updated 7/21/2006 11:27:17 AM ET 2006-07-21T15:27:17

Guests: Wayne Downing, Nouhad Mahmoud, Mark Mazzetti, Rafael Frankel, June Rugh

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Death and destruction continue to reign over Lebanon. 

And as American evacuees begin arriving home, there are signs Israel‘s relentless force against Hezbollah might be losing support. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re bombing intersections.  They‘re bombing streets.  They‘re bombing gas stations. 

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMB. TO U.N.:  I want somebody to address the problem how you get a cease-fire with a terrorist organization. 

ANNOUNCER:  Today the world watches and wonders, is this war-torn region of the globe about to get more violent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There will never be peace.  We know that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Now, live from Haifa, Israel, Tucker Carlson. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  I‘m Tucker Carlson. 

We‘re live in Haifa, about 20 miles south of the Lebanese border, a city under constant threat from rocket attacks.  On day nine of the Middle East crisis, we move north, closer than ever to the action.  This country closer than ever to the outbreak of a wider war. 

There are reports tonight of heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerillas on the ground in Lebanon, north of here, as airstrikes and rocket attacks continue. 

The death toll since the conflict began has reached 306 in Lebanon and 29 here in the state of Israel. 

Earlier today, U.S. Marines returned to Lebanon for the first time in 23 years since the barracks bombing there in October of 1983.  They helped evacuate Americans still trapped there. 

It‘s not exactly clear what is going on in Beirut tonight, but there are reports of very large explosions.

To find out what might be happening, we talk now by phone to Babak Dehghanpisheh, who is the correspondent for “Newsweek” based in Beirut now. 

Can you hear me, Babak? 

BABAK DEHGHANPISHEH, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi.  I can hear you just fine, Tucker. 

Go ahead. 

CARLSON:  What is—what‘s going on in Beirut right now? 

DEHGHANPISHEH:  Well, there are reports of large explosions.  From where I am in the city—I‘m in the eastern portion, in the Christian area of the city—I did hear a couple of explosions earlier in the evening.  But there could be even further attacks that are taking place that I haven‘t heard. 

CARLSON:  Is it—is it safe to walk around?  Has the city reached a tipping point where chaos is spreading, or can you still wander? 

DEHGHANPISHEH:  Well, at this point it‘s a very divided city.  The southern suburbs of the city are completely demolished.  They‘re targeted almost on daily basis, as is the airport, which is not too far away from that are. 

And, you know, in the eastern portion of the city, definitely life is not normal, but you do see some traffic on the roads, some shops open, some restaurants open, and so on.  But by evening time, at around 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening, most of the people clear off the streets.  So, you know, it is a very abnormal situation. 

CARLSON:  I‘ve been—I‘ve been wondering this for the last week, and maybe you‘re the one man who knows, do we have any idea why the Israeli air force has targeted the airport in Beirut?  It keeps hitting it again and again.

DEHGHANPISHEH:  Well, I think it‘s a symbolic target—it‘s a symbolic target in a way, and it also does have military significance.  I suppose the excuse that—or the reason that they would use is that they don‘t want weapons or supplies to be brought in for Hezbollah.  But also, you know, for more than a week now there is a black column of smoke hanging over the southern edge of the city, and that certainly does have a psychological impact.  So I think that is part of the reason to keep hitting the airport. 

CARLSON:  There are rumors floating around Israel tonight that Lebanon‘s military, which until now has stayed, of course, neutral in this conflict, may be joining with Hezbollah. 

Do you know if that is true? 

DEHGHANPISHEH:  I think that‘s a pretty farfetched scenario, really.  You know, I have heard that the majority of the Lebanese army is Shia.  So there is a likelihood that, you know, there is some sympathy toward Hezbollah. 

But for them to, you know, lay down arms or to join arms with Hezbollah is a pretty farfetched scenario.  I think they‘re more likely just to stay out of the fray for now and possibly have a role as—you know, as some sort of peacekeeper or some sort of force in a buffer zone between Hezbollah and the Israeli border. 

CARLSON:  Well, speaking of peacekeepers, it‘s an amazing day symbolically to see the U.S. Marines back in Beirut after all these years.  I‘m not quite sure what to make of it.

Have you seen them?  Have you seen U.S. Marines in the city? 

DEHGHANPISHEH:  I did.  I did.  I talked to a couple of them a couple of hours ago. 

This evening they were at the Beirut port.  This cruise ship, the Orient Queen, is back again for what I believe is a second run, taking American citizens over to Cyprus. 

It has a capacity of about 750, and these Marines were basically helping those U.S. citizens board the ship.  They were helping them with their luggage, and so on, and I think they were also helping people board choppers from the embassy.  There were a handful of people who were taken out that way, also. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Babak Dehghanpisheh from Beirut.

Thanks a look.  I appreciate it. 

We‘re going to go now—we‘re going to do something that we have never done before but we think it‘s worth doing tonight.  Al-Jazeera television based in Qatar has an interview with the head, the spiritual head, anyway, of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was believed by some here in Israel, anyway, to have been killed in airstrikes two days ago.  It turns out he is very much alive. 

We want to put an interview up with him on the screen, along with the translation from the Arabic.  If we could get that. 

We don‘t have that at this moment, but we will.  We will be back with the first words on tape from Sheik Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah.

Right now, though, we want to go, though, to General Wayne Downing.  He is in Washington.

The question we are going to ask Mr. Downing, what are the implications of this war?  And could, in fact, the ground war expand? 

General Downing, are you there? 

Welcome.

GEN. WAYNE DOWNING, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Yes, Tucker.  I am.  You are looking good, by the way.  You ought to try to get some sleep, though.  You‘ve got to pace yourself, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thank you.  I‘m trying not to space out in mid sentence, General. 

Thank you.

DOWNING:  OK.

CARLSON:  So, is it—do you think it‘s plausible—and there are hints of it today.  I know there was a news story, the AP moved a story today suggesting that the Israeli defense forces might be planning a ground—a large ground invasion of southern Lebanon. 

Do you think that‘s plausible?  And if so, is it a good idea? 

DOWNING:  Well, actually, I think that it is plausible because I think that Hezbollah still has a vast array of weapons that they have not used yet, and this includes these missiles that we have seen, but also perhaps some longer-range missiles.  And some of these things could have ranges up to perhaps 75 miles.  If they‘ve ot a ballistic missile, which Iran has, they might even be able to shoot over 100 miles. 

So I think that the airstrikes are only going to take them so far, Tucker.  And I really look as this thing goes on.  And I think this is going to go on for a while, that we may see a big incursion into southern Lebanon in order to stop these things from firing. 

What does that do?  Well, that obviously ups the ante.  It‘s psychological.  But it‘s also—the other thing that we have to remember is one of the thing—there are three things that I think the Israelis want to get out of this campaign. 

One, they want to get those three hostages back.  But the second thing is, is they want to really cripple Hezbollah.  And I think they are going to have to go in on the ground in order to do that. 

The third thing I think they want to do is stop Hezbollah from rearming again.  This is much more complex, Tucker, because they are going to have to stop the Iranian supply of arms through Syria to Hezbollah.  Much, much more difficult.

CARLSON:  Wouldn‘t—I wonder, though, wouldn‘t that be as simple, General, as threatening Damascus, threatening Bashar Assad, who runs Syria with violence?  Just say, look, if you supply Hezbollah with  more of these missiles, we will bomb Damascus.  It‘s that simple.

Why doesn‘t Israel do that?  I wonder.

DOWNING:  Well, they can do that. And, I mean, one of the things that you are seeing in Beirut right now is a message not only to the Lebanese government that the Israelis are serious—and I think we all know they are serious. 

One of the reasons they‘re pounding southern Beirut, besides the Hezbollah targets, they‘re also sending a very, very strong message.  That message is not lost on Syria. 

Now, of course, one of the things that constrains them is right now the Israelis have decent international support.  And, you know, we even had the Arab League speak out two days ago, Tucker, unprecedented against Hezbollah and what they consider to be some very, very stupid things that Hezbollah has done. 

If the Israelis—the Israelis have to watch the balance of what they do.  If they go too far, like, for example, bombing Syria, this could be the thing that unites the Arab world against them.  And they don‘t want that to happen.

So, once again, as I say, very complex.

CARLSON:  What are some...

DOWNING:  Go ahead.

CARLSON:  ... some of the unintended consequences here, though, General?  I mean, I don‘t need to tell you that every conflict produces consequences that no one can foresee ahead of time.  And I wonder what they might be in this conflict. 

DOWNING:  Well, you know, of course—let‘s just say, for example, they would bomb Syria.  They could get the entire Arab Muslim world against them.  That would not be good.

That would be a major constraint—or that would be a major constraint on them because these—the Arab League countries might be able to get in there and perhaps broker some kind of—kind of an agreement.  That would go away.

The other thing I think they have to watch out with the Syrians is they may get a regime change in Syria.  I mean, that could happen.  And I think we‘re very concerned at the regime that might take over in Syria could well be an Islamist regime, which would definitely not be in our interests because right now that Ba‘athist regime headed by Hafez Assad is really a secular-type regime.

So, those are the kinds of things that could go bad on you.

CARLSON:  Yes.  I think the world wants that regime to stay secular, by the way. 

I certainly do.

General Wayne Downing, thanks very much for joining us.  Appreciate it.

DOWNING:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  We want to put that video up I promised you just a moment ago. 

We believe that this is Hassan Nasrallah, who is the head of Hezbollah. 

And again, there he is.  This is Al-Jazeera. 

Rumors in this part of the world have been spreading for the past 24 hours that he is dead.  That would, of course, be significant.  It turns out he is not dead.  He was in a bunker somewhere in Beirut and survived. 

He is—he is saying now—we don‘t have the benefit of a translator on camera, but he is apparently saying that Hezbollah has no intention of surrendering and that it has no immediate plans to release those three hostages that it holds. 

No idea, by the way, where those hostages are.  There have been rumors that they have been moved to Syria or Iran, but we don‘t know that to be true. 

Well, we spent part of our day north of here, right along the border, in a series of towns and kibbutzim not far—by not far, I mean literally less than 100 yards—from the border with Lebanon. 

The first we stopped in was called Metula.  It‘s a farming community that juts out into—literally into Lebanon. 

Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  We‘re in Metula.  We‘re in the highest point in the town of Metula, which is literally surrounded by Lebanon. 

All out here to the left, the right, right in front of us on three sides is Lebanon, just beyond those red roofs.  To give you some sense how close the other side is, if you could look up there on the opposite hill right behind me, you will see a white tower.  That‘s a Hezbollah position. 

These are all villages on top of these hills.  Some are Christian.  Some

are Muslim.  The Muslim ones are—at least according to the Israeli army

Hezbollah positions. 

Yesterday, two Lebanese believed to be Hezbollah members came across, across the border, which is really just a road, and tried to get in to Metula.  They were armed, they were seen by the local militia, the civil defense force in Metula, mostly farmers who have been in the army and still have their weapons, who called the IDF, who arrived with an Apache helicopter. 

And if you look just past that big yellow building, you will see a burned patch.  That‘s where the helicopter fired a rocket at the two running Hezbollah men, missing them, but scaring them off. 

Yesterday, also to give you a sense of how close the warfare is, a rocket fell about—I would say about 150 yards from where I am standing right now.  A Katyusha caught fire.  The fire went out by itself.  The farmers kept farming. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Well, about probably 15 seconds after we stopped—I stopped talking right there something very large exploded in the distance.  You can see the smoke. 

We believe that is Israeli ordinance landing in the hills of southern Lebanon.  We are not sure.  We do know that Israel was shelling all day. 

About the only people left in Metula now are farmers, and very few of those.  Probably only a couple dozen.  It is mostly fruit orchards in the town, and they have to pick their fruit. 

Interestingly, the orchards—you can see this is the road to one of the orchards—the orchards are right—literally right on the border.  They are bordered by a concrete blast wall. 

That is a Hezbollah flag you can see, the yellow flag flying. 

So, in order to get to their crops, these farmers have to drive right along the wall in a very, very hostile area.  Well, due to attacks and the threat of attacks from Hezbollah, their workers have deserted them.  Most of their workers are Thai nationals. 

They‘ve split.  So the farmers we are with today are left to sit and watch their apples and other various—other kinds of fruit, kiwi fruit, literally die on the vine because there is no one to pick them. 

Still to come, Lebanon‘s roads, bridges, other infrastructure on the verge of collapse as Israeli warships continue to pound that country.  But does Lebanon really want to send Israel a bill for all of that?

And evidence that Iran and Syria are arming Hezbollah.  Washington was caught by surprise by the militants arsenal.  Much more powerful than expected. 

That story, details coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back to our special coverage of this conflict in the Middle East.  We‘re live from Haifa, Israel, tonight. 

We showed you briefly that Al-Jazeera tape of Hassan Nasrallah.  He‘s the leader of Hezbollah thought by many here to be killed in Israeli airstrikes.  It turns out he is very much alive. 

We did not have a translator.  Now we do.  He is Anthony Saroufim.  He‘s our own translator, Arabic translator from MSNBC. 

Anthony, are you there?  Can you tell me what Sheik Nasrallah is saying? 

ANTHONY SAROUFIM, MSNBC TRANSLATOR:  Hi.  How are you?

Yes, a few minutes ago Al-Jazeera just aired a piece of interview of Hassan Nasrallah, and he said—he assured all the Lebanese that whatever the Israelis are claiming is not true. 

He said that Israelis claimed that they made the Israeli—I mean the Hezbollah power is like half of it, and he said that‘s not true.  He said that, “Most of our leaders are good and OK.”  And he also confirmed that there is no such thing that they collapsed half of the infrastructure of Hezbollah.  They‘re safe and they won‘t do anything, and nobody in the world will force them to return the two soldiers unless they have an indirect negotiation. 

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry.  I missed the last part.  No one will force Hezbollah to return the prisoners unless what? 

SAROUFIM:  Indirect negotiation.  Like, he is not—he is not willing to negotiate with the Israeli government directly.  He is willing to do that indirectly.  It sounds like he needs mediation from a third country or something else. 

CARLSON:  Did he suggest who that third country might be? 

SAROUFIM:  No.  He just said indirect negotiation.  That means he is not willing to sit at the table with the Israelis. 

CARLSON:  Now, what—tell us the context of this interview, to the extent you know it.  Everyone here, as you know, believes that Nasrallah might be dead, certainly that his command center was crushed by these Bunker Busting bombs the Israeli air force dropped on him.

Do you get any sense from the interview what kind of condition he is in? 

SAROUFIM:  Well, these guys are very professional.  And you cannot tell where he is and how he is doing. 

You just know that he is sending a message to the Lebanese and all the supporters all over the world.  He‘s saying that they‘ll continue.  They‘re not going to give up. 

They have a strong case.  They are ahead the war.  They are very strong in this war, and they are willing to continue and they‘re not going to give up. 

The message is very clear that he has not given up and he is in good shape very much. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Anthony Saroufim, MSNBC Arabic translator. 

Thanks, Anthony. 

SAROUFIM:  Thank you. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We‘re coming to you from Haifa, Israel, where unfortunately we are cut off almost completely from all American media coverage of this conflict. 

Willie Geist, though, back at MSNBC headquarters is not.  He‘s marinating in it.  He brings us “Beat the Press”—Willie. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, good job out there.  Stay safe. 

We want to start off with one of our favorites here on “Beat the Press,” none other than Nancy Grace. 

Nancy showed her viewers some pictures of evacuees on the Orient Queen, that cruise ship that took about 1,000 Americans from Lebanon to Cyprus.  It sounds to me like she was a little jealous of their trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, CNN HEADLINE NEWS:  Some very surprising photos today, photos of Americans and the conditions they are enduring on their way out of Lebanon. 

There you go.  Now, hold on, Rosy (ph).  I didn‘t ask for the cruise line photos.  Show me the evacuation photos.

No.  No.  Those people are on a luxury cruise liner having fun. 

Are those mimosas?  Yes, I think they are. 

Chris Burns, CNN correspondent, joining us from Cyprus. 

I don‘t know if you can see a monitor, but these are some pretty lux digs that the Americans are coming home on.  Did you see that? 

I want to go there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  She wants to go there.  It‘s a mass evacuation from warfare.

You don‘t want to go there, Nancy. 

Did you see those—they had the wrong pictures up there, possibly.  The conditions they had to endure, the mimosas, the limo (ph) contests, it just looked terrible.

I want to defend Rosy (ph).  Rosy (ph) the producer, as a producer takes a lot of heat.  I hope she is getting hazard pay for working with Nancy Grace. 

Next up, “AC 360.”  This one came to us by way of talk show host Laura Ingraham.  She pointed out that Anderson Cooper opens his program every night with an over-the-top dramatic montage.  The kind that would make Jerry Bruckheimer jealous. 

Check out the one they ran last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Close combat.  Israeli ground troops enter Lebanon, trading fire with Hezbollah.  As the violence escalates, so does the death toll, with thousands of U.S. citizens still waiting to be rescued. 

Hezbollah at home.  New fears that the terror group has sleeper and active cells inside America helping the enemy by raising money and smuggling weapons.  Could they also be plotting an attack on our cities?  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Wow.  They ought to charge admission to watch that thing.  I would watch that show.  And after all, that that is the point, isn‘t it?  You‘ve got to know what happens in the end. 

Is it is a cliffhanger?  Will there be a sequel?  Unfortunately, it‘s a war.  It‘s reality.  But that‘s the way AC does it.

Finally, Bill O‘Reilly and our friends at “The Factor” offered a bit of a respite from the news of war in the Middle East by shedding some light on the issues of kids mimicking celebrities on the Internet. 

Let‘s listen and learn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  The “Back of the Book” segment tonight.  This story may not be for kids, younger kids. 

The Internet site myspace.com has attracted millions of American children, and some of these children are imitating celebrities who do provocative things.  That is, they are posting pictures of themselves in compromising positions, the kids are. 

Joining us now from Greenville, South Carolina, Katherine Dabrecht, the author of a series of children‘s books.  The latest one is entitled, “Help, Mom!  Hollywood is in My Hamper,” which, of course, we don‘t want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  O‘Reilly is just creepy when he reads stories like that.  Isn‘t he?

I will say, though, you almost have to admire Bill O‘Reilly.  He‘s just taunting us.  He‘s gloating.  He‘s saying, my rating are so high and so bulletproof that I can completely ignore the news and there is nothing you can do about it. 

So, you‘ve got to hand it to him. 

How would you like to help us “Beat the Press”?  Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen around the dial.

The number, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 1-877-287-5876.

Now let‘s send it back to Tucker in Haifa. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Willie. 

Still to come, a report from the border between Israel and Lebanon.  We spent the day there.  We‘ll show you what we found.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up, we‘ll talk to a reprehensive of the Lebanese government.  We‘ll ask him is the Lebanese army, neutral to this point, about to join the fight on the side of Hezbollah. 

That‘s all coming up, but first, a look at your headlines. 

MARGARET BRENNAN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC market rap.  Stocks turning down today.  The Dow Jones Industrial average closing down 83 points.  The S&P 500 off almost 11.  The NASDAQ‘s down by 41 points.

Technology earnings in the spotlight today.  Just after the  closing bell, Google beating expectations, reporting a 77 percent surge in second quarter net revenue.

Analysts were predicting a smaller income growth and feared that Google might be affected by the slowdown that has hurt rivals, e-Bay and Yahoo.

Meantime, Apple shares getting a 12 percent bounce, with quarterly earnings report showing a 48 percent jump in come, that thanks to sales of Intel-based Macs and the continued popularity of, of course, the i-Pod.

And those popular Razr and Sliver cell phones delivering a huge second quarter at Motorola.  Motorola shares rallying up more than 7 percent, after reporting better than expected earnings of 33 cents a share.

And Microsoft just now reporting a decline in fourth quarter  profit.  The company also saying they plan a $20 billion stock buyback. Microsoft shares trading up 6 percent in after hours trade.

Now, back to tucker.

ANNOUNCER: Now, back to Tucker Carlson, in Haifa, Israel.

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We spent a good part of the day in northern Israel, say, right on the Lebanese border.  And if there is one thing that tied together almost every moment we were there, it was the noise, the explosions.  During every interview we did, “kapow, kapow,” mostly of outgoing ordnances, really artillery firing north into southern Lebanon, into the hills.  Sometimes Katyusha rockets   coming in, south into Israel. 

This was a conversation we were having with a farmer.  Right in the middle of it, “kaboom.” 

Shortly after this, we moved still farther north to one of the most isolated kibbutzes in Israel, mostly agriculture, but also a manufacturing kibbutz.  Here‘s what we found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: We‘re here kibbutz Miz Gav Ahm (ph).  It‘s right on the northern border of Israel, where Israeli meets Lebanon and also Syria.  This is right at the intersection of all three. 

And as a result, it is a place that knows conflict well.  There‘s actually an army base built into the kibbutz about 200 yards north of here.  We just came back from there.  We were told not to bring a  camera because cameras tend to incite gunners, Hezbollah gunners on the hills across the way.

So we can‘t show you the pictures, unfortunately, but they‘ve been throwing RPGs into the back of the kibbutz all week.  We just looked at one of the observation posts that was shattered by an RPG yesterday.

You get a sense when you‘re just how incredibly, incredibly close Israelis live to people who hate them and, apparently, vice versa.  We are literally spitting distance from Lebanon.

You go over this hill right behind me and you can see a  Hezbollah flag flying right there.  Directly across, you can see encampments, camouflage, where IDF soldiers live day and night or have until recently when they abandoned their posts, staring back at the people who hate them.  Cheek and jowl, right next to each other.  You really have to see it to believe it.

There‘s the panoramic view looking out across.  As we said, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, they all blend together in the hills.  It‘s pretty obvious, though, by the topography where one begins and the other ends.

Israel ends when the green ends, for reasons probably in  dispute. 

Israel is green.  This part of Lebanon is dry.  Who knows why.

Well, joining us now is the Lebanese ambassador to the united   nations, Nouhad Mahmoud.  He joins us now from New York.  Mr. Ambassador, are you there?

NOUHAD MAHMOUD, LEBANESE AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Yes, yes, and I heard what you said and I can tell you why.

CARLSON: Please, do tell me why.

MAHMOUD:  Because the Israelis were there for 22 years and all the water which comes from Lebanon, it was directed to Israel and the Lebanese were not allowed to use it.  So that‘s why. 

TUCKER: Well, if that‘s true, it certainly shows because the Lebanese side is definitely, definitely more arid.

MAHMOUD: You are a witness to that.

CARLSON: That‘s time enough to irrigate it.  But let me ask you this question now, Mr. Ambassador, since i have you here. 

We‘ve been hearing rumors all day that the Lebanese army is planning or units of the Lebanese army are planning to join Hezbollah and indeed that some have already actively sided with Hezbollah in the fight against Israel.  

Is that true? 

MAHMOUD: Well, the Lebanese army, like any national army, is to defend the country.   And if not now, then when?  They did it before and they did it on a daily basis, because the Israelis were violating the Lebanese air space on a daily basis.

I think that‘s very normal, but that doesn‘t mean alliance.  It means that they are doing their duty and others are doing whatever they   want to do.  

CARLSON: Well, but it also means the Lebanese army is taking the sign of a foreign element within Lebanon.  I mean, Hezbollah is supported by foreign governments, not your government, Syria and Iran, and all of a sudden, your government‘s army is taking the side essentially of those other governments, if you see what I mean.

That makes it a much harder defense situation from your point of view, doesn‘t it? 

MAHMOUD:  Yes, but our Lebanon, our country is under attack.  It‘s not Hezbollah.  Hezbollah, they did not suffer as much as the Lebanese people are suffering.

Maybe three were killed from Hezbollah in all this fighting and 300 from the Lebanese side.  So Lebanon is under attack and that‘s what we are talking about all the time, that stop the fighting.  The fighting is not subjecting Hezbollah.  It‘s subjecting the Lebanese people, the Lebanese infrastructure.  

CARLSON: Do you blame Hezbollah? I don‘t think there is much  debate that Hezbollah brought this on Lebanon by attacking those Israeli soldiers and kidnapping some of them.  

Do you blame Hezbollah for these.

MAHMOUD: They did provoke that, but all the escalation came from the Israeli side.

CARLSON: So I guess the question is why did the government of  Lebanon allow Hezbollah to remain an armed entity within the country? Why didn‘t you expel Hezbollah long ago?

MAHMOUD:  Well, because Hezbollah, they were fighting the south for about 20 years against the Israeli occupation and they got some legitimacy because of that and because we got our occupied land liberated because of their stand.

So, sure, the situation in Lebanon is not that normal.  We lived through a war and then through occupation.  And Hezbollah is one of the  elements which are remnants from that time and we were dealing with it slowly on the national dialogue.

And I think by political means, we can achieve much more than military, because I don‘t think by military means they will achieve anything.  

CARLSON: Well, the position of Israel is, “Expel Hezbollah and we will leave Lebanon alone.”  Why don‘t you simply expel Hezbollah as a foreign element?  You know, “Leave and don‘t come back.”  Wouldn‘t that solve your problems?

MAHMOUD: Well, maybe they have some alliance with Iran and with Syria, but they are elements, they are a Lebanese element.  They are   the villagers who were under occupation or under heavy attacks from Israel.  They are not from Iran.  They are Lebanese people.  That should be known for everyone.

They are not just fighters.  They have their schools.  They have their hospitals.  They have their services.  They are not just some elements who are imported from Iran or from Syria.

CARLSON: All right, Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

MAHMOUD: Thank you.

CARLSON: And now to Israel‘s plans.  Nobody here in Israel expects this war to end anytime soon.  Most, indeed, expect it to escalate.

Joining us now, a man who has been following it carefully for the “Christian Science Monitor,” for whom he works, Rafael Frankel.

Rafael, thanks for coming on.

RAFAEL FRANKEL, “CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”: Thank you.

CARLSON:  Will this land war, and it already is, I think to some extent, a land war in that Israeli forces have entered Lebanon on foot, will it expand? 

FRANKEL: Well, we saw today the defense minister, Amir Pertez, warned Hezbollah not to assume that Israel wouldn‘t use more tools than it has. 

By that, we take it to mean ground incursions.  At the same, a major ground incursion doesn‘t seem to be on the  books right now, because Israel has not called up the amount of reserves it would need to do that.

And back in 2002, when the instituted operation defensive shield, after the series of Palestinian suicide bombings, they had a massive reserve call-up.  So far we‘ve only seen three units called up to take the places of those that were in Gaza and the West Bank.

So at the moment, they could obviously expand their operations in southern Lebanon, but it doesn‘t look like we‘re in for something major right now. 

CARLSON: Were you surprised to hear the Lebanese ambassador refuse to apologize for Hezbollah, in fact, defend Hezbollah and   defend the decision of the Lebanese army to fight on the same side as Hezbollah?  Did that surprise you?

FRANKEL: Well, I think for a long time now, you know, when you‘re under fire, you kind of become comrades perhaps.

CARLSON: Yes.

FRANKEL: And, you know, the people may harbor resentment toward  Hezbollah for bringing this to a heel, for starting this conflict.  But as we‘ve been hearing from Beirut since, basically, this began, most of the people there aren‘t mad at Hezbollah so much as they‘re mad at Israel. 

CARLSON: It seems to me, though, that Hezbollah is a splinter to Lebanon.  I mean, Lebanon, let‘s not forget, is not an impoverished third world country.   It‘s not Yemen or Somalia.  It‘s not even close.

It‘s one of the richest countries in this region.  It is an emerging Dubai and now it is being destroyed because of the presence of this terrorist group within its borders.

You would expect the government to be hot to expel this group. They don‘t need the hassle, basically.

FRANKEL: Well, the government for a long time has been worried, ever since the civil war there ended and they had all these competing militias for years there during the civil war and the U.N. resolutions that helped bring about the end of the war called for the disarmament of these militias. 

But because Hezbollah was very strong and it had the backing of Iran and Syria, the government just thought that trying to disarm Hezbollah would bring about a prolonging or even moving back to the days of the civil war and that‘s just something they didn‘t want to confront for a long time.    

CARLSON: This war in popular, very popular right now within Israel.  Israel hasn‘t even been criticized very much by western Europe, which is a surprise.  That‘s all going to change soon, won‘t it?

FRANKEL: Well, this war is popular in Israel for the time, but I think already we‘re starting to see the first criticism of the war even  at home. 

I think the high death toll of the civilians that is going on   in Lebanon right now is even starting to sway some Israelis toward thinking maybe there‘s starting to be some way to try and break this down and bring it to a halt.

But you‘re right, for the most part, it‘ still very popular in Israel.  But, yes, in the rest of the world, right now I‘d say that Israel is enjoying a very strong diplomatic position.

But the longer this goes on, we‘ve got about 500,000 Lebanese refugees that are fleeing Lebanon right now.

CARLSON: Right.

FRANKEL: Mostly going towards Syria.  The longer that goes on and the more humanitarian stories that come out, the more damage that is done to the civilians, popular tide in Europe is obviously going to change.  The governments of Europe will not be able to continue the backing.  

And plus, right now, Israel enjoys the tacit, if not support from the moderate Arab world, which is unheard of basically in Israeli‘s conflicts with other Muslim states and because, basically, Jordan and especially Jordan and Egypt are scared of what Hezbollah presents. 

CARLSON: Right, and they ought to be.  But Israel is one cholera outbreak in Lebanon away from a public relations.

FRANKEL: That‘s right, because at a certain point, the  governments in Jordan and Egypt will not be able to contain the anger in their populations.

CARLSON: Right, that‘s right.

You can hear Israeli fighter jets overhead and some kind of  explosion.  Who knows what it is.

Rafael Frankel, thanks.

FRANKEL: Thank you.

CARLSON: Still ahead, the United States and Israel have both been stunned by the power of Hezbollah‘s arsenal.  It turns those rockets can go a lot more farther and do more a lot more damage than anyone ever suspected.

Should we have known this ahead of time?  Where did they get those weapons? We‘ll talk to a man who knows.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Coming up, U.S. and Israeli officials say they‘ve been   taken completely off guard by the sophistication of Hezbollah‘s rockets.

Is the terror group a bigger threat than anyone knows?  We‘ll tell you when we come back, from Haifa, in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back.  Nothing about this war has been more surprising to U.S. and Israeli defense analysts than the arsenal marshaled by Hezbollah.  Not primitive in some cases, it turns out.

Just the other day Hezbollah hit an Israeli war ship with laser guided munitions.  Where did they get a bomb like that?  That‘s the question. Here with the answer, Mark Mazzetti, of the “New York Times,” one of the great national security reporters in the United States.  Welcome.

Mark, welcome.

MARK MAZZETTI, “NEW YORK TIMES” REPORTER: Thanks, Tucker.  

CARLSON: Where did they get a weapon like that?

MAZZETTI: They got it from Iran.  The United States and Israeli  intelligence officials have, as you say, been surprised by the  sophistication of what Hezbollah has been able to do. 

The vast majority of their armaments come from Iran.  They‘re usually flown in to Syria and then driven over the border into Lebanon.  But they do have some armaments that come also from the Syrian government. 

CARLSON: Do we know that?  I hate to be skeptical, but politics is so enmeshed in all of this and charges like that have such real life implications. 

Are we certain that these materiel come from Iran and Syria?

MAZZETTI: Intelligence is always a little murky, but there is a pretty good consensus of opinion on both sides of the Atlantic about the extent to which Iran does supply Hezbollah.

And you‘re not going to get a lot of disagreement on that.  For instance, the missile that was fired last week that hit the Israeli war ship is, in fact, an Iranian missile.  It is actually a variation on a Chinese cruise missile that the Chinese sold to Iran.  

So the fingerprints on a lot of this weaponry is on Tehran.  And so there doesn‘t seem to be a lot of disagreement in the intelligence community about where it is coming from. 

CARLSON: Tell us about the capabilities of a weapon like that?  What sort of distance, what sort of destructive power does it have? 

MAZZETTI: It has the capability to take an Israeli war ship out of commission.

The interesting thing about that strike was that the Israeli ship didn‘t even have it‘s radar defenses on, because they were so, as you said, taken off guard.  They didn‘t think that there was a threat from such a missile, so they didn‘t put up their missile defenses.

That‘s why this had such a devastating impact.  Beyond that missile, there‘s been some missiles that have been fired into Israel over the past week that have had tremendous destructive power, one that was fired into Haifa last Sunday, which they think is a Syrian made missile and it actually was packed with ball bearings that increased its   destructive power. 

The ball bearings, you know that sometimes suicide bombers use  ball bearings in vests to increase their lethal power.  Well, this is a missile that the Israelis at least believe had a warhead filled with ball bearings.  

CARLSON: I actually found a ball bearing outside a Katyusha rocket  site yesterday, I think it was yesterday.

But here is the question that analysts have got to be mulling  over right now.  If Iran would send one of these sophisticated, very destructive missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon, why wouldn‘t Iran send a similar munitions to the insurgency in Iraq?

It‘s a lot closer.  I mean, we haven‘t done anything about it in this case.  Why would we do anything about it in that case?  Are we worried about something like that happening?

MAZZETTI: Yes, it is a huge concern.  The Bush administration says that proliferation of weapons technology to terrorist groups is the number one concern.

You do you have to be surprised that or concerned that since these things caught everyone by surprise, what could be going on in Iraq?  I suppose that there is a feeling that it is easier actually to get a missile like that into Lebanon via Syria and actually send Iranian revolutionary guard trainers to train Hezbollah to use the weapon than it would be to send these weapons to insurgents to a country where there is significant U.S. troop presence. 

But you raise a good point and it likely is something that is concerning intelligence officials.  

CARLSON: Boy, I hope you are right.  Mark Mazzetti, of the “New York Times,” one of the best connected national security reporters there is.  Thanks for joining us.

MAZZETTI: Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON: Still ahead we‘ll talk to American evacuee who is finally out of Lebanon, but who says the U.S. government made her wait for days, days languishing in that city as bombs fell around here.

Her harrowing story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARSLON: Welcome back.  Much has been made of the U.S. government‘s lagging response to the refugee crisis in Beirut.  Thousands of Americans waited to get out as the military tried to figure out the logistics of it all. 

My next guest is one of them.  June Rugh joins us now from Seattle to explain how she got from Beirut home.  June, are you there?

JUNE RUGH: Yes. 

CARLSON: Welcome.  How did you get back?

RUGH: Well, i was one of a privileged few who were able to get out via Marines helicopter from the U.S. embassy into Cyprus, from Cyprus to London and from London to Seattle.

But basically that was because I‘m fortunate enough to have a cousin who‘s an ex-ambassador and who pulled strings.  If not for that connection, I would have been there even longer, because as of Monday morning, i was able to catch that flight out Monday morning, but before i got the call from the U.S. embassy, i was just one of 25,000 other Americans waiting for word from the state department.

And the most recent word was that a U.S. strategy team had arrived and was looking over the situation.  And that‘s not great news.  That means that they‘re doing PowerPoint presentations or something.  That‘s not the same as sending ships. 

At this point, ultimately, finally, they‘re starting to get people out by ship, but you know, this is—in other words, i was one of the first Americans out and i had already been there for five days and five nights of bombing. 

CARLSON: Five days and five nights of bombing.  That sounds harrowing.  We‘ve been getting reports that the U.S. government has been charging its own citizens for the evacuation.  Did you run across anything like that?

RUGH: Oh, yes.  I had to sign a promissory note before i could get on the helicopter to pay back the costs of that part of the evacuation.  And of course.

CARLSON: How much is it?

RUGH: I did pay because i wanted to get the hell out of there. 

CARLSON: Yes, I bet. 

RUGH:  And i have heard that Nancy Pelosi and a few others have been protesting that and hopefully we will not be charged, because i had heard $200,000 quoted as the possible individual cost of the airlift.  Like per, you know, per person. 

CARLSON: $200,000?

RUGH: Yes. 

CARLSON: Holy smokes.  I‘d go to Beirut for that. 

RUGH: Yes, you see, it‘s a military airlift and accompanying each trip, which, you know, that‘s Marines helicopter, there would be about 30 people.  We also had four warplanes around us as escorts, because, you know, there are Israeli warships underneath us and Hezbollah has anti-aircraft, you know, et cetera. 

CARLSON: OK, June, I‘m afraid we‘re out of time.  We want to congratulate you again on getting back to Seattle.  Good for you.

We‘re rooting for you, though we didn‘t know your name.  Thanks, June.

And thank you for watching tonight.  We are live from Haifa.  We will be here as long as this conflict extends.

Right now, “Hardball” with Chris Matthews.  Stay tuned.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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