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Airstrikes Hit ISIS Targets in Syria; US and Arab Nations Join Attack on ISIS; Reaction in Iraq; Arab Nations Not Involved; Parting Shots: Syrian Refugees Flee to Turkey

Aired September 23, 2014 - 11:35   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: All right, let's leave our colleagues in the US. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson out of the

UAE. The Pentagon says strikes against ISIS targets in Syria were just the beginning.

A short time earlier, the US president praised Arab countries who have joined the US in the air campaign in Syria.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were joined in this action by our friends and partners Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates,

Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar. America's proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security.

The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America's fight alone. Above all, the people and governments of the

Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve.



ANDERSON: Well, the operation you are seeing images of there was overnight Monday into Tuesday local time here. The operation began with

several Tomahawk missiles launched from US warships followed by fighter jets.

Now, the Pentagon says 200 pieces of ordinance were dropped by coalition members, damaging or destroying ISIS targets including fighters,

training camps, and command and control centers. US warplanes also struck west of Aleppo, targeting an al Qaeda franchise in Syria called the

Khorasan Group.

Now, the Pentagon announcing just in the past hour that that group was in the final stages of plans for, as they called it, "a major attack

against Western targets and the US homeland."

Well, as President Obama just said, these five Arab nations that took part in the airstrikes on ISIL or ISIS in Syria together. Let's take a

look at the dynamics of alliance. Joining me now is the former deputy prime minister of Jordan, Ayman Al Safadi, now CEO of Path Arabia, a

regional political strategist here.

I want to talk about who we know is in and out, because I think it's important for you and I to discuss just how important this regional

coalition is. So, let's just bring up for our viewers' purposes at least what we know about who did what overnight, who participated, who supported

US airstrikes, the roles various countries played in this assault.

The US says it launched Tomahawk missiles from the sea before sending in aircraft. We know that. Saudi Arabia also involved. US officials say

Saudi government had already agreed to train moderate Syrian rebels on its soil.

Jordan taking a hands-on role, sending in its own jets, according to the country's state news agency, confirmed to me this morning by one of the

government ministers. Also says it has strong intelligence resources on ISIS. You and I can discuss that, you'll know about those.

The United Arab Emirates, where we are now, Ayman, is known to be hosting Australian fighter jets and may be doing the same for the United

States near Dubai. Within the past hour, the UAE foreign ministry confirming its own air force launched its first strikes against ISIS Monday


Bahrain hosting the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, of course, and its defense ministry confirming that the air force there carried out airstrikes on what

it called "terrorist group targets." The US military says Qatar assisted in a support role.

So, let's step back for a moment. Those four countries who actively participated in airstrikes on ISIS overnight, just how important was it

that they got involved?

AYMAN AL SAFADI, REGIONAL POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think this is the most important message of the day, that there was a need to send

unequivocal message to ISIS and to the people that this is an Arab and Muslim war, this is our war, this is not America's war.

Yes, there was a need to benefit from the military ability of the United States, but had the US gone it alone, I think we'd be facing

tremendous problems later in terms of public opinion, probably, or some part of the public opinion trying to position this war as another Western-

Arab Muslim war.

The fact that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain came on very strongly and sort of took responsibility for that and said yes, we

are at the core front, is a core message to defeating ISIS and defeating the ideology that drives it.

Again, ISIS is killing Arabs and Muslims in Iraq, in Syria. It threatens Jordan, Saudi Arabia. They are on our borders, they're not on

the borders of Washington. That message was key, and the continuity of that coalition is important so that we take it to the next stage beyond the

military force into the political and cultural aspect.

ANDERSON: We're going to take a very short break. We're going to be back with you after this, because certainly the UAE has announced that it

has effected its first strike, suggesting that there are more to come, and certainly, that's the message that we are getting from the US. Back,

viewers, after this.


ANDERSON: All right, CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Five Arab states -- excuse me -- either participated or supported the US in

launching airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria overnight Monday into Tuesday.

The US also targeted a new al Qaeda franchise in Syria called the Khorasan Group. Now, US President Barack Obama says that that group was

planning terror attacks in the US and Europe.

I want to get you to Iraq to the US-led airstrikes on ISIS both there and in Syria. Anna Coren is standing by in Erbil. And you've been

witness, Anna, to US airstrikes over where you are in Iraq, now, for nigh on six weeks, and yet still the militant group survives, if not thrives.

What's the reaction to this enhanced activity on the other side of the old border, as it were, where ISIS effectively has its home turf, as it

were, in northern Syria?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, certainly these airstrikes in Syria welcomed by Iraqi officials. If anything,it's

about time. They've been calling for airstrikes for weeks now, certainly ever since the US campaign began here.

The feeling, of course, that that is the ISIS safe haven sanctuary, that these fighters happily travel between the two countries. They don't

see this as a border, it's a porous border, as far as they're concerned, part of their caliphate, their Islamic state.

So, certainly welcomed. If anything, they're encouraged by the fact that there were Arab nations involved in these airstrikes in Syria. But

also, Becky, there's a feeling that they want to see an intensification of the air campaign here in Iraq. Yes, there have been 190-plus airstrikes

plus the French airstrikes over the weekend.

But as you mentioned, they are not forcing ISIS to retreat. Yes, they're containing them, they're stopping their rapid advances across the

country, but they still control one third of the country. So, the feeling is that what we saw in the early hours of this morning in Syria is what

they'd like to see repeated here in Iraq.

There really has been a piecemeal approach, hitting artillery bases, hitting armored vehicles, hitting certain enemy positions, but they would

like to see a more sustained, intensive campaign here in Iraq to really cripple ISIS, Becky

ANDERSON: Anna Coren is in northern Erbil for you. All right, Anna, thank you for that.

Let's move on. I've still got my guest. President Barack Obama says he's "proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with his regional partners who

participated or supported US airstrikes in Syria, including here in the UAE, where this show is broadcast from.

But what of those who didn't or haven't got involved and could all of these countries that have now face in the future, at least, some sort of

fallout for these attacks on what is a Sunni Muslim group, as it were, or certainly fighting in the name of Sunni Islam.

Political strategist and former Jordan deputy prime minister, Ayman Al Safadi, joining me once again to give some perspective on all of this.

We've talked about the players here: Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Qatar and its support of these strikes. What about

those who haven't got involved? Big Arab countries that haven't showed willing?

AL SAFADI: Well, I think initially, the threat to those Arab countries would have been bigger had they not gotten involved in this war,

because ultimately, you have this terrorist organization growing on their borders, in their cities, and trying to infiltrate through their borders.

So, it was important that this war is taken, and it should have been taken much, much earlier, if you ask me.

The second thing, again, who is going to get involved? That is when you talk about the second dimension of this war. Initially, this war could

probably hurt, destroy ISIS as an organized military force in Iraq.

It's going to be much tougher in Syria, where you have a chaotic civil war, creating a haven for terrorists thrive and to recruit. And you've got

the broader ideological kind of issue, which has got to be taken.

In Iraq, I think it's important that those countries continue to leverage the Iraqi government into becoming more inclusive. In Syria,

you've got to come up with a political plan that ends the civil war and crisis and that.

On the broader level Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, everybody needs to come out and take a very, very clear position. Are we

going to support those terrorist groups under whatever banner they're fighting and therefore stand up to the ideology and say, this is what Islam

is, this is what we are, or are we not going to do that?

ANDERSON: Explain to me why you believe that Turkey hasn't got involved, hasn't shown its hand, hasn't offered even a support role, if not

a participation role going forward. Because ISIS is, if not entrenched, but already active within Turkey. We know that there are whole towns were

ISIS has raised its black flag.

And I hear talk, rumors, suggestions, that Egypt is struggling, potentially, with an ISIS problem itself. So, Turkey first and foremost,

and then Egypt. Should we expect to see them getting involved at some point soon?

AL SAFADI: Well, you've got to put things in context. Go back two, three, four years. Turkey's foreign policy has been pretty clear in trying

to present itself as champion as Islamist movements.

Without really differentiating between representative centrist Islamist movements that everybody here should work with, and extremist

movements that, to a certain extent, you would not say terrorist groups, but groups that have not really come out strongly against in condemning

Daesh, like the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance.

Turkey has been predicating that policy on that it allowed many of those fighters fighting with Daesh, now, to go into Syria, again to win the

war against Assad. So that would require a major policy shift in the sense now they've got, I think, to answer the question, do you want to work with

whoever is supporting your populist or expansionist policy in the region?

Orr do you want to come and say that this radical Islam is a threat to all of us, and therefore we all need to come up and stand up against it and

not appease for any sort of political convenience.

ANDERSON: Ayman, you've been emphatic about the need for this to be a regional coalition of the willing, and at the end of all of this, there is

a move, a push, a willingness for political solutions. A change in the short of ideology about where the future of this region goes. We're going

to talk about that after this short break.

I also want to talk to you before we go to break, just to let our viewers know before we go to break, I want to also talk to you about this

self-declared end game that Obama has come up with, "destroy and degrade ISIS." What happens in the middle? That is a very big question. In a



ANDERSON: In recent days, ISIS has advanced into Kurdish villages in northern Syria, forcing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people from

their homes. Many are crossing the border into Turkey, or at least trying to do so. Arwa Damon reports from the Turkish-Syrian border for you.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At least 158,000 mostly Syrian Kurdish refugees have crossed from Syria into Turkey over the

last few days. This just one of those border crossings that saw hundreds if not thousands of people coming through, exhausted, dejected, covered in

a layer of dust.

Many of them thirsty and hungry, especially difficult and grueling conditions for the children and the elderly, many of whom waited on the

other side of the border overnight before Turkish authorities finally allowed them through.

A lot of the adults themselves breaking down as they spoke, not only of the ordeal that they went through, but of the homes and the lives that

they left behind.

The US airstrikes at this stage are being by-and-large welcomed by a number of Syrian opposition activists that we have been speaking to. One

of them inside the city of Raqqa saying, "If I could dance I would, but I'm too afraid to do so."

And that is because, he says, ISIS has long cleared out of its main headquarters various buildings that the US and its coalition allies were

striking in Raqqa quite some time ago in anticipation of these airstrikes and that they were increasing their presence inside the streets but also,

he was saying, inside people's homes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at this stage reporting at least 70 militants killed, some 300 wounded. Some of those wounded being

ferried across the border into Iraq. When it comes to the result of these US and coalition airstrikes and how ISIS is going to react to that, we're

just going to have to wait and see.

There's only one thing that is certain, and that is that ISIS is not an organization that is going to evaporate or be defeated easily.

Arwa Damon, CNN, at he Syria-Turkey border crossing.


ANDERSON: Ayman Al Safadi, regional political strategist and former Jordanian deputy prime minister, still with me. You have, sir, 90 seconds

for your final thoughts on what has happened over the past 24 hours.

AL SAFADI: Most likely scenario, ISIS as an organized military power would crumble under the might of the coalition. However, it will become a

security threat, an ideological threat, which means, again, countries of the region need to come -- to stay together and fight it politically,


In Syria, you've got to have a plan, because likely ISIS will infiltrate through the chaos of civil war into populated communities, which

will make it more difficult. You need -- in Iraq, you need to have a more inclusive government and to, again, to defeat that kind of threat.

And broader, you've got to look at the whole political, social, economic environment. Countries like Jordan, other countries who are,

again, crumbling under economic pressure, will need to be supported, particularly with 1.4 million Syria refugees there. The same applies to

other countries, Lebanon, where you have that kind of problem.

So again, this is just the first strand of the battle. It's not the most conclusive one. It will address the immediate threats. The bigger,

longer-term threat is a political, cultural, ideological, and economic.

And this has to be sustainable, and this coalition need to be the core of that long-term coalition, with the support of the US. And particularly

countries like the Arab Emirates, like Jordan, need to, again, work harder, and they could provide a model for moderate Islam.

And, again, take the message to the people that this is not Islam, they do not represent Islam. This is what Islam is about. This has to be

systematic, it has to be long-term, it has to be coordinated.

ANDERSON: Certainly by getting involved and not just in a support role, but in a participating role, putting their aircraft in the air shows

willingness --

AL SAFADI: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: -- from the regional partners.

AL SAFADI: It is our war, is the big emphasis.

ANDERSON: We're going to leave it here. We thank you very much this evening for joining me. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD,

thank you for watching. Your world news headlines follow this.