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tv   CNN Tonight With Don Lemon  CNN  January 3, 2020 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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this is cnn breaking news. >> hello and welcome to our viewers around the world. i'm becky anderson in abu dhabi. >> i'm michael holmes in atlanta. now that the u.s. has killed iran's top military commander,
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the question echoing around the world, what's next? we only know for certain that tehran has vowed harsh revenge for the death of qasem soleimani. a funeral going on right now for the deputy leader for the leader of the militia in iraq who died alongside soleimani. >> despite dramatically raising the risk of conflict, the trump administration has no qualms about taking out soleimani. u.s. officials say intelligence pointed to his plotted imminent attacks against americans. here's what the u.s. secretary of state and the u.s. president said on friday. >> president trump's decision to remove qasem soleimani from the battlefield saved american lives. he was plotting in the region to take action, a big action, as he described it, that would have
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put dozens, if not hundreds of american lives at risk. this was imminent. it was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our process. he was working actively and was disrupted. >> we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over. we took action last night to stop a war. we did not take action to start a war. >> tehran does not agree and is expected to respond at some time. iran's ambassador to the united nations, says as far as it is concerned, the u.s. drone strike was an act of war. meanwhile, the u.s. embassy in baghdad is urging all americans to leave iraq immediately. and u.s. embassies in bahrain and kuwait and in pakistan, have issued security alerts. many u.s. cities have also
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stepped up security. in addition, the u.s. says it will send about 3,000 extra u.s. troops to the middle east. we have correspondents all across the globe with reaction. nick paton walsh is in beirut. and what imminent attack was being planned? >> nic robertson is in riyadh with the diplomatic fallout for you. and fred pleitgen with reaction in the capital. the u.s. president insisting he doesn't want to start a war. he wants to avoid one. there's no doubt this strike has dramatically escalated tensions. what's the mood there? >> reporter: absolutely no doubt, it has, becky, as you can
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imagine, the situation here is tense. the iraqi government and people have been watching the escalating tensions between the united states and iran. and they have been really worried about where this is all headed. but i think no one anticipated that unprecedented escalation with that air strike against qasem soleimani. and also, a very high-rank iing member of the security forces here. you had a nation that was in a state of shauock. there's a lot of anger. they see this as a violation of iraq's sovereignty. no matter how people feel about iran, iranian influence in iraq, people very much here are really opposed to the united states turning iraq into an arena for settling its scores with iran or
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other regional powers. what we're seeing taking place, over the last hour, crowds have been gathering in the northern part of the capital, by the shrine where they are awaiting the arrival of the remains of the ten iraqis and iranians who were killed in that air strike, include i including soleimani and others. we've seen the live pictures on iraqi state tv. and other channels here, red carpet has been laid out for them, awaiting their arrival. we've seen large crowds, and men and women. a very emotional scene. you can see young men that are visibly angry and emotional. some of them are trying as they await the arrival of the two
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men, they are seen as heroes. these are men who were leading these forces, these shia mili a militias on the battlefield, in the battle against isis, on the front lines. you can imagine these emotions right now, that will be soon directed at the united states, who they blame for the major violation of sovereignty. and they're going to put more pressure and cause on iraqi officials, on the iraqi government. the political leadership here to take a tougher stance against the united states, becky. >> jomana describing the mood and the images we're beginning to see from the iraqi capital of the funeral processions for these men. jomana, thank you. >> extraordinary scenes. now, the iranian ambassador to the united nations, he accuses the u.s. of violating
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international law when it killed qasem soleimani. he is urging the u.n. security council to act and says iran has a duty to respond. have a listen. >> the u.s. has already started a war against iran. not only an economic war, but for assassinating our top general who is being mourned by the people in iran and in the region. we cannot close our eyes to what happened last night. definitely, there will be revenge. iran will act on its own choosing. the time, the place, and we will decide. >> they have all warned there will be consequences for the killing of general soleimani.
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fred pleitgen has more from tehran. >> hi, becky. there's a great deal of anger here in iran. and there's sadness and mourning, especially among iranian officials. you take the supreme leader. he came out and he hailed qasem soleimani as someone, he put it, a hero, of the iranian nation and someone he said wanted to die as a martyr for the iranian nation. now, the supreme leader also said, that the work that qasem soleimani had done as part of the quds force, that work would continue. we know he has named a successor. he said that organization would work exactly the way in a it had worked before. as well, the supreme leader vowed revenge against the united states, as did the way president hassan rouhani and the foreign minister, as well. what the iranians said in the past, they said the united states needs to understand that next to every american military
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base in this region, there is an iranian militia or some sort of grup that is controlled by the iranians next door. aside from the anger you see from the officials, there is also mourning. that's something that the iranians will display over the next couple days. there's three days of public mourning that have been ordered by iran's supreme leader. there will then be a funeral procession for qasem soleimani. it will take place on sunday, that the supreme leader is going to be part of, as well. becky? >> fred pleitgen reporting from tehran. well, soleimani's death is sure to have ripple effects across the middle east. cnn's international security eder, nick paton walsh, is in beirut. nick, good to have your expertise on this. this is a man that had been in the crosshairs of other u.s. administrations that thought it
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wasn't worth of the risk of killing him for the blowback that would follow. the trump administration thought differently. why that decision? why kill him? >> reporter: it's unclear what lay at the heart of this. they say, the trump administration, they were acting to prevent attacks that were imminent against u.s. personnel, specifically, a senior state department official saying military diplomatic personnel in iraq and syria and also here in lebanon, where there's only one american presence. and that's the diplomatic presence here at the embassy in beirut. you get a slight idea, possibly, particularly how the trump officials are saying qasem soleimani was meeting hezbollah officials in recent days, that some of the threat may have been focused around here in lebanon. as you say, this is a decision taken by the trump administration, they say, with
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consideration, obviously designed to send a message to iran. they say they've been making the threats for a relentless period of time but never had iran see it as real. a decision that was not taken by the bush administration or the obama administration. there's a simple logic why the bush administration wouldn't have made a similar move. the retaliation they could have faced with thousands of troops in iraq and afghanistan, significantly worse in the face of an angered iranian revolutionary guard corps than possible now. and the same way, too, the obama administration, as many troops in the region at the time. also, too, trying in the latter stages to hatch a nuclear deal with iran, as well. the trump administration, to some degree, given its overt desire to get out of the middle east, no secret they make of that, possibly feeling liberated to make a destructive, chaotic move like qasem soleimani. benefits u.s. standing showing they're unrestrained and unafraid to act. but it puts their allies in a
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complex situation in the years ahead because they have to face acts of retaliation. >> i would imagine that iran knew that soleimani could be killed and probably planned for that. soleimani probably knew it, as well, there was a good chance. who fills the shoes? is there a line of succession? what comes next? >> immediately, his duties are taken by his deputy. they possibly knew this was happening. there's a counterargument that maybe qasem soleimani thought maybe he was untouchable. that thought the americans would, quote, never dare do something like that. the mere fact this man, the most secretive individual possibly in iran, at the same time, too, its most well-known military figure, was able to be targeted by a pinpoint strike like this, in the country these supposed to be the second-safest, iraq, near its main airport, is a
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staggering breach of iran's operational security. will his death upset the plans that he was seminoal in the day and weeks ahead? it's whether the u.s. knew and knew about his role in them. you can make the argument that the successor could easily implement them just as fast, too. you can make an argument that there may be extra impetus for iran to put the plans into action. and the same time, if america knew what they were, they would be able to countermand them. that lot of moving pieces here. the broader one being wether or not iran wants to act immediately and show publicly its ability to respond or will. you've seen a pause and act in a time of its choosing, perhaps when the u.s. is less ready. mikele? >> nick paton walsh for us in beirut. thanks, nick. back in washington, top democrats are blasting the trump
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administration for keeping them in the dark about this attack. usually leaders on both sides of the aisle are briefed over this highly sensitive matter overtime. here, certainly in the states, democrats are still waiting. >> the pentagon says the secretary of state of defense, mark esper, is, quote, committed to providing congress a detailed all-member briefing next week. it's unclear if republican leaders got a warning. but at least some republicans were in the loop. >> i was briefed about the potential operation when i was down in florida. i appreciate being brought into the orbit. i really appreciate president trump letting the world know you can't kill an american without impunity. we will stand up for our people. in a is an essential message. >> some democrats are now questioning how imminent that threat was from soleimani. >> i don't believe there was an
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imminent attack based on what i was briefed on to date. my staff was briefed on a number of people representing a variety of agencies in the united states government. and they came away that there was no feeling of evidence of an imminent attack. >> this is the equivalent of the iranians attacking the u.s. secretary of defense. if the iranians were to attack the u.s. secretary of defense, we would consider that an act of war and we would respond disproportionately. >> well, crowds beginning to gather in baghdad for the processions that will honor qasem soleimani. how and when will iran respond? we speak with a university
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the world is bracing for what comes next, following the u.s. strike that killed a top iranian commander in baghdad. the killing of soleimani marks tensions between tehran and washington. >> thousands of troops will be deployed to the region. president trump said the strike was needed to prevent attacks against american. but one iranian official is decrying it for an act of war. howard musavi joins me via skype, a professor of political science at the university of tehran. tehran vowing revenge. what's your perspective? >> a lot of analysts i talk to
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in tehran see this as an act of war. qasem soleimani was the most powerful iranian general. it would be like iran killing the joint chief of staffs and bragging about it. americans would see it as an act of war. and the same goes here. it's not a question of if iran will respond and how and when. and i don't know if the decision has been made as of yet. there's no response yet. and we might not see a response in the next few days. it might take a few weeks or a few months. we don't know what the timeline is going to be. >> reviled in the west, soleimani was revered by many in iran and elsewhere. described in life as a living martyr by none less than the supreme leader himself. we have been, this morning, over the past hour or so, looking at images of a funeral possession,
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for soleimani and those who were killed in the u.s. attacks. how will he be remembered in iran? and what happens next? >> yes. many iranians have a positive image of kqasem soleimani. in the past few years when he was fighting isis, he was seen as the main defender of the country. and as a result, a lot of different iranian political groups have had a positive image of him. the university of maryland, when polled on various issues, one of the polls was how people viewed various political figures in iran. and interestingly enough qasem soleimani had the highest approval rating, much higher
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than the iranian president, in fact. i think his funeral proceedings will draw massive crowds. apparently there's going to be a funeral held today in iraq. then, ceremonies tomorrow. on sunday, in tehran, is going to be the main ceremony for him. >> how would you describe his legacy in the wider middle east? >> i think he was responsible for a lot of iran's influence in the region. he was also seen as the point man in the rivalry or the hostility, more correctly, between iran and israel. he had very good relations with hezbollah, as well as other groups in the region. so, he brought iran a lot of influence. and as a result of that, that's
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why -- one of the reasons he's seen positively in iran. interestingly enough, qasem soleimani never meddled in domestic politics. he never took sides between the conservatives and the reformists. if you look at the front of the newspapers today, whatever political group the newspaper is for, they are commemorating him and honoring him. hamed, we're going to leave it there. thank you for joining us, as we look at these images of crowds building in baghdad for a funeral procession marking the killing of qasem soleimani and those killed with him in the u.s. attack on friday. keep an eye on these pictures. stay with cnn. we will take a short break. when we come back, the world has been quick to react to the death
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sure, why not? how'd he get out?! a camera might figure it out. that was easy! glad i could help. at xfinity, we're here to make life simple. easy. awesome. so come ask, shop, discover at your local xfinity store today. there's a sense of uncertainty in the middle east and across the world, in the wake of the u.s. strike that killed iran's top military commander. a funeral procession getting under way as we speak in baghdad and iraq, for victims of the attack, including the commander qasem soleimani. he is viewed as a national hero in iran. the u.s., though, didn't see him that way. >> indeed, president donald
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trump said he ordered the strike because soleimani was plotting, he said, a major attack. mr. trump claims he wanted to prevent a war, not start one. but the strike has dramatically escalated tensions. iran, vowing harsh revenge and the united states sending thousands of additional troops to the middle east. >> want to go to someone who has spent much of his time of the last two decades in this region of the middle east. cnn international diplomatic editor, nic robertson for us today in riyadh. one can only assume that the commander will not be missed. it's iran's benign malevolent behavior through the proxies in yemen that riyadh blames for much of the instability across this region. abu dhabi and the uae affected by this instability. the question is, how will
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soleimani's death affect what is an already extremely fragile part of the world. >> immensely, i think is the one-word answer. it affects that fragility immen immensely. the call is in the iranian's court. they will respond. you go back to the incidents in 1988, when the u.s. in the persian gulf accidentally shot down an iranian passenger jet, killing more than 200 people. it was nine months later that a pipe bomb was placed under the vehicle of the captain of that ship at his home in san diego. now, it narrowly missed killing his wife. but it just shows you the lengths that iran will go to, not just in this region, but beyond and the time it will wait to pick a point and place of its choosing to execute revenge.
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you could go on to the list of responses from "uss vinsens" have linked it to the downing of the pan am 103 jet over lockerbie in scotland in december 1988. there's a real concern that when you kill somebody like soleimani, the reaction is going to be severe. and saudi arabia recognizes that it's been on the front line of this sort of proxy war and direct war, if you will, almost from -- directed by soleimani and the iranians. the hutus fire large missiles at the saudis and at the capital in riyadh. there's been a number of those in the last couple years. some have been intercepted and some have fallen in the desert and there was an attack on two oil refineries settled by more than a half. and that was launched, it is
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believed, from iran, using iranian sophisticated drones and missile technology. so, there's no doubt that the sense here is, this immeasurably sort of more fragile situation, can have immediate repercussions here. that's why we're hearing in this region, the saudis, the emirateties, and the bahrainians. they respect that the iranians are part of the problem here but are urging caution on how to respond to it. >> certainly, the drum beat of war being heard from this region of the gulf, some 18 months or so. very much tempered down. and over the past couple of months there's been talk of de-escalation and a political solution, that's been very much pushed to the fore, both by the uae where i am and, indeed, in saudi. there must, though, be concern
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where you are and, indeed here, about the geographic proximity that these gulf capitals have to iran at this point. they have to be in play, were iran to decide if it would retaliate against not just the u.s., but u.s. allies in this region. >> absolutely. as we've seen with the missiles, with the drone and missile attack in saudi arabia, against oil refineries, the emirateties, of course, on a much more fragile front line, much closer, geographically, to iran. and therefore, the potential for missile strikes or whatever, from iran. the concern is high. and that's why you hear them urging the caution. one of the countries that
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actually has good connections to both the iranians and the saudis and emirateties, of course, is russia, who is really seen in the on sense of leadership from president trump, really seen an opportunity to expand its role and influence in the middle east. and you can see a potential for russia to play a role down the line in mediation for whatever may happen. there's no doubt what we're witnessing at the moment, has a real potential to, "a" escalate and "b" change the geopolitical power dynamics in the middle east, and potentially not in the u.s. favor, becky. >> nic robertson is in riyadh. nic, appreciate it. joining me now is an expert in middle east foreign policy and author of "losing an enemy: obama, iran and the triumph of
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diploma diplomacy." great pleasure to have you on. even if iran does not want escalation, it has to respond, doesn't it? it's not looking weak and that's how things get under control, doesn't it? unintended consequences. >> it is. whether it's unintended or not remains to be seen, of course. even though the iranians have pressure on themselves they have to respond to this, it does not mean they have to respond right away. in fact, i think they are hoping for the advantage of some form of a surprise, which means that they likely will wait. what i think they will do first, is try to utilize the popularity that soleimani had inside of iran, because he was seen as such a critical player in defeating isis and trying to see if they can get some of that popularity to wash off on them and on the regime which is faced
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with inpopularity. >> what factors come into play with iran's calculus with retaliation? the response risks a massive reaction from the u.s., right? and at the end of the day, the regime's paramount concern is survival of the regime? >> correct. i think at the same time, the economic pressure that the iranians has been under has been so intense, there's voices inside of iran, that essentially argue, unless there is some form of a confrontation, there may not be a way for them to end that economic strangulation they're faced with right now. we should remember, iran is under more sanctions and economic pressure now, when it has actually been abiding by a nuclear agreement than they were before they signed that nuclear agreement, that they were arguably in violation of the mpt. it's a strange situation for them to be under, to be under economic pressure now when they
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have been going along with the nuclear deal. >> qasem soleimani is a man who was never likely to die of natural causes. what do you think will be the likely impact of his death on the revolutionary guards and the quds force? he was a figure but a replaceable one, presumes? >> he was an important figure. but i don't think he was irreplaceab irreplaceable. if he had become so important that he was irreplaceable, the rest of the regime would probably have seen him as a threat. so, i think while there's been a lot of things said and written about how effective he has been, et cetera, we have to keep in mind that, the iranian system is a system. it is not a personality cult. it is not based on one or two individuals, which is part of the reason why the regime has been able to survive for so long, despite the tremendous amount of pressure that they've been faced with expersonally and the tremendous amount of opposition and impopularity
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they're faced with internally. >> hmm. i want to ask you this because it strikes me as interesting. whether the supreme leader, ayatollah khamenei, whether he miscalculated. he had a tweet up on new year's day. he said, that guy, meaning the president, has tweeted that we've seen iran responsible for the events in baghdad and we will respond to iran. he says, first, you can't do anything. and then he talks about crimes in iraq and afghanistan, so on. it was almost taunting donald trump, daring him to act. and indeed, he did. do you think that was a mistake? or do you think maybe the ayatollah wanted a knee-jerk reaction? >> i don't think the ayatollah is running his own twitter account. but i think there is a likelihood, mindful of the fact that the president of the united states is spending so much time on twitter, that he saw that. and that may have been a factor that came into account. i would never have said that had
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there been another president in the white house. but with this current white house and this current president, i don't think it is implausible at all. >> so, would that have been a miscalculation by the ayatollah he may have prompted something he didn't mean to prompt? >> if this is the way it played out and the president saw this and that was a factor, yes. i think it is fair to say that was a miscalculation. >> iran's advantage, of course, is that it has long tent cy cal in many places. that would give it a challenge to the u.s. to protect what is a broad range of interests around the world. fair to say? >> certainly. this is the advantage to have mindful of the fact that their military, of course, is no match for the u.s. military. i mean, the amount of money the iranians are spending on arms, despite all of the narrative about the iranian threat, they spend less than $15 billion on weaponry a year. the u.s. military budget is more
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than $700 billion. and of course, of much higher quality. advantage they have is their ability to wage asimilymitric w mare. if the trump administration had not walked out of the nuclear deal, we would not be here today, where the u.s. and iran is at the precipice at war, if not already at war. the key event of all this happening is the fact that the trump administration or trump himself, took a resolved matter, the nuclear deal, and unresolved it. >> that's a very good point. the u.s., their stated goal is to deter iran. when you look back, and including what you just talked about with the nuclear deal, nothing the u.s. has done has deterred iran from its regional activities. what are the chances this will? >> i think you're right.
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none of the escalation moves has deterred iran. instead, it has began a counterer escalation by the iranians. the only time we saw the shia militias in iraq did not attack american troops were when the iranians and americans were negotiating the nuclear deal and when they were implementing it. if our true objective is to make sure that we have a reduction of tensions, no attacks against u.s. troops, and the shia militias are not creating problems, we know how to get to that point. it's called diplomacy. that's not the path the trump administration has chosen. >> trita parsi, always a pleasure. great to have your expertise. we'll take a short break. when we come back, australia's deadly bush fires show no sign of stopping. what the government is doing, as three fires combine to form one massive blaze, burning over an
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australia, bracing for what could be the most catastrophic day yet this very long bush fire season. the prime minister says he is mobilizing the navy's largest ship to evacuate people along the southeast coastline. he's deploying up to 3,000 troops to help, as authorities try to rescue stranded residents by boat. we're joined by australian lawmaker, mike kelly, he's in new south wales. the reports of the bush fires merging into one inferno at victoria, how bad are things? >> it's quite unprecedented. as an example, my seat is 43,000
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square kilometers. it's under fire threat from north to south and east to west. we've never seen anything on this scale before. we've lost about 1,500 odd homes and structures. we've lost a lot of economic damage, as well. more importantly, of this morning, a report of 23 lives being lost. so, to reflect that unprecedented nature of the crisis, the government has deployed the reserves for the first time in our history, to get the grips with a lot of personnel requirements needed to continue to fight this battle. >> you know, you served in the australian military and have actually got experience in post-conflict reconstruction. this is going to require, essentially, post-conflict reconstruction, isn't it? entire towns, communities, just
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gone. >> absolutely. in my own electorate, some towns have been wiped off the map. some beautiful, historic places, which has been gut-wrenching and tragic to watch. we're all affected by it. but the commitment to the reconstruction effort i'm sure will be nationwide. it will pose questions to us how we deal with those situations going forward. the effects of climate change are really amplifying those disasters and testing us as we've never been tested before. so, we're going to have to put our minds to how we'll deal with these issues from the point of view of the capabilities, the aerial resources. we're now having our fire seasons overlapping with the northern hemisphere. it's more difficult to share those resources. as we saw this year, with the california fires, overlapping with what we've seen in new south wales. a lot of thoughts and planning will have to go into that. and the reconstruction effort will require quite a lot of resources. >> you touched on this.
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it's an important point. it's good to hear an aussie politician talking about climate change. there's been no shortage of criticism how the federal government has responded to the fires and the issue of climate change. it's one of those, well, this isn't the time moments. how deep is the anger in australia over the attitude of the government, as they watch this catastrophe unfold? >> certainly, we've seen some of the anger reflected. i also think there's been a national awakening to just what is in store for us if we don't take serious action. what's happening now is perfectly in line with the projections we've seen. the temperatures and the continual drying and the effects of the megafires has waken people up. and the scenes out there are almost apocalyptic with blood-red skies and completely darkened skies. people are having trouble breathing now.
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there's been weeks at a time when the levels have been 25-times above those to breathe in. we're talking about beyond, you know, anything you can see in deli and beijing. this is waking people up. i'm hoping it results on a concentration of what is realistic and required to do from here, both as a national effort but also to underline our advocacy internationally to get this sort of international effort behind attacking climate change that we must really have now. >> hopefully it does kick-start the conversation because it seems that there's been a lot of head in the sand from a lot of politicians in australia. i have family in sydney and friends all over. it's catastrophic. mike kelly, member of parliament. we send you best wishes down under. >> thank you, michael. >> extraordinary. we'll be right back with more coverage on the fallout of
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the killing of iran's top general. stay with us. you're watching cnn. ic acid ser. with our highest concentration of glycolic acid. resurfaces skin to visibly reduce dark spots and wrinkles. revitalift glycolic acid serum from l'oréal.
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streets in baghdad are packed right now for those
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killed in the u.s. strike on friday. among the dead qasem cosoleiman. tehran's u.n. ambassador has promised revenge for outright war. on saturday, soleimani's body will be transferred to iran. i'm becky anderson in abu dhabi. >> and i'm michael holmes in atlanta. we'll be back with another hour of coverage of the fallout of the killing of iran's top general. no matter what i wore, i worried someone might see
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my bladder leak underwear. so, i switched. to always discreet boutique. its shape-hugging threads smooth out the back. so it fits better than depend. and no one notices. always discreet.
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wthat's why xfinity hasu made taking your internetself. and tv with you a breeze. really? yup. you can transfer your service online
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in about a minute. you can do that? yeah. and with two-hour service appointment windows, it's all on your schedule. awesome. so while moving may still come with its share of headaches... no kidding. we're doing all we can to make moving simple, easy, awesome. go to to get started. this is cnn breaking news. >> hello and welcome to our viewers around the world. i'm becky anderson in abu dhabi. >> i'm michael holmes in atlanta. we are on


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