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CONNECT THE WORLD
Trump Warns Russia Military Response is Coming; Russia Warns U.S. Against Launching Airstrikes; Facebook Boss Testifying Before Congress for Second Day; Russia Vetoed Resolution for Independent Investigation in Syria. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Welcome to our show, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta sitting in for Becky
Well, we start this hour with an extraordinary development. U.S. president Donald Trump seemingly squaring up to Russia just hours ago. Tweeting,
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready, Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and "smart!" You
shouldn't be partnered with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it.
Well, reaction from Russia came hard and fast. It's foreign ministry spokeswoman saying, smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not the
legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory.
Meantime, the clock is ticking past a self-imposed deadline for Mr. Trump. On Monday, he promised a major decision on Syria would come within 48
hours. That's just a glimpse into some of the major players in Syria right now. Of course, CNN is across all the angels for you. Our Frederik
Pleitgen is in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Around 30 minutes away, where this suspected chemical attack took place. Which of course, kick
started this escalation. He's only the Western journalist in Damascus right now. We also have with us Stephen Collinson following developments
from Washington. As well as CNN's Sam Kiley in Moscow on top of all the Russian side of this saga.
I want to go first to Fred. As the only Western journalist in Syria President Trump ramping up his threat there. Just give us a sense of how
Syria is responding right now?
FREDERIK, PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you are absolutely right, Lynda. I mean, this is some remarkable words that we
heard from President Trump and certainly some of that potentially could escalate the situation here on the ground in Syria. And the Syrian
government indeed did respond through the foreign ministry. They're usually not this fast to do that. They said that this is what they call,
quote, a thoughtless escalation by the United States that lacks rationality.
They say it's of the threats issued by President Trump. Although, of course the Syrians that they had no part in that alleged chemical attack
that took place here -- or allegedly took place here on Saturday. And they also say that they're willing to allow international inspectors to come on
the ground. But of course, the words of President Trump were first and foremost aimed at the Russians here in Syria, and the Russians of course
have responded as well. They said they would shoot down any missiles that were shot at Syria. And also said, that they would retaliate against the
bases from where those missiles were shot from. Of course, meaning potentially U.S. ships or U.S. warplanes in the area, and that of course,
is something that could potentially mean a lot of danger as well.
Whether you know from covering the conflict, I have been here 20 times in Syria including several times with the Russian military. They do have a
very large presence here in this country. They have, of course, their big airfield in Latakia. They have that port in Tartus. But they also have a
lot of warships and other infrastructure that people don't necessarily know about. In fact, I was on the Mediterranean Sea on a Russian destroyer once
when several submarines surfaced all of a sudden and started firing cruise missiles back then at ISIS positions. So, the Russians have a lot of fire
here on the ground and certainly most of their modern hardware. And they are threatening to use that against the U.S. if in fact missiles are fired
here at Syria -- Lynda.
KINKADE: All right, Fred in Damascus. Just stand by. I want to go to Sam Kiley for the Russian reaction to this. Because the big question is
whether President Trump, whether the U.S. will go after Syria alone or whether it will also target Russia and Iran? Who President Trump also
blames for sharing the responsibility of this apparent chemical attack. How is Russia responding?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russia is taking the view at the moment -- and we just had a briefing from the defense
ministry here -- that this is all a load of play acting. That this chemical weapons attack was allegedly staged by the civil defense people
with the white helmets. That it was filmed using actors and that there was no use of chemical weapons whatsoever in Eastern Ghouta.
So, this is firmly the position taken now by the Russians. In the past they've said variations on that theme. But now they seem to be sticking to
[11:05:00] I don't think that they are concerned yet that they are going to be targeted as Russians, as Russian air force or ground base personnel
could come under attack from the United States. That would be an act of war. That will be a level of violence that has not existed since before
the Second World War when it comes to the allies and Russia. I don't think that certainly from the position of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin and
others they want to get anywhere near to that.
But they are interested in continuing to show chaos, sew chaos in the ranks of their regional rivals, and particularly inside the United States
administration. And of course, given Donald Trump's tweet today, which has probably blindsided his own planners inside the Pentagon by revealing that
he most certainly is going to go ahead using smart weapons. That there will be an attack.
As Fred has been saying, there's also been reports that the Syrians and others have been moving their military assets around to try to avoid being
hit in such attacks. But I don't think there's any question really that the Americans would go after Russian or Iranian assets at this stage, at
least not deliberately. The problem is what happens if there is an accident particularly a big accident and then retaliation. Then you're
into the realm of escalation well beyond the borders of Syria.
KINKADE: Yes, that is a major risk. Sam Kiley, I want to go to Stephen Collinson for more about that tweet from President Trump. Who warned
Russia to get ready. What happened to the Donald Trump who said he would never reveal his military plans ahead of time?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that was one of Trump's mantras during his election campaign in 2016, that he'd be unpredictable.
He didn't know -- want U.S. enemies to know what he was going to do. In fact, way back in 2013, when President Obama was considering striking Syria
after a chemical weapons attack, Trump fired off a couple of tweets complaining that the president was tipping his hand to the U.S. enemies at
that point. But Donald Trump has never been consistent. He changes his mind and his tactics from one moment to the other.
I think the question here is first of all, the appropriateness of giving this kind of announcement on Twitter to start with. The cavalier nature
with which the President talks about military action. In the way that he certainly, as Sam was saying, got ahead of the Pentagon. The Pentagon in a
rather pointed comment said that it didn't comment on military action in advance.
And you also have to question, I think, the wisdom of the President getting into a chest beating competition with Russia ahead of this action, which is
clearly going to exacerbate tensions in a very dangerous area in Syria. And potentially raise the prospect of some sort of accident or some sort of
confrontation between Russia and the United States, which was clearly a historic and a very serious possibility. So, the way of the president is
choosing to escalate the situation is worrying a lot of people in Washington.
KINKADE: Yes, that is a real possibility. I just want to go back to Fred on how Syria, which has a tiny air force in comparison to the U.S., how it
will face an attack like this, and how it would lean -- how much it would lean on its allies of Russia and Iran to defend it?
PLEITGEN: I don't think the Syrian air force in any way shape or form be a match for the U.S. Air Force. Especially with all the other planes of the
coalition that are also flying around here in the area. We have to keep in mind that it's not only the American planes that are here but also the
French have a sizable contingent. And Brits also have a few warplanes, if they would indeed choose to participate in something like that.
So, the Syrians would lead heavily on their allies. Now, the Iranians themselves really don't have much in the way of an Air Force. They've been
under an embargo for an extended period of time. In fact, I saw some of the Iranian planes at military parades that they do in and around Tehran
every year, and most of them are very old American planes from the 1970s that the Iranian somehow managed to keep in the air.
But they also have a lot of planes that quite frankly, aren't airworthy at all. It doesn't seem as though the Iranians on Syrian territory have any
warplanes they would be capable of using. So, it would basically be the Russians that would try to deter the Americans. The Russians have very
modern jet fighters that they have stationed here. They also in the past couple of months actually have put some of their very newest fifth
generation jets into Syria. Unclear whether that was just sort of for battle testing or whether those would actually participate in any of the
combat operations. Those actually have stealth technology, but they are still quite unproven.
So, the Russians have big capabilities. But the big question, of course, is also, Lynda, that the U.S. will be asking what sort of air defense
capabilities are on the ground here. And with that Syrians have been largely depleted especially after the Israelis launched a strike here
fairly recently. Where they said they took out about half of Syria's air defense systems.
[11:10:00] So there again it would potentially be the Russians that would try and take down any U.S. missiles or do anything else. They have some
very modern technology on the ground here, but of course, we also know that the U.S. Air Force is by far the most potent air force in the entire world
KINKADE: All right, Frederik Pleitgen the only Western journalist in Damascus, Syria. Good to have you with us. Sam Kiley in Moscow, and
Stephen Collinson in Washington, D.C., thank you all very much.
Investors did not like reading Mr. Trump's threat to Russia. Right now, the Dow has dropped almost 200 points, going to free fall very early today.
From another tweet on his lawyer, of course, that didn't help either. We will keep an eye on those markets for you throughout the day.
Well, Mr. Trump is blaming the Russia investigation for creating tensions with Moscow. He tweeted a short time ago that much of the bad blood with
Russia is caused by the fake and corrupt Russia investigation. Adding that special counsel, Robert Mueller is quote, most conflicted of all.
Mr. Trump ended by saying no collusion, so they go crazy. Of course, nobody knows what the investigation has uncovered, it's still ongoing, but
Mr. Trump's increasingly hostile words suggests his patience with Mueller's investigation has run out. The FBI raid targeting Mr. Trump's personal
attorney may well have been the final straw. CNN has learned the president is now considering firing the man who signed off on that raid as a way to
get Robert Mueller out. CNN's Abby Phillip explains.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Multiple sources tell CNN that President Trump is considering firing deputy attorney general, Rod
Rosenstein. A move that's gaining urgency as a way to check the power of the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Many in Trump's legal team believes
Rosenstein crossed a line when he approved the FBI's raids on Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. They believe Rosenstein has a conflict
of interest because he is a potential witness in Mueller's probe for writing the memo that justified the firing of FBI director, James Comey.
The White House dodging questions about Rosenstein's future.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, the President has voiced his frustrations but beyond that I don't have anything else.
PHILLIP: Another option President Trump is weighing, firing attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who Mr. Trump still bemoans for recusing himself
from the Russian probe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Mr. Attorney General, have you spoken with the President today?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Nay, not today. Wrong time.
PHILLIP: This as CNN has learned the President and his aides have discussed the legality of firing Mueller for months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Does he believe he has the power to fire special counsel, Robert Mueller? Does he believe that's within his power?
SANDERS: Certainly, believes he has the power to do so.
PHILLIP: And "The New York Times" details a second attempt by the president to fire Mueller back in December. Angered by reports that new
subpoenas from Mueller were seeking information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank. The President backing down after learning the reports
were wrong. A source tells CNN aides see this as a turning point for the President whose anger about the Russian probe has surpassed any previous
But Republican lawmakers urging restraint.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think it would be suicide for the President to fire him. I think the less the President says about this
whole thing the better off he will be.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Let director Mueller do his job.
It would be a mistake to fire him. So, I don't think his job is in jeopardy.
PHILLIP: A White House official tell CNN the President is now reevaluating whether he'll give Mueller an interview. This as Michael Cohen reveals how
he felt about the raid at his home and office, telling CNN, members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizer were all extremely professional,
courteous and respectful.
Starkly different than President Trump's depiction calling it a break-in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt.
PHILLIP: CNN now learning the raids took place on the same day that Trump's lawyers met with Mueller team. The source saying, FBI agents
sought documents for payments to ask Playboy model, Karen McDougal. Who claims she was paid $150,000 by the company that owns the "National
Enquirer" to keep this story about her alleged affair with Trump from being published. Representatives for Trump have denied the affair. The FBI also
collecting information related to porn star, Stormy Daniels, who is now cooperating with investigators.
KINKADE: Well, one of the most powerful politicians in Washington is bowing out. Retiring from Congress after his current term ends this year.
Republican House Speaker, Paul Ryan, says he wants to spend more time with his family. Saying he is tired of being a Sunday dad. Ryan says the
upcoming mid-term elections -- which could prove challenging for the Republicans -- did not factor into his decision.
Well, a stone's throw from the White House in D.C. right now, take a look at these pictures. Facebook's boss, Mark Zuckerberg, answering American
lawmakers for a second day up on Capitol Hill. Just yesterday he was put through the wringer with five hours of questioning.
[11:15:00] CNN's Laurie Segall live there for us where it is all happening. She knows Facebook and Zuckerberg inside out. Laurie, this is another
committee, another day, Facebook CEO facing more questions. How is it going?
LAURIE SEGALL, CNNMONEY SENIOR TECH CORRESPONDENT: This day I would say feels a little bit different than yesterday. The questions are a lot more
pointed. A lot more specific, and a little bit more aggressive questioning, and a little less patience, to be honest. I think a lot of
the lawmakers saw a Mark Zuckerberg yesterday and took some notes. I want to play one exchange for you from a congressman, this is an exchange on
data privacy. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Yes or no, is Facebook limiting the amount or type of data Facebook itself collects or uses?
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: Congressman, yes, we limit a lot of the data that we collect and use.
PALLONE: But see, I don't see that in the announcements you made. Like you've made all these announcements in the last few days about the changes
you're going to make, and I don't really see how those announcements or changes limit the amount or type of data that Facebook collects or uses in
an effective way. But let me go to the second one. Again, this is my concern that users currently may not know or take affirmative action to
protect their own privacy. Yes or no, if Facebook changing user default settings to be more privacy protective?
ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, yes. In response to these issues we've changed a lot of the way that our platform works so that way developers can't get
access to as much information.
PALLONE: But see again, I don't see that in the changes that you proposed. I don't really see any way that these user default settings -- you're
changing these user default settings in a way that there's going to be more privacy protected. But let me go to the third one. Yes or no, will you
commit to changing all the user defaults settings to minimize to the greatest extent possible the collection and use of users' data? Will you
make that commitment?
ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, we try to collect and give people the ability --
PALLONE: But I would like you to answer yes or no if you could. Will you make the commitment to changing all the user default settings to minimize
to the greatest extent possible the collection and use of users' data? I don't think that's hard for you to say yes to unless I am missing
ZUCKERBERG: Congressman, this is a complex issue that that I think is -- deserves more than one-word answer.
PALLONE: Well again, that's disappointing to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEGALL: It was interesting one congresswoman said stop filibustering. And Mark Zuckerberg also had to defend the company against claims of
surveillance. He said we're not a surveillance company, you can leave if you want. He's also defending against claims of racial bias, censorship.
So, it's pretty heated in there.
KINKADE: Yes, quite a contrast to yesterday, right, where Zuckerberg faced lawmakers. He, of course, is 33 years old. The average age of the
lawmakers yesterday was 57. Many of them seem to not even understand the basics of how Facebook works. You told us he did a lot of prepare for that
session. Was he expecting tougher questions?
SEGALL: Yes, look I think a lot of the frustration from yesterday is a lot of these answers could have been easily googleable. They were asking kind
of Facebook 101. He walked away unscathed. You know, it was a five-hour grilling. Take a peek at yesterday's.
ZUCKERBERG: We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake and I'm sorry.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D) CONNECTICUT: We've seen the apology tours before.
SEGALL (voice-over): During a grueling five hours of testimony more than 40 senators pressing the Facebook CEO on its data collection practices and
its controversial privacy policies after the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. A Trump-linked data firm improperly accessing the private
information of millions of Facebook users.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Why should we trust Facebook to make the necessary changes to ensure user privacy.
SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN (D) ILLINOIS: Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?
DURBIN: I think this may be what it's all about, your right to privacy.
SEGALL: Zuckerberg taking the blame for not investigating the data firm more thoroughly or alerting the users to the breach.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Are you aware of anybody in leadership at Facebook who is in a conversation where a decision was made not to
inform your users?
ZUCKERBERG: I am not sure whether there's a conversation about that.
SEGALL: And admitting Facebook needs to improve its methods of policing the fake Russian ads that reach millions during the 2016 election.
ZUCKERBERG: This is an arms race. I mean they're going to keep on getting better at this. And we need to invest in keeping on getting better at
SEGALL: Zuckerberg confirming that his company is cooperating with the special counsel's investigation.
[11:20:00] ZUCKERBERG: I actually am not aware of a subpoena. I believe that there may be. But I know were working with them.
SEGALL: Zuckerberg says he's open to government oversight after Senators pushed why Americans should trust Facebook?
ZUCKERBERG: My position is not that there should be no regulation. I think the Internet is increasingly --
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: You would embrace regulation?
ZUCKERBERG: I think the real question as the internet becomes more important in peoples' lives, is what is the right regulation?
SEN. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook's rear end, it's not to inform your users about their
SEGALL: Zuckerberg emerging unscathed with some lawmakers clearly unaware of how Facebook works.
SEN. ORRIN G. HATCH (R), UTAH: How do you sustain a business model in which users don't pay for your service?
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, we run ads.
SEGALL: You know, also, one Senator yesterday said is Facebook reading my e-mail in my WhatsApp? And it doesn't take somebody who's too tech savvy
to know that you don't e-mail through your WhatsApp, and then it's also encrypted. So, no one has access. So, I think those were the
frustrations. Those are being made up today. It's a bit fiery in there and we will see if Mark Zuckerberg maintains his composure that he had
KINKADE: Absolutely. Well, investors seem to be happy with his performance yesterday with Facebook shares up. So, we'll see how that
plays out as well. Laurie Segall, always good to have you with us. Thank you.
Still ahead, a highly disturbing video is making headlines in Israel. We will tell you why when we come back.
KINKADE: Welcome back. Israel is defending its military's use of live fire to contain protests in Gaza near the border fence. Rejecting calls
for an independent inquiry into the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. The biggest protests happened the last two Fridays as Palestinians demand a
right to return to their ancestral homes. Israel says they are not protests that all but rather riots organized by the Hamas with the aim of
One of those killed was a Palestinian journalist wearing a vest identifying him as the press. Israel's defense minister says he was a terrorist
affiliated with Hamas.
There was also a disturbing video emerging from Israel showing a sniper from the Israeli Defense forces shooting a Palestinian man standing near
the border fence with Gaza.
[11:25:00] now the incident happened back in December. The video which goes for over a minute led the news Monday evening on Israeli TV channels
and featured highly in local newspapers. Reigniting a debate about the Israel's army's principles and its shoulders actions. Ian Lee has our
report, but I need to warn you that it does contain disturbing and graphic video.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An Israel sniper, zeros in on a Palestinian man near the Gaza border. He appears unarmed. When he stops, you take him
down the commander orders in the video. Gunshot cracks and the man falls. Son of a bitch, one soldier yells, what a legendary film. I haven't seen
this kind of thing for a long time.
Israeli defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, praised the shoulder while criticizing the one that recorded it through his scope.
AVIGDOR LIBERMAN, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The sniper deserves a medal, the other soldier should be demoted.
LEE: The video and the soldier's celebration has provoked outrage.
AHMAD TIBI, ARAB MEMBER OF KNESSET: They committed a crime, but not only them. Above them, there is one more criminal, and his name is Avigdor
Lieberman. He is inciting both soldiers to kill.
LEE: Israel's military says the video was filmed in December and that it doesn't show the full picture of what happened. It says the shooting was
justified but will conduct a full enquiring. Adding, the cheering does not suit the degree of restraint expected of IDF soldiers.
This video comes on heels of others from the recent violence on the Gaza/Israel border. Here an Israeli sniper shoots the protester in the
back as he runs away from the border. Here an Israeli sniper shoots a protester in the back as he runs away from the border. In this woman
waving a flag near the border drops after getting shot. Both appear unarmed and their conditions are unknown.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have gathered near the border fence on two successive Fridays saying they want to cross over to lands lost to
Israel 70 years ago. Israel says the demonstrations are led by Hamas and present a security threat. In total, Israeli soldiers have killed 32
Palestinians since the protests started two weeks ago. No Israeli soldiers have been killed or injured.
International and Israeli rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force.
ROY YELLIN, B'TSELEM: The army is shooting people outside of the normal rules of engagement, and that's why my organization called soldiers to
refuse those orders which are criminal orders and manifestly illegal.
LEE: Even before the latest round of protests began, Israel's military posted this video on social media. It shows what appears to be an unarmed
Gazan near the fence shot in the leg. It warns, Hamas is sending you to demonstrations and endangering your lives.
JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESMAN: We use very specific sharp shooters or snipers at specific persons who are trying to sabotage the fence. We aim
for the lower part of the body, for feet and to make sure that those people are not able -- those rioters are not able to climb or sabotage the fence
and pose a significant threat to our facilities.
LEE: With Palestinians vowing to cross, and Israel's military not backing down, a video like this shows peace is far away. Ian Lee, CNN, Jerusalem.
KINKADE: Well let's get you up to speed on other stories that are on our radar right now. Crews are going through the wreckage of an Algerian
military plane which crashed south of the capital. State media say that 257 people were killed. Mostly Army personnel and their families. The
plane went down in a field just after taking off from an air base near Algiers.
Well, in Myanmar a court rejected a move to drop charges against two Reuters journalists. They were detained while investigating a massacre of
Rohingya Muslims last year. They're accused of possessing secret government papers. They could face 14 years in prison.
South Africa remembers anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Thousands of people have paid tribute to her at a memorial service in
Soweto. She was the former wife of the late President Nelson Mandela. She died last week at the age of 81.
Well, life from the CNN center, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, tweeted taunts and threats between new nuclear powers. We are live in
Washington as we wait for America's next move in Syria.
[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KINKADE: You are watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me Lynda Kinkade. welcome back.
We now have a story just coming in to us. Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a missile fired towards its capital a short time age.
Witnesses tell us the blasts were heard in Riyadh. There's no official word on where the missile came from. The Houthi rebels in Yemen have been
behind previous launches. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against the Houthis.
We're going to return now to a top story we've been following. Get ready Russia they will be coming. That is from the U.S. president, Donald Trump.
An extraordinary tweet today warning the Kremlin against shooting down any missiles fired at Syrian government forces. We are waiting to see how the
president will react to the apparent chemical attack near Damascus last weekend. His self-imposed deadline for a response has just about run out.
What will the U.S. do next? CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, joins us now from Washington. Elyse, last year when the U.S.
responded and attacked a Syrian air base, it seemed to have -- make little difference. So, it wasn't a deterrent it was meant to be. If indeed this
is another chemical attack carried out by the Syrian regime. So, what's the plan now? Is that go big or go home?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lynda, I think there are a couple options that the president has on his desk. I mean,
obviously, he could do something that he did last time, which is, you know, one small targeted strike at an airfield or an air base or you know, an
[11:35:01] But as you said, that didn't really make much of a difference in terms of Assad's or Russian calculations. I think if we see some kind of
action from the U.S., maybe along with its allies, France and possibly Britain, I think you're going to see something a little bit bigger than
what we saw last time. Perhaps something more crippling against the Syrian air force to send the message not to just Syria but to Russia that the use
of chemical weapons does not give the Syrians a military advantage.
KINKADE: And just give us a sense of how the Pentagon is responding to President Trump's tweet, warning Russia to be ready for an attack?
LABOTT: I mean, listen, you know, obviously it caught the Pentagon off guard. Officials certainly were not expecting that. They're still working
through not only the timeline but the type of action that they possibly could undertake. And also, in terms of working with the allies, with
France and Britain as I said. And so, I think this just kind of almost moved up the deadline, if you will. Not only that, but it also -- you
know, this was supposed to be some kind of retaliatory action against Syria. Yes, to send a message to Russia, Syria's biggest supporter on the
ground there, but mostly as a retaliatory measure. Now it seems as if President Trump might have conflated going after Syrian targets and Russian
KINKADE: All right, Elise Labott, for us in Washington DC. Good to have you with us. Thank you very much.
We're going to stay on this story. We've our CNN's Nick Payton Walsh following developments on the ground in northeastern Syria. And also, our
Ben Wedeman is in Beirut, Lebanon. He of course, has been following the conflict in Syria for many years. Good to have you both with us. I want
to start first with Ben. We are seeing this war of words play out on Twitter led by the U.S. President. If the U.S., France and its allies go
in and attack Syria, what are the risks?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The risks are massive, because, of course, even though the United States is talking about
targeting Syrian forces, on the ground in Syria you have significant Russian forces. You have Iranian forces. You have Lebanese, Hezbollah.
You have Turkey in the north. You have ISIS in pockets, and of course you have the Israelis flying around in the southern part of the country. And
the possibility of things going wrong in war is always large.
Of course, President Trump has never been to a battlefield, has never been under fire so he may not understand this. But they say that all the plans
go out the window after the first bullet is fired. So, if they are going to be striking Syrian military targets, let's not forget that there are
often times Iranians on those bases, there are Russians. And we're hearing for instance that the Syrians are already beginning to shift around their
military equipment to bases that are Russian bases essentially to avoid that sort of damage being done to their forces.
But the possibilities for things going wrong are huge. And let's not forget, Russia is a nuclear power and the Russian -- you've heard from the
Russian ambassador to Lebanon saying that Russia will shoot down missiles fired at their forces in Syria. And maybe even target the sources of those
missiles. So, we are very close to a very dangerous place and the President of the United States is sending out these tweets.
KINKADE: Yes, yes, indeed. Ben, just stand by for us because I want to go to Nick who's in Syria. You have been on the ground there many times.
This, of course, all started this war of words off the back of an apparent chemical attack and it's by far not the first chemical attack in the
country. Just give us -- give our viewers a reminder of the attacks we've seen in the past.
NICK PAYTON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we will start with this weekend, Douma, where it appears at this stage according to
the World Health Organization that some muscular issues were seen in the victims. They were experiencing respiratory difficulties. Over 40 people
killed. The phrase muscular issues, is important because it hints at the possibility of a nerve agent being involved here. We've seen attacks in
the past years or so involving chlorine. That's domestically available. There's also been a suggestion that sulfur type mustard gas is being use as
well. Often the finger points at the regime. But it's moments where nerve agents are being used that the world stands up -- horrifying to say this --
but stands up and actually begins to take notice of what's been happening here in Syria.
First of all, that was in Ghouta in 2013. Remember that cross Barack Obama's red line back there.
[11:40:00] But he didn't take any action. Instead Russia persuaded Damascus to get rid of its chemical weapons. Well clearly, they didn't get
rid of all of them. Because in April 2017 some say was a test as to exactly how Donald Trump would react when Syria flagrantly violated
international chemical weapon conventions. They used sarin in Khan Shaykhun in the Idib province.
Now, Donald Trump only waited about 48 hours before he launched 59 tomahawk missiles. And it's pretty much a symbolic attack on almost empty airfield,
but people then pointing out the fact that 16 days later -- sorry, 14 days after those strikes, the OPCW, the U.N.'s chemical weapons investigators,
and verified that was sarin. So, so the issue here really is with the U.K., France, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. all talking allowed about the need
for retaliation here. You have to suggest that they think somewhere in the mix of the chemicals used at the weekend in Douma, which smelled of
chlorine but appears to cause nerve agent-like symptoms, muscular spasms, that perhaps the West believes maybe a nerve agent was involved this
weekend -- Lynda.
KINKADE: All right. OK, Nick, thank you.
I wanted to go back to Ben. We've heard calls for various international bodies for an independent investigation. We've heard Russia deny any
evidence of a chemical attack. Syria say we didn't do it. Should the U.S. wait for the results of the test on the ground?
WEDEMAN: Well, haste makes waste they say, Lynda. And certainly, if they want to prove that anything was used in the incidents, then the opportunity
should be made. Now the Syrians have said they will welcome a delegation from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to come and
test the area. The OPCW's mandate however does not allow to place the blame, it merely determines whether chemical agents were used or not.
But certainly, the United States might take a closer look at its history, keeping in mind, for instance, that throughout the 1990s and up to 2003
when the United States invaded Iraq on the belief that it had weapons of mass destruction. Of course, that has set off a very sort of long and
never-ending catastrophe in this part of the world based on something that where it turned out didn't exist. So, I don't want to put myself in a
position of somebody who can make these decisions, but I think wiser heads would allow for some sort of certification of the use of chemical weapons
before the dogs of war are unleashed -- Lynda.
KINKADE: Thanks, Ben. And just finally, very quickly to Nick. Just give us a sense of why you think the response internationally is so different to
a chemical attack as opposed to the other horrific attacks we've seen on civilians in Syria?
WALSH: I think we saw it wasn't in 2013. I think it was Donald Trump, many say reacting to the images on television of civilians, children
suffocating from sarin gas use. But I think perhaps now maybe even the instance in Salisbury in the United Kingdom. The use allegedly of a nerve
agent by Russia to kill a former spy, Novichok. And the international coalition, frankly, that Theresa May, the U.K. Prime Minister, looked
unlikely to be able to form, but the spring out of nowhere, to kick out Russian diplomats. I think that was the world to some degree saying
chemical weapons don't have a place in any part of this world.
So, it may be a reason why we're seeing more people stepping forward. I should point out, Syria said they got rid of the chemical weapons. One
source I spoke to said it's tough for them to get rid of all of them because some of them we used in Ghouta in 2013 to carry out that sarin
attack there. So, that would be like them basically handing over the murder weapon for crime they admitted -- never admitted to. So, it's a
mess here frankly. And the fears I think too. The kind of weapon used here smelt of chlorine but acted in some ways like a nerve agent. May be a
troubling mixture of the two. I agree with Ben, it's always best to wait and certify.
[11:45:00] KINKADE: Yes, there certainly is. Nick Payton Walsh for us in northeastern Syria. Our Ben Wedeman in Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you both
very much for your time and your expertise.
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me @LyndaKinkade. I am Lynda Kinkade. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks so much for joining us. "WORLD SPORT" is next.