Return to Transcripts main page


War in Syria; Turkish Offensive Fuels Fears of ISIS Resurgence; Ecuador Orders New Restrictions as Protests Rage; At Least 10 Die after Record Rainfall in Japan; U.K. Sending Rover to Explore Moon. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2019 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, welcome to the studio 7 here in CNN Center, I am Michael Holmes.


A Kurdish leader accused the U.S. government and the military of turning its back on them. As Turkey's military offensive against the Kurds enters its fifth day.

Protesters against the Ecuador government prompted the country's president to put the capital under military control.

The aftermath of a typhoon, rescue crews in Japan scramble to reach people trapped by flooding, after the powerful typhoon ripped through the region.


HOLMES: Welcome everyone, we start with some shocking images coming out of Syria and a warning, what we are about to see, is very graphic.

Turkey and its allies are pushing against Kurdish factions and what we are showing you are some Turkish backed Syrian fighters militia shooting captives. One of the men, who was shot in this video, has his hands tied behind his back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).


HOLMES: An activists tells "The New York Times" that happened on Saturday, the gunmen, Turkish linked militants, Syrians, we believe, can be heard shouting in Arabic, filmed this shooting with a sniper rifle.

They also saying "Pigs, prisoners, kill them." Turkey launched the offensive in northern Syria after U.S. forces

pulled back from the area. They did that after a conversation between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Now a commander in the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, is accusing the U.S. of forsaking. Them

This is a readout that was obtained by CNN.

Quote, "You are leaving us to be slaughtered. You have nothing for us. You are not willing to protect the people but you do not want another force to come protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral."

The U.S. president is defending withdrawing troops from the area, that's despite, the Kurds being key allies in the war against ISIS.

Now amid the fight, Turkey claims it has seized the border town; the Kurds are disputing that, they say they're fighting back, Arwa Damon has more from the Turkey Syria border.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Turkey says they have full control over the crucial Syrian border town, Ras al-Ain, that's in the distance behind us.

We're still hearing sounds of gunfire and we are also hearing rounds, explosions, so from this vantage point, it's unclear exactly who is in control of it but this is as Turkey is moving forward with this offensive, no matter what criticism it's under.

Turkey's intent is to clear the border that Turkey shares with Syria, on the other side of the border, the Syrian Kurdish fighting force, the YPG, the same force has been America's key ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

But Turkey considers that force to be the same as the PKK, the Kurdish militant separatist group that Turkey has been battling for decades. Turkey thinks it's within its rights to go after what it deems to be an imminent national security threat and that in doing so, clearing this portion of the border, it is also going to be creating a safe zone, for around 2 million Syrians who live in Turkey, to be able to go back home.

There are great concerns of many aspects of the operation, to include how the fight is drawing Kurdish fighters away from the front lines with ISIS, to have the demographic along the border, that's potentially going to be changing.


DAMON: There is only one, thing that is clear at the stage and that is, it is highly unlikely that, the fighting, will remain contained just along the stretch of the border alone -- Arwa Damon, CNN, on the Turkey-Syria border. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: David Rohde joins us now, a CNN global affairs analyst and executive editor from "The New Yorker" website.

Great to have you joining us. We have the Turkish leadership, really slamming the U.S., for abandoning, them, saying they might turn to the Russians, what will be the impact of, that could you blame them?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I frankly would not blame them and this is what Vladimir Putin has wanted, in Syria. There is a chance, the Kurds would turn to Russia. They would have more prominence and power in the region.

And as this intensifies, there's chance that U.S. troops could pull out of northern Syria, again, that has been Vladimir Putin's goal for years.

HOLMES: A lot of the fighting we are already seeing, is not being done by Turkish regulars but rather Syrian Arab militias. They're not always disciplined as we have seen, killing civilians and the like and Kurdish fighters.

What might the U.S. red line, its bar be for actually doing something to prevent bad things from happening?

ROHDE: I, frankly, in terms of President Trump, I don't think there is a red line, I'm still baffled as to how he made the decision. It was a relatively stable situation in Syria, ISIS has been destroyed now, you have the militias coming in.

There's a video of an execution of a Kurd, by the Turkish militia and so this is not an orderly offensive, by Turkish military. There is militias involved and will all this reignite more of that fighting and chaos and that has plagued Syria for so long?

HOLMES: Yes and exacerbates sectarian divisions. This notion the U.S. president, the Turks will suddenly take control and responsibility for the ISIS fighters, 10,000 ISIS being held by the Kurds, a long way from the border area, not to mention the tens of thousands of family members, how realistic is that, Turkey taking responsibility for ISIS captives?

ROHDE: It's not. This one of the astonishing things "The Washington Post" talked -- said it was an example of President Trump's ignorance of the situation on the ground. They're very far away from the 20- mile zone that the Turkish military wants to take control of in northern Syria.

So that claim, this idea, the Turks will go down and take control of the prisoners does not make sense. American diplomats say the Turkish military does not have the capability, the desire to take control of the prisoners. So more chaos, thousands of ISIS prisoners being released all as a result of a decision, again, I don't understand why it was made. HOLMES: A phone call between the two presidents and everything changed. Also the incident in the past week where Turkish artillery landed close to U.S. forces. Brett McGurk, the former presidential envoy for ISIS, he says he believes the Turks knew exactly where they are firing and the Turkish had the GPS coordinates of U.S. positions, what do you make of that?

ROHDE: I think it's an intentional effort to pressure U.S. troops to leave. Turkey wants all of U.S. troops out of the area. There were two American bases on the border that kept the Turks from doing this. Trump had those U.S. forces withdraw. So they want total control of the area.

Again this is what Vladimir Putin wants. The main issue here is, I think less than 20, American soldiers have died in the five-year battle against ISIS, the total Kurdish casualty was around 11,000.

The Kurds defeated ISIS, the Kurds toppled the caliphate, now they're being abandoned. I fear this is a message it sends to Afghans fighting the Taliban, Pakistani soldiers who are fighting militants all around the Middle East and the Islamic world.

Any moderates who are fighting extremists with American backing, they see this is how the U.S. turns its back against its allies, many who fought and died in the battle against extremism and that's how they are being treated.

HOLMES: This has long term, far-reaching, very important consequences, you're right. The U.S. Defense Secretary, almost acting surprised at Turkey's actions, on the face of it, it's absurd. You had a government spokesman in Turkey saying Donald Trump knew exactly the Turkish plans after that phone call with the president of Turkey.

A White House statement after the call said so, there would be a Turkish operation.


HOLMES: So the phone call, the U.S. troops leave, the Turks moved in, how is that in any way surprising?

And how is it how not abandoning the Kurdish allies?

ROHDE: It's not surprising. I want to be respectful toward the Defense Secretary. But we heard the same statement from secretary of state Mike Pompeo. It's alarming to me, Pompeo said, we are doing everything we can to help the Kurds, again withdrawing from the two bases that would prevent a Turkish military operation that's not helping the Kurds.

So I worry that the Defense Secretary and the secretary of state are more concerned about pledging their public loyalty to the president than, frankly, speaking the truth. And I have respect for both of them, but what they are describing is not factual, does not match events on the ground.

HOLMES: We know who loses here, the Kurds. And the U.S. reputation. But who wins, Russia,, Iran, Turkey, perhaps ISIS?

ROHDE: In that order, I would say yes, I think Turkey is the winner, there's a chance for Erdogan look like he's tough. He just lost a critical election in Istanbul so that helps him. And Putin's stature will rise as the Kurds reach out to help them.

And it helps Iran and that's why it's so contradictory, this is a very small deployment of the U.S. troops, the president talk about, we have to fight these wars for other people. That's not true, the Turks defeated -- I'm sorry -- the Kurds defeated ISIS.

So this chaos does help Iran and the overarching goal in the Middle East and this administration policy is to counter Iran and this will reduce American presence and help Russia and help Iran.

HOLMES: We do not even have time to talk about how Israel will be annoyed that Iran has a stretch out to Lebanon. That is another discussion, David Rohde, thank you for your expertise, appreciate it.

ROHDE: Thank you.

HOLMES: Rescue crews in New Orleans are searching for the last person missing after a building collapsed on Saturday morning.




HOLMES: Eyewitnesses capture that moment where the Hard Rock Hotel crashed into the street. The building was under construction, more than 100 workers on the site, two people killed and at least 18 injured.

Officials used a crane to help stabilize what was left of the building.

The government of Ecuador is taking action to quell 10 days of protests against the austerity measures, the military will enforce a curfew in and around the capital, Quito, and will extend nationwide restrictions on transit.

This as protesters upset about the government's move to end state fuel subsidies clashed with police. Some set up barricades. Others threw objects; some reportedly attacked a TV station. Some calling for the president to step down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We will fight on until he leaves. This is a government that is damned. It's inept, it's attacking the people. We are not armed. Look at how we are. This the damn government of Lenin Moreno. Down with Lenin Moreno. Down with Lenin Moreno.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, indigenous groups leading the protest have agreed to meet with the government. The first round of talks expected in the hours ahead.

Let's talk now with Eric Farnsworth, the vice president of the America Society and Council of the Americas.

Thank you for coming on. These protests are become more broad now.

How much of that was because of the heavy-handed response of the government?

Is the president making things worse?

ERIC FARNSWORTH, COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS: Hi, Michael, it's good to see you again.

You know the response of the government I think has been taken as heavy handed by some of the protesters. But we have to remember the indigenous community has a long history of protest in Ecuador. And it's very comfortable going out to the streets and paralyzing the capital and other cities around the country.

It's not the first time this has happened. We also have to remember, this is probably not just the indigenous communities now, some of the violence that occurred in the last 24 hours, seem to be by agents provocateur, who are trying to stir things up for their own purposes, not necessity affiliated with the indigenous communities.

HOLMES: Certainly it has broadened out, the president, he's blaming the former president, also the Venezuelan president Maduro.

Does that carry any weight?

FARNSWORTH: Well, it does carry some weight.


FARNSWORTH: But you know, if the immediate issue here is the price on gasoline and, then they don't care who is responsible for it, you just want the prices to go down. That's what the current president has the power to do.

We do have to remember why he's trying to do remove subsidies and prices of other products are going up, because he has to close a physical deficit that's bequeathed to him by the previous president.

So he was trying to do the right thing by getting that under control. But he's the one that's paying the political cost because he has to take tough steps. So he's blaming some people who left him a tough situation and he's trying to work it out.

HOLMES: The measures are all part of a deal that's brokered with the International Monetary Fund.

How much room is there for him to maneuver?

I can't imagine the IMF will give ground.

Can he change it?

FARNSWORTH: This is really tricky because it's not just the negotiation between Ecuador and the IMF but the whole history, the specter of the IMF in Latin America, there's a lot of heavy politics here.

So once the IMF gets involved, even for the right reasons, there's a lot of heavy baggage, so I would imagine the IMF would show a little bit of flexibility to the extent that Moreno is looking for, to try to soften the blow, to try to readjust some of the package of reforms that he has implemented.

I cannot speak for the IMF but one would anticipate that they are aware of the politics of the region and would offer some flexibility to the extent that's possible.

HOLMES: You made the point about the indigenous involvement, their protests have actually toppled three presidents in the last few decades.

So how secure is the current president?

FARNSWORTH: He seems to be secure. The army and security forces are behind him and he's temporarily out of Quito for safety. But you're right, the presidency in Ecuador, is something that, to let's put it this, way there are not a lot of presidents who make it through their full term in Ecuador, for a variety of reasons.

Protests have a rich history in the country, we will have to see, how secure Moreno, is.

Will the indigenous leaders accept the offer of direct talks on this?

They claim they will, they say that they will sit down with the government, we will see if that works. If it does, I think they will get through this tough situation, otherwise there will be a prolonged series of protests and that will have political implications.

HOLMES: All right, Eric Farnsworth, thanks so much.

FARNSWORTH: Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: We'll take a short break, when we come back, search and rescue is on the way, in Japan as officials assess the damage.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Japan is in recovery mode after a typhoon lashed the

country's northeast. The system is no longer active but the storm brought record setting rain and significant damage, also 10 people were killed, more than 100 injured.

Search and rescue efforts underway, the storm also canceled some of the Rugby World Cup; the match between Scotland and Japan will be played. CNN's Christina Macfarlane is outside Yokohama Stadium, where that match is scheduled.

Let's start with the typhoon, I know you are covering it as it all unfolded.

What's been the aftermath?

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, we were live throughout the night. As you see, the blue skies but the storm ripped through the city around midnight, registering wind speeds of 195 kilometers an hour.

The situation is, according to the fire management and disaster agency is sadly 10 people died and 141 people injured, nine are still, missing. And just under 1 million people had to be evacuated from nine districts, across Japan.

Right now the real threat is the flooding and the potential landslides. Unprecedented rainfall in the last 48 hours, up to a meter in some parts of the country, but as for Tokyo right now, the rain defenses have held.

The rivers are receding and much of the transport is now back in working order but other parts of the country are still assessing the damage.

HOLMES: It is extraordinary stuff but also, the rugby match, really I cannot remember the last time, I heard a World Cup match being canceled. But there have been games canceled but you're at a game that is very important to the locals. Fill us in.

MACFARLANE: Yes, I am actually outside the stadium, as you said, in a couple of hours we will see the biggest match of today, Japan versus Scotland, where history is on the line, Japan is on the brink of qualifying their first ever World Cup quarterfinal.

They need to beat or draw against Scotland, they've had a fantastic tournament so far, winning all three of their group stage matches. If they go through, Michael, we know that they, will face South Africa in the quarterfinals, everybody knows, there will be rematch, the famous miracle, of the 2015 World Cup, with Japan pulling one of the greatest upsets in rugby, if they do it again on home soil, what a story.

And this game will begin in just around three hours now. It's going to be a corker.

HOLMES: You've got to root for the home team and what a cracking tournament they've had. Lucky you, look at you there, going to the match, Christina Macfarlane, envious. See you later.

We'll take a short break here, when we come back Britain wants to explore the mystery of the moon, with the help of a creepy crawly mechanical creature, we will tell you more when we come back.





HOLMES: Welcome back everyone.

Britain wants to take first steps on the moon with a tiny robot, resembles a kind of insect. It's not taking any giant leaps but it will scurry with a rather spiderlike creep. CNN's Lynda Kinkade has more.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's pint-sized with a mission that's out of this world. For the first time, Britain is sending a rover into the moon, weighing just 1.5 kilograms and equipped with four legs rather than wheels or tracks.

It will be reaching parts of the moon that's never before explored, including the lunar lava tubes, tunnels beneath the surface, once thought to be filled with lava.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very important to explore the tubes more the environment that we have there so potentially, humans can live in the lunar tubes when they go back to the moon.

KINKADE (voice-over): Built to withstand huge swings in temperatures from 130 degrees Celsius below freezing to well over boiling point, the robot was developed by British startup Spacebit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This rover provides potential for a very low cost the mission, it's many times cheaper than any on the market.

KINKADE (voice-over): A joint venture with the U.S. space robotics company means it will hitch a ride on a NASA mission in 2021, the first lunar lander sent from American soil since Apollo.

TIM PEAKE, ASTRONAUT: The moon is fascinating in its. It's like a museum, really, a repository of 4.5 billion years of solar system history. It can teach us a lot about our own planet, it's only three days away from Earth, so that lowers the risk and it makes resupply easier.

KINKADE (voice-over): If all goes well, it plans to roll out more of these rovers to explore our solar system -- Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: And the king of Spain in a crowd of onlookers probably got a bit of shock as a parachutist misjudged his landing, and it all happened during the national day parade in Madrid.

There he is, sweeping down dramatically, he's got the flag, all going rather well and then, oww, his chute suddenly snags onto a lamppost. That brought the jump to an abrupt end, left him dangling and not a little embarrassed. You, can see he's all right, appeared frustrated, trying to untangle himself. Had to wait for help.

The king says, well, go on.


HOLMES: He's not going to live that down, that parachutist, when he goes back to team.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM everyone, I'm Michael Holmes, I will come back with the headlines.