tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN January 2, 2020 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
this is cnn breaking news. >> hello to our viewers all around the world. i'm michael holmes. we're on top of breaking news this hour. a serious escalation in the simmering conflict between the u.s. and iran. the pentagon confirming that president trump ordered a strike against top-raining military commander qassim soleimani. we'll hear from nick paton walsh later in the program. let's talk about soleimani. he was the leader of the qud force and elite leader of the
unit. the pentagon says he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of u.s. forces in the region. the u.s. strike on baghdad's airport, also killed a member of the mobilization forces. the pmf is the same group that supporters tried to storm the embassy in baghdad earlier this week. cnn's arwa damon is live in baghdad. alex marquardt is in london. we'll go to tehran, shortly, too. let's go to baghdad. arwa damon there. it's difficult to overstate how much of an impact this action could take. give us your thoughts. >> reporter: michael, we're entering uncharted territory.
this kind of escalation by the u.s. is only going to be viewed by iran as an act of war. it's difficult to imagine a scenario where iran wouldn't be ready for something like this, given how things have been going recently between tehran and washington. now, this strike happened just outside of baghdad international airport, targeting this convoy that was carrying qassim soleimani and the leader of the group that was targeted on sunday. the big question, i think, right now, is what are the unforeseen impacts of all of this? when you have an event that is as significant as this one that has the potential to upend so many different factors not just in iraq but across the middle east, given the reach that iran
has, militarily and politically, when the u.s. came in and took saddam hussein out of power, the consequences of that, among many other things, michael, was the rise of al qaeda in iraq and that led to the rise of isis. on the one hand, soleimani in iran and among those fighters, whether it's iranian proxies, who were loyal to him, or took orders from him, or fighters within iran itself, they do view him as being something of a legend. he is very revered. you also have the fact that his hands are incredibly bloody. whether it's what happened in iraq or syria, where iranian proxies are currently at war. at the same time, this is unfolding in a country, iraq, that already is very polarized
when it comes to iran. his death will be just as polar sizing, as well. today is friday. it's the beginning of the weekend here. it's the day when worshipers will be going to the mosques. we can expect much more of reaction, once friday prayers are over. this is an event that has -- to a certain degree, the timing of it caught many by surprise because even though tensions were rising between washington and tehran, this kind of an escalation, this drastic of an escalation at this specific point in time, might not have been entirely expected. >> and just briefly, arwa, iran has deep ties in iraq. that's not going to change with the death of soleimani. but there's iranian-supported politicians that are pushing for
the u.s. to leave iraq altogether. will they get momentum from this? >> reporter: that's a very good question, michael. one can only assume this is going to strengthen their hand, as they've been pushing parliament to begin a drafting a bill that would govern the presence of u.s. troops here. even the strikes that america carried out on sunday, incensed the iraqi government, with the prime minister calling it a violation of sovereignty. and he had asked the u.s. to stand down and not carry out the sunday strikes. one can only imagine right now, how the iraqi government is trying to navigate how they're going to maneuver this and what that is going to do to the relationship between washington and baghdad. iran is very strong militarily.
that pmf force, this is mostly made up of former shia militias. many have longstanding historic ties to iran. many of whom, during years of occupation, were funded and trained an provided weapons by iran. they use these in the sectarian civil war and also against u.s. forces. the pmf right now is ostensibly a part of the security forces accurate us tapparatus. every group that's part of the pmf, has parliamentary representation. iran is very entrenched in iraq on a number of different levels, michael. >> yeah. great analysis, as always. good to have you there on the spot, arwa. arwa damon reporting from baghdad. cnn's diplomatic editor,
ninic robertson, joins me from london. it spread far and wide in the region. your take on what happened and what could happen as a result. >> reporter: i think iran is going to take this as an existential threat. if they don't respond, they're standing in the region, and the clout and implicit threat of all their proxies, being hezbollah in lebanon, or syria, backing assad there and have been for coming on a decade for almost. or whether they're inside iraq, really underpinning the part of the security of the state of iraq. or whether they're in yemen, backing the hutus. this is a choice for the iranian leadership. there is really only one path they can go down. they have said in the past recently, they do not seek a war. but they're ready to fight one.
and this is very likely to be interpreted by them as such. their proxies were put on notice last year, during the escalation of tensions, that the proxies would know how to respond to take on u.s. forces, u.s. interests, throughout the region, be they -- be they hezbollah targeting israel, be they in syria, targeting u.s. forces there, be they in iraq targeting u.s. forces and interests there, or be they targeting u.s. allies in the gulf. you know, the hutus targeting the saudis. the approximate proxies will wa the leadership in iran, they are capable. they feel this viscerally. soleimani was a hero to them and was a battlefield inspiration, and was the link between them and tehran, the man bringing the
money and the munitions to fight their battles. this will be keeley felt by them. but the real question, how far does the iranian leadership want to push this? we've seen the tactics them use tells you they are willing to go on a limb. not just shooting down a u.s. drone. but that sophisticated strike they had on two saudi oil facilities, taking out more than half of saudi's oil production. multiple drones and multiple missiles hitting multiple targets. i saw it with my own eyes. that was not a simple, unsophisticated attack. they've shown they are willing to do that without having this existential threat happening. the possibility of that happening again, we've seen them capturing vessels in the straits of hormuz, which one-fifth of the daily oil supply flows. we can expect to see them escalate that. they've had war games in the seas with china and russia.
iran is on a forward-leaning footing to execute on throttling back and cutting the world's oil supplies. if they can't export, others won't beble to. that's likely to be the go-to position. that's likely where they feel they can exert the maximum international pressure. >> nic robertson in london. appreciate the analysis. thanks so much. the pentagon, for its part, released a statement that reads in part, quote, at the direction of the president, the u.s. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect u.s. personnel abroad by killing qassim soleimani, the head of the iranian revolutionary guard quds force. the strike was aimed at deterring future iranian attack plans. the united states will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.
members of the u.s. congress united in their condemnation of soleimani. but many democrats are questi questioning president trump's timing and motivation for ordering the strike, especially without notifying lawmakers. there's been no official statement from the white house. only what you see there. a tweet from the president, showing the american flag. let's head to washington now and c cnn's alex marquardt. perhaps not surprising that we haven't heard from the president directly yet. but we did hear from the pentagon. fill us in on that reaction and the reaction of congress. there's going to be some that aren't happy this happened. >> yeah, michael. the -- as you know, the president hasn't said anything beyond that one tweet with the american flag. he's technically still on vacation. he's at his resort in southern florida, mar-a-lago. and they have been pointing to the pentagon statement. what the pentagon has been saying very clearly, as you mentioned, this strike was planned and carried out, not
just for what qassim soleimani has done in the past, over years, of killing and maiming hundreds and thousands of american troops. but also more recently in targeting u.s. bases in iraq, targeting -- they say he approved the devastations against the u.s. embassy. so, the pentagon said that soleimani was actively planning to attack diplomats and service members in iraq and throughout the region. it was something that the secretary of defense, mark esper, called earlier in the day, preventive -- preemptive action. this was clearly designed to thwart future attacks they saw soleimani's hand in. as you know, michael, u.s. lawmakers are united in their condemnation of soleimani. united in their support of the killing of soleimani. but what's becoming clear as the night as gone on is that the senior leadership of congress
was not notified in advance of this killing. chuck schumer, the senate minority leader, a democrat, said he didn't know anything about it. a spokesman for his majority koupt part, mitch mcconnell, declined to answer. you're seeing republicans and democrats coming together, saying this is a man who deserved to be killed because of everything he has done against american forces, what you're seeing from republicans is more a celebration of that, of the death, and a congratulations to the trump administration for carrying it out. i want to show you a couple statemen that reflect these different reactions. the first is from senator jim risch of idaho. he's the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee. he writes, congratulations to donald trump on his decisive action and the outcome. his death presents an opportunity for iraq to determine its own future free
from iranian control. as you note, michael, a lot of democrats, not just talking about hour reckless they believe this action against soleimani was and what it could mean in terms of escalation. but also angry that the trump administration did not come to them for congressional approval. eliot engle, democrat for new york, he writes, even though this was in self-defense, no current authorization covered it. and the president needs to contact congress within 24 hours pursuant of the war powers resolution. and that, michael, of course, politics goes well beyond capitol hill these days, out on to the campaign trail. and the democrats out there are reflecting that notion, this idea, that a war could happen.
joe biden, he said that president trump tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox. as always, opinions are deeply divided. >> alex marquardt. great wrap-up of reaction in washington for us. appreciate that. before we go to tehran, i want to give people a sense of what the supreme leader in iran, the ayatollah khomeini. he has gotten revenge. he said harsh revenge awaits the criminals in the killing of soleimani and others. this was a message published on his website. he said the fight would continue for friends and enemies know the path of resistance will continue. that's reaction from the supreme leader in iran. let's go to tehran and bring in cnn journalist ramin. speak to how soleimani was
viewed there, and the reaction from the regime. >> reporter: it's early morning in iran. he is regarded as a live martyr by the large blocs of society. even the nationalists are regarding him as a martyr. and they are lamenting, i can say, since the demise of comb mainny in the '80s. i've never seen an official mourned as a hero. it's not difficult to prodistripredict by the foreshadowing by the supreme leader and others, that a new wave of escalations of this proxy war in the region will
gain momentum from today onward. i won't be surprised if anything happens to the american interest bases in the persian gulf, in bahrain, in qatar, in saudi arabia, and very well american interests are. bear in mind the influence for iraqis is well-entrenched for years. it's not easy, if not impossible, to cut the influence of iran in iraqi territory. we can expect the bad days to come if confrontations gain momentum, which is possible and very likely because he was regarded as a hero. and iranian society is encouraged to stand firm by the supreme leader and also the ruling establishment.
this is easily -- felt in iranian society. i spoke to several people on the way to the studio. they are concerned. and they said the worst will come. they are suffering from high inflation and the economy. that's the last straw for our shoulders. we are bending under the burden of the problems now. the proxy wars and the confrontation in america, can be devastating for iranian middle class and iranian society, by and large. and people are glued to tvs and follow social networks and express their concerns for what would come next in iran. >> yeah. i think the world is worried about what comes next. ramin, thank you so much.
all right. the u.s. air strike in baghdad had an immediate impact as you might imagine, on world oil prices. crude is always jittery. something like this happens and you can see the reaction. the prize for brent and wet texas intermediate shot up 3% as soon as news of the airstrike came out. you can see the number there's. they were above 3% an hour ago. how will the u.s. strikes play out in the region? we'll speak to an expert about that when we come back. so i've been using this awesome new app called rakuten that gives me cash back on everything. that's ebates new name. rakuten, it gets me cash back at tons of stores and i just shop like normal. that's ebates. i've told you fifteen times, we've saved like five hundred dollars last year. rakuten is changing my life, i get cash back on electronics, travel, clothes. you're talking about ebates. look, if you use my referral code you get ten bucks, i get twenty five. this is a pretty good deal to me we should probably-
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welcome back. if you're just tuning in, the u.s. military says it has killed a top iranian official at the airport. he was the leader of the quds force. the u.s. says he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of american and coalition service members. the u.s. strike killed a senior member of the iranian-backed popular mobilization forces. that's the same group that supporters tried to storm the u.s. embassy in baghdad earlier this week. let's look at who soleimani was. he was the head of the quds force in 1998. in that role, he was instrumental in spreading influence throughout the middle east. he led the foreign arm of the revolutionary guard. he had a key role in fighting in
iraq and syria and that included fighting isis and propping up the government of bashar al assad in syria. his prominence made him a high-value target. he has survived several assassination attempts over the last few decades. let's bring in the director at the center for middle east public policy, joining from los angeles. thanks for doing so. do you see a strategy in this assassination? do you see a plan? >> that's unclear. that's worrying. there's plenty of celebration for the loss of a man who was responsible for so much death and destruction in the region, including loss of american life. but there's a real question of, you know, to what end? is this going to stop iranian
meddling and proxy through the region? unlikely. will it lead to a better nuclear deal? unlikely. all of the goals the u.s. set to achieve to create better goals, it's not clear what placed this particular step plays in that. that's concerning for a lot of people. it's a high-risk operation with unclear objectives. we're entering unchartered territory right now. >> that's the thing. the u.s. has made it clear their feels towards soleimani. and many other nations have, as well. he was responsible for many, many deaths. the thing is, the timing and why the united states would hit this figure now, on iraqi soil, and the complications that presents. how do you see the repercussions
reverberating through the region? >> that's one of the concerns. this could spiral in directions we can't think of at the moment. likely not good. there's potential for retaliation against american forces, diplomats or civilians, our partners in the region, m particularly, iraq, syria, lebanon. but iranian's influence goes to yemen. we've seen attacks in the arab gulf. attacks against, you know, the united states interests. all bets are off in terms of where and when this can happen and where it might lead. that could prompt american retaliation. we could be spiraling here. we're no longer in a proxy war. this was a direct hit on one of
the most senior iranian military officials in the face of the iranian relavolution in many wa. this is a serious development. >> and the supreme leader, just a short time ago, promising revenge for this killing. dahlia dassa kaye, thank you so much. appreciate it. we're going to take a short break. when we come back, we'll hear from a former ambassador to iraq about what kind of response we might see from the region. you're watching breaking news on cnn. we'll be right back. [sneeze and sniffles]
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welcome back. let's update you on the breaking news this hour. the u.s. military confirming it carried out a strike at baghdad airport, killing one of the most revered members of iran's military. the pentagon says it was a defensive action. and that qassim soleimani and his quds force was responsible for the death of hundreds of americans forces. the strike also killed a senior member of the popular mobilization forces. we're joined by cnn security editor, nick paton walsh in london. soleimani had been in the crosshairs more than once. opportunities were not taken. you're being told, this was a target of opportunity. >> based on a presidential directive. allowing this to occur. that high-level strike could never be put in effect without
the white house commander granting it. this was a target of opportunity. i'm told by the same u.s. official, it was preemptive in nature, that iran maximum pressure, sanctions, everything else they could do nonmilitarily to pressure the government, to changing its tact to go back to negotiating table for a deal that donald trump wanted to include, not only its nuclear program, but ballistic missiles, everything that iran was doing that wasn't working. the extraordinary move was undertaken. there's no mistake. if the iranians killed an american official, america would consider that to be an act of war. we heard from the supreme leader of iran, there will be a harsh revenge for the criminals. three days of mourning have been declared in iran.
this comes at a complex time of itself, because of the collapse the past months. the u.s. has consistently tried to cement that and calls on the iranian people to rise up. they have grievances to how the economy is going, partly because of sanctions. we're about to see elections later on this year. and hassan rouhani, the moderate is towards the end of his second and final term in that particular office. make no mistake here. the death of a hard liner like general soleimani, head of the qud force, behind so many of the foreign military moves here and accused of being behind everything of its assets and allies over the past year is a game-changer. it's unclear how iran responds. they could allow the proxies to move against various targets as
quickly as tomorrow. that's unclear. what is not unclear, how this is a stark tactical move. strategic, possibly. if it was authorized, i'm sure those around the president has war gamed out the effectiveness. would this put the hard license plater liners in check? is retribution not going to be as bad as taking soleimani off of the battlefield? a lot to see in the days ahead. bear no mistake, this decade begins with a staggering move here by the united states in the middle east. >> nick paton walsh, in london. thanks. joining me now is christopher hill, someone that knows this region too well. do you fear unintended consequences here? do you see a strategy? what's your take? >> i think there's going to be
consequenc consequences. for starters, we better have our embassies buttoned up. i think it will start there. the iranians gauge things and will figure out what they want to do. i'm not sure anything immediate from the iranians. i think it's important that people understand, that qassim soleimani, that when i was ambassador in iraq, he was public enemy number one. there was an understanding that he had planned many operations against the u.s. i don't think there will be a lot of pushback in the united states about this. the rest of the world will have to see what the reaction is. there's concern that president trump thought this one through. >> it's true. i spend a lot of time in iraq. this man and the quds force,
introduced the roadside bomb. there won't be tears for him in the west. there will be in parts of iran. do you feel it's a matter of face they have to respond in some form of some point. >> i think it is a matter of faith. i think it will be very -- iran cannot sit on its hands on this one. there will be a reaction. i'm afraid it could get bloody in places. iran has a vast network in the middle east. thanks to soleimani. they could activate this network. i think american citizens will have to be very careful. >> iran has deep ties in iraq, as well. that's not going to change with soleimani's death, is it? >> that's true.
they have deep ties in iraq. they see iraq as a buffer state from the sunni/arab world. it's often talked about how iran wants to destabilize iraq. actually, many iranians would like to see a more stable iraq, so that it will play that role as a buffer state. i think we will see reactions in iraq. this is mohumiliating to the iraqis. i have a feeling this will impact, very severely, u.s. relations with iraq. >> and the thing is, when it comes to iran, iran won't fight in a frtraditional war they kno they can't win. but the tentacles are many in the region, in yemen, iraq, syria. it's a long list of where they can lash out at u.s. interests. where do you see the vulnerabilities? >> well, definitely in the region.
we'll have to see what happens to oil prices. certainly in the key oil areas, this could have an impact. it will be interesting to see how the sunni-arab world reacts to this. they've tended to cheer quietly for the americans against iran. when it's speaking publicly, it's a different story. everyone will fasten their seat belts in the days and the weeks ahead. >> he's been a target for a long time. or there was crosshairs on him in the west. it's a matter of great strategy, when you do something like this -- do you think this is the time and the environment to be provoking something? >> i think this action in the
u.s. will be seen in many countries as as provocation by the u.s. it will not be seen as wise leadership by the u.s., nor for the u.s. to understand that there's an arc and we need to be more involved. it will be seen as a one-offest by the u.s. i think we will see a lot of anger. and a lot of concerned governments that worry about where they stand. >> one other thing, too. this is a discipline force. one imagines that iran knew that soleimani could be killed and had planned for it. you don't, i imagine, expect disarray among the revolutionary guard. there probably is a line of succession. we don't know.
it won't fall apart because he's dead. >> oh, no. it won't fall apart at all. presumably there's a succession plan for the quds force. and some people are happy to see him go. he was a very -- you know. a very tough leader. many people liked him, i'm sure he had detractors within the service. certainly, i think this will make all iranians concerned how they will exact revenge. i think we're in for a rough ride ahead. >> ambassador, appreciate your time. >> my pleasure. we'll take a short break. we'll have more on the breaking news ahead. the white house response after president trump directed that strike in baghdad. stay with us. fast. only thermacare ultra pain relieving cream
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welcome back. you're watching cnn's breaking news coverage of a u.s. airstrike that's killed iran's top military commander, qassim soleimani. he was the leader of the quds force, that the u.s. blames for the deaths of hundreds of american troops and the maiming of thousands of others. days of tension led up to this strike. last friday, an american contractor was killed in a rocket attack on a military base near kirkuk in iraq. then, on sunday, u.s. air strikes hit back, striking five facilities in syria and iraq, linked to iranian-backed militia. on tuesday, protesters attacked the u.s. embassy in baghdad. then, on friday, the u.s. strikes near the baghdad airport, killing that commander, soleimani, and a senior member of the popular mobilization
forces. well, president trump donald trump is currently at his mar-a-lago resort in florida. his only response so far, a tweeted photo of an american flag. kaitlan collins with the latest from west palm beach in florida. >> reporter: yeah. the only statement we got from president trump initially in the wake of this news, was the photo of an american flag with no words next to it. the white house said, we shouldn't expect a statement from their side. they referred us to the pentagon. that said that this was carried out by president trump. he didn't have public appearances today. he was seen on the golf course, before returning to the m mar-a-lago club. he was seeming to be in high spirits. and we should note that the officials around the president, typically is a small group when
he's on a trip like this away from washington. we were told by two people, that the national security adviser, robert o'brien, had recently traveled in and was on property at the time that the pentagon confirmed that this strike had happened. whether or not the president makes further remarks on this remains to be seen. he does have an event in miami. he will be seen in public on friday. whether he says anything is a question. kaitlan collins, cnn, traveling with the president in west palm beach. >> we'll have much more of our breaking news coverage just ahead. we'll be right back. great riches will find you when liberty mutual customizes your car insurance, so you only pay for what you need. wow. thanks, zoltar. how can i ever repay you? maybe you could free zoltar? thanks, lady. taxi!
i've told you fifteen times, we've saved like five hundred dollars last year. rakuten is changing my life, i get cash back on electronics, travel, clothes. you're talking about ebates. look, if you use my referral code you get ten bucks, i get twenty five. this is a pretty good deal to me we should probably- sfx [blender] smoothies ready. awesome. ebates is now rakuten, sign up today and get cash back on everything you buy. welcome back, everyone. and our breaking news out of iran now where the foreign minister is warning the u.s. it will bear the consequences for that strike that killed a top iranian commander. it happened in neighboring iraq early on friday. koi qassim soleimani was the leader of the quds force. the pentagon says the strike against soleimani was defensive.
intended to prevent future attacks-on-u.s. targets. our pentagon reporter ryan brown with details. >> reporter: the pentagon confirming late thursday night that the u.s. military had conducted a strike that killed general kwoiqassim soleimani, a organization that the u.s. has blamed to multiple deaths in iraq and increasing number of attacks against the u.s. in recent weeks and months. the u.s. military taking this strike in baghdad international airport. two vehicles were destroyed in the strike, according to the iraqi military. the u.s. saying soleimani was targeted both being a head of a u.s.-designated foreign terrorist organization, but also because he was actively planning attacks against u.s. personnel in the region and had been behind a recent rocket attack by iranian-linked proxy group that killed an american contractor and recent demonstrations that attempted to breach the outer
perimeter of the american embassy in baghdad. u.s. military very much casting this as a defensive action. secretary of defense mark esper spoke to reporters prior to news of the strike, telling them that the game had changed with regards to iran and its proxies and that the u.s. would act pre-emptively to defend american lives and interests in the region. this strike very much an example of that. now, president trump had already ordered additional u.s. military forces to the region in the wake of the events involving the embassy and the rocket attacks. some 100 marines were sent to the embassy. hundred os of more paratroopers were deployed to kuwait to respond in the result of a crisis. those troops could be called in if this situation escalates. many believe that iran will retaliate given general soleimani's stature in iran's
military. the serious of this situation and this development cannot be understated. ryan brown, the pentagon. >> thanks for watching "cnn newsroom" this hour. i'm michael holmes. thanks for your company. the news continues after the break. nationwide. while some 5g signals go only blocks, t-mobile 5g goes miles... beyond the big cities to the small towns... to the people. now, millions of americans can have access to 5g on t-mobile. and this is just the beginning. t-mobile, the first and only nationwide 5g network. the sleep number 360 smart bed. prices of the season on can it help keep me asleep? absolutely, it senses your movements and automatically adjusts to keep you both comfortable. it's the final days of the lowest prices of the season. the queen sleep number 360 c4 smart bed is $1299. ends sunday
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. this is cnn breaking news. hello, everyone. we continue to follow the breaking news. the united states killing a senior iranian military commander on iraqi soil. thanks for joining us. i'm natalie allen. >> and i'm george howell. welcome to viewers in the united states and around the world. the implications are significant for what happened in iraq. here's what we know. iran is vowing revenge for a u.s. rocket attack that's killed its most revered military lead, qassim