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Shocking Videos Emerge From Syria; Petraeus Endorses Syria Strike; Shocking Videos From Syria; Protests Against Syria Intervention; Will Lawmakers Side with Obama After Syria Videos Seen?

Aired September 7, 2013 - 17:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon here. Top of the hour. Join -- thank you for joining us here on CNN.

We have some breaking news that we want to tell you about. And I have to give you a warning. I'm going to read slowly here because if you have children in the room you'll probably want to get them out. And I just want to warn you. You're about to see some videos that were made in Syria. They are very graphic. They show people in pain and they are difficult to watch. These are some of the videos that U.S. senators were shown in classified briefing just a couple of days ago. It is the aftermath of what the U.S. intelligence community says was a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Adults and children suffering, convulsing, foaming at the mouth. Many people in the videos appear to be dead. Horrific to watch as you can hear people crying, screaming and wondering what on earth is happening to them. We'll have much more on these shocking videos in just a moment. And how they may change some minds around the world about Syria's civil war.

Also today, we've just learned that President Barack Obama will give a few interviews on Monday and he will sit down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Of course, you will see that right here on CNN Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. In the meantime, the President gets a boost from his fellow G-20 leaders and he's pushed for strong action against Syria. More than half of the G-20 members signed off on statement agreeing that someone must be held accountable for what looks more every day like a sarin gas attack. And today that European support grew when Germany joined that call for action. We have plenty to talk about for you this hour.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Beirut. Congressman Ted Deutch, Democrat from Florida, he is with me live. Also, Elise Labott is with the Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris. We'll going to get to you all of you in a minute. But first, I want to go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's in Washington.

Brian, you know, these videos from Syria, some key senators saw them the other day. Now the world is seeing them. How does this impact the argument for military action against the Assad government?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Don, believes that's going to impact this debate a great deal. You just mentioned the disclaimer, I'll repeat it for our viewers, this video is very difficult to watch. We have to warn viewers that some of them can be disturbing. Our Jake Tapper obtained these videos. They show men lying on a tile floor convulsing, children, men foaming at the mouth. Several victims having difficulty seeing. These are images that the Obama administration has shown a select group of senators in closed door briefings to make the case to strike Syria militarily.

CNN has obtained 13 videos. The administration has told the Senate Intelligence Committee that these are victims of the August 21st chemical weapons attack near Damascus. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has seen the videos and once all the members of the Senate and House to watch them. Based on her attended to close door briefings, Feinstein has decided to vote in favor of the measure to intervene militarily in Syria defying the wishes of many of her constituents. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of these videos. But officials have a number of reasons as to why they believe they are authentic.

First, the videos were shot from multiple angles providing overlap not just what could be seen but what can be heard, according to administration officials. It is important to note that these videos do not prove in anyway who conducted these weapon attacks. Those assertions by the U.S. government come from other information and analysis, Don. And there are various ways that they can test these victims for traces of sarin gas. Experts have been telling us that the videos and what you see, the reaction of the victims are very consistent with a sarin gas attack.

LEMON: Yes. And you know Brian, we do this for a living but I have to admit to you that this is very disturbing to watch seeing people that writhing in pain on the floor...

TODD: Absolutely.

LEMON: ...and as we said, many of them dead. Brian Todd, stand by, I want to get to Nic Robertson now who is in Beirut.

Nic, you know, what's the value of seeing these videos? Obviously, people are having, you know, very visceral reactions to seeing this. But you think it's going to change the minds of people who are skeptical about sarin gas attacks in Syria? Meaning, people from the international community.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, it's very hard when you look at these videos not have a visceral, emotional reaction to them that would turn you against whoever perpetrated these criminal acts. So, I think it is sure to have an act, it is sure to galvanize and focus people and politicians thinking. We know that many of these videos have been on the internet already but by virtue of editing them down so that we can see very clearly examining the eyes, the pupils of the eyes of some of the victims there, you can see that those people are contracted, consistent with being exposed to a nerve agent.

To cut that together with the people vomiting with the young boy convulsing, it's emotional but it shows very graphically that this is a nerve agent that's being used here. So, this is going to be inescapable for politicians now. If they haven't watched it on YouTube by themselves, not to have it cut down and have put in front of them, it's going to be persuasive but it seems that already, many politicians in Europe already accept that this is a heinous act and something must be done but they want that further evidence, is it linked to Bashar al-Assad. They want to hear more from the U.N. inspectors. So, it's difficult to see how despite the impact it will have, how this is going to advance building a broader coalition for strikes in the short term -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Nic, stand by as well. Elise Labott traveling with the Secretary of State. I want to go to her now. Listen, Elise, support for the President's call for action is growing in Europe with Germany's endorsement today. What is the Secretary of State doing to grow that support, to build upon that support?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Don. And Secretary Kerry had a little bit more luck than the President did to G-20 because they had all 27 foreign ministers signing onto statement calling for clear and strong action from the international community blaming the Assad regime squarely for this attack and calling it a crime against humanity. But still Don, as Nic said, these countries are still looking for that U.N. inspector's report. They're saying that any action should wait for U.N. inspector's report following a call by French President Hollande yesterday to wait for that report.

And this isn't kind of horse trading that's going on in European capitals right now. We have our politics in Washington. European capitals, they are looking from their publics, for U.N. support, U.N. backing. And so, they are making a deal right now. French wants more support. More international and European cover. These countries are saying to the French, if you want our backing, you need to wait for the U.N. So, certainly, that's not something President Obama wants to do but if he does not want to go it alone, if he wants his European allies with him, he is going to have to wait for that U.N. report. And so right now Secretary Kerry seems to be amassing a growing group of countries that are willing to support if the U.S. is willing to take its time -- Don.

LEMON: OK. Thank you very much, Elise. I want you to stand by as well. I want to bring in CNN's senior international correspondent here Nick Paton Walsh. He's joining me here in the set. You've been joining to talk about these since it all started. We heard about the president considering military action in Syria. As you look at these videos, many of them have been on the internet. We've talked a little bit about it. They have condensed them and put them all in one form for these committee members to be able to see. But I noticed as well there's a logo that's burned and printed on that video. Where is this come from? Where is this video coming from?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those logos normally signify the activist groups that have done the filming. And we know, after the last few years, these videos have been pouring out increasingly high quality of all the different atrocities or acts of violence that have happened inside Syria. So, when you see that, what it means it that this originally came from activists, it was filmed by people on the ground, and then passed out normally by YouTube and then picked up by the U.S. government who in this case, seemed to have verified it. That's the process they've been doing for the last two years. You have to try and talk to people over there, try and recognize things in the background and build up an idea of verification. But it's all part of the intelligent picture now the U.S. government has to sell to Congress -- Don.

LEMON: Let's talk about waiting for the U.N. report, the inspector's report here after seeing this video.

WALSH: Well, I mean, I think it's increasingly evident now that this U.N. inspectors is going to place hugely in the decision making in America but also internationally too. We have EU saying that they want to wait until they've heard from U.N. inspectors. And Barack Obama pretty much the first time significantly mentioned that report when he was talking yesterday saying how these results could potentially impact upon the decision that Russia has taken. So, we're not quite sure when we will going to hear from this. We do know that they are doing more testing now. And they previously said, they're doing parallel testing in full set -- because they want to be sure that whatever results they have are pretty unassailable.

LEMON: I've got a lot of questions for you. Because this is a region that you cover very insensibly. So, standby Nick Paton Walsh. I want to bring in the congressman now.

Congressman Ted Deutch, you know, you're a Democrat, you're on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, you support President Obama's push for military action as I understand against Syria, against the Syrian leadership. Now that the videos like these are going public and you've seen them. Do you expect some undecideds to change their stance on this?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: I do, Don. And there have been a few things that people have needed to be made clear. People wanted to understand that there is sufficient intelligence that show that Assad did this. That's clear. These videos show just how gruesome this is. How vile this is. The question now is, is the Assad regime going to be held accountable for gassing his own people? Is that something that the world is prepared to do not just the United States and that's the last piece? Is there international support? And as you reported just a minute ago, there is growing international support for the United States to take action with the support of his allies to hold him accountable for gassing his own people and to make sure that the use of chemical weapons isn't tolerated which is been the world's position for 90 years.

LEMON: Do you think it's going to change some minds in Congress. Before that, before you answer that, as you look at this video, are you surprised, obviously, it's horrific you know, as to what happened, but you already support the president. So, this is something I would imagine people like you who support the President already thought what they would see on video, already thought was happening. DEUTCH: Well, there's been video that's been available now for some time since this awful act committed by Assad. This is more it's particularly gruesome. It shows how really reprehensible this action was, how vile it was. You know, there is not just a strategic interest for the United States to act. There is a moral interest. This is a human rights issue. And for a lot of people who are struggling with this, I think when they see this, their instinct will tell them that when the world has taken a position for almost a century and we have the opportunity to take action to prevent this from going further, that while it's difficult, I don't like having to be in this position, it's a vote people will decide to support.

LEMON: It is awful. As you were speaking there, there was a little boy who was convulsing. I mean, it's terrible to see. Do you think that it's going to change minds in Congress? That was the second part of my question.

DEUTCH: Yes, well, I do. It's not just the videos. The videos are terrible. And it's really hard to watch. And I think every member of Congress owes it to himself or herself to watch as much of it as they can. I think the American people need to look at this as well. This isn't just a local issue. You know, when the G-20, when the countries came out -- more than half of them came out in support of the United States making sure that Assad is held accountable, they said that the use of chemical weapons anywhere risked the security of people everywhere. It's true. It's a message to Assad. It's a message to North Korea. It's a message to Iran.

There are a lot of people watching to see what we do. If we're willing to stand up for, what we care about our moral stand-up for human rights, and to take the kind of limited approach, the limited response that the President is talking about to push back and to degrade Assad's ability to use these weapons and to deter him from using them again.

LEMON: Very quickly. Are you going to try to win some people over to your side and the President's side? Some of your colleagues?

DEUTCH: Look, I know what a lot of my colleagues are hearing from their constituents. I've got plenty of my constituents who are rightly concerned. They don't want to go to war. They don't want to send troops in. They were mislead about Iraq. The evidence here is so clear. This is so different. And there is an opportunity as I said for us to stand up for our American values. This is a human rights issue. And I think ultimately when people see that we can respond in a limited way with the support of our allies, you'll see growing support for the president.

LEMON: Congressman, thank you very much. I appreciate your time here.

DEUTCH: Thank you.

LEMON: I want to get back now to our Nick Paton Walsh here who covers the region. So Nick, he spoke about the evidence here. And we have been saying of course as the news organization, until the U.N. inspectors, until the reports come out, we can't say for sure until they tell us. So, we're saying this doesn't show who did it. If it was Assad, if it was rebels or what have you? What does this video show? Would the rebels have access to this kind of gas or would it only be the Assad government?

WALSH: It's important. This video does not give you an indication who did what. The action itself, it shows you symptoms to suggest chemical weapons to provide you the proof of that. So, that's what we're looking to you and inspected to do. People also saying to me now, that their report will just say, were there gasses and what gasses were, they gave a narrative. So, how did they get there? What delivered them? Where it could have even perhaps it would have been five -- and more of an indications is to where we are going. But the choice I think really people are trying to make in their heads, is it the Assad regime who have chemical weapon stockpiles, who have been accused of doing it before? Or is there a more complex explanation that involves somehow rebels, some -- al-Qaeda, getting their hands on these weapons. And then the U.S. actually not focusing on that which is a much bigger problem.

LEMON: More to come. Nick is going to be with us throughout the hour here on CNN as well as our other correspondents as well around the world. The effect of sarin gas gruesome and sometimes deadly. Next, our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me live from Beirut. Breaking down the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack.

And along with these videos, today we also have a statement from retired General David Petraeus. Barbara Starr has the details on that and the possible impact of his words coming up. Make sure you stay with us.


LEMON: Again, a warning for you. The images are graphic and extremely hard to watch. Could they be the evidence that will make the case for a military attack on Syria? CNN has obtained 13 videos that the administration has told the CNN intelligence committee, depict the gruesome scene of a chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21st.

Let's head out now and check in with our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's in Beirut, Lebanon. You know, doctor, the video show, horrific, these people flailing on the floor, shaking, convulsing, foaming at the mouth. Really. Some of them dead. Apparently the victims are sarin gassed. Talk to us about the effects on what these people are experiencing in this video, doctor.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's tough to watch Don, no question. I think the best way to sort of characterize this sarin gas which is a type of pesticide, type of something known as an organophosphate. It's toxic to the nervous system. And what it does is sort of turns on everything in your body, Don. I think that's the best way to describe it. It turns on things that are going on in your lungs so you start making lots of secretions. Explains the frothing that you're describing, Don. But also turns on all the muscles in your body without allowing them to relax. That causes some of the convulsions. Ultimately that same sort of thing is happening to the diaphragm. The big muscle, it allows you to breath that essentially goes into a convulsive state. It does not allow one to breathe. And that can as you point out Don, lead the death. It's gruesome toxic stuff Don, in just small amount of it, even on your skin, not even necessarily inhaling it, it can cause some of these problems. And so, it is as you mentioned very tough to watch this video. This is odorless, colorless stuff, Don. And you don't even know that you've been exposed sometimes until you start to develop these symptoms.

LEMON: Here's the question. Listen, I know you're not a chemical weapons expert, so pardon me if I'm asking you something that's outside your belly weight (ph), but just as you were answering that last question I have for you, I mean, how easy or tough is it for someone to get this or even make this type of chemical weapon.

GUPTA: It's a type of pesticide. I don't know how difficult that is actually make this. I don't think that's challenging. Obviously, we've been trying to do this. But this was actually considered a pesticide along with other pesticides but it was just so much more potent than this other thing. So, even pesticide as we've talked about, before Don, you and I working very much the same manner on insects, on pests. This is essentially doing that to the human body again ramping up everything in the nervous system. Essentially what it's doing, it's blocking a certain chemical from doing its job in the body. And that's what causing the problems. I don't think that that's hard a compound to synthesize if that's what you're asking -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. Dr. Gupta. Thank you. You've been doing some great reporting there. Dr. Gupta in Beirut. He'll be there throughout this coverage. We appreciate your reporting. And to find out how you can help the more than two million Syrian refugees, visit our Impact Your World page,

The former CIA Director and retired army General David Petraeus put out a statement on Syria today. What he had to say, next.


LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. This is our continuing coverage of the crisis in Syria. And again, we want to warn you some of the video you'll going to be seeing throughout this broadcast, it's going to be very graphic and very disturbing to watch. In one of the nation's most respected former military leaders is joining the debate over a potential use U.S. strike against Syria.

Retired General David Petraeus has just issued a very strong statement saying, our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has a copy of it. Barbara, tell us what he had to say in that statement.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Don. General Petraeus issuing a statement saying quote, "I strongly support Congressional approval of President Obama's request for authority to undertake military action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al- Assad. Such action is necessary in order to deter future use of chemical weapons in Syria and to degrade the regime's overall military capabilities. Failure of Congress to approve the President's request would have serious ramifications not just in the Mideast but around the world."

So, Petraeus Don is making the international case in part. He goes on, he talks about Iran and North Korea that they have to be deterred from thinking that it's OK to use chemical weapons. I think some of his most interesting language was degrade the regime's overall military capabilities. That may be half a step beyond what we've heard so far. Because most of the language is really centered around trying to deter Assad from using his chemical warfare capabilities.

Overall military capabilities gets into a lot more. So, we'll see. And one critical thing, we don't know is did the White House solicit Petraeus to issue this statement. We're trying to find that out. We haven't been able to yet. It's always possible, we don't know that he have asked to lend his support to help change some of those minds in Congress -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Glad you say that. Barbara, I want to get to this quickly. You know, Senator John McCain already tweeted out the Petraeus statement calling him the most respected military leader of our time. How much influence does Petraeus carry with members of Congress?

STARR: Well, he does, you know? I mean, we've seen for years through all of his tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, while he was CIA director and perhaps most relevant to this case, while he was head of the U.S. Central Command which overseas operations throughout the Middle East. Every time he went to the hill. Every opportunity you saw. So many senators and congressmen line up to voice their respect for him and for his military advice.

As the head of the U.S. Central Command, he would have known a great deal about Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and at that time, the intelligence about what Iran might do in the region. He does have a very deep and broad understanding of that not only from his military years but while he served as CIA director. So, he's someone the people will pay attention to. Whether he politically has enough clout to change minds along with that military advice, we'll have to see.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much for that Barbara Starr. I want to bring back our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh is here with me. Also here with me in New York, Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and from Washington, a CNN military analyst Lieutenant Rick Francona, and a former U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Syria Stephen Seche joins us as well.

Colonel Francona, I want to get to you first. You know, these are interesting comments from General David Petraeus to degrade the regimes overall military capabilities. What is he saying here?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, he wants to go beyond the deterrence, things that we need to degrade the military capabilities and level the playing field, give the opposition a chance. This goes beyond what the President has said, he wants to do. But you can do both at the same time, you know, by taking out his ability to deliver chemical weapons, you're also taking out his ability to deliver other weapons. These are not specific systems that he uses to deliver the chemical weapons, there are rocket launchers artillery basis and even aircrafts. So, by doing one, you automatically do the other.

LEMON: Having knowledge, lots of knowledge about Syria. Stephen Seche talk to us about the videos that we have seen today and also David Petraeus' response to that and to the President. What do you think the likelihood if there will be some military action given what you have heard?

STEPHEN SECHE, FORMER U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, SYRIA: Well, I think Don, given the images we have seen today and the general sense of horror that has surrounded this incident of the chemical weapons attack on August 21. I think it's actually essential that the United States assumes its leadership role in the world at this time. May I appreciate it, I do believe the world is watching. This is a moment, a water shed moment when the United States has to step in in a very determined way to take the actions that the international community really has deemed necessary collectively to say once and for all to Bashar Assad and those who would use weapons like this, we have no tolerance for this. We will not allow this and we're going to go on the record now and we're going to do what we can to make sure that you cannot make these attacks, conduct these attacks ever again in the future. And the message will be heard. And I do believe it can be done in a way that will not have to necessarily lead to an expansion of the conflict in a deeper role for the United States and Syria at this time.

LEMON: Fouad Ajami, do you agree with that?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, STANDFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTE: Well, I mean, to go back to David Petraeus, I have observed General Petraeus for many, many years. From the time, he was a major general and -- in Iraq right next to Syria. If anyone knows Syria very well it's actually David Petraeus. And what's interesting about David Petraeus, in 2012, when he was CIA director, he and the secretary of state and the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chief staff all urged arming the city in rebellion. They all warned that if we don't in fact arm the city of rebellion, we will get to this point that we're now at. So in a way, he brings a whole personal heft of knowledge of the strategic landscape in the region. And I think as far as the larger question are we close to intervention, are we not, that's a different question.

LEMON: That's a different question. Nick Paton Walsh, as we start to get the U.N. inspector's reports. What information does that give us? Because it's obvious from the video that there has been some type of chemical weapons attack. Will we get more specifics about where those chemicals came from? Do people keep records? Are there records of what company has access to what and what kinds of weapons and will that evidence be shown from the report and the report? WALSH: The reason why the U.N. is taking so long and so thorough on these tests is they want to come up with a conclusive chemical that was used. They also say they'll present a narrative, how it was delivered, where it came from. It could frame the particular party for doing it. The job isn't to point the finger at this.

Going back to General Petraeus here, obviously what he's saying carries a huge amount of weight with those members in the military who aren't sure if this is a good idea. There are a lot of people in Congress that are on the other side of the fence that are the ones aren't keen on war, and hearing from a man with a huge amount of Afghanistan and Iraq experience simply reminds many people about the war's past rather necessary, giving credence for further military intervention.

LEMON: The folks in Congress who want to hear from the people at home and the people at home have war fatigue.

Stand by. We'll get back to our massive panel, continues after this. The discussion continues right after the break here on CNN.


LEMON: Again, what you're going to see on CNN -- and we're showing them less as possible. If we're talking about them specifically, we'll show them but we just don't want them to be up all the time because they're so disturbing.

And will those videos in question showing the apparent victims of the chemical weapons attack move the needle on Syria public opinion, members of Congress, members of the international community? As he presses his case on Syria with Congress and the American public -- we're talking about the president -- the White House says President Obama will do interviews Monday with television networks, including CNN's Wolf Blitzer. You can see that Monday at 6:00 p.m. eastern time on "The Situation Room." He'll also be speaking to the nation on Tuesday.

I'm joined again by senior international correspondent, Nick Paton- Walsh; Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stamford University's Hoover Institution; and CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona; and former U.S. charge d'affaires in Syria, Stephen Seche.

You were making the point, as we were talking about this, the president -- we were talking about what specifically they might find. The president now has his work cut out for him making the case for Syria. We're trying to figure out what the question is, will these videos help? But this is campaign now from the White House. This is all part of that campaign.

FOUAD AJAMI, SENOR FELLOW, STAMFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: One thing that would have been a good thing for the president to do, which is call Congress to session, because if you leave the Congressmen and women in their districts -- so this is tactics now. If you leave them a weak in their district, their talking to their constituents. LEMON: Who don't want the war.

AJAMI: Exactly. In fact, if you really would go persuade the Congress, it would have been important to dramatize the urgency of this. Bring them back to Washington, remove them from home districts and home opinion, and really work them. I think it was a very big mistake.

LEMON: You do?


LEMON: What's interesting to me, Lieutenant Colonel, is that the president went to the G-20 summit and left with the same four nations who were for it -- France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Canada. They did sign that agreement saying that some sort of action -- or they would not stand for it and they strongly disagreed with what was happening over there. But he didn't get much support at the G-20.

RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: He's not going to get any support. It looks like everybody will abdicate leadership and the actual conduct of any operation to us. We may see a French vessel out there but if it's the frigate that they sent, it really has no offensive capabilities. So this is going be another American show.

And I think it's important that we get some allies involved in this. It would be nice to see some of the Arab states and maybe an Arab League contingent or something. Otherwise, this is portrayed in the Arab press as yet another instance of American aggression, American imperialism. It would be helpful to have some Arab participation here.

LEMON: I want to get to something, Nick Paton-Walsh. It was a statement from Susan Rice that you just sent out. Tell us about the statement from the White House. Tell us about that, Nick.

PATON-WALSH: At one point, it would be interesting to make about the campaign, the White House moving on at the moment is that clearly so far the debate has been very much about American public opinion. How does America feel about the role in the world? These video, releasing them is about trying to remind Congress and everybody else about America's place in the world in defending these defenseless people and trying to switch the argument back to what is happening in Syria rather than what's been happening inside the American homeland. For the past decade, 12 years of seemingly unending conflict.

LEMON: OK, so this is, again, this is just happening. We're getting it in. This is a statement from NSC spokesman, Katyln Hadden (ph), our national security advisor -- "Rice is meeting with Russian presidential foreign policy advisor, Ushakov, in a candid and cordial first meeting held on the margins of the G-20 summit. The St. Petersburg national security advisor, Rice, and presidential foreign policy advisor, Ushakov reviewed the state of U.S.-Russian relations and discussed areas of further cooperation."

So this is just a discussion on Syria as well. So this is just moving onto what the president and Putin having their sideline discussion about this. Now members of the administration are having talks as well.

Can they get the Russians on board with this?

PATON-WALSH: It's incredibly difficult to see how Putin, who was days ago calling the U.S. secretary of state a liar, openly -- how you can move from that to suddenly turning against your one key ally in the Middle East, which is Syria on this particular point. There's a lot on the U.S.-Russian plate right now. There's the Snowden affair. Don't forget that. This meeting could simply be about reopening channels that have been frozen for the past week or so.

But you've got to bear in mind, six months ago, there was a lot of talk in capitals about how the Russians were perhaps changing their mind on Assad, the Syrian leader. They were talking a little bit about how he wasn't the right man to be leading the country. That suddenly vanished afterwards. But you've got to bear in mind Moscow, very pragmatic. If they see the tide is changing, they can easily drop people.

LEMON: Stephen Seche, this is right up your bailiwick. I'm going to talk to you a little bit more about that after the break.

Please stay with us if you want to hear more. We want to hear from you as well. If you want to send a question @donlemonCNN, we'll try to get it on the air.

And next, we're going to talk about making your voices heard. Taking it to the streets here in the U.S. to spread the word against U.S. air strikes in Syria.





LEMON: More now on our coverage about Syria. Protesters gathered in Washington today to oppose military intervention in Syria.




LEMON: Using the White House as a backdrop for their rally, then they marched to the U.S. capitol, holding signs with slogans such as "No war on Syria" and "Hands off Syria."

The White House still has plenty of work to do if it wants Americans to support a strike on Syria.

Syrian-Americans joined a protest today in New York and added their voices to the demand that the president call this off.

Here's CNN's Rosa Flores.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dozens of protesters are here in New York City and in cities across the country. Some of these folks are Syrian-American. In their mind are their families still in Syria.


FLORES: The unrest in Syria is thousands of miles away but the fear of war is felt right here in the U.S. by Syrian-Americans.

By Syrian-Americans, like Dr. Ghia Moussa. He Skypes with his family in Syria every day.

DR. GHIA MOUSSA, SYRIAN-AMERICAN AGAINST WAR: She's a physician in hospital in Damascus.

FLORES: And says American military action in Syria is personal.

MOUSSA: I feel tht every second of my day. When I sleep I'm closing my eyes and saying, how much am I going to lose. It's not politics. It's human beings and lives on the line.

FLORES: That's why he and thousands of Americans are demonstrating across the country. They Skype to organize.

MOUSSA: There's a lot of efforts that's being put into it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Anything for Syria.

FLORES: Dr. Moussa is on the board of the Syrian-American Forum, a group 2,000 strong. When President Obama started talking involvement in Syria, they started speaking against it.

MOUSSA: We're not there to pose any trouble. We're just going to say firmly and peacefully what's our position and where are we going.

FLORES: Their biggest national event is a march on Washington. They're bussing thousands of Syrian-American families from states as far as Florida and Michigan.

MOUSSA: At night, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 7:30, 8:00 at night. I'm guessing, I don't know, by car, it's an eight-hour drive.

FLORES: Other groups are joining in, too, like the International Action Center. They're making signs to gear up.

JOYCE CHEDIAC, INTERNATIONAL ACTION CENTER: When I hold up a sign -- "The greatest purveyor of violence today is my government. Hands off Syria," -- I think I'll be reflecting the popular will of this country. FLORES: They say thousands of groups around the country are uniting with one common message: Hands off Syria.

(on camera): The Syrian-American Forum is working on their biggest national event yet. That's scheduled for Monday in Washington, D.C.

Rosa Flores, CNN, New York.


LEMON: Rosa, thank you very much.

And what does this new graphic video mean to a potential strike by the U.S. and others in Syria? We'll discuss that right after the break.






LEMON: That's the announcement of Buenos Aires and the reaction in Japan as well. About an hour ago, the International Olympic Committee, the president announced tht Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics Games. The city overcame competing bids by runner-up Istanbul and third-place finisher, Madrid.


YASH GUPTA, CNN HERO: I was only five years old when I got my first pair. When I was a freshman I broke my glasses and I couldn't see anything. I realized how much they meant. Without them, I couldn't do anything normal.

I learned there are millions of students around the world who need glasses but can't afford them. I had this problem for one week. These kids had these problems for their whole lives.

My name is Yash Gupta, and I'm trying to help students see better.


GUPTA: There are millions of glasses discarded annually.

When I was 14, I started reaching out to local optometrists and putting collection boxes in their offices. When a patient came to get a new pair of glasses, they could drop off the old pair. We work with other organizations and they distribute the glasses.

The other way is by going on clinic trips.

Here are some glasses.

We'll be distributing these to some kids in orphanages.

It's personal interaction. That's what I love to see the people we're helping.


GUPTA: Watching someone get glasses for the first time, it's really inspiring.

Today, we have collected and distributed over $425,000 worth of eyeglasses, which is equivalent to 8500 pairs.


GUPTA: I'm 17 years old, and although many people believe kids can't make a difference, I have. I think anyone can do that. It's about being motivated and going out there and just doing it.



LEMON: And before today, Americans seemed deeply skeptical about a strike on Syria. Now that we have seen just how gruesome that chemical weapons was -- that attack was, will the White House see lawmakers' side with the president, or is this grim video still too little too late?

I'm joined again by senior international correspondent, Nick Paton- Walsh; Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stamford University's Hoover Institution; CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Rick Francona; and former U.S. charge d'affaires in Syria, Stephen Seche.

Stephen Seche, I want to talk to you about this.

The president making the case towards a military strike in Syria and whether or not this video is going to help or hurt. Will Americans be moved by this? Will Congress be moved by this? Will the international community be moved by this? And are the people in Syria -- the Syrian government, does this affect their approach at all?

STEPHEN SECHE, FORMER U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES IN SYRIA: Well, I hope that we'll be able to get the international media to put this on the air as much as possible. I'm thinking specifically of the Arab media, al Jazeera and the al Alabiya, the Saudi and the Qatari networks. I hope they can see this coverage wall to wall, and I hope that that will jar them and their conscience as much as our own into demanding their government step up and be heard.

And I think Colonel Francona is right. We do not want to go into this without some very robust Arab support. No matter how high-minded our principles may be, they're often lost in translation in the Arab world. And we need a very good coalition, a good prominent of nations, Arab nations, European nations and others that can speak with a collective voice and be heard and demand that this action be taken in a way that will give the United States the leadership role, we can assume in this kind of an action, and do what is necessary.

LEMON: Yeah.

Mr. Seche, listen, what if the Congress comes back and says no after the president has made his appeal to the American public on Tuesday. He speaks to news anchors, gone to the G-20, and Kerry is at the E.U. now. What if there's still a no? He can decide to go it alone but he's a man on an island.

SECHE: The president can. I do think that's one reason why the president went to Congress a week ago, or made a decision to that a week ago. He felt as though he was a man alone on an island. He didn't have support at the U.N., and couldn't expect it. The U.K. had basically disappeared. The Congress wasn't behind him. I think he felt the need at that point to try to strengthen his hand and, in doing so, he went to the Congress to try to make sure that we, as a nation, could be seen as speaking with some sense of consensus on this. Whether Congress will join him or not remains to be seen. He's got to make his case, and will do so Tuesday night when he speaks to the nation and will continue to lobby hard for congressional support.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. We appreciate that.

We'll have much, much more.