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Disaster Relief Continues in Philippines; No Deal With Iran on Nuclear Program; Amazon to Offer Sunday Deliveries

Aired November 11, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Ten thousand lives gone in a matter of hours and many still desperately trying to find their loved ones.

I'm Jim Sciutto, and this is THE LEAD.

The world lead. Time is running out for anyone still trapped after a super typhoon laid waste to the Philippines, survivors only beginning to take stock of the enormity of the disaster.

U.S. Marines are on the ground in the Philippines, just one of the teams joining the international relief effort, but the task is overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced. Many don't know where their next glass of clean drinking water will come from.

And also in world news, no deal. World powers, including the U.S., fail to reach an agreement with Iran to stop enriching uranium. Now that everyone has walked away from the table, what can bring them back?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto filling in today for Jake Tapper. Hope you're having a meaningful and memorable Veterans Day.

We begin with the world lead. Just moments ago, the U.S. government announced that it is giving $20 million in humanitarian aid to the Philippines after what was quite possibly the strongest storm ever in the recorded history of our planet, Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Officials estimate that as many as 10,000 people were killed, the number of missing impossible to say at this point. It's one of those times where words fall short of the images we're seeing,images so eerily reminiscent of the 2004 Asian tsunami, towns wiped from the map, families washed away, children ripped from their parents' arms by the rushing, unrelenting waters, in the wake, a mess of wrecked homes and wrecked lives.

Even for a country that has seen its share of typhoons, this is beyond comparison.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I experienced a lot of typhoons, but this is the worst thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people are dead. Our friends are dead. Some of our family members are dead. So it's really devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the only survivor of the family, and I want to know if they are still alive.


SCIUTTO: Across the country, more than 600,000 people are displaced. In northern Cebu, 98 percent of the houses and buildings there are damaged or destroyed.

In Tacloban, another devastated city, the super typhoon leveled entire neighborhoods, but when a disaster like this hits, the stories of survival are nothing short of amazing. This is the YouTube video of one of the first babies born after the storm. The AP says mom had to swim and cling to a post to survive, but she made it to Tacloban's crippled airport and gave birth there. Mother and child are now healthy.

U.S. Marines have arrived in Tacloban to assist in the relief efforts, and in Hong Kong, the crew of the U.S. George Washington aircraft carrier is preparing for a potential deployment to the affected region. More on the U.S. military involvement later in the show.

Now dawn is about to break, the start of a new day in the Philippines, but the sun as it comes up will fall on bodies still lying in the streets, many still lying where they died.

Our Paula Hancocks


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This sign refers to a very different time. Now all that greets visitors on the road to Tacloban is devastation.

(on camera): Three days on since the storm itself, there are still bodies by the side of the road. Now, we can't show you the faces of these bodies. It's just too graphic. You can still see the terror as the wave hit on the faces of these bodies.

And they're still here three days on. Some of them are crudely covered. Other are just open and have blackened skin from the sun. Now, the officials say they're looking at the living, which is what you would understand, but they have to get rid of the bodies. This is a health issue for those people living and trying to survive around here.

The stench is overpowering. And, of course, they have to start considering disease.

Our Paula Hancocks is in Tacloban, where the horror is still very raw.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This sign refers to a very different time. Now all that greets visitors on the road to Tacloban is devastation.

(on camera): Three days on since the storm itself, there are still bodies by the side of the road. Now, we can't show you the faces of these bodies. It's just too graphic. You can still see the terror as the wave hit on the faces of these bodies.

And they're still here three days on. Some of them are crudely covered. Other are just open and have blackened skin from the sun. Now, the officials say they're looking at the living, which is what you would understand, but they have to get rid of the bodies. This is a health issue for those people living and trying to survive around here.

The stench is overpowering. And, of course, they have to start considering disease.

This is the Tacloban convention center. We're told by the locals that a lot people came in here to try and protect themselves from the storm. But as you can see, the water reached the second story. And the locals say that anyone on the ground floor not expecting this storm surge simply didn't make it.

(voice-over): Many residents used this school as a shelter from the storm, but the water engulfed it. This resident says a lot of children died in here. Only a few managed to survive. No one knows how many lost their lives. Down the road, a public well is being put to use.

ROSELDA STUMAPIT, VICTIM: Right now, we don't have enough water. Even though we are not sure that it's clean and safe, we still drink from it because we need to survive.

HANCOCKS: We see just two trucks in two hours making their very slow way into the city at the heart of desperation.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Tacloban, the Philippines.


SCIUTTO: Our thanks to Paula Hancocks seeing the very worst of it there. We were hoping to get the latest live report from Paula on the ground, but another storm has just hit the area, making communications impossible, a reminder of the difficulties rescue crews and families are facing as they try to locate the survivors.

So let's now talk to one of the victims of the typhoon.

Shirley Lim joins us by phone from the city of Coron in the Philippines.

Shirley, thank you so much for joining. You were right in the middle of it as it hit. Describe what it was like to live through this storm.

SHIRLEY LIM, STORM VICTIM: The wind was so strong, it was like crying like ooh. I cannot imagine myself. It's like the movie "Twister," you know? I feel like this is it, I'm going to die.

SCIUTTO: Tell me about now. I can imagine the speed of it. And now that it's gone, are you getting the help you need? What's missing now? Do you have food, do you have water?

LIM: Yes, actually, the local government here, with the help of our mayor -- mayor and our governor, it also provides this water, all the shelters, the evacuation center. Most of the houses here in Coron were made of light materials like bamboo. That's why most of the houses here were on roofs.

SCIUTTO: Well, I imagine the personal loss tremendous, too. I hope you were lucky enough not to have lost any family members. Talking to your neighbors there, are people still missing relatives, loved ones? Are they able to find them? How are they coping?

LIM: You know, we are very lucky here in Coron because maybe we prayed a lot. That's why the casualty is not that high.

SCIUTTO: Well, you're lucky. We know things worse on the coast, but it sounds like the damage, tremendous. Do you think that Coron can rebuild and are you getting the help you need to rebuild?

LIM: The beauty of Coron, of course, is still there. So, you guys can visit also Coron. Maybe as I can say that this typhoon is a warning sign that we have to protect and preserve our natural resources.

SCIUTTO: Well, thank you to Shirley Lim, one of the thousands, the tens of thousands suffering through the recovery now from this horrible typhoon. Please stay safe.

The human crisis is overwhelming, but you can help. Check out our Web site,, to find out how you can help lend a hand to those suffering after this storm.

You have heard the super typhoon described as possibly the biggest storm in recorded history. That is no exaggeration. At the time of landfall, the winds were clocked at 195 miles per hour with gusts reaching as high as 235 miles per hour.


SCIUTTO: Coming up next: Secretary of State John Kerry will have to explain to the Senate why a potential nuclear deal with Iran fell apart. What scuttled it?

And all I want for Christmas is to fill up my tank for under $50. Am I actually going to get my wish? The money lead is coming up next.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, filling in today for Jake Tapper.

And in our world lead, so close, yet so far. Talks with Iran over its nuclear program stumbled at the 11th hour this weekend after diplomats taking part had hinted a deal was close.

Days earlier, Iran's foreign minister had said a framework was in the works. Two U.S. administration officials told CNN that under the potential deal, Iran would halt enriching uranium to 20 percent, one step below weapons grade, and refuse to open a heavy water reactor, a second path to a bomb.

So what happened?

Secretary of State John Kerry this morning pointed his finger clearly at Iran.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There was unity. But Iran couldn't take it. At that particular moment, they weren't able to accept that particular agreement.


SCIUTTO: But Iran's foreign minister, Javad Sharif, fired back, blaming the West, in particular France, in some not so gentle tweets. "Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half the U.S. draft Thursday night?" he tweeted, "and publicly commented against it on Friday morning."

Secretary Kerry will brief Capitol Hill Wednesday on the talks. He said gaps still remain between the West and Iran. But today, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague described those gaps as very narrow.

Now, there was one deal struck successfully today between Iran and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. They met in Tehran and agreed to inspect some of Iran's nuclear sites, including that heavy water reactor at Arak, but not sites such as Parchin where Western powers suspect Iran conducted high explosives testing necessary to build a nuclear bomb.

So, how narrow are those gaps and how exactly did what seemed like an impending deal fall apart?

Let's bring in our panel to discuss: Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and has advised both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state.

And Danielle Pletka is vice president of foreign and defense policy for the American Enterprise Institute, and former Senate staffer on the Foreign Relations Committee, dealing among many other things including with issues related to Iran.

I'm going to start with you, Aaron, if I can.

Who scuttled this deal? Was it the French? Was it the Iranians? Or is it correct to say that neither side was really ready? AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTL. CENTER: You know, I have been around negotiations for a long time. They have an ebb and flow and rhythm all their own. This was clearly a negotiation whose time has not yet come. And I'm not sure it's ready for prime time.

So, whether this was a virtue or necessity or simply an outgrowth of gaps between the Iranian position and the P5 plus One, French contrariness or France's capacity to play the hero in defense of what they clearly believe was an agreement that really allowed Iran to get away with things they shouldn't be getting away with, or the reality that had this agreement been reached, you would have had a set of American allies, not including the U.S. Congress, although a necessary element, angry, aggrieved and clearly unhappy.

And it's not -- it doesn't make sense. It's interim deal but it has to be a step in the right direction, which is critically important. And not to echo the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, but as an American I would simply say, what's the rush here? Get it right.

SCIUTTO: It's difficult to move a deal like this forward if you have those allies working against you, I imagine.

So I'm curious, Danielle, and I know you have written about this saying what the Iranians are offering here are less, you argue, than they've offered in the past. When you look at skeptics like this, whether in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu, even in the Hill, senators like Lindsey Graham, even Democratic senators -- Congressman Eliot Engel coming out against this.

What does the deal need to have to bring them on board with confidence?

DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: First of all, it needs to have some of the things that the Iranians have offered in the past, things that the United States has asked for in the past. Remember, there are two elements to this. We are asking for less of the Iranians and we are offering the Iranians more. Those are all the elements of a really bad deal, if anybody's bought a house or carpet, they know that, right?

Any time you give more each time you go into a negotiation, the incentive is to keep bringing them back because they're going to offer more and more. So, what are we not getting? We are not getting suspension of uranium enrichment. That was one of the key demands that was made --

SCIUTTO: Full suspension. You are getting suspension up to 20 percent. So they say.

PLETKA: Right. So they say. Also, a suspension for only six months. And then again, not the full suspension.

If they're enriching to 3.5 percent or 5 percent, that's still manufacturing fissile material for a nuclear weapon, so that's not terribly reassuring. The concessions that were made today to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Arak, the heavy water reactor which is a plutonium route to a nuclear weapon, there, they weren't even going to open Arak for six months.

So, we've gotten absolutely nothing there. It's not a very good deal.

SCIUTTO: They did agree not to operate it. I'm not making the Iranian case here.

PLETKA: No, no.

SCIUTTO: But I went to Geneva twice for these talks, and you hear not pushover diplomats, people who have been involved in talks with the Iranians before and disappointed, Secretary Kerry among them saying that this time around the Iranians were more serious and there was clearly excitement there from many sides involved.

Aaron, is it correct to say that the Iranians gave no new ground in these talks, that there's nothing hopeful or encouraging?

MILLER: For the first time you have a degree of urgency on the Iranian side that would suggest that under the right circumstances, you could get a deal that basically would not just suspend but retard their capacity to pursue the military aspects of their nuclear program during a six-month period that is supposed to begin once this deal is concluded.

I mean, let's remember, this is not the end game. That's both good and bad. Time becomes an ally in that regard and adversary as well.

I just think that you cannot create an agreement. You have a 50-year relationship has been dysfunctional between the U.S. and Iran, suspicion, mistrust.

The U.S. is negotiating not just for itself but for allies who would be most immediately affected by Iran's acquisition of putative nuclear weapons capacity, let alone a weapon for itself. And these things need to be taken into account.

So I think again, getting it right even if it involves more time, I mean, the question is, can it be gotten right? And that's not --

PLETKA: That's not what the agreement is for Rouhani coming through these negotiations.

Javad Sharif was there to get relief on economic sanctions. He's not there to give up anything on the nuclear side. That's what they need. And that's some -- that's a bit of leverage we have that the administration seems to be giving up too fast, certainly in the eyes of the Congress.

SCIUTTO: Let me read you something that Secretary Kerry said today, which can be perceived as a shot at Netanyahu's criticism. He says, "The time to oppose it is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible."

This is an interim agreement, right? This initial step is to get some time and I know time has danger as well, but to get some time so they can negotiate a longer term agreement. What happens if this chance is lost? How special do you think this chance is with the Iranians pushed, as you say, by the pain of sanctions?

PLETKA: Well, the problem here is that we've always had two timelines. We've had the timeline of the Iranians getting to a nuclear weapons capacity, not necessarily breaking out, but able to break out. And we've got the timeline of the effectiveness of sanctions.

The problem is the Iranians are probably everywhere they need to be. They're months away, if not less, from having a nuclear weapon. They could probably fashion one today if they wanted to, but they don't want to. They want to be able to go forward and I think they want to maintain that breakout capacity.

So how unique is this opportunity? Well, look, the Iranians are under pressure. If we're willing to keep up the pressure, if we're willing to amp up the pressure even more as we have over the last few years, then maybe we can get some genuine concessions that reassure not just Israel -- and let's not forget that in the Middle East we shouldn't just be talking about Israel being worried about Iran. We're talking also about Saudi Arabia, which declined a seat on the Security Council. We're talking about the United Arab Emirates and we're talking about Israel's neighbors in the region.

So, this is really something of great concern to everyone.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned amping up the pressure, because that's something on CNN this weekend, Senator Lindsey Graham told Candy Crowley that he was going to pursue another round of sanctions.

Aaron, if that happens, does that kill the chances for these talks?

MILLER: You know, I don't think the issue right now is ramping up additional pressure on the Iranians, because I think in the end that's not going to have the desired effect. I do think, though, it is critically important to get things right and that means keeping our allies informed in real time about what it is we're actually doing.

I mean, I've been a part of these negotiations before. We negotiated with the Syrians, with an Israeli proxy. I mean, it's critically important that we be direct and honest about positions we are going to take in these negotiations, and in essence, that there be no surprises.

My concern here, though, is that you're never going to get a perfect agreement. That's the problem. And I do believe that the default position which is ultimately drift, sanctions in place, intermittent diplomacy that doesn't work, is leading towards --


MILLER: -- opening up the Pandora's Box of the prospects of military confrontation. Now --

SCIUTTO: The choices are not great. They will have another chance November 20th to take a crack at this at the political director level.

Thanks very much, Aaron David Miller, Danielle Pletka. I'm sure we'll be back to talk about this in the next couple weeks.

Coming up, it's a far lesser Christmas miracle but one you will be thankful for when it's time to mail out gifts this year. Sunday delivery from the Post Office.

And on this Veterans Day, we're honoring both our fighting men and women and the families they leave behind. We'll introduce you to America's bravest kids.

Stay with us.