updated 7/25/2006 10:58:40 AM ET 2006-07-25T14:58:40

Guests: Kevin Peraino, Rafael Frankel, Nancy Soderberg, Mike Papantonio, Faerlie Wilson

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Lebanon under siege.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Our house is bombed, everything is bombed. 

ANNOUNCER:  Israel‘s assault on Hezbollah marches on, and so does the devastating toll on civilian life. 

JAN EGELAND, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR:  One third or more of the wounded and the dead are children. 

ANNOUNCER:  But a quick resolution to this ever-worsening crisis is nowhere in sight. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why America helping Israel and leaving us?  Why?

ANNOUNCER:  Today the world watches and wonders, can shuttle diplomacy end the death and destruction? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A cease-fire is sustainable only if we get at the root problem, which is Hezbollah. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Now from Limassol, Cyprus, Tucker Carlson. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome.  We‘re joining you from the port city of Limassol, Cyprus, on our way to Beirut, where we hope to be broadcasting the show tomorrow night. 

In the meantime, though, war continues to rage in the Middle East. 

With the latest on that, and for the details, we go to our NBC correspondents throughout the region. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Kerry Sanders in Beirut, where Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, made an unannounced visit today.  She landed at the U.S. Embassy and then made her way across town, pushing past a gauntlet of photographers to get in to see the prime minister here. 

The reason she came to speak to the prime minister, she says if there‘s going to be a cease-fire, it‘s going to be negotiated between the government of Lebanon and Israel.  Hezbollah, she says, is not a government. 

This is what the prime minister, Prime Minister Siniora, had to say to NBC News before their meeting. 

FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER:  The Israelis cut the country into pieces, into shreds, in fact.  And, in fact, Lebanon can no longer afford to have something of this sort to be repeated every now and then. 

SANDERS:  One thing that we do know that was agreed upon is the United States will provide some humanitarian aid to Lebanon.  It‘s in excess of 600,000 people who have been affected moving out of the southern region, and there‘s a lack of food, a lack of water.  Well, some of those supplies will be brought into the port tomorrow and then distributed.

But U.S. Marines will not be the ones distributing it.  The items will be brought ashore, and then humanitarian organizations will take them. 

One note.  Before Condoleezza Rice left this area, she made a point of stopping and speaking to the speaker of the parliament, Nabih Berri.  He is believed to be a direct link back to Hezbollah leadership.  So if there‘s any communication going back to Hezbollah leadership from Condoleezza Rice, that would be the root. 

We now go to my colleague Mark Potter in Haifa. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s been another day of heavy fighting along the border, with four Israelis killed today as Hezbollah rockets continue to fall.  The Israeli Defense Force says some 80 rockets have struck towns in northern Israel today, injuring eight people.  That number is likely to climb as the evening progresses.  Three of those rockets fell here in the Haifa area, in the suburbs, but so far, there have been no reports of injuries in connection with those attacks. 

Military officials say that since this conflict began, they have destroyed some 2,000 Hezbollah rockets on the ground before they could be fired.  But the bad news for Israel is that officials also believe that Hezbollah still has three or four times that number of rockets in its arsenal. 

The air force is concentrating not only on taking out the rockets, but rocket launchers, saying that it has destroyed about 100 of them so far, but also conceding that they are very difficult to find.  They are mobile and are well hidden.  Today we saw pictures of a mobile rocket launcher parked right next to a mosque on the other side of the Lebanese border. 

Today, Israeli soldiers are said to be involved in very fierce combat with Hezbollah guerrillas on the outskirts of a town known as Bint Jubeil, a Hezbollah stronghold.  Yesterday, soldiers took over another town also linked to Hezbollah that is considered to be strategically important because it sits on high ground. 

Two soldiers were killed today in the fighting and 20 were injured as they were said to have run into mortar, anti-tank, and small arms fire.  A military official says that the guerrillas they are facing now are very well trained and are dug in over the years, having built a labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers and having stockpiled weapons, making this very, very difficult combat. 

Today, an Israeli helicopter crashed along the border, killing two pilots.  The military says an investigation is still under way, but it appears that the crash was due to an accident, not a Hezbollah attack. 

So the bottom line here in Israel is that the very heavy fighting continues, as do the rocket attacks, despite some diplomatic activities, not only here in Israel and Lebanon, but around the world. 

Now to my colleague Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Richard Engel in Tyre in south Lebanon.

The Israeli shellings and airstrikes are continuing tonight, most of them on the outskirts of the city.  As we drove in today, we were able to assess some of the damage. 

We theft early this morning in a convoy of vehicles.  The roads are now very dangerous.  As we headed south, the damage was getting more and more intense. 

There are—according to U.S. officials, 80 percent of the highways now in Lebanon, and particularly in the south, have been damaged, 95 percent of the bridges.  That makes travel almost impossible. 

We were in 4 x 4 vehicles, sometimes had to go off road.  We drove through a small dirt road next to a cemetery, through a banana plantation, often finding alternative routes, because the main highways are not safe and oftentimes we just simply can‘t go true them. 

In Sidon, one of the major cities in south Lebanon, a several-block area, maybe six square blocks, mostly a financial district, just doesn‘t exist anymore.  Some of the buildings were flat, some of the banks that we saw, you could really not even recognize that they had been banks, except for the papers and files that were among the debris on the ground. 

Then, coming into Sidon, very few people left in the city.  The streets feel like a ghost town, and that‘s partly because people are trying to leave.  The Israeli military has been dropping leaflets, but time and time again we‘re hearing complaints that as people are trying to leave the city, there are Israeli shellings and that the civilian convoys trying to escape the violence are themselves getting hit. 

Back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Thanks. 

Well, for most Western refugees fleeing Beirut and all of Lebanon, Cyprus, the island nation right off the coast of Lebanon in the Mediterranean, is the first place they see.  We‘ve been here for about 24 hours, and we were at the port yesterday as a French warship pulled up with about 250 French citizens on it. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  We‘re standing down on the waterfront in Larnaca, Cyprus, where the French naval frigate the Jean Barre (ph) has just come up behind me.  It just arrived from Beirut, Lebanon, with about 250 French citizens and their dependents on it. 

A lot of people have come out for this.  Local officials, French citizens who live in Cyprus have come out to greet the refugees as they come, a number of physicians, which is a good thing because at least two people he have required medical attention as they‘ve gotten off the boat.  Even the U.N. is here.  There‘s a detachments of U.N. soldiers from Argentina about 200 yards in front of me camped out in a tent.  They‘re not doing much; they‘re taking pictures of this, but they‘re not—don‘t seem what else to do beyond that. 

The striking thing about these people who are getting off, most of them seem in pretty good condition.  A few seem traumatized, but it‘s remarkable how little they have with them. 

Some of them are tourists, a lot of them, though, are full-time lifelong residents of Beirut.  Lebanon was once a French colony.  A lot of French citizens there.  And it‘s amazing how little they‘re carrying. 

They‘re going to need something.  It‘s not clear where they‘re going from here, but I can tell you, as someone who spent the day in and around this town trying to find a decent place to stay, a clean place to stay, it‘s not easy. 

We‘re going to follow them and find out where they go, but for many, a brand new life awaits them starting now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Coming up, Israeli bombing in Lebanon has left at least of half a million homeless.  Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States would like to help pay for the rebuilding of Lebanon.  Is it too little too late? 

We‘ll tell you.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.

Condoleezza Rice has visited the region with news from the Bush administration and its positions on this conflict.  The secretary of state is expected to announce the United States will come up with at least a billion dollars, a billion U.S. dollars, to rebuild Lebanon.  Sources also say Rice informed Hezbollah that there will be no cease-fire and the United States will not call for a cease-fire until those Israeli soldiers are released.

Joining me now on the telephone from Jerusalem is “Newsweek‘s” Jerusalem bureau chief, Kevin Peraino.

Kevin, are you there?

KEVIN PERAINO, “NEWSWEEK”:  Yes, I‘m here.

CARLSON:  Do we—do we believe that Condoleezza Rice has informed

Hezbollah of this since the United States has made a show of not having any

discussions with Hezbollah?  Do we think this is true?‘

PERAINO:  Yes.  Well, what she is having discussions with is Amal, another Shia group in Lebanon.  They‘re actually older than Hezbollah.  They‘ve been around since the ‘70s. 

She met today with Nabih Berri, the leader of the Amal group, and they‘re—you know, they‘ve been sort of eclipsed by Hezbollah over the last few years, particularly in the late ‘90s.  But they‘re still active in Lebanon. 

I was in Lebanon a couple of months ago, in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, where a lot of these Amal supporters are, and they were out collecting money, collecting donations.  So it would be fairly easy for her to pass message to Nasrallah if she wanted to.  I mean, there are plenty of other Lebanese politicians who are also talking to Nasrallah, including General Michel Ahoun (ph), who‘s a Maronite Christian politician.  So it‘s certainly possible. 

CARLSON:  So the idea is that the United States is going to offer about a billion dollars in aid to rebuild the infrastructure of Lebanon, is that right? 

PERAINO:  Yes, that‘s what I hear.  That‘s—according to the numbers that I heard, probably not enough. 

The numbers that you see from Lebanese sources are a billion dollars in damage so far.  I don‘t know if that‘s true or not, but that‘s what they‘re saying.  They say 90 percent of the bridges have been destroyed, 80 percent of the major highways.  So it‘s probably going to take a lot more than that, but that‘s a start. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s a little bit confusing since the United States has endorsed the bombing of that infrastructure.  You know, all but endorsed the bombing campaign in Lebanon.  So why exactly would the United States be paying to rebuild the infrastructure in Lebanon?  Has any U.S.  official explained that to you? 

PERAINO:  Well, they have to.  I mean, they have to avoid, to deflect criticism not just in Lebanon, but in the wider Arab world. 

I mean, I think her stop in Beirut today was a smart move, because this criticism has been mounting.  We saw when this first happened, you know, leaders like from Saudi Arabia, from Egypt and Jordan came out against Hezbollah, and you‘ve sort of seen in the last few days this dissent from the street kind of bubbling up.

And you‘ve seen some of these leaders who were—who were blaming Hezbollah a few days ago, they‘re still blaming Hezbollah, but they‘ve been a lot—you know, they‘re worried.  They‘re worried about Islamists in their own streets in places like Egypt.  And so, you know, it‘s something I think that she had to do, to say, look, we care about Lebanon, too.  And, you know, President Bush has made Lebanon—the Lebanon project, you know, one of the jewels of his foreign policy in the Middle East.  The survival of that—that government, the Siniora government.

So I just think it‘s something she had to do.  She didn‘t have much of a choice. 

CARLSON:  We‘ve heard a lot and much has been made about the disapproval many Sunni leaders, heads of state, anyway, have been voicing toward Hezbollah.  Has any Shiite leader that you‘re aware of said a bad word about Hezbollah since this bombing campaign started? 

PERAINO:  You know, I don‘t know.  I don‘t hear not a lot of—not a lot of Shiites in Jerusalem here where I am.  It‘s mostly—the Palestinians are generally (INAUDIBLE).  No, I haven‘t heard anything like that here, and I haven‘t seen it in the reporting, but I really don‘t know. 

CARLSON:  Do you—do you think that the Israelis are paying close attention to the will of the United States here?  When Condoleezza Rice shows up and says, here‘s what we think, do you think the Israeli government taks it under advisement or does exactly what Condoleezza Rice wants them to do? 

PERAINO:  No.  I mean, I think they pay a lot of attention. 

The Israeli officials that I‘ve talked to over the last few days said they‘ve been surprised, frankly, with the slack that‘s being cut to them by the U.S.  And they very carefully watch—you know, there‘s a lot of talk in Jerusalem about—and among diplomats about watching the signals that come out of—that come out of Washington, President Bush, and Rice.

And, you know, what they saw was her saying at this press conference the other night, there are no quick fixes, Hezbollah is the problem, the birth pangs of a new Middle East.  So, I mean, they‘re closely paying attention to that.  They feel like they are getting some slack, but they know it‘s not going to last forever. 

They feel like they‘ve got maybe a week, 10 days at the most, to finish this campaign.  And they know very well that one mistake could end this—end this in its tracks as it did in 1996, when Israel hit a U.N.  building, killed 100 civilians in 1996.

CARLSON:  Yes.

PERAINO:  Operation Grapes of Wrath back then stopped immediately.  And so they no the longer this goes on, the better the chances that there‘s going to be a mistake made.  And, you know, so they realize that it may seem unconditional now, the support, but it may not last. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  That‘s—I think they‘re absolutely right. 

Kevin Peraino of “Newsweek” joining us from Jerusalem.

Thanks.  Thanks, Kevin. 

PERAINO:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Well, joining us from Jerusalem, also, MSNBC contributor and “Christian Science Monitor” correspondent Rafael Frankel. 

Rafael, thanks for coming on. 

RAFAEL FRANKEL, “CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”:  Hey, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Birth pangs of a new Middle East.  This seems very much like the old Middle East to me.  What in the world does that mean, do you have any idea? 

FRANKEL:  Well, I‘ll tell you, things are getting very complicated right now.  You‘ve got a lot of diplomacy happening very quickly. 

I think what people are trying to do now is piece together how we can get to a cease-fire where both sides feel like they‘re getting what they want.  And what I‘m looking at right now is some scenario like this: an international force comes into Lebanon, that international force has teeth to fight Hezbollah if Hezbollah gives them any problems.  Meantime, Hezbollah pulls back, probably north of the Litani River, and consolidates its political power, which it‘s grown considerably over the last couple of weeks in this bombing and rocketing campaign. 

CARLSON:  Who comprises the international force?  When you say international force, who is that? 

FRANKEL:  Well, that‘s the big—that‘s the $64,000 question.  At the moment, everyone keeps calling for international force, but no one is offering any troops up. 

You‘ve had people calling for international force from Europe, the United Nations, the Arab League, and yet there hasn‘t been a single country that said, OK, we‘re up for the challenge, we‘ll send troops.  NATO hasn‘t given an affirmative, the EU hasn‘t.  So that‘s one of the big questions. 

The second question is, what‘s going to be the mandate of that for us? 

There‘s already, as you know...

CARLSON:  Well, yes, because let me just—if I could just...

FRANKEL:  ... an international force in southern Lebanon.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

FRANKEL:  And they‘re toothless, they don‘t do anything.  They sit there, and, you know, all they do is watch.  And so for Israel to feel good about this, the international force needs to be a fighting force, not a peacekeeping force.  It needs to be a force that can take hits, that can deliver them, and that very importantly can monitor the border between Lebanon and Israel, and also monitor the border between Lebanon and Syria, so that Syria cannot resupply arms to Hezbollah, nor can they come in from Iran. 

CARLSON:  Has there been any suggestion that the United States be part of that force?  I mean, of course the last time Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the American Marines went in and 250 or so were killed.  Has any even whispered the idea that Americans might be part of this force? 

FRANKEL:  I‘ve heard it—I‘ve heard it suggested and I‘ve heard it rejected.  I just—I don‘t think that‘s going to happen.  You know, if it was a NATO force, and there happened to be American troops as part of it, that would be one thing.  But as an American force, no, I don‘t think so. 

CARLSON:  What has been—what has been the reaction in Israel to Condoleezza Rice‘s visit? 

FRANKEL:  Well, look, it‘s the secretary of state, it‘s obviously their closest ally.  They‘re very happy to have her here.

I think they‘re very interested to see what kind of—what kind of leash they still have from the United States.  In other words, what you‘re talking about with your previous guest about, how much room they have to operate here. 

Now, we have still been hearing about these time limits placed.  You know, the first time we heard about it was five days ago, the report said a week.  Well, we‘re coming on a week, and it doesn‘t seem like there‘s going to be any limits placed here.

But there‘s a series of very important meetings coming up.  We have tomorrow the prime minister and the president of the Palestinian Authority.  And then on Wednesday, she‘s meeting with the Europeans in Rome, and a lot might come out of that.

But what I‘m still hearing from U.S. officials is, look, there‘s still no timetable, we do want a cease-fire, but it has to be one that takes into consideration the long-term effects here and one that doesn‘t just tie Israel‘s hands.  And the only thing Israel is worried about at this point is having a cease-fire imposed upon them that basically delivers a victory to Hezbollah.  And the United States so far has not indicated they‘ll allow that to happen, whether it comes from the international community pressure or United Nations or any other body. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

Rafael Frankel in Jerusalem.

Thanks. 

Coming up, John Kerry declares, “If I were president, none of this would be happening.” 

Ha! 

We‘ll explain when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

As we monitor the conflict here in the Middle East, Willie Geist has been faithfully glued to the tube back home, monitoring the coverage of the conflict.  He joins us now for “Beat the Press”—Willie.

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, we‘re going to give our friends Nancy Grace and the rest of the crew the day of off.  Today we focus on the NBC family. 

Last week, we took a shot at the opening montage for Anderson Cooper‘s show, comparing it to a Jerry bruckheimer movie.  The music, those images, that mysterious voice.  Ridiculous.  We would never do anything like that on this show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. AMBASSADOR 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 even more violent? 

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  That was our show?  Yes.

Well, it turns out Anderson Cooper is not the only one. 

Look, we‘re not such hypocrites that we won‘t shine a light or beat ourselves up every once in a while.  We‘ve given O‘Reilly a lot of grief lately for kind of straying off topic during a war, but we‘ve been at the forefront of the Christie Brinkley divorce coverage.  So, we will beat ourselves up.  That‘s a promise.

Next up, a little game of name that tune.  NBC‘s Mark Potter has bravely been bringing us reports throughout the Middle East since this conflict began.  Last week during one of those reports for “HARDBALL,” Mark got a surprise phone call.

Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  How are the Israelis reading the relenting in the attack from the rockets from Hezbollah?  Do they see that lesser rockets fired today as evidence of a weakening Hezbollah or that Hezbollah is signaling some kind of willingness to negotiate? 

POTTER:  There are two ways of looking at it.  One is that perhaps the fighting has intensified to the point that much of their capability has been stopped. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Mark Potter already a great reporter, a greater reporter for just playing through that ring tone.  Look, he‘s on the air for 20 hours a day, so if you leave your cell phone on once in a while, what are you going to do? 

The greater question, though, and this will offer us a window into who Mark Potter is, what was his ring tone?  Let‘s listen again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER:  There are two ways of looking at it.  One is that perhaps the fighting has intensified to the point that much of their capability has been stopped.  But there are other people...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  We were huddled around our speakers today in the office trying to figure out what that song is.  We couldn‘t make sense of it.  Tucker says—he reports to us that all the NBC telephones have that same ring. 

If you can identify that ring, call the BTP hotline, let us know. 

We‘ll give you a T-shirt or a fanny pack or something. 

Finally, another one from our file of surprises.  NBC‘s Dawn Fratangelo giving a live report last week from the Port of Larnaca in Cyprus, where evacuees were arriving from Lebanon.  Everything was going smoothly until Dawn was caught off guard by a ship with bad timing. 

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAWN FRANTANGELO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  He doesn‘t want to give the impression that the United States is deserting Lebanon, that the embassy is still open, that not all of the Americans who are there want to leave.  But he says that he understands the frustration of the Americans who have been waiting to get out of Lebanon and says this operation cannot move fast enough, that it can never move fast enough, and they‘re going to do everything they can to get people out safely. 

Now once they—oh!  Excuse me.

We are in a busy port.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Why did she excuse herself? 

Dawn, there was no question about the source of that booming blast. 

It was polite, but unnecessary.

Dawn Fratangelo not only an excellent reporter, but a woman with excellent manners.

So, how would you like to help us “Beat the Press”?  Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen.  The number, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 1-877-287-5876.

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

CARLSON:  Thank you, Willie. 

You think you know who‘s involved in this war, but there‘s a third country, one of the major players.  Syria.  What‘s its role?  We have a report from Damascus coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits the region.  What does it mean that she‘s here?  Meanwhile, back in the United States, John Kerry says, “I could a much better job than this.”  All that when we return after these headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Strictly speaking, the war in the Middle East right now is between two countries, Israel and Lebanon.  But in fact, there‘s a third nation intimately involved in this conflict in many ways.  That country is Syria.  That‘s where we find NBC‘s Jim Maceda, who joins us by videophone from Damascus—Jim?

JIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi there, Tucker.  Well, that‘s right.  There‘s been a flurry of diplomatic activity behind the scenes for the past number of days.  Our sources here in Damascus tell us that there have been feelers sent out by U.S. officials.  We know that there is a diplomatic mission here by the United States. 

Also by a number of United Nations officials who are considering bringing a delegation here, a couple of moderate Arab nations.  Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also talking, sending out feelers.  All of this intended to put pressure on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to reengage him. 

First of all, to get him to split from the alliance with Iran.  But perhaps more importantly, exert the considerable leverage that Syria has over Hezbollah.  Also, what we‘re seeing here in Damascus is that for the past number of days, the Syrian government has been very vocal, perhaps wanting to take advantage of a situation. 

You know, they‘ve been kind of on the outside hooking in for the past year or so, certainly since the assassination of Hariri in Lebanon.  So perhaps wanting the attention they think they deserve.  The deputy foreign minister said today that he believes that it is time to dialogue with the United States, and Syria is willing, he says, to dialogue. 

He says that first, though, Syria wants an immediate cease-fire to end this conflict.  Again, what we‘re hearing here, Tucker, is that none of this is going to happen.  There‘s no way that Syria is going to cut its ties with Iran or cut its ties with Hezbollah unless there‘s a big carrot, a big elusive comprehensive deal whereby Syria at least gets back the Golan Heights. 

Golan heights remains the deal-breaker as far as the Syrians are concerned.  On another front, a lot of activity as well, a lot of importance as we see the impact of the war, specifically dealing with refugees.  It started as a trickle now.  We‘re talking about 300,000 to 400,000 Lebanese refuges that have fled the fighting, coming across four of the main border crossings with Lebanon. 

The Syrians have done the right thing.  I mean, they‘ve opened their borders.  They‘ve opened the doors of their homes.  Volunteers have taken people, families into schools, universities, anywhere where there is space to provide ad hoc shelter.  They have provided food, medicines. 

I spoke yesterday to the Syrian Red Crescent chief.  He says that they‘re at breaking point.  They‘ve got about another 10 or 15 days of capacity, after which, unless there‘s a huge influx of aid from the Arab world, which isn‘t happening yet, or from the international community, he says there‘s going to simply have to close the border.  That‘s what‘s happening here, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So Jim, you‘re saying that Syria has been able to absorb more than a quarter million refugees with no refugee camps or international assistance? 

MACEDA:  That‘s correct.  And it‘s amazing, but it‘s a real human-to-human operation.  We saw dozens and dozens of volunteers just in one crossing yesterday, the east-west crossing, Judeayabus (ph), from the Beqaa Valley into the western part of Syria.  That‘s just 25 miles west of Damascus.  It‘s not far. 

But you saw these Syrian volunteers giving water, giving food, and giving out a telephone number whereby these refugees, many of them driving vehicles over the border, could contact the government, and the government would then provide them with whatever is out there. 

So far, you do not see—there‘s only one small camp right next to that border crossing that houses about 250 or 300 people out of 300,000.  The rest of them have been absorbed by Syrian-Arab hospitality, if you will.  But that‘s going to change very quickly unless there‘s aid coming in now. 

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Jim Maceda in Damascus, Syria.  Thanks a lot, Jim. 

Well, for more on what the United States might do to defuse the situation, maybe even prevent further situations like it, we are joined now from London, England, by the former Clinton administration foreign policy advisor and former ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg. 

Nancy Soderberg, welcome. 

NANCY SODERBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.:  Thank you so much. 

CARLSON:  It‘s not clear to me what the United States ought to be doing differently and what the United States could have done, let‘s say, in the past six months to prevent this situation from happening.  I know there are many people in politics who‘d like to claim otherwise.  Perhaps you‘ve a better answer for what the United States should have done to prevent this.  Do you? 

SODERBERG:  Well, I think the administration could not have made dramatic progress between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the last five years.  It just simply is not a partner.  That‘s not to say there couldn‘t have been some overall basic progress going, at least a dialogue sponsored by the United States, to keep some kind of hope.  The lack of any hope has created a void that the extremists have filled. 

The Lebanese situation is a lot more complicated.  The Lebanese territory has been occupied by Hezbollah increasingly since the Israelis left in 2000.  And the Bush administration has done very little to press Syria, Iran, and Lebanon to get them out and fulfill those resolutions.  Again, another void. 

Secretary Rice has a huge test coming up when she gets to Rome on Wednesday.  Both tracks need to be pursued on the Palestinian front and on the Lebanese front. 

I think the best she‘s going to be able to do is to get involvement of the moderate Arabs, particularly the Egyptians as well as the Saudi government, who were nervous about this potential rise of the Shias throughout the region, to sit on Syrian and Iran to begin to disarm Hezbollah. 

Similarly, on the other side, the Arabs are going to have to engage the Palestinians because the Israelis have no partner.  I think she‘ll get some kind of agreement on such a twin track progress coming out of Rome, but President Bush himself is going to have to get directly involved in this one. 

CARLSON:  What about the president‘s suggestion made to Tony Blair, when of course they both thought they were off camera and off microphone, that someone should just go to Syria, presumably the United States, and put Syria in a hammer lock and say, “Look, deal with it.  Stop Hezbollah from firing these rockets.  Stop supporting Hezbollah.”  Is that a real plan?  Why couldn‘t that work? 

SODERBERG:  Well, actually, President Bush suggested Kofi Annan go to Syria and do that.  Kofi Annan does not have the power to sit on Assad and do this.  Only the region Arab leaders as well as the United States do that.  I do believe we should have direct talks with them, perhaps with other Arab leaders at the table as well, and send a strong signal that the game is up here.

Similarly with Iran.  The diplomatic talks with the nuclear problem are complicating these efforts, but there is a diplomatic channel going on with Iran.  We need to use that, as well. 

There‘s no guarantees in diplomacy, but the one thing that is being shown day-to-day on the television and on the ground, that there is not a military solution to this.  It will have to be political in the end. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Well, could you explain to hour viewers in the most clear possible terms why Syria, which is a secular regime and has been for a long time, would want to be in bed with Iran?  What does Syria get out of this? 

SODERBERG:  Syria is actually more interested in using its proxies in Lebanon, a weak government that it frankly controls, and this militia that loves to lob missiles over to Israel, to basically undermine Israel‘s security.  It‘s not so much interested in Iran as a confluence of goals with Iran. 

Syria‘s goal is to get back the Golan Heights and to destabilize Israel until it does so.  But it‘s not willing to engage if negotiations.  President Assad‘s father, President Assad, had that chance five or six years ago, turned to down. 

In the meantime, Iran loves to destabilize the region, distracting the world from its problems with its nuclear issues.  So it‘s not necessarily real access there, it just happens to be shared goals of destabilizing Israel. 

And what has to happen—you‘re not going to get a comprehensive agreement on that front, but you may, with enough international pressure, get an agreement to get Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon and disarm.  That‘s the immediate goal, and that‘s the immediate crisis. 

CARLSON:  That‘s certainly a worthy goal.  Former U.N. ambassador Nancy Soderberg from London, thank you.

SODERBERG:  A hard one.  Thanks so much, tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.

Coming up, this may sound like a pretty complicated to you or me, mere mortals, but not to John Kerry.  He‘s got it all figured out.  We‘ll tell you more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The war here in the Middle East is already spurring heated political rhetoric back in the United States.  During a tour of Detroit yesterday, failed presidential president John Kerry said, quote, “If I were president, this wouldn‘t be happening,” this being the war here in the Middle East.  What did he mean?  For answers we go to Air America radio host Mike Papantonio, who joins us from Pensacola, Florida. 

Mike, welcome. 

MIKE PAPANTONIO, RADIO HOST, AIR AMERICA:  How are you today, Tucker? 

Thank you.

CARLSON:  I don‘t think I could explain this if my life depended on it.  I can‘t imagine what John Kerry meant by saying, “If I were president, this wouldn‘t have happened.”  What a dumb thing to say. 

PAPANTONIO:  Tucker, Kerry is saying the exact same thing that people with the U.N. say.  General Paul Eaton said it.  William Odom, who was the former director of the National Security Agency, he said it.  He said that Bush has been looking for terrorists in all the wrong places.  And had he been looking in the right places, we wouldn‘t have had this escalation that we‘re having in the Middle East.  It‘s not just John Kerry saying that though, Tucker, in fairness to John Kerry. 

CARLSON:  Mike, Mike, Mike.  Slow down, Mike.  Before you bulldoze me with words, I want to get very specific.  How exactly would a Kerry administration have rooted out Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, specifically? 

PAPANTONIO:  Well, first of all, it wasn‘t just in southern Lebanon.  It was Pakistan, it‘s Afghanistan, it‘s Saudi Arabia, it‘s Algeria, it‘s the Congo.  His point was, Tucker—

CARLSON:  We‘re talking about this conflict right now, here and now, Mike.  How would a Kerry presidency have averted the war we‘re covering today? 

PAPANTONIO:  I think what Kerry would have done is tried to first of all put some political force behind the issue before you start bombing southern Lebanon.  Right now, we‘ve lost the high ground in southern Lebanon.  I mean, you‘re killing—there‘s pictures on CNN of children burning up in buildings; 500,000 people killed so far by the Israelis.  You don‘t start like that.  You start by political agenda, by diplomacy, by statesmanship. 

CARLSON:  So you‘re telling me—just to make certain I‘m understanding you correctly, you are telling me with a straight face that Democratic President John Kerry would have said to the Israelis, “Hey, Mr.  and Mrs. Israeli, slow down. I know these rockets are coming over your border and killing your citizens, but don‘t bomb southern Lebanon,” that he would have been tougher on Israel than George W. Bush?  You know that‘s not true. 

PAPANTONIO:  Well, let me tell you this.  He would have taken the big picture in stride.  And the big picture is this.  Right now—and I think the American people is usually right about things like this.  Right now, almost 50 percent of the American public believe that George Bush, because of his inability to be a statesman in southern Lebanon—almost 50 percent are saying we‘re headed to World War III.  World War III nowadays, as you know, is with thermonuclear arms.  Seventy percent of the American public...

CARLSON:  OK.  You‘re throwing terms around that mean nothing.  There are at least two combatants in this war.  Wait, no.  Slow down.  There are two combatants in this war.  One is the state of Israel, which we support pretty much unconditionally, Republican and Democrat.  And I would say particularly Democrat.  We support them without question. 

On the other side, you have Hezbollah, with whom we are not negotiating.  So is John Kerry saying he would have negotiated with Hezbollah ahead of time, or we should now?  If so, I want to know. 

PAPANTONIO:  John Kerry would have done what this president is incapable of doing, and that is to be a statesman, to put pressure on Israel, and tell Israel that they don‘t have a free ride without first trying to figure out whether you can solve this problem politically.  That‘s what John Kerry has been saying.  And John Kerry was also saying...

CARLSON:  You know, you might have—Mike, maybe if you were president, you would do that.  But I think if you look truly at the situation and are honest with yourself and with people watching this show right now, you would concede that John Kerry would not have done that, that the Democratic Party is just like the Republican party, is supportive of Israel to the point it would not ask Israel that. 

For instance, it was Bill Clinton, really still the leader of the Democratic Party, who said relatively recently, “I would die for Israel.  I would pick up arms and die in the defense of Israel.”  You‘re telling me that party is going to say to Israel, “Slow down”?  No, of course not.  Get real, Mike.

PAPANTONIO:  Tucker, you‘re right about that.  Your statement about Clinton is completely correct.  What I‘m saying, though, is the rest of that sentence that you just stopped—the rest of the sentence is John Kerry has the capability of being a statesman in the face of disaster like this. 

This is not just about southern Lebanon.  This is about a world war.  Don‘t you understand?  You have Lebanon—well first of all, you‘ve got Russia joined at the hip with Iran.  You‘ve got Syria joined at the hip with red China.  This is not just about southern Lebanon, and that‘s what Kerry was saying. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not suggesting that it is, and nor am I defending this president‘s foreign policy, which I think is stupid, and I‘ve said so day after day.  My only point is that your claim, the Democrats‘ claim, that John Kerry is a better statesman reveals a naivete that‘s actually kind of horrifying. 

Your definition of statesman is someone who looks like a statesman.  In real life, in real diplomacy, you have to make hard decisions.  And you‘ve named not one of them.  You know you‘re not going to tell Israel what to do.  You know you‘re not going to negotiate with Hezbollah.  You‘re not going to do anything different than what this guy is doing.  Come on.

PAPANTONIO:  Tucker, here‘s the difference.  When a person sees that what they‘ve been doing over and over and over again is not working, then they have to change their mind about how they approach them.  This is a president who is incapable of doing that. 

Even when the American public tells him, “Look, we‘re terrified about what you‘ve done with us in Iraq because we think you‘re escalating to world war,” even in light of that, he doesn‘t have the good sense to go and involve himself in statesmanship to try to make this go away.  He‘s given Israel a free ride, and it‘s a mistake, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Your criticism of Bush is not all entirely wrong.  But, like the Democratic Party itself, you‘ve not presented an alternative.  When you do that, your party will win.  Until then, you‘re going to fail.  Mike Papantonio, thanks for joining us.  Appreciate it. 

PAPANTONIO:  Good luck over there in Cyprus, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.  I appreciate it. 

Coming up, one American citizen who is stuck in Beirut and wants it that way.  She‘s there.  She doesn‘t plan to leave.  It‘s by choice.  We‘ll talk to her in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Literally hundreds of thousands of people have fled Lebanon since the beginning of this conflict.  We‘ve interviewed quite a few of them here in Cyprus.  Among them, almost all the westerners in Beirut.  But some have stayed behind.  One of them joins us now.  Her name is Faerlie Wilson.  She‘s 24 years old.  She‘s from California, and she‘s chosen to stay in Lebanon. 

Faerlie Wilson, welcome. 

FAERLIE WILSON, AMERICAN IN BEIRUT:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Why are you staying in Beirut? 

WILSON:  Well, I guess it‘s a bit of a long story, but I moved here half a year ago.  I‘ve been coming back here for six years. I‘ve made my home here.  I know I would be so much more worried about the station if I weren‘t here to be able to sort of directly observe it and to rely on news sources.  I almost went out of my mind last year after the assassination of prime minister Rafik Hariri, and so I know how difficult it would be to be abroad right now. 

CARLSON:  What does your family think? 

WILSON:  My family has been really supportive.  They‘re worried about me, obviously, and are telling me every day if I feel nervous to just go.  But I feel that I am reasonably safe where I live.  And they haven‘t pressured me too much, which I really appreciate, because I have met so many Americans my age who wanted to stay but ended up leaving because their families were really putting a lot of pressure on them. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I admire your decision, to be honest with you.  I mean, you‘re a magazine writer.  Are you writing pieces about what you‘re seeing? 

WILSON:  Well, I work for a local business magazine, so right now, we‘re putting together our August issue, which is focusing on the costs of the war for Lebanon.  So I‘m writing about it, but you know, since there‘s a mail blockade, it‘s going to be pretty much limited to a Lebanese audience. 

CARLSON:  Is it possible to post your observations online in some kind of diary?  Have you thought about that? 

WILSON:  I‘ve thought about that.  But, you know, right now, I am just absolutely swamped at work because it‘s our production week and about half of the employees ended up leaving, so we‘re so understaffed. 

CARLSON:  You make it sound so normal.  You‘re under the gun to close out an issue.  I‘ve been there many times, but you‘re in the middle of a war.  Is life that normal for you? 

WILSON:  Well, you know, I mean, the first few days, it was really, really bizarre.  I mean, I know it‘s not a parallel situation, but I was living in London on 7/7 and in New York City on 9/11, and the first few days were very much that same kind of atmosphere where you were terrified all the time, every noise frightened you.  But then after a while, as bizarre as it sounds, you get used to live under siege. 

CARLSON:  So you‘ve been—wherever you move next, property values will plummet, is my prediction.  I think you‘re a brave woman.  I hope to see you in Lebanon.  We‘re going there tomorrow.  Faerlie Wilson, thank you.

WILSON:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  That‘s it for us tonight from Cyprus.  As I said, I hope to join you tomorrow from Beirut.  Have a great night.

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

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Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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