends, and the Japanese people tried to get up close to some of the main structure and the beams that were there and do the best we could, because we couldn't make it to the door. It was shaking too far and too much, too violently for us to get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He was lucky to get out. We'll have more of that interview later this week.
Tonight, the crisis the quake and the tsunami ignited at the plant is far from over. Nuclear experts point out the clock is running.
Michael Friedlander was a former senior plant operator at three nuclear power plants for more than a decade. He joins me now.
Michael, when electricity was restored at the plant, or at least those cables were hooked back up, the cooling -- the cooling pumps haven't been turned on, but there was hope, though, that the crisis was getting under control. You believe some of the most risky work, though, still lays ahead.
MICHAEL FRIEDLANDER, FORMER SENIOR PLANT OPERATOR: Yes, that's exactly right, Anderson. Think about it. When that accident happened, much of the radioactivity basically stayed inside what we call the primary containment building.
Now certainly over the days, we've seen some of the venting and we see some of the consequence of that in the country side and now reaching to Tokyo. Most of that radioactivity remains inside the primary containment.
And as we restore those plant systems and we start moving the plant toward stable, safe, shut-down condition, we need to start moving large quantities of extremely radioactive water outside primary containment. And that is going to require meticulous oversight and management.
COOPER: There's also concern about something I hadn't even heard about before, but about salt buildup inside the reactors, which could cause harm to heat up even more. Are you concerned about this? And explain, like, where there's so much salt in these reactors. From the saltwater?
FRIEDLANDER: Yes, Anderson, for almost two weeks now, we've been injects about 100 gallons a minute of seawater into these reactors. And it's sort of like a teapot on the stove. As you pour increasing amounts of water in that -- saltwater in that tea pot, the water boils off and leaves the salt behind. And so that salt is now plating on surfaces inside the reactor vessel and as well as settling in the bottom of the reactor.
Now, what we're worried about is that salt may be placed out on the side of the fuel pins. It can do two things. No. 1, it insulates those fuel pins to a certain degree and, No. 2, it can block the flow of cooling water that's flowing up past those fuel pins. And of course, worried about those fuel pins overheating and releasing some more radiation.
COOPER: Do we know about the conditions of -- I mean, of whether there's enough water now to cover the spent fuel rod pools?
FRIEDLANDER: We don't have any detailed information. We will get our first glimpses of that as they restore power to the main control rooms, as they get their instrumentation and controls back. From the main control rooms, we'll be able to monitor the levels and the temperatures in the spent fuel pool. So that -- that's why restoring power was such a critical evolution and getting command and control back is going to be really important.
COOPER: You said one of your biggest worries, though, is contaminated food, contaminated water. What does this tap water warning in Tokyo tell you about the extent of contamination?
FRIEDLANDER: Another great question. And this is indeed the principle issue that we are going to really have to monitor quite closely over the months and years to come.
As that radiation, as that cloud of radioactive material drifted away from the power plant, it settled out on the countryside and the ocean. And we know that the water shed that feeds the rivers and supplies Tokyo's water supply are in those areas.
And so what has happened over the last several days, as the rain has come down, it's washed that radioactivity and deposited out, has washed it into the rivers. And so, while at a -- at a local level, it may have been a very, very low level of contamination, it's now concentrated into the rivers. And I think that we're going to see that occurring more, as well as in the ocean food chain.
COOPER: Michael Friedlander, always good to talk to you. I appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much.
FRIEDLANDER: You bet.
COOPER: Still ahead tonight, a U.S. soldier pleading guilty to murdering Afghan civilians for sport. He says he lost he moral compass. Those were his words.
Plus, Elizabeth Taylor being remembered tonight as one of the world's greatest. A leader, not just a great actress, world leader and AIDS activist. She will not soon be forgotten. Details ahead.
COOPER: Let's get an update on some of the other stories we're following. Isha Sesay has the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians in cold blood last year was sentenced today to 24 years in military prison.
Twenty-two-year-old Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and agreed to testify against other soldiers charged in the killings.
In San Francisco, a federal appeals court has again refused to allow same-sex marriages in California, while an appeal is pending.
Last year a federal judge declared a voter-approved ban on same- sex marriages in California unconstitutional. The civil rights challenge is now at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The quake in Japan may worsen the iPad 2 shortage. The earthquake, tsunami and aftershocks has halted or delayed production of many components in the popular device.
And legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor has died. In her nearly seven-decade career, she acted in more than 50 films, winning two Oscars for Best Actress.
Taylor landed on Hollywood's map when she was just 12, starring in "National Velvet." The child actress grew into a movie queen. She was the first actress to earn a million dollars for "Cleopatra," for starring with Richard Burton.
Off screen, she married eight times, twice to Burton.
After the death of her former costar and friend Rock Hudson, the actress became an activist, raising millions to help those with HIV/AIDS.
Elizabeth Taylor was 79. And Anderson, her son Michael Wilding put out a statement which read in part "She was an extraordinary woman, and her legacy will never fade." COOPER: Yes. What an extraordinary life. I mean, just incredible.
Isha, thanks very much.
Up next, breaking news out of Libya: large explosions in Tripoli. New information about Gadhafi's inner circle perhaps reaching out to the United States. The latest at the top of the hour.