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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  April 6, 2017 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT

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was just one-off thing, 59 cruise missals fired in syria, it's not going to make much of a difference. if it's the beginning of some sort of effort to change the regime in damascus, it will have a huge impact. now, turkey, yes, it hosts millions of syrian refugees, at considerable expense. the turkish government has been pushing for years for the united states to take a stronger position, to take action, to change the regime in damascus. they certainly, in fact, just yesterday the syrian -- rather, the turkish president did say that if any action is to be taken against the regime in syria, it should be more than just words, and that turkey will do what it needs -- whatever is needed to help in that effort. don? >> ben wedeman reporting for us. thank you, ben.
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this is our breaking news. president trump orders u.s. military strikes on syria. i'm don lemon. >> and i'm wolf blitzer. you're looking at the first video of the strike on the syrian government targets. that's in retaliation for syria's chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week, and a lot of children were killed in that attack. on president trump's orders, u.s. warships launched 59 tomahawk cruise missiles, targeting a base where the planes that carried out the chemical attack were based. the ships were in the eastern mediterranean, two u.s. warships. >> and a senior administration
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official, wolf, says the president was very affected by the images of dead children among civilian casualties in the chemical weapons attack and he felt compelled to act. you could see that today in his reaction. >> it certainly was. powerful impact on the president. i want to bring in our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. getting a lot of briefings over there. give us the latest that is coming out of the pentagon. >> well, wolf, here's where we stand at this hour. 59 tomahawk cruise mittles hitting this air base in western syria. we know some more details now about this base. we know that the u.s. believes that the syrians, prior to 2013, stored sarin nerve agent there and, in fact, as they struck it today, the national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, told reporters that they took special precautions to avoid hitting area s at the base where they still think there is sarin stored there. throughout the day, the u.s. talked to the russians, because
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the russians had people there to let the russians know what the u.s. was going to do, and when it was going to happen. this has now raised the very critical question, how much did the russians know about what was going on at that air base? how much did they know about that sarin, or that nerve agent strike against syrian people earlier in the week? how compliment it complicit wer the russians? the tomahawks struck aircraft, aircraft shelters, fueling points, ammunition storage, air defense and radars. all the things to basically put this base out of commission for the time being. is it a permanent solution? is it going to get assad to change his behavior? like littly not. likely not right away. but it is going to demonstrate to him and the world that the president is willing to use military action.
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the military had given the president a number of options earlier in the week. this is the one he selected. very visible to the world. very much sending a message. wolf? >> just want to be precise, barbara. there are plenty of other contingencies, plenty of other options the u.s. military has, if the president orderers more air strikes? >> that is absolutely right. the u.s. military always, as you know better than anybody, wolf, has multiple options to present to a commander in chief for whatever he chooses to do. so, the question now is, will president trump decide that he wants to take this further? you know, the additional targets at various locations around syria would be helicopters, barrel bombs, those nerve agent-filled bombs that are tossed out of helicopters, manufacturing and fabrication for nerve agents and the artillery and rockets that can also deliver these kinds of deadly agents.
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this isn't just a problem from the air, from aircraft or helicopters, it can be delivered on the ground. but the more targets, the more places you're going to run into where they're made, russian or iranian-backed forces, civilians, it becomes a very complex issue, if you take it further. we asked tonight, does the president plan to go further, the answer we got, well, wait and see if additional decisions are made. wolf? >> and very quickly, barbara, i used to be a pentagon correspondent, as you well know, during the first gulf war, but usually when the u.s. is engaged in military strikes, the building where you are is buzzing, it's now after midnight here on the east coast. and it suggests that maybe more activity is planned. what's the activity level at the pentagon right now in some of those command structures? >> well, let me say this. the pentagon was extremely busy
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through most of the day, all 17 1/2 miles of corridors, buzzing away. tonight, downstairs, the command center continues 24/7, as it does every night. there are people on station. this becomes an interesting question, because, you know, this is happening on the other side of the world. so, the u.s. has considerable military power in the region. there are command centers, baghdad, kuwait, up and down the persian gulf, where aircraft and ships are located. so, there's an ability to communicate throughout the night. they will watch very carefully to see if there's any reaction from the syrian government, from the russians, any kind of military retaliation. we haven't seen any of that, but that's what they'll be partially watching for through the middle of the night, to make sure the syrians don't decide to make a move in retaliation. everyone is very aware just over syria's borders, in one direction, you have israel, you
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have jordan, you have lebanon. the israelis, quite capable, as you know, of looking after themselves in these matters. the jordanians, the lebanese, hezbollah, all the groups influencing those areas, very much being watched tonight, a lot of caution. there are neighbors, there are countries on the border that are fragile, that may need help if this was a situation to grow, wolf. >> it will be important to see the official russian reaction, barbara, but the official iranian reaction, given iran's involvement in syria, bolsters bashar al assad's regime through hezbollah and other militias, iranian-backed militias, that will be significant, as well. >> well, it will be. i think the -- it's fair to say that the u.s. view, president obama, president trump, i don't think, is going to have a very different view, is that these groups that are trying to influence the region, the iranian-backed groups that have moved throughout the region,
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syria, into lebanon, hezbollah, that these are groups and iranian-backed militimilitias, trying to influence the situation in a way that is very detrimental to seeing a solution. so, again, you're going to see the u.s. keep a very sharp eye out in the coming days to see if any of these groups make a move. wolf? >> all right, barbara, we'll get back to you. barbara starr over at the pentagon, working her sources. and don, when i used to be a pentagon correspondent, i always knew there was some significant military activity when i should show up at night overnight and the parking lots would be filling up. that was a sign that the u.s. was either planning or already engaged in some significant military action. >> very obvious clue, and also who the president took with him down with mar-a-lago, leaving the vice president behind. the vice president was in the situation at the time. and the president with a very fortunate immediameeting with t
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president of china, having dinner with him. president trump announcing tonight why he launched air strikes against syria. >> tonight, i ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in syria from where the chemical attack was launched. it is in this vital national security interest of the united states to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. >> president donald trump in mar-a-lago. w i want to bring in jeff zeleny, who is traveling with the president. the president's down, again, in mar-a-lago, at his place there tonight, with his national security team, so, what can you tell us about this? >> don, the president was surrounded by the -- virtually
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the entire national security team, and when he flew down from washington this afternoon, arriving mid to late afternoon, he did have a meeting with his national security advisers, and it was at that point where he gave the decision to go ahead with this. now, let's back up just a little bit. we came from a briefing just not that long ago with secretary of state rex tillerson, and the national security adviser, general h.r. mcmaster, and they walked us through the president's thinking and what sort of led up to these events, and they started it, of course, on tuesday, you know, when word of those deadly, gruesome attacks in syria reached the white house. and the president, they said, was deeply affected by them. now, we heard him talk about that on wednesday in the rose garden. he called it a heinous act and, indeed, he seemed moved. and then, again, when he was flying down here to florida this afternoon, he said, you know, something will have to happen with assad. so, you know, in about a 48-hour span or so, dan -- don, this is
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what happened, a dramatic turn of events, because donald trump, we know, before he became president, was very apprehensive of engaging any type of syria conflict, in fact, in 2013, he said the president did not have the authority to do so, without the approval of congress. well, tonight, he acted decisively, but the secretary of state, rex tillerson, he said this, don, i was trustruck by t comment. he said, the u.s. could not turn away, or turn a blind eye to this. now, they did not, you know, suggest that this was going to change u.s. strategy towards syria at all. they did not talk about removing bashar al assad from power. this was a very limited strike on that specific strip of airfields that had launched the chemical attack earlier, but as barbara's been reporting all evening, this was designed to send a message, a message to assad. a message to russia, as well.
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and the secretary of state had very sharp words for russia. he said this, don. he said, either russia has been complicit or russia has been incompetent in its act ability to, essentially, stop these chemical attacks. so, these pointed words from the secretary of state. he is heading to russia next week for meetings. so, you know, this, of course, is the underlying question here, what is next from this, was this -- this was the biggest military strike, the first military strike the president has ordered of this magnitude, will it be the last? >> and rex tillerson saying, making it clear that russia was not the target of these attacks, saying that it was the syrian regime. >> indeed. >> jeff zeleny joining us from palm beach, florida, jeff, thank you very much. wolf, i want to get back to you. wolf, there was some indication earlier, as you were on the air, that the president was speaking to officials about the possibility of what actions he could take or possibly take with syria. >> yeah, he was obviously very, very moved by those powerful images of all those little kids
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who had been killed in the sarin gas attack, by the syrian regime. i want to bring in our senior international correspondent matthew chance, joining us from moscow. any reaction, official or unofficial from the government in moscow? >> no. all that we've had is word from the russian foreign ministry that there will be a response from them about these u.s. air strikes, but that response hasn't come through to us yet. i expect they're still working on a formulation of what they want to say, and obviously we'll bring that to you, as soon as we can. the air strikes, though, obviously, are an immensely dangerous, you know, episode in the relationship between russia and the united states. not least because they potentially bring into contact russian forces who are on the ground in syria, of course, and the u.s. forces. now, we understand that the
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russians were warned through the normal lines of decon flix that these air strikes were incoming. and so, that probably means that they were able to get their personnel and indeed the syrian personnel, i expect that they were working in conjunction with, out of the way, as it were. but what's really interesting to me is that russia has one of the world's most sophisticated surface to air missile systems in place and presumably operational, as well, inside syria. it's s-400 system, it's got s-300s, as well. both of those systems are fully capable of intercepting cruise missiles, if they choose to do so. and i think it's very interesting that these interceptors, these surface to air missile systems were not used to try to intervene and try to protect this air base in any way. and so, that implies a degree of tacit russian consent for
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allowing, essentially, these air strikes to take place, without any kind of intervention, which they had the military capability to do. wolf? >> and according to u.s. officials, it looks like all 59 tomahawk cruise missiles that were launched from those two u.s. warships in the eastern mediterranean, hit various targets at this syrian air base, the al shayrat air base in syria, none were destroyed by any surface to air anti-missile that may have been launched by russians or syrians or anything like that. the u.s. secretary of state, rex tillerson, is scheduled to go to moscow next week. is the trip still happening? what were they supposed to be talking about? >> well, it was still happening as early as yesterday, when we were notified about what was going to be taking place. he's coming on the 12th of april, so, middle of next week.
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it was always going to be a difficult meeting, obviously, because of the long-standing issues, outstanding between the united states and russia, particularly syria and ukraine, as well, and the issue of sanctions. all of that was meant to be discussed. but it's obviously going to be a much more difficult meeting now, if it goes ahead, and we're assuming it will go ahead. what's interesting about this whole development, though, is, i think it's -- perhaps the final nail in the coffin in the idea -- of the idea that there is going to be a reset in relations between russia and the united states. it's something donald trump, when he was a candidate, spoke about a lot, talked about, you know, building bridges with russia, cooperating over international terrorism and cooperating in the war in syria. i'd be very surprised if that agenda could be pushed through, given that the united states is now striking at russia's ally. its main ally in the middle east, bashar al assad an its
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government. the russians have put a lot of support behind. it's basically put the united states and russia very, very strongly at logger heads in a military way, on the ground in syria, and that's a very dangerous situation. >> and the very quickly, matthew, i can only assume that russian officials must have been stunned by president trump's order to launch these 59 tomahawk cruise missiles, given the statements he made as a candidate, as president-elect, even as president, where he expressed a real reluctance to get involved militarily in syria. this must have come as quite a shock to the russians. >> well, i think the russians have been very disappointed, obviously, their hopes were raised by donald trump, when he was a candidate, when he spoke about recognizing, potentially, the annexation of crimea, when he spoke about joining forces
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with moscow in the fight against international terrorism. he said that nato was on hebsol. it was all music to the kremlin's ears. partly because of the political situation in the united states, where the russia issue has become so tokck toxic, none of has been followed through on. and it's gotten to a point now with these huge air strikes that have taken place, over the last several hours against russia's main ally in syria, where the whole process has gone full circle. we're in a situation now, the same situation, effectively, that the previous president, president obama was in, which is diametrically opposed, not working with russia in syria, but opposed to it on the ground and hitting the main ally of the russians right now. and the russians are going to be extremely angry about this. what their response will be, though, whether it will be a military response, which is highly doubtful, they're not going to want to escalate this, or whether it will just be a
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political response, we'll find out in the hours to come. we are expecting a very strongly worded statement at the very least, coming from the upper echelons of the russian leadership in the hours ahead, wolf. >> yeah, i'm sure we'll get that statement, probably sooner rather than later. we'll see if it's only a statement. matthew chance in moscow for us. thank you very much. don, it's very interesting that this new american president has now done, with the launching of these missile strikes against syrian targets, what the previous president, president obama, didn't do, and the -- and it opens up a whole new area of potential escalating confrontation. >> we're talking about that and what happens back in 2013, when the former president wanted to go to congress to get approval and then congress didn't act on that, but also, want to talk about the reaction to how russia might react to this. i want to bring in fareed sa car ya and james marks.
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fareed, russia's said there is going to be a reaction, but we don't know what. >> i think russia said they're going to provide a statement rell acting. >> strongly-worded statement. >> but i think, you know, in some ways this reminds us that international relations is really about hard core facts on the ground. you know, there's a tendency, particularly in america to assume that international affairs is a kind of branch of psycho therapy, that if you have these two guys and they get on well and they cut a deal -- the united states and russia have diametrically opposed interests in the middle east, particularly on this issue. russia views syria as its only stable ally, it's one port, it has supported this regime for 40-odd years. perhaps more now, 50 or 60 years. and it has always regarded it that stability in syria was paramount. the united states has a very different approach.
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russia is allied with iran. inevitably, there was going to be a crash. nations don't have permanent friends and enemies, they have permanent interests. the permanent interests of russia and the united states are opposed. it is possible that donald trump will look at this and recognize that, you know, it's not as easy to cut a deal with a guy you might admire because he seem as tough guy, and that maybe on ukraine, similarly, we have just fundme fundmentally opposed interests, and we're going to have to deal with the russian from a position of strength. >> you mentioned to me, as wolf was speaking to our correspondent, that iran and iraq may be, we should be looking to them to see their response, what their response will be. >> well, the question was posed, will syria do something against the united states? and i don't think that directly they will, but they certainly can through proxies. it would not be inconceivable if iran's presence in iraq, which we understand is rather large,
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and influence is rather large, would do something against the united states presence, or against iraqis in iraq, iraq now aligned, allied with us and aligned in our interests, relative to what we're doing in syria. so, we could see something that would put american service members at risk in the region. >> what does this do for isis, michael? >> in the short-term, i don't think it does much, i mean, psychologically, it's a blow to isis, because part of their narrative has been from day one, the u.s. is in bed with the russians, backed by iran and assad and all of the shia, against shoeny ar nny sunni ara. syrians are asking me, oh, my god, we can't believe this actually happened, let along that donald trump was the man to pull the trigger, what does this mean and i'm trying to manage expectations, because my fear is, syrian rebels, activists, the opposition are going to take this as a green light that america's now backing their
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revolution whole hog and is going to inaugurate a policy of regime change. i don't think, emphasize do not think, that is going to happen. i got off the phone just before coming on-air with a senior administration official, i asked two questions. number one, is this the end, is this a one-off, are you going to do more? he said, we haven't decided yet. that's interesting. number two, it's been reported here and elsewhere that the russians were actually in this air base as of 48 hours ago, while the syrian soldiers and pilots were putting the gas-laden rocket rockets. i said, did the russians know this was going to happen? were they a privy to this attack as it was taking place? he said, we don't know. so, this could very well also be a message being delivered to moscow -- look. this is your client. we cut this deal to trump's people, a deal with you to decommission sarin gas and look what you just did. >> why would assad risk all this, using sarin gas on his own people? the president of the united states was saying he was going
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to let him stay, possibly, that was a pretty stupid move. >> well, you know, from assad's point of view, probably what he saw is that things were going pretty well for him. he had stabilized, he had reasserted his power. an american administration that said, we're going to hand syria over to assad. i -- i cannot but imagine that the syrian regime took very seriously those statements and trump and trump officials that said, we're not getting involved in syria. all we care about is isis. and assad is a brutal killer. he wants to send a message to the people who live outside of his fierce support, life will be hell for you. that has really been the message of the assad regime, which is, life is going to be one unending hell if you do not support this regime. they've done it from the beginning. so, in that context, obviously, he miscalculated. but it is not unusual for these kind of brutal dictators to get cocky, and to, you know, to take
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one step too far. >> yeah. and of course, the big question is, what happens after this? no one knows what's going to happen after this, as you said, russia, a strongly-worded statement, and we'll have to see what happens in iraq and iran, with everyone in the region. >> and what happens with president trump, if he feels that this has not worked a few months from now? >> all right i, want to go back to wolf blitzer, and you can maybe answer some of those questions. >> our cnn military analyst, colonel cedric layton is with us. tony blinken. rick francona and national security analyst, juliette kayem. rick, the national security adviser to the president, general mcmaster, h.r. mcmaster, he put out a statement, telling reporters, quote, there were measures put in place to avoid hitting what we believe is a storage of sarin gas there at
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that air base that was targeted. so, that would not be ignited and cause a hazard to civilians or anyone else. how precise are these tomahawk cruise missiles? >> well, precise enough not to hit a warehouse like that. and, you know, these storage areas would be protected and, of course, they wouldn't just be in a regular building, so, they would be under some sort of shelter. you just don't hit them. hopefully. and i don't know what the syrians are using, but hopefully these are binary-stored weapons and they have to be mixed before they create a toxic substance. even if the warehouses were struck, it would not trigger that kind of reaction, hopefully think kind of explosion would burn off the gas, but it's best just not to hit them. i'm surprised that the syrians would store that on an air base. normally, they're kept in a separate area. this is -- this was the doctrine, i'm going back to the
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iraqis, but it's kind of the same, everybody used to use. you keep them in a specific storage area and you transport them to the air base, just when they're to be needed. >> very interesting. colonel layton, you heard our barbara starr's report that this military operation was actually conceived during the obama administration. given what we know so far, what's your biggest concern right now? >> well, wolf, i think the biggest concern is really that this is going to have some blow-back. one of the big things that we have to look at is the fact that we are doing this in an area that has actually had al nusra, an al qaeda affiliate, actually working in that area, so, we risk supporting an al qaeda affiliate. we also risk alienating other elements of the syrian opposition, and that can be a significant blow-back. however, i think this was one of the major efforts that needed to be done right now, in order to
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send a message to president assad, and the fact that they sent this message at this point is really very, very important from the standpoint of actually telling him that he can go up to a certain point and then no further. >> stand by for a molt. i want to bring tony into this. tony, you well remember the launching of more than 100, 110 tomahawk cruise missiles at vary yos targets in libya, back in 2011, targeting gadhafi's regime. how did that work out in the long run? >> well, wolf, you raise a very good point, because what we have to beware of here, and first, let me say, i think the president did absolutely the right thing. this use of a weapon of mass destruction by assad against his own people could not stand with impunity. the president was right to try to reinforce the norm that was established after world war i
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against the use of chemical weapons and biological weapons in war. but libya's a good example, because you have to beware of mission creep. libya, which i supported, started out trying to protect civilians, and we wound up with a regime change. and we were left holding the bag in libya. if we wind up in the same place in syria, that's a far heavier bag, a far more difficult one to deal with. >> because libya, today, what, a failed state, there are terrorists all over the place in libya, including isis right now. gadhafi and his sons may be gone, but libya has turned out to be a disaster, right? >> that's right. be careful what you wish for. if we break it, we own it. when it comes to syria. but again, the main thing is, the president did do the right thing, what he -- what really matters now, wolf, is what comes next. there's an opportunity to leverage what we did, to really try to push for a more durable cease-fire, to stop the ongoing use of chemical or biological
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weapons and maybe to get assad to the table on a negotiation toward a transition. you've got to use this to leverage the russians. there's a real opportunity to do that. >> well, if you were still in the government right now, tony, what advice would you be giving this new american president and his secretary of defense, his national security adviser, the intelligence community, because you can launch 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at these targets in syria, but that doesn't necessarily bode well in the long-term. >> first, and mr. tillerson is going to be going to moscow next week, i would make it very clear to the russians that we will hold them accountable for assad's actions. they need to reign him in and they need to work to get him back to the negotiating table. now, russia may have a real interest in doing this now. we talked about russia being upset by these actions -- i think that russia's equally upset with what assad did. they gave him the upper hand in the civil war. he had no need to use this sarin gas, which effectively he
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stopped doing as we enforced the red line with russia in 2013. absolutely no need to do this. he's put russia in a terrible position. and so, i would think that mr. putin is livid with assad. the united states should play on that. it should play on the fact that we're going to hold russia to account for assad's actions, and seek their support. the other thick i'd say is this, wolf. russia increasingly risks blow-back for its ongoing support for assad, especially when he commits these kind of atrocities. we saw that this ethnic, uzbek ethnic national who apparently committed the attack on the subway in st. peteet er tersbur probably radicalized by the civil war in syria. it's going to include more and more of that if it remains complicit with assad. this is a moment to really use the leverage to see if we can use russia to end the civil war. >> julia, you used to work at the department of homeland
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security. given this u.s. attack on this syrian air base, 59 tomahawk cruise missiles, presumably, officials at the department of homeland security are worried about retaliation in the form of terrorism. terrorists who may be supportive of bashar al assad's regime or iranian-backed or others. they're presumably taking some steps, right? >> yeah, they would be. they'd be taking both steps internationally, in particular with immigration and flows of people who may be coming in, and then domestically. i think the challenge is, to pick up on what tony said, this is one night, and what's the policy behind it? we're hearing that administration officials are saying this is a one-off -- i think that really does depend on what assad's reaction is, and what we're going to hear from the russians. and certainly isis is going to take advantage of this, because the sort of uncomfortable alliance that we've had with russia in terms of fighting isis in syria, is certainly going to take some sort of hit because of this attack.
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domestically, for people watching and a little bit nervous, you know, there are plans in place, when there's military action. local and state officials are notified, our bases here, as well, as recruitment centers, are notified, so, we rachet up just a little bit. there's probably no specific threat at this time, i would assume, and i have not heard yet, i would say from your reporters, whether secretary of homeland security kelly was in the room or down at mar-a-lago, as well. >> and as you also note, there's fear, there's always fear when the u.s. launches a military strike like this, that it could become a recruitment tool for terrorists. for whether al qaeda or isis or al shabab. what is your analysis? >> any action like this, because we are the united states, will be an opportunity for that action, even if it's justified, to be manipulated by our enemies
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to say, look, they're always against us, or, you know, here's -- one of the challenges is going to be the expectation management challenge. we have now gone in. there are a lot of rebels in syria. there are a lot of people in syria that will hope that we go in a lot further. it is not clear to me the trump administration is going to do that. so, denied expectations are often used as a form of recruitment. so, all of that, we're going to have to be watching because if this was just a one-off, there are a lot of people in syria, probably applauding this now, hoping that this is the beginning of the end of assad. we've been down this path bef e before, the administration's statements are not -- i would say just not precise about, you know, assad at this stage, about whether we want him in or out. and i think we're just going to have to wait and see, but the expectation setting is going to be a challenge for the united states. >> certainly will be. all right, everybody stand by. we're going to continue following the breaking news, much more coming up. president trump launches a military strike against syria.
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or this is breaking news on syria. russia says the u.s. military strike tonight will undermine the fight on terror. u.s. warships firing 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at a syrian air
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base. back with me now, general james "spider" marks. over here at the map, take us again through the target. tell us why they chose this particular target. >> let me take one step further back. what you have over here in the eastern med is where you have the pre-positioned ships that launched the 59 tomahawk cruise missiles. they came after this airfield, probably because of two reasons. one, the attack originated here. that's number one. and number two, probably most significantly, from a collateral damage estimate perspective, in other words, civilian casualties, is that this airfield is kind of in a middle of agricultural land. there wasn't a large buildup of population in and around this location, so, that's the airfield that the united states went after. >> let's go in closer. >> okay. >> and show the specific airfield itself. and again, this is -- they believe this is where they launched the chemical weapons from. >> what you are looking at is a piece of imagery that was taken by a satellite that becomes part
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of a target -- there's a little bit of pedantic, how the intelligence cycle works. you have this picture and you have the different assessments of what the airfield has the capability of doing and what the current inventory of aircraft and stuff is like. so, this is a piece of imagery that was used to upload the missiles to go after this airfield. so, you are looking at helicopters. what you do see here is the fixed wing aircraft. and that's fine. they could be in bunkers some place else, when they had this imagery -- >> this is assad's, right? >> this is assad's military helicopters at this airfield. >> let's look at the video that -- because we got video of the air strikes. so, these are the tomahawk missiles getting launched. 59. what kind of damage? >> significant damage on buildings and any aircraft that happen to be on the airfield. now, i think it's probably fair to assess that the fixed wing aircraft and maybe some of the rotary wing, the helicopters,
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were scrambled and went some place else before the air strike, if assad felt like they were at risk, he might have given the order to launch those aircraft. >> right. >> away from that airfield. what i'm interested in seeing is the bomb damage assessment, as a result of these striking the airfield. >> now, we hear that there were some russian who were there. >> right. >> which, you would say they were complicit -- >> they are complicit. if they are there -- russia owns their relationship with assad. and if they're at the airfield, they can't say, well, we didn't know -- we didn't know what was going on, we didn't see him uploading the chemical weapons -- of course you saw them. whether that was their job or not. they're at the airfield, they're complicit. >> before this happened, they warned about, when the president was saying, considering what sort of action to take, they warned about, you know, what would happen, what the fallout would be. now, there is going to be a reaction from russia, we're hearing from our correspondent there that it will be a statement, but might there be more? >> there could be, but russia
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and the united states, again, let's take the big picture. russia and the united states, or the soviet union, have never gone to war. we have had a very long and very potentially, hugely dangerous cold war. we've never had a hot war against russia. >> yeah. >> this is the -- has the real possibility of escalating to the potential of a hot war. we don't want that. >> how many russians in syria and where? >> i don't know, but i do know that they are on the coast, the russians, soviets and russians have had a military base in the mediterranean for the longest time and had a military presence throughout syria. i couldn't estimate the numbers, but they are significant and they are in multiple locations. >> i want to talk about what's next, because the sun, you know, we saw ben wedeman on the border there, on the syrian border, what's next? do we know? >> well, the real thing that concerns me is if this is the first step, although it's been stated that this was a one and
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done, we're going to strike and we're finished, but i really think we've opened the door for an escalation over the course of time, that could eventually lead to the removal of assad from damascus. and what his disposition is, i don't care. and i don't think the united states wants to necessarily send him to jail and make that the long pole in the tent of his disposition. but ben wedeman is on the border right now, i'm concerned that if a regime change is going to occ occur, you're going to have refugees going up into turkey and jordan. the united states will have an obligation, they will do it to support turkey, and a very dear friend in jordan, that the united states would probably put some type of forces to provide logistics and medical support. humanitarian assistance, in this part of the world. >> you bring up a very important part of this, and that's the refugees. so, walk back over here with me, i want to bring in now a professor of international
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relations at american university in rome and back with us, as well, michael weiss. he brought up the refugees. the president said that the pictures of the children and the babies really changed him, moved him. i wonder if it's changed what he thought about the refugees, because these are many of the people who are seeking solace and shelter here in the united states. >> i mean, i don't know if the president really changed his views about the muslim ban, and syria was, i think, one of the countries was number two or maybe number one, probably, of the countries, so, when he talked about banning refugees coming from certain countries, there were six countries, he's talking about these kids that were killed and slaughtered. when you are somebody that is escaping war zone, i mean, if the water is becoming safer, than staying on the ground, that's why they've been escaping. i'm sure you mentioned this, this is the sixth year of this war. assad has been slaughtering his own people from day one. when this revolution was started
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in 2011, i was sent, actually, by tina brown, to, who was editor in chief of "newsweek" at the time, to the syrian/lebanese border to monitor what was going on. the syrian revolution started as a peaceful revolution. people demanded deck sip, dignity, social justice, and some kind of participation. they did not demand regime change. what assad did, and that was his survival strategy, to release jihadists from jail, at the same time, he started killing and slaughtering pro-democracy activists. the first -- the very first victim was a child, his name is hamza. he was tortured, he was shot with three bullets in his head, in the back of his head, he was 13 years old. why? because he was, you know, singing chanting "down with the regime." that is the kind of regime we're dealing with. so, basically, if you are talking the refugees, assad is the number one cause of why we
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have this refugee crisis. >> yeah. >> just to give you another sense of what kind of regime you're dealing with, that boy, the 13-year-old, hamza, who gens burned on his body. his parents were forced to say the terrorists did this on state television. this is really unseen since the 20th century. >> how might this behavior change assad, how might change this assad's behavior? >> this is a man as of two weeks ago was sitting pretty. he had what was a pro-assad president in the white house, a guy that wanted no quarrel with the regime. rex tillerson saying the syrian people will decide. what happened? as of 2014, he was meant to have released all of, or relinquished
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all of his stockpiles of chemical weapons. john kerry issued a statement, i remember it very well, we congratulate all parties in successfully ridding syria -- >> did not do it. >> assad has been dropping chlorine gas since that chemical deal was struck between obama and putin. now he dropped sarin, a nerve agent he's not meant to possess, killing 70 people, which is not going to strategically change the dynamics, it's not going to tact tickly change. and all the pages of the newspapers are saying, assad the butcher, nobody's talking about terrorism anymore. this is the height of stupidity and insanity. >> he did it before. actually two months ago, i remember, in february, there was a security coin council and russia vetoed, about the use of chemical weapons. guess what? two months after, they're using it. so, they are enabling this behavior. >> stick around, everybody.
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more on our breaking news. president trump launches a military strike against syria. the russians say this will hurt the fight against terror. we'll speak to our expert peter bergen coming up. , mr. parker. when a critical patient is far from the hospital, the hospital must come to the patient. stay with me, mr. parker. the at&t network is helping first responders connect with medical teams in near real time... stay with me, mr. parker. ...saving time when it matters most. stay with me, mrs. parker. that's the power of and.
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our braking news president trump launches a military strike against syria. firing 59 tomahawk cruise missiles on a syrian air base. peter, we're just getting a statement in from a russian official. he'd head of the defense committee and federation council. this is according to the russian state news agency. let me read it to you and get your reaction. u.s. strikes on the base may undermine the efforts against the fights in syria. russia will urge a security council meeting after an air strike. is an act of aggression against a u.n. member. your reaction, peter. >> well, clearly this may mark an irreversible split between the trump administration and vladimir putin, who after all, president trump had said a number of things about president
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putin that were warned. he owes the continued resistance and essentially he's largely won the war in syria as a result of their intervention. >> are you surprised that president trump ordered this air strike? >> yes. well, when i saw the president and his reaction to those indelible images of those kids choking up and being hosed down, anybody who watched those images, these are some of the most powerful images imaginable. and clearly when you saw his speech tonight he reacted very emotionally. and the fact is we've had half a million dead in syria, 14 million in syria displaced. the comes a point where the
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united states, a super power has to do something. >> you wrote a piece for this morning before this military strike, peter, that the president had in your words amenue of bad option. now that he's gone ahead with this military option, what happens next. >> well, as you know every international crisis doesn't have a set of easy options. and there's a series of questions here. if this missile strikes part of what could become part of a larger campaign. think back to the missile strike that bill clinton ordered in 2011 and in africa in '98, those did not deter al qaeda. it may send a message, but the
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message may not be entirely received. what does the trump administration have in terms of the plans? this president on the campaign trail did talk about potentially creating a safe zones for civilians. that would not be particularliy easy to do butcernly would be a bigger step than just the cruise missile strikes. but the large question also is about military action against syria, is this a case where congress needs to weigh in? after all the kinds of attacks we've seen since 9/11 have really been authorized by the post 9/11 force against al qaeda. clearly this doesn't fall into this. will there be a move from congress to ask for future reactions against syria?
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there's going to be a lot of questions in coming days. >> nancy pelosi the democratic leader in the house of rettives ished a statement. peter, let me read you part it. then she goes onto say if the president intends to escalate the u.s. military's involvement in syria, he must come to congress for an authorizization for the use of military force which is tailored to meet it the threat and prevent another openened ended war in the middle east. do you think there's an appetite in congress for that kind of legislation authorizing the u.s. military force in syria? >> well, as you well know, there hasn't been much of an appetite in congress for this, for these kind of authorizations, but this
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is little bit different. this is potentially another military campaign, which has nothing to do with 9/11 directly. and it seems there are those in congress who want to have a vote on it. which seems okay because after all congress is supposed to authorize these actions that. so i think for the public it's good. but the real discussion about what are we doing in syria, what kind of resources that might be devoted, these are the things that congress should actually be debating. >> peter, thank you very much. i want to bring back our panel of experts. tony, is the president authorized to use this kind of military force against the syrian government, the syrian regime of bashar al assad, does he have that authority the. >> well, he has the authority in terms of u.s. law, though he has
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to go to congress and inform it under the war powers act. and if this is going to last more than 60 days, he needs congress approval. it's a little bit more challenging to find that basis under international law. now, one of the results that happened in 2013 when we enforced diplomatically president obalm's red line -- that may be one basis under international law to have taken this action in direct response to what syria did. and as nancy pelosi pointed out, proportional to his actions. >> well, jullia, let me ask you about this statement from a russian official. this is an action against a u.n. member. is it? >> well, the russians will say so, but i have to say taken a step back, this is not the reaction i bet you the trump
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administration wanted. because they will take it to the u.n. and we're also hearing there might have been fatalities or death. that's not the reaction of countries that might have heard our message. and so while the military mission may have been quick and truteejic, which our military is fantastic at doing, the next 36 or 34 hours are going to be very telling because the trump administration is going to have this legal question arising from russia. i don't see how it is authorized under the authorization for the use of military force, which let's just say it's been gracefully widened over the last four years. but i can't imagine the trump administration is going to seek congressional approval. >> the u.s. used these cruise
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tomahawk missiles without any pilots. if the u.s. would have gone in with fighter aircraft and bombed, u.s. officers could have been injured, is that right? >> and the way you save lives is you use as many standoff weapons, as these weapons are called, as possible. so you want to use them in order to achieve not only a tactical outcome, a good tactical outcome on the battlefield, but you also want to keep as many americans safe as possible. >> they're not cheap these tomahawk missilemizech do you have any idea how much each one cost taxpayers? >> well, i have to look at the exact figures, but we are talking several hundred thousand dollars easily for each warhead.