tv Weekends With Alex Witt MSNBC January 4, 2020 10:00am-11:00am PST
powered by our gig-speed network. because beyond technology... there is human ingenuity. every day, comcast business is helping businesses go beyond the expected. to do the extraordinary. take your business beyond. it's a new hour here on "weekends with alex witt" at msnbc world headquarters in new york. i'm alex witt and we begin with this breaking news with new reports of a rocket landing inside the green zone in baghdad. that is, of course, the secure area where the u.s. embassy in iraq is located. another rocket across the river from the green zone has been spotted as well. no casualties, though, have been reported. u.s. troops, though, on the way to the middle east right now following that u.s. air strike that took out qasem soleimani, iran's top military general. the u.s. is bracing for reprisals. iran has threatened harsh retaliation for the killing.
in gaza city, members of iran-backed groups, hamas and islamic jihad, have burned israeli and american flags to protest soleimani's killing, joining tens of thousands who turned out in the streets of baghdad to celebrate the martyrdom of soleimani. then across from the white house, a protest by code pink and a number of antiwar groups urging the president to bring u.s. troops out of iraq. meanwhile, nato just announced it is suspending the training of iraqi forces amid fears for the lives of several hundred nato personnel inside iraq. nbc correspondents are spanned out across the middle east to bring you the latest developments in these tense times. we start with nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engel in erbil, iraq. good day or evening your time to you. what do we know about the breaking news on this rocket attack in baghdad? >> reporter: so, when we last spoke, what was it, about an hour ago, there were these initial reports of explosions, thuds being reported in parts of
baghdad. well, just in the last few minutes or so, we've spoken to the iraqi joint security coordination bureau, which is a combination of their army and their police forces, and they say that there were three katyusha rockets fired, one landing in the green zone near to the u.s. embassy. it hit not far from where an iconic location where there is this -- the old parade grounds were held, saddam hussein's old parade grounds. so, fired in the direction of what is considered an american enclave there, not far from the u.s. embassy. the second one may have also been fired at the same target because it landed not far away. these are generally unguided rockets, sort of -- you sort of point and shoot. that one fell in a neighborhood that is just across the tigris river. and then according to the same iraqi media center, another rocket was fired toward an
american base in baland, iraq, different part of the country. so, this is -- the main -- there's been no claim of responsibility, but the presumption is that this is some sort of response from the shia militia groups who all day were out on the streets vowing to take revenge for the killing of qasem soleimani. it is, i should say, the kind of thing that they have done in the past. this is along the level of violence that they knowly do whenever they want to show their anger, their frustration. they take these unguided rockets, they point them at the green zone, they point them at an american base and they open fire. and that is what -- that kind of attack a couple of weeks ago is what started the chain of events that we're seeing right now. >> yeah. so, last night the president said that we took action to stop a war, not to start a war. and yet, richard, u.s. troops are being deployed to the front
lines fr lines. from the iraqi perspective, are there concerns that the u.s. is starting a war? >> reporter: yes, there are. it's very hard to know where your actions are going to lead in general, especially in the middle east. it's hard -- i don't know exactly how president trump can say that he took this action to stop a war and not start a war. i think if you look at the history of iraq, it is often a slippery slope. you often get involved in one thing and then find yourself down a corridor that you don't know exactly where it is going. famously, it's been said about iraq, tell me how this ends, and i'm not sure people have that answer quite clear right now. the troops that are coming in are to provide extra security, but there are many in iraq, many in the iraqi government, including the iraqi president who i spoke to who are concerned that we are once again entering a cycle of violence that brings
this country to its knees and could potentially bring this country into another state of war. so, as i stand here tonight on a rooftop in iraq talking about rockets flying into the green zone and rockets flying -- i know the layout there well, the parade ground. so many rockets have been fired at this in the past. the neighborhood where it was also fired. there is a sense of we've seen this movie before with u.s. troops coming and rockets firing toward the embassy complex and other u.s. bases and another u.s. base here. >> very concerning on so many fronts. richard engel there on that rooftop in erbil, iraq. thanks very much. let's go to iran where the leaders have promised to retaliate against the united states for the assassination of general soleimani. nbc's tehran bureau chief and correspondent ali arouzi is joining me once again. ali, do you have a sense of the kind of retaliation the u.s. should be preparing for? >> reporter: hi, alex.
that's right. well, i don't think it's going to be conventional retaliation in terms of a conventional war from iran, because the iranian military is no match for the u.s. military. but we can expect iran to deploy its militias that qasem soleimani had so effectively built up in this region and that were so fiercely loyal to him. we have heard now that a general has stepped out of the shadows, ismail ghani, who has replaced qasem soleimani. so, although qasem soleimani was a cultish figure, he wasn't irreplaceable. mr. ghani has been at his side for decades. he knows all the people that qasem soleimani knows. so, those operational tactics are still very much in force. and alex, we're seeing a lot of telltale signs that revevlg is being plotted by iran, that they want to get -- they want to strike back for qasem soleimani's death. the head of the irgc said that
the united states is going to pay a grave price for killing qasem soleimani and that they made a strategic mistake taking him out. and very interestingly, alex, just hours ago i saw footage of a mosque in iran's holiest city. there's a mosque there and above that mosque always flies a blue flag symbolizing one of their imams. today, over that mosque, a red flag had been hoisted up, and in shia culture, that red flag symbolizes revenge. in all the years i've been here, i've never seen anything like that. so, the messages are coming across that some sort of retribution for the united states is coming. now, iran usually keeps its powder dry. they play the long game. so, whether that will be imminent or whether it will be a more long-term strategy remains to be seen.
something could happen tomorrow. it could take months. we just don't know what the strategy here on the ground is, but something is being planned. the iranian national security council has been holding meetings. that's being chaired by ayatollah khamenei, which shows how seriously he is taking it. and today, iran's president, haasane rouhani, visited the family of qasem soleimani. qasem soleimani's daughter asked rouhani, how are you going to avenge my father's death? and rouhani answered that this whole country will avenge your father's death. so, this is a very, very different scenario we have stepped into than we've seen before. the tensions are ratcheted up as high as they will go between washington and tehran. and whatever unfolds going forward is going to be extremely unpredictable. as richard was explaining, again, there were rockets fired into the green zone in iraq. we're not sure the source of
those or the extent of the damage. but that's what triggered off these latest series of events that we're seeing now. so, everything is up in the air right now. there is a feeling of boiling point here in iran. and as of tomorrow, massive funeral processions are going to be starting for qasem soleimani. we've already seen the beginning of those in baghdad. his coffin draped in an iranian flag in iraq, being carried essentially by iraqis mourning his death. this has struck a chord amongst the people that were very loyal to him across this region that weren't iranian. so, this is a very, very unpredictable scenario we've entered, and it feels unsafe in many ways, and the iranian people don't feel very comfortable. there's a feeling of revenge here in this country, but there's also a feeling of trepidation as to what iran's next move is going to be, what america's next move is going to
be, and what are the consequences for the people that live in this country. >> nbc's ali arouzi with a very comprehensive report worth listening to every word. thank you for that. let's head from tehran now to doha, qatar, where cal perry is on the ground near centcom. okay, cal, with a welcome to you. with coalition forces saying they did not conduct the air strikes following the report of the attack on the iranian-backed troops in northern iraq, but the disarray, the tension in the region, speak to that and what you think it all says about that. >> reporter: well, i listened to richard and ali, it's this deja vu. it's this feedback loop and we've all link lived this before, where you send troops in to protect the embassy, they take fire, they return fire, then there's more fire and then there's confusion about air strikes and that's been iraq for the last 20 years. and unfortunately, the people who pay the price for that more often than not are the civilians who live there. and that's what we're seeing now. so, this air strike that allegedly took place earlier
today was misreported. there was rumors of a u.s. strike. there was probably an explosion there. and the first thought in people's minds isoing to be the u.s. have hit again. we should mention, of course, there are american helicopters once again over baghdad. they have been there tonight. they were there last night. and that's what's causing this confusion. that's sort of what we've seen time and time again. and that's, frankly, what iran is counting on right now. they don't have to respond at this moment for qasem soleimani's death. they can sort of focus on making him a martyr, on making him a hero in tehran. they can focus on the funeral. and they can allow these shia militias to do what they do, which is to retaliate in these cities. and that's exactly what we're seeing happening, alex. >> yeah, and given the fact that you're near centcom with this deployment right now under way of 3,000-plus troops from ft. bragg, north carolina, the 82nd airborne. can you be specific on what their deployment is, what their assignment is there? >> reporter: yeah.
so, the 82nd airborne out of ft. bragg in north carolina is sending 3,000 troops to kuwait. they will arrive in kuwait and then they will be deployed in iraq. where i am here in qatar, there is the centcom forward operating base, basically, which is a massive air base. it is the largest air base that the u.s. has in the middle east. it houses some 10,000 u.s. personnel. it is, as i said, it is a force to be reckoned with. it's about 30 minutes from where i am here. and it's what puts qatar in a very interesting and difficult and delicate position. it's why the qatari foreign minister was in tehran today speaking to the iranian foreign minister, speaking to the iranian president. this is a small country with big ambitions. that's what they say about qatar. and they are geographically caught in the middle, so they are urging for calm, something we usually hear from the united states. we're now hearing from countries like qatar and bahrain. the other thing worth mentioning, i think, is the iran nuclear deal. when it was torn up by president trump, one of the things that was lost when that agreement went away was a line of
communication. i mean, you look back at those meetings in vienna between foreign minister zarif and secretary of state john kerry, and they built a relationship and they were able to speak when these things went wrong. so, when you had iranian sailors take u.s. personnel in the gulf behind me for, you know that 12 to 14-hour period a few years ago, it was able to be de-escalated. there was able to be a discussion. that no longer exists. that communication no longer exists. we understand that the u.s. is passing messages through the swiss. how efficient that is, not very. so, the ability to de-escalate where this conflict is going has seemingly disappeared on us. >> well, the swiss were effective in 2015, that's for sure. okay, cal perry. thank you so much from doha, qatar. joining me now, california representative gil cisneros, democratic member of the house armed services committee. congressman, with a welcome to you, sir. so, we have right now more than 3,000 u.s. troops heading to the
middle east after soleimani's death. i know your fellow congressman, gregory meeks, talked to nbc earlier today and says he sees this as a sign that there has to be some panic and concern in the white house. do you agree or do you see this as a prudent move? >> well, you know, the president's talking about how he's preventing a war, but if that was the situation, why are we sending more troops to the region? why are we asking american citizens to get out of iraq? to me, really sending more troops is really showing how the president has really escalated the situation without really a plan going forward. and i think it is a time to kind of worry about what's going on. >> so, with iran vowing harsh revenge, what do you think is next? what do you expect? do you expect an all-out war or a more targeted response? it's been suggested that a military war, a conventional war is not what we would see. so, what would we see? >> well, i think we know from the past, when we push iran into
a corner that they're going to respond. could be an attack against a embassy. it could be, you know, trying to attack more oil fields. it could be going after service members there that are stationed in iraq. the thing is, we don't know how they're going to react. we don't want a conventional war. they don't want a conventional war, because when it comes down to it, their army won't be able to stand up against ours. so they're going to use other means in order to go in to do that. and the thing is, is we're in a situation now where we don't really know what they're going to do. we just know that they're going to act. and they can play the long game. they've been playing it for over 40 years and they'll continue to do that and they'll look for their situation where that's open to them and they'll try and attack. and we know that that is going to come because that's what they've always done. >> yeah. i guess we all could buckle up and see what happens next. sir, as i ask you to switch gears and turn now to impeachment, you have senate majority leader mitch mcconnell giving new reaction as house speaker nancy pelosi continues to delay handing over both those articles of impeachment.
let's take a listen to mitch mcconnell here. >> about this fantasy that the speaker of the house will get to hand design the trial proceedings in the senate, that's obviously a nonstarter. no member of this body needs condescending lectures on fairness from house democrats who just rushed through the most unfair impeachment in modern history. >> how do you defend the criticism here? is there any expectation among your party that republicans will actually agree to terms, find some compromise, or the suggestion that it's all for show, the delaying of sending over the articles of impeachment? how do you defend it? >> well, mitch mcconnell should listen to the president. the president's talking about how he wants a trial. he wants to go through this process. we need a fair trial that is going to make sure that this just isn't a rubber stamp on an acquittal for the president. i agree with what the speaker's doing and the fact that she was
holding these and that we need to know what the senate process is going to be. >> and for how long, sir? how long do you think this can go on before it reaches a stalemate and becomes ineffective? >> well, i'm not going to put a timeline on it. i have faith in the speaker. she knows what she's doing. she's been leading our caucus and leading the house of representatives i think successfully. you know, i will put my faith in her to know when the time is right. but you know, we need to make sure that the senate has a process that is going to be just and really not just be a rubber stamp to say, to acquit the president. >> california representative gil cisneros, thank you, sir, for your time and happy new year. thank you. >> thank you. happy new year to you. is it a matter of trust? why would the president believe intel agencies now about iran and then doubt them on so many other topics? them on so many other topics
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u.s. troops are on their way to the middle east following the attack on the u.s. embassy in baghdad. the news of the deployment of some 3,000 u.s. troops came just hours after thursday's air strike that killed that top iranian commander. nbc's hans nichols is following the president for us in florida. so, there are reports of new activity there inside the green zone. any new reaction from the white house, hans? >> reporter: no. most of the white house -- most of the reaction today is coming out of the state department. the white house is mostly quiet. the president's still at his
golf club. we do know that secretary of state mike pompeo has been burning up the phones talking to diplomats, in asia, in middle east, reaching out, explaining why the u.s. thought this threat was imminent and therefore necessitated the response that they did. now, two days ago, you had pompeo, 36 hours ago, you had pompeo put out a tweet suggesting that people inside of iraq were cheering for the death of soleimani. we just have a response now from iran's foreign minister, and he is suggesting that pompeo is an arrogant clown. so, this is an escalation in rhetoric between the two sides. i'm going to read the whole tweet -- "24 hours ago, an arrogant clown," he seems to be referring to pompeo -- "claimed people were dancing in the cities of iraq. today, hundreds of thousands of our proud iraqi brothers and sisters offered him their response across their soil." he ends it with "end u.s. maligned presence in west asia has begun." so, at least there's some diplomatic missiles being fired
and there's hot rhetoric back and forth, at least in twitter, but as of now, no official response from the president. alex? >> oh, boy, a tweet proxy war. hans nichols from west palm beach. meantime, senate majority leader mitch mcconnell says the trump administration will brief all senators next week on the u.s. air strike that killed iran's top commander as questions are being raised over the use of imminent threat to justify the killing. >> the operation that led to soleimani's death may prove controversial or divisive, although i anticipate and welcome a debate about america's interests in foreign policy in the middle east, i recommend that all senators wait to review the facts and hear from the administration before passing much public judgment. >> joining me now, sonam sheth, political correspondent and business insider and bob cusack, editor in chief at "the hill."
welcome to you both. bob, do we know when this briefing is expected to happen next week and some of the top questions that lawmakers want to have answered? >> well, alex, as far as the details, i don't think they've set them, but there are a lot of democrats in particular who are upset about not getting briefed on this, and apparently, lindsey graham was. he's the head of the judiciary committee. but the gang of eight was not. i mean, congress is supposed to be an equal branch of government. but it really isn't. especially when it comes to foreign policy. and that's partly because after 9/11, what congress passed gave the executive so much power, and that's the justification for this strike. >> but without having notified the senior congressional democrats or the majority of republicans -- and again, lindsey graham, reportedly he was given options that could happen. he may not have gotten the specifics of when the strike was going to happen.
>> he could have played some type of role because there's been so much tension between democrats and president trump. at the same time, i think the white house is going to have to answer why they get this briefing, why didn't the gang of eight get this information or some type of briefing? apparently they got no heads-up at all. >> i don't know if there's a difference between impeachment and the sass natiassassination foreign leader, that is for sure. to you, son yas we look at nanc pelosi, who is criticizing the attack. she wants to know what the white house plans to do next. is there anything that she can do to ensure the administration does not take further action against iran before running it through congress? >> it's really difficult because, as bob said, there was this resolution in 2002 which gave the executive a lot of broad authority to conduct military operations. but the reason that we're seeing so much pushback now from congress is because there is absolutely nothing about this strike against soleimani that was routine. "the new york times" reported this morning that the evidence
that -- the intelligence that this was based on was actually, quote, razor thin. and so, there are a lot of questions about what this word, imminent threat, even meant. and the other thing is that even if we take secretary of state mike pompeo's words at face value and assume that he was being completely forthcoming about the fact that there was an imminent threat, the next question is, well, what does killing soleimani actually accomplish? because if it was imminent, then we can assume that there were actually cells across iraq that were ready to launch these attacks on american personnel. soleimani wasn't going to carry out these attacks himself. and so, removing him doesn't actually remove that threat. if anything, it could actually make those actors, if this threat is actually imminent, it could actually make them more volatile and less disciplined, which increases the risk to americans. >> yeah, very concerning there. okay, guys, we're going to switch to impeachment now and i'll start with you, sonam. you have a piece out with the headline "the house of representatives may not be done impeaching trump." what's this about? >> so, this actually is based on two cases that the house counsel
is arguing before a federal appeals court in washington, d.c., right now. the first seeks to secure testimony from the former white house counsel don mcgahn, who of course was a big player in the obstruction of justice investigation into trump that the special counsel, robert mueller, conducted. and so, what the house counsel argued in one of the hearings yesterday was that it's important for democrats to secure his testimony and to get access to the secret grand jury materials because it could actually form the basis of additional articles of impeachment. we don't know how many there would be, but it seems very likely that if they do bring more articles, at least one of them will focus on obstruction of justice. >> okay, but the two we have, bob, any indication speaker pelosi is moving any closer to sending those articles to the senate? are you hearing anything on where it's going? >> no, they haven't -- the speaker's office has not indicated when they're exactly going to do that, and members on democratic side have just yielded to her. i would imagine that we're going
to see that as early as next week. but with this iran tension, i wouldn't be surprised if some republicans say this should be put on hold until the tensions simmer, but i do think that pelosi's office is going to have to send it over politically. she doesn't want this dragging on and on and on and on into 2020, and mitch mcconnell certainly seems unmoved in saying she doesn't have any leverage, he does. and he does run the senate. >> yeah, okay. bob kuszak and sonam sheth, thank you so much. new legal questions about the justification behind yesterday's air strike and the lasting effects it could have on intelligence work in the middle east. e on intelligence work in the middle east since my dvt blood clot i wasn't sure... was another around the corner? or could things go a different way? i wanted to help protect myself. my doctor recommended eliquis. eliquis is proven to treat and help prevent another dvt or pe blood clot. almost 98 percent of patients on eliquis didn't experience another, and eliquis has significantly less major bleeding than the standard treatment.
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we have an update to a story that nbc news reported last night. iraq's military is now denying an air strike hit a medical convoy. originally, it had said that the strike was targeting its fighters in taji, which is north of baghdad. they are now saying a strike did not hit those medics. now, after the killing of
soleimani in baghdad, further escalation between the u.s. and iran seems to be on the horizon. we turn now to nbc news correspondent, chris live from beirut, lebanon. hezbollah is based in lebanon. we know that iran has close ties, of course, to hezbollah, via soleimani and others. what are you hearing on the ground? >> reporter: well, that's right, alex. people on the ground are just worried about how combustible things might become, precisely because hezbollah is based here in lebanon and hezbollah had extremely close ties with soleimani and is backed by iran, is funded by iran, and as acts as a prowy army for iran, carrying out its bidding throughout the region. so people are worried about what this may spark. hassan nasrallah was best friends with soleimani, so he is mourning that death and also is
calling on his followers to, quote, carry out the path of soleimani, even after his death. and that's where things get scary, because if you listen to the trump administration, they say soleimani was planning attacks, imminent attacks on americans, here in lebanon included. so, there's definitely still that risk factor there. in fact, there are american troops at the ready, if necessary, to come to beirut to defend critical diplomatic targets like the u.s. embassy. in fact, it's important to remember that it was back in 1983 that the u.s. embassy was bombed. so, it has a very ominous ring to it. so, even though soleimani is no longer alive, the threat that he posed is still being taken very seriously by people on the ground here in lebanon and in the u.s. military. >> is there a sense that americans in lebanon are going to high-tail it out of there? has there been any official word to say you should leave? >> well, right now the risk is not as severe as it is in places like iraq, where the state
department has told americans definitely to leave the area. however, hezbollah has made it clear that they are going to look for american targets. so, the risk factor is still very high. in fact, one thing to pay attention to is tomorrow there is going to be a sort of gathering here in beirut to commemorate the death of soleimani. and overseeing that is none other than his best friend, nasrallah, the head of hezbollah. so it will be something to pay close attention to, to see what language he uses and how much he is willing to incite anger and violence. >> chris livesay, i know you'll be paying close attention to that. thank you for joining us live from beirut. democratic lawmakers have plenty of questions about the intelligence leading up to yesterday's attack at the baghdad airport. the u.s. justified that strike and the killing of qasem soleimani as an act of self-defense, but was it actually an act of offense?
joining me now to discuss this, former senior counsel to the house intelligence committee, jameel jaffar, former nsc director, jahvid jallie and author of "life undercover: coming of age in the cia," amaryllis fox. thank you all for joining me. jameel, we'll start with you. you said that the attack was justified, did not violate international law because of soleman imani soleimani's role on attacks in iraq and hezbollah attacks more generally. what is the double standard for say an american commander launching attacks overseas? could iran justify an attack on that american under this same standard? >> well, alex, certainly, if you're the victim of an armed attack and you're acting in self-defense, if you've been attacked as a nation, you do have the authority under international law to respond to that attack. so in theory, iran sort of could justify that. now, of course, we don't engage in terrorist activities the way
that qasem soleimani did. we don't hide behind closed doors. we don't not wear, you know, our sort of badges and the like. we comply with the law of war when we conduct strikes. and so, in a lot of ways, what qasem soleimani was doing with the covert operations that he ran, the running of kuwaitan hezbollah essentially as a proxy force for iran, hezbollah itself, these are all aspects of soleimani's work that make him particularly problematic from a terrorism perspective. and what makes the iranian regime threatening in this concept is that they don't act like a normal nation state in this context. >> all right, but you have the united nations' leading expert on extra judicial killings, agnes capital calamart, who wrote that "potential future attacks are not the same as imminent attacks, which is the test required under international law." so, was there enough proof of an imminent attack on the u.s. to
justify this killing? >> well, we don't have a lot of details yet, alex, about what the intelligence was. what we do know and what the president and secretary pompeo have said is that qasem soleimani was in active planning of active operations against americans. it does seem like there was some imminence in play because they acted very quickly. and so, we think there may be some imminence here. we don't have the details yet. and it's worth noting that when we talked about, when the obama administration took similar strikes like the one here, each against an american, anwar al awlaki, they didn't describe to the public what the details were, but he was involved in operational planning against americans and that was sufficient. the same is true even more so for a nonamerican, in this case qasem soleimani. >> all right, javed, your tirn as we look at what calamard also argued, since the collateral damage in iraq killed at at least four people, that changes the legality of the attack. so, is collateral damage something that is expected in situations like this? i mean, is there a legal issue
here? >> hi, alex. thanks for having me. i'm not sure if there is necessarily a legal issue, but when it comes to sort of the u.s. targeting sort of focus, if someone like qasem soleimani, if there is the legal authority to conduct a strike and there is the potential for, to use that word collateral damage, that is a decision that has to be made by sort of the, either -- it could go all the way up to the president or it could be -- the decision could be delegated to the operational sort of commander. in this case with qasem soleimani being the target and the head of the popular mobilization force, abu mahdi al muhandis also being a target for the united states, the other individuals who were in that vehicle or vehicles were considered collateral damage, but it still didn't prevent us from taking the strike and having the legal authority to take the strike. >> amaryllis, there is a certain
irony here that i want to point out. all 16 intelligence agencies told the president that russia hacked our elections. he does not believe them. now he claims that the intelligence community is the reason that he launched this attack in the first place. what do you make of this? >> we still don't -- >> i think it is -- >> sorry, amaryllis. >> i don't think it's at all clear that this was done with the overwhelming endorsement of the intelligence community. i mean, when you look back in april at the classification of the revolutionary guard as a terror organization by the state department, that was done against the public objection of both cia and dod. look, here's the deal, the intelligence community and the military community know better than most that international law is not like the law that we know here at home. it's not a rigid set of rules enforced by the police because there is no supernational police force. international law is a set of precedents. and one of those very important
precedents is that you cannot kill the soldiers of another country unless you are on a declared battlefield, and that is an important precedent because it protects our men and women who are deployed all over the world in non battle zones. and my concern here is that in lowing away that precedent, we risk entering an era of geopolitics by assassination, and that is not an era that any of us want to be in, especially those of us who have friends and family who are deployed overseas. >> and look, amaryllis, i want to take hadthis a step further analyze it, because by angering the iraqis and alienating the government, aren't we just making it harder for intelligence agencies to locate that next threat like a terror attack before it strikes? >> well, that's right. i mean, intelligence agencies and the u.s. intelligence community in particular, one of the things that serves us the most valuably overseas is the moral leadership of the united states, the fact that people on the ground want to support us, because they believe that we are
there for the right reasons. and we've been doing, actually, a very good job of that recently. you know, the american restraint in response to iranian provocations this year, the saudi aramco attack and other, had actually won the respect of many on the ground. and you saw both in iraq and in iran the populations rising up against the iranian regime, viewing the iranian regime as the criminal protecture, and we knew that was to such an extent that soleimani, reuters is reporting, in october came to iraq and had a meeting with the militias he controlled, saying that they needed to up the provocations in order to force an american military response with the objective of shifting that anger on the ground from the iranian regime to the united states. and that's a trap that i'm afraid we may have just walked into. it's a trap that cost soleimani his life, but my fear is that it may also cost future service members of the united states. >> javed, you contributed to an
opinion piece written in june for "the hill," saying that u.s. national security officials should, "carefully consider the fine line between deterrence and escalation due to iran's asymmetric capabilities." elaborate a bit on that. and do you think that that considering carefully was done in this case? >> thanks for raising that piece, alex. and from the piece from the summer, my colleague, josh kirshner and i sort of looked at iran's asymmetric capabilities, given the sort of conflict and where tensions were then to say, if iran chooses to use some of these capabilities, whether it's the use of proxy forces that we've seen in iraq, cyber attacks, which iran has a fairly sophisticated cyber attack capability. they've committed them, low level in the united states, but a fairly destructive one against the saudi aramco facility in 2015 and one would expect their
abilities have only grown in sophistication over the last decade. but the true sort of wild card is iran's use of terrorism, not only through the quds force, through its own operatives, but through a partnership with groups like hezbollah and others. iran has collaborated with hezbollah to conduct major terrorist attacks overseas, the marine barracks attacks in lebanon almost 35 years or more than 35 years ago, the attacks in buenos aires, argentina in 1992 and 1994, other attacks in asia, in europe. so, this is something where iran has a global capability. and as the decision to strike soleimani was being undertaken, was that risk of a global terrorist threat that iran or hezbollah or some of these other
groups could commit in the assessment? >> thank you all so much. the final push for the 2020 hopefuls. their messages with the first voting just weeks from now. wit voting just weeks from now i was on the fence about changing from a manual to an electric toothbrush. but my hygienist said going electric could lead to way cleaner teeth. she said, get the one inspired by dentists, with a round brush head. go pro with oral-b. oral-b's gentle rounded brush head removes more plaque along the gum line. for cleaner teeth and healthier gums. and unlike sonicare, oral-b is the first electric toothbrush brand accepted by the ada
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they are facing tragedy down under as the weather is complicating the battle against those wildfires raging in australia. forecasters say strong winds and extreme heat will fuel those flames and make the fight even more dangerous. of course, that is the last thing those thousands of firefighters need as they work to protect not only humans, but wildlife like koalas, kangaroos and wham bats, which are being rescued and placed in shelters. as of now, there are more than 100 separate fires raging. 30 days from now, voters in iowa will officially kick off the 2020 election as the first state that heads to the polls and the democratic presidential candidates have fanned out across early voting states for a final campaign push. andrew yang talked with voters
in knoxville, iowa this morning. also in iowa, joe biden kicked off a phone bank to reach voters in waterloo. cory booker held a town hall for residents in walterboro, south carolina. and in new hampshire, pete buttigieg just wrapped up a town hall in nashua. nbc's josh letterman's following that campaign throughout new hampshire today. he's waiting now in claremont. that's where pete buttigieg will be arriving in just a little bit. so, josh, talk about the message that mayor pete will be pushing ahead of new hampshire's primary on february 11th. >> reporter: the big message he's pushing today, alex, faith and patriotism, themes that have been playing pretty well and resonating among a lot of the voters we've been talking to in new hampshire, especially after that strike on qasem soleimani. but pete buttigieg also talking when it comes to faith about president trump and some comments that trump made last night as he was speaking to evangelicals in miami, where he actually questioned pete buttigieg's faith and said that he had basically become religious in the last several weeks for political reasons. take a look at what pete buttigieg had to say about that
just a few minutes ago as he was speaking in nashua. >> i'm not sure why the president's taken an interest in my faith journey, but i certainly would be happy to discuss it with him. i just don't know where that's coming from. you know, certainly it has been a complex journey for me as it is for a lot of people, but i'm pretty sure i've been a believer longer than he's been a republican. >> reporter: and alex, all of this taking place as the candidates enter this final sprint both in iowa and here in new hampshire with less than six weeks to go until the contest here. we're really in bernie sanders' territory at the moment. bernie leading both here in new hampshire as well as in the money race for the final three months of the last year. but the buttigieg campaign have a theory about this. they think a lot of voters in new hampshire aren't going to make up their minds finally until the very few days before the end of the race. so, their hope is that it buttigieg can do really well in iowa, where he's currently
polling in first, that will give him an added boost of momentum coming here to new hampshire that will help him lock down new hampshire. alex? >> hearing that off-the-cuff response from mayor pete, it is really hard to one-up him. he is good at responses like that. i know you've posed many questions to him and will continue to do that. thanks for that report. the what now question hanging over the death of qasem soleimani. ow questn io hanging over the death of qasem soleimani. ♪
developing right now, several u.s. lawmakers calling for a briefing on what precisely led to the u.s. air strike that kim add top iranian commander in iraq. joining msnbc earlier, the congressman wanting to dive into the facts when he returns to washington. >> it is my obligation now to look and try to get the facts as to why this strike took place, and whether or not there was a imminent threat to the united states of america and/or some of our interests. >> joining me now, new jersey represent andy kim democratic member of the house armed services committee also served at the national security councilal director for iraq under president obama.
you have a lot of background and spent, congressman a good part of your career following the iranian commander soleimani. according to the "burlington county times" you noted both presidents obama and george w. bush made conscious decisions not to target qasem soleimani. why now? and the answer heard from the trump administration, have they satisfied you? >> no. the answers have not satisfied me. they have not come forward with the type of information that members of congress and the american people need and deserve. theys this is an imminent threat, they should provide that information to us as soon as possible to try to unite the country behind their actions. their delay only raises my concerns, and in your time serving in the obama administration and relative specifically to iraq, why did you not pursue an assassination attempt of soleimani?
what did you most fear what ho happen were you to have done so? >> i can't speak for the bush administration or the early part of the obama administration but from what i've certain seen and understood through that all is, it's about what risk are you willing to take, and whether or not the actions are actually going to move the ball forward. the main goal and objective for our national security is always the safety of america and americans, both home and abroad. so any action needs to be taken through that type of lens. i think previous administrations looked at this and understood that he is, soleimani, is certainly a murderous individual with american blood on his hands, but think is also an understanding that attacks him could very well trigger other types of attacks and reactions that could very well put us at even greater risk. i think that was part of that equation. for me when i worked at the white house we were very much engaged in a fight against isis as we are now and needed to take
into account other national security priorities at risk and at stake. >> do you expect, sir, this situation is going to push you, your fellow colleagues in congress to revisit the president's war powers? update the president's authorization of military force? something to look at? >> always something that needed to be looked at even before this incident. we have 18 years since the last authorization, this is something where we need to make sure that our armed service men and women, the ones currently in iraq and elsewhere in the region as well as the thousands more being deployed as we speak, they have clarity of mission. they deserve that. we need to be able to provide that. so this is something that is long overdue and certainly something we should be moving forward on. >> congressman, we keep talking about what iran's response might be, but according to the "new york times" you pointed out that the strike would most likely elicit a serious backlash from a
number of iraqi leaders for taking the action on their soil. how might that play out? i mean, and how could that impact our diplomatic presence there in iraq? >> there are a number of different reactions we need to look at. there are military reactions and many of us have talked about in terms of shia militia group strikes that could occur. direct attacks from iran, from hezbollah, other actors involved, but you're absolutely right. a big part of this is on the political front. that iran and certain allies and other leaders will use this as an opportunity to try to press for the iraqi government to push the american military presence out of iraq. something that general soleimani certainly wanted. in many ways we need to be very careful about that. we are engaged in a very important continued fight against isis. that fight is not over, and we need to be able to sustain that. anything that would jeopardize that mission would, again, only put us at greater risk
throughout the region and at home as well. so there needs to be bigger picture here, and something i'm trying to continue to be mindful about as we move forward with these careful decisions. >> new jersey democratic representative andy kim, thank you for your time. look forward to seeing you again, sir. best of luck. how might iran strike back, and what area of america needs to be on guard the most? all of those possibilities, next hour. se possibilities, next hour. how will you pick just 4 of 10? it won't be easy. better hurry in.
we are fast approaching top of the hour. i'm out of time. i'm alex witt. see you tomorrow at noon eastern. next up, kendis gibson on this big news day. take it away. >> have a great saturday. hello everyone, i'm kendis gibson live at msnbc news world headquarters in new york. within the last hours a major situation with iran. chants of "death to america" during the funeral to iran's top general and iran now vowing harsh revenge as supporters gathers in baghdad for one of the funerals to qasem soleimani. u.s. officials on high alert bracing for possible retaliation from iran and we've learned from a senior iraqi official at least one rocket landed inside the green zone moments ago. details on that coming up. in new york city demonstrators demonstrating in times square protesting against a war in iran. and the president at his south florida golf resort today, but in defense mode after being