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May 30th, 2012
12:17 PM ET

Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Wahid Hanna says military intervention not an option in Syria

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."

May 30th, 2012
06:49 AM ET

Starting Point live blog for Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

This morning, "Starting Point" is live at 7am Eastern. Soledad O'Brien will talk with our panelists, columnist Will Cain, American Individualism author Margaret Hoover and "National Journal" editorial director and CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. Our panel will be talking about the following top stories:

Romney hits 'magic number' for GOP nomination but Donald Trump's fiery 'birther' defense steals thunder

After Syria massacre, what can the world do?

David Letterman talks with Regis Philbin on a special edition of "Piers Morgan Tonight"

Share your comments in the section below. If you're not by a TV, you can watch us here at Let's get started.


[UPDATED  7:20 Eastern] Ivan Watson, live in Istanbul, Turkey, says that Turkey announced it is expelling Syrian diplomats from the Syrian embassy in Ankara.

[UPDATED 7:28 Eastern] Chairman of the Intelligence Committee and former FBI agent Rep. Mike Rogers says he's not sure if arming the Syrian opposition is the answer  "mainly because we're just not exactly sure who the bad guys are and who the good guys are right now in Syria, so you don't know who you're giving weapons to."

[UPDATED 8:06 Eastern] Award winning journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad says of jihadists in Yemen, "This is the new age of Al-Qaeda." Adbul-Ahad says that the city of Jaar "has now become a de facto independent state that's run by Al-Qaeda."

[UPDATED 8:33 Eastern] Fellow of The Century Foundation and member of The Council on Foreign Relations Michael Wahid Hanna says that the current strategy in Syria is sub optimal but "it's the only one that exists at the moment." Hanna says that the international community can possibly push a "managed transition" in Syria.

[UPDATED 8:52 Eastern] Democratic strategist Christine Pelosi says that it is important to focus on the real issues-jobs, the economy and the empowerment of working families. "As far as this "birtherism" is concerned," she says "Donald Trump is only saying loudly what a lot of Republicans have been dog whispering for months."

May 28th, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Gen. Martin Dempsey talks Memorial Day and progress in Afghanistan and Syria

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.”

May 21st, 2012
12:07 PM ET

Are 'gap years' a good idea for students? Dr. Steve Perry weighs in

CNN education contributor Dr. Steve Perry isn’t a fan of gap years and believes that they only make it harder for students to go back to school.

“We’ve over diagnosed and over pampered this generation enough. I mean, for God’s sake, you want a gap, its called summer. Get over it,” says Perry on this morning’s Starting Point.

Perry believes that internships, studying abroad and taking a break between college and grad school are better options for students looking to engage other interests.

“In America, our persistence rates, our college matriculation rates actually have decreased over the past couple of years," Perry explains. "So, doing something like this only adds fuel to the fire for people to stay home.”

May 21st, 2012
11:31 AM ET

Wife of man imprisoned in Bolivia pleads for help from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Miriam Unger, wife of Jacob Ostreicher, an American who has been jailed in Bolivia since last June, is pleading for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help her husband.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton needs to get involved here and I know that she can help my husband," Unger tells Soledad O’Brien on Starting Point today. "He needs to come home; he is ill and there will be irreversible damage if this is not escalated on a higher level.”

Ostreicher, a 53 year old flooring contractor from Brooklyn, N.Y, was arrested by Bolivian authorities under the suspicion that the money he used to invest in a rice business was drug money.

No evidence or charges have been brought against Ostreicher but under Bolivian law, people can be incarcerated for up to 18 months without charge.

At one hearing, Osteicher’s defense presented more than 1,000 translated documents that showed the source of all of his investment and proved that the money came from legitimate sources.

A judge ordered Osteicher released on bond from the Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz. However, after his family paid, the judge unexpectedly rescinded his own decision.

Jacob Ostreicher is nearing one month on a hunger strike to call attention to his case.