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President Obama Holds Off On Military Action Against Syria -- For Now; Secretary of State John Kerry Says There Is Strong Evidence Of Chemical Weaponry In Syria; The Medical Effects Of Sarin Gas; A Talk With John Kerry; Does al Qaeda Benefit From A U.S. Strike?; The Story Of A Deaf Deejay

Aired September 1, 2013 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Don Lemon here. You're in the CNN Newsroom. We're continuing our special coverage of the Syria crisis.

And boy, do we have a lot to tell you about following the president's decision to hit pause on any military strike on Syria so Congress could vote on it.

We start with the parade of leaders from both parties hitting the Sunday talk shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president really felt very strongly that the Congress of the United States weighing in makes our nation stronger in whatever action we take.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: This is a clear failure of leadership. And if he feels so strongly about it and if he doesn't want to take the action himself, then he should call us back in to session tomorrow.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think also, too, his response was in recognition of many Republicans and Democrats who were calling for congressional participation. So I think he made the right choice.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: But if Congress overrules a decision of the president of an issue of national security that could set a catastrophic precedent in the future. It would be very dangerous precedent to be setting. President of the United States is the commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The commander in chief has set up high stakes showdown with his opposition by asking opposition in Congress by asking them to authorize the military strike against Syria.

His secretary of state this morning, in making the president's case revealed new information about what's been found at the site of those apparent chemical attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I can share with you today that blood and hair samples that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from east Damascus, from first responders, it has tested positive for signatures of sarin. So, each day that goes by this case is even stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Several hours after Kerry's interview, members of Congress got their own a briefing on Capitol Hill, receiving a classified intelligence briefing from White House, Pentagon and state department officials.

Our senior congressional correspondent Data Bash is standing by on Capitol Hill.

So Dana, what do the lawmakers say after that briefing?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's still a lot of very strong skepticism that this is the right thing to do. First, let me just give you one example. And this I really picked it out because she was very articulate but she certainly doesn't stand alone. This is Janice Hahn, a fellow Democrat of the president, who actually took the red eye from California just to be here for the classified briefing, to get information and then she is flying right back.

Listen to what she said about where she stands after hearing from the administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JANICE HAHN (D), CALIFORNIA: I am hoping to find an answer to the question, is there another way to hold Assad accountable? This is what the international community wants to do. We want to hold him accountable. We want there to be consequences. What is that? Is that just going to war? Is that bombing? Is that killing more people? I'm not -- I'm not there yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: If the vote was held today, do you think it would pass?

HAHN: You know, that's a very good question. There was a limited number of members of Congress in here. I feel right now it's evenly divided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And if the vote were to happen, would you vote for it today?

HAHN: I would not vote for it today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And again, she was not alone in saying that even from several members of the president's own party and also from Republicans. One other thing that's very clear coming out of this briefing and talking to members of both parties is that the way that the administration drafted the language that you and I first talked about last night on the air, Don, is too broad. It's too broad. In fact, Chris Van Hollen who is (INAUDIBLE), a very close ally of the White House, just called the way they wrote it a partial blank check. He said that the way that they have to change it is by narrowing it in terms of putting a timeline on it which does not yet have and also making very clear in writing that there would be no boots on the ground. Those are some examples of how they say they want to change it and other members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, said they already heard from the administration, that they get it, they understand that there are going to need to be changes because the way it's written right now, it simply won't pass. So, those are things that we have heard coming out of the briefing, which by the way, lasted over two hours.

LEMON: Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.

Dana, thank you for your reporting.

Straight ahead, I should say ahead of possible U.S. military strikes in Syria, the FBI and homeland security are warning Americans of an increased risk of cyber attacks. Some of the disruptions by hackers known as Syrian Electronic Army have been taking place for months, even bringing down the Web site of "The New York Times" last week.

And meantime, U.S. law enforcement officials say an attack on Syria could spark retaliation in the form of terrorist attacks, target on the United States or U.S. interests abroad.

And for the time being, it's hurry up and wait with U.S. military action in Syria, a real possibility. The Pentagon is keeping five warships armed with cruise missiles in the Mediterranean Sea ready and waiting for President Obama's order to strike. That decision waits for Congress. And their September 9th return to Washington.

We want to get to our Barbara Starr. She is live at the Pentagon now.

Barbara, what and where are the Syrian targets the U.S. identified?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the general understanding, Don, these targets are all over the country, certainly a lot of them most likely in and around Damascus where some of this chemical activity has taken place according to the administration. You know, look for them when they get the order, if they get the order, to go after regime targets. Installations, command and control, and especially the weapons delivery systems, not the chemical weapons themselves, but the artillery, the depots, the things to allow the regime to put those chemical weapons on targets to fire them. That's what they're going to go after when they get the order, the ships remain in the Mediterranean. About 40 tomahawk cruise missiles on each of the five ships. So, the military says they remain ready to go whenever they get an order from the president.

LEMON: And Barbara, you know, the U.S. military seems to be acting very transparent when it comes to its plans for Syria. Are they worried at all about the Syrian government using this time to move weapons or place human shields next to likely targets? STARR: Well, U.S. intelligence satellites are over Syria 24/7 and have been for some time. That's very public information, well understood. And they keep an eye on the movement of Syrian troops, installations that sort of thing. The human shields issue is, of course, another problem that is always faced and they, I think, would hope to get information on the ground from opposition groups if that were to take place.

But again, the satellites overhead, the intelligence assets will be able they say to give them a very current picture right up until the time of firing but look, there's no mistaking it. There's always a risk here.

LEMON: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, thank you very much for that.

A powerful call for international action on Syria from the Arab league now. During a meeting today in Cairo, the group called for the United Nations and the international community to take deterrent and necessary measures against the Syrian regime.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister used stronger language saying the Syrian regime has crossed all the lines with the tyranny. It's time for us and the U.S. to ask international community to carry its responsibility and put an end to this tragedy.

CNN's senior national correspondent Nic Robertson is in Amman, Jordan now.

Nic, how significant is this development?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is significant. Saudi diplomats I have been talking to say the statement by the Saudi for the ministers is choreographed over the last ten days. Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, all helping at the Arab league to try to get as strong a statement as possible from the Arab league. The Saudis believe they have 70 percent to 80 percent of support in the Arab world. They have been pushing as hard as they can for intervention inside Syria. They have been realizing that intervention because there isn't a political capability and will. The United States and European countries, not quite capable of doing that right now. But they have been pushing hard so the fact that the Saudis are weighing in. But strongly as they are, this is the Arab nation that's going to carry most weight in the region to carry the issue forward, Don.

LEMON: So Nic, what would Arab support of intervention mean? Is that weapons, troops, access to military bases? What does it mean?

ROBERTSON: Well, right now the Saudis, the Qataris have been supplying weapons to the rebels. And the Saudis here through Jordan do it in a very low-key way. They don't want to bring retribution on the Jordanians or the Saudis.

What shape could it take? Intervention forces anything between 50 to 200,000; the numbers I have heard discussed with diplomats in the region here. But nobody really thinks that anyone is close to that. There isn't the political will. There isn't the international political support for that. So at the moment, it comes down to weapons. And a Saudi diplomatic told me recently told me quite simply the expectation is that this will continue blow for blow that they will -- and Qataris and others will continue to supply weapons of the rebels and the Russians will continue and the Iranians and Hezbollah will continue to support Assad and that this fight will continue, Don.

LEMON: Nic, we have a new development that I want to ask you about. We just learned that Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi will stand trial for incitement and thugary (ph), all tied to the clashes of December 2012. What do you make of this?

ROBERTSON: It's perhaps given what we have seen in Egypt over the last few weeks, it is not surprising that a military leadership are now taking the ousted president to court. Fourteen other Muslim brotherhood members, we also understand, will go to court with him. A date isn't set but it's a very clear message of the authoritarian, highly authoritarian line that this military leadership is taking in Egypt right now and harks back, if you will, there are many parallels to Mubarak when he was ousted ended up in court. The charges sounded very similar. He was behind bars for well over two years and then he was released a barely week or so ago. Now his replacement is facing the same scenario, Don.

LEMON: Nic Robertson in Amman Jordan.

Nic, thank you very much for that.

Today on CNN, secretary of state Kerry grabbed headlines telling us signatures of sarin gas have been found in Syria at the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack. So, why are chemical weapons a red line? What makes them so bad? That's next.

Also, if you missed that, headline-stealing interview, we are going to re-air it just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Secretary of state John Kerry bolstered the administration's push today for military action in Syria. Speaking on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Kerry said evidence collected from a government attack on the Syrian people showed signatures of sarin gas. Sarin had been suspected in the August 21st attack in east Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people.

CNN's Chris Lawrence explains why the nerve agent is particularly toxic. And we warn you, the pictures you are about to see are disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Describing this video as disturbing doesn't do it justice. But some attach a different word, proof. AMY SMITHSON, MONTEREY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I have absolutely no doubt this was a chemical weapons attack.

LAWRENCE: Amy Smithson has been studying the use and effects of chemical weapons for 20 years and says it was the child in this video that erased all doubt.

SMITHSON: Maybe 5-years-old and the twitching of the eyes and the mouth and the arms were all going in different directions at different times. That simply cannot be coached in a child of that age.

LAWRENCE: And here's another with white foam pouring out of his nose. What is that and what does it mean?

SMITHSON: Well, it's one of the hallmark symptoms of exposure to a nerve agent. It could have been a cocktail of chemicals, not just classic warfare agents like sarin or vx or (INAUDIBLE).

LAWRENCE: Victims can die within ten minutes of breathing sarin gas. In liquid form a fraction of an ounce can be fatal. Even contaminated clothes can hurt you. Iraq used sarin against the Kurdish people in the 1980s killing thousands. The Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, used sarin in terrorist attacks in the mid-'90s.

The people treating the victims don't have respirators or protection on. Why aren't they getting infected, as well?

SMITHSON: Well, there's been an attack to wet these people down to decontaminate them. That's what decontamination in a rush is all about. Just making sure that they are at least doused with water if not soapy water and the clothes are taken off.

LAWRENCE: LAWRENCE: Nerve agents like sarin blind victims, causing them to choke and spasm.

SMITHSON: Like this. See the twitching in the body?

LAWRENCE: These images of the dead show no signs of a conventional bomb blast.

SMITHSON: There you see bloody bodies, broken bones, gaping wounds.

LAWRENCE: Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Joining me now to talk about the dangers of sarin gas exposure is senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

My goodness, those pictures, Elizabeth, the young faces of the kids --

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Just so awful.

LEMON: What exactly is sarin and what does it do?

COHEN: Sarin, as we can see in Chris Lawrence's story is one of the most dangerous and toxic chemical warfare agents out there. And it can cause death within minutes as Chris mentioned. And even when it doesn't cause death, it will cause as we saw in his story paralysis, it can cause convulsions and the, you know, whether you die or don't die has lot to do with how large the dose, how concentrated it is when you breathe it in or touch it.

Now, the way that sarin works is that glands and your muscles have an on/off switch. And that is a good thing. You don't want them to constantly be stimulated. Sarin turns off that off switch so your nerves -- I'm sorry, your glands and your muscles are constantly working. That's exhausting for your body and that's when you see the convulsions and paralysis and eventually the death.

LEMON: Yes. I thought it was always fatal. Not always, though, you said?

COHEN: Not always fatal mean, some people don't get a high enough dose, some people might be able to run away or might be able to wash their bodies. So, we have seen, for example, some of these victims in the hospital. So sometimes people, you know, do manage to get away and treated. But even so, it doesn't mean they're not better, you know, like that. They still suffer horrible consequences.

LEMON: And you can get over it, though, if you have a small exposure, you can get better?

COHEN: Yes. I mean, if it's a very, very small exposure and you managed to get out of it quickly, you know, chances are higher for recovery.

LEMON: So, how do you know then? I guess you would know because your nerves will be constantly stimulated? How would you know if you are exposed?

LEMON: Right. Well, though the problem is that in the beginning you don't know because it's odorless and it is colorless and it is tasteless. So in the beginning, you wouldn't even know that anything hit you. You would feel fine in that immediate, immediate sense. But then, you would get headaches, excessive swelling, your pupils go down to a pinpoint and that is when people know that they have been exposed.

LEMON: So if you're hit, I mean, do you go to a hospital right away? How do you keep from infecting someone else or can you once you've been exposed to it?

COHEN: Right. I mean, really ideally, if you're exposed to a gas like that, is you want to have the gas mask, And you know, sadly, of course, these civilians, they're not walking around with gas masks and sadly we have seen the awful photos of Syrians trying to make their own gas mask with homemade gas masks. You see this man holding that looks like a Styrofoam covered in tape and that's not going to do anything but that's how desperate these people are.

So, gas masks will certainly help. There is an antidote. There's a drug called (INAUDIBLE). It is an injection, Don, and you can -- that works pretty well, quite well, but you have to take it within minutes. You have to take it repeatedly. And of course, again, civilians are not walking around with Atropine (ph) in their pocket. And that's why we have seen so many deaths and why this population is so vulnerable. I mean, these aren't soldiers. These are civilians.

LEMON: Crazy. Thank you very much, Elizabeth Cohen.

COHEN: It is awful.

LEMON: We appreciate it, our senior medical correspondent.

Today, the world is talking about that interview that John Kerry did with CNN. He talked about those sarin gas signatures and we have that sometimes heated interview next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So let's talk more about this statement from secretary of state John Kerry that signatures of sarin use were found in Syria. Kerry says it was collected from blood and hair samples at the site of the attack 11 days ago. And we want to warn you that the video showing these scenes from that attack, very disturbing. Fourteen hundred 400 people in the attack in eastern Damascus, 1,400 people.

CNN's Gloria Borger asked Kerry about the signatures of sarin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY: We don't contemplate that the Congress is going to vote no, Gloria. I believe this case is powerful and grows more powerful by the day. I can share with you today that blood and hair sample that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from east Damascus, from first responders, it has tested positive for signatures of sarin.

So, each day that goes by this case is even stronger. We know that the regime ordered this attack. We know they prepared for it. We know where rackets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards. We have seen the horrific scenes all over the social media and we have evidence of it in other ways and we know that the regime tried to cover up afterwards. So the case is really an overwhelming case, but the president really felt very strongly that the Congress of the United States weighing in makes our nation stronger in whatever action we take.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But doesn't it worry you that you have put this heavy responsibility on a Congress that's notoriously paralyzed and divided?

KERRY: We have confidence. There are good people in the Congress of the United States. I know there have been politically -- it's been difficult, but this is a matter of national security. It's a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It's a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region. Jordan which is threatened by when's happening, Israel, Turkey. Lebanon. All of which as I said the other day are just a stiff breeze away from chemical weapons being used.

I mean, there are huge interests here. And in the long term, Gloria, you know, what we may or may not have to do if we cannot find a peaceful resolution with Iran, or what we need to do with North Korea, all of these things are part of a continuum of decision making that's made in foreign policy and we believe the Congress of the United States will recognize that responsibility and do what is right.

BORGER: But Mr. Secretary, the head of the council of foreign relations, for example, says that, in fact, President Obama has gone -- these are his words, from leading from behind to not leading by going to Congress. He says that it raises doubts about the United States' reliability and determination. Can I get your response on that?

KERRY: Absolutely, of course you can. The fact is that the president of the United States is leading and he is leading very powerfully and in the right way. If he didn't do this, I can hear all of the critics saying, why didn't the president go to Congress? Why didn't the president, he could have asked. He had time to ask. It didn't make a difference. I mean, all of these --

BORGER: But then they could ask, why didn't he go sooner?

KERRY: The president made his decision first and he announced his decision. His decision is that he believes the United States of America should take military action to deter Assad from using these weapons and to degrade his capacity from going so. Now, that's the president's decision. But he --

BORGER: No matter what Congress does? No matter what Congress does? The president --

KERRY: He has the right no matter what Congress does. That is his right and he asserted that in the comments yesterday. But the president believes and I hope we will prove to the world that we are stronger as a nation. Our democracy is stronger when we respect the rights of the Congress to also weigh in on this. And since it is not an emergency overnight as we saw in a place like Libya where people were about to be slaughtered, since we have the right to strike at any time if Assad is foolish enough to engage in yet another attack, we believe that it is important before this takes place to have the full investment of the American people and of the congress.

BORGER: Well, what are you telling the Syrian opposition now, who clearly counting on military action sooner rather than later and now it's been delayed.

KERRY: Well, sometimes the wheels of democracy require us to take an extra day or two to provide the legitimacy that the founding fathers contemplated in actions that we take. And I talked yesterday with the president of the Syrian opposition. I believe he understands that America intends to act. That we are going to continue to support the opposition. That we may even as a result of this be able to provide greater support to the opposition and do a better job of helping the opposition to be able to continue to fight against the Assad regime. I think that they will be stronger. We will be stronger in the end and it's amazing to me to see people suddenly standing up and taking such affront at the notion that Congress ought to weigh in. I mean, I can hear the complaints that would have taken place if the president proceed unilaterally and people say why didn't he take the time to --

BORGER: Mr. Secretary, it seems -- I think the questions are being raised because it seems that from the onset of this over the last couple of weeks it seems the president was poised the take action sooner rather than later. You came out and said it matters if nothing is done.

KERRY: It does matter, Gloria. Nothing has changed.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Why didn't he decide to go to Congress immediately if it was so constitutionally important?

KERRY: Because the president needed to gather the evidence and have ask me and others to make judgments and ultimately to make the case to the American people.

BORGER: Did he conclude he didn't have enough political support in the country to go it alone that way?

KERRY: Absolutely not. The president of the United States asserted yesterday, you know, that he has the right and I believe he has that right. But the president made, and I think, a very courageous decision. Just because he disappointed some people who thought, who thought without any basis that he was setting up to go take a strike doesn't mean that he didn't reserve the right to make the judgment that he made. No decision is made by a president until the decision is made. And this president did not make the decision until he finally came to the conclusion that he wanted to take this to Congress in order to have the greater strength of the American people speaking as a whole.

I think it's -- I personally believe at a time when the institutions of governance are doubted by many people, I think this is a very courageous decision. I think it is a big presidential decision and no one should misinterpret it, particularly Assad or the opposition.

BORGER: But it's also risky, Mr. Secretary, isn't it? I mean, the risk is if Congress were and I know you don't expect this, but if Congress were to vote no and then the president were to strike, wouldn't that set up a constitutional crisis?

KERRY: The president has the right, and he has asserted that right, that he could do what's necessary to protect the national security of the United States at any point in time. The president believes that we are stronger as a nation when we act together. The branches of government that are designated with powers with respect to foreign policy. And so, the president has made his decision, and he courageously went out yesterday and announced his decision to the nation and the world. He believes that this -- this outrageous attack by Assad merits the United States joining with others to stand up and defend the international norm with respect to the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons. The president announced that decision, and now he has asked the Congress of the United States, representing the American people, to join in him -- with him in that decision.

BORGER: Mr. Secretary --

KERRY: And we are stronger as a nation when that happens.

BORGER: Let me ask you about our coalition. When you were running for president in 2004, you said that in Iraq, we should not have relied on what you called a coalition of the few. Isn't that what we have here right now?

KERRY: Well, I think we have a coalition of more than a few. But this is a situation that is going to grow as the evidence comes out. That's another reason why the president believes there is a value in going through this process.

I've talked with a number of nations who have offered to be helpful. No decisions have been made about what shape that will take. But I believe that there are many -- the Arab League has already spoken out. Voices as far away as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, other places have spoken out. I think the world takes enormous affront at this incredible abuse of power, this -- this attack on decency and an incredible crime against humanity. I think voices will grow over the next days as people see the evidence.

BORGER: And --

KERRY: And that evidence is becoming more powerful every day --

BORGER: And --

KERRY: As I've mentioned to you, we now have the additional evidence of the signatures of sarin gas from the first responders in Damascus.

BORGER: Is this from the United Nations? Is this from the United Nations?

KERRY: No, this is independent.

BORGER: OK.

KERRY: This came to the United States, it's independent.

BORGER: Let me --

KERRY: But it is confirmation of the signatures of sarin, and so the case gets stronger by the day. And I believe the case for action will grow stronger by the day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Secretary of State John Kerry this morning on CNN's STATE OF THE UNION.

If the U.S. does decide to strike Syria, ultimately, who benefits? According to my guest, al Qaeda does. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The Obama administration adding new evidence to its case for military action against Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry today revealed that signatures of toxic gas, the toxic gas sarin, have been detected at the site of those apparent chemical attacks.

Meantime, Washington lawmakers are weighing in on the president's request for a vote to authorize a military strike against Syria. And earlier today, administration officials held a classified briefing on Capitol Hill for members of Congress. One House member said afterwards, quote, "there was a lot of skepticism in the room."

And the decision to -- whether to strike isn't black or white. One reason: it isn't as simple as President Assad's regime versus the opposition. There are other players in the mix, as well. One of them is al Qaeda. And last night, Barak Barfi, a research fellow with the New America Foundation, explained why U.S. intervention wouldn't help the FSA or rebels, but instead, play into the hands of al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARAK BARFI, RESEARCH FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Don, this American strike is too little, too late. The window of opportunity for a successful American air strike that could turn the tables in favor of the FSA has passed.

Last June when the rebels moved into Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, coincided with a regime being on the ropes because a number of its senior officials were killed in a bomb strike. And that was the best opportunity for the Americans and the west to get involved and shift the battle in favor of the FSA. We didn't get involved. We didn't get involved after the chemical attacks in March.

In June, Benjamin Rose, said we would provide the rebels with weapons. We didn't do that. And now, we wake up a day after an air strike, and Al Qaeda's local affiliate, ISIS, is going to be best positioned to take advantage of that while the FSA is going to be watching them blow by.

LEMON: So Barak, how would a U.S. strike help Al Qaeda?

BARAK BARFI, RESEARCH FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Basically the Al Qaeda local affiliate known as the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria are the strongest overall brigade in the Syrian revolution. In the northern province of Aleppo, (INAUDIBLE), these are the powerful or second-most powerful. They have the most disciplined fighters, it's the most well equipped. It captures tanks and anti-aircraft missiles from bases. And as it does, the FSA, the secular-led rebel alliance, is very weak. Most of its units are corrupt and they are disintegrating. And that means that ISIS is going to benefit most from any American attack. Because what's going to happen is the regime is going to give up isolated bases of its United States bombs such as Queris (ph) in the northern province of Aleppo. When it retreats into its core areas of the coastal province of Antioquia and around the capital of Damascus, ISIS will be the best-placed rebel unit to take over these isolated bases and move into the central provinces of Hama and Homs where it's weak and will launch its final attack on the capital of Damascus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. That is a very interesting argument. I'm joined now by Dominic Tierney. He's an associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College. And of course, (INAUDIBLE) for "The Atlantic" magazine.

So you heard what Barak Barfi just said. Do you agree with this, that it actually helps al Qaeda?

DOMINIC TIERNEY, ASSOCIATE POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, SWARTHMORE COLLEGE: I think there's a real risk of that. The radical jihadists are a growing element within the rebel movement. And if Assad is weakened, it makes sense they'll most likely benefit.

LEMON: All right. I'm going to ask Dominic a lot more about that and much, much more coming up on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. We are back now and continuing my conversation with Dominic Tierney. So, why do you think it is a bad move for the U.S. to intervene in Syria?

TIERNEY: Well, the whole case for war is based on the idea that chemical weapons are uniquely evil, a unique threat. But I think the distinction between chemical weapons and conventional weapons is arbitrary, really. It is not clear that chemical weapons are more brutal than conventional weapons like high explosives are less brutal. After all, conventional weapons have killed 100,000 Syrians. Chemical weapons killed 1,000.

And if you're a woman in Aleppo, say, who sees her entire family blown up by artillery shelling, you're not going to take much solace in the fact they weren't gassed. And it begs the question, what does victory mean with this intervention in Syria?

LEMON: So why then do we draw a distinction - meaning us, the United States -- and the president said it's a red line? Why do we draw a distinction when it comes to chemical weapons?

TIERNEY: I think this norm, this rule has emerged. And it's driving us into war. But really when you look at it, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. After all, back in the 1980s, we didn't enforce the rule when Iraq used chemical weapons. And are we really saying if Assad stops using chemical weapons and goes back to killing his people with conventional weapons, that that is going to be a victory? I'm certainly not going to get the ticker taper out. LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about Britain --

TIERNEY: Sure.

LEMON: -- and the British parliament. The House of Commons voted not to intervene. Do you think it would have been different for the president if it has been reversed?

TIERNEY: Absolutely. I think this was a game-changing moment, and a real shock. I think that it led Obama to go to Congress and seek congressional support. After all, Britain is America's closest ally. They've followed the Americans in to almost every war, including Iraq. If they won't come along now, what does it say about this war effort? The Brits would follow the Americans to the gates of hell, but they won't go in to Syria.

LEMON: Okay. That's an interesting way of putting it. Well, the French?

TIERNEY: Right.

LEMON: France and Turkey are on board. Not big enough?

TIERNEY: The U.S. has its coalition of the willing.

LEMON: Right.

TIERNEY: But it's not a very large coalition and not very willing. Right?

LEMON: Why?

TIERNEY: And of course, the irony is it's the French who were getting a lot of bad criticism back in around the time of the Iraq war for their opposition to that. So we're not seeing the kind of broad international support that you would want to see before engaging in an extremely risky intervention in Syria.

LEMON: The Arab League saying that this tyranny by Syria has really just gone way too far. They've outdone themselves, and they're demanding something be done now. There should be an intervention by the international community now. What do you make of that?

TIERNEY: It's true the Arab League offered some support, but even its statement was somewhat tepid. It didn't explicitly say we should use military force. And so, if you compare it to say, Libya back in 2011, there the U.S. had U.N. Security Council resolution, clear Arab League support, clear European support. The U.S. in some ways was a secondary actor. Other countries were sharing the burdens of the war. And if you compare that to today, you see the U.S. is largely isolated. And that's not where you want to be waging war in Syria. LEMON: You saw the secretary of state come out on Friday making a case for some sort of military action in Syria. And then you saw him today on the interview with CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." What did you make of -- he's still making the case saying, you know, there have been these traces. They have found these traces of sarin gas. What do you make of his making of the case?

TIERNEY: Well, I had a great deal of respect for John Kerry and for Obama. And I think they have found evidence of the use of chemical weapons. My key question is, what is the strategy? Right? What are the goals of the mission, and how are a handful of cruise missile strikes really going to achieve the goals or really change the situation in Syria?

LEMON: Do you think the goal should be to remove al Assad or --

TIERNEY: Well, the goals --

LEMON: Is the goal not big enough, is it not defined enough unless that happens?

TIERNEY: This very limited use of force, I think, is going to achieve almost nothing. But I also oppose a much broader intervention because that creates its own set of risks. And remember, we're already fighting a war in Afghanistan. And so my big suggestion would be why don't we fight one war at a time?

LEMON: Yes. All right. Mr. Dominic Tierney, associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College. Say hello to my buddies in Philadelphia.

TIERNEY: Love to.

LEMON: And of course (INAUDIBLE) for "The Atlantic" magazine as well. We appreciate it.

Still a lot more on Syria developing right now, and we'll get to that. But we're also going to hit a couple other big stories, other headlines. That's next.

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LEMON: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of the crisis over Syria. I'm Don Lemon. We're going to get back to the latest developments in just a moment, but first, a couple of other headlines you should know about right now.

Radiation levels have spiked in Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. The problem stems from contaminated water storage tanks and pipes. The company leading the cleanup of the plant said only a single drop of highly contaminated water escaped the holding tank. The nuclear plant's owners say the radiation exposure can be controlled. Another holding tank leaked 300 tons of toxic water last week, raising the threat level at the time to serious.

Nelson Mandela was released from the hospital after nearly three months of the treatment. The 95-year-old Mandela remains in critical condition, but doctors say he can get the same level of intensive care at his home. Mandela was hospitalized June 8th with a lung infection. His history of lung and respiratory infections dates from his 27-year imprisonment for fighting against apartheid. And this sad news: famed British broadcaster David Frost has died. The BBC published a statement that Frost died of a heart attack aboard the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth. Frost was a fixture on American and British television, but he was perhaps best known for his revealing interviews with President Richard Nixon. David Frost, 74 years old.

With the threat of a U.S. strike on Syria looming, how might that affect Americans here at home? That's next.

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LEMON: So how could a possible U.S. strike on Syria affect you here at home? Here is CNN's Christine Romans.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just the threat of U.S. strikes in Syria is already affecting your money, the worst day for the Dow since June as investors rushed out of stocks into the perceived safety of gold and government bonds. Oil prices up 15 percent over the last three months, thanks to instability in Egypt, surging to an 18-month high.

Now, Syria isn't a major oil producer, and international sanctions have already reduced that country's oil exports. But traders worry that the violence could spread, disrupting supply. Syria has political, economic and military links to Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

Now, the threat of an unintended chain reaction resulting in wider regional instability could push your gas prices higher. Just a one cent increase at the pump takes $4 million out of the pockets of American consumers every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, CEO, PIMCO: So the last thing the global economy needs to do is another head wind that would slow what is already a very sluggish recovery.

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ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

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LEMON: All right, Christine, thank you very much for that.

We are delving more into Syria next hour, especially the potential threats to U.S. infrastructure if there is a military strike.

But first, today's Human Factor is about a young man who didn't let a hearing loss interfere with his love of music. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deejay Robbie Wilde, he lives in a world of rhythm and base. He just can't hear it. Severe ear infections as a child left Wilde completely deaf in his right ear and 80 percent deaf in his left.

ROBBIE WILDE, "THAT DEAF DJ": My mom was crying when the doctors said it. Me being the one with the hearing loss, you know, I went up to my mom. I'm like, mom, it's OK. I'm going to be all right. I promise you. You'll see. I'll be fine.

GUPTA: Although hearing is the most important sense in a deejay's life, Wilde was still determined to make it. He went to deejay school to learn the art of turntablism and he relies on a computer to see the music. Red is a kick from the base. Blue, that's a snare. Greens are vocal.

WILDE: I don't want you to see me as a deaf deejay or deaf kid trying to deejay. I want you to see me as a great deejay that happens to be deaf. I don't want sympathy. I don't want let's give him a gig because he's hearing impaired.

GUPTA: Wilde's skills got him noticed by HP and also earned him a spot in a commercial rusting him on the world's stage.

WILDE: It doesn't matter that I can't hear the music.

GUPTA: Besides, Wilde says, some things are just better left unheard.

WILDE: You know, there are a lot of sounds out in the world you don't want to hear. I like it muffled. I like who I am. I'm proud of who I am.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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