Source: ‘The Lead With Jake Tapper’, November 24, 2015
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Under Fire; Russian Warplane Shot Down; Paris Terror Investigation; French Uncover New Links to Attacks; State Department Issues Worldwide Travel Alert. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 24, 2015 – 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST HOST: A plane shot down, the rhetoric ramps up.
I’m John Berman, and this is THE LEAD.
The world lead – New white, hot tension after Turkey, a NATO member, shoots down a Russian jet. Did Russia ignore repeated warnings? And what will happen next, with Moscow vowing retaliation?
Also in the world lead, uncovering an even larger terror network behind the Paris attacks than previously thought. Startling new evidence suggests the ringleader actually returned to the scene of his crime while it was still playing out.
And the politics lead. Donald Trump refuses to back down after claiming he saw crowds cheer when the Twin Towers fell. And a major shift in poll position! Will his old best friend be his new worst enemy?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I’m John Berman, in for Jake today.
We begin with our world lead, the battle against ISIS. The most dangerous and complicated conflict on Earth just got more dangerous and more complicated. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near its border with Syria, saying the Russian jet violated Turkish airspace and ignored 10 warnings in five minutes.
Now back to the Text:
A search-and-rescue mission has been launched, but the fate of two ejected pilots is still unclear. Russia is claiming one of them is dead, and there are reports the other has been captured. Russia’s also saying one of its marines was killed in the rescue operation.
Moscow is furious! Russian President Putin called this “a stab in the back that will have serious consequences”.
Want to get right to CNN’s Barbara Starr at the Pentagon!
Tabacco: Don’t worry! CNN is attempting to frighten you! That Tactic is EXTREMELY GOOD FOR RATINGS!
Barbara, what are U.S. officials telling you?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they are monitoring those Russian reports that at least one of the Russian pilots is dead, but, clearly, Washington wanting this situation not to escalate out of control, trying to keep it calm, and one reason may be that right now, at this hour, the Pentagon cannot say for sure that the Russian plane was shot down inside Turkish airspace.
STARR (voice-over): Turkey says it warned the Russian jet 10 times it was violating Turkish airspace before ordering its F-16s to shoot down the Russian aircraft.
President Obama putting his full support behind the NATO ally.
Tabacco: Did you expect anything different!
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.
STARR: The U.S. calculates the Russians may have been inside Turkey for less than 30 seconds. Less clear is exactly where the border may be.
COL. STEVE WARREN, U.S. SPOKESMAN FOR OPERATION AGAINST ISIS: The incident happened, you know, at the border. That much, I can tell you. But beyond that, we’re still trying to collect and sift through all the data.
STARR: The Russian plane took off from the Syrian airfield at Latakia heading north, the U.S. monitoring the entire time, using radars and radios.
WARREN: We were able to hear everything that was going on. Obviously, these are on open channels.
STARR: As the plane went down, video posted on social media shows Turkish-supported rebels shooting at the two Russian pilots, heavy fire from the ground, rebels calling for the pilots’ capture, a Russian helicopter searching for the second pilot also apparently under attack, and crashing, a Russian marine killed on the failed rescue mission. CNN could not independently confirm the video.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the shoot-down a stab in the back.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In any case, neither our pilots nor our jet posed any threat to the Turkish republic.
STARR: Putin says his planes were targeting ISIS. But the U.S. says the Russians only started flying in this area in the last few days, and were targeting rebels that Turkey supports. Turkey defending its actions!
AHMET DAVUTOGLU, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Everyone should know that Turkey has the right to response if its airspace is violated despite repeated warnings.
STARR: The question now, is Putin really angry or does he have a more immediate goal? COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: He believes that, if he maintains his cool, that countries like France, Great Britain, and he hopes also the United States will allow him at the big table and that he will then gain a de facto sphere of influence over Syria.
STARR: U.S. officials say they hope this incident will finally convince Putin to stop fighting the rebels who are fighting Bashar al-Assad and instead fight ISIS. That’s the change in strategy that Washington wants to see. But don’t hold your breath just yet — John.
BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much! Remarkable video of that incident!
Now, CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is just back from the front lines of the battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Now Nick is in Istanbul, in Turkey, which oddly enough — Turkey now the front line in the battle against Syria, with this plane shot down.
Nick, what’s the reaction there?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Turkey, frankly, staunchly defiant about what it did today.
And I think in their justification, they say this is not the first time Russia has, in their opinion, openly flaunted a violation of their airspace. At the beginning of Russian raids back in late September, there were a number of similar instances. Russian and Turkish officials met and tried to hammer out any confusion there may have been.
And it clearly seems today to be – seems to be a very defiant move by the Turkish military here, saying they made these 10 warnings in five minutes, showing a map, showing where they violated airspace. It seems, if you look at the map, actually, potentially, they came in twice, hard to properly define, and finding NATO standing officially behind them, too, although many NATO members being quite de-escalatory in their rhetoric.
But Turkey has a broader game here. The Turkmen rebels you saw in Barbara’s report firing at both the plane and the rescue helicopters. They are closely allied to the Turkish government. And there’s a sense of protection that the state here wants to yield towards, although they are inside Syria, and there’s been a lot of heavy bombing in the area around where those Turkmen are in the past week or so, prompting in fact the Turkish to consider taking a complaint about that to the U.N. Security Council.
Turkey has a much broader agenda here than just that one airspace violation. But they clearly wanted to send a message to Moscow. That message may have been heard, potentially. We are seeing mostly diplomatic and economic responses from the Kremlin at this stage. Vladimir Putin, his venture into Syria, many see as a response to how the things in Ukraine hadn’t gone well for him.
Well, moving into Syria, they had a big initial launch, a lot of state media pumping up their success, but then there was the downing of the airliner over the Sinai. Now they have lost their first two airmen, one marine, one pilot, I should say, possibly more, in this incident.
It’s not going particularly well. But perhaps, I think, many hope maybe this may focus Putin against ISIS. I have to be honest, though. A NATO member blasting a Russian jet out of the sky, that just awakens all of Putin’s old animosity towards the NATO bloc. I think we could see more complications in what is already a very complicated piece of airspace already, John.
BERMAN: No, it’s an alarming headline when a NATO member shoots down a Russian plane. We’re hearing it was only over Turkish airspace for about 30 seconds. Is that enough time, is that enough warning to give to that Russian jet, Nick?
WALSH: Hard to tell!
In defense of the Turkish here, the Russians have put videos of their planes buzzing U.S. drones over Syrian airspace. They have been very clear to tell the world they’re there and they want to be there and they want to be wherever they want to be, to some degree.
We probably will never know with great transparency precisely how long they were in Turkish airspace. And obviously Russians the say they never were in the first place and the strike occurred inside Syrian airspace. Yes, you could argue that those warnings in the five minutes may not all have been given while the jet was in Turkish airspace.
But it’s moving around, it’s moving in and out. The border itself can, some say, be hard to define in many stages, but it doesn’t take away the escalatory rhetoric here. We have to step back and forget — remind ourselves we’re not in the ’80s, but the idea of NATO and Russian aircraft duking it out in the skies over a war zone is terrifying, to say the least, John.
BERMAN: And as you point out, it was about more than just this one incident. Nick Paton Walsh for us in Istanbul, thank you so much, Nick.
Now, earlier today, I spoke with retired General Wesley Clark, who is also the former supreme allied commander of NATO. I asked him about the significance of this incident.
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: When a NATO nation shoots down a Russian aircraft, it’s still an act by Turkey, not by NATO.
Tabacco: That’s NOT what Obama indicated!
These aircraft are not under NATO control. They’re under Turkish operational control. They’re flying as a result of Turkish air missions and NATO is not running an air defense umbrella. It’s integrated, to the best of my knowledge.
BERMAN: Bigger picture, this, though, has to do with the complexity of the conflict in Syria. President Obama said today this illustrates the ongoing problem with the Russian operations. The president suggested, if Russia was actually targeting ISIS in areas that ISIS controlled, this might not have happened.
CLARK: Well, that’s exactly right.
But this is the larger context. What you have here is no political agreement. And so we have these people — these countries trying to work together and obfuscate the fundamental underlying disagreement.
Let’s be very clear! ISIS is not just a terrorist organization. It’s a Sunni terrorist organization. That means it blocks and targets Shia, and that means it’s serving the interests of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, even as it poses a threat to them, because neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia want an Iran/Iraq/Syria/Lebanon bridge that isolates Turkey and cuts Saudi Arabia off.
Tabacco: So long as Saudi Arabia has that OIL America wants and gets, Saudis can do whatever they like and the USA barely slaps the backs of Saudi hands!
18 of 19 Skyjackers on 9/11/2001 were SAUDIS as was Osama bin Laden. What did the Bush administration do? They quietly escorted Saudis inside America out of the country to safety (fearing Americans might retaliate against Saudis) when NOBODY ELSE could get airborne! That’s how America treats its compliant OIL SUPPLIERS!
BERMAN: General, are you suggesting…
CLARK: And so there’s a geostrategic context.
BERMAN: General, are you suggesting that Vladimir Putin had a point then when he suggested that Turkey, in a way, was aiding ISIS?
CLARK: Well, all along, there have always been — there’s always been the idea that Turkey was supporting ISIS in some way. We know they funneled people going through Turkey to ISIS.
When ISIS got started, it was put together because a group of Sunni zealots were fighting against Bashar Assad, who is aligned with Iran. This is part of the broader struggle in the Middle East. Now, Putin would like to dirty Turkey by saying it’s supporting terrorists, but the truth is that he’s supporting terrorists.
Tabacco: And the United States is NOT Supporting Terrorists?? The United States at one time SUPPORTED SADDAM HUSSEIN! That seems to have escaped the General’s Notice!
The tactics used by the Assad regime have been terror tactics. They’re dropping barrel bombs on innocent civilians. So, there’s no – there’s no, let’s say, good guy in this. This is a power struggle for the future of the Middle East, using terror tactics and terrorists.
BERMAN: Well, it’s just one more complication in an area that is already a powder keg.
General Wesley Clark, thank you so much!
CLARK: Thank you!
(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: New clues into the whereabouts of the suspected ringleader of Paris terror attacks on the very night of the killings!
Our Martin Savidge is in Paris.
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
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