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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  April 6, 2017 11:30pm-12:01am PDT

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so far, the russian
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government stance has been that there wasn't a chemical weapons attack and that they've denied that. so right now their formal position, i think, will be to defend their ally, mr. assad, and defend the sovereignty of the state of syria. >> that was former russian ambassador michael mcfaul on what he believes would be russian president vladimir putin's response this morning following president trump's decision to strike syria. still with us, colonel jack jacobs and nbc's cal perry. talking about the kremlin's response, saying this is a distraction from the casualties that we are seeing in iraq. irani interesting that we have this senior russian official who says basically these strikes put an end to u.s.-russia relationships as far as cooperation when it comes to syria. and in essence, the first step in dealing kind of a crippling to that relationship. >> well, he's a legislator. he's in charge of the foreign affairs committee, but he is a
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legislator. he's not part of the executive branch in russia. and if i were he and i were the government in russia, that's exactly what i would say. i think one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that most things that are really worth doing in the international arena, diplomatic arena, happen behind closed doors. the more we take positions, difficult positions in public, the less you need to pay attention to them. what's really important here is that if the united states state department makes some effort to take advantage of the situation and to sit down with the russians behind closed doors and start to talk serious business about what the future of syria might be, and i think this was telegraphed by tillerson today when he said pointedly you guys are backing the wrong size. i don't think that was a threat or anything, but i think it was a precursor to actually having serious conversations. they may gowhere, but i would
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not pay much attention to public pronouncements. >> do you think that this strike today and the u.s. now targeting the assad regime and not just isis and the al qaeda affiliates that it has gone after, but the fact it is going after an asset of the assad regime, does that bring us any closer to the end of this syrian civil war? >> probably not. i think it's the first time we've seen president trump communicate directly to president assad. i found it fascinating that the russian response included this was an attack on a sovereign nation. a sovereign nation with iran, saudi, lebanon, and russia all meddling in it. >> and amation that doesn't even control most of its territory. >> it's legitimately ironic that that's the response coming from the russians back to the americans. there is a diplomatic dance that's now taking place because of this strike. keep in mind you had 59 tomahawk missiles striking one target. that to me is fascinating. >> it sounds like it's a lot. we were talking about it earlier.
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59 missiles with warheads. each warhead's a thousand pounds. >> give us the scale of that and on a scale as far as military action, first-time strikes. >> i've been around exploding projectiles my entire adult life and it's not a lot of fun. a thousand pounds is an extremely large exploding projectile. but when we send these things into targets like this, we target each site -- don't forget these are precision-guided. we target each little bit at the target at least twice. so each revetment and aircraft shelter hit at least twice. each maintenance shed hit at least twice. all of it. and so when you add it up, it's not that -- quite frankly, it's about an average strike for that size. >> again, as we await word whether there were any casualties. we have the advocacy gup saying possibly four soldiers.
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overall, when it comes to an airfield, how quickly they can replace that? >> true, and no russians, eh? >> what a shock. there was no russians there. i wonder if that had anything to do with the fact we tipped the russians off. >> stick with us for a moment. we want to head over to paris now. we're joined by christopher dickey, world news editor for "the daily beast." chris, good to have you with us on this very busy day. we'll get to the international community reacting a little bit this morning. but first let me ask you about your assessment. the timing of this strike, the purpose of this strike. how do you read the events of the past 12 hours or so? >> well, i think that probably general mattis, the defense secretary, wanted to react as quickly as possible, and it appears that the president himself was very emotional. he seems to have just discovered that babies were being killed by the assad regime. beautiful babies, as he put it.
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and he wanted to show right away the united states would react and be tough. the big question is now what? where do you go from here? that isn't clear at all. you know, ayman, you've been covering these wars for a long time in the middle east and elsewhere. you know that when these kinds of punitive actions have been taken in the past, whether against libya in the '80s or al qaeda in the '90s, usually they don't have any good results. often they have counterproductive results. in fact, there are very few instances where you can point to where american bombing, cruise missile attacks, whatever, and there have been many, many of these, had the effect that was wanted when they were carried out. >> as that question lingers as to where do we go from here, what is next for this administration as far as dealing with syria and russia as well, what is the international reaction knowing that we have seen this movement, this act by president trump? >> well, i think those who have felt for a long time that the
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assad regime, which is a criminal regime, which is what the french said today, saying this was a good attack on a criminal regime, i think they're happy to see something done. i think people are tired of the stalemate. again, you can do something and then not know what you're going to do next. i think one of your elier commentators was saying this is probably the end of russian cooperation in syria to the extent that it existed at all, and i think that's probably true. so where do you go from here? i don't know. >> chris, let me ask you about one thing that kind of struck me over the past 24 hours or particularly since the comments made alongside king abdullah of jordan, which was it seemed that president trump, as you mentioned, was just becoming aware that chemical weapons were being used in syria. i'm curious to get your thoughts. what possibly may have changed this administration particularly trump's assessment 180 degrees? this was not the first and it
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was not the worst chemical attack during the trump administration or the past several years since the civil war in syria began. what may have changed it 180 degrees all of a sudden? >> no, and in fact if you go back to 2013 when frthere was a really horrific attack that killed 1,500 people on the outskirts of damascus, trump was saying this is not our war. we shouldn't get involved. don't do anything. so what changed his mind? i think a few things. first of all, i think the images themselves probably affected him. he's very susceptible to that kind of thing. there may have been close advisers, i would guess jared kushner and his daughter, ivanka, who said something has to be done. then he has a very, if i could use the term, gung hoe defense secretary, who had been chafing for a long time when he was a general in the marines about the delay time in terms of reaction in retaliation to whatever assad was doing or what was happening on the ground in iraq as well.
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the question is do we act? if we're going to act, let's do the damn thing right now. i think that's what he did. >> if they're saying that, if you have rex tillerson, if you have ivanka trump, his son-in-law saying let's do the damn thing as you put it, what would be that next? wouldn't the president say, okay, this is what we're going to do,. but then what? what is the next step in this chess game? >> well, i'm sure there are people around him who are saying what's the next step, and i'm sure they don't know, which is why i think secretary of state tillerson was saying he wouldn't get into the overall syria strategy. you know, it's -- the problem with the what next in this is that there's nobody to fill in the gap here. the one successful time when there was a bombing campaign by the united states and france as a matter of fact in the balkans in 1995, the croatian army was able to move against the serbian army once the united states took out serbian command and control.
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we could take out command and control for bashar al assad, and there would be no offensive army or force to move in to replace the power of the state. so that's the big question in syria. even if you get rid of assad, then what do you get in his place? >> chris, cal perry here in new york. i wondered, you talked about those unintended consequences of these strikes and how we've seen them in the past, and sometimes they don't work out. what do you think the chances are that assad has to response in some way to reassert his power in syria? this is going to be on the news in the morning. it's morning there now. is there a chance that we see retaliation against more civilians? >> well, there could be retaliation against more civilians. he could -- this was one of the things that the obama administration was worried about when it was considering these options in 2013, that you do this kind of thing and then he says, okay, i'm going to up the ante. i'm going to make it worsement
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then what do you do? because what he wants to do is force the united states into a position where it has to confnt the posbili of going in on the ground. we kw that trump and nobody else wants to do that. >> chris, let me read you just a few reactions that we're getting from the middle east. this is not a surprise, but i want to read you a statement from the saudi press agency, the official state-controlled media there. saudi arabia says it fully supports the strikes, and here's what the statement says. a responsible source at the foreign ministry expressed the kingdom of saudi arabia's full support for the american military operations on military targets in syria, which came as a response to the syrian regime's use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians. and by the very same notion, i want to read you a statement, and this is not a surprise from the iranian government according to the iranian state news agency, saying iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes. such measures will strengthen terrorists in syria. obviously syria has become the epicenter of a proxy war between the saudis and the iranians.
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does tonight complicate that? does it entrench those two countries more in a prolonged battle? >> oh, absolutely it does. i mean the saudis for a long time have wanted the united states basically to win the syrian war for them. the iranians, of course, have heavily invested in the assad regime. they've been backing it for decades, many decades. one of the questions about retaliation that has come up is whether the iranians will now help assad's soldiers or use their own forces or hezbollah to start moving against those few americans who are already operating in syria on the ground. we know that that was a huge problem in iraq where the suddenly the iranians started pouring in all kinds of ieds, all kinds of weapons and tactical and logistical support that cost a lot of american lives in iraq. >> chris, quick question before
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we let you go. you have the world stage obviously watching this and hearing about this as well. but asia, china specifically with the president meeting with president xi jinping in florida when these strikes were ordered -- how do you think this might be taken given that and especially with north korea? >> well, i think probably there was something in the administration that this would be a signal to north korea that nobody is going to stand idly by while it builds missiles that could attackhe united states. i think the president's been clear about that. but then again, the question is, a, what do you do? if you attack north korea, its immediate response could be to attack seoul, which is only a few miles south of the demilitarized zone. so you've got to always look at what next and then. and with north korea, that's a nuclear problem. >> christopher dickey for us in paris. we thank you for being with us, your perspective. hopefully we'll be able to chat
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with you later on. just ahead, how does the syrian air strike impact the president's two-day summit with china's leaders. remember, north korea, what's their reaction to america's military actions? we're going to go live to the korean peninsula for action on all that and much more. stay with us.
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sugar numbers with a non-insulin option, click to activate your within. ask your doctor about once-weekly trulicity. tonight is not symbolic. i do think it has a strategic value to it. but the question now is what happens next? is there a conservative plan that follows this up? that's perhaps the most critical question. what i hope is going to happen, which is the conditions for an alternative to assad to emerge, i don't think syria is going to be a stable yeun tarry government anytime in the very near future. but i do think we can begin to take steps to provide alternatives to assad's rule. >> that was republican senator marco rubio asking what many lawmakers will be asking this morning. what next? not to be missed in the news is the president's decision to fire missiles into syria as he met with chinese president xi jinping for the very first time in mar a la go.
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joining us now from seoul, janice mackey frere. let's talk a little bit about the air strikes in syria and how that's playing out in the korean peninsula. what message does that send to the korean peninsula and, more importantly, to allies and enemies across asia? >> well, it will certainly reframe the discussion that presidents trump and xi will be having on north korea. trump has now shown he is willing to use force as a deterrent in problem areas of the world. north korea has certainly been a problem. on a steady run of provocations over the past couple of months, and rex tillerson, when he was visiting the region, had telegraphed the fact that this era of strategic patience with north korea is over. the wild card now is what xi jinping will do with this. his government is seen as having the most influence with the regime in pyongyang.
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xi jinping is no fan of kim jong-un. the two have never met. at times the regime has frustrated china, even embarrassed china. but china does not want regime collapse in north korea. they see that as devastating. they would have refugees coming across the border, and taking a longer look at it, they're looking at the long game and thinking if there is regime change in pyongyang, that could lead to the reunification of north and south korea behind south korea as the leader, which is aligned with the united states. so strategically, this is not what china wants to see in the end. it was very telling that xi jinping did not make any sort of statement or comment at the state den, unlike shinzo abe when he was meeting with president trump and north korea had fired those missiles. the two men made a joint statement together. there was also no comment from any of chinese official orz any of xi's trusted advisers. so the question is what then happens next? what is also important is to see
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how this plays out at home in the domestic audience for xi jinping. he doesn't want to run the risk of looking weak as a leader and a statesman against donald trump. the fact that the strikes were carried out when the two men were sitting in the same room could carry optics for the domestic audience and also the fact that the summit, because of the strikes, is now being pushed to the sidelines of the news cycle. >> nbc's janice mackey frere, thanks very much for joining us. still ahead, new reaction coming in at this hour from moscow and president putin to the u.s. air strike on syria. that's next.
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tonight i call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and
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all types. >> all right. that was president trump just hours ago remarking on what motivated him to strike syria, and we have new reaction this morning from russia on those strikes. nbc's lucy cav nov has the details from our london bureau. >> good morning. we're just seeing new comments from the syrian information minister saying the u.s. strike was, quote, limited and expected. this coming to us via reutersment he said that syria does not expect military escalation as a result of these strikes. now, condemnation of the attack, no surprise of course from the kremlin this morning with the russian president spokesman telling reporters that president putin believes the u.s. attack was an aggression against a sovereign country that he sees the strikes as an attempt to divert attention from numerous civilian casualties in iraq. moreover, that it hurts u.s.-russia relations. certainly setting up a tough week ahead for secretary of state rex tillerson, who don't
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forget is due in russia next week. as i mentioned earlier this hour, we also are getting some unconfirmed reports about potential casualties as a result of that strike. the observatory for human rights, an activity group that monitors characterialties, saying four syrian soldiers including an officer were killed. we are also hearing from the russian embassy in syria just moments ago which said that no information yet about possible russian casualties in that strike. we are also learning from the moong that the russians were given a heads-up on the strike. so presumably, the russians would have had time to move at least their human assets out of that area before the strike. guys? >> lucy, thank you. certainly have a lot to cover this morning after president trump took one of the first military for ways of his
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administration, ordering a military strike there and attacking the syrian state after it reportedly gassed its own innocent people. we'll continue our live coverage next. have missed. you seriously can't tell the difference between a bird and a plane? like that time gwen and blake got a little too flirty. that's so inappropriate to talk about us hooking up. xfinity watchathon week ends april 9. the greatest collection of shows free with xfinity on demand.
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in the mediterranean fired 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at a single target in syria. this video you see here are those exact missiles shared with us by the u.s. defense department. well, those department. the missiles rained down on the shayrat airfield in western syria where military officials tell nbc news the united states believes syrian president bashar al assad fired chemical weapons into the rebel-held syrian territory of idlib. >> the pinpoint missile strike ordered by president trump was targeting aircraft shelters, fuel, and ammunition supplies as well as air defense systems. now the strikes were a response to tuesday's horrific chemical weapons attack that killed and injured hundreds of people. this according to the white house. many of those women and children as seen in these disturbing images. images that moved the president to change his years-long stance against intervention in syria. as he confirmed in his brief statement overnight at his mar-a-lago resort. take a


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