Return to Transcripts main page
Talks on Ending Civil War in Syria Underway in Vienna; Dozens Dead in Syria Market Attack; Putin "Winging" Syria Actions; The Arctic is Ground Zero for Climate Change; Surveillance Video Shows Deadly Biker Shootout; American Volunteer Joins Battle against ISIS; U.S. Troops Going to Syria. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired October 30, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN HOST: Welcome to INTERNATIONAL DESK thank you so much for being with us. I'm Zain Asher.
Talks pushing for peace in Syria are extending past their initial end time in Vienna. A news conference is expected anytime now. We will, of course,
bring that to you live.
Foreign ministers from more than a dozen countries have been trying to agree on a way forward. A key issue is whether President Bashar al-Assad
will stay in power.
Iran is at the table for the very first time, joining talks that also include arch rival, Saudi Arabia. The talks are being held as we learn
that Iran imprisoned yet another Iranian American. Let's get the latest now from our Fred Pleitgen, who joins us live now from Vienna.
So, Fred, has there been any progress so far about discussions on President Assad's political future?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not clear, and you've pointed out, exactly right, the meetings are still going
on and the interesting thing about them is that it is, of course, the first time that they have taken place in the format like this that the Iranians
are part of the format and Saudis as well.
If you look at the initial picture of when all of the foreign ministers sat down, the Iranians and Saudis were sat very, very far from each other,
Simply getting the into the same room is certainly something that is a feat in and of itself.
But of course, from the very beginning, pretty much all parties said the main issue is going to be the future of Bashar al-Assad and it's not clear
whether or not any progress has been made and so far what we hear from the Iranians and the Russians are what we have been hearing for a very long
They say they are not averse to some sort of political transition. They wouldn't be averse to something like a unity government but they believe
that Bashar al-Assad could be a part of that political process and they are, for instance, the Russians have been for a very long time calling for
elections in Syria.
That's of course is something the U.S. and also Saudi Arabia and Turkey say is impossible especially if you look at the fact that large parts of Syria
are controlled by ISIS at this point in time. They are calling for Bashar al-Assad to go. The U.S. has said they would not also be adverse to a
transitional period. But they say at the end of that period, they believe that Bashar al-Assad must step down.
So it's really the biggest dividing issue here at these talks. And at this point in time, it's unclear whether or not any headway has been made but
certainly from what we are hearing on the ground, Zain, the fact that these talks have gone on longer than they initially were supposed to, we're about
an hour, hour and a half longer at this point in time is something that many people are seeing as a positive sign -- Zain.
ASHER: And, Fred, aside from Bashar al-Assad's political future, what else are the other major sticking points?
PLEITGEN: Well, there's a lot of sticking points going forward. And certainly at this point in time, there's not anybody who believes there is
going to be a breakthrough in these talks, something of a road map to try and stop the fighting in Syria and one of the things that we have to keep
in mind as well is that there are not any Syrians at the table here at these talks.
Neither any representatives of the regime nor any representatives of any opposition groups. The big question would be if you get some sort of face-
to-face negotiations going on between these parties, who would come from the opposition groups?
Who would represent the regime?
The talks are simply not at that stage yet and that's something that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said going into these talks.
He said, at this point in time, let's focus on the things that everybody agrees on, everybody agrees that ISIS must be fought. Everybody agrees
that Syria must be maintained as a unified and secular state and also that Syrian government institutions need to be preserved.
Those are the things that most of them can agree on.
The big question is, of course, Bashar al-Assad, but then also going forward, is how something like a cease-fire could come into play; still
very far away from that.
And to echo what some of the diplomats have been saying here over the past 1.5 days so far, they say, first of all, the mere fact that these talks are
taking place at all is something that shows that there is now increased urgency to try and bring the violence in Syria to an end.
And that if these talks don't completely collapse and those who are taking part in these talks decide to continue to meet in the future to make this
maybe something of a more regular occurrence, then that already would be something that would be a big success.
So taking small steps but they certainly are more than we have seen in Syria diplomacy in the last couple years on many fronts -- Zain.
ASHER: Yes, certainly the fact that you had Iran and Saudi Arabia in the same room, some would argue, is a sign of progress.
But I want to switch now to something that's happening in Tehran as I speak. We're hearing that an Iranian American has been detained in Tehran,
Mr. Siamak Namazi.
This is the first Iranian American to be detained since the nuclear deal.
ASHER: How significant is that and will that impact the talks going on in Vienna?
PLEITGEN: That's a very good question, whether it will impact the talks. I don't think it will directly impact the talks but one of the things that
we do have to keep in mind is that it's something that could strain the relations, especially between John Kerry and Javad Zarif.
One of the things that we've seen as we looked at the nuclear negotiations that were going on is that a lot of the things that happened took place
because of the fairly good working relationship between Kerry and Zarif.
We know that the two men met last night and what we've gathered from the State Department, they put out a statement afterwards, they said that one
of the things that was talked about was the detention of Americans, of course, most Iranian Americans inside Iranian prisons.
Now we don't know very much about this new case, about Mr. Namazi and his detention. There are reports in "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street
Journal," saying that apparently he was detained two weeks ago and his passport was taken away before he was detained and he's now in a prison,
pretty much nothing on top of that.
It's very difficult to get information out of the Iranian judiciary system and it's something that has been proven difficult in the past but this is
now the fourth American in Iranian detention.
And if you recall the case of Jason Rezaian, who has now been in detention for more than 450 days, there were many who believe that perhaps after the
nuclear agreement there could be an improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations and perhaps he would be released.
That's something that has not taken place so certainly it's a troubling sign and some say it's possible a sign perhaps the hardliners in Iran are
trying to assert themselves after the nuclear deal, showing that there will not be better relations with the U.S., that there won't be cultural and
other influence of America in Iran.
But it's something that certainly has been taken very seriously in Washington as well -- Zain.
ASHER: Interesting that we are hearing about this detention on the very day of those talks in Vienna.
Fred Pleitgen, live for us there in Vienna, thank you so much, we appreciate it.
While the talks go on in Vienna, the chaos and carnage of civil war are still playing out still in Syria. Now we're getting word of another deadly
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER (voice-over): A Syrian opposition group claims that this video you see right here shows the aftermath just after a rocket attack on a crowded
market place north of Damascus, in an area held by rebels.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has been following these developments from Southern Turkey.
Nick, since the start of the civil war there in Syria, Douma, this suburb of Damascus, has been the site of frequent clashes between government and
opposition groups as well.
What is the latest you are hearing?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: This horrifying scene, this bloodshed in Douma happened at 7:30 in the morning on a busy Friday
morning, a lot of shoppers trying to get what food they can, the second time their markets in Douma have been hit in a manner of two months.
Now last time there were 100 died here. We are hearing about 55 dead but 200 people injured as well.
Couldn't be a starker contrast, these scenes of what is happening to Syrians on the ground compared to the meeting in the five-star hotel in
Vienna that many of the sponsors of the warring sites here having just heard from Fred there.
But the fate of those 200 injuries terrifying, frankly, because merely yesterday we are hearing from activists, two missiles they say landed near
or, according to others, targeted the hospital that services this area in rebel-held territory, making the medical care available to those hit by the
possibly as many as 20 separate strikes that hit Douma in the last 48 hours, the medical care available to them pretty much nonexistent.
Ambulances have come in and you see an amateur video here to try and assist the many dead here and many in terrifying states of injury. In
fact, the video shows at one point another rocket or missile of some description slams into the area right next to a hospital.
Activists have in the past accused the regime of double-tapping, as it's known. You hit an area and then hit it again when the first responders
But what is happening in Douma, I think a reminder that, at that meeting in the Vienna hotel, there are no Syrians, be it regime or opposition and even
frankly if there were Syrian opposition political leaders there invited to that room, then everybody would represent the scrappy different disunited
militia on the ground, some increasingly extremist and in fact often those militias are not necessarily fighting for the people you've seen in that
video there, so far from peace, frankly, before you just standing in that market in Douma.
ASHER: Yes, no Syrians there in Vienna.
But does this attack in Douma do anything to strengthen the U.S.' case against President Assad?
WALSH: No, not really. This is happening every day for the past four years, except at certain times the glare of the media spotlight falls upon
what is happening inside Syria or, as in this case, horrifying video of particularly numerous number of casualties emerges. And the U.S. has faced
this kind of social media --
WALSH: -- video for years. It's known fully well that it can't intervene with ground troops in their thousands; that won't change things. That
would make things worse. It hasn't opted for a no-fly zone, frankly now a no-fly zone would be beyond complex, given the fact that there are Russian
jets zipping around the same area where they would like to have no jets at all, the no-fly zone originally aimed at stopping Syrian regime air attacks
like the ones you're seeing.
Videos like this come out as a reminder of the fact that a quarter of a million people have died in this war so far, most of them killed by the
regime, not by ISIS, the primary target of the United States' coalition here. It doesn't really change the equation and you have to admit it won't
change really what people are saying to each other in that room in Vienna.
It may remind people of the bloodshed and people are fleeing to Europe in their hundreds of thousands from Syria. But it's regular, frankly, for
Syrians on the ground, those who still remain living inside Syria -- Zain.
ASHER: Yes, hundreds of thousands of people killed; we'll see if there is any breakthrough out of those talks in Vienna. Nick Paton Walsh, live for
us there in Southern Turkey, we appreciate it. Thank you.
The head of the National Intelligence for the U.S. has some very harsh words about Russia's strategy in Syria or, in his view, the lack thereof.
Listen to what James Clapper had to say about Russia in this exclusive interview with our Jim Sciutto.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, DIR. U.S. NATL. INTELLIGENCE: We're expected to know that a decision has been made by a foreign head of state before he makes it.
Putin is a case in point. I think he's very impulsive, very opportunistic, it's a debate but I personally question whether he has some long-term
strategy and I think his intervention is, into Syria is another manifestation of that.
Those things are hard to predict when, there's a very, very -- in his case, a very, very small cloister (sic) of people around him; unlike our
president, he is not subjected to a study stream of bad news. That's not a good thing for his intelligence services to do.
So he's very much, I think, in a sort of a decisional bubble and he makes these decisions on pretty much on his own.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Do you think he has a plan for Syria?
CLAPPER: What his long-term plan is, I'm not sure he has one. I think he's kind of winging this day to day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: James Clapper there, speaking to our Jim Sciutto.
The U.S. and Russia are conducting separate airstrike campaigns in Syria.
Now to a master of sorts, the last British resident held at Guantanamo Bay is now back home. A plane carrying Shaker Aamer arrived in London just a
short time ago.
Aamer, who was from Saudi Arabia but is a permanent resident of Britain, was detained in Afghanistan following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New
York. The U.S. accused him of being an associate of Osama Bin Laden and working for Al Qaeda but he was never charged.
Aamer denied the allegations and was cleared for release in 2007.
You're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Still to come, thousands of people waiting at the border between Slovenia and Australia (sic), some say they
would go anywhere at this point. We'll have a live update on the migrant crisis.
And 17 people are sent to the hospital after their plane catches fire just before takeoff. We'll have the latest on the investigation from the Ft.
Lauderdale airport. That's coming up.
ASHER: Welcome back, everybody.
Europe is still struggling to deal with a huge influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East. This video right here is from the border
between Slovenia and Australia (sic).
Thousands of people have been waiting there, spending the night in heated tents or indeed in the open air. They huddled around campfires, where the
air was filled with smoke.
One Iraqi man said his family has slept in a camp on the Slovenian side and had not been given enough food or water.
The journey to Europe is extremely dangerous; 22 migrants died Friday in separate shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea The Greek coast guard said 144 other
people were rescued and three are still missing.
The Greek prime minister strongly criticized Europe's response to the crisis and he said, quote, "These days, the waves of the Aegean are not
just washing out dead refugees and dead children on our shores, they are washing out European civilization itself."
ASHER: A new United Nations report says the global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is unprecedented. More than 140 nations have
drafted individual climate action plans. The report says that by working together nations can achieve their goal of keeping the global temperature
rise to under 2 degrees Celsius.
The U.N. climate conference, known as COP 21, begins at the end of November in Paris.
The rapid pace of climate change is immediate evident in the Arctic and here is Arwa Damon with more.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's late October in the Arctic, freezing cold and snow-covered, as one would expect.
But so much just isn't the way it used to be.
JIM JOHANSEN, ARCTIC GUIDE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
DAMON (voice-over): Jim Johansen is a guide here, taking visitors on a tour, which includes a glacier. For him, compared to last year, the
changes on the shoreline are obvious. One just needs to look at the size of the rock beneath the icy blue of the glacier.
JOHANSEN: Last year, you can hardly see the rock formation here. You can hardly see that as a gray, a brown line underneath the glacier. It's
shedding a lot of ice. This summer it's obviously, it's -- something is happening for sure.
DAMON (voice-over): That "something" is climate change.
And this, the Arctic, is ground zero.
Scientists say temperatures here have increased at twice the rate than anywhere else on Earth in the last several decades.
DAMON: Normally by March, these waters would be frozen over, a layer of ice so thick people would take their snowmobiles from town to outlying
areas but the last time these waters froze was a decade ago.
DAMON (voice-over): We're out with Ole Misund, a former fisherman turned marine biologist and managing director of the University Center in
A good catch but this cod species is not supposed to be here.
DAMON (voice-over): They appeared three years ago and that, Misund says, is because the temperature of the water where these cod were just pulled
out is 4 to 5 degrees warmer than it used to be and now the cod can now swim here.
DAMON: How do you know that temperature rise is because of climate change?
OLE MISUND, MANAGING DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY CENTER, SVALBARD: We know temperatures in western side of Svalbard is very variable because of the
variations in the Northeast Atlantic current but now we see an underlying signal being more and more evident that its due to a general rise in sea
temperatures of the world oceans.
DAMON (voice-over): Earth's climate is changing. Scientists still trying to unravel its mystery and determine how it will alter our future -- Arwa
Damon, CNN, Svalbard, Norway.
ASHER: Time for a quick break here on CNN. When we come back, an exclusive update on one of the bloodiest afternoons in the history of U.S.
motorcycle clubs. Stay with us for that story and more.
ASHER: Welcome back, everybody.
A CNN exclusive for you now. We have new details about a shocking shoot- out in the U.S. state of Texas about five months ago. Back in May this year, rival biker clubs turned a parking lot into a battle zone. When it
was all over, nine people were dead and more than 100 people arrested.
Now CNN has surveillance video from inside the restaurant where it all began but I have to warn you, some of our viewers may find it disturbing.
Here's our Ed Lavandera with more.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the scene inside the Twin Peaks restaurant in May, just before the violent shoot-out that
killed nine people and ended up in the mass arrest of 177 bikers.
A fight and shoot-out erupts just off camera between a group of --
LAVANDERA (voice-over): -- motorcycle clubs called the Banditos and the Cossacks. The reaction tells the story of the chaos and horrific scene
that unfolds as the gunshots start exploding.
Members of the Cossacks club are sitting on this patio. They duck for cover. Some grab firearms and other weapons. One biker is seen on the
surveillance video running through the patio and firing a shot toward the parking lot.
Dozens of bikers rush inside the building, hide in bathrooms and the restaurant kitchen.
John Wilson is the president of the Waco, Texas, are chapter of the Cossacks motorcycle club. He was on the Twin Peaks patio that day.
JOHN WILSON, PRESIDENT, COSSACKS MOTORCYCLE CLUB: The whole incident probably didn't last more than 90 seconds. It seemed like an hour when
you're lying there and people are getting shot around you and bullets were whizzing by you.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): In dozens of police interviews, Cossack and Bandito bike club members blamed their rivals for starting the deadly
After it was all over, crime scene photos capture the nightmarish scene, bodies left in the parking lot by toppled motorcycles, hundreds of weapons
all over the place and handguns even left hidden in the restaurant toilets.
CNN has obtained more than 2,000 pages of documents, crime scene photos, many too graphic to show, and surveillance video, giving us the most
detailed accounts of what unfolded last May.
Waco police and prosecutors have consistently defending the mass arrests of the 177 bikers that day, all charged with organized criminal activity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you can see by the number of weapons that we have recovered from here today they didn't come here to eat and have a good
time with their family. They came here for a reason and we think part of that reason was criminal activity.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): But many of the bikers and their attorneys say investigators and prosecutors overreacted by carrying out mass arrests.
Some say these videos show the vast majority are innocent of the criminal charges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just did a roundup and arrested everybody before they determined who was involved.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): These are just some of the videos investigators are using to piece together what happened that day five months ago, a
shoot-out that one witness said looked like the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Waco, Texas.
ASHER: Incredibly frightening surveillance video.
Time for a quick break here on CNN. When we come back, from a student in the U.S. to the front lines against ISIS half a world away. We'll bring
you one man's story in the exclusive report from Syria.
ASHER: Welcome back to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I am Zain Asher. Let's get you caught up on your headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER (voice-over): Talks pushing for an end to more than four years of civil war in Syria have gone into overtime in Vienna, an encouraging sign
as Iran joins the talks for the very first time. Foreign ministers are there from more than a dozen countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and
the United States.
Meantime, an opposition activist says rockets fired by Syrian government forces struck a busy market outside of Damascus. The activist tells us at
least 55 people were killed and hundreds wounded. It happened in Douma, in an area held by the rebels.
The last British resident held at Guantanamo Bay has now been released. Shaker Aamer arrived back in the U.K. just a short time ago. He had been
held at the U.S. military prison for 13 years without charge. Aamer's family and supporters deny U.S. allegations that he was an aide to Osama
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: While world powers talk about the Syrian conflict, the battle is on, still going on on the ground and some Americans are volunteering to
come over to help completely on their own. CNN's Clarissa Ward brings us the exclusive story of one man's journey.
CLARISSA WARD, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Randy Roberts has spent much of the last seven months on the front lines. The former U.S. Army specialist, who
deployed twice to Iraq, was studying graphic design in the U.S. when he decided to join the fight against ISIS.
RANDY "RED" ROBERTS, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: I felt like I could, given my past military experience and I had been to this region before, that I could
contribute and I could actually help the cause.
WARD: How did you get guidance as to how to get here, who to link up with?
ROBERTS: Well, Google.
ROBERTS: It's the --
WARD: That's how you planned your trip to come and fight ISIS?
ROBERTS: Believe it or not, yes. I just -- I simply looked up Westerners who had come over here before me.
WARD (voice-over): Roberts is one of more than 100 Westerners who have come to Syria and Iraq to fight with Kurdish forces.
WARD (voice-over): The Internet is full of slickly produced YPG propaganda videos featuring American volunteers.
There's even a website selling ISIS hunting kits and offering packing lists on what to bring.
At a small training camp in Northern Syria, we watch some new recruits, among them two Americans. Most did not want to show their faces; unlike
Roberts, few had any military experience.
ROBERTS: And you also meet a lot of people that think this is going to be the, you know, gaming experience, "Call of Duty," they think because they
understand how to pull a trigger on a controller that they know how to do it in real life.
Always elbows in and tight to your body.
WARD (voice-over): Roberts believes the most valuable gift he can offer Kurdish fighters and his fellow volunteers is training.
ROBERTS: So when you need to reload, take a knee behind cover, mag out, up, stock in here --
WARD (voice-over): While some Kurdish fighters welcome Western volunteers as a morale boost, others have dismissed their presence as a nuisance.
WARD: Do you think you have helped?
ROBERTS: I believe yes, I have.
WARD: But some people would say, this isn't your war or this isn't your business.
ROBERTS: It's better to stand up and do something if you think you can help, than to just sit back and watch because it's, hey, you know, it's on
the other side of the world, not my problem.
WARD (voice-over): Certainly the risks are real. One American, Keith Brumfield, died fighting alongside Kurdish fighters this past summer in
Syria. And Roberts has seen for himself how tenacious an enemy ISIS can be.
ROBERTS: Outside of the mines that they emplace all in the fields there to keep us from advancing on these villages, they also have little wadis and
trenches that they hide in. So then they pop up and machine gunfire.
WARD: Has it ever crossed --
WARD: -- your mind that you could get killed?
ROBERTS: Yes. Yes.
WARD: And that's a price you'd be willing to pay?
ROBERTS: Yes. If I got to the end of my life and I didn't -- and I hadn't come and I looked back on this and I had chose not to come out, then
it would have bothered me, like it would have bothered me for the rest of my life.
WARD (voice-over): For Randy Roberts, being here is a moral duty -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, Northern Syria.
ASHER: And we just have some breaking news in to share with you, we know that the U.S. will be sending special operations forces to Syria to advise
and assist rebels in the fight against ISIS.
Once again, the U.S. is now sending a limited number of special operations forces to Syria to advise and assist rebels in the fight against ISIS. We
will have much more on the breaking news right after this break.
ASHER: Let's get back to our breaking news from Syria. We are learning that the U.S. is deploying some special operations forces to Northern Syria
to advise and assist rebels in their fight against ISIS.
We're going to turn now to our sister network, CNN USA.
(BEGIN LOCAL COVERAGE)