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Allies Target Suspected Chemical Weapons Facilities; Survivors of Suspected Chemical Attack Speak; U.S. and Russia Trade Recriminations at U.N.; Pentagon States Strikes Successfully Hit Every Target. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired April 15, 2018 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome, everyone. Good to have you with us this hour. I'm Cyril Vanier.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Bianca Nobilo. We're continuing our coverage of the airstrikes in Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump is declaring "mission accomplished." This after the U.S., France and U.K. launched their operation against Syria's chemical weapons program early Saturday.
The strikes included aircraft and missiles and followed a suspected chemical attack in Douma last week. The U.S. says more than 100 missiles were fired and all hit their targets.
VANIER: But Syria and its ally, Russia, deny that. They claim that most of the missiles were actually intercepted and that the attack was repelled. However, videos on the ground show significant damage.
And this is said to have been what you saw earlier, was a research center in Damascus. What you're seeing now is the reporters that we have across the world.
NOBILO: Let's go straight to the region now neighboring on Syria, CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us live in Lebanon.
Fred, you follow this region very closely. You have been in Syria a lot over the last few weeks.
What has the reaction been since the strikes, the last 24, 48 hours?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean on the one hand, I think that most people inside Syria will believe that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Bianca, is just as strong in power as he was before.
In fact, it seemed yesterday he was almost taunting the big powers, America, Britain and France, with that video he put out of himself, seemingly casually coming to his office. And if you speak to the people on the ground in Syria they believe
this is one-off shot, that the things that were hit were insignificant to Assad's overall large military structure. And they think his campaign that he has going on, the military campaign, will continue the exact same way as it did before.
And I think one of the things that's telltale about all this is that the Syrian military and the Syrian government since this alleged chemical attack happened and even after these missile strikes yesterday, declared that the entire region, Eastern Ghouta, which is a big area on the outskirts of Damascus, they say they have completely taken over that entire region.
Of course, Douma, where this alleged attack happened, was the centerpiece of that place and was already on the way of negotiating the surrender of the rebels and some of them moving onto other parts of Syria.
But him winning that part of Damascus, Ghouta, is one of the biggest military victories of the Syrian army of the entire civil war. I think people sometimes underestimate just how big an achievement that is for the Syrian military.
So the airstrikes that happened really now in Damascus don't faze anybody anymore. Certainly don't seem to faze Assad, especially in light of the fact he's just cleared an area that did have about 400,000 people on the outskirts of Damascus, that was under rebel control -- Bianca.
NOBILO: You wrote a really good piece on this, which is online, you had a great line saying the feeling among Assad supporters is that the latest airstrikes were seen as symbolic rather than being game- changing in any way.
So this is clearly something the allies won't be pleased with.
Would you feel safe in saying it really hadn't shifted the dial at all in the region, when it comes to the power balance?
PLEITGEN: No, I don't think it's shifted at all. I think that the Russians are going to continue to stand by Syrian president Bashar al- Assad. I think the Iranians are going to continue to stand by him.
I think on the military side of things, it hasn't changed anything at all. When you look at what's going on around Damascus and other places in Syria, then you can see a clear pattern of countries that are committed to Syria for better or worse and with all the horrible things that all this entails for so many civilians.
We have to keep in mind, as these big powers in Syria continue to battle each other or to be adversaries of one other, it is always the Syrian civilians that suffer the most. But you can tell there is that sphere of influence and control that the Assad government has, that is expanding and consolidating.
You have a sphere of control and influence that the Turks have and that they're consolidating, slowly but it is growing. And then you have that residual sphere that the U.S. has a hand in. But there's not many players on the ground that believe the U.S. is in it for the long run.
So by and large, the strikes seem to be a pinpoint thing -- and quite frankly, it's also what the Americans are saying. They say they didn't want to influence the balance of power on the battlefield. They just want to make sure that the Assad government, if it did use chemical weapons, will never use them again. They want the price to be too high.
Presumably the U.S. may have achieved that. But certainly as far as the balance of power on the battlefield and the confidence the Assad government has, I don't think anything has changed.
NOBILO: Our thanks for your reporting --
NOBILO: -- Fred, from Beirut, Lebanon.
VANIER: The American, French and British leaders have spent quite a bit of time on the phone since the airstrikes, talking to other world leaders, explaining their action and getting support.
Shinzo Abe says he fully supports the strikes. The Japanese prime minister added, "The use of chemical weapons is inhumane and should absolutely not be allowed."
NOBILO: At the United Nations Saturday, more finger pointing and heated rhetoric. The U.S. says it's, quote, "locked and loaded" if it needs to act again.
France is proposing another Security Council resolution. It calls for a new mechanism to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria and for a third-party review of humanitarian evacuations. The U.S. and Great Britain back that.
VANIER: Phil Black is in London outside 10 Downing Street. And Atika Shubert is in Paris. We can get reactions from the two countries that led these strikes with the U.S.
Phil, Donald Trump says "mission accomplished."
Is Theresa May, the British prime minister, as triumphant?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, nothing as triumphant as that. Nothing as aggressive as saying that Britain remains locked and loaded and ready to strike again. The message here is much more cautious, much more subdued from Downing Street.
They're stressing they believe the attacks were a success. And they're welcoming the broad international support they say they're receiving from countries around the world for acting in this way. The prime minister is really only just beginning the domestic
political sell on this military action in a way because she's defied what has been a political convention in this country, which is to seek parliament approval before launching any military action.
She didn't do that. She didn't have to do that. But as I said it's been the convention since the Iraq invasion since 2003. And ever since that particular intervention, this has been a country that is deeply skeptical about military action, not just airstrikes or military action itself but often what follows, when the plans are in place to deal with the consequences, both understood and unexpected when it comes to striking militarily in this way.
So what we've been hearing from British officials has been this ongoing message about this being very limited, very precise, very calibrated, specifically targeting chemical weapons and Syria's chemical weapons capability alone, not about regime change, not about intervening in the Syrian conflict, simply sending a message to reinforce what they say is a vital international law and that is that chemical weapons should not be used.
VANIER: And Atika in Paris, where you are, is there a sense that this military campaign is over or they're going to have to stick with this over the long haul?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a sense that it's over for now. I mean that's certainly what we're hearing from the defense minister, from the foreign minister, that this was a limed strike. But France, like the U.S. and like the U.K. Is willing to apply more pressure if needed in the future.
But for now, France is much more focused on meeting those diplomatic efforts. As you say, we heard from the British prime minister, we've heard from president Donald Trump but we actually haven't heard directly from the French president, Emmanuel Macron yet.
Everything that was communicated from him yesterday was via Twitter. And we are waiting to hear from him today. He is scheduled have to this interview with our affiliate, so hopefully we'll hear from him directly soon.
VANIER: Phil, back to you, the U.K. has a unique perspective on all of this because they recently saw a chemical attack on their soil that they blame on Russia.
So to what extent are they looking at all of this as one common chemical threat?
BLACK: Sure, Cyril, what you're talking about there is the use of a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury against a former Russian spy, something that's been dominating headlines obviously for weeks now.
And, yes, it is being mentioned in the same context as this military action because the British government says this is not just targeted at Syria. There is a wider message here to the international community about not breaching that norm on chemical weapons.
So it applies more broadly. In addition to that, the British foreign secretary has said that it was right that Britain stand with the U.S. and France and take part in this military action because those were two countries that were instrumental in building an international group, if you like, against Russia over the use of that nerve agent in gathering together those 28 or so countries expelling 120 diplomats from around the world.
So it's right on both of those terms and, yes, the British government is using the Salisbury incident as part of its wider justification for taking part in this military action.
VANIER: Atika, French authorities since the strike have been saying they want a political solution in Syria and they're pushing for that at the U.N.
After so many failed attempts, are they sincere?
SHUBERT: I think they're very sincere. I think France realizes really the only way forward with this is a diplomatic and political solution.
SHUBERT: And this is why you see France leading those efforts at the U.N., drafting that new Security Council resolution. And yesterday, France's ambassador said there are three points that need to be done here.
First is to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program for good and what he called the verifiable and irreversible way.
Secondly, he said there has to be a cease-fire to get humanitarian convoys into Eastern Ghouta.
And third, there has to be this inclusive political solution. So that sounds good on paper but this is exactly what they've been trying to do for the last few years and it hasn't gotten anywhere. But France is determined to move forward, at least with this renewed diplomatic push.
VANIER: Atika Shubert in Paris, Phil Black at Number 10 Downing Street in London, thank you both.
And Russia and Turkey have agreed to work together on this Syria crisis, despite having opposing views of the U.S. airstrike.
NOBILO: According to state media, the presidents of both countries spoke on the phone Saturday about the strike. Russian president Vladimir Putin said the airstrike violates the U.N. Charter and international law.
VANIER: Meanwhile, in a televised speech, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said not responding to the chemical weapons attack would have been unthinkable. The two reportedly agreed to work on deescalation zones and a political solution to the crisis.
NOBILO: The strike in Syria obviously set off diplomatic alarms around the world. So Nic Robertson joins us now from Moscow with a look at the fallout.
Nic, we've been hearing from our reporters all over the globe about how Assad seems fairly unfazed, the allied response. So if you could just draw those threads together for us and tell us, do you think that this mission, as defined by the allies, was a success?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's a success in sending a message that there's a red line and that if the red line, the use of chemical weapons is crossed, there will be a response.
But I think if you're sitting in Moscow at the Kremlin, you'll be looking at the narrow focus and some of the reasons behind that narrow focus, the reason that the agreement focused own chemical weapons; whereas, certainly President Trump had perhaps indicated that he would have liked something bigger.
And perhaps strategically if you wanted to find a way to pressure president Bashar al-Assad towards the peace talks in Geneva, these are the U.N. peace talks that were started as a result of U.N. Security Council resolution 2254, which was supported unanimously by all nations, including Russia, which laid out a political transition through a new constitution, new elections in Syria, that would lead to a transition of power away by president Bashar al-Assad.
And every time those talks have sort of come to a point of question, it has always fallen to Russia to put pressure on President Assad to make those key concessions. And Russia has failed to be able to either to put that pressure on him or not put that pressure on him.
So you know, if you're standing at the position before the strikes, thinking, what's the best effect that we could cause here, beyond making sure that chemical weapons aren't used in the future, it might have been to find a way to put military pressure on, that President Assad would feel that his only option was to now go for peace talks in Geneva as part of U.N. Security Council resolution 2254.
But as I say, if you're sitting in the Kremlin and analyzing what's happened, the very narrow focus, you perhaps realize there isn't enough political census or political will.
In Britain, for example, it may be Paris as well, maybe less as much in the United States for a coalition to form that could have that broader strategy and target perhaps things that are much closer to President Assad's personal interests and perhaps make him feel more personally that absolutely he really does need to think about his future and not just winning the conflict in Syria.
So I think, if you're in the Kremlin you recognize the weakness of Theresa May's position, for example, where she will face questioning. And there is hostility to the position that she's -- political hostility in the U.K. for the position that she's taken. And there is historic narrative for that.
Prime minister Tony Blair following George Bush into the war in Iraq with the consequences that happened in Iraq and the narrative, the use of weapons of mass destruction as a narrative to get into that war.
All that political baggage exists beyond the political baggage that exists supporting President Trump, who is not popular in Europe and, therefore, there's some political toxicity for that.
Any political leader Emmanuel Macron has gotten around that a little in France by getting ahead of the curve, by inviting U.S. president Trump to Paris to show that he's slightly more -- has a stronger hand in that relationship.
But all of these issues cloud the picture that the Kremlin can read all of it.
NOBILO: Thanks, Nic. So perhaps a missed opportunity there on the part of the allies to put pressure --
NOBILO: -- on the regime to get them to move towards peace talks. Thanks so much for your reporting.
VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump says it's "mission accomplished" after the strikes on Syria but his own White House has a very different take. We'll have the details when we come back.
NOBILO: The White House says the Syrian government is on notice that there could be more airstrikes if more chemical weapons are used against civilians.
VANIER: That's quite different from what president Donald Trump tweeted, "mission accomplished." That's a phrase you might remember that sparked a backlash for one of Mr. Trump's predecessors. Jim Acosta explains.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a sobering message delivered to Syria, backed by U.S. military might.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.
ACOSTA: While the Pentagon insists U.S. forces, along with Britain and France, achieved their objectives in striking Syrian chemical weapons targets, it's one of President Trump's tweets that may have misfired.
Celebrating the operation the president tweeted, "A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. Could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished!"
That phrase, "mission accomplished," was a flashback to 2003, when then President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier and declared victory in Iraq, a war that continued for eight more years. Over Bush's shoulder was a banner reading, "Mission Accomplished."
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
ACOSTA: Even Mr. Trump's supporters are cringing. Former Bush Secretary Ari Fleischer weighed in on Mr. Trump's tweets, saying --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- "I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words."
Asked about the president's confidence the Pentagon didn't disagree with the commander in chief.
DANA WHITE, CHIEF PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: Last night, operations were very successful. We met our objectives. We hit the sites. The heart of the chem weapons program. So it was mission accomplished.
ACOSTA: Still, on a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official conceded the airstrikes may not have neutralized the chemical weapons threat in Syria, saying, "If this does not succeed we will be prepared to act again," which means the age-old questions that come with every U.S. intervention have returned.
How does the U.S. define success and how long will that take?
Two weeks after Mr. Trump raised the prospect of removing U.S. troops from Syria...
TRUMP: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.
ACOSTA: -- Democrats are raising questions.
REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D): I cannot tell you what this administration's policy is towards Syria. One week ago he was talking about entirely pulling out. That ended up giving -- appeared to give a green light to Assad.
And you saw how Assad took that green light and ran with it in terms of gassing innocents, including women and children.
ACOSTA: The other looming question is how to handle Syria's two biggest backers, Russia and Iran.
TRUMP: To Iran and to Russia I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?
ACOSTA: Vice-President Pence continued that tough talk at the Summit of the Americas in Peru.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message to Russia is, you're on the wrong side of history.
ACOSTA: President Trump will face more of these questions about Syria next week when he meets with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe down at Mar-a-lago. The president will be splitting his time, discussing the fate of another rogue nation with weapons of mass destruction: that is, North Korea.
Another foreign policy crisis with no easy answers -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
NOBILO: Let's get some perspective now on Mr. Trump's comments and what they might mean. We're joined by Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University of London.
Thanks for being with us, sir.
INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON: Good morning.
NOBILO: Curious to know what you think about what the impact of this strike and the fact that the allies took part in this strike with President Trump, what impact that will have on the Trump administration's credibility on foreign policy issues.
PARMAR: Well, I think the Trump administration has been under pressure from the very beginning largely as a result of violating what they kind of considered the norms surrounding it but because of a global role.
And I think from that period onwards, there's been a very large campaign from, you know, quite large parts of the military and intelligence and other parts of the establishment to try to get the Trump administration back into line.
And what with we can see in the last couple of weeks is that there's a kind of ambivalence on that front. So President Trump, as your reporting has suggested, wanted to pull out of Syria completely and is now back in, now saying "mission accomplished" and now saying there's going to be a sustained campaign.
So I think the instincts of the Trump administration is to basically pull out. But I think the amount of pressure in Washington on the question of foreign policy but also on all the scandals and the investigations going on inside, I think, are pulling him back into the much more conventional mode. VANIER: Inderjeet, after the strikes over the last 24 hours, is it fair to say that, short of using chemical weapons, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, can continue business as usual in his country, including slaughtering his own people?
PARMAR: Well, that is the logic of what has been done, isn't it?
Because it's saying that we draw our line here and when we believe that line to have been crossed, there will be this -- some kind of intervention or strike of a relatively limited character.
The problem with it is, of course, is that this means that the United States and Britain and France, which have been involved in Syria in various way for several years, are effectively -- I think they're admitting they are no longer within the process, that the future of Syria -- you'll recall in Cyprus just a few days ago, there was a conference between Turkey, Syria, Russia, for example, about the future of Syria.
The U.S. and so on were not involved in it. I think that means that the decisive term has occurred in Syria, which means that these allied powers, which have engaged in this, what is basically an illegal attack, they seem to be now outside of that diplomatic process.
And what France is trying to do, I think, is now try to bring that process back into life. But I think they're on the back foot.
NOBILO: You mentioned just now the relatively limited character of this decision --
NOBILO: -- this military decision. And indeed it was targeted, precise and largely considered to be proportionate.
Does that come as a surprise, given some of the concerns about how President Trump approaches foreign policy, that it was a fairly restrained decision?
PARMAR: It does. And we know now -- we have enough evidence from President Trump's words, tweets and so on, that we actually don't know what on Earth he's going to do. But it is a surprise.
The level of rhetoric, I must admit, did concern me a great deal and it seemed as if it was getting a response from Russia of an equal type. And as a result of that, there was a fear that there was going to be an -- effectively military confrontation if not military conflict between two nuclear armed powers.
That was very worrying. But in the end it seems to be that they have taken a much more realistic position and, as I said, I think this suggests really -- I think the United States and its allies are on the back foot now.
The decisive victory appears to have now shifted the balance within Syria toward that regime and its allies and away from the United States. And I think this limited strike is a kind of recognition of that. It suggests a symbolic value much more than a military value.
NOBILO: It's interesting because we've that that refrain from our reporters, too. Professor Inderjeet Parmar, thanks very much from joining us from London.
PARMAR: Thank you.
NOBILO: CNN is the first network to speak with survivors of the suspected chemical attack in Syria.
VANIER: When we come back, Arwa Damon reports on those who fled Douma and are traumatized. They can still smell in their clothes that attack that almost killed them.
VANIER: You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of the allied strike on Syria. I'm Cyril Vanier.
NOBILO: And I'm Bianca Nobilo.
U.S. President Donald Trump is declaring mission accomplished after the U.S., France and the U.K. launched airstrikes in Syria. The strikes were meant to punish the Syrian regime for allegedly launching a chemical attack on its own people.
VANIER: Let's talk about the possible consequences of those airstrikes.
NOBILO: Paul Rogers joins us now. He's a professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford in England.
Paul, curious to know your thoughts on how effective these strikes will be in the broader context of this conflict in Syria.
Is it going to change the momentum at all?
PAUL ROGERS, UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD: No, probably not. Essentially these were largely symbolic strikes. One is struck by the president's use of the phrase "mission accomplished." I think that was last used by President George W. Bush six weeks after the start of the Iraq War in 2003, when the regime had gone apparently in three weeks.
But in fact the war lasted six or seven years and killed more than 200,000 people. I don't remotely (INAUDIBLE) like this. I think one has to understand that this is primarily a set of limited attacks which had very specific functions to demonstrate that the West was prepared to do this.
But in strategic terms of very little consequence (INAUDIBLE) to the Syrian people to develop the more advanced chemical weapons, sarin, for example. But the main weapon they've been using against their own people to very bad effect (INAUDIBLE) chlorine. And that, of course, is widely available (INAUDIBLE) Assad could just get his iPad out and order some more. It's at that level.
So we're looking at a much wider political context here than the actual strikes themselves.
VANIER: Paul, you say that they're largely symbolic strikes. This reminds me of a Syrian activist, who said these that these aren't media strikes. He meant strikes made for TV because they have no real effect.
Is that something you agree with?
ROGERS: I would think so, yes. I think of the Syrians and the Russians and insofar as they're involved, the Iranians, would just shrug this off. It's of no great consequence to them.
Only in fact the facilities themselves will probably be repaired fairly quickly. Although the Syrians may choose not to do that. I think one has to look at this in a slightly wider context. One obviously the personality of the president and his desire to respond to what was undoubted an extremely nasty attack, one of a number.
But the wider issue here is that Syria developed chemical weapons originally because of its concern about Israel and, to a lesser extent, Turkey. And it sees this as a long-term deterrent. It had to get rid of most of them I think as a recent result of the recent actions of the U.N.
But has retained some capability and this is a sense as a longer-term warning to Syria. But while the regime is winning the war and take full control probably within 3-4 months, it must remember that the West, in the guise of the United States, is prepared to intervene.
It's a serious complication and I think one has to agree with Ryan Crocker that we are in rather dangerous times because you never know when something might not escalate in an untoward way.
But for the moment, this may actually die down now. And people will come to realize that this is really a short-term exercise in political symbolism, overriding, perhaps, the humanitarian dimension, although that, of course, is important. These things are extremely nasty.
NOBILO: Paul, you are a professor of peace studies, so if we could turn to that for a second and look at the main factors that are prohibiting the peace process in Syria. Of course, it's the regime of Assad; perhaps the power play, backers of extremism in the region, too.
What do you think are the largest obstacles stopping the international community from making progress on that front?
ROGERS: It's the nature of the international community. You're interviewing Professor Parmar just now and he was making the point about the complexity of this. The Syrian civil war is one of these rare examples in international security studies of a double proxy war.
In the region, you have primarily Iran backing the regime. And behind Iran at the global level you have Russia itself. But in terms of the rebels on the opposition to Assad in the region, you have a number of states, including indirectly Jordan and more directly Saudi Arabia. But wider you have Britain --
ROGERS: -- France and particularly the United States. And then you have other factors, such as Israel and Turkey, too, and, of course, the Kurds. It's a formidable job. The United Nations has been doing its best under very difficult circumstances.
But unless you can get essentially Russia and the West talking, I don't see an early end to this. And what will happen I think is that Assad will win, it's going to leave a very dirty taste in the mouth of many people. But that's the reality. And I think we're seeing the United States and I think its allies having difficulty getting to grips with this.
VANIER: And there haven't been many instances of Russia and the West really generally talking over the last few years.
Paul Rogers, thank you for joining us, professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford in England, thanks.
Now let's turn to a network exclusive. CNN is the first network to speak with survivors at that suspected chemical attack in Douma.
NOBILO: In a world exclusive, CNN's senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, spoke with them at a makeshift camp near the Turkish border.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And there's definitely something that stinks...
DAMON (voice-over): These backpacks belong to Malas (ph) and Betha (ph), 7-year-old twins from Douma.
They're a little shy and hesitant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).
DAMON (voice-over): Their mother, Imoor (ph), tells us they remember everything vividly.
They were hiding in a basement when the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma took place. They could barely breathe. She felt her body go limp. She clawed her way up, dragging her daughters but then the other strikes began.
"We were between two deaths," she remembers, "either from chemical strikes or the others on the rooftop." DAMON: The smell is still quite strong because I think that they weren't able to wash yet.
Look, that's the toy that her daughter hid away to try to keep her safe and she would tell the toy, you know, you might -- you might suffocate but at least you'll be safe from the bombing. That is how -- that's how the kids' minds work.
Yesterday, they were digging a tunnel for the ants so that the ants wouldn't suffocate, just in case something happened.
DAMON (voice-over): In another tent, we meet a boy with a jagged scar running across his abdomen from shrapnel. His uncle, who doesn't want to be identified, was among the worst affected in the family in the chemical strike.
He says a blood sample was taken the day before. This new camp is inhabited with those who survived the siege of Douma. Its relentless, months-long bombing that drove families underground so that something as simple as feeling the sun on their skin was a luxury.
Reeve (ph) and her family thought there was a lull in the bombing and went outside, when she says three airstrikes slammed right next to them. The next thing she remembers is being in the hospital.
DAMON: She had just gotten out of surgery in the hospital when the wounded from the chemical strike, she says, began coming in.
DAMON (voice-over): The scene was so horrific, she says she forgot her own pain. What she doesn't know, what no one has the heart to tell her is that her husband is dead. Her son, just 2 years old, is too young to remember his father.
The limited U.S.-French-U.K. strikes may have sent a message to the Syrian regime about chemical weapons but not about the rest of its arsenal. For those who have endured the unimaginable, it's little more than a move on a gruesome chess board.
Sixty-eight-year-old Fegzi (ph) arrived here four days ago from Douma. She has buried too many relatives to count, including her son and two grandchildren.
DAMON: There is nothing left for them, I mean, even if they could go home, there's nothing left.
DAMON (voice-over): She says her country has caused her too much pain. And remembering the long lost days when her family was around her, when they were all alive, when feeling safe wasn't a luxury, it's all just too much -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Elbeyli (ph) Refugee Camp, Syria.
NOBILO: (INAUDIBLE) into stark relief, the point that all of our reporters and guests have been making, at the end of the day, it's the Syrians that pay the price for the political decisions that are being made.
Coming up, is there a better way to investigate these chemical attacks in Syria?
France thinks so. A look at their new U.N. proposal after this break.
VANIER: A Russian draft resolution condemning the allied airstrikes on Syria failed in the United Nations Security Council. China and Bolivia were the only Council members to join Russia in supporting this measure.
NOBILO: The U.S., France and the U.K. said they had a responsibility to deter the use of chemical weapons. But Russia insists the military action will only destabilize the region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): I'm sure it's done everything possible to convince the United States and its allies to refrain from their military plans, which could lead to a new spiral of violence in Syria and destabilize the Middle East.
The United States and its allies continue to demonstrate blatant disregard for international law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Syria's ambassador to the U.N. also spoke at the Security Council. Bashar Ja'afari said the U.S., France and the U.K. undermine peace and security with an act of aggression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASHAR JA'AFARI, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): These three states should realize that, after seven years of a terrorist war that was imposed on my country, a war carried out by these three countries and their agents in the region, their missiles, their planes, their bombs will not weaken our determination, our determination to defeat and destroy your terrorists.
This will not prevent the Syrian people to decide on their own political future --
JA'AFARI (through translator): -- without foreign intervention.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: Well, at the U.N., France is proposing a resolution, calling for an independent investigation of suspected chemical weapons attacks inside Syria. This proposal is backed by the U.S. and Britain. It includes a new timetable for reporting findings to the Security Council and a third-party review of humanitarian and medical evacuations.
NOBILO: Israel has now responded to the strike on Syria.
In a statement, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "A year ago I declared Israel's full support for President Trump's decision to take a stand against the use and spread of chemical weapons. President Trump's resolve and Israel's support remain unchanged."
CNN's Paula Newton joins me now live from Jerusalem to talk about this.
Paula, tell us just how important is it to the Israeli government that the Trump administration remains engaged in Syria?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and that is the key problem, Bianca, the fact is they're wondering how engaged they'll remain. The comments of Defense Secretary Mattis saying this is one-time shot will have really alarmed the Israeli government. We expect them to have a cabinet meeting within the hour. Perhaps we'll hear more.
But they've been saying loud and clear for years but really more forcefully in the last few months, look, the status quo in Syria right now, with Iran on Israel's doorstep, really entrenching their military presence in Syria, is just not acceptable. It's like a matchstick very close to a powder keg.
And what they do not need is the United States saying, look, the status quo is fine; Russia is there now and we want our troops out. With this one-time, limited strike, Israel is becoming increasingly alarmed, in their words, in Benjamin Netanyahu's words, that Iran continues to devour huge swaths of the Middle East.
Benjamin Netanyahu himself has been so forceful in saying that at a security conference a couple of months ago he was very dramatic in terms of trying to tell the world but specifically the Trump administration that no matter what's going on in Syria, the key threat still remains Iran in terms of it being an existential threat to Israel itself.
NOBILO: Our thanks to Paula in Jerusalem, Paula Newton there.
VANIER: Next, we'll be looking at the weapons that the U.S. used to strike Syria.
NOBILO: Our military analyst explains why what was used matters and what that tells us about what the U.S. wants to accomplish.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [02:50:00]
VANIER: Take a look at some of the aftermath of Saturday's airstrike. Buildings destroyed, smoke still rising on Saturday. This was reportedly part of a research center in Damascus.
The U.S. says those strikes, launched with France and the U.K., were a success. They targeted Syria's chemical weapons program after a suspected chemical attack last week.
NOBILO: More than 100 missiles were reportedly launched against at least three targets. Syria says most of the missiles were intercepted. But the U.S. says all of them hit their targets. Iran and Russia are critical of the strikes.
But many NATO countries have been supportive. Here's what NATO secretary-general said on Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO strongly condemns the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity. They cannot become normalized.
They are an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security. And those responsible must be held to account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: We know warships, aircraft and missiles were used in the strikes against Syria.
VANIER: For a closer look at those weapons, here's CNN's military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: President Trump, aided by allies in Great Britain and France, launched strikes into Syria to punish Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons against his own people.
Let's take a look at what they hit, why they hit it and what they hit them with and the complexity of the mission. We'll start with the targets, three targets were hit, two up in Homs. These were storage facilities. One down in Damascus, a research and development center.
All three chosen very carefully to bloody Assad's nose when it comes to his chemical weapons program, to degrade that program and to send a strong message about international resolve against the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people but also done in a way that it could be as precise as possible.
And we can show you exactly how precise these targets were hit. Let's take a look at the Barzeh research facility. Now looking at this area right up here, this was taken a couple of weeks ago. You can see three buildings there.
And this is before the strikes; this is what it looks like after the strikes. You can see that all three of those buildings are completely obliterated but all the surrounding buildings, even the sidewalks and roads, all left completely untouched.
That is what precision guided munitions can do for a mission.
Now how do you actually get those munitions on target?
Well, lots of assets at sea and in the air were used; several ships at sea in the Med, the Red Sea and also down here in the North Arabian Sea, launching Tomahawk missiles. In fact, 70 percent of the precision guided munitions that were used in the strike were Tomahawks, the work horse of the Navy.
They've had them in since 1970. They've been updated periodically ever since, very capable cruise missile, 20 feet in length. It flies at subsonic speeds but very low and close to the ground.
So it's very hard for air defense systems to detect. And that makes it a very, very challenging platform to try to shoot down. It doesn't appear like any of the Tomahawks were hit by any air defense systems despite what the Syrians are saying.
The Pentagon is very sure that all of them found their targets. But it wasn't just sea-launched cruise missiles that were involved. There were air-launched cruise missiles from the British, from the French and from the Americans.
And you can see how many, each of were flown, notably this B-1 bomber probably based out of Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar was launching these JASSMs, 19 JASSMs, joint air-to-surface --
KIRBY: -- standoff missile. It's basically a Tomahawk for the air. It has roughly the same range, 650 miles but it's a much more advanced missile, much more technologically capable.
It has infrared homing and it has something called automatic target recognition. So in the very end game of the missile strike, the very terminal phases, it can dynamically choose its targets, very, very capable.
When the president talked about new and smart missiles, he was talking about these JASSMs. The British and the French also have air-launched cruise missiles with standoff ranges of about 300 miles. It's essentially the same missile, even though they call it by a different name.
So a very complex mission, very precisely executed. The real question now is, is it going to be enough to deter Assad from using chemical weapons again? And will the United States now embark on a more robust diplomatic strategy to end the civil war in Syria?
NOBILO: John Kirby there. We'll have more of our continuing coverage of the strike on Syria.
VANIER: The consequences in Syria and the region, the targets that were struck and what the next steps might be. The news continues with Natalie Allen and George Howell. They're be talking to our reporters covering this from across the world. Don't miss it. Stay with CNN.