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Escalating Crisis in Syria; Syrian Options in Face of Israeli Air Strikes; Interview with Amb. Nick Burns; Dow Aiming for 15,000 Close; Fan Attacks Justin Bieber on Stage

Aired May 6, 2013 - 12:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Want to get back to the escalating crisis in Syria, our top story right now, growing concern of the possibility of a broader war now in the Middle East.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, that's after Israel, of course, launched those attacks inside Syria, hitting military installations. Now a human rights group in Damascus says the strikes killed 42 Syrian soldiers, and left 100 people missing.

Christiane Amanpour joining us now from New York. We've heard that the Syrian government, spokesman for the government, say, revenge, this is a declaration of war, but what are the Syrian options at the moment in the face of this? They're a bit busy at the moment, aren't they?

CHRISTIANE AMAPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are. And this target, if it's exactly as we've been reporting and has been claimed has been a military target, and to that end, Israel also said that it does not want to be drawn into any greater war.

And, frankly, the commanding general out there near the Golan Heights has said, I do not feel the winds of war blowing. They are bending over backwards to try to send messages to the Assad regime that this was not about getting involved in the internal civil war.

This was about protecting themselves, they say, against any advanced weaponry going from Syria to Hezbollah because they don't want Hezbollah to be firing missiles or any advanced weaponry into Israel.

So it seems to be at that point right now. Whether the Syrians accept that the Israelis are just doing this in what they call self-defense remains to be seen.

MALVEAUX: And, Christiane, two questions for you here. I mean, first of all, you have interviewed Assad before. You have spoken with him. Give us a sense of his mind-set here. Does he feel that he is cornered in some way, that he has to respond? And then, secondly, talk a little bit about Hezbollah and what kind of options they might have in retaliation.

AMANPOUR: Well, a couple of things. President Assad has shown a pretty steady response since this began about two years ago, a bit more than two years ago, and that response has been incremental.

First, it was arresting the protesters, which really started this, as a sort of Arab Spring offshoot. Then it was, you know, abusing. Then it was attacking certain villages. Then it was using helicopters. Then it was, you know, planes and missiles and maybe they have used chemical weapons, if all the intelligence is to be believed.

So it's been an incremental increase on his part. Judging, I think, the reaction of the outside world and also judging how the internal dynamic is going to go. So incremental increase.

Israel has basically said, look, we're not in this fight, but we think that, you know, it wouldn't be a problem to neutralize his main forces. But we definitely do not want Iranian or any other weapons going via Damascus to Hezbollah because that could come in -- and they remember the 2006 war.

So that is when Hezbollah and Israel fought some people call it to a standstill. Hezbollah claims a victory in that war in 2006.

HOLMES: Yeah, you know, a couple of interesting things here, Christiane. Israel says it doesn't want to get dragged into a war, but at the end of the day, they have gotten involved by making an attack here. You've got the Arab world, the Arab League, the Saudis, the Egyptians, none too happy that this has taken place.

Now Israel, of course, is going to say it was a preemptive thing to stop them getting attacked from Lebanon and so on. But what are the risks involved here of sparking something else? A message to Iran as well, isn't it, really?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, from the very beginning, people have said, this is a regional problem, a strategic problem, this internal Syrian war, because it could spill over and it could cause a wider war.

Already we've seen Israel's neighbors virtually destabilized, certainly on the borders, and certainly a lot in Jordan, with this flood of refugees, more than a million, that has gone to Jordan, Turkey and to Lebanon. So that's been a real problem.

We've also seen a real instability with insurgents, jihadis, coming from Iraq into Syria to help fight against the Assad forces.

We've also seen the issue, of course, with the world being very concerned about this turning into a greater war. It already has destabilized. And, of course, the Arab nations are going to condemn any time Israel steps in. That is pro forma, and that is what they have done. They've issued a condemnation of what happened.

But I think we have to be really careful and look at what Israel has done, the reaction from Syria, knowing that Syria doesn't want to be dragged into a war with Israel, because that's a no winner for Syria, as has been shown over several previous incursions, all the way back to '73 when Israel basically blasted them out of the water, so they don't want to get into a fight with Israel.

MALVEAUX: It's a no-win for everybody all around.

Christiane, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Coming up ahead, we're actually going to talk about whether or not the situation in Syria would pull in the United States, whether or not there is more to be done from the Obama administration. We're going to talk about U.S. options, up next.


MALVEAUX: Israeli air strikes in Syria, they're raising some concerns about the possibility of a broader war in the Middle East.

HOLMES: Yeah, those explosions rocking the Syrian capital. Our Fred Pleitgen is there and he said it knocked him out of bed, pretty much.

That's all according to the human rights groups in Damascus, saying that a hundred people are still missing and dozens of Syrian soldiers were killed in these attacked.

MALVEAUX: And Syrian ally Iran warning of a crushing response. Russia calls reports of Israeli air strikes very worrying.

A former State Department official Nick Burns is joining us from Cambridge, Massachusetts. And, Nick, you and I have had a chance to talk many times when I was covering President Bush, as his undersecretary of state, that the president, President Bush, was disastrously wrong, you've said, in going to war without substantial intelligence here.

Do you think President Obama is right in this case to be prudent, to be cautious, to simply wait?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, he's certainly right, Suzanne, to be prudent and cautious because I think we've learned through bitter experience that you have to have a compelling air-tight, convincing and credible reason to go to war.

It's one of the most important, if not the most important, responsibility of any president or prime minister, and that is, when do you intervene, when do you use force, and you've got to have your facts straight.

So on this question of whether or not the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, that's an incredibly serious charge, but we have to be right about the facts.

And as you know, now there are conflicting stories as of today as to who might have used chemical weapons. So I do think the president's caution here is the right course for us.

MALVEAUX: And, Nick, how long does he wait, considering you've got hundreds of people, Syrians, who are killed, sometimes on a daily basis?

BURNS: Well, Suzanne, I've been an advocate actually for the United States doing more, certainly in the way of the humanitarian situation.

We've been a leading donor, but there needs to be more political urgency to help those refugees and a greater sense of organization of international efforts.

And, secondly, it's in our interest to see Assad lose power, obviously, and exit the scene. And so it's very important for the United States, I think, now to decide what it's going to do next.

If it can be concluded the Syrian government did use chemical weapons against its own people, President Obama has already put a red line in the sand in the Arab world and said that there will be a response.

There has to be a response to protect the credibility of the United States. And I would think you will see the United States now entertain a series of options, either arming some moderate rebel groups, or perhaps even using some U.S. air strikes to weaken the Assad air defenses and military regime.

I think you will see all that happen. They're under consideration in Washington, but this is going to be happen, I think, in a very thoughtful and cautious way, so that the president knows when we do something, it's based on fact.

HOLMES: We've got to also look at the regional aspect and how it all ties in. It's a web really, and Syria, in many ways, already a bit a proxy war for the varying competing sides.

Iran and Iraq, they don't want to see a majority rule in Syria, because it's going to be Sunni and they're not going to be too pleased with that. You've got Hezbollah who might lose their funding and their friends. And you've got Israel who doesn't want Iran being involved. Iran's running shipments through Iraq into Syria.

You've got to be careful how we play this, don't we?

BURNS: Well, certainly, and I think the greater danger here from an American perspective is the risk of a wider war, a war that would destabilize Lebanon and perhaps even Jordan and Iraq.

And I think that's what the argument is for intervention, for some type of intervention, not of American troops on the ground, but a series of air strikes or arming the moderate rebels.

The idea is, if a civil war goes on much longer and the two sides are roughly equal right now, the threat of a regional war is greater, so I think that's first in the minds of the United States.

And certainly the United States would like to do something to weaken Iran as a result of this crisis. I think both of those imperatives really lead the United States towards greater action in the next several weeks.

HOLMES: All right, Nick, thanks so much. Former State Department official Nicholas Burns joining us there.

BURNS: Thank you.

HOLMES: I just wanted to -- we're getting reports too, interesting, in this same discussion, two rockets fired from Syria, we're told, have landed in the Golan Heights, which, of course, was formally Syrian territory, now controlled by Israel. But the idea, which announced this on their Twitter account, they're playing it down again. They're saying that they were, in their words, fired erroneously as a byproduct of the internal conflict in Syria. So playing down, not saying it was an attack from Syria into Israel, saying that it was sort of a misfire or something. But, very interesting. We'll keep an eye on that.

MALVEAUX: And the problem is, is that these misunderstanding. I mean you do not want people to react or respond to things that are not even happening, not even correct.

HOLMES: Exactly. Yes. Yes, quite right.

MALVEAUX: Yes. We're going to keep a close eye on that breaking news.

HOLMES: Yes, that just crossed.

MALVEAUX: Investors fired up now. Will Friday's stock market really last? That's the million dollar questions. We're going to find out the answer, right after this.



For the first time, the Saudi government now is giving its official approval for girls in private schools to actually - to play sports. This is significant here.

HOLMES: It's official. They have been doing a little bit behind the scenes, but this is actually coming in an official sense. And that's good. There are rules. The girls have to dress modestly. And there's a recommendation that female teachers supervise them. Now, a blogger on women's issues says most of these private schools, as we said, already allow sports for girls. The government probably just trying to gauge support to see whether it could be further developed into public schools.

MALVEAUX: Yes, she's got a serious hook there as well.

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) reaction (ph).

MALVEAUX: Yes, good.

HOLMES: Yes, now have a look down there. In the -- that is the actress -- a great story out of London. That is the Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren. She's dressed in costume as the queen waving her arms in front of a group of street drummers. Now, this is hilarious. What happened? She was doing a performance at the theater behind her and the drummers started up. She could hear it as she's doing her performance. She goes out in costume and tells them to knock it off. And she got a standing ovation, apparently, from the crowd.

MALVEAUX: That's pretty funny.

HOLMES: Oh, she's great. She's so terribly British and she was dressed as the queen, I think, Queen Elizabeth.

MALVEAUX: Also on the economic front, thanks to a strong jobs report, the Dow Jones now past 15,000 for the first time ever. That happened on Friday. It closed just below that mark. Markets in general have been rising at a blistering pace this year. It's great news for, of course, all of our 401(k)s. Want to get in Zain Asher from New York to talk a little bit about how we're doing today.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Suzanne. Hey, Michael.

I'm just looking now, we're trading around about flat right now with the Dow we're only off about two points. Any gains today would be a record closing high for both the Dow and the S&P. If we get another record, it will likely be, but just a tiny amount. Investors do seem to be taking a breather today.

The gains today are small. It's not really surprising because there was no major economic market moving data today like we had last week with that positive jobs report, 165,000 jobs added last month. And, remember, after Friday's big rally, it is normal to see investors take a break.

We are continuing to see markets hover around record highs today. And it's primarily because of QE, the stimulus program. Ben Bernanke is really the market's best friend right now. The Fed is pumping $85 billion into the economy each month. That is sending stocks higher in general.

But the big question, of course, is will the momentum continue? The Fed has said that it is willing to continue stimulus for as long as necessary until we see an improvement in the economy.

Suzanne, Michael.

MALVEAUX: All right, Zain, thank you. It sounds like good news. She gets in a lot of information in a short period of time.

HOLMES: She did. She whipped through that.

MALVEAUX: She talks really quickly.

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE), now I know everything I need to know. I'm going off to invest.

MALVEAUX: Good for the 401(k)s.


I've got a programming note, by the way. Chris Cuomo interviews Amanda Knox about her new book, her fight against a new trial. That's tomorrow night, 10:00 Eastern. Do tune in for that. MALVEAUX: And Justin Bieber has had some bad luck during his overseas tours. The latest incident, an attack from a hard-core, yes, I'm going to say it, Bielieber.

HOLMES: Say it, Bielieber.

MALVEAUX: A Bielieber.


MALVEAUX: During a - this is a concert in Dubai. We're going to have all the details after a quick break.


MALVEAUX: "Iron Man 3" box office gold. This is in China. The movie set a record on opening day taking in more than $21 million. That's right. Scenes were added to appeal to the Chinese audience. Get access to the Chinese market. Hollywood now hot for China.

HOLMES: Yes, it actually surpassed Japan as the world's second largest movie market last year. That is a huge take.

All right, we've got to say these words out of -

MALVEAUX: You get it.

HOLMES: You're making me do it. Bieber fever -- all right, I'll do it with gusto 0-- getting out of hand. Now, this happened in a concert in Dubai. It was part of a bad week for -


HOLMES: Bieber.

MALVEAUX: Bieber. We're going to say Bieber.

HOLMES: There you go.

MALVEAUX: Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner, she's joining us.

So what happened? What happened in Dubai? What's going on?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I just like hearing Michael say Bieber, believer, Bieber.

HOLMES: Yes, that's - yes.

MALVEAUX: I gave that to him. He had to do that one.

HOLMES: She set it up so that I had to say that. Yes.

TURNER: I love it. I absolutely love it.

HOLMES: All right, so what happened? TURNER: Bieber would like you to say his name, Michael.

HOLMES: To me it looked like a little -- it looked like a hug. It looked like it was with love until security got involved. But you tell us what happened.

TURNER: Well, it may have been with love. It may have been with love, but it's still a scary situation. You know, he may be relieved to say good-bye to Dubai. He's heading south now to South Africa after this scare in the United Arab Emirates. You know, in the middle of a concert on Sunday night, an overzealous fan rushed to the stage as Bieber was sitting at the piano singing a ballad. Look at this.


MALVEAUX: The guy took out the piano.

TURNER: That was a little bit of a takedown there.


MALVEAUX: Yes, he took out the piano.

TURNER: Yes, he did take out the piano. But as you saw, you know, he was quickly tackled by security, was hustled away, but Bieber still was singing. He never stopped singing those tunes.

HOLMES: Yes, he really -- he didn't miss a beat did he, really.


HOLMES: You've got to hand it to him for that.

TURNER: He did not.

HOLMES: Oh, here we go. We've got to have an action replay.

TURNER: He did not - you know - absolutely.

HOLMES: Here we go.

TURNER: We reached out to Bieber's camp to see what they had to say about this whole thing here. But look at this. He runs the stage, jumps on the piano and they take him out very, very quickly. And the piano goes toppling over. You know, Bieber sent out a tweet after this whole thing, guys, and it said simply, "Dubai, nothing stops the show," and we saw that the show did go on. He's going to perform in South Africa on Wednesday. Hopefully this one goes off without a hitch.


HOLMES: Oh, no, then we'd have nothing to talk about.

MALVEAUX: Yes, we're going to be following - we're going to be following his tour, believe me. HOLMES: All right, Nischelle, good to see you.

TURNER: One more time, Michael, Bieber fever, come on.

HOLMES: Bieber fever. I'm a Bielieber. Not. All right.

MALVEAUX: All right, well, that's it for us. Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM starts right after this.

HOLMES: See you tomorrow.