Return to Transcripts main page


Abuses on Both Sides of Syrian War; Vote on Syria Postponed; Car Bomber Hits Benghazi; Russia Reveals Syria Weapons Plan; David Kay Discusses Process of Weapons Inspections; Reaction to Obama's Address

Aired September 11, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

World powers right now intensifying their efforts to defuse the situation in Syria. Nothing set yet. Nothing decided. But the U.N. Security council members, the five permanent members might meet later today to try to work on that plan to take control of Syrian chemical weapons.

MALVEAUX: There are so many whoa re people skeptical that a diplomatic deal can even be reached. France is pushing a five-point solution, a resolution. Russia and Western nations are fighting over whether the U.N. should authorize military attacks on Syria if it violates a diplomatic agreement. And any resolution would need approval from the U.S., France, Britain, Russia, and China.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: They are, of course, the five permanent members of the Security Council. They have veto power when it comes to resolution. The P-5, as they're called. Well, a report just out from the United Nations says both sides in the Syrian war are guilty of grave crimes. Not the first time that allegation has been made. Crimes that include murder, torture, and hostage taking

MALVEAUX: And the report looks at nine massacres, eight believed to have been carried out by the government and one by the opposition. Our Nick Paton Walsh, he's joining us from the U.N. to talk about, what are some of the details that we've learned today, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, I mean these reports have been coming out periodically for the past year plus, and they do make for just horrifying reading, really emphasizing the violence that happens every single day on the ground in Syria in a conflict that kills 5,000 people on average a month.

Some things stand out, I think, from this. As you mentioned, eight of the nine mass killings seemingly committed by pro regime forces. One particular series of incidents near the western area of Banias (ph) in March the 2nd or 3rd where up to 400 people may have been killed. And I should warn you, distressing details, some, in fact, seemingly killed by large objects being dropped on their heads. I mean, but the sheer brutality of what seems to happen every day here really brought home. Much of the sexual violence in this report, mostly lodged accusations against the regime for doing that.

And some terrifying incidents too where it seems like rebels have, one instance, used a 13-year-old boy as a porter (ph) for Free Syrian Army soldiers operating near Dara (ph). He was seriously wounded. And a 15- year-old boy, this is more publicized instance (ph), accused of blasphemy by some Islamist radical rebels in the northern city of Aleppo and then executed for that. Really chilling details though, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Horrible stuff.

Nick, when it comes to the U.N., and you've been covering that side of things for us, and you look back at the last two years, there's been really nothing meaningful coming out of the Security Council when it comes to Syria because of the vetoes we mentioned earlier. Now you've got the U.S., Great Britain, France wanting there to be consequences if any resolution is not followed through. And Russia says that's not going to happen. Could we be in the same impotent position when it comes to Syria and getting some sort of resolution up?

WALSH: In some ways we're in a new situation here because it seems like the members of the permanent five have something they all seem to agree on, which is that Syria should hand over its chemical weapons to international control. That's pretty much what everyone is focused on.

What they're torn over is, should there be a stick somewhere in any resolution which threatens Syria if it doesn't move fast enough. The French first tabled a resolution that threatened serious consequences, then leaked to Reuters it seems a weakened down version threatening necessary measures, standard U.N. language here for the part of the U.N. charter they're using. The issue is, can John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov, when they meet tomorrow in Geneva, bridge these big gaps and try and get something that actually passes the Security Council and doesn't get a veto?


HOLMES: Nick, thanks so much. Nick Paton Walsh there at the U.N. for us.

MALVEAUX: And back to the diplomatic front. Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Switzerland tomorrow. As he mentioned before, meetings with Russia's foreign minister, they have talked nine times since that deadly gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. Well, now, they're digging down on Russia's proposal for Syria to hand over chemical weapons. Now, the rush for a diplomatic deal comes on the heels of President Obama's speech. He told the nation that he is willing to give peace a chance, but is not taking the threat of military force off the table.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed. And any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies. I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.


HOLMES: We actually expect to hear more from the White House a little later this hour. The daily briefing that will be held. Right now, though, we want to bring in our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, that vote on the president's request to authorize a military strike, obviously on hold. Probably a lot of people relieved about that. The open door that some had been looking for. What has been the reaction there from lawmakers to the next approach?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know the reaction is interesting. I think it's fair to say a lot of members aren't really sure what to say because there is such a holding pattern right now, which is - it's -- and the brakes are on, really, beyond the holding pattern. But what is also interesting is to talk to members about how they thought the president did with their sales job because the message was obviously to their members of their constituencies who are overwhelmingly opposed to this. And one of the things that I heard from some of the president's closest allies that they wish he said more of is talking about the regional interests, not just the moral imperative to deal with this, any dictator using chemical weapons, but also why it matters for national security interests in the region. And that's something that it seems that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, picked up on this morning. Listen to what he said.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: As the president said, we have to send an explicit message to not only Syria but the rest of the world. Remember, who has more chemical weapons than Syria? Only one country. North Korea. Think about that. If they get away with this, what's North Korea going to do?

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: The president is concerned about Syrians. Syrians being killed by Syria. I wish he was just as concerned about Americans being murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.


BASH: Now that second sound bite, obviously, was a Republican, more focused on the broader problem that they see happening with the Obama administration and also he was talking about the day that we have today, which is the anniversary of September 11th, not just about 12 years ago but last year in Benghazi.

But the idea that this was being rushed through has certainly changed. And what is happening now is members of the Senate and the House, in both parties, are just kind of quietly working on an alternate resolution that would take into account any diplomacy and -- but they say even that is kind of very much on the back burner as they watch what happens, particularly with this meeting tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dana Bash, a dramatic turn there on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Dana. Appreciate it.

We are also following this. A car bomb exploded this morning. This was in Benghazi, Libya. And important to remember, of course, on what day here when we talk about Benghazi. Nobody was killed in the attack, but it is the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the one-year assault on the U.S. consulate there that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevenson on September 11th of 2012.

HOLMES: Now, of course, since that day, bombings and shootings in Benghazi, indeed throughout much of eastern Libya and the rest of the country, have been pretty common. Arwa Damon is in Beirut, Lebanon, right now.

Arwa, you have spent an awful lot of time in Libya, and in particular Benghazi. On this the anniversary of the assault there, and, of course, remembering 9/11 at the World Trade Center site and the Pentagon, as well. You know, what is interesting and a little troubling, I suppose, is that you were able to find one of the people that authorities were looking for when it came to the Benghazi attack but nobody has been arrested.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it's been a year. And to some degree, a lot of critics of the Obama administration will say that this is completely inexcusable, especially given that the FBI has named a prime suspect, Ahmed Abu Khattala (ph), is, yes, the individual that we were able to meet with when we were in Benghazi back in May. This is a man who is not even bothering to try to hide. He does not feel as if anyone is going to be coming after him. He spoke to us quite openly for a few hours. He denies any sort of direct involvement in coordinating the attack, but does admit that he was on scene.

Of course, the big question raised in all of this is, if he is not in fact a suspect, if he was not in fact involved, at the very least he is a key witness, so why has no one reached out to him just yet. And herein lies the very inner dynamics that currently govern Libya, just how lawless it is, and also perhaps a certain reluctance on the part of the U.S. administration to try to pressure the Libyan government to bring him and others into custody, acknowledging and knowing full well that the Libyan government quite simply does not have those capabilities.

Benghazi today, in fact, is much worse than it was a year ago. You see al Qaeda graffiti all over the place. People so anxious that they won't even talk to you about the attack on the U.S. consulate. That's how sensitive it is at this stage, Michael.

MALVEAUX: Two years after the overthrow of Gadhafi. Thank you so much. We appreciate that, Arwa.

And 12 years ago, as you know, it was just -- we all remember it so vividly, so well.


MALVEAUX: It was late morning. New York, beautiful, beautiful sunny day and throughout turned instantly into a surreal mosaic really of horror, grief, as the world turned into a very different place.

HOLMES: It did indeed. Today, the U.S., of course, remembering and mourning 9/11 and honoring those who died. You're looking there at live pictures of a memorial event going on at Ground Zero. There are many going on today. Loved ones remembering those who lost their lives when the World Trades Center towers came crashing down.

MALVEAUX: And, of course, we can't forget those in Pennsylvania, as well as in Washington at the Pentagon. President Obama and Vice President Biden leading the nation in a moment of silence. That was at 8:46 Eastern, the exact time that the first plane hit the north tower in 2001.

HOLMES: Later, the president spoke directly to the loved ones of those killed on 9/11.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even more than memorials of stone and water, your lives are the greatest tribute to those that we lost, for their legacy shines on in you.


MALVEAUX: Coming up next hour, we'll hear from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. That is next hour on CNN NEWSROOM.

And coming up here on the program, the United Nations starting planning for that chemical weapons mission in Syria, but really can it be done during a civil war? And what if Syria doesn't cooperate as promised? Some scenarios we'll outline for you coming up next.

MALVEAUX: Plus, how the world is reacting to President Obama's Syria speech. You're watching AROUND THE WORLD.


MALVEAUX: So Syrian leaders have bought themselves some time, agreeing to three things here, that they'll give up their chemical weapons, that they'll tell U.N. inspectors where those stockpiles are and that they'll stop making more.

HOLMES: Yes, that will at least temporarily put on hold those U.S. plans to launch military strikes into Syria, give the diplomats some room to work, hopefully prevent scenes like those from happening again.

Let's get David Kay in here. He's not only a CNN analyst, he was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, a member of the State Department's international security advisory board. David, before we talk about the process and, boy, isn't it a process, we've got a new development for you. We learned that Russia has given the U.S. its plan for controlling Syria's chemical weapons stockpile and the handover thereof and the U.S. and Russia are going to be discussing that tomorrow in Geneva. A positive step, I suppose, some cooperation, not that we know the details of it. It probably doesn't include the stick the U.S. would like.

DAVID KAY, CNN ANALYST: It's a necessary step. And without knowing the details, you can't say whether it's positive or negative. I'm happy the Russians have done it in advance of the meeting rather than just dropping it on Secretary Kerry at the meeting.

MALVEAUX: And, David, to finally remove these chemical weapons in Syria, I know this is something that people are discussing and that's on the table here. But walk us through this process here because I imagine that this is going to be very much involved here. What even has to be established before there are any inspectors that are on the ground?

KAY: First of all, you have to know the Syrians must produce a declaration that says where the chemical weapons are, what type of chemical weapons they are, how they're stored and the other ancillary production capacity.

It's easy to forget, they have a production capacity capable of producing 100 tons a year of agent. You've got to know where they are.

Look, the major step, and no one has ever done this before, you've got to figure out how the you do this in the midst of a civil war.

It's not only government forces you have to worry about. It's rebels who are both fighting government forces and would like some of them would like to have access to the chemical weapons themselves.

HOLMES: Yeah. That's a very interesting point, too, because you're right. It's not like you've got two the sides you can stop in place, have a cease-fire and let people come in.

You've got elements on the rebel side who'd be delighted to take some shots at U.N. weapons inspectors.

The other thing, too, is, you know, we saw this in Iraq, and I remember this happening in Iraq, too.

When they found the weapons back there, the evidence of chemical weapons, it took years to deal with it, and that wasn't even during the war.

KAY: That wasn't during the war. And one of the principal reasons is most people don't realize, unless you're living in the United States or Russia near one of the disposal sites, how hard technically it is to do this and do it in an environmentally responsible way.

And one of the problems in Iraq is how we could do it without causing great damage to the Iraqi civilian population. MALVEAUX: So David, how would you actually protect the inspectors once they get inside of the country?

And how would they potentially protect these chemical sites to actually make sure they don't get in the wrong hands?

KAY: They're two very good questions.

First with regard to protecting inspectors, the resolution has to make it clear. It's the responsibility of the government of Syria to provide the security for the inspectors.

Now, that sounds nice, but let me tell you from our Iraq experience and from the chemical inspectors just two weeks ago, once you do that, the government can say it's not safe to go to this site. We have to delay it.

It's very hard to separate, as an inspector out, what is an intentional delay and an attempt to frustrate the inspections from what is a real security problem. And in a civil war, it's almost impossible to do this, and to tell the difference.

MALVEAUX: That is going to be a very difficult task.

HOLMES: I was just going to say we're out of time, David, but very quickly, realistically, do you see this happening any time in the next few years?

KAY: If you're talking about going all the way through to the destruction of chemical weapons, no is the short answer.

HOLMES: David, you're probably not the only one. Appreciate it, David Kay. We're going to have more on this, by the way, later this hour. Good to have you on, David.

MALVEAUX: A lot of skepticism -

KAY: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: -- about whether or not this is -- potentially could work. You're talking about somebody who has a lot of experience on this saying, look, in the middle of a civil war, there's got to be some sort of peace on the ground before this happens to begin with.

And the plan to take control over Syria's chemical weapons is the number one issue at the U.N.

People AROUND THE WORLD are reacting to that as well as the president's primetime address. What they're saying, up next.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back.

President Obama hits the pause button, telling the world in a primetime speech last night that he is stalling his push for a military strike on Syria. He wants to give a diplomatic plan a chance to actually take shape, potentially even work.

HOLMES: Exactly. We're looking at reaction from AROUND THE WORLD to this new plan.

Let's start with Nic Robertson and how it all played out in Syria.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Syrian state television didn't take President Obama's speech live. Instead, they ran a ticker saying that Obama delays the vote and that gives time for Russian diplomacy.

The opposition are saying that it's just a political delaying tactic and that the discussion about chemical weapons misses the point. Fighting and killing by conventional weapons continues they say, 76 people killed in fighting in Syria on Tuesday.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Beirut, Lebanon.



JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Obama's speech came too late for most of the newspapers here, although one that came out toward midday basically did a straight reporting job on what the president had to say.

President Hollande did take some action and reaction to the president's speech. He gathered his defense committee together at the palace to talk about the president's speech, but also to update his ministers what exactly he's been hearing from the Russians and other sources.