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Source: Trump Considering Military Action In Syria; Tillerson: Syria Attack "Requires A Serious Response"; White House Blames Syrian Regime For Apparent Chemical Attack; U.S. Intel: Syria Dropped Bombs At Scene Of Chemical Attack; Leaders Come Face-To-Face After Months Of Posturing; Trump May Offer Ultimatum ON North Korea; Source: Trump Considering Military Options; Trump, Xi to Meet Soon for High Stakes Summit; St. Petersburg Mourns Metro Blast Victims; Survivors Recount Horror of Chemical Attack; Golf Number One Withdraws from Masters. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 6, 2017 - 15:00:00   ET





HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL GUEST ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones sitting in for Hala Gorani. We are live from CNN London and


From the campaign trails to his first moments in office, U.S. President Donald Trump has been all about putting America first, but an apparent

chemical weapons attack in Syria may push the isolationist president to get involved.

A source tells CNN that the president told some members of Congress, he is considering military action in Syria to retaliate for Tuesday's attack.

And just in the last few minutes, Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson said there is no role for Bashar al-Assad to govern in Syria. Officials are

discussing possible plans of action with Defense Secretary James Mattis.

U.S. intelligence also shows the Syrian military dropped bombs in the same place and same time where that chemical attack was first reported.

I think we can go now live to Palm Beach Airport in Florida where President Trump has just arrived off Air Force One. He is, of course, arriving in

Florida from the White House in D.C. where he is going to be meeting with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, who arrived in Florida just

a couple of hours ago.

This is, of course, a meeting of huge consequence for the world. They will be discussing trade. They will be discussing diplomacy and politics,

and these two both have a huge amount at stake.

You will remember, of course, that Candidate Trump on the campaign trail for the presidency slammed China on its human rights record, on its trade,

and also took to a call even from the Taiwanese president as well which really rattled Beijing at the time.

So a huge amount at stake for both of these two leaders and interesting to see the body language and the rhetoric and the narrative that comes out of

these meetings, but as you can see there, we have the president of the United States finally arriving in Florida headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort

where he will be meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

Let's go back to our main story, though, and all of the other things that are on President Trump's to-do list at the moment. Our Pentagon

correspondent, Barbara Starr, tells us more now about the possible military action the U.S. could take in Syria.

Barbara Starr also says that no decision has been made on that yet. She says the president's options are pretty limited across Syria. Take a

listen to this.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: If he wants direct retaliation for the strike against those civilians, he could decide to order limited

air strikes to basically take out the airfield where those aircraft came from that dropped the bombs that the U.S. believes was filled with nerve


But that would be a very limited option, because of the second problem, Assad has a much greater capability to deliver chemical weapons, and not

just from the fixed wing aircraft, but he has helicopters that have regularly been filled with barrel bombs.

Those helicopters can take off from anywhere, artillery and rockets, they have shells that can be filled with chemical agent. So he has to first

make the decision which way he wants the go, limited with direct retaliation or a larger action to try and take out Assad's capabilities.

One of the big factors here for him will be the Russian presence inside of Syria, we are told. What the U.S. is going to be cautious about if it hits

that wider set of targets, it is going to want to make sure that it does not inadvertently hit a target where there may be Russian personnel of

course that the U.S. doesn't know about.

[15:05:02]Nobody is looking for a wider war here. These are some of the very complicated decisions that have kept the U.S. frankly from doing this

in the past.


JONES: Barbara Starr reporting there. As we mentioned in the introduction the secretary of state in the United States, Rex Tillerson, has made some

very strong comments on Syria regarding the future of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Take a listen.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, obviously, the events that have occurred in Syria with the chemical weapons attack here in the past

day have just, think horrified all of us and brought to the front pages and to our television screens as well the tragedy that is part of the Syrian


There is no doubt in our minds, and the information that we have supports that Syria, the Syrian regime under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad are

responsible for this attack. Further, it is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support of the Assad


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, does Assad have to go?

TILLERSON: Assad's role in the future is uncertain clearly. With the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there is no role for him to govern

the Syrian people.


JONES: Rex Tillerson there. Well, my next guest knows more about the situation on the ground in Syria than most, and of course, what options

might be at least viable at this stage. Colonel Rick Francona is a CNN military analyst. He is also the former U.S. military attache in Syria,

and joins me now via Skype from La Quinta, California.

Colonel, great to have you on the program. Thanks very much indeed. Just listening there to Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state blaming Assad,

blaming the Syrian regime for this attack that we saw in Idlib. With that in mind, what are the options on the table? What is Trump going to do


LT. COLONEL RICK FRANCONA (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, he has to decide what our policy is first. Are we going the punish Assad? Are we

going to push for his removal or are we going to try and deteriorate his capabilities to this in the future?

You know, the Pentagon is preparing a whole range of options for the president and Barbara laid out some of those, do we take out the airfields,

the chemical facilities? None of those will actually stop him from being able to do this.

He has a lot of capability. He can use other weapon systems. The question is, do you want to change his behavior. I think the key point here is the

Russians. Since the Russians intervened in 2015, they are probably the key factor in what we do in Syria.

Everything we do in Syria now is colored by their presence. So if we take any military action against Syria, we going to run right up against the

Russians, and the Russian military advisers are all over the country now.

They are in virtually every Syrian air base and Syrian unit. So we run the risk of killing some Russians. So, you know, these have to be factored in

before we decide to do anything.

JONES: Yes, it brings onto my next question, is it worth targeting Assad, blaming Assad and jeopardizing any future cooperation that Russia and the

U.S. could possibly have just in the broader picture in tackling terrorism?

FRANCONA: Yes, this is a key point, because if you are see what is going on in the past couple of weeks, we have been starting cooperation with the

Russians, if look at what is going on to the north east of Aleppo, we have actually coordinated our operations with the Russians using our proxies.

We got the Kurds working with us. You've got the Syrian army working with the Russians and the two of them together were effectively able to set up a

barrier to stop the Kurds from coming in any further. So we are seeing a little bit of cooperation in the fight against ISIS.

We run the risk of throwing that all out of the window if we take action against Syria. Now I am not saying we shouldn't do it. I'm just saying

you need to factor this in before you make that decision.

JONES: Just explain for us what some of these terms mean then. We have been hearing about safe zones, no-fly zones and possible grounding of the

Syrian aircraft, how exactly does that all happen?

FRANCONA: Well, I think those are -- I think those concepts have gone away. Since the Russians have intervened, I don't think it is going to be

possible for us to declare a no-fly zone. The Russians will fly in Syria. They have a large aircraft present. They have a state-of-the-art air

defense system to protect Northern Syria.

So I think no-fly zones are off the table. A safe zone will be an area on the ground where the Syrian Army and no one else can go where it would be

protected probably by the Turks. I think that is gone out of the window.

The Turks have been marginalized. They have a very small role in Syria anymore. So I think it is going to be between what the United States and

the Russians want to happen in Syria.

JONES: Colonel Rick Francona, thank you very much. Thank you very much for your analysis. We appreciate so it much to discuss.

We are going now to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who is live for us in Palm Beach, Florida, where we know the president has just

touched down on Air Force One.

[15:10:03]Jim, he is supposed to be meeting the president of China, Xi Jinping, but of course, everyone is now talking about Syria.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right. And we should point out, President Trump who just landed here in Palm Beach,

Florida for this meeting with President Xi over at Mar-a-Lago did speak with reporters on Air Force One as he was making his way down here.

He was asked several questions about the situation in Syria, and it does appear that the president is moving towards at least the consideration of

some kind of military action against the Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad.

At one point during this back and forth with reporters and it was a brief back and forth from what we understand, he said that Assad is in charge

there. He is running things, and quote, "something should happen."

Now what that something is, we don't know at this point what the president is perhaps considering. We don't exactly know all of those details. We do

know that he has been talking to members of Congress about the potential for military action.

But the president said specifically on Air Force One to reporters that at this point, he is not telling members of Congress that yes, he has made

that decision.

And so it does appear at this point this is something that the administration is considering, that the president is considering along with

his top advisers.

Now we should point out here on the ground in Florida, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after greeting the Chinese president here in Florida spoke to

reporters, and said that Bashar al-Assad does bear responsibility for that chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this week.

He also said that Russia needs to reconsider its policy of propping up Bashar al-Assad and he indicated -- the secretary of state the indicated

that this is quite extraordinary that the U.S. is now looking to its partners and looking to put together some kind of coalition potentially,

potentially, we should underline that word potentially to look at the possibility of removing Bashar al-Assad from power.

Now, that is a pretty dramatic statement from the secretary of state, Hannah, when you are considering the fact that just a few days ago, he and

the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer were saying that the United States may just have to deal with the possibility that Bashar al-Assad is

just going to remain the leader of Syria at this point.

That chemicals weapons attack which left perhaps dozens of children dead has apparently changed that calculus, equation, for this Trump

administration which of course has led by a president who said time and again, you know, even before the campaign that he was not a big proponent

of military action in Syria.

And so this is one of those situations where campaigning is one thing, and governing is another, and when you are president of the United States, and

there are images on TVs across the world of dead children who have been gassed and been subjected to chemical weapons attacks, that that sometimes

can very much change one's calculus.

And that appears to be the indication that we are getting from not just the president, but the secretary of state, and this is obviously going to be a

subject of discussion coming up into these talks with the Chinese president which we thought would be mainly about trade and North Korea, but it does

appears at this point that Syria is also going to be a big topic of conversation down here -- Hannah.

JONES: Yes, Jim, we should point out that we have just heard from Rex Tillerson saying what you just said, you know, really sort of putting the

onus now on Bashar al-Assad and really question marks over his position in the future of Syria.

I'm wondering though about the timeframe for any decision from the president of the United States. He is in Mar-a-Lago. At what stage does

he go to Congress or how could any military action actually come about? In what time frame?

ACOSTA: Well, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also talked to reporters on Air Force One, said essentially that the president, the

administration, they are not going to get into timing when it comes to that kind of decision. They don't want to reveal that kind of information,


But you know, when you look at the tone of the rhetoric that you are hearing from the president and from the secretary of state, it does seem

that things have moved forward at a pretty dramatic pace at this point.

Now, obviously, when you are talking about military action in Syria, you are going to have to deal with this question of Russia. Russia is very

much involved in Syria. We know that they have been conducting military operations in Syria.

And Vladimir Putin is no question a backer of the Syrian president. So one would think that before the United States and perhaps a coalition of

partners goes into Syria to do some kind of damage to perhaps Bashar al- Assad's air capabilities that has been talked about among members of Congress.

That that would be one way of going about weakening Bashar al-Assad so he cannot dump chemical weapons on his own people, but even in that kind of

situation, you would have to have some kind of coordination with the Russians I would think from an air power standpoint.

[15:15:03]And you know, obviously, this is just, you know, looking at the facts as they exist on the ground at this point. It just seems at this

point this would not be an immediate decision that the president would be making at this point, but no question -- the rhetoric has changed and that

is certainly the headline today -- Hannah.

JONES: All right. Jim, we appreciate it. Jim Acosta there live for us in Florida, thank you.

Now the Turkish justice minister says autopsies on the victims show chemical weapons were indeed used in Tuesday's attack. It killed dozens of

people including many children.

But Syria denies using chemical weapons and Russia says it is too early to accuse the Syrian regime in the attack. Our Ben Wedeman joins me now from

the Turkish-Syrian border, and Paula Newton is live for us in Moscow as well.

Ben, Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state saying that there is no doubt that the Syrian regime is behind this attack, what is the

intelligence that's being gathered on the ground about what weapons were used?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the Turkish government is being quite emphatic that they do believe that it

was sarin gas that was used in this attack dropped by airplanes.

Now, has any fragment of the bombs or the bombs been analyzed? No. They are basing it on the autopsies on three bodies that were collected from

(inaudible) where this attack happened on Tuesday morning.

So it is not clear all of the sort of the details. We are really just basing it sort of, our assumptions upon the accounts of those who survived

the attack, and the Turkish autopsy.

But I have been in touch with a weapons expert who has a lot of experience in these areas, and he doesn't think that it is sarin gas. He thinks that

it is perhaps some sort of chemical agent and perhaps a pesticide that has been used.

So that basic information about what was used on Tuesday morning is not at all clear at this point. Obviously, the result, however, is clear. We do

know that 86 people were killed, according to UNICEF, 27 of them were children -- Hannah.

JONES: Paula Newton is live for us in Moscow as well. Paula, the kremlin had been baiting Trump, if you like, trying to push him into a corner and

say what he was going to do on Syria. Has there been any reaction from the Russians yet to this news that President Trump could indeed bite?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is interesting here as Ben just indicated there still the facts are not still clear on the ground

as to what exactly happened here. The Russians are using that to exploit the whole situation and say, look, everyone cool down. We have no idea

what is going on here. They are warning not the make any kind of snap judgments.

While at the same time today, a kremlin spokesperson did say that this attack was in their words a dangerous and horrible crime, but they are

saying, look, we still don't know what has happened and that it would be irresponsible at this point to blame anyone let alone the Syrian regime.

But Hannah, in the last few minutes of TV, you see how many times have we said Russia? The reason is that right now for about the last year and a

half, Russia really runs the show in Syria.

I mean, last week they had ceasefire talks, Russia was at the table. The United States was not. It is clear that if Rex Tillerson wants to make

good on anything he is saying right now, he will need to come to the table with Russia as the schedule would have it, Rex Tillerson will be here in

Russia next week.

What may be able to be discussed, of course, they are not going to be very transparent about this, but perhaps some type of short and sharp

retaliation against the Assad regime perhaps his air force could be tolerated.

All of that will be on the table when Rex Tillerson comes here next week. But Russia is still being as defiant as ever in saying we have no idea. If

you don't have any proof, they are saying, there is no proof that the Syrian regime did this and that the rebels didn't do it.

Because that's who they say, the Russian military has already said that they believed that the rebels on the ground are to blame for this attack.

JONES: Ben, back to you on the Turkish/Syrian border, so much talk about what this military action could in fact be, talk about safe zones and no

fly zones and grounding the Syrian aircraft as well, from your perspective, what seems the most feasible or viable right now?

WEDEMAN: If anybody had an answer to that question, Hannah, I think something would have been done a long time ago. Let's not forget that on

the 21st of September 2013, hundreds of people were killed in the Damascus suburbs in a similar attack, and an attack much worse in the terms of the

number of casualties.

Now, I mean, when you consider the military options, people perhaps are thinking in terms of Iraq 2003, but let not forget that Iraq at the time

had no backers, nobody was willing to support Saddam Hussein.

[15:20:02]Bashar al-Assad is backed to the hilt by the Russians, by Iran, and by Hezbollah, any sort of military action against Syria by the United

States or its allies would -- there would be an immediate retaliation by Russia perhaps by Iran, perhaps by Hezbollah so the situation is wildly


If you look back to the administration of Barack Obama, they in 2012, Barack Obama put down that red line. He decided after it was crossed not

to act. Certainly, there are people for instance the Turkish President Erdogan said that if action is taken against Syria, it should be more than


He said that Turkey is ready to do what is needed. He is long pushed for the toppling Bashar al-Assad, but even if that were to happen, what happens

next? The problem is what is the other large military force in Syria that's waiting to take power? ISIS.

So the situation is complicated beyond any simplistic analysis that can be offered. The situation is wildly dangerous as well -- Hannah.

JONES: Paula, final word to you on this, we understand that Tillerson and Lavrov have spoken on the phone tonight, but how confident are the Russians

on their claim that this was indeed a rebel-held gas factory that was hit and it's the rebels to be blamed for this attack in Idlib?

NEWTON: The key thing here is, Hannah, we have yet to see any proof. If they are confident of it in any, believe me, they will offer up some proof,

we have seen absolutely nothing. To Ben's point, the Russians know that because they have been the active partner in Syria for the Assad regime

over the last 18 months, they get a lot of say in what goes on in Syria right now.

I mean, the Trump administration is going to be looking at a lot of the bad options. There is not going to be a good one on the table. Rex Tillerson

will be made aware of that before he comes to Russia next week and it will be probably the least bad option, if you will, that he will try and present

to the Russians and see what the blowback from that might be.

But you know, General Francona brought up a very interesting point that everyone knows Russia is working on the ground through its proxies and

mainly with the Syrian military, but also to some extent with Iran.

The fact of the matter is that it is going to be very difficult to hit the Syrian Army or hit the Syrian Air Force without also affecting Russia, and

that is the complicating factor.

JONES: Paula Newton and Ben Wedeman, thank you both.

Now, still to come on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW tonight, face-to-face, for the very first time Donald Trump prepares for a potentially awkward first

meeting with the president of China who he bashed repeatedly during his election campaign. All of that is coming up next.



JONES: Welcome back to program. U.S. President Donald Trump is moments away from the most important diplomatic meeting of his presidency so far.

He is about to come face-to-face with the president of China, Xi Jinping, who arrived in the U.S. a little more than an hour ago. China of course is

a country that Mr. Trump attacked with rhetoric such as this during his election campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that is what they are doing. It is

the greatest theft in the history of the world.


JONES: Well, with comments like that, it might be an awkward first meeting as the two leaders seek to find some common ground and try to settle the

differences on the critical issues.

One major focus of the talks will be North Korea. Mr. Trump a self-styled deal maker is poised to offer an ultimatum to Beijing either withdraw its

support for the North or the United States will act on its own to confront Pyongyang's growing nuclear threats.

Will Ripley is live for us in the Chinese capital for reaction now from Beijing. Will, good to see you. This is a huge moment for President Xi as

well as for President Trump. When the Chinese leader walks away from these meetings, talks, what will success look like for him?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Success will look like no tweets after the meeting blasting or disrespecting President Xi, frankly, because that one

thing that China wants is assurances that their president is going the have a dignified conversation, and perhaps put out a joint statement with the

U.S. president.

President Xi does not want to be embarrassed and the Chinese have not publicly taken the bait when President Trump has tweeted about China or

when he has been given provocative comments and interviews about China.

Of course, he has certainly dialed back from that very intense anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail and even in an interview over the weekend he

talked about how much he respects President Xi.

So what the Chinese government wants really is for this conversation to happen. Obviously, there are a lot of differences between the U.S. and

China and a whole host of issues, everything, from North Korea to the South China Sea even the approach in Syria.

Because remember it was China just over a month ago that vetoed a U.N. resolution to sanction Syria for allegations of using chemical weapons on

its own people.

So there are a large degree of issues that the U.S. and China don't agree on, but if these two leaders can be cordial and if they can stabilize the

relationship and stop toxic rhetoric that would be a victory in the eyes of Beijing.

JONES: Who benefits most from Donald Trump's unpredictability? Is it the United States or China?

RIPLEY: Well, China doesn't know yet what the Trump administration is capable of and how far are they willing to go? And this could have to --

when you are talking about Syria, of course, the breaking news, would the Trump administration consider some sort of a military action in Syria?

The same question is kind of hanging over the heads of the Chinese leaders here in Beijing about North Korea. Secretary Tillerson when he was here,

and President Trump as well, they have not taken the option of a military strike off the table if Pyongyang were to do something extremely


And we know that they are basically at any moment to conduct their sixth nuclear test. So China does not know exactly how far the Trump

administration would be willing to go in either of these very sensitive areas, and they are trying to figure that out. The uncertainty certainly

does leave China and much of the world guessing.

JONES: All right. We appreciate it. Will Ripley live for us there in Beijing. Thank you.

Now, still ahead on the program, dozens died in Tuesday's chemical attack inside Syria, but what about those left behind? We meet one teenager who

lost 19 family members. That and much more still ahead on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.


[15:31:19] HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the program. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that the government is

considering a response to the apparent chemical attack in Syria, and he says the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now u uncertain. On

Wednesday, President Trump blamed the attack directly on Assad's regime.

In other news, ISIS has murdered 33 people in a mass execution near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says

the victims were between the age of 18 and 25 and were killed with sharp tools.

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has landed in the United States ahead of his long-awaited first meeting with President Trump. There are plenty of

thorny issues to be discussed. Mainly North Korea's nuclear threat, trade, of course, and the Chinese's military buildup in the South China Sea could

all be on the agenda, as well as, of course, Syria now.

Let's get more now on our top story, how the U.S. will respond to this chemical attack in Idlib in northern Syria. Sources tell CNN Donald Trump

is now considering a military response, but what military options are even a possibility? Let's take a look, then, on what's on the table.

The U.S. could carry out airstrikes on Syria's military or, indeed, leadership, but Russian air defenses in the country would complicate that

choice. Launching cruise missiles from the Mediterranean is another option, but they can be inaccurate. The U.S. could impose a no-fly zone on

Syria's air force, but that depends on Russia's cooperation. Or Donald Trump could establish safe zones for civilians inside the country, but

defending those zones could also mean, yes, a clash with Russia.

So, then, let's discuss what option is most likely and, of course, most politically viable. I want to bring in Aaron David Miller. He's a CNN

global affairs analyst and joins me now from Washington.

Great to have you on the program again, sir.


VAUGHAN JONES: With all of those options on the table, what do you think is the most likely route for Donald Trump?

MILLER: We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. I mean, form follows function. The question is, what exactly is the projection of the American

military power either in a one-off strike against airfields, command and control, Syrian leadership targets, or a sustained campaign? What is it

designed to achieve? That's the fundamental question that needs to be asked.

Once you establish that, once the administration thinks through exactly what is the purpose and intent of the military action, then they can figure

out the form that it's going to take. And you have several different options, Hannah.

Number one, it can be punitive, in an effort, literally, to punish Bashar Assad for not just yesterday's or this week's use of some nerve agent in

northeastern Syria, but over the course of the last year and a half, consistent violations of the U.S./Russian agreement in 2013. It could be

to change Bashar's behavior in order to lay down certain markers that if, in fact, these weapons are used again, that the United States will respond

perhaps with harder tactics. It could be to put additional pressure on Bashar and the Russians in order to come to the table --

VAUGHAN JONES: Donald Trump made no --

MILLER: -- to create a meaningful negotiation. Those are the --

VAUGHAN JONES: Donald Trump made those votes to be about not wanting to focus on foreign affairs. He wanted to focus on the domestic agenda and on

jobs and the like. But the Trump administration is in its very, very early days. It needs a big win. It's had some heavy losses when it comes to the

domestic agenda.

So what will be weighing most on the conscience of the Trump White House at the moment? Is it going to be their conscience or their ego?

[15:35:07] MILLER: Well, I mean, I don't know fit its values or interest. I mean, the President may well have been moved emotionally by what he saw

on top of the photos released --

VAUGHAN JONES: He said that he was.

MILLER: -- in terms of the attacks against civilians, particularly women and children, with the use of a nerve agent. And he probably received

intelligence briefings which only added to the horror. That's certainly part of it.

But, look, I think the administration, frankly, has gotten itself, to some degree, out in front of its skis because the reality is the President has

now gone public and gone further than President Obama did. He said, and I quote, "This crossed many, many lines. Many, many lines. It's beyond the

red line." And he repeated it, "It crossed many, many lines."

I don't think the administration, frankly, now has any choice but to respond militarily. I also believe that it is a not so subtle signal to

Kim Jong-un and the Iranians that, in effect, we are capable of being unpredictable, and we are capable of using military power, so you best

restrain yourself. Whether any of these are soundly thought through is another matter.

One final point. Maybe this is an effort in order to put a greater pressure on the Russians, both in New York with respect to the security

council, and perhaps to try to alter Assad's behavior because, let's be clear, none of these military options, frankly, are all that happy.

They're going to draw the United States in deeper into a conflict that the President-elect and now President Trump seemed determined to avoid. And

they're going to distract him from what is purportedly his most important agenda, which is, quote/unquote, "the eradication of ISIS from the face of

the earth."

VAUGHAN JONES: We are told, from the White House, from Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, that no decision has been made yet. But if

you are right and, indeed, military option is the only way forward now for Donald Trump, when might that happen?

MILLER: Look for no moon, frankly. If you want to know when the strikes are going to happen, particularly if and they will be either sea-launched

cruise missiles or airstrikes, look at the almanac and try to figure out when there is no moon because, in essence, that's probably the best time to


So, again, I think the issue is not what the United States is going to do. The issue is, why is the United States going the do it and what does it

hope to achieve?

VAUGHAN JONES: Aaron David Miller, thanks very much for your analysis. Appreciate it.

MILLER: Always a pleasure, Hannah. Take care.

VAUGHAN JONES: Well, President Trump in-tray, as you can tell, is mounting with global consequences, of course. He is clearly more experienced and

perhaps more comfortable with business than he is with politics, so let's discuss which areas he's likely to make the most progress on.

I'm joined now by Ian Bremmer. He is president of the Eurasia Group.

Ian, great to have with us. Let's talk about the politics because, suddenly, Syria has been shoved to the top of agenda, even though the

President is meeting with Xi Jinping of China very shortly. Is Syria going to be on the table? Is Syria going to be a discussion with China? Does

China have a role to play in what happens with Syria?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: Not really, first of all, because Xi Jinping, his talking points have to be agreed in advance

and vetted by the Standing Committee in Beijing. So, I mean, he is already knowing what he's going to talk about.

You don't get to do impromptu with a planned summit with the leader of China. But, certainly, this is going to distract Trump in what's already,

you know, a rather short meeting. I mean, flying all of the way out, but he's really only there for 24 hours.

And the possibility that the Trump administration is now going to be directly involved in hostilities against the Assad regime is a very real

one. It is very much in play, and I do agree with your previous guest, it's going to be relatively difficult, harder than it was for Obama, for

Trump to back down after having made these statements today.

VAUGHAN JONES: What about what can be agreed on then between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping? The rest of the world is going to be sort of focusing in

on these two, not least for their body language, how on Earth they even get on as two strong leaders. Can there be a deal anywhere?

BREMMER: Well, I mean, your point on looking at the body language is important. Let's be clear, the media, especially in the U.S. but also

internationally, quite dislikes Trump and thinks poorly of his foreign policy acumen. Now, there's legitimate reason for that, of course, but

they expect this to go badly. They kind of want it to go badly. They're going to be looking very carefully for any stiffness and awkward handshake,

a muffed speaking point. So, I mean, the bar for Trump to get this right is exceptionally high, there are lots of pitfalls.

[15:40:01] And let's be clear, unlike with Abe and Trump, these are two men that don't see eye to eye on issues, and they're also not as aligned

personally. Ten to 20-minute, you know, sort of monologues from Xi Jinping that Trump won't be really paying attention too, and then Trump shooting by

the hip. Xi Jinping doesn't golf, right? I mean, just there are so many things about this that are going to be hard.

Now, I do think that Xi, he doesn't want conflict, and he is coming on this visit, you know, with a bag of potential goodies. He is going to be

willing to say that China can continue to buy U.S. treasuries. He's going to be willing to say the Chinese will write checks and come to the U.S. on

a spending tour and invest in infrastructure.

So clearly, there are things that the Chinese can do with and for the United States, but the things that drive these countries apart right now

are more significant. That is most important in terms of the trade relationship.

You've already heard the way Trump has said that the Chinese have been raping the United States in unprecedented fashion on trade. Certainly, in

terms of North Korea where, again, Trump has said, we'll go my way by myself if the Chinese don't help us on this, and the Chinese aren't not

doing nearly enough, they could stop them. And then South China Sea and on Taiwan.

So, I mean, if you take a look at the balance on whether there are more things that the U.S. and China can work on or more things that are driving

confrontation, clearly, you're tilting the scale quite heavily to the latter at this point.

VAUGHAN JONES: Russia, we can't get away from it and certainly, Donald Trump can't get away from it. And now, it looks like he is headed towards,

potentially, a showdown with President Putin, even a bloody showdown if things develop in Syria.

BREMMER: Well, who knew, right? I mean, when Trump came in, of course, Russia was the one relationship that was in the greatest disarray left by

Obama. And everyone thought that Trump really wanted to work that in a much more cooperative way. Of course, he's been constrained from doing

that by the media, by intelligence, by members of his own party and Senate, and by some people within his own administration. Now, on top of this, you

have the sudden flap over Syria.

And you know, there is no question that U.S./Russia relations in the last several days have deteriorated far more quickly than at any point under the

Obama administration. And unlike the U.S./China relationship where China really does want to maintain stability because they think that the world is

moving more in their direction over the long term, Russia does not. They're very unhappy with the present state of the world.

They want to directly undermine American power, and Putin doesn't have constraints on his ability to make decisions the way that China. And Xi

Jinping, even with all of his consolidation of power, does have a lot more check and balance within the Chinese apparat in the Communist Party.

So I think the potential that, if Trump decides to go hard militarily against Assad, you know, actually does engage in significant strikes to

ground the air force, that the Russians are going to respond to some degree in kind. And I think that would spook the markets. It would spook the

Europeans. It would clearly bring a level of confrontation that we haven't seen between these two countries, really, since the Andropov era in the

early '80s.

VAUGHAN JONES: Massive implications politically, financially, as you've been detailing. Ian Bremmer, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BREMMER: My pleasure.

VAUGHAN JONES: Well, we are going to stay with Russia now, but we're going to St. Petersburg where Russian authorities have detained eight people

suspected of connections to Monday's metro attack.

An explosive device was also discovered at a residence where some of those suspects were arrested. Authorities said it was identical to the bomb

found at the St. Petersburg metro station. Let's go live now to St. Petersburg. And CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is there for us.

Just bring us up to speed with the latest on the investigation.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: Well, Hannah, just as you said, authorities today arresting eight people. We went to one home in St.

Petersburg where three people were arrested. A local official telling us that there was a bomb inside that home. Now, police were able to defuse

that bomb, but what is key about this is that this bomb was identical to one that was unexploded and found in the metro station Monday, just after

that terror attack that claimed the lives of 14 people.

Now, Akbarzhon Jalilov, the man accused of carrying out this bomb attack, he's at the center of this investigation. Authorities say he has carried

out the terror attack, but they still cannot link him to any group. No group has claimed the attack, and his motivations remain under question,


[15:44:59] VAUGHAN JONES: And, Salma, I understand there was a memorial in St. Petersburg today. Just describe for us the mood in the city now.

ABDELAZIZ: Hannah, exactly, there was a memorial here, just where we are standing. Hundreds of people gathered and showed up. It was a very somber

ceremony, a very reflective time for the city which is in mourning. The governor had only called for this memorial ceremony just yesterday, but yet

the numbers of people that turned out were high.

Now, it is a 30-minute ceremony. We saw religious leaders, community figures, government officials, all come on stage, and they had one message

for this city. They said, terrorism will not defeat us. St. Petersburg is strong, and Russia will remain united. And that message has really carried

through as the city tries to recover after the horror of Monday's attack.

VAUGHAN JONES: Salma Abdelaziz live for us there in St. Petersburg. Thank you.

And do stay with us here on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Plenty more to come. It's a busy night. We're just coming, of course, to 9:00 p.m. local time

here in London. Do stay with us.


VAUGHAN JONES: Welcome back. Now, for the survivors of Tuesday's chemical attack in northern Syria, the physical wounds are just beginning to heal.

But for many, the horror of what they witnessed will last a lifetime. CNN's Ben Wedeman has their story. And we should warn you, the images are

difficult to watch.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was the latest in a long series of horrors that is the war in Syria. Early Tuesday morning,

the town of Khan Sheikhoun was rocked by explosions. And suddenly, there was pandemonium. Hundreds including many children struggling for breath,

foaming at the mouth.

What exactly happened Tuesday morning isn't clear; the result, however, is. For the lucky who survived like 55-year-old Aisha al-Tilawi, now in a

Turkish hospital, the memories return.

AISHA AL-TILAWI, SURVIVOR (through translator): There was an air strike. I saw yellow and blue. We felt dizzy and fainted.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Ahmed Abdel Rahim still has trouble breathing or reconciling Tuesday's events.

AHMED ABDEL RAHIM, SURVIVOR (through translator): I don't know what happened to my children.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Turkish teams in full chemical suits are deployed in no man's land to wash down those coming to Turkey for treatment, while a

Turkish mobile lab for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons detection heads across the border.

Thirteen-year-old Mazin Yusif, Aisha's grandson, is back on his feet in the hospital, but the trauma has seared his soul.

[15:50:02] MAZIN YUSIF, SURVIVOR (through translator): I saw the explosion in front of my grandfather's house. I ran to their house, barefoot. I saw

my grandfather sitting like this, suffocated, then I became dizzy.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): How many of his relatives were killed?

YUSIF (through translator): Nineteen.

WEDEMAN: The Syrian civil war is now into its seventh year. It's left hundreds of thousands of people dead. This was not the first chemical

attack, and it probably won't be the last. All these years, diplomats and politicians have talked and talked, but people continue to die.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the Turkish/Syrian border.


VAUGHAN JONES: Welcome back. He is the top-ranking golf pro in the world, but Dustin Johnson's Masters' hopes have been dashed by a fall. The

world's number one player just withdrew from the Masters Golf Tournament in dramatic fashion, attempting to play before walking off the course. The

back injury he suffered on Wednesday is preventing him from taking part.

Let's go to Augusta. CNN's Don Riddell is standing by for us.

Don, the rain has been pouring down. The players have been falling down. It's all drama at the Masters. What's going on?

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, a quite extraordinary 24 hours for Dustin Johnson. It was 3:00 p.m. yesterday when he slipped on a

small pair of stairs in a pair of socks and really hurt his back pretty badly. He said that if it happened on Monday, he would have recovered in

time, but it was just too soon to the tournament. However, he did attempt to play.

He got himself onto the range. He tried to go through his clubs and play some of his shots. And I was stood on the first tee when his two playing

partners, Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker, came out.

At that point, his name was actually up on the sort of mini scoreboard, and everybody just assumed he was going to play. But there was an audible gasp

of disappointment when his name was taken off. And that was the end of it for Dustin Johnson.

And, you know, we can't overstate how disappointing this must be for him. He's the world number one. He's the reigning U.S. Open Champion. He comes

into this tournament having won the last three PGA tour events that he's played in.

No one's coming to the Masters that hot since the mid-1970s. And he becomes only the second world number one not to be able to play in the

Masters after Tiger Woods, and so he is very, very disappointed. And we did manage to get these words from him right after he pulled out.


DUSTIN JOHNSON, World Number 1 Professional Golfer: So I was making some swings on the range. I could go max about 80 percent. You know, it's just

so tight it just wouldn't let me. You know, I couldn't get through it.

Backswing was fine. I could make a good backswing. But every time down, like, right at impact, it would just catch. And so, you know, I just don't

feel like there is any chance of me even competing. It hurts.

I was doing everything I could to try the play. You know, last night, you know, ice, heat, ice. I was up, you know, pretty much all night, you know,

trying to get it ready for today. You know, I've been worked on all morning.

And, you know, obviously, I can make some swings, it's just I can't swing full. I can't make my normal swing, and, you know, I just don't feel like

there's any chance that I will be able to compete.


[15:55:08] VAUGHAN JONES: Devastating for him, but with Johnson out of the way, that, of course, clears the way for others in this tournament. I

might have a bit of a flutter on the Masters this year, so who should I be putting my money on then, Don?

RIDDELL: Well, so far, and it is early days, England's Matthew Fitzpatrick is doing very, very well. He tied for seventh last year. He's currently

leading the tournament on the three under par with just one more hole to play, but it's early days.

Of course, you can't win the tournament this early, but you can kind of play yourself out of it, though. A lot of attention being paid to Jordan

Spieth. Remember, he has finished second, first, second in this tournament. He lost it last year with a quadruple bogey on the 12th.

This year, he was doing OK until he had a quadruple bogey on the 15th. In fact, he dropped five strokes in the space of just two holes. So, right

now, Jordan Spieth is leaving himself an awful lot of work to do.

But the conditions are really tricky out there. It is very, very windy. It seems to be getting worse this afternoon, so I think people are just

trying to hang on to their hats, post a relatively decent score, and live to fight another day tomorrow.

VAUGHAN JONES: Yes. At least it stopped raining. I saw a huge downpour earlier, but it looks like, at least, it's cleared up a bit for you, Don.

Thanks very much. Don Riddell live for us there in Augusta.

RIDDELL: The sun is shining too, so it's OK.

VAUGHAN JONES: All right. Good. Now, in Russia, it is now illegal to distribute any images that depict the Russian President Vladimir Putin

wearing makeup or implying that he is gay.

Since 2011, images of Putin with red cheeks and eye shadow have been circulated online, but now, the Justice Ministry has included one of them

among a list of extremist material. And the punishment for anyone redistributing, retweeting, or sharing this image, in any way, is 15 days

behind bars or a fine of 3,000 rubles. That is just over $50.

And finally, we turn to Norway where there are plans to build the world's first tunnel for ships. It will be a mile long, more than a hundred feet

wide, and will pass through a solid rock peninsula. The tunnel will allow freight and ships to bypass a stormy exposed area off the Norwegian


The Coastal Administration in Norway says it hopes that this tunnel will improve safety and stop ships from having to wait for bad weather to pass.

It's going to take three or four years and costs $300 million.

That is it for the program. It's been a pleasure having your company. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.