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tv   CNN Tonight With Don Lemon  CNN  April 13, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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but donald trump showed earlier in his presidency when it comes to assad's deployment of chemical weapons that he's ready to be marshall and he was last year and he's doing it again this year and in a much larger and bigger way than i think bolton may be having an influence on the scope of what is going on here and we'll have to see if general mattis is the one to speak to us in a few minutes. >> and admiral kirby, as we wait for the briefing at the top of the hour, 10:00 p.m. here on the east coast and we might have to jump in on you, but just in terms of -- it looks like -- we are getting ready so let's take a look. >> all right. >> good evening. lat -- ladies and gentlemen, as you know the syrian people have suffered on the assad regime.
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on april 7th the regime [ inaudible ] disregard for international law. by using chemical weapons to murder women, children, and other innocents. we and our allies find these atrocities inexcusable. as our commander-in-chief, the president has the authority under article two of the constitution -- to oous military force overseas, the united states has a vital interest in sear and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. last year in response to a chemical weapons attack against civilians and to signal the regime, to cease chemical weapons use, we targeted the military base from which the weapons were delivered. earlier today president trump directed the u.s. military to
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conduct operations in continents with our allies to destroy the syrian regime chemical weapons research and development and production capability. tonight france, the united kingdom and the united states took decisive action to strike the syrian chemical weapons infrastructure. clearly the assad regime did not get the message last year. this time our allies and we have struck harder. together we have sent a clear message to assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable. the 70 nations in the defeat isis coalition remain committed to defeating isis in syria. the strike tonight separately demonstrates international resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used on anyone under any circumstances in contravention of international law. i want to emphasizing the
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strikes are directing at the syrian regime and have gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties. but it is a time for all civilized nations to urgently unite and ending the syrian civil war by supporting the united nations back geneva peace process. in accordance with the chemical weapons prohibiting the use of such weapons, we urge responsible nations to condemn the assad regime and join us in our firm resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used again. general dunn ford will provide a military update. >> good evening. i'm joined by our brigadier and marshall gafib parker. we have laid out the strike in
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syria and i'll address it from the military dimension. at 9:00 p.m., french and brit sh and u.s. forces struck targets in syria in support of president trump's objective to deterred the future use of chemical weapons. our forced were integrated throughout the planning and execution of the operation. the targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the syrian regime's chemical weapons program. we also selected targets that would minimize the risk to innocent civilians. the first target was a scientific research center in the century for the research and development production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. the second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of homs. we assess this is the primary location of sarin and precursor production equipment. the third target which was in the vicinity of the second
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target contained a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post. u.s., british and french naval and air forces were involved in the operation. and for reasons of operational security, i won't be more specific this evening. before we take questions. >> would like ato dress how this strike will qualitatively and quantitatively different than 2017. last year we conducted a strike on a single site. the focus was on the aircraft associated with the syrian chemical weapons attack in april of 2017. this evening we conducted strikes with two allies on multiple sites that will result in a long term degradation ever syrian capability to research and develop and employ chemical and biological weapons. important infrastructure was destroyed which will result in a setback for the syrian regime and lose years of research and development data, specialized equipment and expensive chemical weapons precursors.
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the strike was not only a strong message to the regime that their actions were inexcusable, but it also inflicted maximum damage without unnecessary risk to innocent civilians and with that the secretary and i would be glad to take your questions. >> mr. secretary, first of all, did the u.s. suffer any losses initially and what -- more broadly, the president in his remarks said the u.s. and the allies are prepared to sustain this operation until -- in syria stop using chemical weapons and does that mean the u.s. and partners will continue military operations beyond this initial operation tonight? >> that will depend on mr. assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future and of course the -- the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition
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have ever reason to challenge assad should he choose to violate that but right now this is a one-time shot and i believe that it sent a very strong message to dissuade him to, to deter him from doing this. >> and u.s. losses? >> we'll brief on that in -- we're not -- we want to give you a full brief in the morning. right now we have no reports of losses. >> mattis and dunn ford, thank you for. have you seen any retaliation from the russians or iranians and how -- and how long do you think this operation could last? is it a matter of hours or days or could it go longer than that? >> we did have some initial sush fas to air missile activity from the syrian regime and that is the only retaliatory action at this time and the nature of the operation, we've completed the targets that were assigned to the united states central command. those operations are complete.
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>> general dunford and secretary matt is, could you talk more about your concerns that you spre -- that you expressed earlier in the week about escalation. were you able to talk to your russian counterparts and what are your concerns about escalation and to ask your british counterpart a question, i would like to know the sense of your government about whether the situation with the skripals and the russian involvement in that, how that russian involvement played a role in your decision to enter this coalition this evening. >> let me address the last point first. our attachay was kind enough to join us and they won't get out in front of the president and -- >> fair you have. >> so the national messages will be provided from their capitols very soon. but with regard to the russian concerns, we specifically identified these targets to
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mitigate the risk of russian forces being involved and we used our normal deconfliction channels and those were active this week to work through the air space issue and so forth. we do not do any coordination with the russians on the strikes and nor did we pre-notify them. >> mr. secretary, a couple of days ago you said you are still assessing the analysis on the suspected chemical weapon as tack, so at this point do you know the chemical, was it sarin or chlorine and what is your evidence it was delivered by the syrian regime? >> say the last part -- >> what is your evidence it was delivered by the syrian regime? are you quite clear -- >> i am confident the syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people in this last week, yes. absolutely confident of it. and we have the intelligence level of confidence that we needed to conduct the attack. >> and as far as the actual
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chemical used, do you know what it was? was it nerve agent, was it chlorine or do you have a sense of what it was? >> we are very much aware of one of the agents, there may have been more than one agent used. we are not clear on that yet. we know at least one chemical agent was used. >> i just want to clayfy on the deconfliction line, you notified the russian as head of time before the operation began what you were going to do and what targets to strike. >> i'll be clear, the only communications that took place specifically associated with this operation before the targets were struck was the normal deconfliction of the air space, the procedures that are in place for all operations in syria. >> general dunn foford he mentid that they engaged but syrian state is saying they shot down
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13 missiles. >> i can't tell you the results. the time on target was about an hour ago and we came straight up here to give you the best information. and tomorrow morning we'll give you more detailed operational update and some of the details, but the details aren't available right now. >> and the wave of air strikes is over. >> this wave of air strikes is over and that is why we're out here speaking to you now. >> secretary mattis, what you said about the legal basis for the strike. could you talk more about that because in your testimony the other day it sounds like you were saying that this -- a potential strike would somehow be linked to self defense and that the presence of american forces in syria. could you say more about that. and also regarding whether or not there will be future action or additional strikes, you said that would depend on whether the assad government conducts future chemical attacks could you explain more about what would be the threshold for that because there were repeated chemical
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attacks between the april 2017 attack and today and would you consider a small scale chlorine attack sufficient to launch additional strikes? >> right now i will tell you we're in close consultation with our allies and we review all of the evidence all of the time. it is difficult as you know to get evidence out of syria. but right now we have no additional attacks planned. but as far as the legal authority under the article two of the constitution, we believe the president has ever reason to defend vital american interests and that is what he did here tonight under that authority. >> a couple of questions for general dunford what was the targeting for going after chemical facilities and how long did the operation take to plan, and for secretary matt is, last year's strikes were described as proportional and moderate and
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how would you describe this years? and in contrast to that. >> we chose these particular targets to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties number one. we chose these targets because they were specifically associated with the chemical program, the syrian chemical program and obviously when we take a look at target planning and so forth, we look at the location relative to other populated areas, collateral damage and proportionality. so these targets were carefully selected with proportionality and discrimination and being specifically associated with the chemical program. >> and any weapons or manned aircraft -- >> there were manned aircraft involved. i won't give you the details of the operation until tomorrow morning but we'll do that at that time. >> last -- >> a question to secretary mattis. up until yesterday, and i'm going to quote you here, you said i cannot tell you that we have evidence. so when did you become confident that a chemical attack happened and the second one --
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>> yesterday. >> yesterday. after you said that. >> yes. >> and then second, you talked about targeting the chemical weapons infrastructure of al assad, if there were actually any chemical weapons or agents in those facilities that you targeted, i assume they would create health hazard in the region or no? >> we don't believe -- we did very close analysis as the chairman pointed out, we did everything we could in our intelligence assessment and our planning to minimize to the maximum degree possible any chance of civilian casualties. we are very much aware this is difficult to do in a situation like this. especially when the poison gas that assad assured the world he had gotten rid of obviously still exists. so it is a challenging problem set and we have the right military officers dealing with it.
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>> so you could confirm there is no leak into the air -- >> of course not. we'll do our best. >> general dunn ford when the service to air engaged did they become a target or other assets take out the targets? >> i'm -- not aware of any response. we'll gather overnight. as you could imagine, we try to leave the united states central command alone because they are quite busy. we'll through the night gather the operational detail and be back tomorrow morning to provide that to you. >> last year you changed the force protection levels for the syrian troops and u.s. troops that were in syria. there are 2000 u.s. troops in syria. have you changed course protection levels based on potential responses from russia. >> as you could imagine, the commander always takes prudent measures in an environment they are in tonight. so they did make adjustments. >> and just to be clear on c
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con -- the deconfliction -- you didn't tell the russians what the targets were -- >> that is absolutely correct. we used a normal deconfliction channels to deconflict the air space that we were using. we did not coordinate targets or any plans with the russians. >> what was the response, sir. >> that information was passed at the operational length from the combined operational center in qatar so i wasn't on the line but that kind of information is passed routinely every day and every night. so they may not have found anything unusual about that particular air space deconfliction. >> and [ inaudible ]. could you talk about any ir-- in targets that you considered and why you may have not gone to them and could your colleagues explain exactly the sort of contribution you've made to the operation. >> again, our allied officers are here out of respect for the fact that they were part of the mission from planning all the
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way through to the political decision taken and once their heads of state speak tomorrow, then that will be the initial statement from those capitals. but as far as any other targets, we looked at targets specifically designed to address the chemical weapons threat that we have seen manifested the whole world has watched in horror -- these weapons being used. those were the only targets that we were examining for prosecution. >> mr. secretary and general, you mentioned three target areas struck. how can you be sure that from now on these are all of the target areas or all of the involved -- facilities for chemical weapons that the syrians have -- are using and do you believe that there are additional locations where they are producing such materials? >> that is a great question. we had a number of targets to select from. and again we did not select
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those that had a high risk of collateral damage in a high risk of civilian casualties and so the weapon area -- back to your earlier question, the weaponering was done to mitigate the risk of any chemicals in the facilities and mitigate the risk of civilian casualties. so were there other target rds th -- targets that we looked at, there were be with you chose these for the location and the layout. >> secretary mattis, it seems like this strike tonight was pretty limited, not too dissimilar from last year. i know it was three targets this time instead of one but it seems more targeted and specific than what i think a lot of people were expecting. can you walk us through your decision to -- to concern about escalation with russia and it affects your decision to keep this more targeted and moving
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from there how much assurance can you give us that this is going to do what the strike last year didn't do, which is basically to stop president assist -- president assad from -- >> nothing is certain in these matters but we used over double the norm of weapons this year than last year. it was done on targets that we believed were selected to hurt the chemical weapons program. we confined it to the chemical weapons type targets. we were not out to expand this, we were very proseiss and proportionate. but at the same time it was a heavy strike. >> mr. secretary, prior to the attack, how important was it to get the support from the allies not only from an intelligence point of view but also just from the countries themselves? >> it is always important that we act internationally in a
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unified way over something especially that is -- that is such an atrocity as this. that we've observed going on in syria. but i would also tell you that these allies -- the americans, the french, and the british, we have operated together through thick and thin, through good times and bad and this is a very, very well integrated team. wherever we operate, we do so with complete trust in each other and the professionalism and more than that, the belief that one another will be there when the chips are down. so it is important and it is -- it is a statement about the level of trust between our nations. >> general, could you just let us know whether the syrians were able to hide the chemical weapons the last several days since there is so much talk about a probable strike and does that give them time to move these weapons off limits and then secretary mattis, to confirm earlier when you said
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you had information about one of the chemicals, but we're all assuming that means chlorine. that you have information confirming chlorine but not necessarily sarin. just to clarify that. >> for the first question, i'm not aware of any specific actions that the syrians took to move chemical weapons in last couple of days. >> we're very confident that chlorine was used. we are not ruling out sarin right now. >> general, i would like to follow up on the question about targets that you examined and then triage down to the three tonight. it sounds like you went after facilities ab n facilities -- and not the actual weapons to minimize the risk to civilians. in the targets that remain, could you characterize the ability to pursue and ramp up again and again have chemical weapons. >> i think it is too early to make that assessment right now, you and the last question,
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general, did any russian defenses engage u.s. or british or french ships or missiles and were any of the strikes intended to kill bashar al assad. >> the only reaction that i'm aware of at this time was syrian surface to air missiles. i happen to be down in military command center and was aware but i'm not aware of any russian activity or the full scope of the syrian regime response at this time. those will be detailed and pulled together in the morning. >> the targets tonight, again, were specifically designed to degrade the syrian war machines ability to create chemical weapons and to set that back right now. there were no attempts to broaden or expand that target set. and ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming in this evening. based on recent experience, we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have
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aligned themselves with the assad regime and in an effort to maintain transparency and accuracy, my assistant for public affairs dana white and lieutenant general mckenzie, the director of the joint staff here in washington will provide a brief of known details tomorrow morning, we anticipate about 9:00 in the same location. but thank you again for coming in this evening, ladies and gentlemen. >> thank you. >> so there you go. you have been watching the pentagon briefing there by the chairman, and secretary and general at the pentagon updating america and the world on air-strikes that have now landed in sear at this hour. a couple of things before we get to our folks who follow this story including our man on the ground in northern syria, the general james mattis said the people of seyria have suffered
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under the regime and talking about the atrocities saying they are unacceptable and taking as much precaution as possible to civilians would not be hit and he is confident that chlorine gas was used but not sure about sarin, saying they used double the weapon this is year as last year and so remember there was an air strike on syria this time last year as well. so they were very precise and proportionate but it was a heavy strike. a lot to get to and a lot to talk about in the coming hours here on cnn as the air-strikes have now hit syria. i want to get to jim sciutto and pamela brown at the white house and nick payton walsh in northern syria. 'we heard them talk about the targets and what the goals are. tell us about that. >> don, we learned a lot in that briefing from mattis and dunford, first of all. mattis made very clear, he said this is a one-time shot, a
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limited one night strike purely on chemical weapons facilities and that is not what the president said moments before mattis went to the podium and described a sustained u.s. response to the assad regime use of chemical weapons. how do you reconcile those two statements? it is possible that you do because mattis did say that if these weapons were to be used again there would be a response, but terms of this strike, it is a one-time shot and that appears to be different than the way the president characterized it earlier. when you look at the targets struck, it was purely about chemical weapons an not going after the regime and trying to weaken the regime. mattis made clear this is directed at syria and the syrian regime and not russia. that is key because mattis as we know in the debates leading up to the decision tonight had been concerned about escalation that might bring the u.s. into conflict with any russian forces on the ground there. the final point i would make is this -- it is remarkable to hear from mattis for him to say
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that -- very confident that chlorine gas was used. that we knew and that is has been used dozen of times over the past year without any u.s. response. no definitive answer on a nerve agent or sarin gas. in fact he said we're not ruling it out. that is a remarkable step behind from where -- it felt like the evidence was going this week and what seemed to be the standard for u.s. strike here, what distinguished this use of chemical weapons was that it appeared that a nerve agent was used. but mattis saying more than a week after the attack happened, simply just not ruling it out, that is interesting. they clearly don't have the evidence standard that they had set out early on as distinguishing this attack. and that raises this question going forward, don. because if they have said the next time the assad regime uses the weapons the u.s. will give a military response, look at the past year. chlorine gas has been used by this regime dozens of times over the course of the past year.
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does that mean the u.s. is going to respond militarily to each of those. you could say the administration set something of a red line that will be tested going forward. >> and jim, he did say -- this is a one-time shot to dissuade him -- meaning bashar al assad from doing it again but saying it is i -- it is a one-time shot to dissuade him and there is a possibility -- >> and he said that explicitly. one time shot unless they see the use of this kind of weapons again. >> and you mentioned russia. he said no coordination with the russians nor did we pre-notify them. and i want to get to barbara starr. it is important to point out jim talked about the weapons and the types of facilities that we're targeting. a scientific research center in damascus area and whether he believes they were testing chemicals ab a weapons storage facility west of hom where they
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believe sarin gas may have been held -- stored there. chemical weapons storage facility and so on. three different targets, all relating to chemical weapons. >> don, what is so extraordinary is what you just mentioned, they went downtown damascus and essentially struck a target in damascus, associated with bashar al assad chemical weapons research capability. damascus is a city and the other location you mentioned homs, this is an area of syria that is heavily defended by both syrian and russian air defenses. they did mention that they saw some activity by syrian air defenses, we'll learn tomorrow whether any of the allied missiles were potentially in fact shot down by the air defenses. but the u.s., the allies have not gone to damascus in the past. that is something that is very new. on the question of whether they will do this again, the president talked about the
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potential for a sustained response but he was not specific on whether he meant a military response. so the secretary is stepping in and saying tonight that this is where it stands. this is complete, unless assad uses chemical weapons again. i suspect this is an effort to tell the american people that they are not entering a new war against the syrian regime at this point. but reserving the capability to go after this again. again, very, very focused on assad chemical weapons capability. that is clearly what they want to go after. we expect another military briefing here -- early in the morning where we will learn more about exactly what assets were used and what aircraft, what ships may have launched missiles and what essentially the result is. at first light, what wreckage will be there and i think it is really interesting that the secretary concluded by saying
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that he fully expected a -- essentially a disinformation -- a propaganda campaign on this by those associated with the assad regime. make no mistake, they feel strongly that the russians will step in in the coming hours and put out a lot of information that the allies will say is not true and so they are going to come out tomorrow, they say, and be as transparent as they can in advance of what essentially they feel may be a russian propaganda campaign on this. >> >> stand by. barbara starr at pentagon where the briefing was held. just a short time ago and reiterating the targets associated with chemical weapons. as i get to nick payton walsh, 5:30 in the a.m. and first light and barbara mentioned first light and the targets there. a storage facility and a chemical weapons and another storage facility and command post and a scientific research
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area in damascus and nick, take us there and what are you seeing now and what is going on? >> well i'm in northern syria, far from the regime held area where syrian kurds are in control with u.s. forces backing them. but let's go through the areas we're talking about. damascus facility for the development and production of chemical weapons, as basrbara pointed out, that is more heavily defended parts of the capital and it is where two targets appear to have been hit. the key city to the north of damascus along the border with lebanon. one of the second facilities mat -- or dunnford referred to is a sarin production and storage facility and important because although mattis wouldn't be specific about what they thought the chemical use was, a sirrin like mixure and with chlorine and a third target
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nearby, that homs facility, it is the british who say they store missiles were sent in that direction. homs, the third target was a command post and being involved in the production and storage of chemical weapons. there and were hints that there would be a target here. and on social media and media suggest things may have been hit outside of the limited target list mentioned by mr. mattis -- sect mattis and perhaps anti-eric and explosions reverberating off of hillsides and depending on where you are -- a lot of information coming around here. now syrian state television has claimed some of the attacks on homs were thwarted. now secretary mattis referred -- sorry general referred to
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surfa surface to air missile retaliation being noted but i point out, don, from the moment in which we heard eyewitness reports in damascus, while trvp was speaking of first explosions, moment jim mattis said was over is an hour and 10 minutes. a small window for the strikes to occur. a lot of the places i'm talking about -- historically appear to have been hit in the past often by israeli jets who had a lot of -- into syria and taking out specific threats that concern them. on top of that, reuters are quoting -- a senior pro-assad official unnamed, if this is it, this is limited. so perhaps the messaging from damascus even though the strikes are frankly the worst that the residents will have seen for quite sometime, we haven't really had people responding on social media or across the sort
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of politic and the regime side like this for quite sometime and maybe an effort by the regime suggested this is limb itd -- limited in the damage and they did use double of the number of weapons than in april of last year and last year they took out 20% of the regime -- >> i need to jump in and tell the viewer. thank you. i need to say these are live pictures now from the region that we're looking at. again, according to the generals there at the press briefing, the only syrian response, surface-to-air missiles but this started at 9:00 p.m. and a coordinated effort from france and britain and the united states targets associated with the chemical weapons, and they believe that are still there, and bashar al assad promised those chemical weapons would be gone but as the general said, obviously not. they have confirmation that he used chlorine on innocent
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people. he conducted chemical attacks on innocent people. and nick is standing by but to washington and pamela brown is standing by. the president addressed the nation tonight to explain this attack. he talked about a sustained attack, that is no what secretary mattis said, he said this one time attack now, unless bashar al assad does not get the message. >> that is clear. there seems to be differing message from what we heard with the president saying the u.s. is prepared for a sustain response and from secretary mattis saying that essentially for now this operation is over with and when you look at the back story of this week leading up to today, it helps paint a clear picture of why that is. the president throughout this week has been pushing for a stronger campaign and more muscular response, don, on the other hand, secretary mattis and other pentagon officials have been more reticent for that because they're concerned -- the concern has been if it is not a calibrated response, then it
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could bring the u.s. in direct conflict with russia and that is the last thing that they want. now that said, don, this is certainly a more robust coordinated effort in terms of strikes against syria than last year as secretary mattis said, we struck harder compared to last year where there was one target and there are multiple targets this year and he said around double the number of weapons were used in this case. i could say one of the questions raised tonight is the lack of congressional approval. that is something that the people are discussing. the president himself in august of 2013 criticized president obama saying he must get congressional approval before attacking syria. big mistake if he does not. that didn't happen. and we are told that white house officials and other administration officials did alert leaders on capitol hill of what would be happening here. also you have congress woman nancy pelosi and others coming out and raising questions about the strike, saying this is not a comprehensive strategy on syria. certainly there are questions when you hear the president say
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on one hand we're prepared to do a sustained strike and on the other sustained response, and on the other hand saying that we will not have a -- a definite presence in syria and that is not something we want and it does raise the question of what the overall strategy is there and in syria but certainly this is the trump administration's second direct military engagement with the assad government. >> pamela brown standing by at the white house. we'll get back to you in the coming minutes on cnn. we're following the breaking news out of syria. the pentagon holding a press briefing just moments ago. also the president of the united states first announcing this -- the air-strikes on syria. talking about russia specifically calling out russia saying that russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path adding that hopefully some day we'll get along with russia and iran but adding maybe not. also russia -- calling on iran and russia to ask them what kind of nation they want to be
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associated with, a mass murder of innocent men and women and children. and also saying they will be judged by their company, by the company they keep. i want to get to jim sciutto in washington. jim, the russians have just responded to the strikes. what have you heard? >> that is right. this coming from the russia ambassador to the u.s. and he said the following, the worst app rehengs have come true. our warnings have been left unheard. a prezin -- predesigned implement and we are being threatened and we warned that such actions will not be left without consequences and all responsibility rests with washington and london and paris. of course the three countries that participated in the strikes. insulting the president of russia is unacceptable and inadmissible and that is a reference to the president's tweet earlier this week and the u.s., the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons has no moral right to blame other countries. so quite a strong push back as you would expect there from
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russia. i should note that you heard from defense secretary mattis this strike was directed at syrian forces and he made a point of saying it was directed at syria and not russia. we know mattis had concerned he expressed to the president about how an attack like this -- if larger, or if under any circumstances risks an escalation with russia, which has an enormous military presence in syria, and you are seeing some of that response here, i will say, don, you should be prepared for in the coming days russia to attempt to take advantage of the u.s. granting that it doesn't have hard proof of the use of a nerve agent here. russia likes to find fishers like that and it likes to take advantage of questions like that and therefore question the overall justification for the u.s. attack and they are skilled at information warfare and i wouldn't wouldn't be surprised if they try to take advantage of that for propaganda going forward. >> and a quick response, they are making it plainly clear was
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there no coordination with the russians nor did they pre-notify them. >> that is exactly right. he did say there was communication between deconfliction channels which they have set up a hotline as it were between u.s. and russian forces. so that u.s. forces don't get in close proximity to russian fors and don't shoot at each other but no courtesy advance warning, purely deconfliction to -- no discussion or kmiseration in advance of the attack. >> and he called out the russian promise that in 2013 they would guarantee the release of -- chemical weapons an mattis in that press briefing -- >> that is right. and a fair thing to do -- and probably you could imagine the president calling out the obama administration for the deal following that previous use of chemical weapons when the president -- president obama at the time considered a military response, backed off that red line, developed this deal with russia, the opcw and others to
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remove the chemical weapons. it is very clear that all of the chemical weapons were not removed because we've seen the syrian regime use them repeatedly since then. >> jim sciutto, stand by. i want to get major general james spider parks. it is good to have you here. thank you for being here. you heard the pentagon briefing earlier. what could you tell us about the targets of this attack and give us your takeaway. >> thank you, don. let me walk you through what i heard both general dunnford and matt is applied, this was -- what is important to realize they stated em fassicly th -- emphatically, they wanted to degrade assad's capability to deliver chemical weapons and that means stockpile and intelligence collection and delivery means and research and development. so let me go to the map.
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if i can, don, what we saw tonight was very strong targeting that took place in damascus and this is where the research and development capability is located. that is essentially target priority number one. in addition, stockpiles of chemical weapons were struck in and around damascus as well as homs. and if you notice homs is the location outside of -- it is the location of the air base which is where a year ago the united states struck against assad. additionally there are -- there are indications of attack up here in aleppo. what is important about that is that in the vicinity of aleppo is where we have u.s. forces. so clearly there is proximity but there -- was no danger and sufficient off-set. so this is what we know from tonight's initial wave of strikes. whether there will be a restrike, general mattis indicated there wouldn't be but
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we heard from the president there might be a sustained effort. we'll have to see what that looks like. but between now and tomorrow begins a very robust process of battle damage assessment and affects based determination assessment if you will of what took place. let me also now show you where the allies are located. obviously most of the strikes probably came from this -- this location here. where both the french and the u.s. are located. because of the proximity to targets within syria and the closure time on the targets. the u.s. has presence in turkey and the brits are in cypress and the u.s. maintains presence in the mediterranean and we know now that the u.s. is transiting up through the red sea. it doesn't have to go through the suez and join the forces here in the -- in amed and that could get crowded but stay in the red sea to go north or south and get back into the indian ocean. and we also have forces that are down here. this is where the strikes came
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from. i think what is important to realize here is that russian forces in syria areco-located in many locations where syrian forces are. we see here and this indicates -- this indicates that russian forces are here, it is also a location of where syrian forces are. so you have -- you have strike packages might be going into locations like this or damascus where you have pr-- prom imity, you don't want to go to war with russia. escalation is not the objective, but deescalation is but to take assad's chemical weapons off the table, it needs to be degraded. it won't be defeated completely but we want to give him every opportunity to shell that capability and never touch it again based on the results of the strike this evening. >> if i could just jump in here.
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let's talk about more about the equipment used. again we -- you mentioned the one u.s. navy warship and the b-1 bomber and i'm asking you that -- located in the red sea. as you said a little over double the weapons this year as last year. talked to us about that. >> the key thing is -- if we go to -- to this map here -- let me stay on this map here. what happened last year is we attacked this location exclusively. one airfield and we went after many pieces -- many aircraft which were in covered bunkers and protected and we went to nullify the use of the airfield by using munitions that would destroy the airfield. but happened is that immediately after you leave the strike, the syrians come in and they can cover that back over and the airfields are back in use. we also achieved some bomb damage assessment and attrition
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against the air force. this strike, however, includes not only the location, but increased location here in damascus, which means there was very precise, as general mattis indicated, some collateral damage assessment -- to minimize civilian categories but they went after the r&d and the c-# capability that assad has and also went after intel in a big way because that is how they develop air packages and with the r&d, that is how they develop the additional capabilities. in addition to that, strikes here in homs and in the vicinity of aleppo. very large package in -- in a very strong waves, now will determine what the united states wants to do with the possibility of a restrike based on an assessment of the capabilities and these strikes this evening. >> general marks, appreciate the information and stand by and i want to bring in military
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analyst rick fran cone and leighton. we have learned both ships and aircraft were used and how specifically would they have been used? >> well the ships are launching the tomahawk missiles and the b-1 bomber carry the missile and sape capability and the same war head and they could fire them from expandoff distance and they are safe as can be. you don't want to get into the teeth of the russian supply air defense system when you don't need to. the cruise missiles could be engaged because they are nothing more than a aircraft and unmanned but they can be engaged by the syrian air defense. the syrians have claimed they shot some down so we'll have to see how successful that is. so what we'll do now is a battle damage assessment to find out how effective the strikes were
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and how the weapons performed and then make another assessment, do we need to go back and restrike the tarpgts, have we achieved the required or desired level of damage to provide whatever it was we were trying to do and as general mattis and general du-- and general dunnford said, we'll know how effective the strikes were. >> colonel, the syrian government claim they have struck down or hit a tomahawk missile. can you talk about that? >> they don't always tell the truth. >> that is right. and this is highly unlikely. what they normally end up doing is try to of course tell their population that they've been defending the mother land and they've done great heroic things against the u.s. aggressor and in this case it is highly unlikely they were able to engage and take down a tomahawk missile. it is technically possible for them to do so using the russian
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s-400 system and to the associated weapons system with that. however, i highly unlikely that they did that -- because there are a lot of russian controllers that are there and they may have been reluctant to allow the syrians to engage the u.s. directly. >> so the president -- talked about france and great britain being a part of this operation, what -- what do they bring to the table? >> well france and britain are -- some -- have some unique capabilities. the british are very good at -- in the intelligence realm and the french also have an intelligence capability that is actually a vestage from colonial times where they were in syria after world war i. but the big things that they bring to the table are support, they have some weapons systems such as the jets and mirage jets that the french have and the british in addition to the
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intelligence have the torn ado jets and also submarines that are out in the mediterranean that have the capability to also watch tomahawk missiles. >> so let me ask you, colonel, with elements of russian military on the ground in syria, how much more difficult does this make -- do they bring some technology or equipment maybe to the table that syria wouldn't have access to? >> they bring tremendous >> if you look at the equipment the syrians are using, most of it -- much it it goes back to the soviet days. the system that the colonel just mentioned is a state-of-the-art world class system. it's optimized to shoot not only at aircraft but also at cruise missiles, specifically the tomahawk. if you look at the target set that was struck tonight most-of those areas was not protected by
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this s 400. so i don't think the syrians would be very effective at knocking these things down. i did want to say after the excellent run-down of where things were, i just want to talk to the target set in damascus. you remember general mattis and general dunford said one of the things they took into consideration was the minimization of civilian casualties, and then they talked about striking these syrian scientific studies and research center. i lived in damascus and not too far from that area. this is right in the middle of a heavily densely populated area. and for us to put cruise missiles in that area indicates a high confidence to put the missiles there and not hit those civilian populations. this is much different than what we did last year when we were
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striking those airfields. >> there was a bit of confusion, so to speak. maybe they weren't on the same message, who knows. the president saying it was a sustained attack. secretary mattis said earlier no additional attacks planned, this was going to be a single attack unless assad didn't get the message. a one time strike like this and saying it's a one time strike, why telegraph when there's been so much criticism especially from this particular president about telegraphing to the enemy what we're going to do. >> don, in this particular case is the divergence between what the president said in terms of a sustained effort and what secretary mattis said in terms of this being a strike, really allows the united states and its allies the option to go back if this alliance, this partnership hasn't achieved the results that are necessary. i can't speak for the president or any of these gentlemen, but what i can say is the president
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is saying this is sustained effort. we don't necessarily have a quantifiable number of cruise missiles we're going to launch and when they're done, we're out. what this alliance is trying to achieve is effects on the ground. the destruction or the degradation or the elimination, whatever the verb is that's trying to be achieved. and it this strike did not achieve that, the united states, the french and the british reserve the right based on their constitutional rights to protect their best r, and they'll go back after these targets to achieve the results. i think it was a wise decision on the part of secretary mattis to say, look, this is what we planned and this is what we executed but everybody made it perfectly clear, general dunford, secretary mattis there will be an assessment process. there may be strikes that come in the next couple of day, we don't know. but we need to know what that looks like.
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>> standby. this is our breaking news tonight, president trump announcing the u.s., the u.k. and france have launched precision strikes on syria tonight. i want to bring in now cnn's senior diplomatic correspondent michelle kosinski and nicholas of "the new york times." talk to me about the scope of this and the long-term effects if any. >> we know this was going to be bigger than what the u.s. did a year ago. how much bigger, that's the question. we knew there were competing factions within the white house and outside the president's cabinet to try to figure out how much further to go without truly escalating the situation to the point it would be dangerous to u.s. interest. to hear there were three locations i think to many people it's a surprise there were so few. but you see how they wanted to target this, to have it focused on chemical weapons capability.
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remember last year's was just part of an airfield. that just as a launch capability for chemical weapons. now we have a research and development facility and two other storage facilities, one of which included a command post. so they're really focusing on the chemical weapons themselves. automatic when you look at research and development, that is only one of those locations. although you heard officials tonight saying that could account for maybe years of research and data. they felt like it would damage the syrian regime. but there are other possible targets. they just didn't want to hit those at the risk of hitting either foreign forces or civilians. so long-term, you know, we heard what they said. this is obviously expanded from last year but still quite limited in scope. they chose that middle ground to walk a line between doing
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something and not escalating too much. will it have a huge effect, immediately that's going to be in the message sent? this is sending a message that this isn't going to be targeted. this time it's not just the u.s. but allies, too, and let's see what you do next. because if there is continued attacks, and we don't know exactly what the red line is here this time, then there could be as the president said sustained response. >> kim barlberley to you now. they didn't prewarn them. it seems that was successful, correct? >> they were using the standard communication that they use with russia every single day to deconflict coalition air strikes with russian operations. general mattis -- sorry, general dunford was very careful to say they didn't coordinate, as in
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they did want let them know what they were about to hit. but consider this volley of strikes an opening salvo by a new coalition, the u.s., britain and france. they have sent a message that we know where your weapons are being manufactured. we know where you're storing them, and we can ratchet this up if you try this again. the last team they did this punishing strike back in april last year there was a cessation of chemical weapons, reports of their use for at least a few months before it started again. the other thing you have to look at is there are weapons inspectors on the ground right now that the u.n. said we're going to go in and investigate that site. will this strike tonight empower them or will assad now say, well, i was working with the international community, but why should i let them inspect the
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site when you already punished me, you already were judge, jury and executioner. >> kimberley, cnn has been told that from a senior u.s. official that john bolton, nikki haley, both supportive of a campaign of strikes that trump has been pushing for. it is the pentagon and general mattis who are holding out. how did this play out? how did they come to some sort of consensus to launch these air strikes? >> i think from secretary mattis' he knows these things can produce a lot of blow back. he's already warned there's going to be a disinformation campaign that starts probably as soon as the sun comes up, which is very shortly in syria. which they'll say likely there were civilian casualties hit or perhaps that some of the chemicals spread and caused damage. who knows what sort of stories we're about to hear.
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mattis also knows at this point there is no long-term strategy for syria moving forward. that is still very much from the trump administration's point of view influx. so you can find yourself getting pulled into something with a military campaign that isn't thought out with an end game. where does this go? it seems very reactionary. it reacted to assad's continuing wbd use, and now they have to see what assad is going to do next. >> nicholas kristof, we know the president wanted a stronger and quicker action, quicker than this. did he get what he want said, the president? >> it sounds like he did not. it sounds like he made a speech that reflected his larger ambitions when he talked about that sustained attack. but in fact what seems to have unfolded so far as you're going with what secretary mattis described was more limited. and i think that reflects the fact when you're in the white
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house situation room it's very easy to plan massive campaigns. if you are in the pentagon you remember in 1999 when we were bombing bellgrade in the kosovo operation it was hard to imagine what might go wrong and then we hit the chinese embassy and all of a sudden we had a crisis with china on our hands. and particularly now the it's so sensitive with russia, with iran. i felt reassured when i heard secretary mattis talk about the constraints of the operation, the fact it would not be sustained in any meaningful way. >> how likely is it that this will be successful? >> look, the military toolbox is enormously useful, but it has to be harnessed to some kind of a larger strategic vision.


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