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tv   News  Al Jazeera  September 6, 2013 11:00am-11:31am EDT

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welcome back. i'm richelle carey. moments ago president obama spoke about a possible strike on syria from the go 20 summit in russia. >> i was elected to end wars and not start them. >> president obama says he's not itching for military action but will confront syria. discouraging news on the u.s. labor front as the government releases new employment numbers. president obama made one last push at the g-20 summit for action in syria.
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he's encouraged by his meetings with world leaders and spoke of growing recognition that the world has to act with the host of this year's g-20 is russian vladimir putin had a very different take on things. we're joins by mike viqueira in st. petersburg. the first press conference went a little long a tad bit was russian president vladimir putin and batting cleanup, if you will, was u.s. president barack obama. he only took about four or five questions, but he gave very lengthy answers to the questions. the bottom line, he seems to not be wavering on his position, but he answered -- was asked rather some rather pointed questions and answered some, did not answer others. one question that really struck me is he was asked specifically about reports that his list of targets is being expanded, asked specifically before anything happened is this project, if you
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will, the victim of mission creek. he shot that down right away. >> reporter: right away. he said, that's inaccurate. i've been asking white house officials about all day long. they refused to talk about it on the grounds they're not going to talk about military battle plans on the eve of a potential military strike. however, in reference to a "new york times" article out this morning that the president asked for a list of expanded targets and that it would include any potential attack bombers in the air. remember, heretoforewe're talking about cruise missile attacks and tomahawks launched from the destroyers post ted in the eastern mediterranean. the president says that's flat-out inaccurate. whether it comes to the wisdom of a military strike on syria, white house officials were trying to keep expectations low, and you might say they certainly met those expectations. there was a lot of division
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here. the white house just put out a statement saying that 11 of the g-20 countries have expressed support for military intervention after vladimir putin in the lengthy press conference he had said that they were split roughly 50/50. i guess the two numbers jive, but the one thing to remember is the g-20 is over. the president is going to meet with civic groups including gay and lesbian groups and others that snubbed putin. he's back on the plane, and after that it's all congress all the time. that's the count he's worried about. he's not worried about the g-20 and where they're coming down. that ship has sailed. the president said while he respects the united nations, that body is paralyzed. people look for the united states for action to uphold the international norms. as he's done time and time in the past, he said if those norms are broken, if people like bashar al assad are allowed to
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break norms like a chemical weapons treaty, if they're allowed to break that with impunity the world will have serious problems with governments like iran and in north korea. as far as the g-20 is concerned, the president did say there was some support in some respects about just who is responsible and what happened in syria on august 21st. let's listen. >> it was unanimous that chemical weapons were used, a unanimous conclusion that chemical weapons were used in syria. there was a unanimous view that the norm against using chemical weapons has to be maintained. that these weapons were banned for a reason, and that the international community has to take those norms seriously. i would say that the majority of the room is comfortable with our
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conclusion that assad, the assad government was responsible for their use. >> reporter: and, richelle, really the perception here is that the president came in and the headlines were that he lost support. there were some public announcements from the leers of emerging economies like brazil and india, chile along with russia, of course, expressing opposition. it just seemed to pile up there for a while. the pope got involved, of course. the eu, the u.n. secretary-general was here arguing against military strikes at least in the short term unless there's an agreement at the united nations. again, the president clearly moving ahead without that body, the united nations security council calls it paralyzed, richelle. >> that's exactly what he said. he said it would be nice to have them, but if we don't, he says the u.s. is still going to do what he feels that the united states should do. mike, stay close. while the president is doing all
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of that campaigning, if you will, on the international stage, john kerry is also working to gather support for a military intervention in syria. the secretary of state is traveling to lithuania where he will meet with foreign ministers from the european union. he'll head to paris and london for talks with french, british and arab league leaders who will sit down with abbas as well. they have ordered u.s. diplomats to leave lebanon citing security concerns over pending military action in syria. in a new travel warning for lebanon, the department says it's instructed nonessential staffers to leave beirut this morning. it's also being applied to private american citizens in the country. in a statement the officials say the potential in leb fon for anup surge in violence remains. the state department is also
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issuing a voluntary withdrawal for non-emergency staff and family members in turkey as well. robert ray is outside the u.s. embassy in beirut, lebanon. he joins us live on the phone. when last we spoke, robert, you described a lot of security outside the embassy. how are things looking now? robert, are you there? >> reporter: i am here, yes. hello. sorry about that. things outside of the u.s. embassy right now are quiet. there was a protest that just wrapped up, about 200 people that are pro-assad, lebanese pro-assad that is. they were very peaceful in their protest, but very clear in what they wanted. they do not want the u.s. to strike syria, absolutely not. that was their message. they think this is a regional conflict and no one should come in here and strike their territory. although some of the protesters
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did tell us that if, indeed, there was something to happen they wanted the u.s. to sit down at the table with russia, the u.n. and even assad and figure something out instead of doing war. that was the message here. some of them with red paint with their hands and holding it up to the camera saying the u.s. will have blood on their hands, blood on america if, indeed, there is a strike. all is clear here in front of the gate at the u.s. embassy right now as the lebanese army and police are cleaning up what was a very, very peaceful protest but a very clear message from the folks on the ground here. >> are you seeing people coming and going? >> reporter: at the protest there was about 200 people that came in. everyone has dispersed at this point, so it's a situation where, you know, the embassy is now closed. the gate that we were actually at and are at right now where it
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happened is about a mile from the embassy. there are specific roadblocks that lead up this windy road to the fortress, which is the beirut u.s. embassy, and essentially all of those blocked off at this point based upon the earlier announcement from the state department. emergency officials and diplomats should exit the country, and any american tourist here should leave and any american tourist thinking about coming into lebanon should cancel their travel plans. that's the situation right now. it's peaceful, but i will say that there is a sort of tense aura in the air. many of us were talking about this earlier in the day. beirut is a cosmopolitan city that flows with everyday life, even there there are sectarian lines here. there seems to be an overwhelming idea here as to what exactly will happen. last saturday the shock that came out of washington, everyone here was flew glued to the radio and televisions and frankly very
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surprised at what obama said. it's been a week of some real anxiety on the ground here. >> i would imagine so. robert ray, great wrap-up, and do keep us posted. thank you so mesh. let's go now to paul beban who has been covering this story, the angle from washington. paul, is there any reaction yet coming in from legislators to this fairly lengthy press conference that the president just had from st. petersburg, russia? any reaction yet? >> reporter: well, right now, richelle, as you've been saying before, most of the lawmakers are home this week in their districts in their home states. they will come back when congress comes back to session on monday. some of them have been here for some of these key senate and house briefings. some of them were open and some of them were closed. most of them are home in their home districts right now. of course, facing a lot of tough questions about any action against syria. the president, of course, asked this morning during that lengthy press conference what it's like -- what case does he have to make to those legislators,
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how can he convince them to say yes when they're getting so much no from their own voters at home. let's listen to that. >> what i've said and i will repeat is that i put this before congress for a reason. i think we will be more effective and stronger if, in fact, congress authorizes this action. i'm not going to engage in parlor games now, jonathan, about whether or not it's going to pass. when i'm talking substantively to congress about why this is important and talking to the american people about why this is important. now, with respect to congress and how they should respond to constituency concerns, you know, i do consider it part of my job to help make the case and to explain to the american people
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exactly why i think this is the right thing to do. it's conceivable that at the end of the day i don't persuade a majority of the american people that it's the right thing to do. then each member of congress is going to have to decide if i think it's the right thing to do for america's national security and the world's national security, then how do i vote? you know what, that's what you're supposed to do as a member of congress. ultimately you listen to your constituents, but you also have to make some decisions about what you believe is right for america. >> reporter: and the president there expressing a little bit of sympathy with some of these lawmakers saying they've got to make tough choices, and that is not easy to do emphasizing that's what he does all the time. of course, again, many lawmakers, almost all of congress home in their home districts this week, many of them holding town halls.
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some of those town halls have been extremely contentious. a key player, of course, is senator john mccain. he was hold in arizona and held a town hall last night, and things got pretty heated. let's take a look. >> how much is the life american servicemen worth? to me it's worth a whole lot more than the situation in -- >> there's no con tell me plagues of putting a single serviceman or woman on the ground. >> i'm telling you there's not. >> i know. >> that is arguing. >> reporter: senator at the town hall last night in phoenix. those questions came fast and furious.
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>> all right. paul, thank you very much. if syria is attacked, howell might it be able to respond? you hear that question coming up in congress and you hear that question coming up at these town hall meetings and something in particular is how might it respond to other places in the region, particularly israel. john joins me to explain that. >> reporter: how will syria respond in the event of a u.s.-led attack on any of its chemical weapons infrastructure. there is an expanding array of
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reprisal opportunities that syria has at its disposal. i'll walk you through them right now. first, let's speak to the man that heads syria. he's been in power for 13 years, bashar al assad. if there was a chemical attack on his people, he would have had to have known about it. he's the problem. what could he do, however, to hurt us, if we send a strike into syria as early as tuesday or wednesday? here's a good example. this is a mig fighter jet made by the russians and they're well-stocked with russian hardware because there's kay complex business relationship between moscow and damascus. that's part of the reason the russians vote in favor of syria in the u.n. security council. if the allies led by america get into any kind of fighting war with syria, then they will face the most formidable military in the middle east. it's not going to be like it was in baghdad where you saw troops basically running away or in
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afghanistan. that's a real problem. syria could launch attacks on jordan or even on israel. what about syria's main ally in the region, iran? it could, in theory, carry out a strike against israel or other u.s. interests, but it's not thought that iran is likely to do that. the reason is this man, the new president only recently elected. he's making very, very con sill to her noises towards the west since he took over. iran has a contentious nuclear uranium enriching program and, of course, if they were to strike a city in israel, for example, the israelis would retaliate, and iran doesn't want to risk its nuclear facilities. >> what else could syria? hezbollah is calling on them to attack u.s. interests in the region.
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the worry is hezbollah groups could launch rockets into israel oral some terrorist attack on the ground and they have rockets that could hit tel aviv. that's a very real problem. we know it's a very real israeli fear, and the israelis today, richelle, are saying that in the event of any attack on them or u.s. interests, they will retaliate very, very hard indeed. >> in fact, president obama a moment ago said that the new threat, the threat for the future is fail states and terrorist aacts. those are the threats of the future. that's how he's speaking to the american audience. >> that's why it's so worrying today we have syria's press report saying that the u.s. has intercepted these communications between tehran and various militant groups as it's put. so they would do the work quietly behind the scenes and it wouldn't be a full-scale attack. worth bearing in mind that the man who heading up the iranian revolutionary guard has said as
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recently as this week any attack on syria would result in the destruction of israel. that's from the man that heads up the iranian revolutionary guard. i think it's also worth pointing out that we may not see any of this. you have to bear this in mind. these are fears that are growing. what we could see is a very, very vicious attack on the syrian people by bashar al assad. that's another option that he has, and, of course, the final option that he has is some kind of cyber attack. that's a way of really getting back at people these days, which is new. although he may not be able to do that himself, he's very friendly with russians and the chinese in particular, and they could. >> i thought it was key that you pointed out that his heir superiority, that's not something that the u.s. has had to deal with basically. >> it's because there's this big relationship with russia, so most of the syrian military is replenished by the russians. you saw those migs i showed you there. it means if there is any kind of
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war on a traditional scale, then the allies would be facing something they've not faced in that region ever before. >> exactly. john, that was a fantastic and very thorough, very helpful scenario that you laid out for us. thank you very much. we're going to get in a quick break. much more on the other side of the break. keep it here on al jazeera.
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welcome back. the news of the day is president obama is wrapping up meetings with world leaders at the g-20 summit in russia. an aide from the kremlin told reuters that obama and putin held a separate 20-minute conversation, of course, on syria. however, the two are no closer
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to reconciling the differences. the state department ordered u.s. diplomats to leave lebanon citing security concerns over the pending military action in syria. non-essential staffers and american citizens were instructured to leave beirut. they said there's a potential in lebanon far a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains. we're live in beirut with more on what that prompted this warning and clearly to put it into context for us as well. david, what else can you tell us? >> reporter: richelle, it's a number of different things here. they've called it the friends and family rule, and it's always been that the friends and families of the staff at the embassy on the ground are then asked or ordered to leave the country for their own safety. it usually follows a threat. the threat is undisclosed, and it's of a precise nature. we had one not too, too long ago. people remember 19 american embassies were emptied when we
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had that happen just some months ago, and it was over a threat that nobody then saw realized and nobody knew exactly the nature of later on. so it's always highly speculative in terms of the threat itself. it's against u.s. property and u.s. individuals, american people on the ground. so they tell the friends and families that they should get out of the country. it has been certainly a time of very few tourists in this part of the world, as you can imagine anyway. the european embassies are on a thin staffing basis right now. also, they've not been ordered to do that. it's just been something they do by nature anyway when there's a crisis zone. the other thing we talked about earlier on the telephone is the fact that corporations that have people coming and going out of beirut, which many do, told the people to avoid the area over the next while. that's the status that we have. there is a heightened tension and we heard robert ray say earlier out of the embassy itself there was a small protest, and there's more
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tension on the street as we saw yesterday. also we were down at hezbollah headquarters there down the street i'm standing on right here. yes, the level of anxiety about all of this is certainly heightened here in lebanon. richelle. >> especially so for the refu e refuge refugees. we have to reference how many syrian refugees are in lebanon right now. >> reporter: the official count, richelle, 710,000, and there have been some movement back and forth across that border in the last few days. we haven't been there in the last 24 hours, presumably more have come in than have gone out in the not too distant past a few days before that, we had people going back into syria. many of whom presumably ended up in the category at least for the moment temporary human shields in the areas around some of the bases. of course, it remains to be seen if anybody stays orie mains in the sensitive areas, perhaps not. there were a lot of people crossing the border back into syria saying they were going to do that to stand shoulder to
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shoulder with the assad regime. again, as things are more tense and nervous over there, it lends itself that you would see people coming across the border in this direction and certainly that will add to the 710,000. lebanon has the largest number of refugees that came out of syria, and that's because over the two and a half year civil war people have come literally for two and a half years, richelle. >> david jackson live from beirut, lebanon. thank you so much. we'll go to the story live from turkey. what can you tell us about what's going on in the u.s. consulate in turkey right now? >> richelle, a similar announce here in turkey.
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those two places aren't seeing any closures or draw-down of staff. just in the southeastern city there's a specific reason to that. the american connection there being the airbase of inurlik. in that airbase nato air force and united states air force are stationed in that airbase. there comes the american connection so to speak. we understand that the consulate hasn't been shut down per se. this is not a mandatory pull-out of staff, but it is highly advisable. officials citing security concerns. now, of course, turkey has been quite jittery. the perspective of the larger picture of this, of course, is that turkey shares its largest border with syria, 560-mile
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border. we have seen over the past couple of days heightened military presence along the border. turkish troops are expanding their presence along the border. richelle. >> live from turkey. thank you so much. keep us posted on the situation there. let's talk more about syria. joining us to discussion the conflict is the director of the orient research center in dubai and former consultant to the syrian foreign ministry. thank you so much. so you spoke last night with people close to the syrian regime. do they believe the u.s. will strike? >> reporter: there is a certain level of denial discussing the issue with some of the people close to the regime itself that obama is too weak, the west is too weak, the west is withdrawing from the region, the west is reengaging with the
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russians in a new strategic way. that at the end of the day taking into account the economic crisis, taking into account what happened in iraq and afghanistan. obama is just raising the stake and will never hit. this is one paradigm of the discussion. the other is yes, there is a lot of panic if you scratch all the arguments and get deeper, you will find real anxiety because i think the regime itself doesn't offer any logical reply, my logical retaliation to the american attack. the main concern, i think, is about the degradation of the i had yags and the missile force of the regime, which would to a large extent stabilize the conflict. >> doctor, thank you so much for
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your insight. we will be calling on you again. thank you very much. so what has been happening this morning. the g-20 summit has wrapped up. usually the focus is a global economy. the focus for the last couple of days has been syria. we heard from russian president vladimir putin whose position has not changed. he does not want any military action in syria, but what wrapped up a few moments ago is president barack obama saying that that is still his position, that he feels that there should be consequences for the chemical weapons attack in syria in damascus just a few weeks ago. the vote is still going to be put forward in congress to decide whether or not congress will go along with him. the president is not saying whether he will proceed regardless of what happens in congress. we will continue to cover this throughout the day. all the consequences, all the ramifications of what may come in the next few weeks. keep it here on al jazeera for continuing coverage of the crisis in syria. thanks for watching.
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