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Obama Responds to Syrian Gas Attack Reports; Bob Baer Analyzes; Photographer Gang Raped in India; NASA Charts Shrinking Arctic Ice; Austrian Candidates go Shirtless

Aired August 23, 2013 - 12:30   ET


IVAN WATSON, CNN CO-ANCHOR: AROUND THE WORLD, we have more of Chris Cuomo's one-on-one with President Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what we're doing right now is doing a full evaluation of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. We care deeply about the Egyptian people.



President Obama is responding for the first time to reports of a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people in Syria.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: The president is being pushed to act after these images. They are just awful, I mean, very hard to watch, of alleged victims that were posted online, many of them children.

Syrian rebels, they say that government forces launched a poison gas attack on citizens. Now the government is denying it. And President Obama said any such attack would trigger American intervention. He called the use of chemical weapons a red line.

Our Chris Cuomo discussed it in his exclusive interview with the president. Watch.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The red line comment that you made was about a year ago this week. We know there's things that should qualify for crossing that red line.

OBAMA: I've got to say this. When we take action, let's take the example of Syria. There are rules of international law.

If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and clear evidence that can be presented then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work? Those are considerations we have to take into account.

This latest event is something we have to look at it. Keep in mind, because I know the American people keep in mind, we still have war going on in Afghanistan. We're still spending tens of billions of dollars in Afghanistan.

I will be ending that war by the end of 2014, but every time I go to Walter Reed and visit wounded troops and every time I sign a letter for casualty of that war, I'm reminded that there are costs, and we have to take those into account as we try to work within an international framework to do everything we can to see Assad ousted, somebody who has lost credibility, and try to restore a sense of a democratic process and stability inside of Egypt.

CUOMO: It doesn't have to be military. I take your point. When you look at Egypt is an example of that. Senator McConnell is saying it's time to vote on the aid and whether or not that would make a difference.

OBAMA: My sense is with Egypt is the aid itself may not reverse what the interim government does.

I think most Americans would say we have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think where you know contrary to our values and ideals.

We're doing a full evaluation of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. We care deeply about the Egyptian people.

There was a space right after Mr. Morsy was removed in which we did a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of diplomatic work to try to encourage the military to move in path of reconciliation. They did not take this opportunity.

It was worth it for us to try that despite folks who wanted more immediate black and white action or statements. Ultimately, what we want is a good outcome.

CUOMO: Is it safe to say we have a shorter timeframe in terms of what the U.S. can use as a period of decision in Syria and Egypt?


CUOMO: It's a more abbreviated timeframe now?



MALVEAUX: After the break we're going to bring in CNN intelligence and security analyst Robert Baer.

We're going to talk more about President Obama and what he said about Egypt and Syria and where do we go from here, up next.

WATSON: Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Many people AROUND THE WORLD, they've been waiting just to see how the U.S. is going to respond to these very disturbing images of the suspected weapons attack in Syria.

Now before the break, we aired a CNN exclusive interview. Our Chris Cuomo ask President Obama if Syria had indeed crossed what he called a red line.

The president seemed to suggest if investigators verify chemical weapons used, that they used those chemical weapons, that this attack would, unlike the previous weapons attacks, meet his tests because he thinks it's a big event and, therefore, would cross that red line.

WATSON: Let's bring in our national security analyst now, Robert Baer. He joins us by Skype from Colorado.

Bob, if this was a chemical weapons attack, do you think that the U.S. has on obligation to intervene more directly in Syria?

ROBERT BAER, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Ivan, I think we have a moral obligation, yes, but the question is how and will it make a difference? I just don't see it right now.

MALVEAUX: And so what do we do? What are the options here? People are talking about it. They're debating about it in the Pentagon and the White House, whether or not you have missiles, cruise missile strikes, air strikes. What would be appropriate?

BAER: I think air strikes would be, but the question is, will it do any good? I talked to Damascus this morning, and the regime is going to be -- is not going to react. It's going to continue the war and possibly use more gas.

WATSON: So is this going to be a continuation of a wait-and-see and just kind of watch and wring our hands as the killing continues there?

BAER: I think the options are lousy on all of this. We're going to have to wait and keep our fingers crossed it doesn't get worse, that it doesn't spread to Lebanon or Jordan. And, unfortunately, that's the best you can do right now.

WATSON: And we talked earlier about mosque bombs in a Sunni Muslim city in the north of Lebanon, do you think that would be spillover from the Syrian conflict, again, into Lebanon?

BAER: Oh, I think absolutely. The bomb in the southern suburbs last week, the ones in Tripoli today, I think it is spilling into Lebanon as we all feared.

How fast it'll go, I don't know, but it just -- you know, I've never seen the Middle East this bad, ever.

MALVEAUX: Bob, why is it so hard to verify these chemical weapons in terms of whether or not it happened and who's responsible for this?

Is this something that really takes a lot of time or can we get to the bottom of this fairly quickly?

BAER: You need to do chemical analysis. The regime in Damascus is saying today, look, it's the opposition using the chemicals. It's not us.

You have to have people on the ground. You have to inspect this stuff. And we just don't have the data yet.

MALVEAUX: All right, Bob Baer, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

And that's the frustrating thing, really. I mean, you talk about waiting, you're talking about lives on the line here.

WATSON: And, also, for a Middle East expert like Bob Baer to say this is the worst he's ever seen in the Middle East, that's really saying something and pretty ominous, I think.

Here is more of what we're working on this hour for AROUND THE WORLD.

It's happened again, another shocking report of a gang rape in India. We'll have a live report.


WATSON: Welcome back.

To India now, where there's shock and outrage after another brutal crime. Police say a 23-year-old photojournalist was gang raped by several men. This latest incident happened Thursday in the financial capital of Mumbai, a city long considered safe for women.

MALVEAUX: The victim, she is at a hospital. She's now in stable condition. And police say that they have arrested at least one suspect. They've identified several others. Our Mallika Kapur, she is in Mumbai.

And, Mallika, first of all, tell us -- tell us the circumstances around this. What do we know?

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that this young girl, 23 years of age, she's working for an English language magazine, a weekly magazine, and she was on assignment. She's a photographer, a photojournalist. She was sent out on assignment. She was photographing an abandoned old mill but right in the heart of the city at about 6:30 p.m. local time when it's still very light outside.

She was with a male companion and there was - she was surrounded by a group of men, five men we believe, and they separated the girl from her friend. And they took her aside. They tied up the male companion's hand with a belt. And then they took her aside and they proceed to rape her. That's what we know about the circumstances. A few hours later, she was able to free herself. We've reached out to her family and she is being now -- they went to the police station to complain and she's now being treated at a hospital close by and she is said to be in stable condition. MALVEAUX: I don't understand what's happening in India here. I mean they introduced these new laws after you had this brutal rape of another 23-year-old. That was in New Delhi last year and that victim, she actually died from her injuries. I mean what is this - what are they doing, really, to solve this problem, to help protect women there?

KAPUR: Well, introducing these new laws was supposed to be a really bold and brave attempt to address this problem. But if you ask anybody in India today, is it working, of course the answer is going to be no, it's really not made a difference because the number of violent crimes against women, the number of rape cases against women, that has not come down.

You know, there is, however, a sense of satisfaction that the government even introduced these new laws which really -- the difference is now that there's much stricter punishment for rapists. So there was a sense that the government is responding to the public anger because it does take a very long time in India for laws to get processed. But, you know, today, if you ask anyone, is it working, the answer is going to be a unanimous no.

MALVEAUX: Well, Mallika, thank you for at least bringing attention to this. I mean you hope at least some sort of media worldwide attention will push them as far as they can go.

WATSON: And this is sadly fresh in our program yesterday where we had women from India, and an American exchange student, who are had both experienced terrible harassment in India as well.


WATSON: Well, moving on, here's what we're working on this hour for AROUND THE WORLD.

We know the polar ice caps are shrinking, but we didn't know how fast. A NASA scientist joins us next the talk about the impact on our environment.



NASA scientists, they're alarmed now by just how fast the polar ice caps are shrinking. NASA says that in September, arctic ice hit its lowest level since satellites began monitoring this 34 years ago.

WATSON: And take a look at this. These are satellite images of arctic ice since 1983. They show how the ice has been shrinking and the last few years show the fastest progression. Joining us now is NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner.

Tom, how much ice has the arctic lost?

TOM WAGNER, NASA ICE SCIENTIST: Oh, a tremendous amount. By some estimates, if you go back to the '80s, we've lost more than half of the ice.

MALVEAUX: Why is it so important? I mean how does losing ice affect the rest of us, the rest of the planet, essentially?

WAGNER: Well, the good news is that this year it doesn't look like we're going to have a new minimum like we had last year. But we are still going to be one of the lowest years and the ice is the thinnest. The reason this is so important to us, though, there's a bunch of reasons. First of all, loss of ice is going to affect North American weather, or global weather, because it's like taking a mirrored hat off the top of the planet. Also though too, it's just an important component of the global system. There's fear of loss of methane from the arctic or release of methane, that's also going to increase global warming.

WATSON: And are we seeing the effects already? Can you see this when you go to the beach or anywhere else?

WAGNER: Well, if you live in the arctic, there's shorelines that are very, very rapidly eroding away. The loss of ice from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, that's land based ice. And when that is raising sea levels. And, globally, sea levels are going up by three millimeters a year right now.

MALVEAUX: Tell us about -- there's been a lot of discussion about the polar bears. That polar bears are dying because of this. Is that true that their -- the whole food chain is now being affected?

WAGNER: Yes. And the polar bears are the best example of it. There are a group of polar bears that live out their life on ice. As the ice has shrunk back towards the center of the Arctic Ocean, the polar bears are taken away from their food, the seals, that live close to the land. And so there's reports of malnourished and underweight polar bears and things for that ice based group. But also overall too, the arctic, the ice is what defines the arctic overall. And so as you do things like change the ice, you change how much sunlight goes into the ocean and you totally change the food chain.

MALVEAUX: So, Tom, is there anything we can do about this to reverse this or stop this?

WAGNER: You know, I think the most important thing is this, is that people have to realize that the planet isn't just changing, it's changed, and we need to start planning for that change and we need to think about changes to water resources, sea level rise and those kinds of things.

MALVEAUX: All right. Tom Wagner, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Just ahead, quite the political stunt here. You're going to like this story, I think. Candidates going topless.


MALVEAUX: That story after the break. WATSON: All right.



To Austria now, where two candidates, running in the general election, they're not hiding anything from the voters.

WATSON: They sure aren't. These men are willing to show some skin to get their point across. And our Vladimir Duthiers has more.


VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The race for Austria's legislature is heating up. Two candidates, Hans Christian Straca (ph) and Frank Stronack (ph) have posed in beef cake shots of themselves. Now, this isn't the first time the world has seen politicians without their shirts on. We all recall President Obama sunning himself on a Hawaiian beach a few years ago. And who can forget the macho man shots of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But in Austria, the press has asked both of these candidate to stick to the naked facts and to keep their shirts on.


WATSON: I think I'm going to keep my shirt on for now, if you don't mind?

MALVEAUX: Oh, no. No. You'd be fine.

WATSON: Well, that's it for me. Thanks for watching.

MALVEAUX: All right. Every year - we've got one more story for you before you go.

WATSON: Oh, sorry.

MALVEAUX: Every year thousands of people from around the world attend the Running of the Bulls. This is in Pamplona, Spain. Well, now, anyone who wants to experience the terror, without actually traveling to Spain, you can do it right here in the United States because tomorrow the great bull run kicks off. This is in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. Eight thousand people expected to descend on Virginia, this is the Motor Sport Park, for this event. And half of them are going to be running. Organizers say it's just like running in Spain, but safety cannot be guaranteed. But loving (ph) the runners, it's got an appeal to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of the danger involved?

KATHY PIERCE, RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: I am aware of the danger. And to some degree, that's some of the thrill and excitement about it.


WATSON: Well, the great bull run is also going to take place in Atlanta - here in Atlanta in October and in Houston in December.

MALVEAUX: That will give us a chance to do it, you think (ph)?

WATSON: Yes. And I was in a rush to get out of here after seeing all those man chests. I'm sorry.

That's it for AROUND THE WORLD.

MALVEAUX: It has been a pleasure, Ivan, having you this week.

WATSON: Thanks for having me here. You were an awesome anchor coach, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: You've been great. Thanks. Have a greet week.

WATSON: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: That's it. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.