September 28th, 2012
01:06 PM ET

Defected Syrian General: "I could no longer call Bashar al-Assad a friend..."

The Friday, Sept. 28th edition of Amanpour, host Christiane Amanpour will include an interview with Brigadier General Manaf Tlass.  General Tlass, formerly a life-long friend of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, defected from the Syrian Republican Guard this summer.  In this advance excerpt from the interview that will air today on CNN International, he speaks to Amanpour about the moment he knew he could no longer serve his president:

AMANPOUR:  Bashar al-Assad was your friend.  Describe him.  Describe his character.

TLASS:  This question is really embarrassing because I defected because I started to feel the feelings of a citizen.

I remember very well how I defected.  I cannot speak in that light.   Because I remember that video that I saw when they stepped on the head of a Syrian citizen in Banias.  I could no longer call Bashar al-Assad a friend.  But when I told him after seeing that video, that person who stepped on the head of the Syrian citizen must be punished, ever since then I can no longer be a friend of Bashar's.

He has different qualities, he is humble.  He loves people.  But he has changed.  The crisis has changed him.

The full transcript for this interview will be posted here.

Amanpour airs weekdays on CNN International at 3:00pm with a replay at 5:00pm Eastern in the U.S.   In Europe, Amanpour airs on CNN Internatioanl at 21:00 CET, with a replay at 23:00 CET.


Arwa Damon reports on Syria's chemical weapons threat
July 24th, 2012
12:55 PM ET

Arwa Damon reports on Syria's chemical weapons threat

CNN's Arwa Damon appeared on Monday's edition of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer to discuss Syria, including the Arab League's offer to provide Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "safe exit" from the country as well as threats surrounding the use of chemical weapons against foreign aggressors.

"We're still at this stage, Wolf, where we're just seeing – or rather hearing – a lot of rhetoric," said Damon. "There is actually no action taking place that is going to somehow save what's left of Syria right now."

Watch her interview HERE.

July 24th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Ivan Watson reports from Syria's 'Street of Death'

CNN's Ivan Watson visits the bullet-riddled ghost town of Atareb, Syria, where just a handful of residents remain.

"My son was handicapped, and they ran a plow over his legs. They killed him and threw him into the street," says a local. "He was handicapped." Referring to Bashar al-Assad, she says "I hope his mother loses him. ... I hope he loses his sons."

Check out the CNN Inside Syria blog here:

CNN's Ivan Watson and crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry.

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Topics: Breaking News • Ivan Watson • Syria
July 18th, 2012
05:11 PM ET

Explosion kills top Syrian officials in Damascus

On Wednesday's Newsroom International, CNN's Beirut-based correspondent Arwa Damon reports on the explosion that killed four top Syrian officials in Damascus. Joining Suzanne Malveaux on set was CNN's Hala Gorani, who calls the attack a "game changer."

"I think this is an absolute game changer. Whether it's a rebel attack, whether it's an inside job...this means that those closest to Bashar al-Assad...were assassinated in the center of Damascus," Gorani says.

In addition, CNN's Istanbul-based correspondent Ivan Watson discusses the increased violence in Syria's capital. Watch his report here.

July 16th, 2012
10:44 AM ET

Highest ranking Syrian defector talks to CNN's Ivan Watson

In his first television interview with a U.S. network, former Syrian ambassador to Iraq Nawaf al-Fares tells CNN's Ivan Watson he supports foreign military intervention in Syria.

Speaking to CNN in Doha, Qatar, Fares, who is the highest-ranking diplomatic defector, says "I support military intervention because I know the nature of this regime. This regime will only go by force."

Transcript after the jump.

July 16th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Zakaria: "The various opposition groups are coming together to plan for a post-Assad Syria"

CNN's Fareed Zakaria debriefed the meaning of recent defections from the upper ranks of Syria's diplomatic and military elites on the Sunday, July 15th edition of FAREED ZAKARIA GPS.  He describes why close Syria watchers feel that the recent defections are significant, and that some feel that some of the military unable to leave the regime may be "deliberately missing their targets."  Zakaria also says that the opposition is becoming more organized.  Below is the transcript excerpt with Zakaria's analysis of recent events inside Syria:

ZAKARIA:  Over the past sixteen months of bloody conflict in Syria, observers have been waiting for one key development: top-level defections from within President Assad's inner circle.

Suddenly, it seems a pressure valve has gone off.  Pilots, ambassadors, and even one general have defected.  What does it mean?  The general is Manaf Tlas, a childhood friend of Assad, and an officer in the elite Republican Guard.

Tlas's father was chief of staff and then minister of defense, for 30 years, under Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad.  This is as close to the top of the Syrian regime as you might get.  That's why Hillary Clinton took special note of Tlas.  FULL POST

July 9th, 2012
07:32 PM ET

Dimitri Simes on Syria: "[Russia] would not resist such an intervention..."

For the Monday, July 9th edition of Amanpour, host Christiane Amanpour interviewed the president of the Center for the National Interest, Dimitri Simes, for insights into Russia's  resistance to Western intervention in Syria – and asked whether that position may be evolving.  This is a portion of that exchange:

AMANPOUR:  Well, you say Russia wouldn't resist.  Do you mean if the United States decided to gather its own coalition and do, for instance, what it did in Kosovo, do an end run around Russia, that Russia would not resist?

SIMES:  Well, since you asked, recently had a top-level Russian delegation hosted by the Center for the National Interest, it included a senior Russians official being there in an official capacity.  And we had a private dinner this question was raised, and the answer was very clear.  Russia would not welcome such an intervention; Russia would not approve such an intervention.  It would not resist such an intervention and this intervention would not become a major issue in the U.S.-Russian relationship.

Amanpour airs weekdays on CNN International at 3:00pm with a replay at 5:00pm Eastern in the U.S.   The full transcript for this program is available here.  In Europe, Amanpour airs on CNN Internatioanl at 21:00 CET, with a replay at 23:00 CET.


April 24th, 2012
10:49 AM ET

Russian Ambassador Churkin: "as a matter of principle, we believe U.N. Security Council is not about regime change.."

In a U.S. television exclusive, Christiane Amanpour inteviewed the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations,  Vitaly Churkin, for the Monday, April 23rd edition of Amanpour about why his nation continues to block U.N. efforts to bring stronger sanctions or even consider the use of peace-keeping forces to stem the bloodshed inside Syria:

AMANPOUR:  You said that all conflicts end with a political deal. Obviously, it didn't happen like that in Egypt, Mubarak stepped down.  It didn't happen like that in Libya, Gadhafi was killed.  Yemen, perhaps it did.  Tunisia, it didn't happen.  The president left. FULL POST

February 10th, 2012
09:02 AM ET

Former Amb. to Syria: no power prepared to use military force

Ted Kattouf, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, discusses the violence in Syria and the U.S. options for intervention.

Kattouf tells CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, “Once Bashar al Assad realized that the Russians and the Chinese had his back, he's going all out to try to crush any resistance to his regime. He feels he has a narrow window in which to operate and they're going all out, particularly in these pro-opposition neighborhoods that have armed men in Homs.”

He continues, “The president comes from a sect of Shia Islam that makes up about 10 percent to 12 percent of Syria's population. Meanwhile, the Sunni Arab population of Syria is around 67 percent to 70 percent. And they've had enough of discrimination and of poverty and the like, and they want this regime gone. But the Alawites who dominate the military and intelligence services feel that if they lose power, it could be them who are on the receiving end of brutal treatment…. Ashleigh, we have to understand that there is no power, not even Turkey, which borders Syria that is prepared to use military force to bring down Assad. Now, that could change over time.”

Early Start with Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin airs week mornings from 5-7am ET on CNN.