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Crisis in Syria; Casualties of Syria's War

Aired September 1, 2013 - 18:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

We have new warnings of possible terror threats inside the U.S., including cyber attacks on Americans. The Syria crisis has prompted U.S. officials to beef up security and focus on investigations related to Syria and the region. We're going to bring you more details on the possible terror threats in a few minutes here on CNN.

And this -- Saudi Arabia backing a possible U.S. military strike in Syria. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says Syria's regime has crossed all lines and we'll talk to experts about Saudi Arabia's role in the debate.

Plus this, Secretary of State John Kerry revealing new evidence on Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It has tested possible for signatures of sarin. So, each day that goes by, this case is even stronger.


LEMON: We are going to break down with signatures of sarin mean, straight ahead as well.

Ahead of possible U.S. military strikes in Syria, the FBI and Homeland Security are warning of an increased risk of cyber attacks on Americans, disrupting by hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army have been taking place for months, even bringing down the Web site of "The New York Times" last week.

CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes joins me now from Washington.

Tom, hello to you.


LEMON: What does Syria gain from using the Internet as a weapon?

FUENTES: Well, they gained power. If the U.S. is going to threaten them from their perspective, they can threaten us back with cyber attacks. A group like that, this is your stereotypical asymmetric threat. So, the country maybe too little to attack us with jets or tanks or other conventional weapons, but a cyber attack can come from anywhere, and bring down the mighty U.S. if they have enough capable hackers.

LEMON: But is that -- I hear about this a lot, we hear about this a lot, possible cyber attacks. And then it never really happens, Tom.

FUENTES: Well, they're shutting down "The New York Times" is a good example of it.

I think the other thing besides just looking at the capability of this group and whether they're qualified or can do it, other countries could get behind them and use this as an excuse to test our systems, to test our vulnerability. So, even in the name of the Syrian electronic army, you could have Iran or you could have Russia, you could you have some of their allies get behind this effort just to get a test to how capable is the U.S. in defending itself against cyber attack?

LEMON: Yes, listen, I know "The New York Times" and it happened to other companies, but you never hear about the sort of nationwide threat and the way many people talk about it like, you know, opening up dams and that sort of thing. You never -- it's always a threat, but it never happens, that's what I'm saying.

FUENTES: Well, I do think they do happen to a certain extent that we don't know about. There's a lot of effort that's being going on not just in connection with Syria.

LEMON: They're being thwarted, we don't know about it. Yes.

FUENTES: Not just a connection with this incident or this problem, but the attempts at cyber warfare between many countries and many cyber groups is always ongoing, actually.

LEMON: OK. How is the U.S. security likely handling these terror threats?

FUENTES: I think they are trying to look at, obviously the conventional terror threats of whether somebody would do any type of a bombing type attack or attack on our aviation or other infrastructure, as well as these cyber threats. I think the difference is that in a way it's harder to really know where the cyber threat might come from and who's helping in the effort to use computer networks, cyber networks to get at us to attack us.

LEMON: I just want your response. It's an obvious question. We've been asking, everyone says why red line when it comes to chemical weapons? Why just chemical weapons when hundreds of thousands of people died by other means?

FUENTES: That's a great point.

We are telling the country blow your people up, we don't care. Chop their heads off, we don't care. Dismember them, we don't care. Burn them, stab them, whatever, we don't care. Use chemical weapon, now we care.

And the problem is if we launch missiles, if we initiate some form of attack at this point, you're giving the countries, as I just mentioned, other countries allied with Syria, an excuse to help them to attack us with cyber weapons or with other technology that normally might not have come to play in this.

And then, secondly, if they say you're right, we are not going to use chemical weapons anymore, we'll go back to just blowing them up, stabbing them, shooting them, burning them, remembering them, that's OK, right? You have no problem with that before, is that right?

LEMON: Yes. Always appreciate your perspective, Tom Fuentes. Thank you.

FUENTES: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Two powerful Republican senators will discuss Syria with President Obama tomorrow at the White House. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham serve at the Armed Services Committee.

McCain has a big question. He wants to know whether he has a plan to take out Syria's regime.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I want to talk to the president. I want to find out whether there is a plan and a strategy. I want to find out whether this is just a pin prick that somehow Bashar Assad can trumpet he defeated the United States of America.

But I will say that if Congress overrules a decision of the president of the United States on an issue of national security, that could set a catastrophic precedent in the future. It would be very dangerous precedent to be setting.


LEMON: McCain has much more strong U.S. military action in Syria.

Members of Congress got a classified briefing today on Capitol Hill, getting a look at intelligence on Syria from White House, Pentagon and State Department officials.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash standing by on Capitol Hill.

So, Dana, did law makers have anything to say about the legislation the president sent to the Hill?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They had a lot to say. First of all, the bottom line is that it's not going to stay as- is. They believe many of them in both partners that it is simply too broad, that it doesn't do what the president says he wants, which is a narrow scope. That it allows him to broaden this mission if he wants to in a way that many are not comfortable with. Listen to one of the president's closest allies, Chris Van Hollen, said about this.


REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I don't think anybody is interested in writing blank checks or even partial blank checks.

BASH: And this is the blank check that they're saying?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is a partial blank check the way it's currently drafted, because it doesn't have those limitations that I mentioned.


BASH: So, the bottom line is that the authorization language, the actual legislation they will vote on is for sure going to be changed. Some of the things that they are talking about are putting a time certain, a date on it, to make sure it's limited in time. And also, making clear there will be no boots on the ground in any way, shape or form.

Now, more broadly, Don, we heard from so many law makers coming out of here that this is -- that they're not sold at all, just the opposite. I want to have you listen to what one Democrat, again, natural ally of the president from Connecticut said about how he felt this briefing went.


REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: You know, that's certainly a consideration. But I think in that room today, there was a lot of memories over another time when a president came and said -- or at least the president's people came and said this was a slam-dunk intelligence. And, of course, that was not an episode most members would ever want to repeat.

So, I do think most members of thinking more about the merits of the proposal here than the political consequences to the president.

BASH: If you were to vote today, how would you vote?

HIMES: Today on this current resolution, I would note no.

BASH: Now, to be fair, we did hear some yeses. Sandra Levin in Michigan was one example, wanted to come out and say he was going to support this, Eliot Engel as well.

But again, no question, listening to these members, that (a), this has to be changed, and (b), the White House has a lot of heavy lifting to get this passed. And lastly, he said that there's no politics, but I'm told, inside this briefing, the administration, at least officials made clear they felt it would look bad for the president if Congress doesn't give him authorization since he already said he wants to go ahead with these strikes. LEMON: Oh, Dana, there's always politics, you know that.

BASH: I know, shocking.

LEMON: I would say, Dana, get some rest, because she's been working 24 hours, but not yet. We are on the air for quite some time and we're going to need you. Dana Bash, we'll see you in a little bit.

BASH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: You know, I'm going to bring in CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, you know, you advised four different presidents. You heard what Dana Bash said about the president there and whether or not it makes him look weak. Talk to us about that and what is going on behind the scenes right now.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he does have an uphill fight in the Congress. I think he'll eventually win it. It's important to remember, Don, that since World War I, presidents have gone to Capitol Hill on 18 occasions to ask for congressional backing for the use of force and they've won every single time, 18 out of 18. And just the John McCain argument you had on the air, as much as he disagrees with what the president wants to do, he would like to have a much more expansive attack in the air fields and the like.

You know, John McCain also said we can't come to the day where Congress strips the president of his commander in chief authority. I think a lot of members will come around to that.

Second thing, though, Don, is this. The way this is shaping up right now, I will tell you, the president doesn't have the Congress nor public opinion, and there are going to be a growing number of people who will put pressure on him.

You've got to sell the country in order to sell the Congress. And they're going to push him to go out and make the case. The way this is shaping up right now, I will tell you, the president doesn't have the congress nor public opinion, and there are going to be a growing number of people who will put pressure on him. You've got to sell the country in order to sell the Congress. They're going to push him to go out and make the case. I think we are going to see more of the president on primetime before this fight is over because he does need to move the needle and public opinion to have a better shot.

I think he'll get it, but it's going to be, he's got a lot of work to do.

LEMON: You said get the shot. Do you think he will get approval?

GERGEN: I think it's likely he'll get approval. Members of his own party at the end of the day, they have to realize that to defeat him on this would humiliate him and could potentially cripple him as commander in chief. So, there are going to be a lot of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who want to vote for him. And then, the Republicans who believe in the substance of it, you know, they would like to be much tougher. There are obvious splits, but I think he'll get it. I do think though there is this question that has come up because of the way this has been done. This sort of sense, you know, we all heard the hoof beats last week.

You and I assume we are probably going to be at war by now or at least be firing missiles by now. Then to have this sort of about-face suddenly, unexpectedly, has given increased sense that this administration is sort of winging it as it goes. Maybe he doesn't have a firm handle on the wheel. I think the president has to be also, along with John Kerry who did well today on television, they have to be clear, decisive, clean in their arguments in order to get this done.

To give us a real sense we know what we are doing. We know what the consequences of this may be. We have them in hand, we thought about this. This well thought through. They haven't convinced people of that yet.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk about the optics.


LEMON: And maybe you think this is a big deal on that, I don't know. Just -- the president and Vice President Joe Biden went golfing right after that Rose Garden statement yesterday. What do you make of that?

GERGEN: I shook my head, Don. You know, it's sort of like elementary. You're about to -- you're about to put American fighters in harm's way again. This is really serious, one of the most serious moments of your presidency.

I know you need the exercise, Mr. President, but that's not exactly the best time to go out and hit the golf links.

LEMON: David Gergen, thank you, sir.

GERGEN: Don, it's always great to talk to you. Thank you.

LEMON: You as well.

As we just mentioned, the president had some strong words for the Syrian regime. But after his rose garden speech, leaders in the region are calling him weak, hesitant and confused.

So, did this call to action help or hurt the U.S. stance on Syria? That's next.


LEMON: The president's decision to get Congress involved has opened the floodgates for Washington political debate over Syria. Let's talk about it with our regular Sunday analysts' analysis from Ana Navarro, of course, is a CNN political commentator ad a Republican strategist. And L.Z. Granderson, a CNN commentator as well. Good to see both of you.


LEMON: So, President Obama says that we must act and he says he has the authority to act. And then, Friday night, he decides he's going to wait and let Congress debate it and vote on it. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss says that's not leadership.

Here he is this morning.


SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: In a time of crisis, presidents make tough, hard decisions and they lead. And there is weakness here on the part of the president. It's not been a good week for him. He made this decision to come to Congress. And it's going to be a very, very tough debate.


LEMON: So, L.Z. Granderson, Syria is calling the president hesitant and confused. Is this leadership or is it weakness?

GRANDERSON: It's leadership and this is why. We have learned over the last 12, 13 years of war that what you don't want to do is rush into war.

And I think it's a little bit -- it's sad to me that a congressman would suggest going to Congress and having a debate and thorough discussion before you go onto war as a sign of weakness. To me, he's playing politics. Instead of looking at this as victory or defeat, we need to decide whether this is the right thing for the country to do outside of politics.

LEMON: Ana Navarro?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, in the midst of almost going to war, the last thing I want to do is come on TV and call him hesitant and say he's vacillated, but it's hard not to say that.

And I also think -- take a look at the international reaction here, whether it's from our allies in the Middle East, the Syrian rebels who today are demoralized. Take a look at the Syrian government which is relishing and saying, a historical retreat by the United States of America.

Our allies in the Middle East are aghast by this, whether it's Turkey or Saudi Arabia. And, you know, of course it looks like titivation, vacillation. You can't say on one day and send out your secretary of state to speak so strongly and then, all of a sudden, change courses. We are not sailing here.

This is a very, very big decision. And I think it's -- I don't think that the optics have been the best for President Obama this week. LEMON: There are some who say, Ana, and then I'll ask L.Z., but I want your respond, some say that Republicans may have been setting the president up by saying he is weak if he doesn't go. Then if he does go without Congress, then they are setting him up for possible impeachment or for more criticism. What do you say to that?

NAVARRO: I say, you know, really it's irrelevant. He's the commander in chief. With that position comes the authority to be able to take decisions unilaterally. He, himself, has told us he has the authority to act and he has told us he will act.

So why delay it? It doesn't matter what one congressman or two congressmen or five, or 10 or 11 are saying. If he listened to congressmen who are naysayers on one thing or the other every day, even less than what already gets done would be getting done, Don. He's commander in chief, not commander by committee.

LEMON: L.Z., she has a point. There are always haters.

GRANDERSON: Of course there's always be haters, and I think what you are seeing right now are a lot of people second guessing him because of the game, the political game that you're talking about.

But I can't get past this notion of having a thorough debate as being seen as weak or being seen as a lack of leadership. In my opinion, and what we witnessed through history, it is the rush to war that is proven to be the lack of leadership, because once we get in there, we didn't have an escape route or a thorough plan. And I think what Justin Amash is doing in Michigan right now is very intelligent. I hope all the congressmen do that before they return to D.C., and that is he is asking the questions, not just to the president, but he's going back and actually holding meetings amongst his own constituents so that we have a thorough debate across the country.

We all agree what we discovered thus far that happened to Syria cannot be stood for. But what we can agree upon is the course of action. Having a discussion about this is not weakness, it's intelligence.

LEMON: OK. So, listen, Ana mentioned -- she said -- this week has been a bad week for optics for the president. Should he have gone golfing yesterday?

GRANDERSON: Of course not. I don't know who the brother's PR representative is, but he needs a new one.

You do not go on national television, talk about war, talk about hundreds if not over 1,000 people dying, including children and then go golfing. I don't care who is on vacation. In that moment, if you need to relax, you do that behind closed doors. You do not let the media, you do not let the public know you're going golfing. That was a huge misstep.

LEMON: Do you agree, Ana?

GRANDERSON: On this, absolute agree. Only thing left was there to be a bumper sticker on the back of the presidential limo that said "I'd rather be fishing." It just, you know, the optics are terrible. If you want to play golf, play electronic golf on the Wii in your own -- inside.

But I just think it's a very serious decision. Toughest decision a president has to make in his presidency. And this just looks bad.

You know, I think when we are looking at acts of war, looking at crises of this natural, you should almost apply the same standard you would as if you were in campaign mode. And I bet you were he in campaign mode, he would not have gone golfing yesterday.

Is it a big deal? No. But little things do matter and I think, you know, optics matter.

GRANDERSON: It is a big deal, though, in my opinion, Ana. Only in the sense that you're having a difficult time already convincing the American people that this is something we should be involved with and then you go golfing after trying to make this convincing argument. So, I think it does matter, it makes the argument seem less convincing.

It reminds me of "W" when "W" talked about the horrors of Iraq and then he went and said --

LEMON: Watch this drive.

GRANDERSON: -- watch this drive. We raked him across the coasts for that. And I think the criticism is equally fair about Obama going golfing.

LEMON: We got to run but go ahead. Quickly, Ana.

NAVARRO: L.Z., I agree with you. I think the bigger issue is the fact that he talked about this red line two years ago. Since then, 100,000 Syrians have died. The Assad government has used chemical weapons twice. Just -- you know, the moral line on this was crossed many, many months ago.

LEMON: Yes, months ago.

More right after the break with these guys. Don't go anywhere.


LEMON: We are talking about Syria with our regular Sunday analysts, Ana Navarro, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. L.Z. Granderson is a CNN commentator as well.

Senator John McCain, I should say, wants action in Syria but he says the president must have a larger plan and the president has invited McCain to meet with him tomorrow. Here's McCain said this morning.


MCCAIN: We need to have a strategy and a plan, and that plan in our view, the best way to eliminate the threat of Bashir Assad's continual use of chemical weapons. And, by the way, we know he's used them a number of times before, would be the threat of his removal from power.


LEMON: So what is the objective here? To punish Assad, to deter future use of chemical weapons? Or is McCain right? Should we go for a regime change?

First to you, Ana.

NAVARRO: I spoke to John McCain on my way over here. Let's remember that McCain has been involved in this now for years. He was in Syria. He visited with the Syrian rebels. He has been as involved in this issue as you can be in the Senate, probably the lead on this in the Senate. I think he feels, you know, I don't speak for him, but I think he feels like many people do that we lost precious time and momentum.

Let's just remember a few months ago, last year, the Syrian rebels were in a position where they looked like they were close to winning. They looked like they were close to making a real difference. Since then, chemical weapons have been used, more lives have been lost and we've lost that momentum.

So, certainly, John McCain is frustrated because we -- he realizes how it affects the standing of the United States around the world. He realizes that people like Ahmadinejad in Iran are watching and seeing this kind of vacillation by the United States.

And it's worrisome to folks like John McCain who are internationalists and who care about the standing of the United States around the world, and also about having -- doing something that has a real effect. Not just a cosmetic effect, not a little punishment, not a slap in the wrist to your kid, but something that will change what is happening in Syria today.

LEMON: Well, you should have gotten John McCain to come along with you, because we have a lot of great question for him. Next time do that for us. Please, Ana. L.Z., I mean, you know, she does have a point.

What is that limited involvement? What does that mean? I mean, should we be going for regime change here? That appears to be the only thing that might make a difference in Syria.

GRANDERSON: Let's look at our record in this country in terms of putting in people, OK? Because I don't think it's that stellar. And I appreciate John McCain, I think we all do. But the fact of the matter is, we know that when he came back from Syria, he had pictures. And we wondered if he was pictured with kidnappers. Why? Because it's just difficult, even still, even after all this time to figure out who are the "good guys", quote/unquote, and who are the "bad guys", quote/unquote. This is a very murky situation.

And while I think on the outside looking in, it seems like they're wrong, let's go in and change good night and put in someone like us and move on. The fact of the matter is we don't know the people we put in place are going to be people who support our thoughts and our beliefs.

The real problem to me is the fact that there's too much emphasis on the U.S. and not enough on the U.N. The laws that are being broken are the laws the U.N. had put in place when it was established in 1945. We need to be talking about why the other allies, especially the permanent members of the U.N. are so hesitant or even resistant to addressing this in a more forceful way.

LEMON: And if you watched the president's address yesterday, he all but said, you know, the U.N. -- I mean, in so many words, that's what he said.

GRANDERSON: Well, if the U.N. is that, then stop talking about this being a "war crime" which were laws based upon the U.N.

LEMON: Ana, quickly, I give you the last word.

NAVARRO: Well, listen, the U.N. is nothing but an old mangy dog with no teeth. The U.N. just can't get anything done, has not effect and let's remember that Russia is in the Security Council of the U.N. and has got veto power. We have seen Russia thumb its nose over and over again at the United States. And Russia is one of the key allies for Syria. So, we've got a problem at the U.N. and it's not the U.N. it used to be this. This is not your granddaddy's U.N.

LEMON: An old mangy dog with no teeth. Why I never.

Thank you, Ana Navarro. You do have a way of words. Thank you, Ana Navarro.

NAVARRO: That cost a lot of money, by the way.

LEMON: Thanks, Ana. Thanks, L.Z. We'll see you next week. Appreciate it.

GRANDERSON: Thank you.

LEMON: Ana, enjoy Boston.

Coming up, our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has been to Syria many times, even caught in the crossfire between the rebels and Syrian forces. He'll join me next with his most memorable moments from inside Syria.


LEMON: We heard it from Senator John McCain today and from guests on our show. Any U.S. military action in Syria must include plans to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. President Obama's failure to do anything thus far has been a blow to rebel forces fighting the Assad regime.

Our senior international correspondent is Nick Paton Walsh. He can provide with us some of his perspective on that. He was embedded with the forces in Aleppo, the rebel forces in Aleppo August 2012.

Is that correct, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. But it's incredibly complex. Because at this moment in time, even after all this, there is simply nobody ready to replace Bashar al-Assad apart from those in his inner circle. So reconstructive regime change is incredibly elastic here.

I mean, we're now talking about a rebel movement that when I was there a year ago were possibly palatable to the West and they had ideals which may have been compatible with what we as a country or as an ideology might like them to be. But since then, they've gone increasingly radical. They are increasingly Islamist and the people who originally we may have hoped will come to power have been increasingly marginalized.

But let's just take a look at some of the time I spent with some of those soldiers a year ago in Aleppo.



WALSH (voice-over): The new dead lie next to the old. Aleppo's old city, thousands of years in the making, is crumbling fast. We meet rebel forces as push into a vital terrain and fight the Syria's commercial capital towards a key police station. They mass in number and surge forward.


Chaos but also bravery. They move to retrieve an injured rebel at the very front. Somehow the superior regime fire power lets them escape with their wounded.

When we rejoin them a few days later, they have fallen back the hundred feet they've gained. Civilians in uniform, they're taking pot shots at nothing in particular. Goading their enemy with revolutionary song, even offering them a number to call if they wanted to defect. But they can't advance again.

It's not just the regime's bomber jets that hold them back. Up on the roof we see how snipers, deadly accurate here, can freeze the front line.

(On camera): In this historic part of the city, the rebels are trying to inch forward but so often pushed back by government forces. In this case held back by a government sniper positioned in the buildings opposite us.

(Voice-over): Even from the rebel sniper positions, the regime is close but well dug in. Up over here was a conscript years ago but it's now an electrician. A sniper is shooting at them and he moves across the road to take aim. But his discipline and marksmanship is the exception. He thinks he got him. It's the older men here who are in charge. Hakim, a local commander, briefly visits and tells me his brigade has given up on outside help from the West.

This is out final word, he says. We don't want any help from anybody. We're no longer waiting and we have the means to topple the regime.

He outlines a plan to the men. Shortly afterwards this bus appears. One rebel tells us they plan to fill it with explosives then tie a prisoner's hands to the wheel and force him to die driving the bus bomb at the regime, but even though we saw the brigade take prisoners earlier, that doesn't happen here and the bus leaves.

A garbage truck arrives instead which they plan to place down the street as cover for their gunmen. Preparations for an operation. Hand-made grenades, homemade bombs, highly volatile canisters full of fertilizer explosive.

But the men still lack focus. Shooting in the dark. Later that night we leave but they drive the truck down the street. At dawn, it's in place in their old position.

(On camera): Overnight they've tried to gain the advantage by moving that dumper truck about 100 feet down the street past their last position. But still these men who've been unable to advance over this incredibly small amount of terrain.

(Voice-over): The regime fires grenades, setting it alight. The rebels decide to fight back. This is an anti-aircraft gun. They seem to prefer noise to accuracy. They run forwards to fire rocket- propelled grenades. That's too much smoke to know what they hit. More a game here than a fight to the death. But this is a city of millions torn apart by every pitched battle every hundred feet.


LEMON: Goodness. My question after watching that, is that -- obviously we see it happen. Is that an accurate portrayal, though, of daily life in Syria? I mean, is it like that all the time?

WALSH: Certainly that's, you know, the condensed parts of a battle we saw happening over almost weeks in some ways for a particular street. But it does capture, I think, the major problem people face with the Syrian rebels in the group you saw there in many ways, ragtag, very undisciplined, some as young as 16, totally unaware of what they are doing.

And they are the guys really who either are being marginalized by the extremists and the radicals, many of whom got a lot of experience fighting the Americans in Iraq across the border, now have flooded into Syria to continue what they see as their -- a global jihad for kind of the Islamic state they want to create, all dead or simply just joined the Islamists themselves.

LEMON: Can we talk about al Qaeda here? Because a number of people have been saying, obviously, al Qaeda gaining ground in Syria. If -- if Bashar al-Assad is removed from power, will that give al Qaeda an opportunity, a bigger opportunity to come in and gain even more of a foot hold?

WALSH: Very few people, I think, right now doubt that the most efficient and organized and effective military force in the rebel ranks are the Islamists. Now depends how you define that, there is the very hardcore al Qaeda types, there are the slightly more moderate Islamists. But broadly they don't represent an ideology which we're going to wake up and go, fantastic, they're in charge of Damascus now.

Would they move in overnight, it would be more complicated than that. And it's unlikely that you hear a popping noise suddenly in the Bashar al-Assad regime and all those million plus people he's protecting from the Shia sect in Syria who are at war with the Sunnis on the rebel side that they would suddenly disappear and flee overnight.

So it's a lengthy process but the dangers is many have said if you hit too hard, you open a window for the wrong type of rebel perhaps to seize ground.

LEMON: All right. Don't go anywhere. Much more to come with Nick Paton Walsh.

Death, of course, is a part of war, but it is tough to witness especially when the victims are children. Nick will talk more about his experience in Syria in just a moment.


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LEMON: The human toll from the war in Syria is horrific. The latest figures put the number of people killed at more than 100,000, although no one knows for sure.

And joining me now again is our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

So, Nick, you saw people, you saw children get caught in the crossfire.

WALSH: Yes, I mean, one of the most terrifying things about this war is that the most affected are children. And there are a million child refugees out of the two plus million people displaced. Half of them are children.

And then of the 100,000 you mentioned there are 6,000 estimated who are children, which in a war is remarkable because the combatants, the people die on the front line, are normally adults. But here's the story of one 4-year-old girl whose last moments really we caught in Aleppo a year ago.


WALSH (voice-over): On Aleppo's streets, a truck races through traffic. We follow them because we've seen a man leap inside carrying a limp little girl in his arms, but perhaps because our car is new he now rushes towards us for help. Rena is 4.

"Go to the hospital," he says. "Guys, she's choking." She was on the balcony at home when a bullet struck from nowhere, he explains. She is struggling to breathe. A bullet has hit her cheek.


WALSH: At the hospital, the doctors move to clear her airway. They think she'll live, but this underequipped rebel hospital can't treat her fully. So they make a tough decision to send her across the front lines to a better-equipped government hospital where we can't go.

This is where the bullet entered her home. Across the street is a cemetery and tall buildings all inside rebel territory, but snipers work everywhere. This war has left no one safe. The grandmother saw it all.

"She was in her mother's lap when it entered here. We saw blood, she grimaced, screamed for mother, and then went silent," she says.

(On camera): Given the trajectory of the bullet, it's likely it was fired from the other side of the cemetery from one of those tall buildings over there. It's unlikely the gunman would have seen his target. But it is an example of what many say here is the horror visited upon normal civilians every day.

(Voice-over): The children know what happened. They find a knocked- out tooth, but not the bullet that hit Rena. They go to visit her believing the worst is behind them. It is hard to understand why a sniper would fire into a residential home unless to terrify civilians in rebel areas.

Yet the next morning we learned she was taken to two government hospitals. None of the doctors were able to remove the bullet, relatives tell us, which was stuck in her throat. Rena died.

Her body brought home and buried in the cemetery that sat between where the gunman probably fired from and her home.


LEMON: Goodness. More from Nick right after this.


LEMON: So joining me again is our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. We saw the little 4-year-old girl die, shot in the face. Right? What -- how do civilians -- what do civilians want to happen? And do they have any sort of recourse in all of this? Are they just sort of hostage to the fighting all around them?

WALSH: Well, the area we were in where you saw that piece is now most likely, I would have to go back there myself to check, were most likely caught between Islamists and what little there is left of the kind of moderate rebels and in the regime now scrapping it out much more brutally the part of Aleppo.

Some people have stayed, but the reason why there's this huge refugee problem across the region is people are fleeing in huge numbers. And there really -- I mean, you saw, obviously, they are literally caught in the cross fire, they're caught in the cross fire, more metaphorically as well, because the big impact across the whole region with these millions of people, they've had to uproot and go somewhere else.

LEMON: Do you think that Assad is just biding his time now, especially in sort of stockpiling weapons, especially since, you know, we have said it's going to be at least 10 days before there's any decision? Is that a possibility?

WALSH: It's already overstretched. I mean, they're really -- you -- depending on who you believe they're sort of stretched to almost breaking points in some areas. They've had to start using Shia men. That's from the sect that lower to the regime in Syrian society. Had to train them up, often with help from outside nations to get them ready as a defense force to defend the key areas because the military is stretched thin. They brought in Hezbollah from Lebanon to back them up, too. So they're not in good condition at all.


WALSH: So it's important before this not to blow up the Syrian regime as some enormously terrifying force we have to be wary of.

LEMON: Yes. But I probably phrased that wrong. Do you think that they are moving any stockpiles of maybe chemical weapons or before the U.S. troops get there? They're using this time to do that, possibly?

WALSH: It's possible they're moving things around that with the normal precaution you'd expect. But I know for a fact that U.S. officials are being very careful in monitoring key points of that country for a very long time. So at this moment they'll be looking to see what's been important to them and where they've moved it to.

Bear in mind, the Israelis have been doing two, possibly three bombing raids with pretty much impunity on what seems to be reasonable accurate targets for the last six months.

LEMON: Yes. It's surprising to -- we have to run. But it's surprising to many that there hasn't been, not just to U.S. but just a united coalition that haven't gone in to Syria already with all the evidence that we have.

WALSH: Nobody wants it. It's right next door to Iraq. Brings back old memories and frankly there is no solid opposition to unite behind right now.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Nick.

We'll be right back.


LEMON: We're going to have much more on our continuing coverage in Syria. But first a quick look at some other headlines of the day.

Ex-Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has been ordered to stand trial for inciting murder. The charges stem from deadly clashes near the presidential palace last year. Morsi was elected president June of 2012. He was ousted by the military and has been held in detention since early July.

And this sad news to report to you. Famed British broadcaster David Frost has died. The BBC published a statement that Frost died of a heart attack aboard the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth. Frost was a fixture on American and British television but he was perhaps best known for his revealing interviews with President Richard Nixon. David Frost was 74 years old.

Nelson Mandela released from the hospital today after nearly three months of treatment. The 95-year-old Mandela remains in critical condition but doctors say he can get the same level of intensive care at his home. Mandela was hospitalized on June 8th with a lung infection. His history of lung and respiratory infections dates from his 27-year imprisonment for fighting against apartheid.

We are delving deeply into Syria and what happens next. That's in our next hour. We're going to talk about what the military is thinking about doing with the ships that are already off the coast of Syria right after this.