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PoliticsNation, Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Read the transcript from the Tuesday show

September 23, 2014

Guest: Nicholas Burns, Gregory Meeks, Michelle Cottle

Schultz. "Politics Nation" with Reverend Al Sharpton starts right now.

Good evening, Rev.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

We start tonight with breaking news. NBC is reporting the U.S. military
struck two more targets inside Syria today continuing last night`s dramatic
bombing campaign against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

Tomorrow, President Obama will address the world at the United Nations with
a call to arms against ISIS and other terrorists in Syria. The strikes
overnight mark the beginning of a long campaign against key terrorist
targets, with support from five Arab allies. Late today at the U.N., the
President dropped by a meeting with leaders from those countries.


now we have a very severe and significant threat. What we`ve seen from the
world community is the recognition of that threat. And we are very
appreciative of our partnership with all the countries here.


SHARPTON: Earlier in the day, this President said the coalition will do
whatever is necessary.


OBAMA: The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that
this is not America`s fight alone. Above all, the people and governments
in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and
security that the people of the region and the world deserve. The overall
effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead. But we`re going to
do what`s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group. For the
security of the country and the region and for the entire world.


SHARPTON: The Pentagon says the strikes damaged or destroyed targets in
and around at least four cities, including Raqqa, the headquarters of ISIS.
Almost 50 tomahawk missiles were launched as part of the attacks. Targets
included an ISIS finance center and an ISIS communications center. The
Pentagon saying today this is only the beginning.


night`s strikes are the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent
campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

night`s strikes were only the beginning.


SHARPTON: The airstrikes also targeted a terror group that many Americans
are only just hearing about -- Khorasan. It`s a network of al-Qaeda
veterans led by a former associate of Osama bin Laden. American officials
say the group may have been planning an attack here in the U.S.


MAYVILLE: The intelligence reports indicated that the Khorasan group was
in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against western
targets and potentially the U.S. homeland.


SHARPTON: Right now, it`s just after 1:00 in the morning in Syria, and the
terrorists there have good reason to fear what may be coming down again
from the skies above.

We start with Kristen Welker. She is live at the White House. Kristen,
tell us what they`re saying about the strikes. Are they satisfied with it?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rev., the administration
thinks that these first round of airstrikes were significant. They did
significant damage. But as you pointed out, the administration is also
being quite clear. This is just the beginning.

I think the most important part about these first round of airstrikes in
Syria from the perspective of administration officials is that the U.S. was
joined by those five Arab nations. You have heard President Obama talk
about for weeks now. The importance of going into this with a coalition.

The fact that he had five Arab nations on board, of course, countries in
the region, is significant. It allows him to harness momentum to build a
broader coalition as he prepares to do that this week at the U.N. general

Of course he`s in New York right now. Tomorrow he will be speaking before
the U.N. He`ll also chair a meeting to discuss the threat of terrorists
with a number of other countries at the U.N. general assembly. So this is
going to allow him to more firmly make his case that going after ISIS is
something that requires a broader coalition.

You also heard the President say today, Rev., that more than 40 countries
had made assurances that they were going to help in the fight against ISIS.
The question becomes, what specifically are they going to do to help in the

And of course, a key part of it is going to be ground forces. President
Obama saying that those troops should come from countries in the region, in
the Middle East. And at this point, it doesn`t seem as though they`ve
gotten firm commitment. So that is going to be one of the key goals of
this President this week when he`s at the U.N. in New York.

Now, you talked about the fact that the U.S. also launched airstrikes
against Khorasan last night. The U.S. saying there was an imminent threat
from that group. That`s going to be a big topic of conversation as well,
rev, how to deal with these terrorist groups and also the foreign fighters
who are going overseas to fight with them. Back to you.

SHARPTON: A lot to watch for in his speech tomorrow at the U.N.

Kristen Welker, thanks for your reporting tonight.

WELKER: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Now, let`s bring in Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to
NATO, now a professor at Harvard University and MSNBC military analyst
Colonel Jack Jacobs. Thank you both for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are welcome.


SHARPTON: Ambassador Burns, what`s your reaction to how these airstrikes
have gone so far?

made the decision he had to make. If we`re going to fight ISIS and as the
President said, destroy ISIS, we have to strike at ISIS at its base, its
base of support where the group originated. That`s Syria. So it made
sense to me that the President would want to conduct airstrikes both in
Iraq and Syria.

But I think your correspondent is right to say that there has to be a
ground element. It won`t be the United States. And so it has to come from
the Iraqi army, from the Peshmerga forces in Kurdistan and from some of the
moderate Syrian rebel groups. That`s a very tall order to organize that in
an effective way and that`s the challenge ahead for the United States.

SHARPTON: Colonel, what is your reaction to the airstrikes so far?

COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, they hit the bad guys
where they are. If you take a look at the map, you`ll see the
preponderance of the strikes have been around Raqqa, which is the actual
headquarters of ISIS and they predominate in the north and east of Syria.
This shows a few other strikes, but there have been lots and lots of them
all around the northeastern part of Syria.

If you take a look at how we did it, you`ll be able to see that we`ve got
the USS Philippine sea here, we got the USS Arleigh Burke, both of these
are heavy guided missile cruises firing tomahawk missiles. And here you
have the George H. W. Bush which launches fa-18s. And all of them in a
coordinated way, were striking up at Syria.

Very interesting, however, we have air bases in the region. We have one
big one in (INAUDIBLE), Italy from which we can launch ground-based
aircraft. More importantly, take a look at this. We have an air base in
Turkey, very, very close to the target area. Interesting, the Turks won`t
let us use it. this kind of reminiscent when we started going to Iraq,
they wouldn`t let us bring the fourth infantry division through Turkey to
open up a second front into Iraq --

SHARPTON: So if the Turks would not let us use that air base?

JACOBS: They will not which is one of the reasons why we have to rely on
the sea-borne cruise missiles. It would be really useful if we could do

SHARPTON: What`s the range on those tomahawks? Because it seems pretty
far, Colonel.

JACOBS: Yes. They can go more than a thousand miles, and they have about
a thousand pounds of explosive in them. They`re terminally guided. They
hit their target within one meter every time.

SHARPTON: Let me go back to the previous map with Raqqa. Show me how
those tomahawks would travel. Show me exactly what the trajectory would

JACOBS: Yes. They would go from here. They launch them. I think you
have seen everybody`s seen them all in the videos. They launched them from
the deck of the ship. They have lots and lots of slots in there. They can
carry as many as -- well, more than a hundred of them, and they would
follow a terrain-guided path. It`s very interesting. They go very fast,
550 knots right on the deck. You can`t pick them up by radar. They`re
below radar. There`s no way to knock them out. And they unerringly wind
up exactly where you punch them in.

SHARPTON: Ambassador, let me go back to you. This morning the President
emphasized the importance of the coalition. Listen to this.


OBAMA: I also made clear that America would act as part of a broad
coalition and that`s exactly what we`ve done. We are joined in this action
by our friends and partners. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates,
Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar. America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder
with these nations on behalf of our common security. Over 40 nations have
offered to help in this comprehensive effort to confront this terrorist


SHARPTON: What is your sense, ambassador, of the coalition at this point?
And what are the challenges the President faces in building it?

BURNS: Well, Reverend Sharpton, it was impressive that the President was
able to mobilize those Arab countries because at the heart of struggle,
it`s really a struggle for the future of the Sunni Arab world. ISIS
represents one option, which is an evil option, a brutal option. Those
Sunni Arab states need to stand up to ISIS. They need to engage in further
combat with us. They need to act on the ground to try to contain ISIS and
they need to dry up ISIS` financial support. So it`s very important the
Sunni Arab countries were involved.

I would say, it would be very helpful if some of the NATO allies could do
more. Very disappointing that the United Kingdom, our strongest ally, has
not been with us. Disappointed that France has such a limited role, couple
of airstrikes a few days ago. Very disappointing that Turkey, our NATO
ally, will not allow the use, as you just heard, of (INAUDIBLE) air base.

Now, Turkey had the excuse. They had 46 hostages held by ISIS, but they
were released three days ago. No more excuses. And so, it`s odd and
ironic that we see some of the Arab countries provide greater support than
some of NATO our allies. That, of course, has to change. It`s not the
President`s fault. It`s just means that those NATO countries have to step
up and being with us.

I suspect that they would be more comfortable operating in Iraq than they
are in Syria. That might be part of the problem.

SHARPTON: Now Colonel, today, some military leaders have suggested that
ISIS will adapt in response to airstrikes. Listen to this.


MAYVILLE: They are a learning organization. And they will adapt to what
we have done and seek to address their short falls and gaps against our air
campaign in the coming weeks.


SHARPTON: How will ISIS adapt? I mean, and what would it make the
airstrikes less effective because they`re able to adapt so well?

JACOBS: The short answer to that question is, yes. They`ve already
started adapting. It`s interesting to note that ISIS is very much
different than al-Qaeda, which was fragmented and even from the very
beginning. You had organizations operating by themselves and so on.

ISIS is a hierarchical organization just like any military organization.
They`ve already headed for the hills outside of Raqqa, gone into the caves,
moved their ammunition to places where they`re less likely to be struck,
moved their trucks around. They are not sitting in truck parks anymore.
Over time, it`s going to be more and more difficult to find ISIS targets.
But unless we want to just do it once and go away, we`re going to have to
adapt as well and I think we`ll be able to.

SHARPTON: Ambassador, let me ask you this quickly. What remains your
concerns? In the bigger picture, what are the questions that you still
have and want answered as we go forward?

BURNS: I think the President is doing the right thing. I think it`s
impressive how he`s been able to mobilize the Arabs. The key question will
be, is there an effective ground component here because airstrikes alone
may slow down ISIS, contain them for a time, but won`t defeat them.

So can we mobilize Syrian moderate rebel groups, the Peshmerga, the Iraqis,
that`s a very, very tough order. It will take a long time to do. I think
that`s the key factor right now for the administration.

SHARPTON: All right, Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Colonel Jack Jacobs,
thank you both for your time tonight.

JACOBS: You`re welcome.

BURNS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, more on the breaking news, more airstrikes in Syria
and Iraq today. How long will this bombing campaign last? We`ll go live
to the Pentagon.

And inside that other terrorist group bombed in Syria, the Khorasan group.
News tonight that may have been actively plotting attacks inside the U.S.

Plus, a test of leadership for President Obama. He`s taken action to
secure America. But today a GOP senator accused him of crying wolf on
terror right before the midterm election.


SHARPTON: A source tells NBC News, an al-Qaeda terror group is testing
explosive devices to bring down planes. The U.S. had information on
specific, concrete plots that were learning about home-grown terror plans.
Who is Khorasan and who is their leader? That`s next.



OBAMA: Strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our
allies by seasoned al-Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the
Khorasan group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot
against America and try to do Americans harm, that we will not tolerate
safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.


SHARPTON: The Khorasan group, it was the first time the President
mentioned this group that was targeted last night. Who are they? It`s a
unit of al-Qaeda, made up of about 50 jihadist fighters, mainly from
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Today, the Pentagon said strikes were prompted
after learning Khorasan was planning an imminent terror attack here in the
United States.


KIRBY: These strikes were undertaken to disrupt imminent attack plotting
against the United States and western targets.

MAYVILLE: The intelligence reports indicated that the Khorasan group was
in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against western
targets and potentially the U.S. homeland.


SHARPTON: This afternoon, NBC News learned the Syria-based terror group
has tested explosive devices they planned to bring aboard planes. And a
source tells NBC, the U.S. had information on specific, concrete plotting
against aviation targets.

This is the leader of the terror operation. Long-time al-Qaeda operative,
Muhsin al-Fadhli. The 33-year-old was a top level commander and close
associate of Osama bin Laden. He reportedly was one of the few who knew
about the plans for the September 11th attacks before they happened. A
senior facilitator and financer for al-Qaeda, he`s been wanted by U.S.
officials for years. So why are we just hearing about this group now? And
how much of a threat are they to the homeland?

Joining me now is NBC terrorism analyst, Evan Kohlmann. Thank you for your
time and thank you for being here tonight.


SHARPTON: We`re just learning about them. How dangerous is this group,

KOHLMANN: Well, I think what`s dangerous is the idea these folks are
trying to emanate what we saw in Yemen from al-Qaeda I the Arabian
Peninsula. Al-Qaeda AQAP, it wasn`t dangerous because there were so many
people involved in it, because it was a large force. It was dangerous
because they had a bomb-maker who learned how to build weapons that they
could sneak on board airplanes.

And so, even a small number of these guys, armed with western recruits and
this kind of technology, could carry out attacks of significance here in
the west. That`s why you see so much focus on the activities of these
folks, especially given the fact that they have such close ties in to al-
Qaeda`s senior leadership.

These are folks that have been involved in terror plots before, in Kuwait,
Saudi Arabia, off the coast of the UAE. They know what they`re doing and
they`re reason for concern there.

SHARPTON: Now, we`re learning the details about how this group planned to
smuggle bombs on to airplanes. One official said that Khorasan was, quote,
"in the final stages of fabricating cutting edge explosive devices in tooth
paste tubes, or clothing dipped in liquid explosive."

Now, this is very disturbing. It seems it`s almost like the next level
from the shoe bombs and underwear bombs we saw al-Qaeda try to use on
airlines before.

KOHLMANN: Yes, they`re trying to innovate. And actually, this has been
encouraged by the people who came up with the shoe bombs and who came up
with the underwear bombs. They put a statement saying we`re going to
distribute this technology to as many people as we can to get them to try
innovate even more and eventually we are going to punch a hole through U.S.
security. That`s what the concern is here.

The concern is that these folks manage to slip to dragnet. They managed to
get to a major airport. How much confidence do we have that we can
actually detect an explosive device that they built? We didn`t necessarily
pick up on the underwear bomb until it was way too late. And that`s the

SHARPTON: Now, "Mother Jones" reports that in addition to bomb plots, this
group had another scary mission in Syria. Quoting from them, "the group
was sent to Syria to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports
allowed them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from
security officials. I mean, could these recruits have come back to the
U.S. to orchestrate attacks on the homeland?

KOHLMANN: They could and they did. At least one individual, fighting with
al-Qaeda in Syria, with al-Qaeda`s official franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, a
young man from south Florida managed to come back here to the U.S. in
between trips to Syria. What he did here, we don`t really know. But we do
know that before he died in a suicide bombing that he carried out on behalf
of al-Qaeda, not only did he threaten U.S. nationals and U.S. civilians,
but on top of that, he talked about how he evaded the FBI, how he evaded
FBI scrutiny. He knew they were surveilling him and he still managed to --

SHARPTON: How many people -- how many could there be of this group?

KOHLMANN: We`re talking about at least a hundred Americans that have gone
to Syria. I think when people hear that, I think is. No, no, no, some of
these folks went to ISIS. Some of them went to al-Qaeda. And just because
there has been all these folks that is on ISIS, we have to remember there
are multiple organizations in Syria right now that are jihadists, that are
against the U.S., and that would like to carry out attacks --

SHARPTON: And Khorasan is al-Qaeda.

KOHLMANN: Khorasan is basically al-Qaeda fighters who were trained in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. The leader of this unit, Muhsin al-Fadhli, he`s
been with al-Qaeda before 9/11. I mean, again, as you noted, he was one of
the few people who had knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

This guys is not an outsider. By all accounts, by all the information we
have, he`s an insider, he is someone who knows al-Qaeda senior leadership.

SHARPTON: I want to talk more about Muhsin al-Fadhli, the head of the
group. In 2012, the U.S. department of state authorized a reward of up to
$7 million for information leading to the location of al-Fadhli. How long
has he been on the U.S. radar? And why has it been so difficult to track
him down?

KOHLMANN: He`s been on the U.S. radar at least since 2005. President Bush
mentioned him in a speech in 2005. Why it was that in 2012 all of a sudden
he became important again? Well, guess what. It was because he was
running a cell of individuals in Iran and he was facilitating the movement
of people from Afghanistan to Syria and to Turkey, exactly the area that
we`re focused on right now.

Why is it that it took so long for us to try to get this guy or find this
guy, it`s because he was running a network inside of Iran. Iran has not
always been pro-al-Qaeda. In fact, the number of al-Qaeda operatives have
been handed over by Iran, but not everybody. And this one was somebody who
obviously managed to stay there despite Iranian authorities being aware
that we were looking for him and obviously now he`s in Syria.

SHARPTON: Well, this is some very disturbing stuff. Obviously, we`ll be
watching it. NBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann, thank you for your time

KOHLMANN: Thank you very much.

SHARPTON: Coming up, what`s next? What`s the next step in the bombing
campaign inside Syria? How long it will last? And how has ISIS reacted?
We`re live on the Syria border with Richard Engel.

And President Obama leading on the world stage why this is a pivotal moment
in his presidency, that`s next.


SHARPTON: More news on the breaking news out of Syria. We`re just getting
new details about additional U.S. airstrikes today. Minutes ago NBC news
reporting the military struck two more targets in Syria and another in
Iraq. The strikes in Syria, hitting vehicles considered targets of
opportunity. The strike north of Baghdad, targeting an ISIS vehicle.
We`ll have more on this and the political reaction here at home. That`s



PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I made clear that as part of this
campaign the United States would take action against targets in both Iraq
and Syria, so these terrorists can`t find safe haven anywhere. I also made
clear that America would act as part of a broad coalition and that`s
exactly what we`ve done.


AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICS NATION": President Obama today praising
the air strikes launched last night against terror groups in Syria. The
shift to Syria marks a turning point in the campaign against ISIS and other
terrorists. With the U.S.-led coalition significantly ramping up its
strikes, and it marks a defining moment of this presidency. So far,
President Obama has gotten support from both sides of the aisle. This
morning, Speaker Boehner released a statement. Quote, "I support the air
strikes launched by the President."

Senator Mitch McConnell agreed, saying, quote, "I support these ongoing
efforts. The President is right to keep the country and the Congress
updated." This show of support comes as the President makes the case for
the nation and for the world to see us in action on the world stage. He`s
in New York today, planning to speak tomorrow before the U.N. General
Assembly, pushing for an even broader coalition to take on ISIS. Today the
President met with coalition partners who took part in the Syrian strike,
and he`s not just leading the fight on ISIS. He`s also calling on the
world to take action on climate change.


OBAMA: We will do our part. And we will help developing nations do
theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are
joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike.
Nobody gets a pass.


SHARPTON: The President vowing we`ll do our part in that fight and others.
But he`s also ensuring that we`re not in these fights alone.

Joining me now is New York Congressman Gregory Meeks, who serves on the
House Foreign Affairs Committee and Michelle Cottle of the National
Journal. Thank you both for being here.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good being with you.


SHARPTON: Congressman, what`s your reaction to the strikes in Syria?

MEEKS: Well, I think the President is doing what he said. The President
said he was going to bring a coalition together he says he`s going to
protect the homeland. And what you see he`s doing, he`s going against
ISIL, and trying to make sure that we have, keep them in control, but he`s
going against those that plot against us also. And so, I think that the
President is doing exactly what he said he was going to do, as he has been
for all this time, you know, did it in Libya, did it when we talk about
Russia, and Ukraine, and he`s doing it now. So, he`s bringing people
together, fighting against ISIL, making sure that those that threaten the
homeland, it`s exactly what he said he would do and he`s doing just that.

SHARPTON: Michelle, the strikes in Syria mark a new phase in the fight
against ISIS. Because I remember when he made his speech, a lot of people
were saying, he says we`re going to Syria eventually. I was waiting to see
what he does, and he went in Syria a lot sooner. How significant is this
moment for the Obama presidency?

COTTLE: Well, look, this was a lot of deliberation went into this. I
mean, we were talking about a president who wound up being elected in part
because of his promises to get us out of foreign entanglements. But there
was a kind of broad public concern about, did we have a plan? What we were
doing? Are we losing credibility? And I think on both sides of the aisle
you`ll going to see support for this because he really did need to convey a
sense of, kind of, you know, draw that line in the sand.

SHARPTON: Congressman, you know, last night`s air strikes also targeted
the Khorasan group. And today republican Senator David Vitter questioned
if that group posed a threat to the U.S. Listen to this.

Well, let me go on. We`re getting that tape. But the senator questioned
whether they even posed a threat. The senator, in effect, is accusing the
White House of crying wolf on Khorasan. But GOP Congressman Peter King
told BuzzFeed, quote, "The intelligence community has known about it,
Khorasan are extremely lethal and dangerous." Was the senator misinformed
or just looking to score on political points?

MEEKS: It must be political points and misinformed. And he must not have
gone to any classified briefing. I don`t know what committees he said he
was on. But if he was -- the intelligence committee, or on foreign affairs
or defense, then he would know that this is a very dangerous group, and
this is a group that is hell-bent on coming to threaten the homeland. And
the President has indicated that anybody that threatens the homeland, no
matter where they are, he`s going after them. So I know this is campaign
season, but clearly he`s misinformed, or he`s just playing politics, which
we shouldn`t do at this time.

SHARPTON: You know, Michelle, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown
also released a new campaign ad today using the ISIS threat. Take a look
at this.


these days knows we face challenges to our way of life. Radical Islamic
terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country, President
Obama and Senator Shaheen seem confused about the nature of the threat.
Not me.


SHARPTON: Michelle, it seems that this is in the political season being

COTTLE: Well, this is an advantage of actually not being in office. You
don`t actually have to say what you would do. Instead if you notice, this
ad is extremely vague in terms of how this former senator sees the nature
of the threat. So this is not the first time that this sort of thing, you
know, Bill Clinton was accused of bombing places because he wanted to draw
attention away from his problems at home. This is what we do during
political seasons.

SHARPTON: You know, Congressman, the American public is generally on board
with the President`s strategy. One poll found 71 percent support air
strikes against ISIS. The targets in Iraq of ISIS. Sixty nine percent
support air strikes in Syria. But only 39 percent want to use ground
troops. If the President stays on his current course, will the American
people support his plan?

MEEKS: Well, I think the American people will. But I think more
importantly, Congress needs to go back to Washington and we need to vote
and have this debate in front of the American people so that we can give
him the further authorization that he needs to do what he has to do. And
we left Washington without doing what our mandate in the constitution says.
I asked Secretary of State Kerry when he was before the committee hearing,
would the administration work with us to come up with a new resolution to
give the President the authority he needs? And he said he`s ready to do

SHARPTON: So let me get this right. You think there should be a vote in
the Congress authorizing the president to use force. Because not everyone
agrees in Congress.

MEEKS: Well, I think there should be. Because we need to be on the
record. That`s a part of our jobs. The administration would love to have
us come and vote to give him that authority, so that individuals can`t play
politics and just wait and see what`s going on and then try to jump on one
side or the other. It is within Congress`s purview to say where we are.
And I think that we should be in Washington D.C. and we should have a vote
on giving the President that authority.

SHARPTON: Now, you`re very strong, but Michelle, you know, Congressman
Meeks from South Jamaica, there are some lawmakers that don`t want to go on
the record, wouldn`t you think?

COTTLE: Well, it`s always, you know, a skittish situation when you
actually have to come out and say what you`re for, as opposed to what
you`re against. In this way, if you`re on the record you can`t come back
later and say, oh, well, you know, this was a terrible decision. So it`s
always risky, but I do think that on the poll it would be a good thing if
they had to kind of put down a marker on where they stood.

SHARPTON: As the campaigns get closer to election day, Congressman, won`t
this be an unavoidable issue even at home, where you and your colleagues
come to Washington to vote or not, won`t people have to take stand,
particularly those that who campaigning for re-election or campaigning to
be Congress people?

MEEKS: I would agree with you. I think their constituents need to know
how they would vote. What is their position? Are they supporting the
President to where he`s moving or are they not? Do they want troops on the
ground, or do they not? Do they want to follow the President`s plan or
not? The American people and their constituents need to know and I think
that is a direct campaign issue that will take place before the November

SHARPTON: Congressman Gregory Meeks and Michelle Cottle, thank you both
for your time tonight.

Coming up, new strikes in Syria today. We go live to the Pentagon. And
President Obama meets with leaders from the Arab coalition, fighting ISIS.
What is the reaction in the region? NBC`s chief foreign correspondent
Richard Engel is on the border. He joins me next.


SHARPTON: Breaking news, the Department of Homeland Security just issued a
new terror alert in the United States. A joint intelligence bulletin
warning air strikes could embolden home-grown terrorists. Officials say
they don`t have anything specific, but they say air strikes in Syria may
have disrupted planned attacks.

Joining us now from the Syria-Turkey border is NBC`s chief foreign
correspondent Richard Engel. Thanks for joining me, Richard.

some of this terror alert is worried about any kind of reciprocity. Will
there be reprisals? These attacks, these air strikes were telegraphed.
The administration not only said that they were coming. It went all around
the world talking to Arab leaders, trying to determine when they would
happen, which countries were participating. So if you`re a terrorist
group, you`ve had plenty of time to plan a response. The specific thing,
the specific plot that the U.S. is talking about potentially having
disrupted goes to this group, the Khorasan group.


ENGEL: And U.S. intelligence officials actually for several weeks now have
been talking about this group. It`s an al Qaeda group, located in Syria.
It is not part of ISIS. It is an independent group that operates along
with many other extremist groups inside Syria. And this al Qaeda franchise
has a particular interest like al Qaeda groups generally do in targeting
aviation. And according to U.S. intelligence, this group was actively
looking at a plot to attack American aircraft, and that is a reason that is
being given by U.S. officials as to why it was attacked, along with ISIS.

SHARPTON: Now, what`s the reaction to these air strikes in the Arab
nations today?

ENGEL: I would say it`s mixed. The Arab governments that are taking part,
the Arab states like Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, like Jordan in particular,
that worry that ISIS and other extremist groups are going to break out of
Syria, like they broke into Iraq earlier this summer, and spread across the
Middle East, they welcome this operation. They`re taking part in it. But
the Arab world, the Arab street is far more skeptical. What they see yet
again is an American-led coalition attacking a Muslim country.

And whatever the reasons may be, there are many people in this part of the
world who are deeply skeptical when you hear that framework, no matter what
the target is. So there are a lot of people who don`t think it`s going to
work, think that the U.S. is getting sucked into a quagmire and that once
again the United States is dropping bombs in the Muslim world.

SHARPTON: You mentioned how ISIS always had global ambitions. What does
this strike do for that?

ENGEL: Well, in two senses, it gives them an international platform. If
the strikes are effective, yes, it does harm ISIS. But now, this group
which, even a couple of years ago didn`t exist, is now on the world stage,
the U.S. has declared war against it, and it builds their franchise. It
builds their credibility. You`re going to see people who don`t want to see
the U.S. engaged in any kind of military action in the Islamic world now
rallying behind ISIS even though they think this group`s actions might be
reprehensible. So, having the U.S. as your enemy in this neighborhood, can
do a lot to boast your reputation.

SHARPTON: Now, what happens after the bombings? What about the Syrian
rebels the U.S. wants to arm?

ENGEL: I`m very skeptical about what happens after the bombings. This is
an ungoverned space, about the size of Maryland. That spans the border
between Iraq and Syria. This idea that the rebels are going to just move
in and fight ISIS. By the way, these rebels think they`re fighting against
Bashar al Assad and Iran and Hezbollah who are really the main power
players on the ground in Syria these days aside from ISIS. The U.S.
strategy ignores those three players entirely, which is a major gap. But
the idea that this moderate rebel movement is going to go in and establish
authority and clean up the mess, I think is somewhere between slim to none.

And I think what is revealing, just today you asked about the reaction and
you were questioning out the different alliances here and the complicated
motivations that people have in the Middle East, especially when it comes
to U.S. air strikes. One of the founding members of the moderate rebel
movement, Riyadh al Assad today on his twitter account denounced the air
strikes. This person who was one of the biggest U.S. allies and said this
was just like the American invasion in Iraq against Saddam Hussein and said
that this would lead to catastrophe. This is a leader of the moderate
rebels who we are supposed to be helping.

SHARPTON: Wow. Richard Engel, thank you so much for your time tonight.

ENGEL: This is a quagmire, a real mess.

SHARPTON: Yes, real one. Real mess. Thank you, though.

Coming up, where is this bombing campaign going and what happens next?
We`re live at the Pentagon, next.


SHARPTON: As we have been reporting new U.S. air strikes today, NBC News
reporting the military struck two more targets in Syria, and another in
Iraq. The strikes in Syria hitting vehicles considered targets of

Joining me now is NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.
Thanks for being here tonight.


SHARPTON: How long does the Pentagon expect the strikes to last?

MIKLASZEWSKI: You know, I heard you ask Richard Engel just a few moments
ago, what happens when the bombing ends? Reverend Al, the bombing is not
going to end. What we`re going to see is, there will be an occasional
spurt of air strikes like we saw last night, when there are huge targets of
opportunity. Or they see some kind of attempt or effort, ability, to take
out some ISIS leadership. But what we`re going to get is a daily, steady,
drip drip drip of the kind of targets of opportunity that we saw today. A
couple of vehicles here, a tank there, a weapons depot here. And this is
going to go on for some time. Officials predict that this U.S. campaign to
degrade and destroy ISIS is going to take years.

SHARPTON: Now, are sources in the Pentagon satisfied with the operation so

MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, with the operation last night, they are. You know,
they set out to accomplish what they needed to do, and that is to send a
message to ISIS, to Iraq, to the rest of the world, particularly the Arab
allies in the region, that the U.S. is serious about putting ISIS in a box,
and eventually destroying ISIS. That`s going to take years, but they felt
like they had to make a good impression from the very upstart, which is why
they launched this series of strikes overnight. More than 200 weapons were
dropped during one strike alone that involved five of the Arab allies in
the region. The first time the Arab allies have even stepped up to support
U.S. efforts like this, much less participate in them. So that alone may
have been worth the effort.

SHARPTON: Now, you reported the air strikes last night did not target ISIS
leadership, because we don`t have intelligence resources on the ground in
Syria. Does the Pentagon have a plan for getting this intelligence?

MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, as the president said, he pledged to the Americans
that the U.S. boots were not going to be put on the ground in either Iraq
or Syria. So you`re going to have to rely on allies, the Peshmerga, Iraqi
forces, I guess, the free Syrian army, which will take years, not just a
year, but years of training and providing weapons before they`ll be in any
kind of position to really contribute. But the best sources would be some
kind of turn coat spies within ISIS itself to help them identify not only
where but when certain ISIS targets, leadership targets are going to be
someplace. You know, and this was brought home when the U.S. Special
Forces landed in Syria last July, absolutely convinced that the
intelligence said two American hostages were there to be rescued. When
they landed, the hostages were gone.

SHARPTON: Yes. Jim Miklaszewski, we will be right back. Jim Miklaszewski
at the Pentagon, thank you very much for your time tonight.

MIKLASZEWSKI: You bet, Reverend Al.



OBAMA: We are joined in this action by our friends and partners. Saudi
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar. America`s
proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our
common security. The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the
world that this is not America`s fight alone.


SHARPTON: President Obama today making the point that America is not
alone, acting in the fight against ISIS and other terrorists in Syria.
Five Arab nations participated in the bombings last night. And the
President said over 40 countries have offered to help in the fight against
ISIS. This kind of coalition is important, because it takes time. We
don`t need the kind of go it alone strategy we`ve seen in the past, bomb
first, ask questions later. That way leads to tragedy. We need a
president who is deliberate, who builds alliances, and who takes military
action when, and only when the time is right, and the cause is just. Those
that leap before they look really don`t value the lives of Americans. Real
patriots. Great presidents, put priority on the lives and security of
Americans, over the image of themselves.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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