Russian official tells CNN his government is not sending new helicopters to Syria and hasn't had a new contract in 20 years, but that official did say Russia refurbishes previously sold helicopters and it seems obviously that the secretary of state's statements are an effort to put more political pressure on Russia.
John Negroponte, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, former director of National Intelligence and vice chair of McCarthy Associates Consulting Firm, talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" about the ongoing violence in Syria. He explains if a "coalition of the willing" in the region could intervene, and what little we know about opposition fighters.
In exclusive video out of Syria, photojournalist Robert King describes what he calls Syria's "crimes against humanity."
With the UN Security Council convening today on the deteriorating situation in Syria, Century Foundation fellow and member of the Council on Foreign Relations Michael Wahid Hanna believes that the current strategy in the country is suboptimal but "it's the only one that exists at the moment."
Hanna cites complex sectarian and ethnic grounds and a divided opposition in Syria for the difficulty in creating a clear plan of resolution. "More importantly," he tells Soledad on "Starting Point", "there is a divide in our international community which limits the range of options which can be brought to bear." Hanna says that a plan of managed transition and Alawite control of the security sector may be the best way to get cooperation from Russia and those in Syria that fear what a regime change could bring.
"It's not a clean concept. I would only say all the other options are very bad," Hanna continues. "If this fails, we're looking at protracted, bloody, sectarian civil war that could have regional impact in terms of Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries and so this isn't something we should be discarding very lightly."
Military intervention is off the table, Hanna says, and he believes all diplomatic possibilities should be exhausted.
Hanna states that fissures in the al-Assad regime and Syria being isolated from the international community are the keys to bringing change to the riotous nation. "Obviously Russia abandoning Assad would be an important prerequisite but I don't think in and of itself it can solve the situation."
Eleven countries have now kicked out their Syrian ambassadors, including the U.S., Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Bulgaria, The Netherlands and Japan. In just a few hours, the U.N. security council meets to talk about what to do now, after a massacre in the town of Houla where 108 civilians were killed and nearly half were children.
UN envoy Kofi Annan, who's been meeting with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, says Assad himself "condemned the killings too." He even vowed to organize an investigation but many say the Syrian government is the one to blame.
The White House insists military action is not the right course of action, but GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks otherwise. He released a statement saying "we should work with partners to arm the opposition so they can defend themselves."
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Intelligence committee chairman Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) says the U.S.'s best response at this point is to work with the Arab League and allies to confront Syria.
"I'm not sure arming is the right answer here," Rep. Rogers says. "We're just not exactly sure who the bad guys are and who the good guys are right now in Syria. You don't know who you're giving weapons to."
"A more concerted effort by standing shoulder to shoulder with the Arab League, who does want to do more in Syria, is probably the best course of action," Rep. Rogers adds.
In the video below, Rep. Rogers also explains how public pressure could force Russia to take a different stance on Syria and further condemn their actions.
On this Memorial Day, Gen. Martin Dempsey discusses honoring our fallen servicemen and women, the progress in Afghanistan and the ever deteriorating situation in Syria.
“This is a day where we memorialize our dead,” Dempsey says. “I drive to work everyday past Arlington Cemetery and there’s 260,000 small American flags planted at each of these gravesites today. So, I just want to make sure they know we will never forget.”
With almost 2,000 U.S troops killed in the war in Afghanistan, Dempsey believes that success will come when “the Afghan security forces are capable of maintaining stability inside of their own country and that the central government of Afghanistanis able to provide governance.”
Speaking on Sen. John McCain’s concerns that the plan of withdrawal in Afghanistan will pose a security threat, Dempsey believes there is some validity to his fears.
“Well, I think they’re somewhat valid because there are multiple faces of the Taliban,” he says. “I think there are probably Taliban who will never reconcile. I will say the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we entered into with Afghanistan should give pause to the Taliban that they just can’t simply wait us out.”
With the situation in Syria growing more deadly each day, with 108 peopled killed in the town of Houla-49 of which were children-Dempsey says that “the military option should be considered” but he would like to see the international community come up with ways to increase the pressure on Al-Assad to “do the right thing and step aside.”
Steven Cook, Sr. Fellow of Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations is live at the DC Bureau reporting on the latest outburst of violence in Syria.
Cook says the massive killings "could potentially put pressure on the Russians and the international community at large." There is an ongoing debate as to whether the United States, Russia, or other countries should intervene in the chaos. Senator John McCain spoke out about the conflict on FOX News. "Horrible things are happening in Syria," McCain said. "This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership."
Cooke says that engaging in a military operation in Syria would not be easy, citing unclear opposition leadership and the Syrian military that is likely to fight back. Cooke continues that unlike Libya, sending military forces into Syria could cause instibility to spill over the country's borders into neighboring areas.
A 16-year-old american boy living in Damascus is now free after allegedly spending three weeks in a Syrian jail.
Photos on Facebook show Hadi Al-Shammaa after he arrived home. He's lived there with his mother since he was three years old.
We first told you about this story when Hadi's half-brothers in the U.S. found out their younger brother was missing.
They said at the time they thought he was kidnapped by Syrian intelligence.
This morning on Starting Point, Hadi's brother Adnan and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), discuss Hadi's release.
Hamzah and Adnan al-Shammaa, whose brother is missing in Syria, explain what they know about their sibling's situation and discuss their plea to the U.S. State Department for help.
Rosemarie, Cat and Michael Colvin talk about Marie Colvin's work as a journalist in dangerous areas around the world.