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Obama Vows to Overcome Terror Threat; New Photo Shows California Shooters at Airport; London Tube Attack was Act of Terror; Witness Describes Life under ISIS Control; Volunteers Feed Stranded Migrants as Winter Sets In; Venezuela's Opposition Party Sweeps Elections; Acquaintances Did Not Know Farook Was Radicalized; Grammy Nominations Are Announced. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 7, 2015 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone, welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow.

We begin with a new vow from the President of the United States and a message meant to calm an anxious nation. Barack Obama is promising to wipe

out ISIS with what he calls a smart and relentless campaign. He addressed the American public on the broader terror threat and how to destroy it.

But as our Joe Johns now reports, the president's critics say his words fall short.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The threat from terrorism is real. But we will overcome it.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama speaking passionately to millions in a rare Oval Office address late

Sunday, strongly condemning ISIS and calling Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino a terrorist attack.

OBAMA: It is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization. So this was an act of terrorism.

JOHNS (voice-over): Obama doubling down on his four-point strategy to defeat the terrorist group.

OBAMA: The strategy that we are using now, airstrikes, special forces and working with local forces, who are fighting to regain control of their own

country, and it won't require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.

JOHNS (voice-over): At home, Obama putting stronger screenings on people arriving in the U.S. without a visa and insisting on more gun control.

OBAMA: Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.

QUESTION: What would you do as president to prevent the mass shooting?

JOHNS (voice-over): The place GOP presidential hopefuls are calling insufficient to tackle the evolving threat, Donald Trump tweeting, "Is that

all there is?" and retweeting, "He needs to stop all visas, not look at them."

Jeb Bush proposing his own more aggressive strategy and calling the fight against ISIS, "the war of our time."

OBAMA: It's a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Obama ending his 13-minute speech with an appeal to Muslims to root out extremist ideology while also calling on

Americans to reject discrimination.

OBAMA: Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our coworkers, our sports heroes and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are

willing to die in defense of our country.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: The cynicism --

JOHNS (voice-over): Senator Marco Rubio pushing back.

RUBIO: Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?

And the refusal to call this for what it is, a war on radical Islam?

Not only did the president not to make thins better tonight, I fear he may have made things worse.


CURNOW: The new CNN/ORC opinion poll taken just before the San Bernardino attack and that speech shows most Americans are happy with President

Obama's handling of terrorism; 60 percent of those polled say they disapprove of his strategy, that's up 9 points since May.

But for the first time, a majority of Americans believe the U.S. should send ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria or Iraq. President Obama has

repeatedly warned against any mass deployment of forces to combat the militants. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now live from


Hi, Barbara. Thanks for joining us. So President Obama says no ground troops.

So the question is, how effective have these airstrikes been?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon, I think, would tell you, right from the beginning, that airstrikes can only

accomplish so much. They have never believed that airstrikes would be the sole military tool to defeat ISIS.

So what you're starting to see now is a bit of an expansion. And that's an expansion on the ground. The U.S. planning to send in now dozens of

special operations forces into Iraq, on into Syria and really stepping up the hunt for top senior ISIS operatives.

These troops will very much have the task of gathering intelligence and then staging raids and even capturing terrorists if they can. And that's

very interesting Robyn, because, for the first time in years, that is going to put the U.S. military back in the job of detaining and interrogating

terrorist suspects overseas -- Robyn.

CURNOW: But it's not going to be a massive deployment of tens of thousands of troops. So the U.S. really does seem to be doing most of the heavy

lifting in this coalition against ISIS.

Is there some frustration in the Pentagon that our partners, for example, aren't doing enough?


STARR: They're never going to say that publicly. And they talked about the fact all these other countries offer support functions that are very

much appreciated.

But I think that you are now seeing top administration officials come out much more and talk about their desire to work with Turkey, to get Turkey to

close down the last portion of that border with Northern Syria, where the U.S. and many allies believe ISIS militants are still able cross freely.

The Turks, to be clear, have said they are doing everything that they really can to shut the border down. But the U.S., much more publicly now,

saying it wants to see the whole border sealed. That's one action by allies that the U.S. thinks could make a real difference.

CURNOW: So has there been reaction within the Pentagon to the speech?

Did it change minds?

Did it impress people?

STARR: Well, I think in the Pentagon you'll find all military people say that they support the President of the United States. Not very much

appetite in the U.S. military for a massive deployment of tens of thousands of ground troops overseas.

Again, the military is much smaller than it was many years ago. Troops have had a lot of rotations, a lot of stress on the force.

And they take very much to heart something that the president said, which is if you deploy massive numbers of U.S. forces overseas to the Middle

East, they are seen as occupiers in many cases and that only spurs a violent insurgency on even further -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Lessons perhaps learned from Iraq. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, as always, thanks so much for joining us.

STARR: Sure.

CURNOW: CNN has obtained a new photo of the two shooters who carried out last week's deadly attack in Southern California. It shows Syed Rizwan

Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, entering the U.S. at Chicago's O'Hare Airport last year. They killed 14 people Wednesday after opening fire at

an office holiday party in San Bernardino. We're now learning more about the couple, too.

Farook's father says his son supported ISIS.

He told Italian newspaper "La Stampa" the following, "He said he shared the ideology of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to create an Islamic State and he was

fixated on Israel."

A source tells CNN Pakistani security forces have raided the home of Malik's father. This comes as we learn more about her from people who knew

her. Our Sophia Saifi spoke with a professor who used to teach Malik in Pakistan.


SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: He told us that she was a very good student, she was very quiet. She wasn't -- again, the word "ordinary" comes in.

She wasn't extraordinary. And she was just someone -- he had very vague memories of her.

He said that she did cover her face but that wasn't anything unusual, that a lot of the students at that university covered their face, so wear their


And I've seen that myself. I went to the university. There was a whole array of students; some didn't cover their heads, some wearing very modern

clothing and some completely cloaked from head to toe.

So I can kind of understand what he means by saying that she wouldn't stand out. She didn't really show anything, according to him, that portrayed an

extremist or radical bent.


CURNOW: Our Sophia Saifi reporting there.

Now to the U.K.: British prime minister David Cameron calls Saturday's knife attack at an East London tube station "hideous." The suspect

appeared in court today. He's charged with attempted murder. Frederik Pleitgen joins us now from London.

Hi, there, Fred.

What more do we know about this attack and this attacker?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're getting some details from the Westminster magistrate's court, where the suspect

appeared earlier today.

He's 29 years old. His name is Muhaydin Mire and there were also some details as to what exactly happened on Saturday night. All this happened

around 7:00 pm local time, which of course would be a time that there would be many people on the subway here in London.

It appears as though he initially attacked a 56-year-old man, beat him, made him go to the ground and then started cutting his neck with a knife in

what some people apparently described, Robyn, as a sawing motion.

Now at some point he let off the from the 56-year-old victim. And this is also a reason why he has been charged with attempted murder.

So he let off from the victim. He then went after several other people, threatening them with a knife as well, before the police finally caught up

with him, Tasered him and managed to subdue him.

Now the 56-year-old victim was brought into hospital. There was a 5-hour operation because this man had a 12-centimeter or 5-inch wound on his neck.

And the police later managed to subdue the attacker, who, as he was being led away, screamed, "This is for Syria."

And after an initial interrogation, apparently on his phone, authorities found images of the Islamic State, flags as well as images --


PLEITGEN: -- pertaining to the Paris attacks that of course happened on November 13th. That's one of the reasons or one of the many reasons,

Robyn, why the authorities here are treating this as a possible act of terrorism -- Robyn.

CURNOW: And also, Fred, some comments -- a comment made by a witness there, some typical straight talk from a Londoner has really gone viral,

hasn't it?.

PLEITGEN: Yes, some very typical straight talk, very much in the tradition, if you will, of, "Keep calm and carry on."

There was one man who was heard screaming in the background as the attacker was being subdued, "You ain't no Muslim, bruv."

And that of course meaning, "You ain't no Muslim, brother," to probably everyone in the rest of the world. And that's something that was turned

into a hashtag and has since gone viral on the Internet.

It was also mentioned today by David Cameron in an appearance he had earlier.

And it's certainly something where many people say it shows the defiance against terrorism here in this city, of course, but also the fact that

people here are not going to be willing to give up their regular ways and that there is not going to be a general suspicion against the Muslim

population in this city or in this country -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. Kind of that ethos of, "Keep calm and carry on," Fred Pleitgen in London, thanks so much.

Tighter border controls into Europe are causing a bottleneck of refugees and migrants. We'll show you the efforts of some volunteers who are

serving the migrants a welcome break from the cold.

And Venezuelans celebrate in the streets as the country's ruling Socialist party suffers a major political defeat at the polls. Stay with us.




CURNOW: Welcome back.

We've all heard about the brutality of ISIS. Now a man who fled the de facto ISIS capital in Raqqah, Syria, is describing what life was like. He

tells our Ian Lee what he thinks it will do, what it will --


CURNOW: -- take to defeat ISIS in this exclusive report.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the biggest target in the war against ISIS, the Syrian city of Raqqah, the capital of the so-called

Islamic State. Despite constant bombardment, ISIS lures followers by painting its land as a paradise.

"Suleiman," not his real name, fled Raqqah in recent days with his young family.

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): If it was a paradise, we wouldn't try to leave. Life is very difficult. Most of the doctors have left. You can

count the number of doctors on one hand. And they only service ISIS.

Every day hundreds gather for free food handouts. It's not a lot. You stand there, being humiliated, trying to get something to eat.

LEE: How would you describe the Islamic State?

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): Scary. It's a scary state by the literal meaning of the word. They came with their laws pretending to teach

us honesty, but they taught us how to lie.

LEE: Have your kids gone to school in Raqqah?

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): They went for a week but then refused to go. There is no education; 5- to 11-year-old kids are in the same class.

Teachers don't show up and older kids harass them.

LEE (voice-over): Following French airstrikes, ISIS cracked down on Internet usage, fearing their targets might be revealed. Now paranoia

grips Raqqah.

LEE: How has ISIS controlled the Internet?

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): They're afraid that their members will try to communicate with foreign intelligence. We've seen a lot of people

who have been beheaded and killed, accused of being spies.

LEE: Are the airstrikes in Raqqah being effective?

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): Realistically, no. There's little impact because most areas are being emptied by ISIS or evacuated before the


LEE (voice-over): The U.S.-led coalition hopes Kurdish fighters and their allies staging around Raqqah will take the city. But "Suleiman" would not

use the word "liberate."

LEE: Would the locals in Raqqah choose ISIS or the Kurds?

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): I don't have an answer. It's difficult because the Kurds forced the Arabs to flee. That's a difficult question.

I don't have an answer.

LEE: Do you see ISIS as being strong?

"SULEIMAN" (through translation): In reality, yes. They are strong. They have trained soldiers and inspired suicide bombers. They have members who

came just for the sake of being killed. They are strong.

LEE (voice-over): ISIS's reign of terror is over for "Suleiman" but he's not out of danger. He'll now join the hundreds of thousands of Syrian

refugees trying to make the dangerous journey to Europe's shores -- Ian Lee, CNN, Gaziantep, Turkey.


CURNOW: Some important perspective there.

Well, tighter border controls in the Balkans are causing a bottleneck of refugees and migrants just as winter sets in and it's causing anger and



CURNOW (voice-over): Only refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are allowed to cross. The rest are stuck and resorting to protests. CNN

international correspondent Atika Shubert is at the border between Greece and Macedonia, where volunteers are dishing out a lifeline.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a cargo train, abandoned on the tracks between Greece and Macedonia, today a kitchen and a

cab. For the volunteers of No Borders, it's the perfect place to cook 2,000 hot meals a day for refugees waiting to cross the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from a very privileged country, England, from a very privileged background. So I feel like I can't turn my back on a

humanitarian crisis. There's Germans, Australians, French, (INAUDIBLE), Iranians, Pakistanis, Moroccans.

SHUBERT (voice-over): For long stretches, there's nothing but the sound of chopping and the buzz of the generator outside.

Many of those cooking are asylum seekers themselves.

SHUBERT: We're inside the No Borders kitchen and it's really quite an operation. There's about 20 or so volunteers here, cooking up the evening

meal. And it's kind of like a roving soup kitchen. It moves wherever the refugees are moving, wherever they're trying to get across the border,

wherever warm meals are needed.

SHUBERT (voice-over): It started in Hungary in response to the crackdown on refugees there. The kitchen moved to Slovenia, then Greece. There's no

management, no one person in charge. Just a crew of volunteers, organizing by Facebook and mobile phone texts. Anyone can pitch up and join in.

Here at Idomeni, they deliver to both the Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, who are being allowed into Macedonia and across Europe and the others left

behind on the other side of the border fence, a mixture of Moroccans, Iranians --


SHUBERT (voice-over): -- and Pakistanis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, I feel like we should open the borders because these people deserve the right that they're born with, you know. They

deserve to be able to move freely, to be able to go and find a better life when they need one, whether economic migrant or whether an asylum seeker

from war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the --


SHUBERT: This has happened --

SHUBERT (voice-over): As we talk, the generator dies, a common occurrence. But the cooking never stops.

By 6:30 pm, there's a long queue for dinner and the steaming soup is a welcome break from the cold. It goes on until the soup runs out and it's

time to unroll the sleeping bags, much needed rest for another day of kitchen duty on the front lines of Europe's refugee crisis -- Atika

Shubert, CNN, Idomeni, on the Greece-Macedonia border.


CURNOW: Great piece there from Atika.

Coming up, a landslide victory for Venezuela's opposition party. Voters send a message to President Nicolas Maduro.

But is this the end of Chavismo?

That's next.




CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.

There's been a huge shift of power in Venezuela. The country's opposition party trounced the ruling party in Sunday's elections, sparking

celebrations in the streets.


CURNOW (voice-over): There you see it. It won the majority of seats in the national assembly, its first such victory in 17 years. Venezuela has

been mired in recession; inflation there is the world's highest and basic goods are in short supply.


CURNOW: President Nicolas Maduro conceded the opposition party's victory but vowed he would not give up the socialist mission of his mentor and

predecessor, Hugo Chavez. CNN Espanol correspondent Alejandra Oraa joins us now from Caracas.

So is this the end of an era here?


ALEJANDRA ORAA, CNN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Robyn. Nice talking to you from Caracas, Venezuela.

And it might not be the end of an era but it's a huge change in the political power for the government in Venezuela. It was definitely a

crushing victory for the opposition. And one of their biggest victories in the last 17 years since socialism started in the country.

The national voting council announced yesterday at 12:40 am that the opposition won at least 99 seats of the 167 of the national assembly; 46

seats are now for the government and there are 22 seats that were too close to call and are still being counted.

But it's important to emphasize that these 46 seats means a loss of 100 seats in the national assembly, which means a huge loss of power for the

government. And also the opposition won a lot of things with this national election.

What did they win?

Currently, with the 99 seats that they have, they could call an assembly to rewrite the constitution. They could also call a referendum against the

president or against another congress member and they could even pass an amnesty law to free some of the prisoners that are considered political

prisoners in the country, we're talking about opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Cevallos, who was a governor of one of the most

important states in Venezuela, and several other students that were part of an opposition movement a year and a half ago.

CURNOW: And also, this, as you say, really alters the political balance.

What's the significance, then, for the president?

What does that mean for his political career?

ORAA: Well, for his political career, it means that he is going to have to work more with the unity of the opposition, the socialism of the 21st

century, like it's called here in Venezuela.

It was a movement that started with Hugo Chavez in the late '90s and then it was followed by President Nicolas Maduro, his successor. They've never

ruled the country with a majority that's been the opposition.

When they created the national assembly in the year 2000, they've always had a majority that was for the government. So now it's basically ruling a

country with the opposition. They're going to have to find laws that are going to be equal.

And this is something new for the country because one of the problems that Venezuela has had in the last 17 years is a huge polarization between the

two parties, we're talking about the opposition and also the socialism.

So with these seats that we're talking about, 99 of the 167, not everything is going to be so easy for the president when he tries to make new laws.

He's going to find people that might not be for it.

It's also important to emphasize that he currently has a special power until December 31st, 2015, which could mean that some of the decisions that

were made yesterday could actually change with these special powers.

CURNOW: OK. Many people saying this could also polarize the more divisive. But thanks so much for that perspective, Alejandra Oraa.

Appreciate it.

Well, France's far right National Front party is claiming big gains in the country's first round of regional elections there.


CURNOW (voice-over): Boosted by outrage over last month's Paris terror attacks, Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration party is ahead of former

President Nicolas Sarkozy's Conservative Republicans. President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialist Party is a distant third. There will be a

second final round of voting on Sunday.


CURNOW: Still ahead, two men who knew and even prayed with one of the San Bernardino killers described their shock over the mass killing.





CURNOW: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center. Here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW: U.S. President Barack Obama is calling Wednesday's shooting in California terrorist attack. In his address Sunday night, he said Farook

and Malik had gone down the dark path of radicalization. Our Chris Cuomo spoke earlier with two people who knew Farook.


NIZAAM ALI, ACQUAINTANCE OF SYED RIZWAN FAROOK: We had no idea. We didn't see any change and stuff like that. But now thinking about it, I mean, I

see how the Muslim community was unaware of this.

It makes obvious -- it makes perfect sense to me. We Muslims don't know what a person does behind closed doors. We don't know what he does in his

private life. We don't have access to his IP address to see his Web history. We don't know what type of people he was listening to, if he was

indoctrinated by someone in a foreign country teaching him some type of radicalism or something along those lines.

Had we ourselves known of such a thing, we would have been the first people to reach out to the officials and warn them that this person here is

threatening to do something.

I mean, until today, and I'm sure that Dr. Mustafa agrees with me, that if we see someone in our communities that is a threat, that is a potential

threat, we will take matters very seriously and not lightly and we will report it to the officials.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I am absolutely not trying to put you on the defensive. This is just about understanding how this went so wrong.

We hear -- I'm wondering, was there any discussion about politics that you saw a change over time?

Because his father now says reportedly that this guy was embracing of al- Baghdadi, the reporting is that the wife pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi --


CUOMO: -- obviously the ISIS head.

Anything like that come up in terms of politics, anger?

ALI: No, absolutely not. We would see him frequently, as you know, two to four times a week. However, our visits and talks with him, our

conversations were very limited, maybe five minutes or so.

Because again, he was on lunch break, so it was just hi and bye, how's family, how's everything. And there were no signs of him ever expressing

some type of situation in which he was emotionally having some breakthrough (sic) or something like that or feeling that there's some policy as far as

American foreign policy or something like that that was in question.

I don't remember him ever making such comments.


CURNOW: Our Chris Cuomo there, speaking with people who knew California attacker Syed Rizwan Farook.

Well, just ahead, a change of focus, recognize this voice?


CURNOW (voice-over): Taylor Swift is looking to fill some blank spaces on her awards shelf. The Grammy nominations are out.

Who's in and who got snubbed?

That's next.




CURNOW: Hi, there. Welcome back.

Now the Grammy nominations have been announced and it looks like a battle for awards is shaping up between Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. Samuel

Burke is here to really break it all down.

But what's interesting is who's not on the list.


Everybody on social media is saying, what about Adele?

How come they didn't say hello to her?

But the nomination window is a bit odd. It goes from October of last year to September of this year. So Adele just missed it.

But don't feel bad for her. Come on. She sold over 3 million albums in just a couple of weeks, setting records both weeks. So she'll be just

fine. And I have a feeling that you and I, Robyn, we'll be talking about her.

But for now, it's all about Kendrick Lamar, probably not somebody you've heard of too often. We don't talk about him enough in the mainstream

media, to be quite frank. But his album, "How to Pimp a Butterfly," is all about race relations in this country.

And you know better than anybody that has been on the forefront of news in this country; one of his best known songs, "All Right," is all about police

brutality. So to me it's no surprise that he's nominated with 11 nominations, leading the pack. I saw him live at the Colbert show debut.


BURKE: And it's not my style of music but the way -- the words that he uses, you could tell, it was something really profound you were seeing.

And he's also nominated for one song that he did with Taylor Swift. He managed to get more nominations than her.

But she's got seven nominations, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Pop Solo, Pop Duo, Pop Vocal and the list goes on.

CURNOW: Yes. My little girls absolutely adore that album.

What also is kind of clear is that she used to be a bit of a Nashville hit. But she's moved on from her country music roots.

But I am, as you know, a huge country music fan.

BURKE: This cracks me up. We have an anchor at CNN Espanol from Argentina, Carlos Montero. We have a South African here in Atlanta. And

you guys are the country music fans.

CURNOW: Love the stuff.

But, I mean, Chris Stapleton has been my record of the year so far.

BURKE: And together. And for country solo performance, he was nominated - - some people might remember him actually because he had this song with Justin Timberlake that he did, "Tennessee Whiskey."


BURKE (voice-over): They appeared together on the Country Music Awards, which you're seeing right now, and that went viral and caught a lot of

people's attention. We may just let them listen a little.


BURKE (voice-over): Carlos, our reporter handed over to the anchor, why do you like him so much?

I mean, it's great there, but what really does it for you, Robyn?

CURNOW: Well, look at him. He's a sort of bushy-bearded bard in a way. The quality of his lyrics are just fantastic. And I think he's just has a

very fresh voice. He comes from a songwriting background.

BURKE: Exactly. And he's nominated alongside other groups or other solo acts, rather, Burning House, Cam, Traveler, Chris Stapleton, Little Toy

Guns, Carrie Underwood, John Cougar by Keith Urban and Chances Are Leann Womack. That's who he's going up against.

CURNOW: Yes, it's great, great list of artists.

Thanks so much. Great having you in the studio.

BURKE: Next year we'll be talking about Adele --

CURNOW: We know that, don't we? No brainer here. Thanks a lot.

This just in to CNN, want to update you on comments from the U.S. Justice Department. They've opened an investigation into whether the Chicago

Police Department engaged in practices that violated federal law.

Calls for a federal probe intensified after Chicago police released a video showing Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times.


CURNOW (voice-over): There you see that video last year. The video really sparked protests in the city and led to the resignation of the police



CURNOW: Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for watching. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex Thomas

is up next.