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Crisis in Syria; Mood in Damascus; France on Syrian Crisis; California Wildfire; Kenya Bus Crash; Ft. Hood Shooter Sentence; Syrian Electronic Army; Nintendo's Newest Handheld
Aired August 29, 2013 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We'll show you this dramatic time-lapse of how a massive fire has spread in California's Yosemite National Park.
And Nintendo explains why they're turning away from 3D gaming with the new 2DS.
ALLEN: Thank you for joining us.
The U.S. president says there is no doubt Syria's government used chemical weapons on its own people last week. But Barack Obama stopped short of announcing any military action against Syria.
He told PBS Newshour he hasn't made a decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us that they are held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: As the U.S. weighs a possible strike in Syria, here's where other major diplomatic players stand right now.
For a third day, a team of U.N. experts is visiting the site of purported attacks near Damascus. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says they will leave by Saturday.
The British Parliament will begin debating its response to the crisis in Syria in the next hour. And the U.K. government has just released its legal justification for military action, saying that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, but the justification for military action would be intervening on humanitarian grounds to prevent further suffering.
Lawmakers won't vote on any decision, however, until the U.N. inspection is finished.
The French parliament will also debate the situation next week, according to Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti. Russia's foreign ministry says plans to strike Syria would go against the provisions of the U.N. charter. Representatives for Russia and China walked out of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the issue on Wednesday.
The Syrian government adamantly denies using chemical weapons and blames rebels for the attacks. Frederik Pleitgen has been checking out the mood on the streets of Damascus and found it is a mix of defiance and fear.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even with U.S. warships ready to strike off Syria's coast, and Washington saying it's certain the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its people, at first glance Damascus doesn't appear to be on the edge.
This man is with the police force and says he's not afraid of U.S. airstrikes.
"This is my country," he says. "I believe we're winning."
Others are counting on help from above.
"This doesn't scare me," she says. "I believe in God so much that I know the USA can't do anything."
The war is never far away in Damascus, with plumes of smoke from artillery strikes constantly rising up over the outskirts of the capital. At Damascus University, many students remain loyal to Bashar al-Assad and say they don't believe the military used nerve gas against civilians.
"I believe that chemical weapons were used in some way in certain areas," he says. "But I don't think the government did it, because they know what the results would be."
But dig down and you find a sense of unease. The historic market in the Old Town is far emptier than usual. Syria's economy is in a state of crisis due to the conflict and now many fear things could get worse.
PLEITGEN: It's quite a strange mood here in Damascus. People really seem unsure as to what the future will bring with those American airstrikes looming. Very few people will talk about it openly. But there are some who have bought additional food stocks, things like canned foods, just in case.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): People are reluctant to talk about their worries on camera, but many in the Syrian capital fear the effects increased U.S. intervention could bring -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Damascus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: As British lawmakers prepare to debate the U.K.'s possible intervention in Syria, the U.K. government has just published its legal reasoning for a strike on Syria. Max Foster is in London with more on this. He's just received it.
MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Yes, Natalie. What they're basically saying is the intervention could be justified on humanitarian grounds because there's been this chemical attack, if you like, and they can step in on humanitarian grounds. So it's not necessarily a war per se; I think this is part of the posturing around the fact that they know that this isn't going to get through the U.N. Security Council.
And they do mention a bit about that as well in the statement, saying the U.N. Security Council, if action is blocked there, the U.K. could take exceptional measures.
So really David Cameron and the British government paving the way for action outside the U.N. Security Council, which many people opposing any intervention say is necessary to make an intervention legal.
So it's an interesting bit of posturing there. And perhaps he's been speaking to other countries about that as well and perhaps that's the sort of justification other countries will also give for any intervention.
Meanwhile, he's got bigger problems on his mind, David Cameron, because a little later today, there's going to be a debate and a vote here on a motion. Now the motion is whether to in principle back intervention.
Last night the wording was tougher; it was whether or not to back intervention. So the opposition parties have got involved here, saying they need proper evidence before they back any intervention. That's not particularly what David Cameron wanted. And even now we don't know whether the motion will be backed or supported in Parliament. So David Cameron certainly has got his work cut out today.
That debate starts very soon; the vote is a lot later in the day, but a lot of politics going on between now and then, I'm sure, but also to France, where President Francois Hollande has said he is, quote, "ready to punish" those behind the gas attack, he met with members of the Syrian opposition today.
CNN's Jim Bittermann joins us live from Paris.
Jim, has the French government got a similar issue in politics there?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: It's a similar but dissimilar issue. The fact is that Francois Hollande still is advocating that there be punishment of the Assad regime.
But in fact, the rhetoric seems to have been toned down somewhat. After this meeting, with Ahmed al-Jarba (ph), who's the head of the Syrian opposition today, the president and Mr. al-Jarba (ph) came out and the two of them talked. And they stressed the need for political solution.
We were expecting that perhaps there would be some promises in their one-hour-long meeting, there would be some promises of military aid because Hollande has said in the past that the rebels should be armed by the West and there should be arms shipments.
But they said nothing of that. And in fact, Hollande said that he was -- that France would stand beside the opposition on humanitarian grounds, political grounds and material grounds. But he didn't say exactly what kind of materiel he was talking about. Was he talking about weapons or not? It was not made clear.
So it's was a little bit of a softening in the French line.
There were some reports this morning, by the way, Max, that, in fact, a French frigate, the Chevalier Paul (ph), has left port in Cologne (ph) and is on its way to Syria. That the ministry of defense is not confirming at all. They say that their ship movements are throughout the Mediterranean are a commonplace thing and that, in fact, this particular frigate was meant to sail anyway on a training mission. So they're not confirming that at all, that anti-aircraft frigate is on its way to the Syrian coast, Max.
FOSTER: How important is it that France-U.S.-U.K. are coordinated on this? Because if David Cameron ends up in a position where he's got to wait a week until the U.N. inspectors report and there's another vote here, could France go in beforehand and perhaps mean that Britain has to follow France?
BITTERMANN: No, they made it clear that they're going to take an action with other allies. So I don't think that they would do anything unilaterally. And there is criticism developing here in France among the political classes particularly. So Mr. Hollande is facing some opposition, none of it serious enough, perhaps, to stop him.
But at the moment there is some gathering opposition out on the streets. Two public opinion polls are out this morning that indicate that the French are kind of equally divided, one suggesting that 45 percent were for some kind of intervention and 40 percent were opposed.
So it is politically a kind of a messy move right now for Francois Hollande. But he could still go ahead and press for military actions. But he has said that it would be in concert with other allies, Max.
FOSTER: OK, Jim, thank you very much indeed.
Let's turn to U.S. reaction on the crisis in Syria.
CNN's Jill Dougherty following developments in Washington, joins me now live -- early in the morning there, Jill -- but as you can see, in Europe, things are softening a lot in terms of Syria and the rhetoric.
Is that going to be a problem for Washington?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the most interesting thing, Max, would be reading this justification, the legal reasoning by the U.K. for possibly using military action. It's significant and what it defines the objective is and what the objective is not. And that's specific saying, of course, it's a serious crime; violates all sorts of international laws.
But the justification would be humanitarian, relieving humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the future use of chemical weapons. And that would seem to indicate, of course, that if there is military action, it would be aimed at hitting the perpetrators, the people who carried out this attack and also the means of carrying it out, to make sure it doesn't happen again.
There's no word in here of any regime change or broader purpose. So that's the U.K. side.
Here in the United States, President Obama continues to say that he has not made any decision on military action, but they -- that they are going ahead on their own timetable, that they are consulting, of course, with the U.K. on all of this.
And then today, the administration will be briefing members of Congress. That's the biggest thing here, giving them the intelligence, information on a classified basis that the U.S. has. And then eventually has to happen this week, we're told, they will be publicizing that, Max.
FOSTER: The bar has been raised so much, hasn't it, on when you could intervene in situations like this, because of Iraq (ph). What the opposition leader here is saying is that he wants to see evidence before there's any intervention.
But (inaudible) come from this U.N. report, and that doesn't attribute blame to Assad; that's another sort of element in this mix. And those that are most skeptical want to know that there were chemical weapons and that Assad was involved.
So do we have to have those two things ticked off before these three countries can work together and go in confidently?
DOUGHERTY: Well, from the U.S. side, this was addressed in a briefing yesterday at the State Department, where Marie Harf said that even if Assad directly did not give the order, he is the commander and he would be responsible.
So they are making the number one believe, of course, it was chemical weapons; and no doubt, no rational doubt, that the Assad regime used them. And Assad is the leader; therefore, he is responsible, whether he said directly do it or not.
FOSTER: And Jill, in terms of the legal justification, can we assume now, because they're going along this humanitarian track, that the Security Council isn't necessary in terms of approval to make it legal?
DOUGHERTY: Well, at least again, talking from this side of the Atlantic, the view of this administration, is that they will never get any type of resolution in the Security Council anyway. Russia has made that very clear; China as well.
So what they believe is there are other countries that are willing or at least support some type of action, but they're still not saying -- they're not at the point of saying exactly what they would do. But they would, of course, reserve the right to do it unilaterally. They would, no doubt, prefer to do it with the help of others.
FOSTER: And we know about some military movements in terms of France and Britain moving assets closer to the region. What sort of timeframe are people in Washington talking about in terms of any airstrikes if they can get political approval?
DOUGHERTY: Well, they're not really. It depends on you still have those U.N. inspectors; they will be pulling out, we understand, on Saturday. But nobody is talking about the exact timeframe. That said, they are saying that we have to -- this is, again, on background from officials, saying that you cannot wait forever here, that you have to move pretty expeditiously, let's say, to carry -- to do something.
FOSTER: OK, Jill Dougherty, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Washington.
ALLEN: Thank you, Max.
You're watching NEWS STREAM. And still ahead here, thousands of firefighters in California struggling to contain a huge fire 12 days after it started.
And a military jury recommends the death penalty for the Ft. Hood shooter. We'll take you live to Texas.
ALLEN: This fire is now the sixth largest wildfire ever in California. The Rim fire has already blazed through nearly 78,000 hectares near Yosemite National Park. It has been burning for 12 days and is 30 percent contained. That's due to the heroic efforts of 4,500 firefighters on the front lines.
Authorities say the fire looks set to continue for weeks. CNN's Gary Tuchman shows us how it's affecting the park, which is a popular international tourist destination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're standing in the northwestern portion of Yosemite National Park, this part of the park completely closed to the public. And the reason is because of what's behind me, tens of thousands of acres of Yosemite are now engulfed in flames. This is our very first look at the Rim fire coming into this national park.
You can see the huge cloud. It looks like a cumulus weather cloud, but that is created by the fire that has spread into this park. You could see the brown and the orange. That is the fire. You can see the trees that are being fully engulfed by the smoke. Tens of thousands of acres of this beautiful park, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, have now been destroyed.
But that part is wilderness. The part of the park where the tourists go is still open, Blue Sky. The goal is to keep the fire, which is rapidly encroaching, away from the rest of the park. So, this area where we're standing right now, backfires will soon be set here to try to keep the fire away from the rest of the park. You know, most of the news is good with this Rim fire. The containment numbers are going up.
The humidity is going up, which is a good sign. The winds are down. Nobody has been killed. There've been no serious injuries. That is good news. The negative news is what's happened here in the park, because this fire continues to grow. It's very dangerous and there's an awful lot of concern about what's happening in this, one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.
ALLEN: Gary Tuchman there, where the fire is burning in Yosemite.
Mari Ramos is at the World Weather Center.
It's so sad to see this, and as you've said all along, there is nothing in the weather world that's going to help this area for Northern California.
MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, not in the immediate future. Gary did mention the humidity going up slightly in some of those areas. The winds are not as strong as before, but there's so much fuel here to burn. And the terrain continues to be very rugged and that's so hard for the firefighters.
I want to show you how quickly this fire has been spreading since it started back on August 19th. We've been showing you this, doubled in size in just a matter of days, been doubled in size again from that by August 25th.
And then this is where we were just yesterday and close to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. This green line that you see here is the edge of Yosemite National Park. It's already bringing in another national park here, across this area.
So this is a very pristine area, as Gary was talking about, very rugged terrain, very large trees, a lot of fuel on the ground and very difficult conditions for firefighters.
I want to show you a really interesting image. This is a time-lapse, Natalie. I don't know if you've seen this yet, really amazing when you look at this. It almost looks like a volcanic eruption when you look at it from this perspective.
Jonathan Byers taking these images. And you can see the smoke continuing to billow hour after hour, day after day, as these images are taken. There you see that pristine forest just completely charred by the smoke.
And here, that's the one that kind of reminded me of a volcanic eruption, where you just see those plumes of smoke continuing to go up. Those aren't clouds. It is up in the mountains, but those are not clouds. That's all smoke, even in the foreground of that picture. You see the trees and then that white, that is the clouds and you see the flames that are down at the bottom of the base of the smoke as well.
And this one right over here, also very impressive when you see that kind of smoke coming out, that white smoke indicating the continuous burn.
This other image also from one of our iReporters, Mike Forster, firefighter in the Bay Area, took this picture, also very near that Yosemite area. He said these whirlwinds that form, those happen when the fire has this very extreme behavior that they keep talking about, in other words those conditions that just continue to make the fire worse and worse across those areas.
And there you have it, the weather, very, very dry across this region, very hot conditions from Texas all the way up over into southern parts of Canada with temperatures 5-10 degrees above average. Not that extreme here in Northern California, but definitely still kind of a peak of a summer, even though we're such at the late part of the summer already.
And this next images I want to show you is from a late winter storm. This is in Peru right over here. This is just one of the hundreds of homes damaged in one area alone, very serious conditions here. There are -- this part of the world, it does get very cold this time of year. We're talking about the Andes Mountains. But it doesn't normally snow as heavily. They say that some of these areas have not seen this heavy snowfall in 30 years. There you see one of the thousands, over 300,000 alpacas and llamas have been killed because of the snow. There's also thousands of people that were left without power. They've declared a state of emergency in parts of southern Peru because of that. That's when the heavy snow happened, over the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. We are still expecting more snowfall and very cold conditions across these areas, though most of the heavy snow has moved on, La Paz and Bolivia also suffering from some very heavy snowfall. The cold, I'm afraid, is expected to continue, though, even if the snow is coming to an end.
Back to you.
ALLEN: All right.
Two different areas -- oh, actually, they're not too far from the North America and South America, but two different pictures from the weather department, thank you, Mari.
In Kenya, dozens are dead after a horrific bus crash west of the capital, Nairobi. The bus overturned on a highway, killing 37 people. Thirty-two passengers suffered multiple injuries and were taken to a local hospital. It's unclear what caused the crash, but the World Health Organization reports up to 13,000 people die in road accidents in Kenya every year. It says road safety laws are inadequate.
Coming up on NEWS STREAM, a military jury recommended death for the army psychiatrist who carried out the Ft. Hood massacre. Stay with us.
ALLEN: Hey, welcome back.
He shot dead 13 people and wounded dozens more, now a military jury has recommended the death penalty for convicted Ft. Hood killer Nidal Hasan. The former Army psychiatrist who carried out the 2009 massacre represented himself in court.
Our Ed Lavandera is live in Helene, Texas, where Ft. Hood is located.
And with reaction, you've been hearing from some of the families and what they think about this sentence, Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, as everything was leading up to this sentence, so many families were worried about whether or not the jury would give Nidal Hasan exactly what he wanted, the death penalty. In Hasan's mind, he would be viewed as a martyr around the world for having carried out this massacre.
So families struggling with whether or not they should give Hasan what they wanted. But in the end, we're hearing from several family members who say justice was served.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Nidal Hasan sat unfazed as a military jury sentenced him to death. The Islamic radical Army psychiatrist might see the death penalty as a twisted path to martyrdom but prosecutors said Hasan will never be a martyr because he has nothing to give.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The best thing for that man is to be forgotten.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A weight has been lifted off of my shoulder.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The wife and daughters of Michael Cahill (ph) sat through nearly four weeks of excruciating testimony, hearing the gruesome details of how Cahill (ph), a retired Army veteran, came within a few feet of stopping Hasan with a chair. He was shot six times; the fatal shot pierced his neck.
KEELY VANACKER, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: Today's sentencing does not bring my father home, his laughter to our ears and his smile to our eyes.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hasan will soon be transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His case will start winding its way through the complex military justice system appeals process. Ultimately the president must sign off on Hasan's execution and that could take years.
There hasn't been a military execution since 1961, when some legal experts say the brutality of Hasan's crimes will change that.
GEOFFREY CORN, SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW: If it doesn't make sense to use it here, when does it? I think that president is going to have a hard time not signing that death warrant. In this case -- and I think Major Hasan may very well be the first military defendant in a long time to be put to death.
LAVANDERA: And many families are kind of accepting the fact that this process will take years.
But Natalie, one of the things that really stuck out to me, throughout the course of these proceedings, was that these families of the Ft. Hood victims and survivors, are really now spread all over the United States. They live from coast to coast in many different states. And several family members say this was the first time that these families had been able to come together, start to get to know one another and then hear the stories of their struggles and all of the hardships that they've been through during the last four years, that they realize that they're not along in this fight, Natalie.
ALLEN: Hopefully they can get on with their lives just a little bit easier at this point with this behind them and with that new support.
Thank you, Ed Lavandera for us live in Texas.
Next here on NEWS STREAM, an exclusive interview with the Syrian information minister. We'll ask him about allegations his government used chemical weapons against its own citizens.
And the increasingly likely possibility of a U.S. military strike.
ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center. You're watching NEWS STREAM and these are your world headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN (voice-over): The British government has published its legal position on any future military action in Syria it might pursue. It says any intervention would aim to relieve humanitarian suffering by stopping the use of chemical weapons. The British Parliament will debate the issue in more depth in around an hour's time.
A military jury is recommending the death penalty for the U.S. soldier who admitted killing 13 people and injuring dozens more at a base in Texas. Nidal Hasan opened fire on Army and medical staff at the Ft. Hood base in 2009.
Firefighters in California are struggling to contain that massive blaze. The Rim fire has already charred more than 78,000 hectares and it's only 30 percent contained. The wildfire's threatening a reservoir that serves the city of San Francisco.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Well, let's get back to our top story today. In the face of possible foreign military intervention, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to defend his country. For more on what the Syrian government has to say, let's get back to Max Foster. He join us live from London.
FOSTER: Yes, and just to update you, Natalie, on all of the latest updates from here in London, because we've had a lot of them. There is a debate going on here about the principles of intervention later on today, no guarantee that the British government will win that. But there's lots of politics going on behind the scenes here. So we'll wait and see.
In the meantime, the British government has issued their legal justification for intervention. And they're saying it's on humanitarian grounds. So that wouldn't necessarily require any sort of approval from the U.N. Security Council.
So we're getting more and more bits of information from London, which is probably shared by other Western governments as well. They'll probably form the basis of any justification for going into Syria without any U.N. authorization.
Whilst the West says there is clearing convincing proof that Damascus carried out a chemical massacre, the Assad government is demanding to see the evidence.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen sat down with the Syrian information minister in this exclusive interview.
PLEITGEN: It seems at this stage in the game as though it's only a matter of time before the United States and other countries intervene militarily here in Syria.
Your government says it will retaliate.
How do you want to do that?
OMRAN AL-ZOUBI, SYRIAN INFORMATION MINISTER (through translator): It is a bit incomprehensible what's happening. The United States was planning to conduct this war. They don't have a convincing argument (inaudible) on Syria. The story they're using is that a chemical weapon has been used by the Syrian army. And this is untrue.
They do not have proof of this statement. The question here is which role the American state is playing in solving the crisis. The American administration was supposed to push the opposition and convince it to go back to the negotiation table, or at the table in Geneva. But instead it seems that some parts (inaudible) opposition have driven President Obama into war instead of him driving them to the negotiation table.
PLEITGEN: So what happens if they strike?
AL-ZOUBI (through translator): Syria has the right to defend itself, and this is a right that is found in international law. All people have the right to defend themselves. How we will defend ourselves will remain a matter of military secret. And we will not tell you about that.
But the sentiment on the streets of Syria is that America is making a big mistake.
PLEITGEN: The U.S., however, says it has clear evidence that the Syrian military is behind what happened here on Wednesday.
AL-ZOUBI (through translator): The United States administration has proof that we used chemical weapons, then they should present this proof to the rest of the world. But they don't have this proof or evidence, then how are they going to stand up to American public opinion and the world public opinion and explain why they are attacking Syria?
FOSTER: Well, that was Fred Pleitgen, his exclusive sit-down with Syria's information minister; Fred's now in Beirut. He joins me now live.
And I gather, Fred, that a letter's been sent from Syria to British lawmakers here, trying to convince them that intervention isn't necessary.
PLEITGEN: Yes, it was Syrian lawmakers to British lawmakers. And that letter was published just a couple of moment ago, Max. And what it says is that these Syrian lawmakers say that Syria poses no threat to Great Britain and also that they believe that any sort of intervention in Syria would do nothing but make the situation, the entire Middle East worse. So it's clearly a plea to the -- to Great Britain not to intervene in Syria militarily.
Meanwhile, what we've also gotten is the first video of Bashar al- Assad since the chemical weapons allegations surfaced last Wednesday. It shows him in a meeting with Yemeni, with the Yemeni delegation. He also spoke there. And according to official accounts, he said that Syria, if attacked, will defend itself. That, of course, is the line that we've been hearing from Syria officials across the board.
It's unclear, however, how they are planning to do that. That's something they're not willing to disclose. And I can tell you, from having been on the ground in Damascus only a couple of hours ago, the people there are bracing for this possible intervention and a lot of people are very nervous about it, Max.
FOSTER: It's interesting, because in this letter, he also talks about there being no evidence yet, that there has been a chemical attack. That evidence will come from the U.N. investigators.
It's also what the opposition here are talking about. They don't want to go into Syria without the evidence.
So actually, they are in agreement with some of the British lawmakers.
PLEITGEN: Well, in certain ways, I guess they are. And one of the things that the Syrian government has been saying is that they believe that the U.N. weapons inspector should be able to conduct their mission and finish their mission and publish their results before any sort of conclusions are reached.
Look, they're still saying they're not behind all of this. They are saying that they think that the weapons inspectors are on track, that they've gone to all these neighborhoods. Of course, we do know from the U.N. inspectors themselves that they believe that with every moment that passes and every day that there were delays that evidence could have been destroyed, that it becomes more difficult to find conclusive evidence. And then, of course, there's always that big thing about the mandate or what the U.N. weapons inspectors are doing. They of course, are not going to assert blame for this alleged chemical weapons attack. They're not going to say the rebels did it or the government did it. They're simply going to say were chemical weapons used and if so which ones might have been used?
That of course can lead to certain conclusions. But it's really unclear whether or not there would be any sort of clear evidence as to who would be behind this, simply from the weapons inspectors themselves. But that clearly is what the Syrian government is counting on. And they're asking the weapons inspectors to go to further sites where they allege that the rebels used chemical weapons against government forces, Max.
FOSTER: Fred, I want to ask you as well, we've had this intelligence report that's come out here in the U.K. And it says the only conceivable idea is that if there was a chemical attack, then the regime, the government had to have been involved.
It does seem surprising that Assad hasn't argued against any of this himself.
So can we assume, can everyone assume that if there was a chemical attack, that Assad did effectively order it?
PLEITGEN: No, I mean, that certainly is not what the Syrian government will tell you. They'll tell you that they believe that if there was a chemical attack, that it would have been the opposition that would have been behind it. They've been saying for a very long time that they believe that the opposition does have the means to make chemicals.
The big question is, however, would a chemical attack of that scale be possible if there wasn't some sort of military involved? I mean, you're talking about a very, very big area. If you look at the first place where the weapons inspectors went on Monday, it's called the Vlandimiya (ph) area. That's in the southwest of Damascus. You look at the places they're going now; it's in the east of Damascus, driving from one of those places to the next takes, I would say, around about 45 minutes.
So these are various places where all of this happened. And the big question is would -- and clearly the U.K. is saying that it's not possible for the rebels to have conducted something like that. So it is still in question who might have created these chemicals. The Syrian government by no means is saying that the rebels are not behind it.
But you hear different things from different officials. I talked to the information minister; he says they simply don't know because they're not in control of these areas, who might be behind it or if an attack took place.
The deputy foreign minister, who I also talked to, said he believes that all the videos that came out are fabricated. So they don't really have a common line, simply just -- they are simply saying their forces were not behind it. That, of course, is something where countries like the U.S. and the U.K. says they just simply don't buy that. And they have intelligence that proved otherwise, Max.
FOSTER: OK, Fred, thank you very much. And we're going to go the U.S. now, because the U.S. military is said to be ready to go should Washington order strikes. But Barack Obama says he hasn't decided on a course of action yet.
Barbara Starr joins us live from the Pentagon.
And, Barbara, he needs this European support, doesn't he, Barack Obama, to form a coalition of the willing.
The problem is that France and Britain are having problems getting this through today.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, indeed. And that could be slowing down any U.S. timetable. Of course, the U.S. also still perhaps within the coming hours really seeing its own intelligence on this entire matter.
STARR (voice-over): President Obama says he hasn't decided what to do. But is determined to hold Syria accountable.
OBAMA: We want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected. And that needs to stop.
STARR (voice-over): In an interview with the PBS "Newshour," the president left no doubt who the U.S. believes ordered the chemical weapons attacks.
OBAMA: We have concluded that the Syrian government, in fact, carried this out.
STARR (voice-over): Among the evidence, intercepts of Syrian commanders discussing the movement of chemical weapons to the area of the attack provided by Israeli intelligence.
The potential next step, cruise missile strikes, has put the U.S. at direct odds with Russia.
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We do not believe that the Syrian regime should be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the U.N.
STARR (voice-over): But behind the scenes, officials are signaling the U.S. may not wait for the United Nations to act.
The U.S. military is strengthening its position in the eastern Mediterranean with the addition of two more submarines.
And the Syrian regime is also getting ready.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a state of war now right now, preparing ourselves for the worst scenario.
STARR: So, you know, Max, it really comes back to the question you and Fred were just discussing, does the U.S., the U.K., the coalition, do they have that slam-dunk evidence that Bashar al-Assad ordered this chemical weapons attack himself or that his generals did?
They certainly believe it was ordered by the regime. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will directly point the finger at al-Assad.
FOSTER: Barbara, thank you very much indeed.
And British intelligence suggesting that Assad must have been involved if there was a chemical attack in some way. That's really concerning lawmakers here in London.
The opposition party last night got a change in this motion that's going to be debated in the next hour here in London. They're now talking about the principle of intervention.
Last night it was intervention itself and now it's not even clear whether David Cameron's motion is even going to get through when it is voted. So it's a big problem here. David Cameron, though, ultimately can order intervention on his own. He doesn't have to get approval from Parliament, but he certainly wants that support because he's making himself very vulnerable if he just goes with Obama and Hollande, Natalie.
ALLEN: All right. Thank you, Max. And we will cover that debate in less than one hour from now. CNN will bring it to our viewers live. You can watch "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" for continuing coverage of the crisis in Syria.
Syria's civil war is also being fought in cyberspace. A pro regime group says it hacked "The New York Times." We'll tell you more about the Syrian Electronic Army and its motives.
Also ahead here on NEWS STREAM, speak to Nintendo of America president about the company's new game console. Some critics say that 2DS feels like a blast from the past. That's next.
ALLEN: On Wednesday, we told you about a hack attack that took down "The New York Times" website. Perhaps you experienced it yourself, trying to go there. The Syrian Electronic Army, the SEA, claims credit and also said that it hit Twitter. Deborah Feyerick is following the story from New York for us.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Natalie.
Well, this is the latest theater of war, the digital theater of war, the Syrian Electronic Army is claiming responsibility for this attack.
It was both simple but also sophisticated. It's simple because this was the result of a targeted phishing attack. You know those emails that we're told not to open because someone's going to try to steal our personal information?
Well, the hacker was able to get a valid username and password and simply login to a "New York Times" account to redirect and block readers from the website. The reason this was sophisticated is because the hacker didn't hit "The New York Times" directly. They targeted the supply chain, specifically the domain name registrar.
(Inaudible) operates that and told us that the reason that some people are now getting TheNewYorkTimes.com, others are not, is because it takes 48 hours for changes to propagate and reach all Internet users. But the hacker group, Syrian Electronic Army, has also targeted "The Washington Post," "Time" magazine, even CNN through secondary search engines, not necessarily compromising the sites themselves, just our ability to get to them, Natalie.
ALLEN: Right. It's been quite a week for "The New York Times," this, of course, not the first time it's happened to them, either.
So what does this kind of attack suggest, Deborah?
FEYERICK: What this suggests is that no matter how secure you may think your personal website is or your personal information is, there are hackers, there are people who are finding alternative ways to get in.
One person described me -- described it to me, saying, look, you can't attack Ft. Knox. It's too well guarded. What you can do is you can attack the sort of -- the other smaller banks that have access to Ft. Knox. And that's how you ultimately get in.
ALLEN: Could see more of this ahead; hopefully not.
FEYERICK: A lot.
ALLEN: Yes. Deborah Feyerick for us, thank you.
Well, Nintendo has unveiled the latest version of the 3DS game console. The big surprise: it does not have a 3D screen. Nintendo of America's president, Reggie Fils-Aime, showed off the 2DS to Kristie Lu Stout.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: You are announcing the 2DS. So talk us through it.
REGGIE FILS-AIME, PRESIDENT, NINTENDO OF AMERICA: Sure. So the Nintendo 2DS, which I have here, is one of four key tactics that we're using during this holiday season to drive our sales. So the Nintendo 2DS is an entry-level handheld device; it plays all Nintendo 3DS games plus the full family of Nintendo DS games; all of those great products are playable on this device. This is launching on October 12th here in the Americas at a price point of $129.99.
STOUT: Now one of the big surprises here is the name because you talked up 3D gaming when you released the 3DS and now you're stepping away from it.
Why is that?
FILS-AIME: So to be clear, we're not stepping away from 3D. What we are doing though is we wanted to create a device that would be appropriate for that entry level gamer. And what we've heard from these consumers is that for some the current price point of $169.99 for the Nintendo 3DS is a little too expensive. And so we've created this device with a new form factor. It -- we took out the 3D capabilities in order to reach that lower price point. And the reaction that we're getting is fantastic. It plays all of these games, including the full range of 3DS games, and for those consumers, that range of game play and the lower price point is a very compelling proposition.
STOUT: Now the Wii U, it is the first of the next generation of consoles on the market. You've had a year now. Are you where you want to be ahead of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 1's release this November?
FILS-AIME: So what I would say about the Wii U, we had a fantastic launch here in the Americas. If you look at the first three months of sales, there were actually quite comparable to what we had done with the Wii sales. But what's happened since then over these last 3-4 months, our sales have not been what -- where we wanted them to. And the reason for that is because we haven't had strong software to propel the hardware beginning with the launch of Pigment (ph) 3, which launched just a few weeks ago, we now have a steady state of very strong software to drive us during the holidays.
So we're not where we want to be. But we're convinced with the software lineup plus with this value enhancement that we're going to have a very strong holiday.
STOUT: Yes, in terms of the software lineup, I mean, this holiday season, you're really bringing out the big guns. You've got Zelda, a new 3D Mario, a new Donkey Kong. Also Wii Fit. But why has it taken a year for these games to come out?
FILS-AIME: Well, first off, if you look back during the launch timeframe, we also had some good software in those initial three months as well. But games, you mentioned Wii Fit U, there were certain games that we had hoped would launch in that May-June-July timeframe that just took a little bit longer in our eyes to make them perfect. And we believe that now as they're ready to launch and as they're perfect, from our standpoint, that we'll be able to drive the hardware. So Nintendo, our culture is to launch games only when they're ready and so that's what's extended the development time for some of these games.
STOUT: And the upcoming Wii Fit U, what's new with the game or is it just a high-definition update of the original?
FILS-AIME: No, there are number of things new. Probably the most significant piece is there's an element of the game called the Fit Meter. So this something that you wear as you're going through all of the exercises. You could wear it as you're out and about walking, doing anything active. And the Fit Meter then communicates with the software and all of those steps are inputted into the software and it unlocks different parts of the game. SO that's the key innovation in that piece of software, plus a range of new exercises and activities that really will speak to that Wii Fit owner who loved all of those experiences and it'll take it to a whole new level.
ALLEN: Nintendo says that Wii Fit U should be out in the United States before the end of 2013.
Well, a top executive is saying goodbye to Google. Hugo Barra is vice president of product management for Android. Just last month he was unveiling Google's latest Nexus tablet. But in a few weeks, Barra says, he is moving to China to join Xiaomi. Xiaomi is based in Beijing and in China's sixth biggest smartphone company and has been growing rapidly. Xiaomi launched in 2010. Its charismatic founder, Lu Jun, is often compared to Apple's Steve Jobs. And the brand's distinctive products are a cult favorite among China's tech geeks.
Research firm Canalys (ph) says Xiaomi smartphones outsold Apple in China last quarter. Last year, Xiaomi posted $2 billion in revenue. This is Xiaomi's latest offering, a low-cost smartphone. It sold out in 90 second. China is a huge market that many companies want to tap. But remember Chinese firms are also looking to make it big abroad, and that is where Barra fits in.
This tweet from Xiaomi's English language Twitter account, said he'll be responsible for Xiaomi's international business development and Android strategic partnerships.
So while Barra may be going to China, he's not really going that far from Google.
Well, against all the odds, this teenage tennis player has something to celebrate at the U.S. Open. Hear her inspiring story just ahead here on NEWS STREAM.
ALLEN: Welcome back. Well, this 17-year old has become an overnight sensation at the U.S. Open tennis tournament and her second grand slam match ever, Victoria Duval beat the 2011 champion, Sam Stosur, on Tuesday. Michaela Pereira tells us about the enormous odds the American teenager has conquered to get onto the court at all.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is the surprise sweetheart of the U.S. Open. But unlike so many of the pros, tennis was not always the dream for Victoria Duval.
VICTORIA DUVAL, TENNIS PLAYER: I wanted to be a ballerina.
PEREIRA (on camera): Who are the tennis players in the family, what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened?
PEREIRA: She was going to be a ballerina, right?
CEDRIC DUVAL, VICTORIA'S BROTHER: Yes, she started off wanting to be a ballerina, but I guess she just wanted to be like us. She wanted to follow in our footsteps.
PEREIRA (voice-over): At just 17 and ranked 296th in the world, she pulled out a stunning upset overcoming 11th seed Samantha Stosur, a former U.S. Open champ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's done it!
PEREIRA: She won the crowd over with her jubilant celebration and charm.
VICTORIA DUVAL: I'm really excited right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good feeling. I mean, like eight, 10 years watching and waiting for that moment.
NADINE DUVAL, VICTORIA'S MOTHER: This is a dream and this is something, this is a passion. I'm happy for her.
PEREIRA (on camera): Do you remember hearing your family in the stands?
VICTORIA DUVAL: No, because the whole crowd was going nuts. The crowd just blurred them out.
PEREIRA (voice-over): Victoria has overcome the odds before. As a young child she and several family members were held hostage at gunpoint during a robbery in Haiti and then in 2010, her father, Jean Maurice, a physician, was in Port-Au-Prince when the earthquake struck, badly injured, he dug himself out of the rubble.
VICTORIA DUVAL: Obviously, you know, we've experienced quite a lot and just having the hard work pay off on such a big stage, I was just glad that God gave me that opportunity.
PEREIRA: On the surface you would never know what this family had been through. They are close knit, joyfully celebrating Vicki's (ph) win, her brother wearing a shirt with the letters DON.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dreams over nightmares.
PEREIRA (on camera): What does that mean to you?
VICTORIA DUVAL: I just look at the dreams part.
PEREIRA: What are your dreams, Vicki (ph)?
VICTORIA DUVAL: To win all four grand slams and be an accomplished tennis player.
PEREIRA (voice-over): No doubt this team is one step closer to making her dream come true.
ALLEN: Well, Duval faces Daniela Hontechova in the second round scheduled for later this Thursday. Tune into that. It'll be fun.
Finally, growing a new brain: it sounds like the stuff of science fiction. But Austrian researchers have done just that by creating mini- brains from stem cells. Their components resemble those of a 9-week-old embryo. The pea-sized structures are helping scientists better understand early brain development and what happens when things go wrong.
Well, that is NEWS STREAM. We will continue to have the latest on the Syrian crisis for you in the hours ahead here on CNN.
British lawmakers set to debate a response to the crisis in about half an hour from now. That and much more, next on "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY".