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CONNECT THE WORLD
U.S. Lays Out Syrian Chemical Attack Intelligence; Index Awards: Using Grasshoppers As Substitute For Meat?; What's Next for Syria; Eye From Space
Aired August 30, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In no even are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground.
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JONATHAN MANN, HOST: Tonight, as the United States reveals why it's convinced the Assad regime carried out a chemical attack, we debate the impact of a potential strike on Syria.
Also ahead, searching for lost pyramids. How a modern-day Indian Jones is using technology to unlock ancient secrets.
And is this the food of the future? We look at how insects can help us cut our dependence on meat D maybe.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.
MANN: Thanks for joining us.
No decision yet, says the U.S. president. But Barack Obama is reiterating his stance on Syria that some action must be taken following last week's suspected chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb.
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OBAMA: In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Have a look now at some of the images we've brought you. Video posted on YouTube that's said to show the aftermath of such an attack.
U.S. Secretary of States John Kerry outlined details of declassified findings. He said they demonstrate that the Assad regime unleashed chemical weapons on that Damascus suburb last Wednesday.
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JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We know that for three days before the attack, the Syrian regime's chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.
We know that these were specific instructions.
We know where the rockets were launched from, and at what time. We know where they landed and when. We know rockets came only from regime controlled areas and went only to opposition controlled or contested neighborhoods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Kerry also put a new number on the toll, declaring that at least 1,429 civilians were killed, including he said 426 children.
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KERRY: We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact and actually was afraid that they would be discovered. We know this.
And we know what they did next. I've personally called the foreign minister of Syria and I said to him if, as you say, your nation has nothing to hide then let the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story.
Instead, for four days they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombarding block after block at a rate four times higher than they had over the previous 10 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: The release of the intelligence comes less than 24 hours after America's staunchest ally, Britain, said no to a military strike on Syria.
Well, for more on this let's go to Washington. We have the latest from the Pentagon, from Barbara Starr in a moment.
But first we cross over to world affairs reporter Elise Labott at the State Department. Elise, we heard the president and the Secretary of State making the same arguments with anger and emphasis. The president saying I have made no final decisions, but is there really any question about what's ahead?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so, John. The nature and the scope and the duration of any type of military campaign obviously up in the air. And the president saying he hasn't made any decisions, but he also said that he was viewing this as a limited strike on Syrian targets. I think there's no doubt that some type of military campaign is in the offing.
We understand it will be a limited strike to send a message to President Assad, that there is a cost of using chemical weapons, degrade his ability to use it again and weaken him a bit against the Syrian armed opposition, but not so much so that it kind of decapitates the regime, administration saying regime change not even in the offing.
MANN: OK. We're going to get to more of the military issues in a moment, but there are domestic political and international diplomatic issues, obviously, involved. And basically you can plot them on a calendar.
The briefings for members of Congress and friendly governments have already begun and the president is heading overseas, in fact to Russia to Syria's closest ally next week. Do we have any idea about the time line of these potential attacks?
LABOTT: And you also have the UN inspectors who are on the ground in Syria. they're starting to trickle out. they're supposed to brief Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Saturday night. Obviously the British D abrupt decision not to take part in any military campaign, obviously a very symbolic note.
But as Secretary Kerry said the U.S. is prepared to act in response to what they call this undeniable case of Syrian use of chemical weapons. Take a listen to Secretary Kerry.
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JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will continue talking to the congress, talking to our allies, and most importantly talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: The U.S., John, doesn't want a very long, drawn out UN process, doesn't want to wait for allies such as Germany who said they wanted security council deliberation process. They want to get this done. Obviously U.S. military concern that President Assad is moving his targets. They want to get this done before President Obama leaves for Russia.
MANN: Elise Labott at the State Department, thanks very much.
A fifth U.S. Navy warship has now arrived in the eastern Mediterranean. It joins other vessels that can carry cruise missiles able to strike targets more than 1,600 kilometers away with pinpoint accuracy.
A U.S. official also confirmed there are two navy submarines in those waters.
let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, how much do we know about what the U.S. military is actually planning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me update one thing, those submarines are there any more, according to our sources at the Pentagon. Those five navy ships are there. They have Tomahawk missiles that are satellite guided so they can go right to the target that they are aimed at. It really just at this point, John, briskly, if you will, awaits the president making a decision, issuing an execute order and then the military will get things underway.
Limited option. They are looking to send a message to Syria: the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. And send a message to bad actors around the world: don't even think about it.
Chemical weapons, of course, historically an atrocity. And the president feels that he needs to use the U.S. military to respond to that D Johns.
MANN: Now right now there are two overlapping challenges inside of Syria. I'm going to ask you to stay with us while we get the perspective of one former U.S. military leader, retired general Anthony Zinni who headed up the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East. here's what he had to say.
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GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think the president has drawn a red line and he can't back off of this now. he's tried to make a very fine point here that may be lost on others that the issue of using chemical weapons should be separated from the conflict in Syria. that's tough to do, certainly, but it's a matter of violating an international norm.
I think what we failed to do here is gain international support for that principle ahead of time. And now we're scrambling while our ships are in place to gain that support. And that may have been lost on the Brits as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Barbara Starr, Let's try and separate the two issues that way he does. Would the president's effort to punish and deter the use of chemical weapons D That's issue number one D have an impact on the bigger issue, issue number two, the course of the civil war in Syria?
STARR: No, John, not at all. The D I Don't think anybody believes that. The administration is not interested in getting involved in the Syria civil war. The president making that very clear.
Again, very quickly, it goes back to a very limited option, very limited objective to get at those chemical weapons.
MANN: Barbara Starr, live for us. Thanks very much.
Still to come we'll bring you new video from another attack in Syria. Earlier this week, it's still not clear what exactly happened.
And Obama's coalition of, well, one. The UK has bowed out of military involvement, France wants more time for inspections. We debate whether the U.S. should go it alone coming up right here on CNN.
MANN: Welcome back. you're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World. I'm Jonathan Mann.
Clear and compelling, That's how U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is describing intelligence on last week's suspected chemical weapons strike in Damascus.
Syrian TV has also been reporting on Kerry's comments. One, quote D well, one urgent banner you could say on the state run broadcaster read, "experts and analysts react to Kerry by saying that the alleged evidence were baseless and not objective in any manner. With the sole objective to sabotage the work of the UN investigative team and that Kerry only focused in his speech on safeguarding the security of the state of Israel."
For more inside the region senior international correspondent Arwa Damon joins us now live from Beirut.
Arwa, obviously the state broadcasters had a chance to see this speech. Would ordinary Syrians have had an opportunity to hear Secretary Kerry? Would they be likely to believe or be convinced by anything D what he had to say, or would they be more convinced, do you think, by what the state broadcaster is telling them?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it would depend on what side of this current civil war they fall on. Access would depend on where they are in the country, if they do have power, and if they have access to other satellite broadcasters that would have transmitted that speech in full.
That being said, though Jonathan, the subject of whether or not the U.S. should strike is going to strike most certainly has been at the forefront of just about any conversation.
Of course, those who support the regime do not most certainly want to see this happen.
When it comes to opinion amongst opposition activists, amongst rebel fighters, interestingly a lot of them are telling us that because of how the U.S. has defined this potential mission in that it is only going to be very specific, not long-term, it's going to be targeting strategic locations, a lot of them do believe that this is going to harm them more than the regime itself, because they say the regime is going to retaliate against them and it's not as if America is going to be able to protect the civilian population inside Syria.
Additionally, amongst some more mainstream activists, there is the concern that while, yes, this might ever so slightly serve to even out the battlefield, it's not a gamechanger. And it is potentially going to strengthen the various extremist groups, some of whom do have ties to al Qaeda that are fighting alongside the rebels.
So even amongst the opposition There's not a lot of support for this potential U.S. military strike. A lot of people also saying where has America been all along? We have 100,000 dead and counting, Jonathan.
MANN: As you mentioned, this is not directed unambiguously to protecting the civilian victims of this war. And with that in mind, I want to ask you about the new evidence you are seeing, the video of a new and different kind of outrage.
DAMON: Yeah, this attack was actually reported on Monday by the local coordination committee, video posted at that time as well, but the spotlight was really on the investigators arriving in Damascus and trying to uncover facts about the attack that had taken place there.
And we do have to warn our viewers, that the images that they are about to see are incredibly, incredibly disturbing.
DAMON: Once again, the images uploaded to YouTube by activists are hard to watch.
I can't D I can't, this child cries out when medics ask him to lay back. He implores them to stop the burning, stop the pain.
It appears that doctors are doing what they can, covering the survivors with cream.
Like so much of the violence in Syria, this is incomprehensible. According to survivors, the first strike hit a building next door to a school during math class. Then, the second.
"We didn't hear any sound," this student remembers. "I just saw people burning. I was burning. My friends too. What was happening? Why were we burning? I didn't understand."
The doctor says she is lucky to e alive.
Others had 50 to 80 percent burns, he says. "We had to transfer the majority of the cases to Turkey, because we Don't have a burn unit here."
The videos appear to show severe burns, but no other external injuries. One woman who identifies herself as Dr. Roula (ph) with the Hand in Hand NGO says, "it looks like it was a chemical similar to napalm, perhaps, that caused major incendiary injuries."
At this stage, there is no way to know for sure what it was.
The LCC says the attack took place in a small village along the Aleppo-Idlib highway that is under rebel control. We've been unable to independently verify what exactly happened.
The village has been hit before, but not like this.
A worker pulls back a sheet showing a victim he tried to save.
"Honestly, with such severe burns," he says, "he would have died no matter where he was around the world."
Amid the cries of pain, the agony, a warning to Bashar al-Assad.
"We will crush you," the teenage student vows. "God willing, we will be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and we will lift this country back up after you destroyed it."
DAMON: And Jonathan, as you see there, just bravery exhibited by that child, that teenager, actually. But despite all of that, the sad reality is that with or without a potential strike by the U.S., the situation in Syria is really only going to get worse.
MANN: Now you're in Beirut, obviously. Lebanon has had its own experience of limited U.S. military intervention. Is there any optimism in the region that what President Obama has in mind is going to do anyone any good?
DAMON: You know, at this point in time There's not a lot of optimism, broadly speaking, about the situation in general. Lebanon, like Syria's other neighbors, is incredibly anxious about the potential ripple effect that this U.S. strike could possibly cause.
People here are naturally talking about it all the time, speculating as to what could happen next. People naturally here of course are very worried about their own sectarian divisions that exist, that have been and continue to be exploited, especially alongside the conflict in Syria. The dynamics there most certainly playing out here.
So it's hard to say that anyone in the region is actually optimistic at this point. And unfortunately this is a region that knows war only too well, Jonathan.
MAMM: Arwa Damon live from CNN Beirut, thanks very much.
You're watching Connect the World live from Atlanta. President Obama says he's looking at a wide range of options after the break. A live conversation on whether the U.S. should be taking military action in Syria.
MANN: Welcome back. You're watching Connect the World live from CNN world headquarters. I'm Jonathan Mann.
All this week, CNN has been following the Index Awards, showcasing ingenious solutions to serious challenges. Tonight we look at an idea to reduce dependence on meat by bringing insects into our daily diet.
As Diana Magnay found out, grasshoppers may be an acquired taste.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A midmorning snack at Copenhagen zoo.
Who wants one of these?
Well, if it's good enough for you it's good enough for me. I'm about to find out whether those creepy crawlies could be the answer to some of the world's food problems.
My grasshoppers are being prepared at this food laboratory affiliated with the team from NOMA, the world's number two restaurant. it's an experimental kitchen, the Nordic food lab, where new gastronomical delights are created.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We try to expand the realm of What's edible like plants from the wilderness, like insects, various novel fermentations of food that can be introduced into Nordic cuisine.
MAGNAY: Grasshoppers are on the menu and the agenda here in Denmark as it hosts the world's biggest design awards, which focus on ways to save our planet. Lepsis (ph) was one of the finalists, it's a stylish device that grows grasshoppers with a view to them replacing meat as a protein rich food source.
My dinner date is the famous Danish architect Bianca Engels (ph)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Innovation Doesn't necessarily have to do with like conjuring stuff out of the blue, but really taking something like the grasshopper, which is like a very sort of environmentally friendly produce, because it's very resource efficient in sort of breeding grasshoppers. And they actually eat them all over the world. And then bringing it into sort of the context of a western kind of kitchen, it's really sort of a way of facilitating something that we would never dream of putting into our mouths and then seeing like it could actually be D what if it was actually a complete part of your everyday life.
MAGNAY: You need your daily--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A grasshopper a day keeps the doctor away.
MAGNAY: It is good.
Insects are already eaten in many parts of the world.
UNIDENTIIFED MALE: As a cherished delicacy, not as a various substitute or as a fallback food, because they Don't have anything else. And That's what the Europeans Don't realize that they are really so many delicious traits (inaudible) properties in insects culinary qualities.
MAGNAY: The rosehip (ph) ketchup did help make these critters a bit more palatable. Tasty, cheap to produce, clean and green, perhaps grasshoppers do have half a chance of creeping into our daily diet.
Diana Magnay, CNN, Copenhagen.
MANN: No recipes, but for more details on the design projects we've been following, and others, go to CNN.com/IndexAwards.
The latest world news headlines just ahead. Plus, as we wait to see how the U.S. will act on Syria, a look at What's ahead for that nation.
And, a modern-day Indiana Jones tells us how she uses satellites to search for lost pyramids.
MANN: This is Connect the World. I'm Jonathan Mann with the top stories this hour.
The U.S. President says he's considering a limited military response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons on its citizens. Barack Obama's comments all after the release of intelligence the U.S. says shows the Assad regime carried out last weekend's -- last Wednesday's attacks.
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OBAMA: My preference obviously would have been that the international community already acted forcefully. But what we have seen so far at least is an incapacity at this point for the security council to move forward in the face of a clear violation of international norms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Colombia's president has deployed 50,000 soldiers to the streets of Bogota. This after at least two people were killed and dozens were wounded when clashes broke out between protesters and security forces Thursday. The President blames vandals for hijacking a protest by farmers.
Egyptian state TV says at least three people have been killed and 60 others wounded in clashes there. This as there were more protests in Cairo by supporters of former President Mohamed Morsy.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney died Friday at age 74. Heaney's publisher says he died in Dublin after a short illness. Heaney won the 1995 Nobel Prize for literature and was widely considered one of the greatest poets of his generation.
It has been nine days since horrifying videos emerged of chemical attacks in Syria, and in the past few hours, we heard the White House giving the clearest signals yet that it's ready to respond militarily, even if it means going largely alone.
Andrew Carey explain how we got here. A warning to our viewers first, though: some of the images you're about to see may be disturbing.
ANDREW CAREY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First reports began to emerge on Wednesday last week. This, said Syria's opposition, was a massive chemical attacks in the outskirts of Damascus. Britain's foreign secretary was among the first to speak out.
WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: If verified, this could be a shocking escalation. We are determined the people responsible will one day be held to account.
CAREY: No mention at this stage of who Britain held responsible. More video emerged. Analysts said the evidence of a toxic agent was compelling. Syria's opposition spoke of hundreds, perhaps over a thousand killed. Thoughts turned to a year ago when President Obama said this --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.
CAREY: But on Friday, two days after news of the attack, he wasn't saying definitively that those red lines had been crossed.
OBAMA: If the US goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it.
CAREY: But Britain was starting to turn up the pressure.
HAGUE: This is not something that a humane or civilized world can ignore. It seems the Assad regime has something to hide.
CAREY: And so was France.
LAURENT FABIUS, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): If it is proven, then there must be reaction, a reaction which could take the form of the use of force.
CAREY: The alleged chemical attack had taken place just a few miles from the spot where a UN weapons inspection team were staying. Their presence in the country had taken months to organize. Their mandate was to investigate three earlier reports of chemical weapons use.
As the Assad regime strenuously denied responsibility for the latest attack, attention focused on Russia, its chief international ally. Moscow urged Damascus to let the UN team investigate the latest claims, but maintained its position there was no case for outside military intervention.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Hysteria is growing, and confrontation is incited. Basing on the claims that the government of Syria has applied chemical weapons on the 21st of August.
CAREY: The start of a new week, and it seemed like military action was drawing closer. Britain said contingency plans were underway. US leaders turned up the rhetoric.
JOHN KERRY, US SECRETARY OF STATE: Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Syrian regime.
CAREY: And then, domestic politics got in the way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ayes to the right, 272. The nos to the left, 285.
CAREY: Amid renewed concerns about the legality of a strike without UN support and questions over the strength of the intelligence apparently linking the alleged chemical attack to President Assad, Britain's prime minister lost a crucial vote in parliament.
DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.
CAREY: The United States, now forced to contemplate taking action without one of its staunchest allies, perhaps even going it alone.
Andrew Carey, CNN, London.
MANN: To try to get a sense of where the crisis could be heading, we're joined now by Elizabeth O'Bagy, a Syrian analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, and from London, journalist Mina Al-Oraibi. Thanks so much for being with us, both.
Mina Al-Oraibi, I wonder if we could start with you. This is described as what's going to be a limited intervention with limited goals and limited international support. Does it make sense?
MINA AL-ORAIBI, JOURNALIST: It actually doesn't make sense. It makes sense politically in the wake of the Iraq War, ten years on, there is no appetite for a full-blown invasion or any boots on the ground.
So this emphasis on it being a limited strike and a punishment, which is a word that we keep hearing from Washington, London, and others Western capitals, that there needs to be punishment for chemical weapons, and yet, the killing goes on.
Yes, the use of chemical weapons is something that has to be condemned and cannot be allowed to happen again, but at the same time, 100,000 Syrians have been killed, if not more, and millions have been displaced in over two and a half years.
If anything, the -- if we can say the word "good," the good that's come out of this is to actually force Syria on the agenda. There needs to be some wholehearted efforts to come to a real diplomatic solution that forces the killing to stop in Syria.
MANN: I'm going to jump in on that. Elizabeth O'Bagy, one theme that seems to emerge is that for the US administration, this isn't really about Syria, this is about chemical weapons. Can you separate the two?
ELIZABETH O'BAGY, SENIOR RESEARCH ANALYST, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: I think in this case, you really can't separate the two, and at this point, our options for action are looking more at maintaining US credibility and the president's harsh rhetoric on the use of chemical weapons rather than on the very complex situation that's unfolding in Syria right now.
MANN: I want to ask you more about that, because the president's rhetoric is the chemical weapons were a red line. This -- John Kerry talked about this being a moral obscenity. The principle here is very, very clear. But in practice, this is going to mean bombing real place, potentially killing real people, and having a real impact.
And I'll just give you and our viewers a sense of what they have in mind. The target list, obviously, is secret. It's not been shared with us.
But the kinds of targets that we're being told about include places like the presidential palace, the Ministry of Defense, the national broadcasting center, which is where state television is broadcast from, Syrian military intelligence, Syria's government headquarters building, which has been the target of rebel attacks in the past.
These are obvious targets for the rebels, they're obvious targets for the United States. If the principle is to punish and deter the use of chemical weapons, is anyone even going to remember this list in ten year's time if the war continues? Is the goal here fundamentally flawed because nobody will recall this when the history of this war is written?
O'BAGY: I think the real problem is that there's really nothing we can do to stem the use of chemical weapons from afar at this point, so any action that we're looking at is going to be a punitive measure, it's going to be meant as kind of a slap on the wrist, as been mentioned.
But what that means is that we're really lacking a more comprehensive strategy that addresses the roots of the conflict here and in ways that could actually be more negative than positive and could have some very dire consequences.
MANN: Mina Al-Oraibi, one of the questions here is why the Syrian government would have done this. The British intelligence review concluded that they couldn't figure it out. Does anyone in the region have any idea, or is there still widespread skepticism that Bashar al-Assad is to blame?
AL-ORAIBI: There are lots of questions about why they would use the chemical weapons, especially at the time when the chemical weapons inspectors from the UN had arrived in Damascus. And really, the Syrian regime was able to buy time.
So, the use, then, while you have the chemical weapons inspectors in Damascus didn't really make any sense.
Having said that, there's so much that defies logic in what's happened in Syria. This entire conflict could have been saved had the regime actually taken the peaceful protests that were happening in Syria in a way that could have avoided all this bloodshed. So to be honest, logic in itself is not enough to make us understand why they would act in this way.
Having said that, the British have also said that there were -- and again, based on UN reports, there were up to 14 different uses of chemical weapons in Syria. There are those that would question if some of the rogue opposition elements or some of the militant opposition elements could have used the chemical weapons. Again, we don't know
The White House assessment that came out today really doesn't -- or the declassified assessment, let me say -- of the chemical weapons used in Syria doesn't really answer any of those questions.
MANN: There is another question, and I'm going to ask you both to stay with us while we listen to a brief excerpt of Secretary Kerry's remarks today describing the alliance that the United States is hoping for. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: The Arab League pledged, quote, "to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime." The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, "to hold the Syrian government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime."
Turkey said "there is no doubt that the regime is responsible." Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, "committed this vile action."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: And I think we have the front page of "The New York Post," which speaks very eloquently to this in a much more iconic way. "The British aren't coming." Instead of "The British are coming, the British are coming," "The British aren't coming."
I'm wondering, Elizabeth O'Bagy, when we hear Secretary Carey describe all of these organizations that maybe somewhat uncomfortable with him citing their support, organizations that may subsequently back out of whatever project the US undertakes, is the Syrian regime taking comfort from the fact that even Washington's closest ally doesn't want to be involved?
O'BAGY: I think that's absolutely correct, and if you look at this, the real issue here is there's just not the political will behind any sort of action. And what that means is we're looking at these kind of half measures and small steps that really don't look at this, again, as a comprehensive strategy.
And to that degree, the Assad regime, Syrian government, and its allies are really sitting back and are able to continue doing what they want to do regardless of any consequences or actions that could significantly stop their current calculus
MANN: Now, I'm inclined to believe Secretary and President Obama when they say this is not regime change. I'm just wondering if either of you think that this may go the way of the Libya intervention with a dictator being toppled at the end of it. Do either of you have a thought on that?
AL-ORIABI: What I think --
O'BAGY: We already made it clear -- that regime change is our goal. We kind of have emphasized the need for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and we've provided support both non-lethal and military assistance to the opposition. So I'm unsure as to why now we're backing down from this regime change as our ultimate political objective.
MANN: Mina Al-Oraibi?
AL-ORAIBI: Well, I think it's not the stated objective of this mission, if it does go ahead, however, it's clear from the list of targets that you referred to and many others have referred to that it is to weaken the regime also.
And there have been many in Washington, Senator McCain and others, who have said we have to try to tip the balance so it helps the opposition to, as some people here say, get the job done and actually turn over the regime.
I don't think it will happen that way. Libya was different in many ways and again, Libya had the UN backing, and so it was a longer military campaign than I think anything we can see happening for Syria.
MANN: Elizabeth O'Bagy, you study Syrian extremist groups, and groups we would call extremist groups are in the forefront, now, of the opposition to the regime, among them, al-Nusra, an al Qaeda offshoot.
Is the United States unwittingly going to be helping the very people it most fears in Syria even more than Bashar al-Assad? Is it unwittingly going to be helping the jihadists who would love to take control of that country and might end up doing it if Bashar al-Assad falls?
O'BAGY: To be clear, I actually research the opposition, which is only kind of a small minority of which includes extremist groups. There are still very much kind of a moderate opposition force that the US government has in the past looked to support and should actually expand its support for.
That being said, I think that any sort of half measures, as I mentioned before, could significantly have an inverse impact and actually radicalize the opposition in favor of the extremist groups rather --
MANN: Let me ask you --
O'BAGY: -- than its current strategy.
MANN: Mina Al-Oraibi, let me ask you just one last question, they key question. When these strikes come and when they're over, are we still going to be talking about the civil war in Syria? Are we still going to be mourning the innocent dead there?
AL-ORAIBI: Well, I think many of us will be talking. However, it will likely no longer dominate the headlines and it will no longer put the same pressure that we're seeing at the moment for governments around the world to act.
Importantly, I think, it also has to capitalize on what role the UN is playing today. The Security Council has shown yet again that the current veto system gives power to a few countries who can determine the fate of the rest of the countries.
MANN: Mina Al-Oraibi and Elizabeth O'Bagy, thanks so much for talking with us.
What are your thoughts about what's unfolding in Syria? The team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you. Go to facebook.com/CNNconnect and you can tweet me @JonathanMannCNN. Your thoughts, please, @JonathanMannCNN.
Live from Atlanta, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, we'll meet an explorer who searches for secrets from ancient civilizations using state-of-the-art space technology.
And George Clooney and Sandra Bullock give us the lowdown on playing astronauts in their new film, "Gravity," just ahead.
MANN: Welcome back. Archeologists have a new tool in their kit, and it is literally out of this world. Going up into space is giving them a better view of the Earth, and what they're finding is far more exciting than just some dusty old moon rocks. Becky Anderson has a look.
SARAH PARCAK, SPACE ARCHEOLOGIST: When I was a kid, we'd rent Indiana Jones movies on VHS tapes -- that's dating myself -- and it just inspired a whole generation of scholars, because we saw the excitement and the passion and the drama.
And what's amazing to me about archeology, it's actually much more dramatic and much more interesting and the stories are even better than what you see on a Hollywood movie.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Exploring and getting her hands dirty is what gets Dr. Sarah Parcak up in the morning. A real-life Indiana Jones, she's passionate about the ancient world. But her route to old world secrets uses decidedly modern technology.
PARCAK: When people initially think of the term space archeologist, they think, oh, it's someone who uses satellites to look for alien settlements on Mars or in outer space, but the opposite is true. We're actually looking for evidence of past human life on planet Earth.
ANDERSON: Space archeologists are changing the face of their field. Using high-resolution satellite imagery, they're able to map changes in patterns on the Earth's surface. Infrared and thermal photographs give scientists clues about where to look and what to look for.
PARCAK: We're finding out much more information about who we are and where we came from, and all of these secrets are in the ground, waiting for us to find them. The answers are there.
ANDERSON: Much like the Hollywood character who inspired her, it was Sarah's love of tombs and temples which led her to Egypt.
PARCAK: My heart is -- has always been in Egypt. I'm an Egyptologist, I've been working there now for 15 years. So, to -- for me, I think there, even though I've been able to map a lot of Egypt, been able to try to find things, I think with some of these new satellites coming out, we'll actually going to be able to find a lot more.
ANDERSON: She and her team say they've been able to map all of ancient Egypt. Among their discoveries are 17 lost pyramids and 1,000 tombs. While space technology races forward, earthly problems are holding them back. Uprisings across the Middle East are threatening local sites.
PARCAK: We've found that patterns of site looting have increased between 500 and 1,000 percent since the start of the Arab Spring.
ANDERSON: For now, this female explorer may have to wait for the dust to settle.
Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.
MANN: This is CONNECT THE WORLD live from CNN Center. Coming up, we're at the Venice Film Festival with the latest on Sandra Bullock and George Clooney's new film, "Gravity."
And he was one of the greatest poets of our time. We'll pay tribute to Seamus Heaney who died today, age 74.
MANN: Welcome back. In this week's CNN Preview, Neil Curry reports from the prestigious Venice Film Festival, and he found why audiences are finding the new movie "Gravity" so hard to resist.
NEIL CURRY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The world's oldest film festival turns 70 this year as Venice welcomes 20 movie-makers to the red carpet to compete for the coveted Golden Lion.
CURRY (voice-over): The festival is held at the city's famous Lido, requiring stars, press, and public alike to arrive on the island by boat. One of Italy's greatest filmmakers, Bernardo Bertolucci, heads the jury for the main competition, the "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher and the renowned Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto among his fellow jurors.
But before the competition began, the festival paraded two of its biggest stars on the opening night's red carpet. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were in town to premier Alfonso Cuaron's stunning space thriller "Gravity."
GEORGE CLOONEY AS MATT KOWALSKY, "GRAVITY": Beautiful, don't you think?
SANDRA BULLOCK AS DR. RYAN STONE, "GAVITY": What?
CLOONEY AS KOWALSKY: Terrific.
CURRY: Co-written by Cuaron and his son, Jonas, the film charts a course of calamities and catastrophes which befall a pair of astronauts following a spectacular encounter with lethal space debris.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to my voice! You need to follow --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm losing visual of you!
BULLOCK AS STONE: I'm spinning! I can't breathe!
CURRY: The film features inventive use of 3D and visual effects and a tour de force performance from Bullock. The director employed unusual methods to get the best out of his actors.
CLOONEY: You have to move slow. It's much slower than you would normally move, everything has to go like this, and yes, there are all these marks you have to hit. But you have to speak fast. And then you watch her evolve this performance into speaking fast and moving slow.
And I got to this shoot late, I got there, they'd been shooting for a few weeks, and I walked in, I was like, I can't do this! You guys are nuts! It was -- she was absolutely -- it was stunning, what she was doing in this film. And all the way through, really, truly fine.
BULLOCK: Alfonso gave me a whole boxes of CDs, sounds, and musical scores and feelings, and so we just created a soundtrack for each scene that I would listen to. I would not talk to anyone, I would just hear sounds that would help me get to a place of emotion.
BULLOCK AS STONE: What do I do? No, no, no, no, no!
CURRY: Back on Earth, the competition in Venice comprises films from as far afield as the US, China, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Greece, and the UK, as well as home-grown talent from Italy.
Teen heartthrob turned serious actor, Zac Efron, turns up in Peter Landesman's drama "Parkland" as a doctor fighting to save US president John F. Kennedy from the effects of the assassin's bullet.
MARCIA GAY HARDEN AS DORIS NELSON, "PARKLAND": It is the president.
ZAC EFRON AS JIM CARRICO, "PARKLAND": I know who it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need pressure right here!
CURRY: Another Venice favorite is British director Stephen Frears, who tells the story of "Philomena," with Judi Dench searching for the child she lost to adoption and Steve Coogan as a reluctant journalist who comes to her aid.
STEVE COOGAN AS MARTIN SIXSMITH, "PHILOMENA": Hello. You must be Philomena.
JUDI DENCH AS PHILOMENA LEE, "PHILOMENA": I wanted to believe him. I didn't like that word.
COOGAN AS SIXSMITH: "Evil's" good. Story-wise, I mean.
CURRY: James Franco has adopted Cormac McCarthy's novel, "Child of God," following a young social outcast in Tennessee who becomes a cave- dweller on a downward spiral of depravity and violence.
The renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has directed some of his country's biggest-selling movies, including "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away." His latest animated film, "The Wind Rises," tells a story of a Japanese aircraft designer who created one of World War II's most effective fighter planes, the Zero.
The Golden Lions will be dished out next weekend, but we already know the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Following in the footsteps of greats like Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, American director William Friedkin is being honored for his body of work, which includes the thriller "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist," frequently cited as the best horror movie ever made.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chris, Doctors.
LINDA BLAIR AS REGAN MACNEIL, "THE EXORCIST": Mother, please!
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN, DIRECTOR: The people who have won this award, for the most part, are really the giants of cinema, and I can't believe that my name is on a list with some of these people.
CURRY (on camera): Festival fever spreads to Toronto next week, but that's all from the CNN Preview team here in Venice.
MANN: And in tonight's Parting Shots, we pay tribute to the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who died today at age 74. Heaney's publisher says he died in Dublin after a short illness. Heaney won the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, and the award cited his works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth. On his 70th birthday, Heaney read aloud a poem from his first book, titled "Scaffolding."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAMUS HEANEY, POET: Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall Confident that we have built our wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Seamus Heaney. I'm Jonathan Mann, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for joining us.