Face the Nation Transcripts June 22, 2014: Rubio, Rogers, Boxer

(CBS News) -- Below is a transcript of the June 22, 2014 edition of Face the Nation with Guest host Norah O'Donnell. Guests included: Marco Rubio, Barbara Boxer, Mike Rogers, Mike Morell, Clarissa Ward, Margaret Brennan, Tavis Smiley, Robin Wright, John Dickerson and David Ignatius.

NORAH O'DONNELL, HOST: I'm Norah O'Donnell, and this is FACE THE NATION.

Breaking news overnight, as the terror group ISIS continues its sweep through Iraq.

Plus, Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the region to work on a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Shia militia marched in cities across Iraq in show of force against ISIS. Is a civil war inevitable? I sat down with President Obama Friday and asked him about threat posed to the U.S. by ISIS and other terror groups around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we can't do is think that we're just going to play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: We will have some of that interview.

Plus, we will hear from Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, and California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

Sixty years of use, because this is FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. Bob is off today.

There is breaking news this morning, as the al Qaeda splinter group ISIS has seized three more towns in Iraq. And that is in addition to the town of al-Qaim, a key post on Syrian border which they took yesterday. Plus, the fighting continues at the site of a major oil refinery in Baiji.

CBS News foreign correspondent Clarissa Ward is in Baghdad.

Clarissa, what is the latest there?

CLARISSA WARD, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Norah, that's right.

ISIS militants have taken three towns along the Euphrates River in the west of the country, as well as that key border station. That will allow them to move weapons and fighters easily and quickly back and forth from their base of operations in Syria to here in Iraq.

Now, what we're seeing is that ISIS is really expanding its territory and actually beating the Iraqi army on multiple fronts. That gives you sense of just how fierce a fighting force ISIS and also just how weak the Iraqi army is.

O'DONNELL: Clarissa, given those territorial gains, what are you hearing about how the government says they plan to take that territory back?

WARD: Well, at this stage, the Iraqi army simply isn't in a position to take back any territory. Their focus is to try to defend Baghdad, the capital, and also the city of Samarra, which is home to very sacred Shiite shrine.

The government strategy is to try to woo some of the other Sunni militant groups that have been fighting alongside ISIS, but which don't share their extremist ideology. But that could be very complex and very nuanced and very time-consuming process, and quite frankly it's not clear whether Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will even be able to pull that off.

And time really is of the essence here, Norah, for two reasons. Firstly, the longer ISIS holds that territory, the tougher it is to get them out, but secondly with every victory that ISIS has on the battlefield, its profile is being raised on the jihadist circuit. And you have now funding and fighters flooding in as ISIS continues to gain momentum.

O'DONNELL: And, meantime, the Maliki government appears to be relying on Shia militias. What's their role?

WARD: That's right. Just yesterday, we saw tens of thousands of members of the Mahdi army militia marching with heavy weaponry in a massive display of force. Their stated goal to destroy ISIS, but their remobilization really opens up a lot of old sectarian wounds, especially here in Baghdad. Everybody here remembers the worst sectarian violence of 2006 and 2007, when so-called death squads were terrorizing this city. And nobody wants to see a return to that bloody time.

O'DONNELL: Indeed. Great reporting, Clarissa Ward from Baghdad. Thank you.

On the diplomatic front, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in the Mideast.

CBS News State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan is with the secretary in Cairo.

Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Cairo is Secretary Kerry's first stop on weeklong diplomatic push to try to stabilize Iraq. In his meetings with newly elected President and form Army Chief Al-Sisi, Kerry said ISIS poses threat to this entire region and asked Egypt to use its influence in Baghdad to quickly form a new Iraqi government, one that gets support from local tribal leaders.

Kerry is expected to make the same pitch to other Arab leaders from Saudi Arabia and emirates this week, and U.S. officials tell me Kerry will lean on them to help cut off funding to ISIS. They say private donations from the Gulf, along with extortion and robbery, is how ISIS remains so well-funded.

And those meetings are going to be intense, because those largely Sunni Gulf states are deeply skeptical about Prime Minister Maliki and Iranian influence on him. Many think that Maliki should leave office, though the U.S. has publicly stopped short of saying so.

Kerry's next stop will be Jordan, a country's whose leader has long warned that spillover from the Syrian war could lead to the rise of terror groups that could threaten to destabilize the entire Middle East -- Norah.

O'DONNELL: Margaret Brennan traveling with the secretary, thank you, Margaret.

On Friday, I sat down with President Obama in the Blue Room at the White House in an interview for "CBS THIS MORNING."

We talked about the situation in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: ISIS a group that is so extreme, it has been disavowed by al Qaeda as being too violent. How urgent of a threat to the American people is ISIS?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's fair to say that their extreme ideology poses a medium and long-term threat.

There are a lot of groups out there that probably have more advanced immediate plans directed against the United States that we have to be on constant guard for.

The thing about an organization like this is that, typically, when they control territory, because they're so violent, because they're so extreme, over time, the local populations reject them. We have seen that time and time again. We saw it during the Iraq war in places like Anbar province, where Sunni tribes suddenly turned against them because of their extreme ideology.

We are going to have to be vigilant generally. Right now, the problem with ISIS is the fact that they are destabilizing a country that could spill over into some of our allies like Jordan and that they are engaged in wars in Syria, where, in that vacuum that's been created, they could amass more arms, more resources.

But I think it's important for us to recognize that ISIS is just one of a number of organizations that we have to stay focused on. Al Qaeda in Yemen is still very active and we're staying focused on that. In North Africa, you're seeing organizations, including Boko Haram, that kidnapped all those young women that is extreme and violent.

This is going to be a global challenge and one that the United States is going to have to address, but we're not going to be able to address it alone. And as I said yesterday, what we can't do is think that we're just going to play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up.

We're going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy and we're going to have to partner and train local law enforcement and military to do their jobs as well.

O'DONNELL: Would that vacuum exist had we backed the moderate rebel forces in Syria?

OBAMA: Yes.

I think this notion that somehow there was this ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad is simply not true. The notion that they were in a position suddenly to overturn not only Assad, but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent few arms is a fantasy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: There will be more of my interview with the president tomorrow on "CBS THIS MORNING."

I also spoke earlier with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and asked him about the threat posed by ISIS militants.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, certainly potentially more dangerous today than al Qaeda.

They are an extremely radical group with increasing capabilities, and a very clear design. They want to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq, and other places. Potentially, Jordan is next at some point. And then they want to launch attacks in the exterior, external operations, including targeting our homeland.

This is an extremely serious national security risk for the country if they were to establish that safe haven of operation.

O'DONNELL: I know you have said that, that what is happening in Iraq has a direct bearing on the future security of every American. How so?

RUBIO: Well, if you look at what happened before 9/11, the reason why al Qaeda was able to carry out the 9/11 attacks is because they had a safe operating space in Afghanistan that the Taliban had given them.

And now history is trying to repeat itself here. ISIS is trying to establish the exact same thing in the Iraq-Syria region that they're increasingly controlling. And then from there, from this caliphate that they're setting up, they will continue to recruit and train and plot and plan and eventually carry out external operations in Europe and potentially even here in the United States.

So, this is a very serious national security risk for the immediate and long-term future of our country. O'DONNELL: So, you believe our future involvement in Iraq is a direct threat to our national security?

RUBIO: Without a doubt.

I think this is an urgent counterterrorism matter. I know a lot has been talked about the future of Iraq as a country, and that is a very legitimate issue that needs to be looked at.

But, for me, this is not about nation-building or imposing democracy. This is a counterterrorism risk that we need to nip in the bud. It is my view that we will either deal with ISIS now or we will deal with them later. And, later, they're going to be stronger and harder to reach.

O'DONNELL: So, given that this is a direct throat to U.S. national security and an urgent threat, what should this administration be doing?

RUBIO: I do not believe, and I certainly hope that what he's announced with the 300 additional special forces and trainers going in is not simply a symbolic measure.

I hope it's the first step in a multistep process. But I think that we need to figure out a way to cut off those supply lines from Iraq -- from Syria into Iraq. We may potentially even have to target their command-and-control structure that they have established, including in portions of Syria.

In the meantime, I think this also calls for us to continue to empower those moderate rebel forces in Syria who are engaged in conflict against ISIS, not just Assad. And I think we need to provide more assistance for Jordan, both in security and in their border, because I think this poses a risk to Jordan down the road, and one that we should take very seriously.

O'DONNELL: I have been talking to a number of U.S. officials and foreign officials who say that there is a danger in launching airstrikes before a political solution is reached, essentially a new government without Prime Minister Maliki.

Would you agree with that?

RUBIO: Well, I think that has to be balanced.

You certainly want to make sure that airstrikes don't lead to chaos to could be even worse. On the other hand, you have got to keep a close eye on the situation, because if it continues on the trends we have seen recently, there may be no reason to launch airstrikes, because, at this point, they have controlled the whole country.

If you look at, for example, the danger Baghdad is now in, or the danger that different oil refineries are in, or their increasing ability to capture weapons that the Iraqis have, and I think if they continue to make these gains on the pace that they have been making, it's going to require urgent action to prevent them from establishing control over large sectors of this country.

O'DONNELL: So, I'm just trying to clarify what you...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: If they do, they will have established the caliphate that they seek.

O'DONNELL: So, what is the urgent action that you're suggesting?

RUBIO: Well, the urgent action is to draw up plans that allow us to begin to degrade their supply lines and their ability to continue to move forward.

O'DONNELL: With airstrikes?

RUBIO: That porous -- yes, that border between Iraq and Syria is quite porous.

And they're coming right across it. They're bringing equipment through there. They're bringing personnel through there. It's not the only border that they're utilizing, but it's a primary one. So, we have got to figure out a way to isolate ISIS from Syria and Iraq, isolate them from each other. And, then, look, I would leave the rest to military tacticians.

O'DONNELL: Your colleague Rand Paul wrote in "The Wall Street Journal," kind of raised the question, what would airstrikes accomplish, that, in essence, they would become -- we would become Iran's air force by aiding them. Your take? RUBIO: Well, I don't agree with that statement. I think that's quite an exaggeration.

The truth of the matter is that, if we do nothing, Iran is still going to be involved. And, in fact, if you think about it, imagine if Iran goes in there, becomes involved, and somehow helps the Iraqis turn back ISIS. You can rest assured that a future Iraqi government will be completely, 100 percent under the influence and in the pocket of Iran.

They will have expanded their strategic reach to include practical control not just over Syria if Assad survives, but also over Iraq, increasingly positioning themselves as a hegemonic power.

The United States has different hope for Iraq's future. It belongs to them as to how they get there. But out hope is a country that includes Turk -- Kurds and Sunni and Shia and even Christians, an inclusive country for its future. That is not Iran's goal here.

To do nothing and allow ISIS to establish a base of operation, like what al Qaeda had before Afghanistan, places us in a very dangerous position from a counterterrorism point of view and puts Americans' lives on the line down the road.

O'DONNELL: I hear you saying that, that we can't do nothing. But what I'm not hearing from you is what we should be doing, whether we should have more boots on the ground, whether we should do airstrikes immediately. I'm hearing cutting off supply lines, but what else?

RUBIO: I think that we should cut off ISIS' access to their command-and-control structure in Syria. And I think primarily that involves airpower.

What I don't think the president should do is unilaterally go out and announce to the world, these are the things I'm not going to do. He may in fact conclude, and I think many people would agree, that the introduction of ground troops in combat operations on the ground are not wise or necessary.

I happen to share that view, based on the information that I have today. But I don't necessarily think you need to go out and announce that and limit your options.

O'DONNELL: Do you think Prime Minister Maliki should step down?

RUBIO: That's a tough question.

The question is what replaces him. I certainly don't think he's been a good prime minister. I certainly believe that many of the problems that Iraq now faces are a direct result of failure of his leadership. And I think that is -- the time may very well be arriving when he should step aside allow someone else who can help unify the country to take hold there.

I think, if you start to extrapolate this out further -- and you alluded to it in one of your earlier questions -- imagine for a moment if we were able to push ISIS doing the combination of airpower and what the Iraqis do on the ground. You still need a government that can govern and bring the country together.

I don't believe Maliki can do that.

O'DONNELL: Senator Marco Rubio, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.

RUBIO: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONNELL: And another key Republican on Capitol Hill is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

Congressman, good to see you.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: So, we have heard this morning this breaking news that now four towns have fallen in two days to ISIS. How troublesome is this?

ROGERS: Well, it's incredibly troublesome.

So, you see an interesting trend. You have al Qaeda-minded ISIS group joined by former Saddam soldiers and leaders and disenfranchised Sunni tribal leaders. That is the combination that has allowed them to be so successful.

And it is troubling, because they have safe haven both in eastern Syrian, where they pooled up for months and really years, to get ready for this, before they launched this attack. And now they're holding large swathes of land that give them that opportunity for safe haven to continue to recruit, to continue to finance and those things.

O'DONNELL: You heard Senator Rubio talk about cutting off those supply lines. But one of the cities that they seized, al-Qaim, is right there on the border, and they now control most of the Iraq-Syria border, which means the supply lines are open.

ROGERS: And, again, we saw this happening. And that is what was so frustrating. We watched them pool in eastern Syria in a way we have never seen before, thousands and thousands of al Qaeda affiliated individuals.

Now, there has been some scrapping between Al-Nusra and the ISIS or ISIL, the Levant, meaning they want to have everything from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, by the way, which is important to understand.

So, we saw that happening. They are using that as base of operations, but now they don't need all the logistics to come from Syria. They also have opportunities to do that around Iraq. And that's what makes them so dangerous.

O'DONNELL: Secretary of State John Kerry has just landed in Egypt. His next stop is Jordan. What is his goal on this trip? What must he do?

ROGERS: Well, we have got to reestablish our relationship with our Arab League partners.

It's damaged as I have ever seen it. No decision is a decision. And they have watched what's happened in Syria and been talking to us and the U.S. government for months and months about, please help us do something effective in Syria, or we're going to have much bigger problem.

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: But he's meeting with the leaders of Jordan and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Sunni-led governments that can be perhaps influential.

ROGERS: Right.

O'DONNELL: Do they have any influence over ISIS?

ROGERS: Well, remember, ISIS is as much a threat to their governments as it is to the Shia-led Maliki government.

That is why they have been calling -- and, remember, the decision not to be more robust in Syria seemed -- it was easy to do, because I don't think people understood the sheer size of pooling of the al Qaeda elements in the east.

So, when we walked away from that, they are very frustrated with us. Our Arab League partners are as frustrated and nervous about what happens next. Remember, not making a decision to deal with them earlier has got us a bigger problem. They now hold land about the size of Indiana. And so we can reengage them to help us in both eastern Syria and Iraq. And I think they can do both.

O'DONNELL: You are chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

I want to get your reaction to what the president said to me when I asked him about how big of threat is ISIS to America's national security. He said it's a medium- and long-term threat and that we can't just play Whac-A-Mole with all these different terrorist groups that are popping up.

ROGERS: Well, listen, unfortunately -- and it's easy to try to diminish the threat.

What we know happens, as we watched happened in Afghanistan, they build safe haven. They train, they recruit, they plan operations that led to 9/11, the killing of 3,000 Americans. They have already expressed -- this is what got them in trouble with Zawahri, the leader of al Qaeda and the replacement for Osama bin Laden, is not only were they brutal, but they were talking about taking people with Western passports and sending them back home for terrorist operations from eastern Syria.

That is what got Zawahri all worked up over this group. And they weren't taking direction very well from Zawahri, not that their goals were any different. So, here you have a group, now, think of this, a billion dollars in cash and bullion, well-armed, well-financed. They have lots of free space in which to operate, train.

And we know that they have intentions to send people who have shown up with Western passports back to the United States and back to Europe. That is as dangerous as it gets. Now, is it six months, three months or a year? We're not sure. But I wouldn't wait.

And it's not Whac-A-Mole. This is in our national security interests. Bumper-sticker phrases aren't going to win this thing. We have got to be dug in for the long haul, because they're dug in for the long haul.

O'DONNELL: All right, Chairman Rogers, I know you will be back later in our broadcast.

And up next, we're going to hear from a top Democrat.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: We're back now with Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California and one of the most vocal opponents of the war in Iraq.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me.

O'DONNELL: You have heard the reports this morning that ISIS is on the move, capturing more towns. Is sending 300 military advisers going to be enough?

BOXER: Oh, listen, I agree with the president. We're not going to go back into that war again, ever.

The fact is, what we're seeing now is an outgrowth of that bad policy the neocons got us in, that crowd, on false pretense that said, go in there. And, as a result, ISIS was born. Let's face that fact.

And then, in '07, when Vice President Biden, then Senator Biden -- and I was on the Foreign Relations Committee -- he was my chairman -- suggest we have three semiautonomous regions, the Bush administration and the neocons said, absolutely not, even though we had more than 70 votes for that.

So, as a result, we have Maliki, who hasn't included the Sunnis. ISIS moved into fill the void. So, let's be clear on this. And now they're turning it into kind of a religious civil war.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the advisers there, as far as I know, are there to really give an assessment of what's happening on the ground. That's very important for us. And, also, they have a counterterrorism mission, which I voted for after 9/11. We need to go after the terrorists who are a threat to us.

O'DONNELL: But critics argue that the president essentially has ISIS is by omission, that by not acting in Syria, that ISIS was strong enough then to cross the border into Iraq and this is the result.

BOXER: Well, it's the opposite.

The hawks were saying, arm Syria, arm Syria. The president knew that ISIS was in Syria and didn't want them to get control of the weapons. So, that's just completely false. And I will say the big surprise, I think, the president would admit to, and I think is a fact, is, the Iraqi army that we spent $23 billion training just melted away, melted away in the face of just hundreds of ISIS.

So, we have a national security interest here. I agree with Senator Rubio and I agree with...

O'DONNELL: You do?

BOXER: Absolutely -- and the president of the United States. No-combat, counterterrorism mission is critical to us. And, therefore, as long as those advisers are not in harm's way -- and they are not in harm's way -- they can assess the situation and we can conduct counterterrorism. That's the key. Look, Norah, the Iraqi people had a chance of a lifetime. I didn't vote to send those -- for that war. It's one of my proudest moments, only 23 of us in the United States Senate, because it was based on false pretense.

And we unleashed a horror that we're seeing today. But the bottom line is, we do have a counterterrorism mission. And I support that mission.

O'DONNELL: And Vice President Cheney said this week, "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

BOXER: That is sick when you really look back at the record.

It was Vice President Cheney and Condi Rice working for George W. Bush and Rumsfeld and all those folks -- that's just like, you know, a nightmare come back to haunt me, just frankly -- who are basically telling us, get right back in there again.

The American people don't want it. The president doesn't want us in. The saner voices in the Senate and House don't want it. We do have a national security interest in preventing another 9/11. The Iraqis had their chance. They blew it. And I think, right now, they have got to figure out if they can form an inclusive government.

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: Senator Barbara Boxer, good to have you here. Thank you.

BOXER: Thank you. Lovely to be able to.

O'DONNELL: And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: We have got a lot more ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: Welcome back to Face the Nation. I'm Norah O'Donnell.

Secretary of State John Kerry has just finished a news conference in Cairo and he, too, talked about the danger of ISIS or ISIL, as Secretary Kerry refers to the terror group. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States would like to see the Iraqi people find leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of Iraq, that is prepared to be inclusive and share power in a way that will maximize the ability of Iraq to focus on the real danger at this moment for external source which is ISIL.

ISIL is a threat to all of the countries in the region. Even today in our conversation with President al-Sisi and with the foreign minister both expressed deep concerns about the impact of a group like ISIL and what it means to the region.

No country is safe from that kind of spread of terror.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONNELL: And House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers is back with us along with CBS senior security contributor Mike Morell who is also the former deputy director of the CIA.

So, it's great to have both of you who are so much involved in intelligence to talk about this.

Mike, let me first talk about the breaking news this morning that now ISIS, or ISIL, has captured four towns in the last two days. They're on the move.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) MICHIGAN: I think we're in a new phase, though, here Norah. I think the blitzkrieg that we saw towards Baghdad has essentially stopped and they are consolidating their position back in the west. I think that's what we're seeing now.

And it's just as worrisome, I don't want to downplay that at all, it's just as worrisome, but I think they're not on a different focus than they were when they were heading towards Baghdad.

O'DONNELL: I want to dive in to who ISIS or ISIL is. The leader, al-Baghdadi, was the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, which later became ISIS, they split off from al Qaeda. And I keep reading that their leader -- this man right here, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is so violent, so extreme that he was essentially ex-communicated by Ayman al Zawahiri who was bin Laden's number two.

ROGERS: Well, a couple of things. And one of the real briefly, when they're consolidating in the west why that concerns us is that is a very thoughtful action for an army on the move, that they're consolidating their gains without extending themselves too far into Baghdad where they know a fight is coming.

That is a thoughtful approach to what they're doing, very, very concerning. And that is an evolution we haven't quite seen before with forces this large that are al Qaeda minded.

O'DONNELL: Al-Baghdadi is so extreme. ROGERS: He is extreme. But the fight with Zawahiri think of two organized crime families. they're going to fight for control. At the end of the day, somebody is going to win. They're still going to be an organized crime family. They are al Qaeda-minded. Baghdadi wants more territory. He wants the Levant. He wants Lebanon. He wants Jordan.

They talked about Israel. And so they want to expand their Islamic caliphate. They believed that because they have piece of Syria and a huge piece of Iraq now that they are well underway to do that. That makes him one of the leaders of al Qaeda in his mind.

MIKE MORELL, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And Norah, there's a long history here of tension between al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda in Pakistan. And the relationship goes up and down. So, it's down right now but it doesn't need to stay down.

And just to reemphasize something the chairman said, their goals are the same. Their goals of attacking the United States and western Europe are exactly the same.

O'DONNELL: Well, I have a question about al-Baghdadi, because there are reports that he was held, we had him captured, he was in an American base in Camp Buqa (ph) for several years and then we let him go. And when he walked out, he told a bunch of reservists who were from Long Island, New York, he said this, quote, "I'll see you guys in New York."

Was an intelligence failure, a failure by our government to let him go?

ROGERS: I don't -- it was a very difficult time trying to find the right amount of evidence. Remember, he wasn't the leader then. He was someone on the rise then. Obviously this is a good lesson for us about letting people go who want to return to the fight right away, obviously. It's a little easier Monday morning quarterbacking, that particular decision. But I can tell you this is something that we're going to have to deal with in the days, months ahead. There are lot of individuals who are being held where there are discussions to let go. That is very, very troubling. And I'll hope we've have some reconsideration we'll have some reconsideration about what fight -- where their going to participate in the fight against...

O'DONNELL: And then who are the fighters that are joining al Baghdadi and ISIS? I mean, there are reports that there are hundreds if not thousands of these ISIS militants who are from western countries and they have European passports.

MORELL: So, you can think of ISIS as three groups. So, the original al Qaeda in Iraq, which are largely Iraqis and then then group of Syrians who joined ISIS when ISIS first showed up in Syria. And then you've got this group of westerners.

So, a significant percentage of the westerners who have gone to fight ended up with ISIS. And some of them are from the United States. And, yes, some of them have U.S. passports. O'DONNELL: Do we know who they are?

ROGERS: Not all of them. I mean, obviously our intelligence services are working over time to try to figure out -- as well we're working with our European allies trying to determine -- if you have a European passport you don't have to get here with a visa, that's what's so troubling about all...

O'DONNELL: But you know what -- but when you say that, you know, that they went Americans, in Syria, that are now up with this group people in America want to know do we know who they are? And are they going to be able to get back on plane to the United States?

MORELL: So in some cases yes, and in some cases no. You have to realize how easy it is to get to Syria. So all you have to do is fly to Turkey and cross that border and nobody knows you're in Syria.

So, it's difficult to track these people.

Now, I'm absolutely certain that my former colleagues are working as hard as they can to do that, but it's not easy.

ROGERS: And remember these are U.S. persons, these are U.S. citizens. It's a higher standard for our ability to try to find them and track them and look for them in way that we don't have to use when it's a terrorist from a foreign country.

O'DONNELL: I think one of the other concerns -- obviously we're talking about the territorial gains and al Baghdadi's goals, too, about what he wants to do and ISIS. But also their funding. I mean, everything I'm reading about that -- a U.S. official is quoted in the New York Times today saying ISIS is, quote, "among the wealthiest terror groups on the planet."

Where are they getting their money?

MORELL: Two sources. One is from wealthy Arabs who have long supported al Qaeda.

O'DONNELL: Which countries?

MORELL: From all of the Gulf countries.

O'DONNELL: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE?

MORELL: Absolutely. Jordan.

These are people who have been supporting al Qaeda all along. And they give their money to the most successful group. And so the success that we're seeing on the ground today is drawing in more money.

The other place they're getting money is from Iraq when they overrun a city, they gather all the money that happens to be available in that city. They are a very wealthy terrorist organization. O'DONNELL: They also have a very sophisticated social media campaign. They have used twitter and other things to recruit other jihadists to the area, as you both know. They have this tweet using some pretty dark humor that went viral where they included reportedly this image of first lady Michelle Obama where she had held up that sign that said "bring back our girls." And then they added that to say "bring back our Humvees."

Why are they able to operate so freely, this group? I mean, they can do social media like that. Why can't we get them?

MORELL: This is what happens when you have a safe haven, right. This is what al Qaeda did prior to 9/11. This is what al Qaeda did when they had freedom of movement in the FATA, you're able to do those kind of things when you have that safe haven, when you control that territory.

O'DONNELL: So, this seem very scary because they do seem to not only have safe haven that they already established as you pointed out in western Iraq and gaining ground, but they may have designs on Jordan. We keep hearing about Jordan. I think, you know, the secretary is going to be headed there on this trip as well.

What is the concern there?

ROGERS: It's not that they may have designs on Jordan, they do have designs on Jordan. So, think of the government of Jordan. Now it has hundreds of thousands of refugees that are acting as a destabilizing factor for the government of Jordan, hard to keep them, they had to build housing for them. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of people showed up on your border and you have to take care of them, that is a destabilizing factor.

And you have al Qaeda sympathizers in Jordan who don't support the Heshamite Kingdom. And now you've got on the border these al Qaeda-minded individuals who are now on the border between Jordan and Syria that they have never had to face before. That border has opportunities for crossing, too, and that is what so concerning.

MORELL: I'm concerned about Jordan, too. I'm also concerned about Lebanon where ISIS has been quite active over last several months just in the last couple of days conducted a bombing there.

So, they are also focused on Lebanon which is also fragile, as you know.

O'DONNELL: What steps now can the United States take? I mean, the Wall Street Journal" had great a piece yesterday that the U.S. government has been aware of the threat of ISIS for some time, was going to do something about it, but didn't really provide a large enough team back in January, or in wintertime to do something.

Did we miss the ball on this? I mean, were we slow to act prevent this growth of ISIS?

MORELL: Let me just jump in with the intelligence piece of this and Mike can deal with the policy piece, it's a lot tougher. But I've read several times that this is intelligence failure. Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was essentially defeated when the U.S. military left at the end of 2011. And the intelligence community monitored the growth of al Qaeda post-2011 in great detail, with intelligence reporting, with analysis. We made it very clear that this -- that this group was becoming more and more dangerous.

O'DONNELL: So why didn't we take action?

ROGERS: Well, again, we -- the intel -- and I agree, it was not an intelligence failure. We watched them pool up in the east of Syria in a way that we've never seen before -- thousands and thousands of them saw the Westerners starting to pour in.

O'DONNELL: But was there a policy failure there to work on what the intelligence...

ROGERS: Yes.

O'DONNELL: -- was telling us?

ROGERS: That, I have to agree, was a policy failure, because remember, not taking action is a decision. And many of us who were calling for a more robust engagement in Syria -- and, again, this isn't the 101st Airborne Division. It's not troops on the ground. We have lots of other options.

And our argument at the time was, if we don't do something to disrupt their growth in Eastern Syria, we are going to be in serious trouble.

We watched them grow then we watched them launch an attack from Eastern Syria, a safe haven, into Iraq. That's why they're -- this has been so concerning. People say, oh, the intelligence wasn't there. The intelligence was there.

We didn't do anything in Syria. We didn't do anything when they took Fallujah. We didn't do anything when they took Mosul. They got into Tikrit and somebody said, hey, this is a problem.

Well, no kidding?

O'DONNELL: All right, Chairman Mike Rogers, Mike Morell, great to have both of you.

A really interesting discussion.

Thank you so much.

ROGERS: Thank you.

MORELL: Thanks, Norah.

O'DONNELL: And we'll back right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: And we're back with our panel.

Robin Wright is a joint fellow at The Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace and a contributor to "The New Yorker."

David Ignatius is a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Tavis Smiley is host of "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS.

And CBS News political director, John Dickerson, is also here with us.

Welcome to all.

A lot to get to today, because there's a lot of news.

And so, David, let me start with you.

Secretary of State John Kerry has just landed in the region.

What must he accomplish?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I see Secretary Kerry as having three umbrellas he's trying to create.

The first is an Iraqi unity government that will shelter Iraq, bring Sunnis and Shia together, at least to some extent, and allow a push back against ISIS.

The second umbrella is to bring countries in the region, in particular, if possible, Saudi Arabia and Iran, under the same umbrella, so that the basic driver of this Sunni-Shia, you know, war that's -- that's ripping them at least apart can -- can be reduced.

And then the third umbrella would be some kind of international support. Kerry is going to have to go back to the United Nations Security Council at some point if he's got serious ideas for a way forward so he'll have a mandate. And I think he's trying to do all three.

O'DONNELL: Robin, is it Secretary Kerry's goal to convince Maliki to step down?

And can he even do that?

ROBIN WRIGHT, JOINT FELLOW, THE WILSON CENTER AND THE U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Well, that's a great challenge, because Prime Minister Maliki is now arguing that his ouster would amount to a success for ISIS, for the extremists. And that -- that resonates among many of the Shiites in Iraq. And they are the largest sector of the population.

There is a -- a movement among some, including some of the key clerics, to try to get him out. The challenge really is in creating a new government. The last time Iraq went through an election, it took them nine months to form a new government. They broke a world record.

And they don't have that kind of time this -- this time. They also don't have 80,000 American troops inside Iraq to prop them up. They've got 300 military analysts. There's a -- a tremendous urgency.

And so trying to get the Iraqis together and also to bring back Sunnis -- how do you do that?

We've seen already that moderate Sunnis are now siding with the extremists. They're so angered and alienated by the Maliki government. And so that's as big a challenge as trying to find a way -- a political solution and a -- and a new government.

O'DONNELL: You know, I keep thinking about this, David, because this is the calculus that the president is making, which is that no air strikes or military action until you get the political stuff done first and Maliki, because you don't want to prop up Maliki in some ways.

But yet, it could take so long to form a new government.

IGNATIUS: Well, I think in truth, Norah, he's hoping that Iran will -- will do this for the United States, that Iran will do the dirty work. There's some signs that the Iranians have gotten fed up with Maliki. I have a report out of Baghdad I can't confirm that says that Friday, Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most powerful person in Iraq, met with Maliki and dressed him down in front of his staff in a humiliating way, which people in Baghdad who were reporting to me said was a sign that the Iranians want Maliki out.

Another sign is the sudden surge of the Mahdi Army, which has strong connections to Tehran, which is in the streets. You know, that's as much an anti-Maliki force as anything else.

O'DONNELL: Um-hmm. Tavis, how big of a problem is this for President Obama?

I mean he ran and campaigned and won elections to the president saying I'm going to end the war in Iraq?

He ended the war in Iraq and this is now what's happening in Iraq.

TAVIS SMILEY, HOST, "THE TAVIS SMILEY SHOW": I think it's a huge problem for him and he would do well to remember, a la John Kerry, that he was against this war before he was for it, particularly given what the options are on the table right now.

But I think one of the things that's troubling for me, Norah, and I think it's troubling -- I don't purport to speak for the American people, but as I've traveled the country and talked to everyday citizens, what's troubling about this is the schizophrenic nature of our U.S. foreign policy to begin with. I mean David was just talking about Iran a moment ago.

How interesting is it, how ironic is it, that just a few years ago, Iran was part of that axis of evil and now they may be our ally with regard to Iraq?

The president says that there is no military solution to this crisis and we read on the front page of "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," every day, what our military options are, as they trial balloon what the possibilities might be.

I mean the reality is that -- that the policy is all over the map and you can take that literally or figuratively.

But I would close on this note. It's troubling for me, and, I think, again, for the American people, and clearly politics is a part of all of these decisions and that's sad.

But to watch these neoconservative interventionists this week with this revisionist history about how we got in this mess, how we got mired in this in the first place, is troubling, beyond troubling, to consider.

I mean the president clearly, you know, has made mistakes, since he's been president, on a number of foreign policy fronts. But to lay all of this at his feet and to forget how we got in this mess in the first place, as if the clock started this week on Iraq, is sickening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, the public is also of two minds on this kind of thing, if foreign policy makers are also a little bit schizophrenic. I mean, on the one hand, the public likes what the president is doing. If you ask them, you know, do we -- 52 percent say we should -- the U.S. should mind it's own business. That's up from 30 percent in 2003 -- 1 percent to 17 say we, as a country, are doing too much to solve the problems of other countries.

So, on the other hand, we're in a deeply isolationist mood.

On the other hand, when you talk to people about America's posture in the world, they think the president is weak. They -- his numbers on toughness have gotten worse as these foreign policy crises have escalated.

And so people don't like to see the country look like it is at the mercy of other events.

And so there's a kind of push and pull here.

O'DONNELL: As you pointed out, I mean there was a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll this week that said a majority of Americans think that the president can't lead and some suggest, you know, his presidency was over.

Do the polls really matter at this point?

I mean this is a president who has a foreign policy crisis, you know, who -- who has got to prevent a terrorist group who has designs on the United States and from -- the Middle East is on the brink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. I think they matter, certainly, to Democrats trying to keep their jobs. But I think for the president, you know, this question of is his presidency over, I think he clearly feels the upper range of the constraints of a presidency right now. We're in an election year. The presidential election has already started. Republicans are not in a great mood to work with him.

But as you quite rightly point out, foreign policy -- when foreign policy crises emerge, a president has a great deal of power. The presidency is not over at all.

And I would just say on the domestic front, if Republicans win the Senate and then Republicans are in charge of all of Congress, they are going to have to show they can lead. And the president will either be able to make a deal with them or he will block whatever they're doing, which means he'll have quite a role to play.

SMILEY: And if I could add to that right quick, polls matter, although I'm not one who believes in all these polls. But polls, I think, matter principally because he has to have the support of the American people on whatever decision he wants to make. So, clearly, at that level, they matter.

But this is the same president who, just a few weeks ago, told us that income inequality was the defining issue of our time. I would remind us this morning of the words of Dr. King, that war is the enemy of the poor.

Here we are 50 years after LBJ's war on poverty, about to make the same mistake; we declare one thing but do another thing. And the more money we pour down this drain the less money we have to make the eradication of poverty in this country a priority.

WRIGHT: Yes, and the fact that this would be the third war we would engage in Iraq in 25 years. In the first war you had the Saudis, the Japanese, the Germans who paid $80 billion tab. The next war cost is $1.7 trillion. And we still feel the drain on our Treasury and we don't have the same will, whether it's the financial will or the political will.

And so the challenge for the Republicans as much as the Democrats us to figure out a strategy that actually will work. There's a lot of talk; Rubio this morning talked about drone strikes. And the problem is when you use air power you can kill fanatics, but you can't kill fanaticism. And so the alternative is diplomatic. And that is the long haul. And that's what makes it so difficult.

Now, presidents in their second term traditionally get involved in foreign policy because that's the area in which they have the greatest ability to leave a legacy, particularly as they get in to that lame duck last two years.

And this crisis has underscored the need for the president to get even more deeply involved, but there are no easy options on this one, harder than last two put together. O'DONNELL: Can we address the criticism that the this is, that ISIS' growth is largely a result of the president's failure to act in Syria or his inaction on a number of fronts.

Is there any truth to that, David? How do you see that debate?

IGNATIUS: I think there is some truth to it. I've said several times recently, the big problems in life are not the ones that sneak up on you but the ones that you see coming at you. And this has been coming at us clearly.

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: I mean you just heard Mike Morell and Mike Rogers say this was intelligence failure; we've known about it.

IGNATIUS: We've known about it. It's been a policy failure, the president has been given various options to try to fill these vacuums that exist. The smartest thing that was said I think over this weekend was by our former Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Baghdad, who said, yes, withdrawal is dangerous. But disengagement, leaving a vacuum can be even more dangerous than intervention.

And I think that's what we've seen in both Iraq and Syria. With the vacuum, with the sectarian leadership in Iraq, that space was filled with really the worst, most dangerous people. President does not want to do whack-a-mole strategy but he's going to have to have some strategy because at the end of the day that is a commander in chief's first job.

O'DONNELL: But who do you support? That's the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

IGNATIUS: There are Sunni tribal leaders who are, I promise you, because I've met with them, are begging the United States for help in standing up against these people. These people scare them almost as much as they scare us.

O'DONNELL: But is there another potential prime minister waiting in the wings to replace Maliki, who has the support of some Sunnis?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think Ahmed Chalabi's name mentioned this week.

WRIGHT: I don't think he's a viable candidate because he after all was the one who pushed the hardest to have the Sunnis and the former ruling Ba'ath party eliminated from the process.

I think there are some names out there, and I think there will be lot of serious discussion about that over the next few weeks. But you have to basically Sunnify Iraq again in order to prevent country from falling apart. You've already seen the Kurds basically moving out on their own. They have taken the oil-rich center at Kirkuk. They've deployed their forces along that border, and once the Kurds -- whether it's de facto or formally -- protect themselves then you have real questions about preserving the other two-thirds of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's their decision to make, though, and not ours. And we make the mistake all the time of trying to put people where we think they belong.

O'DONNELL: All right, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONNELL: Be sure to tune in tomorrow to "CBS THIS MORNING" for more of my interview with President Obama and all the latest news on crisis in Iraq and Secretary Kerry's trip to the region. Bob will be back next week. Thanks to all of our guests and thanks to you for watching FACE THE NATION.

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