tv CNN Newsroom Live CNN January 4, 2020 12:00am-1:00am PST
>> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. hello and welcome to our viewers joining us around the world. i'm becky anderson in abu dhabi in the united arab emirates. if you want to see just how high feelings are running in iraq right now, the mourning, the anger, look at these images coming to us from baghdad.
streets of the capital nearly filled with a funeral procession for those killed in friday's u.s. strike at the baghdad airport. among them iran's top military commander qassem soleimani who will be buried in iran. now, let's be clear not everyone in iraq is mourning his death. but even among those who hated what he stood for, who resented ianian interference in their country, there is outrage over an attack by an outside power carried out on iraqi soil. earlier we heard u.s. president trump justify the operation saying he acted before soleimani could caro out more attacks against americans. >> last night at my direction the united states military executed a flawless strike that terminated the terrorist ringleader responsible for gravely wounding thousands and
thousands of people and hundreds and hundreds at least of americans. he was planning a very major attack, and we got him. >> that has iran promising it will strike back when and where it chooses. >> iran will act based on its own choosing that the time, the place and -- they should expect anything as a result of this aggression. >> well soleimani's funeral is about to begin at least the processions. and nick paten walsh will take a look at the potential iranian response, what they were planning and what could be next. orrin leavernen along the israel
lebanon border. on and on the ground in tehran. and nick robertson in riyadh. we'll begin in the iraqi capital where a funeral procession is now under way. tell us what we are seeing and what the atmosphere is. >> reporter: well, becky, we're seeing live pictures on various iraqi channels not just from baghdad but also from the holy cities in the south. thousands of people are pouring into the streets. also outside the holy shrines in the southern cities awaiting the arrival of the remains of the ten people killed in that u.s.
strike. that includes of course qassem soleimani and also the top commander here, one of the highest ranking commanders within that iranian backed paramilitary force. and, you know, we've seen these emotional scenes playing out live on television. you've had men, women turning up to mourn the death of these men that they consider to be heroes and martyrs. these are men with a great following here of young militia men who they commanded, who they led in the battlefield on the front lines in the fight against isis. and today they are out there. they are angry, they are very emotional. we have seen many crying. you see many chanting such anger. now we expect iraqi officials to
also attend this funeral procession that is taking place in baghdad. and this is coming at a time, becky, of course when the iraqi government, the political leadership here is under a lot of pressure to stand up to the united states because no matter how people here feel about iran, about qassem soleimani, about iranian influence in this country, one thing unifies them all and that is their stance against the -- what they see as this violation of iraqi sovereignty with the united states carrying out this unprecedented targeted strike here. a lot of concern. the situation is very tense. people would tell you they are very, very concerned about where this is all headed, becky. >> she's in baghdad. and as we sit on these images
out of baghdad, the funeral procession, nick paten walsh standing by in beirut. he's been digging into why the u.s. decided to kill soleimani now. nick, there are likely to have been opportunities in the past for the u.s. to target iran's military chief. they didn't, so why now? >> well, clearly they publicly say that the case was the disputable, that they could not abide taking the risk of allowing him to continue with the plans they say were imminent against u.s. assets in the region here. now, they won't really go into exactly the level of detail these u.s. officials who have been briefing on this topic about where the plots precisely were aimed, how lethal they were. a senior state department official said they were concerned about attacks
potentially in iraq, syria and lebanon against u.s. diplomatic and military personnel. now, in syria they really only have military personnel and in here in lebanon they really only have a dip plumatic presence at the embassy in beirut. so you get a possible idea as to what may have been the focus here in lebanon, certainly. but there's a big amount the u.s. simply won't say, and that is the level of detail they were in and also answering the question to what the death of qassem soleimani would have done to executing him. you may also argue they're advanced to be able to perform without qassem soleimani being around to actually pull the trigger himself. clearly a calculation was made that the u.s. interests in the region are better served with a very high profile death and still shadowy man like qassem soleimani. he was well-known but also
somebody who operated as much off the radar as he could. he would sort of turn up amongst something as a hero. many perhaps thinking that he believed he was maybe immune to some sort of response. as you pointed out previous administrations have turned down the opportunity to kill him particularly when he was directing elements of the insurgency or assisting them, the belief i think the u.s. had too many troops vulnerable to sustain iranian retaliation on the ground nearly ten years ago. and now the obama administration sought a military deal with iran so killing iran's military commander would have made problems for that diplomatic channel. there was an imminent threat and it's impeded or perhaps neutralized and we'll see in the days and weaks ahead. we'll see if that's true and
presumably worked out whatever retaliation iran can put on the table. it would probably be similar to the damage already being done to the u.s.' sense of ability we've seen over the past months over ten of them followed up by the pressure and onslaught against the u.s. embassy in baghdad. it has been consistent, relntless over the past month so some may argue deciding to take out the man they consider responsible for all of this isn't that much of a surprise. i think it's possible more testament to how qassem soleimani became such an influential figure, the outside executer of iran's influence in this region that many aren't quite so startled this move was taken by the trump
administration. >> nick's in beirut. i want to get you to saudi arabia because, nick, clearly pointing out that part of the influence of this man, allegedly the attack on the aramco intlgz. nick robertson is standing by in riyadh. the u.s. says their intelligence suggested imminent attacks led by soleimani on u.s. assets in iraq, syria and in lebanon led to the decision to take out soleimani. but concern, now, across the region about what happens next, what iran's response might be where and when, what's the perspective where you are? >> well, the perspective here is that they've long said that they believe that tehran soleimani has been raising tensions, commit committing terrorist acts
throughout the region. they've seen tehran's hand backing the houthis there with long-range sophisticated weapons. and those weapons have targeted the capital here in riyadh. no one's been killed. they've landed in the desert or been shot down. and the saudis will obviously point to the targeting of that oil facility, two oil facilities in september last year. very clearly they believe the complex attack using drones and missiles came from iran was of iranian origin. so they would recognize that they are potentially a target. they would certainly recognize that there's a potential for an escalation of a conflict in the region here that they could get caught up in. but they would certainly be behind the united states, and they certainly say they are and have said in the past that they support the united states in its
view on iran. that's been very important to them. but they would recognize and this is what they're saying that it's important not to escalate that the moment. they can themselves become the victims if it escalates. and they certainly want to see iran change its course. so, you know, these are not mutually exclusive, but they certainly raise concern at the time of the ciing of soleimani and obviously iran's hand can reach a much greater distance and they can wait a great deal of time before they actually sort of even the score, if you will. just point out that 1998 with in the persian gulf accidently shot down an iranian passenger jet it killed more than 200 people. the iranians waited nine months before putting a pipe bomb underneath the car of the captain in san diego, and the pipe bomb went off and narrowly missed injuring his wife. so, you know, how iran will
respond can range that whole gamut of waiting for a pinprick strike thousands of miles away or heading out to u.s. allies in the immediate vicinity in the region. >> nick is in riyadh for you, appreciate it, nick. our correspondents standing by in a region on high alert. we take you to tehran next as our breaking news coverage continues. the latest on how the country is reacting to the u.s. strike on their top commander. that adds funeral processions are well under way in baghdad for qassem soleimani and those who lost their lives in the u.s. strike friday. stay with us. these folks don't have time to go to the post office
they use stamps.com all the services of the post office only cheaper get a 4-week trial plus postage and a digital scale go to stamps.com/tv and never go to the post office again. the islamic republic of iran holds this right to respond any time andane manner it will. we will not be involved in the u.s.' smear campaigns and their blackmailing. we will give a proper response in any manner and time we will as stated by the supreme leader. >> iran's foreign minister there on the country's vow to respond to the strike that killed qassem soleimani. another iranian official calls
it an act of war, but u.s. president donald trump insists that war is not the goal, and he says that soleimani was planning a, quote, very major attack, which he says suz why he was neutralized. reviled in the u.s., and it has to be said not just by the trump administration, by many in the west. qassem soleimani was revered by many in iran. why? >> reporter: indeed. a national celebrity for different blocks of society. why? because he has been portrayed as a hero fighting isis in iran. does important things for it bigger class in iran, so he is a
hero in iraq, in syria, in the region. so that is the reason he's a hero and national celebrity for even secular blocks of society. on the other hand he is very close to the supreme leader. he's a soldier of the theoc kraes and he's admired, adored by the conservative blocks of society, the grass roots. so now whatever is the motivation of these assassination in baghdad, his assassination has played out a role to unify two competing factions in iran or hard liners.
so -- this is very important factor. in fact, the morning service is playing a consoldatary role. >> i'm sure the image of his funeral procession in iraq today being broadcast in iran as we look also at images post this attack on killing soleimani where we saw the burning of american flags and israeli flags in iran. tehran very quick to name a successor. who is he, and how might his influence be any different from soleimani's? >> he is not going to be
different. he has been acting commander so far, so he's well experienced. and he's not going to be different and the agenda is the same as it was for soleimani. >> what can we expect from the funeral services finally which will be held for soleimani once his body is returned to iran on sunday? >> very good questions. now i can say in a metaphoric language that iran is sort of
wrapped up in the shroud of the morning service. and it serves the purposes of the theocracy because this society is not going to forget him. so he will be commemorated on different occasions. his pictures in the cities probably we will do that i mean in the coming hours and so his morning is not going to be finished tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, he will be commemorated and his morning service will serve as -- i mean fortifying factor of the theocracy. and it is a very good opportunity for his supporters to show their power, to flex their muscles and unify
themselves and use for all problems, domestic problems. so it's very good for the people to remember him, and he will be remembered for months and years to come, becky. >> the perspective from tehran. as tensions flare between the united states and iran the u.s. is deploying thousands more troops to this region of the middle east. cnn's barbara starr has new details on what led to president trump ordering the strike that killed qassem soleimani. >> reporter: president trump's top military advisor general mark milly says he cannot rule out that an attack from iran could still occur. when compelling intelligence in recent days showed qassem soleimani a top iranian military commander planned to attack u.s. targets in the middle east, the trump administration made the decision to kill him according to milly. the u.s. decided to act because
of the size, scale and scope of the planning by soleimani milly said. is there a risk now to u.s. safety in the region? damn right there is risk milly told reporters. but to deal with that risk the u.s. has stepped up its defenses and plans to sends thousands of additional troops to the middle east. the additional forces will come from the 82nd airborne division who have been on standby. other u.s. forces in italy also now on alert. new video showing the bloody aftermath of the u.s. drone strike near baghdad's airport. u.s. intelligence learned that soleimani was planning specific attacks on u.s. interests in multiple countries including u.s. personnel, a congressional source briefed by the trump administration tells cnn. defense secretary mark esper and the secretary of state mike
pompeo flew to mar-a-lago on sunday to brief president trump on the intelligence. when the u.s. learned soleimani was in baghdad, president trump decided to order the attack despite concerns by some in the administration about potential iranian escalation. these images obtained by cnn showing the wreckage of the targeted killing. pompeo telling cnn the strike saved american lives. >> there was, in fact, an imminent attack taking place. the american people should know this was an intelligence based assessment that drove this. >> reporter: but that explanation differs from the defense department. the pentagon saying in a statement this strike was aimed at deterring future iranian attack plans. the state department urging any u.s. citizens in iraq to depart immediately. u.s. embassies in bahrain, kuwait and pakistan all issuing
alerts. harsh revenge awaits the criminals involved in the targeted killing, iran's foreign minister claiming soleimani's death will have consequences. the trump administration touting the celebration by some iraqis at the news. >> i saw last night there was dancing in the streets in parts of iraq. we have every expectation that people not only in iraq but iran will view the american action last night as giving them freedom. >> while iranians instead took to the streets in protest. barbara starr, cnn, the pentagon. >> well, do stay with us as we watch these remarkable images on the streets of baghdad thronged with people honoring iran's top military commander in a funeral procession. he was killed along with others in a u.s. strike. and these the images of those
soleimani. u.s. president donald trump says he directed the strike because soleimani was plotting a major attack. iran vowing revenge for what it calls an act of war. let's goat you to moskow now for some perspective on all this. matthew chance monitoring monitoring and whether soleimani's death might in some way strengthen russia's position in the region, your thoughts. >> i think that's a good point but i think it's only a temporary advantage amongst a few other temporary advantages. look, the death of soleimani is a blow to iran's influence in places like syria, for instance, where he was basically the point man on the ground. the russians knew him very well. they would have coordinated with him when it came to sort of policy on the ground in syria where of course russia is fighting to back its ally bashar
al assad on the same side as iranian and iranian backed forces. so his departure from the scene does leave a bit of a vacuum at least temporarily, which the russians may want to take advantage of. there was also a spike in the oil price as a result of this targeted killing as well, which was a wind fall for russian coppers, but one of the biggest operatives in the world, but all of these sort of temporary have got to be ballened with the sort of long-term prospect of a raised risk of the direct confrontation between iran and the united states. that's something russia does not want to see. it does not want to see the relatively pro-russian regime in tehran toppled and replaced by a pro-american one. other countries in the region, doesn't want to see it in iran. >> matthew's in moskow. appreciate that. that's great analysis.
cnn's orin leiberman is strategly strategically at the iranian lebanese border with more on the potential fall out and with very little insight what might happen next from either the u.s. or iranian side. what chance that iran's, quote, revenge could be a strike on its nemesis and u.s. ally, israel? >> it's certainly possible. tensions between ieral and iran are always high, and we often see that in terms of tension on the israel, lebanon border where just behind me here is essentially the strong hold, and that's what we're watching and that's certainly what israel is watching at this point. it has to be noted there is no restrictions or limitations on israeli civilians along israel and the border here. prime minister benjamin netanyahu cut short his trip to greece to come back here. the security establishment here held a security assessment where
they had not only the chief of staff so this is something they're aware of and doesn't have to be necessarily on its border. iran also has influence and provides funding for so it could come there or frankly overseas where iran could target embassies or consulates abroad. local embassies here saying embassies and consulates abroad have upped their alert level, anticipating possibility of a response in that direction. israel saw him as responsible for the strategic placement, the aggression, expansionism of iranian proxies in syria and beyond. for him, for israel this is something that has been nearly universally lauded across the political spectrum here. many have thrown their support behind and there is some speculation and interested to talk about, the secretary of
state pompeo gave etnew a heads up a strike might be imminent. why do i say that? the two spoke earlier this week and a day later netanyahu said this is stormy region, very dramatic things are happening, and he concluded his statement by saying israel backs the u.s. and gives it the right to defend itself. virtually identical to the statement netanyahu made after the killing of soleimani where he says just like israel has the way to defend itself, the u.s. has the right to defend itself. there's been no word on that speculation by other officials. >> that's fascinating particularly given democrats slamming the administration for not giving them the heads up ahead of the u.s. strikes friday in baghdad. orin leiberman on the israeli lebanese border, thank you. more of our breaking news just ahead. we are talking u.s. strike in baghdad. top u.s. senator weighing in on president trump's decision. plus we will be live for you in
it's a better class of sale. emirates. fly better well, the streets of baghdad jammed right now as funerals for those killed in the u.s. strike on friday get under way. have a look at these. among the dead top iranian commander qassem soleimani, u.s. president donald trump says he was crillkilled to prevent an imminent attack on americans. much of the u.s. congress kept in the dark about the attack. republican senator lindsey graham, though, was not. here's what he had to say about it. >> i was briefed about the potential on the operation when i was down in florida. i appreciate being brought into the orbit. and i really appreciate president trump letting the
world know you cannot kill an american without impunity. we will stand up for our people and that is an absolutely essential message. >> that's lindsey graham. not all u.s. lawmakers agree, though, that the strike was necessary to save american lives. some democrats voicing doubts that an attack was actually imminent. well, more on that in a moment. but in atlanta i want to move away from this coverage just for the moment to check in on another story we are keeping an extremely close eye on, that being the bush fires in australia. natalie, what have you got? >> three fires in australia, southern australia have now combined to form a single fire. get this, bigger than the new york borough of manhattan. the country is bracing for what could be the most catastrophic day yet this bush fire season. the prime minister has announced he's mobilizing the navy's largest ship to evacuate people along the southeast coastline.
let's bring in now our ana coren who is live to bring us more about it. anna, it keeps getting worse and worse. >> reporter: it has been absolutely horrific, although we must say, natalie, we seemed to have escaped those catastrophic conditions everyone had forecast. we are here with volunteers, firefighters who have been out there fighting fires all day. they've just come off their shifts and they're exhausted. they've been doing this for weeks. we have to remember the fires have been burning but we heard from the prime minister today the death toll stands at 23 nationwide, more than 1,500 homes have been lost. however, he did today say that 3,000 forces, members of the israeli defense force have joined.
they've got planes that they're going to be water bombing as well as the largest naval vessel will be used to evacuate people. now, joining me now is jessie white. he is the captain here at the brownley fire service. tell me what your day was like. >> luckily for us it didn't get to that extreme today. >> well, we're having trouble with ana's live shot unfortunately. but fortunately derek is here to tell us more about the situation there. >> i wouldn't think it's safe to say that anna and the crew where she's located are exactly 100% safe just yet because the winds will shift as a cold front moves through and that has the unpredictable nature of allowing these fires to move sporadically and make it very difficult for the firefighters battling the blazes on the front lines as well. i want to show you how intense
these bush fires have been. this is incredible imagery. you've seen a couple of different times on our broadcast. but what you're look at here is actually bush fire induced thunderstorm development. that's a lot to digest, but basically what's happening and i've got a diagram just to my right here is the bush fires have become so intense in new south whales and into victoria at the heat rises so quickly like a thermal up draft that creates what is called a pirow cume l cumulo nimbus cloud. timber box conditions can allow for more embers to spread. that takes those embers and starts spot fires. you can see and new south whales
and 60 of which are burning out of control. we know victoria and south whales have a fire ban. we talked about a cold front that's approaching. this is aloing for a spike in temperatures. by the way, they approached the 50 degree mark in some of the rural locations across new south whales today. that is extreme hit. give you an idea how warm it is, some some of the towns the bush fires have pushed through have actually melted the wheels of some of the vehicles there that contain aluminum and aluminum burns at 1,100 degrees fahrenheit. look at the cooling trend, the maritime air starts to move in. look at the change in direction in the wind. this is important because that's what's going to make it so difficult for the firefighters to battle the winds and these fires. the good news, natalie, with the onshore push we have the
potential for some rain but not enough to extinguish the fires. >> derek, thank you. well, coming up here we head back to the middle east for more of the fall out from the killing of iran's top general. stay with us. ♪ oh, oh, oh, ozempic®! ♪ (announcer) once-weekly ozempic® is helping many people with type 2 diabetes like james lower their blood sugar. a majority of adults who took ozempic® reached an a1c under 7 and maintained it. here's your a1c. oh! my a1c is under 7! (announcer) and you may lose weight. adults who took ozempic® lost on average up to 12 pounds. i lost almost 12 pounds! oh! (announcer) ozempic® does not increase the risk of major cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke, or death. there's no increased risk. oh! and i only have to take it once a week. oh! ♪ oh, oh, oh, ozempic®! ♪ (announcer) ozempic® should not be the first medicine for treating diabetes, or for people
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well, mourners have been gathering in the iraqi capital for the victims of the u.s. drone strike at baghdad international airport. among those killed were the quds force commander qassem soleimani. he's viewed as a national hero in iran. the u.s., though, didn't see him that way. president donald trump says soleimani was plotting a major attack. he says he wanted to prevent a war not start one. but the strike has dramatically escalated tensions. iran now vowing harsh revenge and the united states is sending thousands of additional troops to the middle east. well, earlier on ac 360 my colleague anderson cooper sat down with leon pinetta, white house chief of staff during the
clinton administration and also u.s. secretary of defense and former head of the cia. he's been privy to some of the most sensitive information regarding threat assessments as anyone from washington. and he says the chances for war where more serious now than they have been in decades. have a listen. >> there's no question he's a bad actor. and he was involved in those kinds of attacks. i guess, you know, the question you have to ask yourself and that's why i said, look, we shouldn't mourn the fact that he died. but the real question that i think everyone has to ask is whether or not we have increased the chances of war with iran as vultd of what happened. and i don't think there's any question the chances for war are more serious now than they have been the last 40 years, that we could ultimately escalate what's happening now into a full-scale
war with iran. that is the fundamental issue that all of us ought to worry about. >> speaking to my colleague anderson cooper. my next guest is as well versed as anyone about this region and beyond. she says general soleimani's killing will have a long lasting impact across the middle east region, nowhere more than in iraq. the editor-in-chief at the national, she joins me here in ab abu dhabi. throngs of people on the streets of the city in this funeral procession. >> so the funeral procession more than anything is to show a show of force. militia leaders were calling on their supporters, calling on all iraqis to take to the streets and show their support. not only for soleimani but the deputy leader of all the militias in iraq who was also killed in the air strike that took place in the airport.
so the funeral procession is to show that they can own the streets. interestingly none of the senior officials can be seen and it's expected they're worried about more assassination strikes. >> it's interesting to see these images from baghdad because from the first of october what we've seen is peaceful civic activists taking to the streets of baghdad demanding changes in iraq and against those very militias that are now owning the streets. so we really see a tug-of-war coming to the streets now on who can claim to own baghdad politically but also trying to show they are the majority. and we've seen those peaceful protesters take themselves out of the picture for now because they're scared. these militias are armed to the teeth. they have guns, they have money, they have been responsible for assassinations and kid nappings orb so they're angry. so the hope is there's no actual clashes on the streets today.
>> i'm going to quote him here. soleimani may with his death have already achieved the greatest revenge of all and without firing a single bullet. namely his ultimate objective of ending the u.s. military presence in iraq, i wonder whether you agree with what mohamed says and indeed give us your perspective on what does happen next in iraq. >> the reason that qassem soleimani's death is important is because of his seniority but also his relationship with all militia groupings. his relationship with those militias goes back decades but also was one of loyalty. and so now iran is calling on all its supporters, all those militia leaders that entered parliament because of iranian support, calling on them to call for the eshpulsion of american troops. now the caretaker prime minister has called for parliament to
convene and call for legislation to push americans out. and now it's all the back channel politicking of will they actually vote to get the americans out or not? the kurds are in a bienld. there are many who don't want to see them go out and take over the country. so it's not revolved, we don't know. personally it's hard to make predictions, but i would find it very hard to believe the americans are going to pick up and leave. this strike and the increased marines sentd marines sent show america's not ready to leave yet. >> general soleimani's influence will survive him. in fact, it may have suddenly grown significantly. do you agree -- how will his death impact do you think iranian influence not just in iraq, and we already have a successor named whose influence it seems will be similar if not
greater. but around the region as well, we sit here in the uae, this is country that's been on high alert now for some time and we've seen maligned behavior from the iranians. most people will say enacted by soleimani himself specifically around this region. we sit in such close geographic proximity to iran, so what happens next? >> i don't think qassem soleimani's influence will grow. for a moment he's seen as a martyr and he'll be added to the names of others who were larger than life, and they created a personality cult in order to wield their influence. so i don't think his influence will grow but for sure we'll see how effective the ircg is and how the effective the quds force is which he led.
so iran is on the back foot for a moment because this was a surprise attack. nobody expected this. when iranians struck aramco last september no one expected that. and the reaction from saudi arabia, from the gulf was very muted and was very rational and that stopped us from going to the brink of war. i believe now it depends on how the iranians do. if they escalate they may choose to calm down for the moment and take their revenge in a longer time. >> well, they certainly vowed revenge. when and how is unclear. let's hope your insight, your perspective is right and that we -- you know, we don't see the sort of escalation of people who live in this region, you and i even around this region fear. thanks for watching our special coverage of the fall out surrounding the killing of iran's top general.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm becky anderson live for you in abudabi in the uae and the streets of baghdad right now are teeming with people and emotions. mourning the anger over u.s. air strike that killed iran's top military commander, qasem soleimani. a funeral procession is underway as we speak for him and others killed at baghdad's airport who were targeted friday by