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tv   Smerconish  CNN  April 14, 2018 6:00am-7:00am PDT

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result. mission accomplished. as we wait for the brief, let's bring in cnn's senior international correspondent nick paton walsh for the latest. nick, any casualties in the attacks? >> at this point, the u.s. are clear they have no losses themselves and the syrian regime have said three people were injured as part of falling debris from an intercepted missile. now, obviously, take to some degree the syrian regime's statements here with a pinch of salt. they've not been enormously truthful in the past, and the russian regime today say themselves that 71 out of 110 of the missiles launched by the uk, u.s. and france were intercepted. that will be a staggeringly successful rate by even the best missile defense systems. it's quite clear the russians have beefed up what the syrian regime have been able to do here recently but still i'm sure a lot more got through than thisly that. this is part of the strategy to say we didn't have that bad a
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night in damascus. nearly the skyline was rocked by explosions in ways they hadn't seen for quite a while. also around homes, too. bashar al assad keen to be seen on the syrian presidency twitter account in a video just sort of saunterring into work over a clean marble floor, carrying a briefcase like he had a nice night's sleep and ready to address the day's business. people will be assessing as to whether or not the damage done to the regime is enough to make them rethink their calculus about using chemical weapons. one slight note of caution in this region, the rule of unintended consequences. president trump has used the immortal phrase mission accomplished. george w. bush unfurled that banner behind him on an aircraft carrier. the u.s. was in iraq for 15 years and is still there now. we don't know the end of this story yet but last night was limited in what it did.
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lasted 70 minutes, targeted just a small number of facilities. aimed to send a message. that message was probably received. whether the regime is smart enough to not use chemical weapons and avoid the international hullabaloo. we'll have to wait and see but russia and iran haven't lost enough face at this point that they necessarily have to respond militarily at this point, i should say. often retaliation in this part of the world comes in the weeks ahead rather than the hours after an event. >> you anticipated my next question. was there any discernible military response from the russians or from the iranians? >> no. in a word. we don't know what part of the antiaircraft or anti missile defenses were, so to speak, russian. we know that the syrian army is thread bare to some degree. so much high-tech was sold to them by the russians or given to them by the russians. some may be iranian. the iranians and russians are clear in their phraseology that
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this has been a successful syrian air defense operation. frankly, if they were able to intercept that level of u.s. missiles, then the pentagon has an enormous problem on their hands. we're seeing shows of damage to the research facility struck near damascus. haven't seen so much out of homes yet. but syrian state tv is able to sort of say, look at us. we're all back to normal. this didn't really hurt. i think this was part of the strategy. it was real in the pentagon to make sure they didn't get wildly upset and do something irrational but the message has been sent because there were three nations here acting in concert. report is seen that before in the six messy years of this war from the west at all. and that is a key signal, i think, to miss coscow, tehran a damascus. it won't change the battle on the ground. this was also about chemical weapons and possibly somebody in
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moscow calling somebody in damascus saying you didn't need to put us through the last week with what happened in douma. don't do it again. >> for more on the coordinated air strikes, military analyst lieutenant colonel rick francona is with us. a former attache. it it begs the question of what was left in those intended targets for us to strike and whether we'll ever really know for sure. >> that's a good point. the syrians had plenty of time to move any high-value materials out of those buildings. they had to know we were going to strike chemical warfare facilities. the jewel in that crown is the barzi research facility in the northern suburb of damascus. so they could have easily moved out anything that was of great value to other areas. and protected it. but i don't think that was the real issue here. the real issue, as nick said, was the message delivered to the
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assad regime. but more importantly, it was also delivered to the russians. and i think if the russians can control the syrians, we probably won't see more of these chemical attacks because this chemical attack was unnecessary. the syrians were on the verge of completely overrunning that -- those eastern suburbs. it's completely under their control now. they didn't need to do it with chemicals. no need to invoke the ire of the rest of the world. i think the russians are going to have a serious conversation with bashar al assad. >> explain something to me. last night in the pentagon briefing, de-escalation was used. we were using de-escalation techniques with regard to the russians. we didn't specifically say the attack was coming. read the tea leaves. how do you think that was actually handled? >> i think this was one of those, we didn't send a message to the russians but sent a
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message to the russians. the french even said they had provided warning to the russians. we did this a year ago and let the russians know very short period of time. the last thing we want to do is kill a bunch of russian troops in one of these syrian military installations and force the russians into some sort of response that they'll feel duty bound to make. >> that was the rieal risk, right? this could tip a domino and we'd have a real military situation on our hands with the russians and the iranians. thank god that doesn't appear to be the case as of this morning. >> that's true. that's why we picked that narrow target set. i think it was no great secret of where we were going to strike. and i hate to use the word here but this is almost -- looks like military theater where we're going to strike certain targets in syria but we're not going to effect the outcome of the civil war. that's not our goal. we're not there to defeat the
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assad regime or looking for regime change. we're looking to send a message that the rest of the world is not going to tolerate the use of these weapons. and the russians did not respond. they did not try and engage any of the american, french or british units because they're not looking for an escalation either. the russians do not want to upset what's going on in syria right now because they are on the verge of a political and military victory because once syria, the syrian government reasserts its control all over the country, the russians there have the two bases for the next 49 years. they become the power brokers in the country, and they, the iranians and the turks are going to sit down and decide what happens to syria for the future. and the united states has been e effectively squeezed out. they don't want to mess that up. they're very happy with the outcome. >> pardon my naivety, but what would be the motivation of assad to use chemical weapons shortly
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after president trump said we were packing our bags? >> i have no idea. it boggles the minds too why he felt he needed to do that. he had the area surrounded. pounding it daley with syrian air and russian air force and a lot of artillery. there was no need to use chemicals there. the fighters were on the verge of surrendering to the russians. that happened the next day. it wasn't the chemicals that did it. just the constant bombardment. the chemical weapons were superfluous, unnecessary and look what it's led us to. this superpower confrontation that we don't need. >> last night the question was asked of general mattis about whether we knew for sure that it was assad who carried out this chemical strike. i'm paraphrasing but i think his words were -- pardon my question. let's take the pentagon briefing. >> let's start by making one point clear. the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an
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inexcusable violation of international law. and the united states will not tolerate it. the assad regime's attack against innocent syrians in douma, syria, on april 7th is horrifying and tragic. and it demanded an immediate response. yesterday, united states forces at the direction of president trump launched precision strikes against assad regime targets associated with the use of chemical weapons in syria. we launched these strikes to cripple syria's ability to use chemical weapons in the future. we were joined by the united kingdom and france who demonstrated solidarity in addressing these atrocities. americans are united in condemning syria's inexcusable use of chemical weapons which no civilized nation would tolerate.
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we are encouraged by the support we received from the senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle. we are also extremely proud of the united states service members who carried out this operation last night. they demonstrated unwavering courage and commitment in their defense of the american people and the values and ideals our nation represents. this operation was carefully orchestrated and methodically planned to minimize potential collateral damage. i can assure you we took every measure and precaution to strike only what we targeted and what we success -- and we successfully hit every target. this operation does not represent a change in u.s. policy. nor an attempt to depose the syrian regime. the strikes were justified, legitimate and proportionate
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response to the syrian regime's continued use of chemical weapons on its own people. we do not seek conflict in syria, but we cannot allow such grievous violations of international law. our goal in syria remains defeating isis. by, with and through the 70-nation coalition. but we will not stand by passively while assad backed by russia and iran ignores international law. the assad regime's actions in april 2017 and again on april 7th, 2018, show they have abandoned their commitments to the international commune iity resorted to illegal tactics against the innocent syrian people. we call upon russia to honor its commitment to ensure the assad regime dismantles its chemical weapons program and never uses
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chemical weapons again. we support our diplomats who are working to set the conditions for the united nations backed geneva process to succeed, and we look forward to working with the united nations envoy to syria, stephan de mistera in an effort to maintain transparency. mckenzie will provide a detailed overview of the actual operations. general mckenzie? >> i'm going to just talk about the military details of the strikes that we executed last night. could i get the first graphic up, please? as you've heard from the president of the united states and directly in this room from secretary mattis and dunn ford, the united states, the united kingdom and france, three of the five perminent members of the u.n. security council conducted a coordinated strike in response to the syrian use of chemical weapons. this combined military strike was directed against three
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distinct syrian chemical weapons targets. i'm going to show them to you on the monitor behind me. the three facilities are more appropriately now were fundamental components of the regime's chemical weapons infrastructure. the first slide, please. the barza research and development center. next slide, the hemshinsarand the chemical weapons bunker facility which is located about seven kilometers from the previous him shinshar site. this aimed to deliver a clear and ambiguous message that their use of chem cap weapons against innocent civilians is inexcusable and deter any future use. we selected these targets to inmysei minimize the risk to innocent
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civilians. initial indications are we accomplished our military objectives without material interference from syria. i'd use three words to describe this operation. precise, overwhelming and effective. let's go back to the first barza slide, please. against the first target, the research and development center in the greater damascus area, we employed 76 missiles. 57 of these were tomahawk land attack cruise missiles and 19 were joint air to surface standoff missiles. you can see for yourself from the graphics, initial assessments are this target was destroyed. this is going to set the syrian chemical weapons program back for years. you also note we've successfully destroyed three buildings in metropolitan damascus. next slide, please. against the second target, the him shinshar chemical weapons
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storage facility. eight storm shadow missiles, three naval cruise missiles and two scout land attack missiles. this target was attacked by all coalition forces. our tomahawks, the british storm shadow and french missiles went against it. against the third target, the chemical weapons bunker facility, we deployed seven scout missiles. again, the initial assessment is this bunker facility was successfully hit. i would now just like to talk a minute about the specific platforms that were part of this strike. let's go back to the first slide. the missiles i've just described were delivered from british, french and u.s. air and naval platforms in the red sea, northern arabian gulf and mediterranean. they hit their targets at close to the designated time on target of about 4:00 a.m. in syria which is 9:00 here on the east
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coast. i'm going to give you a little more details about the platforms. in the red sea, the ticonderoga class "monterey." and the arly berk class "laboon" fired seven tom hawks. in the north arabian gulf, the higgins fired 23 tomahawks. the french frigate fired three missiles of the scat missile. in the mediterranean, the virginia class submarine fired six tomahawk missiles. in the air, two b-1 lancer bombers fired 19 joint air to surface standoff missiles. in addition, our british allies flew a combination of tornadoes and typhoons and launched eight storm shadow missiles. our french allies flew a combination of rafels and mirages. taken together and as you can see from the graphic behind me,
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these attacks were able to overwhelm the syrian air defense system. it's also important to note that we flew a variety of defensive counterair, tanker and electronic warfare aircraft in support of these operations. none of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by syrian air defenses. and we have no indication that russian air defense systems were employed. we are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets. at the end of the strike mission, all our aircraft safely returned to their bases. we assess that over 40 surface to air missiles were employed by the syrian regime. most of these launches occurred after the last impact of our strike was over. it is likely that the regime shot many of these missiles on a ballistic trajectory. without guidance. and the efforts of syria were largely ineffective and clearly increased risk to their people based on this indiscriminate
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response. when you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it's going to come down somewhere. by contrast, the precise nature of our strike and the care which our allied team planned and executed significantly reduced the risk of collateral damage to civilians. in summary, in a powerful show of allied unity, we deployed 105 weapons against three targets that will significantly impact the syrian regime's ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future. it's been said before, but i want to emphasize again, that by comparison, this strike was double the size of the last strike in april 2017. and i'd also emphasize that this strike was a multinational effort. the precision strike was executed with france and the uk, demonstrating our unquestionable resolve. i'd like to close by noting that since the strike, we have not seen any military response from actors within syria. and we remain postured to protect our forces and those of the coalition should anything occur.
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dana, back to you. >> so with that, we'll take your questions. bob? >> thank you. general mckenzie, you said initially the attack, cumulatively, set back the syrian chemical weapons program for years. can you elaborate on that? ms. white said it was intended to cripple it. can you be more -- >> i think we -- as of right now, we're not aware of any civilian casualties now. i would also note, as i said, the syrians shot 40 large missiles into the air last night. those missiles came down somewhere. so we should recognize that's a part of this -- that's a part of this equation, too. right now, we have no reporting of any civilian casualties against any of the targets we struck. we'll continue to look at this closely as we go ahead. the first part of your question, particularly, the barzah facility is a core site for
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them. as you can see, it does not exist anymore. and we believe they've lost a lot of equipment. they've lost a lot of material. the words cripple and degrade are good, accurate words. >> tom? >> secretary mattis said last night he was pretty convinced that chlorine was used. he's still waiting on sarin. he also said he was confident the syrian regime amounted to these chemical attacks. what evidence do you have of both? of chlorine and of the syrian attack? and also the opcw is on the ground now. they are collecting information on that. >> we are still assessing, but as the secretary said last night, he is confident of the evidence that we already had, which is why he recommended this -- the strikes last night. but we are still assessing and getting details. and we can provide more details once we have them. >> can you give us a sense of
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what evidence you do have? >> there's various intel. i won't speak to that. when we have more evidence and details, i'll come back to you. barbara? >> general mckenzie, could you speak about, in barzah and these other facilities, were there actually -- are you convinced there were chemical agents inside at the time of the strike? how did you mitigate not having the dispersal of a chemical agent cloud? and, dana, yesterday the president talked about the possibility of a sustained response. and the secretary last night spoke about this being a single strike at this time. could you help people understand, is there a difference there? what are they both talking about? but for both of you, please. >> i'll start, barbara. so as we look at each of these targets, we have a variety of sophisticated models.
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plume analysis, other things to calculate the possible effects of chemical or nerve agent being in there. in the barzah target, we accessed there were probably some chemical agents in there. the attack profile we used, we were able to minimize that. so i'd just leave it at that. you'll be able to judge over the next few hours the results of that. we believe we successfully mitigated against the fact there are illegal and unauthorized weapons at these sites. >> are you doing any post-attack air sampling to see if there was any dispersal? >> we look at the target through a variety of means. >> and with respect to his comment, i think the operative word is -- the words were at this time. what happened going forward has everything to do with the assad regime. we sent a very clear message last night, and we hope that he heard it. joe? >> general mckenzie, have you had any contacts with the
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russians through the lines in the aftermath of these operations, or are you planning to have such contacts in the next few hours? >> the deconfliction channel which we use between we and the russians has operated frequently over the past few months. and it operated leading up to this strike and a routine basis after the strike. >> hans? >> three targets that you struck, were those manufacturing or researching chlorine or sarin? >> a little of both. particularly in the barzah target, but a little of both. >> and do you -- do any of these facilities have any other nonmilitary application? >> no, they're essentially -- that's just what they do principally. there may be other activities that are carried on there, but this is the core activity associated with these sites. >> bill? >> you said the russian air defenses were not turned on. how do you explain that? >> i'm sorry, i didn't say the
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russian air defenses were not turned on. i said they weren't employed. >> was there an agreement they would not employ their air defenses and also you said the syrian air defenses did not have any significant impact on the operations. is that to say there was no interception of any of these missiles fired? >> we did no coordination. no agreements wut s with the ru before the strikes. to the best of our ability to determine at this time, no syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did. >> tara? >> thank you. dana, for you, last year when a similar type strike occurred, there was an assessment that degraded syria's ability to generate chemical weapons. yet a couple months later the pentagon thought that specific air field was right back at it. what assurances do you have now that you have significantly degraded the ability to create chemical weapons? for general mckenzie, that slide
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appears the b-1s were escorted by u.s. fighters. who escorted the b-1s and what type of surface to air missiles were shot out in the air? the 40. and getting back to the russian defenses, if their defenses weren't employed, were the -- were russian radars at all employed? werepinging any of the u.s. aircraft? >> i'll take the first one. last year the focus was on the delivery. this time, we went, the strikes went to the very heart of the enterprise. to the research, to development, to storage. so we are very confident that we have significantly crippled assad's ability to produce these weapons. >> can i follow up? >> let me just answer. >> i got you. >> so the b-1s employed the joint standoff missile. b-1s were accompanied by u.s. fighters up to the launch and release point as a normal way you'd integrate an air package to provide protection to the
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bombers. just as the french and british aircraft were accompanied by their own fighters as part of an integrative package that provides defense for the shooters. additionally, we positioned defensive counterair around the theater. and that's still operational right now. as we observe syrian response. >> were the escorts raptors? >> i don't know the answer to that question. >> david, go ahead. >> there were reports these facilities had been evacuated in the days prior to yesterday's strike. do you have any indication that that's the case? and wouldn't that, to some degree, degrade your assessment of the damage that's been done to the regime? >> the syrian regime knows we've been looking at these for a long time. it's possible that there might -- some people might have left it. we also chose to strike it as 3:00 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning local time so we weren't trying to kill a lot of people on the object iive had we struc at a different time of day. i believe there's material and equipment associated with each
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of these sites not movable. and that's the source of the -- that's what really sets them back. to go back to an earlier question. that's really the difference between striking an air field and essentially a delivery platform and research development and generation part of the facility. this is far more damaging to syria. >> michael? >> general mckenzie, were the three targets that were struck, does this represent the totality of syria's known cw infrastructure or were there cw structures that were -- that you didn't hit because of collateral damage concerns? second, is chlorine the new red line because the administration monitored the use of chlorine for many months and didn't take any action and seems to have only taken action because a nerve agent appears to have been used. and is the last weapons question, was the it an extended range jsm? >> in terms of the targeting,
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obviously, the syrian chemical weapons system is larger than the three targets we addressed tonigh tonight. these presented the best opportunity to avoid killing innocent civilians and yet to send a strong message. we could have gone to other places but we in close coordination with our allies decided these were the ones that best fit that criteria. so certainly there's an element that is not part of the -- there are other elements, and we'll continue to examine those as we go forward. we did employ the jsm er. >> you destroyed most of the infrastructure? 50%? 80%? >> you can look at the barzah site and make your own conclusions. they had three buildings there and a parking deck and now they don't. that's probably the easiest one to see because it's a building structure. i think we dealt them a severe blow. there's some left but we dealt them a severe blow. >> what about the prospective use of chlorine in the future? the administration didn't act in the event of previous use of
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chlorine. will it act now? is that a new red line? >> what's important to understand is that the assad regime has a pattern of using chemical weapons against its own people. against the chemical weapons convention. despite the fact that they had agreed to it and despite the fact that the russians were their guarantors. so what happens next has everything to do with what the assad regime decides to do. and it has everything to do with the russian government decides to enable as well. stephanie? >> why does the administration -- why does the administration feel these strikes are enough to deter the assad regime from using chemical weapons again? >> i'll pass it to the general in a second. we were very methodical in making the decision about these sites. and it was a deliberate decision
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to go to the storage facilities, to go to the research and develop me development facilities. that was the difference. we think by doing this, this was very successful, and we are confident that we have significantly degraded his ability to ever use chemical weapons again. >> and what kind of response should the assad regime expect from the u.s. if they were to use chemical weapons again? >> it's very important to remember that we had -- that this represent threes perminent members of the u.n. security council who did this. the uk and france are our oldest allies. this is about values. we did this because it's intolerable for any civilized nation to tolerate the use of chemical weapons. missy? >> thank you. i just have two -- one follow-up on michael's question for you,
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general, and a question for you, dana. general, can you just -- to press you on the chemical weapons program. can you give us an idea of -- was this -- should the american public understand that this is a minority of the existing chemical weapons programs? is this more than half? is there any way you can give us a better sense of the scale of what these three sites represented? also for you, general, how long did the strike last? how many minutes? hours? and, dana, can you just comment on, to put this in the context of the broader civil war. the u.s. policy is not to get engaged in a civil war and that the objective is to get to a negotiated settlement eventually. but we have this significant military response to chemical attacks that, in this instance, killed an estimated 45 people. at the same time the assad rejoom has continued to use conventional means to attack
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women and children, civilians repeatedly using barrel bombs and other means. can you talk about that? how should people understand the difference in the response to these more isolated chemical attacks and the ongoing conventional attacks by the assad government on its own people? >> it is clear to everyone that the syrian people have suffered for too long. and it's why we are 100% behind the u.n.-backed geneva peace process and encourage our allies and partners in the region to also help facilitate that conversation. we have a new u.n. envoy. and this is an opportunity to really put real steam behind the process. but our mission in syria remains the same. it is to defeat isis. it is not to be involved in the civil war. christina? >> so your two-part question
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first. we believe by hitting barzah, we've attacked the heart of the syrian chemical weapons program. i'm not saying they'll not be able to reconstitute it. not saying it's going to continue. this has dealt them a very serious blow. i think that's the core of what i'm saying. second point is how long did the attack last? an operation like this has many, many elements from a 0400 time on target which all of our missiles impacted within a minute or two of that. several hours before you begin to launch tankers, intelligence aircraft, a variety of things. probably a couple hours before would be the period of maximum intensity for the mission. that's when you begin to spin and launch the t-lamps. they get to the point they're going to release their missiles. the operation, many hours before in order to get set up. >> christina? >> what would trigger another wave of coalition attacks? are we talking another chemical weapons attack or retaliation? and do we expect any retaliation
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either from the regime, the russians or iranians? >> i can't speculate on what could happen but what i will tell you is that this -- we took action and what happens next is in -- is the decision of assad. >> do we expect any kind of retaliation? >> i can't speak to that but we're ready for it. we're postured both in the region and globlly. we're on the balls of our feet and ready for anything. >> tony? >> one, was this the least extensive of all the options crafted? can you give us a feel for how many options were put together? was this the one that would mete out the least amount of damage? >> we can't comment on options we present to the president. that's a decision he makes. of all the options, looked at ways to balance minimizing collateral damage against
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maximum effect. these three targets seemed to hit the sweet spot and do that. >> what impact did the public prelude to this attack have on military planning in terms of enveloping a maybe 21st century bodyguard of lies in terms of deception on ship movements? what impact on possible launch axis of the aircraft or ships used? we're all focused on the "donald cook." it wasn't used. can you give some sense of that? >> the truth is, it had no effect. no effect on military planning. >> david? david martin. >> i heard you say that the strike put more steam behind the geneva peace process. how does this help bring peace to syria? >> the -- we have been very clear about the fact that we fully support the u.n.-backed geneva process. sochi has failed.
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our focus remains defeating isis. it is not to get involved in the syrian civil war. we call on all nations, and i think the demonstration of our allies france and the uk helping us demonstrates that we are serious about the fact that chemical weapons use is intolerable. it's inexcusable. but we will remain committed to the 70-nation coalition to defeat isis. >> how can it affect the outcome of the syrian civil war? >> it affects it by, again, demonstrating to the world that this is a heinous regime. this is a regime that murders its own people daily. we yesterday with the help of our allies addressed the fact that they continue to use
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chemical weapons against their own people. we continue to hope and urge and we're confident that the u.n. process will move forward. but our mission remains to defeat isis. there is still work to be done. and we will do it. right here and right here. >> i'm going to ask three quick questions. first, were you ready yesterday to engage russian targets in case russia responded to that attack? second, you keep talking about the current syrian chemical program. can you give us an idea about the size of this program in comparison to what the regime had before dismantling it? what is it in percentage? and third, talking about evidence of chemical weapons attack. we haven't seen any evidence really. that's what you're saying. however, there's an organization on the ground in syria th opcw
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and it will conduct an investigation. why didn't you wait for that investigation to end. >> well, let's remember that opcw and others have been blocked from entering ghouta and douma. this -- that's because of the assad regime. we need to remember that everything that's happening with respect to the murder of these people, innocent people, is the responsibility of the assad regime. so we were very confident about the evidence that we had. and it was clear. and the secretary said yesterday he was very confident about the intelligence, as well as the evidence. and that's why we moved forward. >> two other questions on russia and the size of the -- >> sure. we have an active, effective deconfliction channel with russia. it's been used months before this attack. used through this strike and it's been used afterwards. and i'm not going to be able to comment on anything more
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specific than that. >> the size of the current program that -- what the syrian regime has now? you made lots of assessment. you have a good idea. lots of target. in comparison to -- >> i'd say there's still a residual element that's out there. i believe that we took the heart of it out with the attacks that we accomplished last night. i'm not going to say that they are going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future. i suspect, however, they'll think long and hard about it after based on the activities of last night. >> president trump tweeted about an hour ago mission accomplished, which, of course, historically has not borne out when the phrase has been used. and you are saying that if, you know, you left the option open for future strikes in case chemical weapons are used again. could you reconcile those statements? mission accomplished and coulding ucould ing be used in the future and if there are other strikes, does secretary have to go to president trump or has he been delegated the authority to carry them out as he sees fit?
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>> to your first point, last night operations were very successful. we met our objectives. we hit the sites. the heart of the chem weapons program. so it was mission accomplished. give me your second part. >> the authorities question. if there are future strikes, does the same process have to go? what is the process now? >> as the secretary said last night, the president has the authority under article 2 to defend u.s. interests. and national interests. and so i am not going to speculate on anything that happens in the future, but he was full -- this was a fully legitimate operation. ryan? >> general mckenzie, did the chairman of the joint chiefs communicate with the general in the days leading up to this? did you assess this has fundamentally changed the military balance of the syrian civil war, or is the assad regime maintaining its
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advantage? >> so i go back to some of the things i've already said about the deconfliction channel with the russians. multilevel robust system of communication that we have employed for some time. i'm not going to be able to give you any more information on a particular conversation that the chairman may or may not have had. what was the second part of your question? >> military balance of the civil war. do these strikes fundamentally affect that or does -- >> i think our strikes were targeted to send a message about the deployment of chemical weapons. i think they were successful. >> i want to get to someone who hasn't spoken yet. >> thank you, dana. following up on the question of mission accomplished. if the mission is to deter president assad from producing, from spreading chemical weapons, isn't it actually um possible at this state militarily to know whether that mission as described was accomplished? >> last night, operations were successful.
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we met all of our objectives. we hit all of our targets successfully. no aircrafts, allied aircrafts were engaged. it was a successful mission. what happens next depends on what the assad regime decides to do. right over here. >> you said earlier that you didn't observe any material effects on forces during the strike. can you describe any other effects, electromagnetic or cyber attacks targeted toward coalition arcraft and have you observed any activity around residual or remaining sites you didn't strike that suggests an after-action plan to hide or use chemical weapons in some other way? >> the syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains. they had no material impact on the strike. as i noted, in my prepared comments, they typically began to fire their missiles after the
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last impact of our weapon. so no appreciable effect that we know at this time. >> finish your thought. >> other activity around other sites, perhaps movement of weapons or movement of chemicals or -- >> i just don't have that information right now. sorry. >> tom, just -- yeah. >> you said we're very confident about the evidence we have. now russia and syria denied any chemical weapons were used. i'm just wondering why you wouldn't share your evidence with the world? adelaide stevenson famously went to the u.n. in 1962 with evidence of the russian build-up in cuba. why wouldn't you do something similar, especially if there are doubts. >> there's no doubt for us. >> why don't you share the evidence then? >> one, a lot of this has to do with intelligence. and i am very happy to show evidence if i can. but we were very confident about the decisions we made. i'm going to take one more question from erin.
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you've already spoken. give somebody else a chance. aaron? >> just a couple of clarifications. general mckenzie, you said there's still an air defense package in operation right now in case there's potential for retaliation from syrian or russian assets. how long do you intend to keep that package in the area, keeping an eye on if there's retaliation to this strike? and then during the strikes last year, a couple of tlams failed not because of interference but just failed. any weapons that didn't make it to their targets this time? >> none of our tomahawks experienced any problems. >> [ inaudible ]. >> i don't believe so. we typically keep dca over deployed forces in eastern syria. typically, we've got aircraft up over them. as we open in time from the event going forward, the commander will. ally readjust the air defense posture that we have. right now it's robust. we'll keep it robust and then make adjustments based on our
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observations of the vurmenviron. >> lucas? >> the syrian government is saying they shot down over a dozen tomahawks. are they lying? and what syrian military units did you strike? for the people at home, can you explain this deconfliction? you say you didn't coordinate or give a heads-up to the russians but deconflicted. you say you want to avoid conflict with syria yet you just lobbed a couple dozen tomahawk missiles into the country. can you explain that? >> our mission stays the same. it's to defeat isis. but assad's actions were beyond. again, we will do -- we will 100%, and we are supporting envoy demistera. we will continue to do that because we want a diplomatic, political resolution to the syrian conflict. but civilized nations can't let what's happened in syria stand.
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so with that, i'm going to -- >> general. >> sorry. go ahead. >> you asked about deconfliction. probably the best way to understand it is this. the russians don't have a veto on anything we do. and that's probably the best way to describe it. we're not kwaup racooperating w in syria. we don't want to get into a fight with them. the best way is to share certain information about what you're doing. carefully metered out by us. but we're not kwaup rawa cooperating with them. we'll assess the environment in which we're going to fight. the deconfliction mechanisms allow us to do that. i can't help you with what the syrians are saying or not saying. what i'm telling you is what actually happened. >> on that point, as secretary mattis said last night, the russian disinformation campaign has already begun. there has been a 2,000% increase
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in russian trolls in the last 24 hours. therefore, we will keep you all abreast of the facts moving forward. thank you all very much. >> general, does this operation have a name? >> okay. so the pentagon briefing has ended. you've just been watching dana white, the chief pentagon spokesperson and lieutenant general kenneth mckenzie, the director of the joint staff. i want to bring back colonel rick francona and, colonel, there's so much here that interests me. but i'll begin with this. the question of evidence came up. and speaking only for myself, i thought that dana white's answer is, frankly, not going to cut it. you heard the questioner made reference to adelaide stevenson. she talked at the end about the disinformation campaign by russia which, to my way of thinking, is all the more reason why there needs to be a showing of whatever evidence we have as to assad having been responsible for the chemical attack. and i say that because before
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the briefing began, i said to you, what could possibly have been assad's motivation given that president trump had already said we're getting out of syria? >> good point. and, you know, i'm sure that the pentagon is not going to be able to share whatever intelligence they have. i would imagine they would be like intercepts or other highly classified information that they're not going to want to release. and that, of course, plays right into the hands of people who are saying, well, why do we know it wasn't the rebels? just launching an attack on themselves, although i think that's a bit far-fetched. i don't think the -- even the jihadist group in control of the douma area is not going to gas their own children. i just don't see that happening. >> okay. >> so why not wait for the opcw to come up with their findings and find out there actually was a chemical attack? remember, the opcw does not assign a blame. it doesn't say who did things.
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all it does is say there was -- there were chemicals present. there were chemical agents present. so i'm not sure that it would change anybody's mind. >> you anticipated my next question. i was going to say, we'll get a finding presumably that there was chlorine or sarin used but not necessarily the delivery agent. another question and then i'll ask you what you found most significant. general mckenzie made the point of saying there were no civilian casualties and then was asked a question, i'm paraphrasing, about whether there would have been an evacuation from those three intended targets. he said we struck at 4:00 a.m. our presumption is there would have been an evacuation. me as a civilian i say, if the syrians knew enough to evacuate those intended targets, wouldn't they have taken with them whatever we were after? and his answer was to say that materials and equipment were not movable. i guess the question i'm asking,
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colonel, is, what did we really hit? and will we ever know? >> oh, i suspect we will know. this facility has been in existence for decades. i remember part of my job when i was in damascus was to go by this facility and keep track of what was going on there. this is a pretty sprawling campus of very tall buildings. in those buildings are all the research and development facilities. much of that equipment is heavy. it's large. and you wouldn't be able to move it easily. a lot of the records and digital files would have been moved. and at that time of night there probably wouldn't have been anybody in there. the facility is heavily guarded but those buildings would basically be empty. we know what's in the buildings. i was impressed with the buildings and the way they took those down because there were a lot of other buildings they could have hit but zeroed in on these two buildings for a reason. >> before i go to barbara starr,
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tell me what you found most significant about the pentagon briefing. >> i was surprised at how transparent they seemed to be. the general laid out very, very detailed, how many missiles, by what country, what platform from what location. that's a pretty decent rundown of a military operation. i don't recall us being that up front with the press. and that goes to general mattis wanting to be transparent. it was a good briefing. i was heartened to hear that all of the missiles made it to their target. i heard barzi was going to be struck because it's surrounded by housing. it's a densely packed area. to put 50 cruise missiles into that facility and not kill any civilians is a feat. that's really well done if we did it that way. >> in the notes i was taking,
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colonel, thank you. stand by, please. do we have barbara starr? i thought you asked a terrific question. i'll paraphrase. if you're whether it's been suspected chemical weapons sites in iraq or the situation in syria. he talked about the fact that the weaponeers, those who are expert in the military in target these sites looked at them carefully. used precision weapons again. understood the plume analysis they might be facing and right now they do not think there was a dispersal. i think one of the most interesting s there are still essentially an
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air package of u.s. aircraft up in syria keeping watch on everything. they do not have a reaction from the russians yet. they are watching for that. they don't have a reaction from the syrians per se. u.s. aircraft called it defensive counter air. their aircraft over head scooping up electronic intelligence and taking pictures and listening for any conversations and watching for any military movement. he also explained what they do believe the syrians did last night. we have seen a lot of reports of the syrians claiming to have launched missiles at the u.s. general mcmackenz mackenzy says missiles are done. it was not a lot of concern to the military operations. some concerns that could result
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problems on the ground for civilians. they are watching to make sure nothing erupts and they don't know about. he did say u.s. troops in syria and u.s. troops around the world do remain on watch for any reaction to the situation, michael. >> i too thought that was really interesting and not only the fact that general mackenzy says the syrian response comes after the attack was over. also, barbara, the defense system was not employed. will you speak to that? >> well, it was really interesting of what he said. he said not employed but i did not tell you it was not turned on. what he's telling us is that no russian missiles if you were were fired. let's remember what a near defensive is. it is both the radars that would detect u.s. missiles coming and radar and their own missiles
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that would fire against them. and as colonel says it was hit in the other facility in populated area because all of this is very heavily defended. this is heavily defended aerospace by the regime, the russians and it was only several weeks ago and really f-16 coming back from a mission inside syria aerospa aerospace, so this is very, very dangerous business, michael. >> barbara starr, great job. we are lucky to have you there. thank you. as we have been discussing last night. the president authorized a missile attack on syria. many asked why didn't congress
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make some decisions. that was more than 16 years ago of 9/11. many don't realize this, these days the number of veterans serving in congress is dwindling. the peak occurred in 1977 -- at the start of the current session, the house was 18.2 veteran and the senate 19%. that impacts the vote on the force. professor daniel lupton made the case there are stabilizing force who are less app to use military interventi interventio interventions. she joins me now where she studies the influence of political elites on foreign policy and national security. what did you find, professor, when you took a look at the composition of the house of those who have served and how they voted?
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>> so what i found was veterans and congress are more likely to restrain president in terms of putting troops in iraq and afghanistan and they're willing to ask more information to congress. >> in other words, those who actually been there warned the uniformed of those men and women are more to be restraining as an influence when it comes to u.s. foreign policy and what we have seen is fewer and fewer serving. >> yes, that's correct. what we do find overtime is we have a decline in the number of people of the united states and we see a declining in the veteran congress. >> because we have voluntary force, it stands to reason where we are no longer in the world war ii area of the korean conflict or vietnam and we don't
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have many servings. there are still more serving in congress than society at large. >> when we look at candidates who served in arm forces, they are more appeal to put on the ballots. we have mixed evidence of whether or not candidates are like to win in the democrat party. >> they don't seem to want to have ownership of what we are talking about now which is syria or other foreign conflicts and my on perspective is they look at the last presidential election of hillary clinton and how she was held accountable for her vote. hey, i don't want to be on the hook. do you have a perspective on whether congress should be weighing in on what has trans r transpireed. many are concerned of the way the balance of power has shifted in terms of the president in terms of the amendment to use
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force. congress has the power to declare war but we have not declared war since world war ii. >> general mattis last night as the basis, i know that others take a look at the post 9/11 authorization and said, well, president trump can act pursuant to it. i guess i am just putting on the radar screen for our viewers of the issue of a legitimate debate in congress as to whether they want the president to have authority to do what he did last night. you get the final word. >> yes, what we are likely to see if these air strikes continue, congress will at least verbal
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verb verb verb verbally will make the president get back in. in the past they have not been successful doing this but certainly congress should step in for when we use military abroad. >> professor lupton thank you for being here. thank you for your perspective. >> cnn's continuing coverage, we'll start at the top of the hour. so much just transpired, we got all the events of syria, covered. this is cnn's breaking news. good morning, john berman here continuing cnn special coverage. mission accomplished. there are larger questions about what exactly the long-term mission is? in the short term minutes ago. pentagon officials said the u.s. led air strikes achieved their goal was to cripple