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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  August 30, 2013 2:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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p.m. today. he submitted it last weeks, succumbing to weeks of pressure. 19 women accused filner of inappropriately touching them and making lewd comments. he offered an apology for public failures but denied touching anybody. wolf blitzer is in "the situation room." no doubt the united states will strike against syria in syria. president obama and secretary of state john kerry presenting the evidence making the case for u.s. military action. horrific new video surfacing showing another -- another attack in syria, this time involving a school and an apparent incendiary device. and my interview this hour with senator rand paul. he questions the goals of a strike on syria and says the
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president should not act without the support of congress. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room." the united states government today declaring its high confidence that the u.s. did carry the devastating chemical attacks that killed 1,400 people, more than a third of them children. an intelligence estimate says the u.s. was able to track preparations by syrian chemical weapons personnel and the tomb firing of rockets. president obama today insisted he has not made a final decision on how to respond, but he also made it very, very clear the u.s. is preparing for what he describes as a limited military strike, even if the united states has to act alone. >> a lot of people think something should be done but nobody wants to do it.
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>> secretary of state john kerry made the case for action describing the suffering victims and rows of children lying dead on a hospital floor. >> we know that after a decade of conflict the american people are tired of war. believe me, i am, too. but fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. >> let's begin our special breaking news coverage this hour with our senior white house correspondent jim acosta. he was over there at the white house inside with the president when he spoke out. >> wolf, you mentioned just a few moments ago that president obama has not made a final decision about military action but make no mistake, this administration is making every move, moving in every direction towards some sort of strike against syria. just take many of the phone calls and the meetings that the president has had today. the white house has just confirmed to us in the last several minutes that the president has spoken by phone with both the prime minister of
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britain, david cameron, and the president of france. in addition to that, just to start off the day, the president was meeting with his national security staff this morning. there's a picture that's been released of that. it shows the president meeting with his national security adviser susan right, the secretary of state john kerry, eric holder and then you aired the clip of secretary of state john kerry when he talked about the children killed in that suspected chemical weapons attack. the intelligence briefing that came from the white house and then the president making those comments as he sat down with the leaders of estonia, latvia and lithuania, where he talked about how the country is war weary, talked about how he didn't want to go down that same road, how this will be a limited action in
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syria and no boots on the ground. he did stress this would not be an open-ended engagement. here's what the president had to say. >> i recognize that all of us here in the united states, in great britain and many parts of the world, there is a certain weariness given afghanistan, there's a certain suspicion of any military action post iraq and i very much appreciate that. on the other hand, it's important for us to recognize that when over a thousand people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99% of humanity says should not be used even in war and there is no action, then we're sending a signal that that international norm doesn't mean much.
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>> jim, you were inside the room when the president was speaking out. what was the mood like? because we see that -- we're also seeing a photo that you took. >> well, i wanted to capture the moment, wolf, for myself. i know there were lots of cameras in the room, no shortage of that as i can tell you from the elbows i sort of felt under my rib cage during that moment. but this was really no-drama obama. we heard that said about the president during times of crisis and had his back has been up against the wall politically speaking, he does get into that mode of really no drama. that's what we saw from the president when he made those remarks. he made point blank about that issue of not having international cooperation and not having congressional authorization. you did get the sense from him that not everything has gone his way this week but that he is determined, he is committed to taking some kind of action to punish syria for what he considers to be a violation of
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an international norm, one he says the world cannot turn away from. >> he certainly did. and so did the secretary of state. jim acosta, thanks very much. with the american public, lawmakers and even former presidents divided on syria, political considerations must weigh heavily on president obama. let's discuss what's going on with our chief political analyst gloria borger and chief congressional correspondent dana bash. the president hasn't made a final decision but everyone knows he has decided he is going to go ahead and launch some sort of strike against targets in syria. >> at this point it's not if but when. i think when you hear the president speak that way, it's clear he's got a lot of options on the table and maybe he was still deciding about a particular option, but i think you would have to assume given the fact that what we saw today was pretty much of a roll-out, first from the secretary and then the president himself. there was a background briefing for journalists with senior administration officials talking about the evidence on chemical
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weapons. they're clearly making their case. now the issue has been decided in great britain. they made a point of saying that they've got france and turkey with them. so i think what we're seeing is the beginning of the explanation of why they're going to go in -- >> they may have france and turkey's verbal support but i don't see any military hardware other than u.s. military hardware. >> the secretary of state did mention those two. >> they're very much in the roll-out but also checking the boxes with respect to -- >> not only did they have the big conference call last night with the heads of committees and leadership, they also went through more of the rank and file today to make sure everybody felt the love from the administration so that when -- not if but when this all starts that they feel the consultation that everybody in congress, no matter where they stand on this really want. >> when you talk about barack obama, he's the person who is
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most responsible in many ways for this post-iraq skepticism that we now have in this country, that he came to political prominence as a result of questioning the war in iraq. so when he says or when the secretary of state and he both say i know you're war weary, this isn't going to be iraq, this isn't going to be afghanistan, what he's trying to tell members who are worried about getting into another quagmire, wait, it's not going to happen. >> the president a week ago, a little more than a week ago sat down with our own chris cuomo for an interview, he was in syracuse new york, and they discussed syria. this was after reports of a chemical weapons attack. listen to how cautious the president was then. >> let's just take the example of syria. there are rules of international law, and, you know, if the u.s. goes in and attacks another country without a u.n. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are
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questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account. >> those are serious considerations because the u.s. does not have what he called a u.n. mandate. the u.s. does not have a coalition to make it work. even the british, meamerica's number one ally, they said no decisively yesterday in parliament. yet he going to go ahead without that international support. >> talking to sources familiar with their thinking, one is he clearly -- can you tell from the body language i don't think that has changed. but he talked about the red line. this is not the first time intelligence officials think chemical weapons were used, not even close, but it is the first time it has made the front pages, that we have seen these images and the president has no choice. and that is what my understanding is that's what they're being told by allies around the world that if you
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don't say what you mean and do what you say here, then if you look at north korea, look at iran and other hot spots, you put yourself in a terrible position. >> we heard from george w. bush, he was on fox. he said this, listen to his care fiscal cli carefully constructed words. >> the president has a tough choice to make. if he decides to use our military, he'll have the greatest military ever backing him up. i was not a fan of mr. assad. he's an ally of iran and he's made mischief. the president has to make a tough call, brian pip kn. i know you're trying to subtley trying to republic me into the issues of the day. i refuse to be roped in. >> in contrast, jimmy carter through the jimmy carter center
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in atlanta issued a statement saying "a punitive military response without a u.n. security council mandate or broad support from nato and the arab league would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war." two different presidents -- >> do you think president obama is sending him a thank you note? >> he's sending bush a thank you note, not jimmy carter necessarily. >> bush does what he always does, which is -- >> he's been very consistent, says nothing. >> stays out of it. i didn't like mr. assad, the president has a tough decision to make. and jimmy carter was jimmy carter. >> jimmy carter saying this could be a violation of international law, which is precisely what the president doesn't want to hear. >> the president was so careful when he spoke today. he said this threatens our national security interests by violating international norms. so he put it all into one big sentence. >> he keeps using the word
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"norms," he never says law. he keeps using the word "norms" because syria has not technically signed that chemical warfare convention. >> disturbing video from syria. an incendiary device causing injuries at a school. and paul rand says not so fast when it comes to syria. he wants the president to get the support of congress. my interview with senator rand coming up. our special report will continue. so we could be a better, safer energy company. i can tell you - safety is at the heart of everything we do. we've added cutting-edge technology, like a new deepwater well cap and a state-of-the-art monitoring center, where experts watch over all drilling activity twenty-four-seven. and we're sharing what we've learned, so we can all produce energy more safely. our commitment has never been stronger.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> we're just getting in from damascus an official and firm denial from the syrian government on everything that the secretary of state john kerry said today and the president of the united states, president barack obama said today including that u.s. intelligence report that was declassified and released today. this is what syria state television is now saying and
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i'll read it to you. "an official source at the ministry of foreign affairs announced that the ministry is surprised how after days of media hype, exaggeration and threats the u.s. secretary of state john kerry delivered a speech where the u.s. administration was supposed to present its concrete evidence to its domestic and international public opinion but then we were surprised to see kerry presenting what is based on old tales that the terrorists reported more than a week ago and it is all based on fabrications and baseless lies." let's bring in arwa damon. she's monitoring what's going on. i guess we shouldn't be surprised, arwa, by this firm denial by the syrian government rejecting everything the u.s. said today. >> reporter: no, wolf, it's not surprising at all. they were even mocking what the secretary of state kerry was saying to a certain degree, saying that that intercepted phone call, well, that was quite simply silly.
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they're also denying the allegation that they blocked or impeded the u.n. from conducting their mission. but what's also been quite interesting, wolf, is reaction amongst the syrian opposition, activists, rebel fighters themselves to this potential u.s. strike. a lot of them who we're talking to are saying, look, if this is the mission, if this is the aim. u.s. strike just to carry out these targeted attacks, a very short operation, well, that is not what we want to see happen. we do not want this to take place because that is going to cause us more harm than it is going to cause the regime because the regime is going to retaliate against us and once again you're going to have more civilian blood being shed. and everyone saying is america going to be able to protect us in that case and where has america been for the last two years, wolf? >> it's interesting in the same statement that was broadcast on syrian state television, they said that john kerry, what he was doing and i'll read the line
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here, he was doing what was basically a scene that reminds the world of the lies and the fabrications that colin powell tried to market days before iraq's invasion back in 2003. so a very, very strong statement, a rejection ridiculing, as you correctly point out, arwa, what the secretary of state said today. you also have stunning reporting of a different attack in syria, not the juone august 21st but a different one. i want to warn our viewers the video we're about to see is very graphic, extremely disturbing. what do we know, arwa? what happened here? >> reporter: yeah, it really is terrible video, wolf. now, this attack happening earlier in the week when the focus was on damascus, on the u.n. inspectors and this is what was taking place in the northern province of aleppo. once again the images uploaded
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to youtube by activists are hard to watch. "i can't, i can't" this child cries out when medics ask him to lay back. he implores them to stop the burning, stop the pain. it appears that doctors are doing what they can, covering the survivors with cream. like so much of the violence in syria, this is incomprehensible. according to survivors, the first strike hit a building next door to a school during math class. then the second. >> reporter: we didn't hear any sound, the student remembers. i just saw people burning. i was burning. my friends, too. what was happening? why were we burning? i didn't understand. the doctor says she is lucky to be alive. others had 50% to 80% burns, he
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said. we had to transfer the majority of the cases to turkey because we don't have a burn unit here. the video appears to show severe burns but no other external injuries. this one who identifies herself as a doctor says it looks like it was a chemical similar to napalm, perhaps, that caused major incendiary injuries. at this stage there is no way to know for sure what it was. the lcc says the attack took place in a small village along the aleppo highway that is under rebel control. we've been unable to independently verify what exactly happened. the village has been hit before but not like this. a worker pulls back a sheet showing a victim he tried to save. honestly, with such severe burns, he says, he would have died no matter where he was around the world.
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amid the cries of pain, the agony, a warning to bashar al assad. we will crush you, the teen-age student vows. good willing we will be doctors, lawyers, engineers and we will lift this country back up after you destroyed it. >> reporter: brave word there, wolf. syria most certainly is going to need all that this can get when it actually reaches that phase of needing to rebuild itself. the sad reality is whether or not the u.s. strikes, the situation there is going to get worse in the foreseeable future. >> and let's not forget at least 1,400 people were killed in that chemical weapons attack according to this u.s. intelligence report released today. over the last two and a half years, over 100,000 civilians have been killed in this civil
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war. coming up in "the situation room," with all the intelligence it was developing about syria's chemical weapons movement, could the u.s. have prevented that attack on august 21st? and a vivid description of the victims of that attack. you're going to hear the secretary of state, john kerry, lay out the case for military action against syria. stay with us, you're in "the situation room." when we made our commitment to the gulf, bp had two big goals: help the gulf recover and learn from what happened so we could be a better, safer energy company. i can tell you - safety is at the heart of everything we do. we've added cutting-edge technology, like a new deepwater well cap and a state-of-the-art monitoring center, where experts watch over all drilling activity twenty-four-seven.
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this is cnn breaking news. the united states military continue to move equipment haired wear closer and closer to
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syria in the eastern mediterranean. let's go to the pentagon. barbara starr is getting more information. what are you learning? >> reporter: another u.s. navy warship in place tonight off the coast of syria. the "u.s.s. san antonio" has come through the suez canal, 300 marines on board, part of the so-called prudent planning in advance of any u.s. military action. they will stay put for the next several days right there. but it is the intelligence everyone is focusing on tonight. an extraordinary level of detail about human intercepts, satellite intelligence, all kinds of intelligence that the u.s. learned about this attack. let's start with right before the attack. what the case the u.s. is making is that they had intelligence that they got that unfolded that the syrian forces were preparing to attack in the days before chemical weapons were being prepared, forces were using
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their gas masks. on the day of the attack, august 21st, satellites detected rocket attacks in the neighborhood. they calculated through intelligence means that those rockets were fired from regime-held areas. hundreds of people begin showing up at the hospitals, dying and injured. thousands of social media videos and other social media elements begin to record this event. after the attack, intercepts, again, u.s. intelligence intercepts of senior regime officials in syria discussing the fact that a chemical attack has taken place and a continued bombardment of those neighborhoods to try and wipe out any evidence before the u.n. inspectors show up. so i think the bottom line here, woman, is what we saw today was an extraordinary level of detail about intercepts, human intelligence and satellite intelligence. we haven't seen this kind of detail before. >> the report and the secretary says 1,429 people were killed on
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that august 21st attack. including at least 426 children. but then the report later goes on to say this -- in the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human signals and geospecial intelligence that we associated with a chemical weapons attack. it's pretty startling and pretty amazing. if you understand presumably what they're saying, if the u.s. knew three days in advance this was about to take place, why didn't the u.s. try to stop it, warn the rebels, warn the people there get out of the way, provide gas masks or whatever? >> reporter: you know, what's a really good question to which there is not a really good answer tonight, wolf. u.s. officials briefing the news media today were asked about this point and they said that it wasn't necessarily the case that they had so-called realtime
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intelligence, that they saw it literally unfold before their eyes. the intelligence in these matters comes in, they say, sometimes after the fact. so we also asked military officials here in washington whether there was ever any discussion about trying to engage in some sort of military operation to stop it, if they saw it unfold and they say there was not. wolf? >> because if in fact they did have even modest indications that this was about to happen, i think the moral responsibility would have been go ahead, alert these people or at least warn the syrians if you do this, you're going to pay a huge, huge price. but clearly we're going to learn more about this very, very sensitive point indeed. the only thing i can imagine is maybe they didn't want to say anything because it could have compromised their sources and methods, how they were learning about this and usually the intelligence community are very sensitive about that kind of stuff. the process, though, more than 1,400 people dead and thousands
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of others are badly injured. barbara, thank you. when we come back, a defiant secretary of state john kerry laying out the action against syria and warning that the united states means what it says. you're watching a special report "crisis in syria." at first, we were protecting networks. then, we were protecting the transfer of data. and today it's evolved to infrastructure... ♪ and military missions. we're constantly innovating to advance the front line in the cyber battle, wherever it takes us. that's the value of performance. northrop grumman. see, i knew testosterone could affect sex drive, but not energy or even my mood. that's when i talked with my doctor. he gave me some blood tests... showed it was low t. that's it. it was a number.
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chemical weapons use while insisting he hasn't made a final decision on military action. but if you listen to the secretary of state, john kerry, it certainly does sound like there's a done deal in the works already. listen to this powerful statement, a call to action which the syrian government calls nothing but fabrications. >> our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and rereviewed information regarding this attack, and i will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the iraq experience. we will not repeat that moment. with our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the damascus suburbs. all of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heart beats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness and death.
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and we know it was ordinary syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors. the united states government now knows that at least 1,429 syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. even the first responders, the doctors, nurses and medics who tried to save them, they became victims themselves. we saw them gasping for hair, terrified that their own lives were in danger. this is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. this is what assad did to his own people. it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the united states of america and our allies. it matters because a lot of
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other countries whose policies challenge these international norms are watching. they are watching. they want to see whether the united states and our friends mean what we say. we know that after a decade of conflict the american people are tired of war. believe me, i am, too. fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. we also know that we have a president who does what he says that he will do. and he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in syria it will bear no resemblance to afghanistan, iraq or even libya. it will not involve any boots on the ground. it will not be open ended and it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well under way.
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>> the secretary of state, john kerry, making the case for a u.s. military strike in syria. >> just ahead, there are new indication there is may be growing nervousness right now inside syria about a possible u.s. attack. just ahead, i'll speak with a prominent journalist about what he's hearing from his sources in syria. this is "the situation room" special report "crisis in syria."
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there are new indications the syrian government may already be taking precautions against the potentially imminent u.s. military strike.
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and columnist david ignatius is joining us from "the washington post." i know you're well plugged in, you've been speaking to your sources among the syrian rebels. what are you hearing? >> what i'm hearing today from rebels in touch with the command from the syrian army is, first, that assad's forces are said to be moving files, other sensitive equipment, some personnel out of their normal headquarters in damascus into the civilian areas of the city. much has happened in baghdad before baghdad was struck in 2003. the second thing that i'm hearing is that among the assad army command, there is growing nervousness, and that's shown by people sending their families out of syria to get them out of harm's way and by some increase in defections by syrian army personnel to the free syrian army side. and then finally, i'm hearing that among the syrian rebels there's an expectation that this
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u.s. military strike will be more rather than less. they think this may be a significant attempt to degrade assad's army. >> what seems to me based on what's happening, the pressure is now on the u.s., on the obama administration, to move more quickly, to do it sooner, in other words, rather than later. what are you hearing, what do you anticipate about timing? >> talking to senior administration officials just within the last hour or so, i get the feeling that this will come sooner, that because congress is away, there will not be an attempt to call congress back, that the president will assert his war powers authority and will notify congress. i don't think there will be an attempt to get much additional international support. the u.s. has decided to do this, the president has decided to do it and i think he will now move quickly. >> i wouldn't be surprised if it happened as early as this weekend. >> i hate to guess about timing but i do think the decision has been made. secretary kerry was so forceful in his statements. they have assembled quite a lot of intelligence, i think they
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have a strong case, i think they're ready to go. >> david ignatius, thanks for coming up. >> could a u.s. strike benefit al qaeda elements inside syria and other extremists within the syrian opposition? and senator rand paul says no so fast when it comes to striking at syria. my interview with the senator is coming up. . yeah. [ male announcer ] space. yes, we're loving this communal seating. it's great. [ male announcer ] the best thing to share? a data plan. at&t mobile share for business. one bucket of data for everyone on the plan, unlimited talk and text on smart phones. now, everyone's in the spirit of sharing. hey, can i borrow your boat this weekend? no. [ male announcer ] share more. save more. at&t mobile share for business. ♪
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welcome back to our special report. is the united states tipping its hat about a typical strike. could it end up making life
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easier for some of the more dangio dangerous with elements of al qaeda? colin, thanks very much for coming in. >> great to be here. >> how much of a problem is this that some of the biggest applause lines will come from al nusra and al qaeda elements and the opposition once they see the u.s. target positions of the syrian military? >> some of the al nusra guys have been on facebook saying the united states might come after them, too. i think the administration has been reluctant to get too deeply involved because it didn't want to assist extremists in this way. i think the strikes will be limited in a way to minimize that risk. >> if you weaken the assad regime, do you automatically help al qaeda and al nusra and elements in the resistance? >> it depends on what types of units and capabilities we end up targeting.
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>> i know you're no longer at the pentagon but what do you anticipate? what should we be bracing for? >> i think it lwill be a limite decision to deter assad. we probably won't go after the stockpile themselves -- >> if you blow those up, who knows how much collateral damage there would be. >> exactly. plus you'd maybe have to put boots on the ground. i imagine the rocket launchers, missile launchers, artillery, some of the command and control but probably not a wide spectrum of regime targets. >> that sounds like it could go on for several days. >> reporting suggests 50 targets. we have about 200 tomahawk missiles on the ships. >> on all of the five. there are submarines also? >> i don't know how many are confirmed. you're looking at a couple of days. >> would it be appropriate to send drones over? if you're going to target terrorists, for example, as the
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u.s. does in yemen or pakistan or in afghanistan, do you want to start killing people? >> well, i don't think we're going to do that. i think if we used drones it would be largely for intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, not for targeting. drones tonight pack a heck of a lot of punch. they might be good for blowing up a car -- >> if they found the brother of the thug, the syrian leader, would that be a target to go out and try to kill him in a convoy? >> maybe but the administration is careful not to signal this is a regime change. i doubt they would go after high sensitive targets because they wouldn't want to communicate that this is about toppling assad. >> thanks for coming in. >> good to be here. >> senator rand paul says not so fast when
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[ male announcer ] icy hot advanced patch with 50% more medicine. pain over. as the clock ticks closer to a possible u.s. military strike against syria, many are warning not so fast. earlier i spoke with kentucky senator rand paul. he's a key member of the senate foreign relations committee. we spoke just before that declassified intelligence report was released. senator paul, if you were president of the united states -- and i know you're thinking about becoming president one of these days, but if you were president now and you got a report from your intelligence community that hundreds of people were gassed, were killed by chemical weapons, thousands injured, on august 21st, what would you do about that? >> well, i think it's incumbent to always obey the constitution. the rule of law is something our country's founded on. and i would ask congress to come together and we would debate
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whether or not it's in our national security interests to be involved. i think it's horrific, you know, when civilians are killed. but civilians have been killed on both sides of this war. horrific things have happened. there have been images of islamic rebels eating the hearts of their opponent. so really i don't think there's a lot of good on either side of this war. but the main thing is i agree with barack obama of 2007 who said that no president should unilaterally go to war without the authority of congress. >> well, you know that ever since that 1973 war powers act became the law, a lot of presidents, democratic presidents, republican presidents, they launched military action without formal congressional authority, whether it was ronald reagan or george h.w. bush in panama or bill clinton in kosovo. so if the president were to launch military strikes against syria right now, he'd be following their examples. >> yeah. bad examples are not always good examples to follow. you know, if you look at the war
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powers act, it says explicitly that the only exception to congress giving you authority is in imminent attack. and the president seemed to understand this as a senator. so did joe biden as a senator as well. they both were very explicit that you have to be under imminent attack or, actually, in biden's case he said it's an impeachable offense. so he believed very strongly about this as a senator. i believe very strongly that the constitution was intended to separate the powers. you know, madison said that the executive is the power most likely to go to war so that we vested the power to declare war in congress. >> and an article you wrote for you wrote this, i'll put it up on the screen. you said america's wars must be debated by congress, declared constitutionally and fought only for the interests and security of the united states. they should never be fought to save face. so what do you mean by that when you say save face? because the implication is what
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as far as the president is concerned? >> i think some may feel, and the president may be one who feels that he's losing his international power or acclaim if he doesn't follow -- he said there was a red line with chemical weapons and he feels incumbent to act. but the thing is just to act to save face is not a strategic objective. he's already pre-announced that if he does attack, he's going to do it in a very limited fashion and he's not going to be for regime change. to me this sort of sounds like we're not going to win. he's for stalemate. and when i've had private conversations with the administration, that's what i hear. they're not for victory for either side. they're for equalizing the battle and having stalemate. but i see it in personal perspective. i have three sons. i don't see sending one of my sons to war or your son to war to fight for stalemate. i think this should be a clear-cut strategic objective that helps the united states. and we should know that whoever wins the war, whoever we're
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supporting, will be a friend of the united states. i'm not certain that either side or any of the multiple sides of this war will ultimately be a friend to the united states. >> you know, you have disagreements among some of your republican colleagues, republican senator bob corker for example, a key member of the foreign relations committee. he said after being briefed by the administration, he says he now supports what he calls surgical proportional military strikes. so why is he wrong and you're right? >> well, i would ask the question, what is the strategic objective? is it simply to say shame on you for launching and using chemical weapons? i would like to know who used the chemical weapons. in all likelihood it probably was the syrian government. but it really isn't to their advantage. it's actually more to the advantage of the rebels to have launched this attack because the whole world now is uniting against assad. i would want to know though would the surgical strikes that are favored, would they somehow eliminate chemical weapons and
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stop him from using these again? if it's not regime change, it may well incite the russians to become more involved, the iranians to become more involved. it may well incite gas attacks on tel aviv or israel. what happens then? will israel feel restrained this time the way they did in the gulf war? or will israel respond in not just a proportional fashion but an overwhelming fashion to now obliterate as much of iran's military capacity if iran gets involved? there's a lot of unknowns about this. eisenhower said that when the violence begins, you can throw out all your plans. but you certainly have to think about before you begin offensive actions what the possible ramifications are if this spins out of control. >> i just want to be precise, senator. are you leaving open the possibility, albeit remotely, that perhaps the rebels were responsible for this chemical gas attack as opposed to the regime of president bashar al assad? >> i've seen no evidence on
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either side. i have seen news reports that says the rebels may well have access to chemical weapons. i have seen no evidence from our intelligence committee -- that's the other thing about this. should we go to war without the president coming before a joint session of congress, presenting the case and showing the intelligence? we've been misled before. in iraq we were misled by the intelligence. even at the various high levels of government the intelligence was massaged, i believe, to try to instigate and get us into the war in iraq. i don't want that to happen again. we should have a more deliberate evaluation of the information before we go to war. >> well, the war in iraq there was resolutions passed by both the senate and the house. and some of the other examples i gave, ronald reagan and grenada, for example, no resolution passed. very quickly, did he ronald reagan or president george h.w. bush in panama, did they violate the constitution by sending
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trou troops in without formal? >> the constitution doesn't specify between small wars and big wars. i think we've become through the war powers act and through our custom, we've come to believe and i do believe that the president has the right to stop and repulse imminent attacks. but really anything else -- when we were attacked in pearl harbor, fdr came to a joint session of congress the next morning and we got a declaration of war. when we were attacked on 9/11, george bush did come to congress and ask for a use of authorization of force. so i think it really is best and the country's most united when we try to stick to the constitution and when we try to have the people involved through their representatives. >> senator paul, thanks very much for coming in. >> thank you. happening now, breaking news, our special report, crisis in syria. 1,400 people dead including hundreds of children. the u.s. intelligence report on syria's alleged chemical weapons attack is out.
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bracing for a u.s. strike, the bashar al assad regime weighing its options while president obama weighs his. how might syria respond? plus, the dictator's brother suspected of orchestrating a campaign of brutality. what we're learning about him. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." president obama calls it a challenge to the world, but the u.s. commander in chief says he has not decided whether to launch a military strike against syria for its alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. as the president huddled today with his national security team in the white house situation room, the administration has released details of a declassified u.s. intelligence report which says 1,429 people died in that august 21st horror including at least 426 children.
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and it concludes with this quote, high confidence that u.s. has "high confidence that the regime of bashar al assad was behind the attack." the president did offer some details of what a u.s. response would and would not entail. >> we're not considering any open-ended commitment. we're not considering any boots on the ground approach. what we will do is consider options that meet the narrow concern around chemical weapons, understanding that there's not going to be a solely military solution to the underlying conflict and tragedy that's taking place in syria. >> laid out the case for a military strike against targets in syria. >> we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like bashar al assad can gas thousands of his own people with
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impunity even after the united states and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it. there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will. >> syria's foreign minister responded just a short while ago saying, and i'm quoting now, syria's foreign ministry, what kerry presented is based on old tales that the terrorists presented more than a week ago. and it's all based on fabrications and lies. as of now saudi arabia, turkey and france, they say they're in favor of the u.s. strike on syria, but there's no indication any of them are ready to provide military backup on behalf of the united states. but critical allies including the united kingdom, germany, they will not go along with the united states militarily. of course russia, china, iran strongly oppose any u.s. military strike. we have cnn's global resources
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working the story. we're joined by our chief international correspondent christian amanapour. christia christiane, let me start with you. here's a clip of the secretary of state warning in very strong words the importance of what the united states now potentially is going to do. >> this matters also beyond the limits of syria's borders. it is about whether iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons. it is about hezbollah and north korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. will they remember that the assad regime was stopped from
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those weapons, current or future use? or will they remember that the world stood aside and created immunit immunity. >> christiane, this imminent military strike, how important is it for sending this broader signal to other adversaries of the u.s.? >> well, incredibly important. i think secretary kerry laid out a very powerful case in that regard. it's a case that should have been made years ago, frankly, when this all started or even months ago when the last time they did, the syrian government, did use chemical weapons with impunity and were allowed to get away with it. now it's way over the, you know, the state of the ability to ignore it. the u.s. saying 1,400 people at least have been killed, civilians. so i think it's a very strong message. it's one that many people believe should have been acted on, this red line of the president's, the last time it happened by all sorts of intelligence accounts the assad
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regime has used chemical weapons either ten times, according to british prime minister david cameron already, or 35 times according to some of the syrian opposition. so it's a very, very serious problem. and of course chemical weapons, the use of weapons of mass destruction, is a war crime. and it is banned by, you know, the ultimate laws, the ultimate international laws. >> arwa, you've risked your life on several occasions from reporting inside syria. you have good contacts with the syrian opposition, the free syrian army and others. what do they want the u.s. to do? >> reporter: well, at this junction, wolf, they're basically saying that given the plan that the u.s. is putting forward in the sense that this is not a potential strike that is going to bring down the regime or dramatically change the dynamics of the battlefield. a lot of them do believe that they would actually prefer not to see this take place.
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quite simply because people are absolutely terrified and rightfully so that the regime is then going to turn around and retaliate against opposition strongholds and they say it's not as if america has a plan in place to continue to protect the civilian population. it is going to hurt them much more than it is actually going to hurt the regime. some of the activists that we've been speaking to also pointing out that while this strike might, yes, ever so slightly potentially decrease the regime's capabilities, slightly perhaps. even out on the battlefield this is a battlefield where at the forefront are these islamist extremist groups, many with ties to al qaeda and a lot of the other more mainstream rebels and activists are then concerned this is going to allow them to become even more powerful than they are. and a lot of them also, again, saying where has america been for the last two years? we've had 100,000 dead and
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counting. they really view this as being more in america's own interests in its own political interest than the genuine care for the syrian population. >> fascinating analysis. let's go to nick paton walsh at the united nations. the secretary had some strong words, today, about the united nations and its role. listen to this. >> by the definition of their own mandate, the u.n. can't tell us anything that we haven't shared with you this afternoon or that we don't already know. and because of the guaranteed russian obstructionism of any action through the u.n. security council, the u.n. cannot galvanize the world to act as it should. >> as you know, nick, ban ki-moon, the u.n. secretary general, he has made it repe repeatedly clear he doesn't want the u.s. to strike. he wants this to play out
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diplomatically at the u.n. and elsewhere. what's the latest at the u.n.? >> we're anticipating perhaps a busy 24 hours ahead of us. it is clear that ban ki-moon will receive a briefing from angela cane who led the weapons inspectors, the chemical weapons inspectors to damascus. that briefing will happen tomorrow. what i am hearing though from a western diplomat is a slight change in the sequencing we were expecting. now, ban ki-moon himself did come out and say that once he'd had that briefing, he would then brief the u.n. security council of what he had in fact heard. i'm hearing from a western diplomat today that some briefing had been occurring this afternoon, but none of it pertained to any of the results. ban ki-moon simply met with the permanent five members of the security council, explained logistics and timing of the inspectors and their work to them, but didn't go into results because he wasn't at that stage briefed by angela cane. so the suggestion now is that he will be briefed tomorrow. and then we may have to wait potentially weeks, certainly
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days until the inspectors get back from the laboratories across europe, the results from testing the samples they took in the sites across syria and then compile a final report that will then be presented to ban ki-moon to then pass on to the security council. a much lengthier timeline here which pretty much precludes what many thought could be the case we'd get some initial indication from inspectors at the weekend. wolf, as you say, they are simply establishing whether chemical weapons were used inside syria. their mandate does not extend to who was to blame for that. wolf. >> christiane, if you hear the white house, they say the president spoke with the french president hollande today, the president spoke with the british prime minister david cameron today. two u.s. allies, probably two very different kinds of conversations. take us inside. what do you think was discussed? >> well, clearly what is happening in both countries and in both capitals, it has been a real international shock what happened in great britain.
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the parliament decided that there would be no vote of confidence for the prime minister to take part in any of these kind of military strikes and therefore the british have said they will not take part in military action. and, honestly, you know, you cannot overstate what a shock that is because for the last 30 years at least the british have been side-by-side with the americans every time there's been either a major or even a limited strike in this regard. so this is a big shock, particularly after the prime minister and his own foreign secretary, william hague, were very, very vocal about the need to punish this, that the world cannot stand by, even that morning when they were being voted down just before there was very strong tweeting coming out of the prime minister's office to the extent that they should go ahead and do something. by contrast, presumably the president had a slightly different conversation with his french counterpart, francois hollande who says he will,
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france will stand by and will take part in whatever military action is deemed that the president of the united states decides to go ahead. and they will do it. and that of course is, you know, to americans i'm sure that sounds rather sort of backwards because everybody remembers over the iraq war the french were pillar ried for not marching in lockstep with the united states. congress decided to call french fries freedom fries and all sorts of really intelligent people were pouring french wine down the drain hole because they were so mad about the french. so now the french are standing in lockstep with the united states. and they've been very close allies for the last many years. for instance, in afghanistan, for instance, the french went into mali and tried to sort that out. eventually the united states helped them with logistics and that kind of thing. but they have been strong allies in the post-iraq war scenario. >> well, let's see if they actually help militarily as opposed to just speaking out -- >> they have said they will. >> let's see if they do. >> they have said they will.
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>> well, actions speak louder than words. >> well, they tooked lead in libya, wolf. >> the u.s. was directly involved, so were the french, so were others. let's see if the syrians actually use their military power, their air force, their missiles to help the united states launch strikes in syria. i'll be curious to see if president hollande backs up the words with actual deeds. we'll know very soon, maybe as soon as this weekend. christiane amanpour, nick paton walsh, arwa damon, thanks very much. israel is within striking distance of the regime's conventional and unconventional weapons. we're going live to tel aviv. and as the u.s. weighs its options, so is syria. we're taking a closer look at the possible response to a u.s. strike. you're watching a "the situation room" special report, crisis in syria.
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we're about to go live to tel aviv as israel watches and waits to see what happens next. our special report "crisis in syria" continues right after this.
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it's the jewish state right in the heart of the arab world. and right now the crisis in syria has israel very much on edge. it's well within striking distance of syria's chemical arsenal and in danger of being swept up in a regional conflict that could result from a u.s. strike on syria. let's get some analysis from a senior military and political analyst for the israeli newspaper, a contributing writer to the "new york times" magazine. he's joining us via skype. and a special correspondent for israel's channel 10, they're both joining us from tel aviv. aviv, how concerned are israelis right now? i know they've been distributing gas masks. what's going on? >> well, people are a bit nervous. we saw some cues outside the centers where they're giving out
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gas masks. let me tell you one thing. as an israeli, as a jew, when we first saw the photos and the videos from syria, the first flashback we had is from the holocaust because we were jews and we were gassed over there in germany 70 years ago. and this really is a disturbing -- very disturbing for us as jews. but in terms of being nervous because of the situation, i think we're confident. we're a bit nervous, but we are confident that this thing will go and assad will not strike with chemical weapons here in tel aviv. >> you've covered the israeli intelligence community and you well know over the past year or two the israelis, at least by my account, they've bombed various targets in syria at least four times. usually weapons depots,
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stockpiles moving from syria towards hezbollah units in lebanon. as far as i can tell, the syrians never retaliated against israel for those air strikes. what's your assessment what is about to happen assuming the u.s. goes forward over the next few hours or days with an air strike? >> yes, wolf, of course the natural immediate comparison come to mind would be the situation with operation desert storm in the gulf in 1991 when saddam hussein threatened and then struck israel with missiles in order to get israel involved in the war in a plan to disassemble the coalition. the very touchy and delicate coalition the united states assembled at that time. we are talking a very difficult situation now. i don't see any clear interest to president assad to strike
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israel. israel is quite strong. president assad knows that. he had some very ample proof and examples in the strikes that you mentioned, a few of them in the last six months, how much israel knows about what is happening in syria and what israel is capable to do. he wouldn't like to open another front in addition to the u.s. campaign that is assumed would be ran against him. so i think the chances of israel being involved in the current confrontation between the united states and syria are extremely slim. as aviv mentioned, yes, people are scared but with no reason that israel would be involved. however, in such a confrontation things might slip, might get out of hand if for example hezbollah in lebanon would initiate some sort of a retaliation against israel trying to align with syria, possibly with iran, israel with force to retaliate. but i do not see president assad
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take the chance and getting israel involved in this kind of war. >> the prime minister of israel, benjamin netanyahu, saying this week if that were to happen, if israel were attacked, israel he says would respond ferociously to any such attack. all right, guys, thanks very much. avivfrenkel. up next, every day the world talks about a strike on syria, the bashar al assad regime is preparing for it and possibly planning its response. plus, the man suspected of orchestrating some of the worst atrocities, we're digging deeper on bashar al assad's brother. you're watching a "the situation room" special report "crisis in syria." i asked my husband to pay our bill, and he forgot. you have the it card and it's your first time missing a payment, so there's no late fee. really? yep! so is your husband off the hook? no. he went out for milk last week and came back with a puppy. hold it. hold it. hold it. at discover, we treat you like you'd treat you. get the it card with late payment forgiveness.
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happening now, the breaking news we're watching growing concerns about the potential fallout or blowback from the u.s. military strike against targets in syria. plus, bashar al assad's younger brother often by his side always in the shadows. and syria's wounded, some of them now being treated in israel's hospitals. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. this is "the situation room" special report, "crisis in syria." a u.s. navy amphibious ship with 300 marines on board now in the eastern mediterranean. the u.s.s. san antonio was on a routine deployment but will remain in the eastern mediterranean for what a defense official calls prudent planning in case of a strike on syria. meantime, there are growing concerns about the fallout or the blowback, shall we say, from a u.s. strike. our senior international correspondent nick paton walsh is over at the united nations.
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he's watching what's going on. what are you seeing, nick, and hearing? >> well, wolf, in barack obama's own words it's likely that the decision he takes to launch a strike would involve something that's limited and narrow. so many as saying if you're not looking to change the balance on the ground and simply send a message, is that really going to disturb the situation in the region so badly that the major thing you'll see is significant blowback towards the u.s. and its allies in that part of the world. the question isn't can america strike syria, but how hard? >> the syrian air force is on the verge of collapse in my opinion. we could destroy the syrian air force in its entirety in 30 minutes. >> ex-navy planner, chris harmer, drew up on paper a light missile strike plan similar to what president obama may do. but now harmer and other analysts think it would be a bad idea unless part of a wider military strategy. >> if we start punishing him, if we do punishment strikes without
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a consequential impact, those chemical weapons are likely to be transferred to hezbollah. as you know, hezbollah is a foreign terrorist organization. the worst possible outcome for the united states and the west in general is for these chemical weapons to transfer from assad to hezbollah. >> my fear is that if there's only a very, very limited attack and there's no follow-on that the assad regime could come out of this thinking, okay, so as long as i no longer use chemical weapons, i can do whatever i want. >> but the u.s. attack is largely in the -- supporters of the united nations. but with so many of syria's neighbors edging towards the precipice after over a year of savage civil war, there is a real risk that u.s. intervention could unleash a host of unintended consequences. syria's regime may be too overstretched to pick another fight. their backers, iran or lebanese militant group hezbollah, may instead. it depends on how threatened
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they feel by the strike. >> if it's a limited attack, i think the likelihood hezbollah responding is much, much lez. but if hezbollah interests are hit, if key regime interests are hit and hezbollah believes this is really affecting the assad's regime to stay in power, you could see hezbollah doing any one of a number of things. they could fire some rockets at israel. they may do that anyway. theoretically, if they're severe attacks and hezbollah is really threatened, they could decide to target western interests, most likely in the region. >> so we're at a point now where no matter what we do there's going to be negative blowback against the united states. there's really no perfect option here. there's just a lot of bad options and we've got to choose the least bad one. >> after two years of not intervening until the uncon shenable moral outrage of chemical warfare, the u.s. looks forced to choose when there are no good choices left. now, many analysts suggest -- actually all forces involved in
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that conflict already too overstretched to pick another fight. but some also say we're not talking about rational actors here. the assad regime using chemical weapons on that scale knowing it could invite an international response may also act in an unpredictable fashion if struck by the u.s. also, bear in mind, wolf, there are so many other potential groups, armed factions in that region who might take the opportunity of a u.s. intervention, the most polarizing potentially group or issue in that whole region to somehow try and widen the conflict, wolf. >> nick paton walsh at the united nations. good report. thank you. the obama administration continued today to make its case for a strike on syria by releasing a declassified intelligence report on the alleged chemical attack, which it blames with high confidence "high confidence" on the bashar al assad regime. let's get some information from dana bash, also joining us our cnn political commentator david
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frum, contributing editor for news wooek and daily beast and fran townsend, former homeland security advisor to current bush currently serving on cia, and department of homeland security external advisory boards. there was something very disturbing in this intelligence report, the declassified version that came up today. and it says this about that august 21st chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people. in the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack. if the u.s. knew for three days about what was going to happen, why didn't they warn the people there? why didn't they provide gas masks? why didn't they tell the bashar al assad regime if you do this all bets are off? >> well, it is i think the most troubling piece to the report. but it's not clear. the way it's worded, wolf, it's not clear they understood the
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import, the strategic import of that at the time they collected it, right? you've got all these different sources of intelligence that have to be quickly integrated and understood. in order to make that effort, just yesterday josh rogan reported that the administration refused to proguide gas masks to the rebels, to the free syrian army. these are questions that the administration is going to have to grapple with. but right now we're focused on the intelligence. and i must say to you, when you look at the intelligence report as a whole, it lays out a pretty compelling case about why the president feels he's got to act. >> you work both at the cia and the defense department, even if there were just indications that this was about to happen, wasn't there a moral responsibility to try to prevent it from happening? >> and we may have done some things, wolf, that we're not aware of or privy too, but i think fran's last point is the important one. i've sat through hundreds of intelligence briefings and i've read hundreds of intelligence reports. none are this definitive, this airtight, if you will.
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and none are this harrowing and horrifying to read. i mean, the graphic detail about the numbers, the specificity, the signals intelligence, the intercepts about people making claims, this is very strong stuff, wolf. and i think it makes a comp compelling case that we've got to do something. as secretary kerry said the risks of inaction probably are very, very great here. >> here's what the president said back in august 2012, a year ago, about that red line. >> we have been very clear to the assad regime, but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. that would change my calculus. that would change my equation. >> all right. now, looking back, was that a blunder on his part to raise that red line? >> well, he didn't have a backup plan. the president is now talking about firing a shot across the bow. the reason a shot across the bow
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works is the people on the bow have reason to fear that the next shot will be shot in the hull. if you tell them it's a shot across the bow and that's it, they say, we can survive that. and what the president has been doing and the thing i think really calls for real thought at this point, the united states has been stepping up its involvement in syria. it has been supplying various kinds of assistance to these rebels. we read that in newspapers, people with access to classified information will know more about that. the united states has begun to make a commitment, but without a vision for how this war ends and who it would like to see in power. and if you decide that the alternatives are as bad or worse than the governing regime and you are putting pieces on the board and committing increasing amounts of credibility, then in the end you're going to war not because you have a vision but because you want to protect yourself from looking weak. >> fran, a lot of people have said there are bad options and even worse options. there are no really good options right now. >> well, but, wolf, i think we need to understand, i agree with david.
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the problem here is a missile strike, a very narrow missile strike may poke the hornet's nest but not have a strategic effect. remember after the east africa embassy bombings in 1998, president clinton did a similar sort of narrow strike into the camps in afghanistan. it didn't prevent 9/11. and my point is you must have strategic objectives. and these military interventions have got to be linked to meaning objectives, we haven't heard that from the president. this is sort of punitive for the use of chemical weapons. i agree with jeremy. we have to act. we can't let that pass. but i think most importantly we need military operations tied to strategic objectives. >> fran townsend, thanks for having you. coming up, has the bashar al assad regime hidden its most valuable military assets? what would happen after a u.s. military strike? and we have new details of bashar al assad's brother, why some say he's the most brutal of all. you're watching a special "the
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situation room" report, crisis in syria. accomplishments of our students and alumni. people like, maria salazar, an executive director at american red cross. or garlin smith, video account director at yahoo. and for every garlin, thousands more are hired by hundreds of top companies. each expanding the influence of our proud university of phoenix network. that's right, university of phoenix. enroll now. we've got a frame waiting for you. humans. we are beautifully imperfect creatures living in an imperfect world. that's why liberty mutual insurance has your back,
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al assad's little brother known as the muscle in the family and considered even more brutal. that's next. this is "the situation room" special report "crisis in syria."
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with u.s. warnings against potential military action in syria, they're getting louder by the hour. chances are the syrian government is also carefully weighing its response. cnn's tom foreman is over in our virtual studio along with our military analyst, retired u.s. general james spider marks. go ahead, general, tell us what you see. >> wolf, you're exactly right. every hour every day as this goes forward, and no action taken, whether action will be taken, is also time syria can get ready. up until a week or so ago there were no doubt many signals coming up from government and military facilities out there, but, general, what would you expect now? >> assad may be a monster, but
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he's clever. i would guarantee he's turning all these systems off. he's going to shut down everything that emanates a signal and intentionally go to black. makes it more difficult for us to find him. >> now, that said, we probably would know where these facilities are already even if they've gone dark now. so say we're talking about something like a radar facility or some kind of command and control structure out there. would we hit it anyway? and what would be the result? >> tom, we would. all of these fixed facilities are in the target list. they will be attacked. but until we put a human in there and open a door, we don't know what's inside. so assad probably has packaged up all the contents and disbu e disbursed those throughout the country. >> so hour by hour that's spreading out. what about things like rockets and missiles? >> if a weapons system is not being used, it goes to a garrison facility. assad, a thinking opponent, has moved those capabilities to locations where they were operationally ineffective and where we wouldn't look for them. >> like underneath overpasses, things where you wouldn't expect them at all. >> correct. >> airfields cannot be moved.
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they're incredibly important, but aircraft can. what would you expect there? >> no doubt assad has flown his aircraft out of the country, probably to iran. however, think about this, saddam hussein when we liberated iraq, buried his aircraft in the dirt. most unbelievable thing i've seen. >> so with enough preparation time, the whole point is that there are many things which can be done and there has been a lot of preparation time here after a limited attack. many of these assets could be brought back together and put back into service. and this is a very fundamentally different approach than what we've seen from israel in recent years. >> the israelis do not give up the element of surprise. they do not spend time building a coalition. for example, in september 2007, the israelis struck a nuclear facility in eastern syria and destroyed it. and just last july, july of this year, just six weeks ago, they attacked latakia, which is where syria had anti-cruise ship
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missiles. >> and when did we find out about the attacks? >> bhep they were finished. >> that's very dimpbtd e different approach than what's happening right now in where syria has a lot of time to think about it if it's going to come just as the u.s. is thinking about the same thing. >> there was no real syrian retaliation against israel after the various israeli air strikes against tarlgt e targets in syria. guys, thanks very much. coming up next in our special report, he's known as the knee-capper of the syrian regime. we're taking a closer look at bashar al assad's younger brother and the startling story of syria's badly wounded. some of them are being treated right now in hospitals in israel. [ male announcer ] a guide to good dipping. everything is better with sabra hummus. observe... little carrot. little bit of hummus. oh, lonely wing... well we have got the perfect match for you. shiny knife.
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bashar al assad may be the face of the syrian regime but behind the scenes one of the siblings may be directing some of the most brutal atrocities. cnn's brian todd is here and he's been taking a closer look at the younger brother. what do we know about maher al assad? >> he's a key player in some of the most vicious fighting in this civil war. we know he has a crucial role to advising his brother and between the two of them maher is not the one you would want to come across in a dark alley. we want to alert you some of the images in this story may be disturbing to some viewers. >> reporter: many decisions on the brute force inside the syrian regime are connected not only to president bashar al assad but also to a man a couple of years youngerer were often by the president's side, often in the shadows, his brother maher. >> maher is the kneecaper. he's the charge of securing,
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keeping the regime in power. >> reporter: considered more brutal than his brother, the muscle in the family, maher al assad commands the 4th division and the republican guard, elite syrian military duties composed of mostly of muslims of the assad clan. but he's got something else in his portfolio. >> they've come to control the ghosts there, the paramilitary forces. >> reporter: forces that analysts say have carried out massacres of syrian villagers. maher's actions once led turkey's prime minister to publicly slam him saying he's, quote, chasing after savagery. ted katuuf is a former u.s. ambassador to syria who has met with the assad family. what is the influence he personally has over his brother? >> i think his brother has to be wary of him because he's a hot head and he's known to be a hot head and he's known to have not particularly great judgment, but, you know, when you're a head of a mafialike regime, you
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depend on enforcers. >> reporter: a role maher's relished for many years. that's one legendary account that there's a time his sister was set to marry someone not exactly up to the family's standards. >> he's said to have shot his brother-in-law in the stomach in the early days before the brother-in-law was his brother-in-law, but was trying to marry his sister and the father did not approve of the marriage and thought he was low and maher was already the enforcer before the father died. >> reporter: the brother-in-law was killed in a rebel bomb attack on the syrian cabinet a year ago. maher was believed to have been wounded in that attack and hasn't been seen since. >> we don't even know, there's rumors his leg was blown off, he was badly wounded. this could be true. we don't know exactly what condition he is in today. >> if maher al assad is still alive and still helping his brother he's following a menacing family tradition. their late father dictator hafez
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al assad placed his own brother rifaat as head of key syrian security units. rifaat al assad was reported a key figure behind the 1982 crackdown in the city of hama 34 which tens of hows syrian civilians were massacred. i know you know the monthlong series of massacres very well. >> in the '80s. brian todd reporting. just ahead in our special report, two countries still in a state of war but israeli doctors and nurses are putting politics aside right now to treat some of syria's badly wounded civilians including children. when we made our commitment to the gulf, bp had two big goals:
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care even though the two countries are officially in a state of war. cnn's jim clancy reports some of those most surprised by the unprecedented cross-border help are the patients themselves. >> reporter: at 15 years of age her eyes have seen what no child should ever have to see. "i don't know what happened," she tells us. "i woke up and saw my wounded uncle screaming. i could not bear what i saw. i was in pain. i threw myself outside. my father saw me and wrapped me up." to help protect her identity, we'll call her laila, two months ago in syria an a arp tillery shell crashed into her home. her right leg is gone. her left leg severely damaged, shrapnel pierced her body. she survived and her mother at her side in israel. no one will say how more than 120 badly wounded syrians have
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come here or where they will go after treatment. many of them are young man who deny they are fighters but it's impossible to know. a military guard does stand outside their door. doctors leave politics aside. >> when you see small kids like this, you hear her doing her story, you cry, too. >> reporter: laila says she wants to go home but she can't envision when. "i don't think the situation is getting better, it's getting worse," she says. "there's not one single safe place to retreat." some of the young men said they never thought in their wildest dreams that they would be treated inside israel. they praise the hospital staff saying they were being shown kindness. the injured mother of an 8-year-old syrian girl badly wounded herself, said she had no qualms about coming here.
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"honestly i was not afraid" she says, "i was happy we were coming here to be treated." but who will pay for the expensive specialized scare? >> we spend about $3 million treating them and probably the sum will increase. right now nobody's paying the bill. >> reporter: doctors say they're more focused on ensuring their youngest patients will be able to walk again. laila who hasn't been able to go to school for two years is bitter about the conflict. "they already destroyed my future since i'm a little girl," she told us. "and the world should know, she said, i wish they would help us so we can end this violence and get better and the country can go back to where it was." but for now, there's a sharp increase in the number of patients like laila. half of the available beds in the intensive care unit here are filled with syrian wounded, brought in the last week alone.
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jim clancy, cnn, zeith hospital in northern israel. >> i suspect more will be on the way very, very soon. that's it for our special report, i'm wolf blitzer in washington. thanks very much for watching. for our north american viewers, erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. "outfront" next, the white house makes its case for war. it's official declassified intelligence report on syria's chemical weapons attack. is it enough to justify military action? plus, rising gas prices. why you're paying more to fill up this labor day weekend and why prices will likely keep on rising. and kate middleton makes her first public appearance since giving birth. let's go "outfront." i'm jessica yellin in for erin