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President Obama Visits Poland; ISIS Takes To Social Media To Recruit Westerners; One Square Meter; Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul

Aired June 3, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, HOST: Showing the world he will not go away. He has overseen a civil war lasting three years costing 150,000 lives and forcing millions to leave their homes. Now Bashar al-Assad is headed for a third presidential term in Syria. We're going to analyze today's election and reaction to it.

Also ahead, message for Moscow. Barack Obama arriving in Europe saying relations with the Kremlin are repairable, but only if Putin plays fair.

And beware the lady killer as researchers reckon the most demure sounding storms could in fact be the deadliest.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.

CLANCY: The outcome of Syria's presidential election is almost certain even before the first ballot was cast. President Bashar al-Assad is expected to win today's vote by a landslide margin. He's going to be running against two relatively unknown challengers in a race many western countries are calling a farce.

Polling stations will be open only in areas that are under the control of the government.

One place where Syrians will not be casting any ballots if, of course, at a massive refugee camp in northern Jordan. Ben Wedeman joins us live from the Zaatari Camp, which is home to about 100,000 refugees.

Ben, the view there of this voting?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, almost to a man and a woman everybody you speak to here says it is a farce, it's a joke. But of course it's a deadly serious farce.

Many people see this as Bashar al-Assad's way of saying, "I have survived. I have won this war. My forces are retaking areas along the Lebanese border, in the north and the south of the country." And there's a feeling that these people are really sort of stuck on the outside, 100,000 people as you mentioned, many of them have lost relatives in the war, they've lost their homes, their homes have been destroyed, their livelihoods destroyed. And many of them blame Bashar al-Assad for the destruction of their lives.

So whoever you speak with -- for instance, one man he said when you walk in Syria you walk upon the bones of those who were killed, the women and children slaughtered by Bashar al-Assad. So there's deep bitterness and certainly no desire whatsoever to take part in the elections that are going on in Syria today -- Jim.

CLANCY: The barrel bombs continue to fall. There was smoke smearing the skies on the outskirts of Damascus, people there in that camp and elsewhere around the region that are outside the country really have to be wondering if this man is going to not only survive, but to triumph and what that will mean for them.

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly there's the situation on the ground in Syria is grim. There's -- it does look Bashar al-Assad does have the upper hand at the moment.

For the people here, they start to wonder when will we ever be able to go home. And if we bought a home, what price will be pay for fleeing the country, for siding with the rebellion, keeping in mind that many of the residents of this camp are from the southern part of Syria Daraa, where the revolt in March of 2011 actually began. Many of them have relatives who are in the Free Syrian Army, in the other Syrian factions that have been fighting in this horrendously blood war against the regime in Damascus.

So the worry is that what if Bashar wins this war? Will they ever be able to go home. And if they do, will they be punished, will they be able to resume their lives or will they have a very, very high price to pay -- Jim.

CLANCY: Ben Wedeman there, food for thought on this day as we reflect on Bashar al-Assad not just the politics, but the people that have so much at stake. Thank you, Ben.

We're going to have much more on the Syrian election just coming up a little bit later in this hour. We're going to take you live to the Syrian- Turkish border and examine what a third term for Bashar al-Assad might mean for people on either side.

We're going to tell you about the candidates facing al Assad in today's vote and what they claim to stand for, at least. We'll give you some rare access to some of the other oppositions in Syria, namely the militant group ISIS.

Now, President Barack Obama says trust can be rebuilt with Russia. It's going to take a little bit of time. But first Moscow must demonstrate what Mr. Obama called responsible behavior.

The U.S. president making those comments as he began a European visit with a stop in Warsaw, Poland. Mr. Obama is there to reassure leaders in the region who are obviously anxious about Russia's annexation of Crimea.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree that further Russian provocation will be met with further cost for Russia, including if necessary additional sanctions.

Russia has a responsibility to engage constructively with the Ukrainian government in Kiev, to prevent the flow of militants and weapons into eastern Ukraine. Russia also needs to be using its influence with armed separatists to convince them to stop attacking Ukrainian security forces.


CLANCY; CNN's Erin McLaughlin is following President Obama on this tour. It's likely going to also be taking him to Belgium as well as France for D-Day. Erin joins me now from the Polish capital of Warsaw.

Erin, what is the point that the White House, that President Obama is really trying to make?


Well, I think to begin with we may be in Poland, but the United States' relationship with Russia certainly front and center at that press conference earlier this morning between U.S. President Obama as well as the Polish President Komorowski.

Obama talking about how it's needed for Russia to continue withdrawing its troops from its border with Ukraine in order to begin to rebuild some of that trust. Take a listen to what he had to say.


OBAMA: If, in fact, we can see some responsible behavior by the Russians over the next several months, then I think it is possible for us to try to rebuild some of the trust that's been shattered during this past year. But I think it is fair to say that rebuilding that trust will take quite some time.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now, the White House's position has long been that the separatists to the east and to the south of Ukraine have enjoyed the support of the Kremlin, which is why President Obama this morning calling on Moscow to send a message to the separatists to stop the violence. For its part, the connection that Moscow has denied, instead pointing the finger at the Ukrainian government's counterterrorism, or so-called counterterrorism operation in that portion of the country -- Jim.

CLANCY: You know, we look at it -- and the president also announced a billion dollars to set aside for training and for other things. Is that going to be enough to reassure people? They're looking for a stronger United States. They're looking for President Barack Obama who will do more to stand up for them. And he seems to say we'll back you up.

MCLAUGHLIN: That's right, Jim. And that initiative, that $1 billion initiative that was announced here in Warsaw this morning is designed to do just that, reassure the allies of the United States in eastern and central Europe that the United States plans on and intends to stand by its alliances.

I think it was telling this morning that President Obama's first stop here in Warsaw was to an aircraft hangar to meet with U.S. and polish troops. The United States currently has 150 paratroopers here in Poland on a temporary rotational basis. They're here at the specific request of the Polish government in the face of the Ukraine crisis seeking that reassurance.

And Poland, for its part, following suit. This morning, President Komorowski announcing that this country would also increase its defense spending, something that it says it hopes other NATO allies will also do, that collective response, the two presidents really emphasizing and no doubt will be a theme that they'll carry through today as they meet with other leaders from central and eastern European countries -- Jim.

CLANCY: A lot of people looking at this trip, Erin McLaughlin is on it following President Barack Obama as jittery allies are looking to him for perhaps a little bit stiffer response to Moscow.

We'll see what comes out of all of this. We've got a way to go on this visit to Europe.

Erin McLaughlin, great to have you there.

Meantime, as we turn our attention to Spain, a country that is now preparing to usher in the next era of its monarchy. The cabinet meeting today to discuss the formal transfer of the throne from King Juan Carlos to his son, Crown Prince Felipe.

Now, he's been embroiled in scandal. There have been economic scandals, vacation scandal, if you will, that was linked to the king himself, his daughter and son-in-law, linked to financial scandals. But Prince Felipe has been largely clean in all of this. So he's the perfect one to replace Juan Carlos.

The 76-year-old monarch announced that he was going to be abdicating on Monday. The news triggered some anti-royalist protests in Madrid. It's not a huge movement. But thousands of demonstrators did gather in A simpro (ph) square. They were demanding a vote on what will be the future of the monarchy.

Al Goodman joins us now with the latest from Madrid live -- Al.


The latest is we have seen after this abdication announcement by the kind yesterday, for the first time a public appearance by the outgoing kind and what's widely expected to be the future king, his son, Prince Felipe, age 46, at an elaborate military parade at El Escorial monastery where the past Spanish kings are buried.

Clearly, these two men want to keep this monarchy alive and they're trying to save this embattled monarchy.

Also today, we saw the prime minister's cabinet pass the bill and send it over to parliament that will set in process the legislative mechanism to actually make this take place over the next couple of weeks.

But, as you've mentioned, we have also seen in recent hours last night in Madrid, in Barcelona, in many Spanish cities across the nation, thousands of people coming out. They don't want to see a transition, Jim, they want to see an end to the monarchy -- Jim.

CLANCY: How much is that propelled by the financial crisis that has really buried many Spaniards today?

GOODMAN: Well, the various scandals that have hit the royal family and that have lowered the popularity of the royal family -- analysts say the one that's hurt the most t the royal family is the financial corruption scandal involving the king's daughter Princess Cristina and her husband, the king's son-in-law, over allegedly taking public money and moving it into their pockets, which they deny. But there is an ongoing judicial investigation.

And also we have seen some of these people who are out protesting against the monarchy on the left have also been supporting some leftist parties that have suddenly done very well in European parliamentary elections just a week ago. So there are signs of change, but the two big parties, the conservatives in power, the socialists in the opposition, may have a lot more competition. There may be a little bit of urgency to get this transition done now while the votes are there in parliament, some analysts say -- Jim.

CLANCY: Al Goodman with us there live on the future of the monarchy, the transition underway. Thank you.

Well, still to come tonight, while his family prepares a heroes welcome for a U.S. soldier released by the Taliban, some men who served with Bowe Bergdahl are telling a much different story.

And both Israeli solider Gilad Shalit (ph) and American Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl were freed after spending years in captivity, but their freedom in both cases comes at a cost.


CLANCY: Welcome back everyone. You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World. I'm Jim Clancy. Welcome back.

The leader of NATO is calling Syria's presidential election a farce. He says he is confident that no NATO ally will recognize the outcome of this one. Free and fair elections are not exactly a hallmark of Syrian politics, especially in the midst of this civil war.

The elections are widely expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to power, but there are two other candidates in this week's vote, now that's a first. Maher Hajjar, an entrepreneur and a member of parliament. An independent, he's done little public campaigning and little is known about his platform other than that his campaign posters declare Syria is with Palestine.

Hassan Nouri, also an independent, is a former economics professor and cabinet minister. He says he had to resign because he was too critical of Assad's government Nouri studied at the University of Wisconsin in the United States. He says he's for market liberalization and fighting corruption, but when it comes to fighting Syria's civil war, Nouri says he wouldn't do anything differently.

More meaningful opposition can be found in the extremist groups that are still operating in the streets of Syria. In fact, one set of militants now using social media to target new recruits. Let's get more on this and cross over to a town near the Turkish-Syrian border where we find our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

Nick, what can you tell us about this recruitment and this group?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly we had a rare insight into how these recruitment groups work.

One, in particular we spoke to was a defector from a particular group working outside of the town of Raqqah, this was a stronghold where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have made their base and described to us in detail a kind of rare insight into exactly how social media is used to entice and explain the process of how life works in al Qaeda controlled radical Syria over the internet before these western recruits travel to Syria.


WALSH: If you want to be one of these, an al Qaeda fighter filmed secretly here in this stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqah, it can be a long and complex road. But if you're a westerner, the journey to this radical utopia where women must dress like this can start here on Twitter.

This man is now in hiding, but he told us he helps recruit westerners using direct messaging on the Twitter accounts of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

There was special treatment for the Europeans, he says. One British guy said he was called Ibrahim, then told me he was from Manchester.

One asked my boss if he should fight in his own country or come to Syria. He was told, if god doesn't give you martyrdom in Syria, then he could wage war in his own country.

Syria now has a new horror. Will western recruits take their jihad back to their home countries? Some won't.

Like Abu-Salha, the first American to die in this blast as a suicide bomber in Syria.

He was well known in Raqqah, said our source, adding their foreign recruits were first vetted carefully in their home countries, part of an office that ran a welcome online chat about life under ISIS two weeks for future recruits. There were very strict rules.

"There are some questions I am allowed to answer," he says. "And things I must ask my supervisor about. Specific questions about religion. I have to get their permission to message anyone. I can't talk on Skype. Everything is written down so they can monitor everything."

He fled this city when ISIS murdered two relatives, was jailed when he spoke out of turn, and was rarely allowed to meet the recruits.

Chats could last hours, but some of the questions were strange.

"I remember one guy asked me for a video of a public execution," he says, "but one that hadn't been put online before."

"Strange ones, too, about marrying Syrian girls. I got made once when I was asked if someone could marry three or four girls."

Motives often selfish, the goal violent, and its most radical offspring turning their sights on the west.


WALSH: Now, in that restricted environment the defector talked about, he could only pick up on a few instances of people discussing sending people back to the west. But one he did overhear involved someone perhaps being sent back to the west to act as a recruiter themselves, like you mentioned there. Often it's in the home country where the first approach is made, the first kind of assessment made of whether someone is suitable to go to Syria to fight alongside ISIS.

But in a broader picture, Jim, this instance, this revelation here that what we're hearing from this defector fits slightly more into the Assad narrative here where years ago he was suggesting he was fighting terrorists. As the rebels have become increasingly fractured, increasingly messy, parts of them have been radicalized and in many ways western officials deeply concerned, almost as concerned about the potential for attacks against the home country by westerns who have to Syria to fight alongside radicals returning as perhaps they are about the broader impact on the Syria and the region itself of the fighting inside Syria.

So as it goes on, we just see an increased deterioration in the ability for this not to be felt right across Europe, Jim.

CLANCY: You know, I don't know how wide ranging your discussions with this defector were, but I'm just wondering whether he laid out any kind of a scenario, any kind of a plan -- does ISIS, do some of these other groups consider their battle be won just to set up an Islamic emirate on their own, or do they expect to battle Bashar al-Assad til the finish?

WALSH: That's, I think, something that's hard to divine from their actions. Certainly, he always talked about the need, I think, the focus of ISIS always being about creating a caliphate where they are. I think that has always been the core to their mission.

Of course, fighting Assad, that's something they've always talked about, but practically, too, a lot of the fighting we're hearing from him and hearing from other observers is the fighting in northern Syria is against other rebel groups, particularly in some cases ISIS fighting another al Qaeda linked group Jabhat al Nusra, also fighting the Islamic Front who pushed them back away from the city of Aleppo recently as well.

So an extraordinarily messy picture between rebels.

But certainly what happens with this level of divisiveness between rebels themselves is given ample space for ISIS to create an increasingly small, but extraordinarily potent enclave for these kind of radicalism.

And bear in mind, too, Jim, you know, this is NATO. This is a NATO country I'm standing in that Syria borders. An implicit threat so close to Europe, but really in many ways is being overlooked as so many western governments try and keep a policy for Syria kind of on the outskirts of their broader foreign policy -- Jim.

CLANCY: Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us there inside Turkey right along the Syrian border. Nick, as always, thank you.

Well, a few big numbers from Syria that we should all keep in mind. The three year conflict has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people. Now of course some opposition groups say the death toll is higher than that.

Nearly 3 million people have fled the country outright due to the continuing violence, but another 6.5 million have been internally displaced.

There were more than 5 million registered voters in Syria in 2012, but large parts of the country are not under government control and there will be no voting held in those areas.

So the total number of displaced right now is about a quarter of the country. It has a population of 22.5 million people.

You can follow all of our Syria coverage online at and in Arabic as well at CNN

You can find Nick Paton Walsh's exclusive reporting on these jihadists, more on that inside Syria as well as much more from the Middle East and north Africa. It's all waiting for you at CNN

Well, live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. And coming up straight ahead, sold in the city, how one new building in the South Korean capital could boost its culture of cool.


CLANCY: You're watching Connect the World. We're live from CNN Center. Welcome back everyone. I'm Jim Clancy.

It's time for us to take you to the Global Exchange where we introduce you to the people, the places, paving the way forward in the world's emerging economies.

Seoul is in many ways the center of Asian pop culture today. The South Korean capital is renowned as a launchpad for contemporary arts and music. Well now, a new state of the art building could act as a cultural hub for the whole country. John Defterios has more in today's One Square Meter.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a flashy and stylish open for Seoul Fashion Week in March. Fashionistas gather in the Korean capital's new design temple -- Dongdaemun Design Plaza, or DDP.

BAIK JOHN-WON, HEAD, SEOUL DESIGN FOUNDATION (through translator): Seoul is known for its long, rich history and has its tech oriented industries, but it lacks places for creative industries. So if there is a new product, there isn't a place for people to come together and exchange ideas. I think DDP will be a cultural hub and will play that role.

DEFTERIOS: A former baseball stadium was transformed into a design education and exhibition hub. The aim is to give 24 hour access to Korean arts and culture as well as nurture young, creative talent.

NAM YOONJAE, DESIGNER (through translator): For an individual designer to showcase their collection, it takes a lot of effort and money. But because of the support from the city of Seoul and DDP, it's opened new opportunities for designers like me.

DEFTERIOS: The building is a spectacle in itself. Architect Zaha Hadid's signature curvaceous structure is unique for Seoul, more akin to a spacecraft than modern skyscraper.

The 85,000 square meter site with 30,000 square meter park was completed at a cost of over $450 million.

DDP was commissioned by former Seoul mayor Oh se-hoon before the global economic crisis back in 2008. There is pressure on current mayor, Park Won-soon to ensure it was money well spent, especially in an election year.

Once the press tour and fanfare ebbs away, can the DDP really deliver on what it promises?

PARK WON-SOON, MAYOR OF SEOUL: Seoul has been the captor of (inaudible) dynasty for 600 years. So there are so many, you know, traditional treasures. There is our duty, the responsibility how to preserve or revitalize the traditional elements and legacies.

DEFTERIOS: According to property specialist Mae Plus (ph), three weeks after DDP opened its doors one million people have visited. Increase footfall is pushing up shops sales. And there is hope this can be sustainable, driving property values higher over time as well.

John Defterios, CNN.


CLANCY: Quite a building.

The latest world news headlines are straight ahead. Plus, many critics in Washington questioning the legality of swapping an American soldier for five Taliban militants. We'll have an in depth discussion straight ahead.


CLANCY: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, the top stories this hour. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad cast his ballot in the nation's presidential election today. He's expected to win easily over two relatively unknown opponents.

And this just in: Syria's election committee announcing voting will be extended for an additional five hours because of high turnout at the polling stations. Voting will now end at about midnight local time.

The opposition and some Western nations are calling the entire election a farce. The country, of course, has been stuck in a grinding civil war. Only Syrians in government-controlled areas can cast ballots.

Protesters in Spain calling for a referendum on the monarchy after King Juan Carlos announced had abdicating the throne. The cabinet met in Madrid today to draw up a plan to transfer the throne from Juan Carlos to his son, Crown Prince Felipe.

President Barack Obama says trust can only be rebuilt with Russia over time, but first, Moscow must demonstrate what Mr. Obama called "responsible behavior." The US president made those comments as he visits Poland.

President Obama also defended his decision to approve a prisoner swap to bring an American soldier home. Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Obama says he is confident the exchange will not endanger US national security.

A senior US defense official tells CNN an investigation conducted right after Bergdahl's disappearance discusses the likelihood that he left his post under his own free will, but makes no final conclusions there. Jake Tapper has more on why some of his fellow soldiers call him a deserter.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome news for Bowe Bergdahl's parents. Their son, American's only known prisoner of war, was released by his Taliban captors and coming home to Idaho.

JANI BERGDAHL, MOTHER OF FREED SOLDIER: Five years is a seemingly endless long time. But you've made it.;

TAPPER: But new details coming to light about how Bergdahl's freedom was both lost and regained complicate any planned ticker-tape parades. These are the faces of five mid-to-high-level Taliban prisoners smiling as they are released from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl.

Though trading for hostages or prisoners of war is not unprecedented in American history, this latest swap has opponents.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You've sent a message to every al Qaeda group in the world that says that there is some value, now, in that hostage in a way that they didn't have before.

TAPPER: The Obama administration defends the deal.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The United States of America does not leave our men and women in uniform behind. Ever.

TAPPER: Bergdahl is currently in Germany, where his physical and mental health are the priorities. One of his first tasks is relearning English.

BOB BERGDAHL, FATHER OF FREED SOLDIER: I hope your English is coming back, and I want you to know that I love you. I'm proud of you. I'm so proud of your character.


TAPPER: His parents' joy notwithstanding, more than a dozens soldiers who served with Bergdahl call him a deserter. They tell CNN he purposely left the observation post. An Afghan child told some of them he saw an American soldier that morning walking by himself.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel deferred questions about how Bergdahl came to be in enemy hands.

CHUCH HAGEL, US DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm not surprised that there are still questions, and until we get the facts, exactly what the condition of Sergeant Bergdahl is, we can't go much further in speculating.

TAPPER: Soldiers on the ground at the time tell CNN that insurgents were able to take advantage of the massive military undertaking to try to rescue Bergdahl with IEDs placed more effectively and ambushes more calculated.

At least six Americans were killed in that effort over the following weeks, troops on the ground tell CNN. Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, Private First Class Morris Walker, Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss, Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, Private First Class Matthew Martinek, Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey. For their parents, this moment will never come.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bob, Jani, today families across America share in the joy that I know you feel.

TAPPER: Many soldiers are furious. The Facebook page Bowe Bergdahl is Not a Hero was started by one of Bergdahl's former squad leaders. It has nearly 6,000 members. A petition to punish Bergdahl for going AWOL was started hours after his release.

People who served with Bergdahl want answers, if not a court martial for desertion. But Defense officials tell CNN that the sergeant will likely not face punishment. Instead, he may be promoted to staff sergeant later this month.

Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


CLANCY: All right, so all of us heard there in Jake Tapper's report some of the anger that is directed at Bowe Bergdahl. One of his former platoon mates telling CNN what he thinks should happen wants the former captive returned home.


JOSH KORDER, FORMER US ARMY SERGEANT: He's at best a deserter, and at worst a traitor. As soon as he is able and as soon as he is fit, I do believe that he needs to be questioned and basically tried, if necessary.

Any of us would have died for him while he was with us, and then for him to just leave us like that, it was a very big betrayal.


CLANCY: So, does the US military motto "Never leave a man behind" apply to soldiers who are accused of deserting their post? Anthony Cordesman joins us now, live from Washington. He holds the Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

You've heard all of these accusations. Some of them are politically charged, but let's talk about the man right now, Bowe Bergdahl. He's obviously being debriefed. How do you look at his case?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN, BURKE CHAIR IN STRATEGY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think that the key here is none of us know the strains that led him to walk out of his base. None of us know the psychological pressures involved. We don't know the condition he was in at the time he did it.

And terms like "deserter" are terms we used a lot more easily before we began to see just how much psychological stress can occur. But the fact, I think, we really have to consider is this search that followed does seem to have caused the death of six Americans. It's not clear whether others were wounded.

It also basically used military resources that could have been used to protect other people. It isn't clear what the indirect effects were. We don't know how much intelligence assets, what was tied up over time.

And this is a matter of nearly five years in carrying out the effort to deal with these issues. Certainly there seemed to have been plans for special operations raids almost down to the point where this deal was announced.

CLANCY: Anthony --


CORDESMAN: When we talk about never sending people in or never abandoning everyone, that's sort of like saying we never deal with terrorists. We do that all the time.

CLANCY: So, you're saying that the concept of never leave a man behind comes first, and then you sort it out?

CORDESMAN: No, I'm saying that first you don't condemn him without knowing the conditions and pressures and situation you had. But one thing you always do is figure out what the cost is, what the trade-offs are in taking a given action.

You don't kill six people to save one. You don't tie up military assets for a matter of years that could save many more American lives and disregard the cost. You don't free Taliban under conditions where this may well reinforce the impression the United States is simply leaving, albeit over two years, and regardless of the consequences without potentially causing more casualties, some of which can be American.

CLANCY: What does the record reflect in terms of releasing some of these even low-level prisoners who were held at Guantanamo Bay. What do you think?

The US has told them, I believe -- we don't really know this for sure -- but there are reports they may have told them, look, you stay out of trouble, we don't come after you. You start causing trouble, associating with the Taliban, we could come after you with drones.

CORDESMAN: Well, the problem is, come after them with drones after a year? We will have cut our almost non-existence presence, then, down to less than 5,000 people. It's not clear there'll be a meaningful drone program in the area.

CLANCY: Do you think that they pose --


CORDESMAN: If they had gone --

CLANCY: -- a serious threat?

CORDESMAN: I think the history is that unless you put people through a long period of reintroduction, essentially reintegration into a society, and it is not generally one that works, with strongly ideologically- motivated people, yes, they're going to come back, and they're going to be a threat.

They'll be a threat in a year. That threat may not affect Americans. But given the Afghans that will be fighting, it may well affect them.

CLANCY: As we look at this case, it has deeply divided some Americans. It has been used, perhaps, for political purposes. We don't have -- as you noted right from the very start, we don't have it all sorted out.

But I'm just wondering, moving ahead with this case, it just tells us about the complicated nature of our service members and what we need to do for them. The administration, it wouldn't seem, had any good choices to choose from here.

CORDESMAN: It didn't have good choices. We don't know what the risks were with special forces. But the chances were almost very high that a raid could either have resulted in his death or the death of people in special forces.

But I think this is one of the key problems we have to face here, because we don't just try to rescue everyone, regardless of the casualties and the cost. One of our problems in the US today is we cut back on manpower. On expenditure is, you have to remember every one of those cuts raises the risk for everyone who stays in uniform and goes back into combat.

Every time you devote massive assets to rescuing one person, you may well cost the lives of others. And these are trade-offs which can't be brushed aside simply by saying, "We never leave anyone behind." That is not a calculation in the interest of our troops. It is not something that protects or motivates them.

CLANCY: Anthony Cordesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as always, great to have you with us and get your perspective.

CORDESMAN: Pleasure, Jim.

CLANCY: Well, some US politicians have compared the controversial prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl to the one that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Ian Lee spoke with the negotiator who helped win Shalit's release and asked him whether these kinds of exchanges really are worth the cost.


IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a homecoming over five years in the making. Pale and emaciated, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit embraces his father during an emotional reunion.

Palestinian fighters captured Shalit on the Gaza border in 2006. Now, Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, some here describe as the American Gilad Shalit, has been freed by the Taliban after being captured in Afghanistan in 2009.

OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.

LEE: President Barack Obama made the announcement Saturday, flanked by Bergdahl's parents. Five Guantanamo Bay prisoners were set free in the exchange.

Shalit's release came at a cost, too. Israel released over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in the exchange. Gershon Baskin negotiated with Hamas, who runs Gaza, for Shalit's freedom.

LEE (on camera): What do you believe about that, that this idea of not negotiating with terrorists?

GERSHON BASKIN, ISRAEL/PALESTINE CENTER FOR RESEARCH AND INFORMATION: It comes down to the bottom line: do you want to get your soldier home or not? Governments will find excuses to justify why they negotiate with a terrorist or how to negotiate with a terrorist.

LEE (voice-over): In Israel, prisoner releases are always controversial, with the degree varying. Some Americans, too, are angry at the release of high-profile Taliban prisoners. On CNN's "State of the Union," US national security advisor Susan Rice defended the release, calling securing Bergdahl's freedom a sacred obligation.

LEE (on camera): Do you believe securing the release of one soldier in exchange for numerous prisoners is worth it?

BASKIN: I think it is. I think if you're a democratic country and your army is a reflection of your society and what your values are, what you stand for.

LEE (voice-over): For the families, whether it's Shalit's or Bergdahl's, the answer is obvious: yes.

Ian Lee, CNN, Jerusalem.


CLANCY: Live from CNN Center, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. A new study shows hurricanes with female names are deadlier, but why? Researchers have a very interesting theory. We're going to share that with you after the break.

And pleasure instead of suffering, humor instead of hurt. An alternative look at life in the Palestinian territories.





CLANCY: This was the scene in Iran's capital, Tehran, Monday. A freak dust storm hit the capital. At least 5 people were reported killed, 30 injured. Iran's Press Television says the winds reached nearly 120 kilometers per hour You can see the pall that they cast over the city.

Now, on the surface, storms like the one named Sandy, may not seem too ferocious, at least for a hurricane. But as North America learned two years ago, Sandy came with a vengeance and wound up killing 190 people.

In that case, the storm had what's considered to be a unisex name. But get this: US researchers say hurricanes with strictly female names tend to be deadlier, and they have a theory that goes with it. Mari Ramos joins me, now, to help us understand this phenomenon. And -- is it just guesswork?

MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, a little more than just guesswork. And it's funny that you said Sandy is a unisex name, because I guess it's all perspective. I thought Sandy was a female name.

But anyway, this is a study that showed here in the US, they were talking specifically about the US, that storms with female names are deadlier than storms with male names. Now, these right here, Jim, are the five deadliest hurricanes in US history. This is since 1950 all the way until 2012.

Sandy's not included in this because even though it killed 190 people across the Caribbean and the US, actually the death toll in the US was closer to 80. So, it didn't make our top five, believe it or not.

These are deaths in the US: Katrina number one, of course, with 1200 deaths along the Gulf Coast region. Audrey, Camille, Diane, and Agnes. All of these hurricanes were named when hurricanes only had female names. So that right there, people were saying, well, that's a problem with the study.

But what they actually went back and did is they said, OK, let's do this. We have the list of hurricane names, let's say, for the Eastern Pacific right now. Hurricane Christina, for example. Would you -- what do you think, if Hurricane Christina is scarier or Hurricane Chris. I'm asking you that, Jim, what do you think is scarier. Do they sound the same to you?

CLANCY: Oh, Christina by far.


RAMOS: Christina sounds scarier. See, there you go. I guess it depends who you ask. Well, when they asked the people in the study, they were saying, no, Chris sounds scarier, or the hurricane with a male name. And you can see storms now are named male and female inter -- one, then the other, in alphabetical order as well.

Let's go ahead and look at the names right here for the Atlantic names, because this is what was more specific. Let's say Paulette. In their study, they found that a hurricane, let's say, named Paul would be scarier than a hurricane named Paulette, or a hurricane named Alexander would be scarier than a hurricane named Alexandra.

And this happened even if they told them that they didn't know which one was scarier, people would pick the male name as the stronger or the deadlier one right away and not the female one.

What does that tell us? Well, it tells the people that made the study anyway that maybe we get a little sexist when we think about people's names and about hurricane names in particular, and we think that female names are weaker.

Because they're weaker, people tend to not evacuate, maybe not take it as seriously, and that is why they tend to be -- or could be deadlier than male names. Isn't that something?

CLANCY: It really is. But I mean, Bertha comes to town, I'm getting out.

RAMOS: Either one.

CLANCY: Dolly comes to town, I'll hang around.

RAMOS: Ah, there you go.

CLANCY: I guess it could all be in the name. Katrina, oh, there were plenty of warnings with Katrina.

RAMOS: There were.

CLANCY: And that was the deadliest one. People warned them what could happen, and it came true.

RAMOS: Exactly. It took me -- I've got to say it right away -- every hurricane is a scary hurricane, and every hurricane could be deadly. Always be prepared.

CLANCY: Fascinating study, though. Something to think about. It's a weak female name --

RAMOS: Oh --

CLANCY: -- don't make any assumptions.

RAMOS: That's right.

CLANCY: All right. Mari Ramos, good strong name, there.


CLANCY: Thanks, Mari. Well, coming up right after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, humor and absurdity in the Palestinian territories? Well, maybe. We're going to bring you an alternative slice of life from the West Bank and Gaza. Your Parting Shots are next.


CLANCY: In today's Parting Shots, we're going to take you to the Palestinian territories. That's a place most often associated with occupation, conflict, unrest.

However, photographer Tanya Habjouqa sees a different side to the region as well. She sees a contrast between that occupation, the limited possibilities, and how people exploit it. Her series, "Occupied Pleasures" is designed to help us look at the Palestinian territories and their people in a bit of a different light.



TANYA HABJOUQA, PHOTOGRAPHER: My name is Tanya Habjouqa. I'm a photographer. Being based in East Jerusalem, obviously, leaves a lot of opportunities for political exploration, but I always try to find unique ways into the conflict.

I've documented in Israel, I've documented in Palestine, and I always choose quirkier stories to explain the geopolitical dynamics. I would notice people in obviously very harsh conditions in refugee camps, or sitting at a logged checkpoint, and I would see how calm they were. And I also would be in situations where I noticed this humor, and I wanted to understand that more and more.

I wanted to know not only how they got through it, but how they managed to enjoy their lives. So, the perspective of having children, being married to a Palestinian and inheriting this reality, it's a shared narration somewhat.

I would also keep my eyes open for people that really seemed to have a certain humor. One of the most popular photographs in the series was a young early-20s from a small village out of Ramallah, mechanic, dreams of being an actor. And he was hilarious.

By chance, I called him on the last day of Ramadan, last Ramadan. And, "What are you doing today?" And he said, "Ah, I've got to go buy a sheep and I've got to get the sheep ready for upcoming Eid." And I just knew. I said, OK, this is going to yield gold.

I think it's one of the most wonderful photographs of the series, showing the humor and the absurdity of life in the occupied territories.


CLANCY: You can see more of those stunning images tomorrow on "Inside the Middle East." Tune in at 1:30 PM in Abu Dhabi, that's 10:30 AM in London.

I'm Jim Clancy, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. We're glad you could join us.