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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Stockholm Truck Attack Leaves 4 Dead, 12 Injured; Swedish PM: Everything Indicates This Is Terrorist Act; Haley: "U.S. Is Prepared To Do More" On Syria; Trump Launches Military Strikes Against Syria; Russian U.N. Envoy Condemns "Illegitimate". Aired 3-4p ET
Aired April 7, 2017 - 15:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We are coming to you live from Beirut, Lebanon. We will have a lot more on the
U.S. air strike against the Syrian airfield, but the Trump administration says planes took off from in order to conduct a chemical attack a few days
ago. We will have that in a moment for you with full coverage. Our correspondents and analysts on the ground as well.
But first, I want to bring you up to date with our other breaking news story this evening. The truck attack that the prime minister is calling a
suspected terrorist incident this day in Stockholm.
Let me bring you up-to-date with what we know. We understand that just in the last few minutes, news coming into us that a suspect has been arrested
in connection with this truck attack. We do not know if it is the suspected perpetrator. We do know that this individual was arrested in the
Now, this truck attack happened on one of the busiest shopping streets in the Swedish capital. Not far in fact from the central train station and
parliament. The train station was evacuate. The Metro is shut down as well across the city.
The truck was driven into pedestrians. You are seeing some of the latest amateur video that was broadcast online and that we are showing you that
people shared on the internet.
Now this truck crashed into a department store. The company that owns the truck says that one of its drivers was delivering items from the back of
the truck when it was hijacked by somebody.
One eyewitness said it was like cutting through paper what the vehicle did when the driver rammed into the pedestrians. Now, as I mentioned the
police are saying one person has been arrested in relation to the attack and that that arrest happened in the Stockholm area.
A lot of nervousness and tension across the region because for many hours authorities said the person responsible for the attack was still at large,
but we still don't know whether or not the arrest was of an individual directly connected with the attack or peripherally linked to it.
Now, the Swedish prime minister reacted very quickly, and he did say today that every indication is that this was a terrorist act. Let's listen to
the Swedish p.m.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEFAN LOFVEN, SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Sweden has been attack. Everything indicates this is a terror attack. The government
is aware of the situation and I am being constantly informed of developments.
The government is doing everything to help the security agencies. They are urging people to stay alert and listen to information coming from the
According to the security police, there at least two dead in this horrific terror attack. We are thinking about the victims, their families and
friends and those who were injured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Stefan Lofven, the Swedish prime minister speaking to journalists after this truck attack. Per Nyberg is in Stockholm. He joins me now
live. Per, what more can you tell us about this arrest?
PER NYBERG, JOURNALIST: Well, Hala, the arrest happened just a few minutes ago, about 30 minutes north from the center of Stockholm in an area called
Mashta (ph) and we have heard reports from eyewitnesses saying that it was quite dramatic with the police in heavy, almost riot gear, racing up from
the highway towards Mashta (ph) and then arresting this individual.
They are saying he could be connected to the attack earlier today. We don't know if this is the individual that they showed a picture of earlier
today. The police had a press conference. They showed a picture of an individual that they said they wanted to get in touch with him.
They would not say whether or not he was the actual suspect, and we don't know if the individual who is now been arrested is the same individual.
However, I also want to tell you, Hala, that we have heard now that there are four people dead from this attack.
And this is just happening in the last few minutes. This has been confirmed with one of the chief doctors from the hospitals here in
Stockholm. He told the local public radio that there are now four people dead, one of them died at a hospital. We are talking about both adults and
children who are injured. Fifteen people at least who were injured in this attack.
GORANI: So Per, four people dead according to authorities and 15 injured, and this was a pedestrian area, right? I mean, vehicles would not drive
through that area anyway, which is probably what led the authorities to say very quickly that it was a deliberate attack.
NYBERG: Well, absolutely. I mean, this is the heart of Stockholm. I am standing here just about 100 yards away from where the truck is still at.
You could see those flashing lights that is a bus. You also have a couple of other trucks. They are going to try to tow away this truck eventually.
It is still sitting there in the department store. Maybe 50 or 100 yards that way, you have a central train station, and on a Friday afternoon
around 3:00, this place would have been buzzing of people, and locals, tourists, and adults and children out shopping, just enjoying their Friday
[15:05:07]So I mean, looking at the timing of this attack, and looking at the similarities to Berlin, to London and to Nice, authorities were quick
to say this is probably a terror attack that happened.
GORANI: All right. Per Nyberg, a journalist in Stockholm, Sweden, thanks very much for the very latest there and the sad news that authorities are
now saying four people have been killed and one person died in hospital. Thanks very much, Per. We will have a lot more on Stockholm a little bit
later in the program.
But now, back to our other breaking news story and it is a day of breaking news, of course, almost 24 hours now after that strike against the Syrian
airfield in Central Syria.
The Trump administration is saying that they had to do it because they believed that that was this airfield that was used to conduct a chemical
attack in Idlib a few days ago. We have full coverage in Washington.
We have Dan Merica, Paula Newton is in Moscow, and our Clarissa Ward is at the Turkey/Syria border. I want to start first with Clarissa Ward.
And just what more we know about this attack and the potential impact it had on this airfield, because the satellite imagery showed damage to some
buildings, and we believe perhaps housing some aircraft, but not necessarily the actual airstrip.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly what I think is critical, Hala. What a lot of Syrians who support the
opposition would hope for would be for some kind of an attack that directly damaged the runway that would essentially prohibit planes and jets from
taking off from that air base.
Again, from the picture that is emerging and what we are learning from sources on the ground, it does not appear that the runway was hit. We know
that 20 Syrian planes were destroyed, and that also some kind of a storage facility and some material technical stuff was also destroyed.
But the critical thing here is that it was not the runway that was destroyed. This is very much in line from what we heard from the U.N.
Ambassador -- the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, who says, you know, the word they keep using over and over again is proportional.
This was a proportional response. They wanted to do just enough to kind of shift the balance of power in terms of the various components who are
involved with the Syrian conflict, but not enough to escalate it and ratchet it up to an even more critical phase -- Hala.
GORANI: And Dan Merica, you have new details on the timeline of this decision, the new details on how Donald Trump and his advisers came to this
decision to bomb that particular airfield?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: That is right. It is important to note here that President Trump wanted to -- in his own words to prevent and
deter future attacks. Now the Trump administration is saying that, you know, President Bashar Al-Assad could still carry out further attacks.
That he was laying down a marker. A senior administration official told us on future attacks, the willingness to carry out future attacks, but yes, we
are getting more details about what happened, how the decision was made.
And it is significant that this happened at the same time that President Trump was meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. So let's take
you to the time line.
Trump was first presented with the possible options for an attack Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. He gave the official OK at 4:00 on Thursday during a meeting
with his secretary of state, secretary of defense, and national security adviser.
This was all happening as the president was on his way to Florida where he is meeting with the Chinese president. At 7:40, the Tomahawk missiles were
launched from a few Navy destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean and at 8:30, notifications of leaders on Capitol Hill and foreign leaders were
notified by a wide array of administration officials including the cabinet secretaries.
At around 8:30 or 8:40, the first impacts were made in Syria, and at that time, President Trump was having dinner with President Xi, and we are told
that President Trump actually informed President Xi at the dinner that the attacks had been successful and that they had been hit and he retired back
to a secure area at Mar-a-Lago to monitor the ongoing airstrikes and the fallout from that.
GORANI: All right, Dan. And Paula in Moscow, Russia called this an act of aggression. We also heard from their representative at the United Nations
that got very tense there at the Security Council today, Paula?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Tense is one way to put it. It was quite heated and I'm telling you, Hala, if looks could kill, I mean, the
envoy, this would be the Russian deputy envoy and the American envoy, Nikki Haley, going back and forth.
I want you to listen first, though, to the deputy Russian envoy talking about their reaction to the U.S. missile strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:10:09]VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV, RUSSIAN DEPUTY U.N. AMBASSADOR (through translator): We describe that attack as a flagrant violation of
international law and act of aggression. We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the U.S. The consequences of this for regional and
international stability could be extremely serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Yes, and trading back and forth, I mean, he went on to say, look, the United States is afraid of an independent investigation about this. As
you know, Russia denies that there was that kind of an attack at the hands of the Syrian government even though they provided no proof. Nikki Haley
striking back, and saying, look, Syria wouldn't have done this unless it knew that Russia had its back.
GORANI: All right. Paula Newton in Moscow, and Dan Merica is at the White House and Clarissa Ward on the border between Turkey and Syria. Thanks to
all three of you and we will be in touch over the next few hours as we continue to cover our breaking news.
I am joined now by Louisa Loveluck, a Middle East correspondent at the "Washington Post" based here in Beirut. Now the regional reaction, of
course, it depends very much on who you ask.
LOUISA LOVELUCK, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The regional reaction has been very much divided as the regional response to
the entire war. Israel condemned the strike. Turkey condemned the strike. The presidential spokesman called it a response to Assad's war crimes.
But then on the other side, you have Iran. Iran has called this a dangerous and destructive act and also said it was a violation of
GORANI: And what about just ordinary people? I mean, for many, many years, and I have been to this part of the world many times, you heard
people say President Obama in 2013 said there was a clear red line. If you used chemical weapons, I will intervene and then didn't. Now Donald Trump
is intervening. What are people saying about that?
LOVELUCK: Well, certainly, people who were disappointed by Obama in 2013 are incredibly happy today. I have spoken to Syrians who never thought
this day would come and they cannot believe it. The thing is these are sort of symbolically punitive strikes.
They are not meaningful military actions to take out any sort of significant military capacity. So while reaction has been very inflamed on
all sides. You do have analysts today saying it is far smaller than it could have been.
GORANI: And why is that? Because, maybe as Clarissa said, took out a few buildings and planes, but really not the ability for the Syrian government
to use that runway.
LOVELUCK: I think this was a warning sign from Trump. It is not clear that he is not clear that he wanted to sort of enter into a full-on war.
What he has done is to finally enforce a red line. The Syrians know that if they are to use chemical weapons again, there is a strong likelihood
that President Trump will respond, and that is the big message today really.
GORANI: In Lebanon, for instance, you have a group like Hezbollah very much involved in the war next door. You mentioned Iran as well. This also
a message to them or are they taking it as a message directed at them?
LOVELUCK: I mean, they are certainly being very vocal about it, whether or not they will escalate is another matter. The question is in the coming
days is how al-Assad reacts to this? Because a few weeks ago, he was sitting pretty.
GORANI: What are his options?
LOVELUCK: His options right now are to stay put and perhaps not escalate in the near future, but it really depends on what his backers do. If
Russia sticks behind him which they likely will, he will be fine as with Iran. But there are signs today that the Russians are not happy with what
GORANI: Well, and also let's remind people, you had dozens of deaths as a result of this chemical attack, but 200,000-plus deaths as conventional
weapons being dropped on civilian neighborhoods in rebel-held areas.
I wonder if we continue to see the images even if they are more conventional bombs and strikes, would that also potentially have an impact
now that this chemical weapons attack has produced this effect in the White House.
LOVELUCK: But I think that remains to be seen. The chemical weapons are the red line in the way that barrel bombs, conventional weapons and
incendiary weapons have not been. The chemical weapons are, you know, the Assad regime has used chemical weapons nine times alone this year, and
there was no response.
The issue this time I think that it is sarin. Sarin was a gas that the Syrian government was meant as a nerve agent and said to be eradicated in
2013, but clearly it didn't and now it is really about how Assad response and then what Trump does to that.
GORANI: Louisa Loveluck, thanks very much, a correspondent for the "Washington Post" based here in Beirut. We really appreciate you joining
us this evening for our breaking news.
All right, let us see. Where are we going now? And Mark Hertling, our guest, our military analyst is joining us now. Mark, thanks for being with
Let me ask you first about what happened at this particular air base. What impact could it have? It seems largely symbolic, would you agree?
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I would certainly agree, Hala. This was a tactical retaliatory strike, and I have been saying for a
few days that we have to be very careful in terms of judging these tactical operations if they are not connected to a bigger operational or strategic
[15:15:11]We have not seen that. In fact, there have been some disconnects in the messages coming out of Mr. Tillerson, and H.R. McMaster and
President Trump, all of them have said somewhat different things as they described what they are trying to do here.
So without a grander strategy, without a contribution to what Mr. Assad is doing, this was a retaliatory strike against a chemical mission a few days
ago. As you just pointed out, there have been years of these kinds of attacks, not necessarily using chemicals, but certainly brought against the
civilian population, which are also war crimes.
So if the pictures of the chemical strike is what generated the angst in Mr. Trump and caused him to conduct this operation, it seems to me that he
has missed some of the other things that have been occurring over the last six years in Syria. So all of that is problematic. Did it damage this --
GORANI: Yes. Is it possible and sorry to jump in, but is it possible to do just this and not escalate at this stage? Because those who are
skeptical about this move by President Trump are saying, OK, here you go, you start with this and then the Assad government does something else that
is egregious, and then you have to up the ante. So is it possible to stop at this as a warning sign in your expert opinion?
HERTLING: I don't believe it is. Now that does not necessarily mean we are going to expand the campaign, but I think we have to be prepared to do
that. Here's the question. So if this strike was conducted because of a chemical action by Mr. Assad, what happens if he just drops conventional
barrel bombs on a neighborhood or on a hospital which he has done multiple times before.
Is that not also a war crime that should be punished and asking him to stop by some type of persuasive measure? I think it should. He has been doing
this now for five years. But again, what we are saying in terms of the messages it is certainly a welcomed sign that something was done to prevent
Mr. Assad from using chemical weapons again, but I am not sure what it has done in a bigger picture in a grander strategy, and I think that is some of
the unfortunate outcomes of this.
GORANI: What we have been discussing is the runway appears to not have been touched and there are other airfields, by the way, across Syria, but
then you have, and I am sure you have seen this criticism directed sometimes at the former generals like yourselves saying, here they are
again beating the drum beats of war.
They want intervention again. It is never worked in the past. Iraq was a disaster. Libya is a disaster. Now you are opening the door again to
military intervention in Syria. This is what the critics are saying. How do you respond to that?
HERTLING: Yes, and I am not suggesting that. I think we ought to use and should have used for a very long time all elements of national power.
Harder diplomacy, that has not taken effect, but I think perhaps there is a measure of that possibility now with the new administration, I am not sure.
Economic means and perhaps informational means against the Russians. Ambassador Haley's comments today is some of the best commentary I have
heard about war crimes in Syria over the last several years.
So I give her great credit for this, but I think there has to be much, much harsher diplomacy backed by military action and that is somewhat critical.
So all of those things are very important. This was a political -- yes.
GORANI: OK. Finish your thought. All right. We have -- we have lost the connection there with the Lt. General Mark Hertling. Thanks very much
there for your thoughts. We appreciate it.
A quick break on CNN, when we come back, we continue our special edition live from Beirut, and few of course are more affected by what happens in
Syria than Syrians themselves. I'll be speaking to a member of the country's opposition about how the news is being received at home.
Also, Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court confirmed today. We will have that and more coming up.
GORANI: Welcome back, everybody. We continue our breaking news coverage both of the Sweden truck attack which we will get to in a moment, but also
the U.S. strike against a Syrian air base in the central part of the country, the first direct hit by the United States in the six-plus years
now of the conflict there.
The big question is, is this a one-off thing? What happens next? The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said the U.S. won't necessarily stop
here. Listen to what she told the Security Council just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States took a very measured step last night. We are prepared to do more, but we hope
that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria, and demand a political
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, international reaction as we have been discussing has been mixed. It depends really what side of the conflict you are on. To support
the government of President Assad, are you a big Sunni country like Turkey or Saudi Arabia, in which case you are applauding this intervention by the
What about the Syrian political opposition? Monzer Akbik, the spokesperson for a newly formed opposition group called "Tomorrow" and he joins me now
live from Abu Dhabi. Thanks very much, Mr. Akbik, for being with us. What is your initial reaction to what the United States did about 18 hours ago
MONZER AKBIK, SPOKESMAN, SYRIA'S TOMORROW MOVEMENT: Thank you for having me. Yes, we have noticed it is a punishment calculated at one-time strike
and of course, the main reason is for the chemical weapons attack. For us, we would say that of course, we don't want to see those hideous pictures of
our children getting suffocated by the sarin gas, which has happened several times by now.
So that the deterrence is very important, and in this way, we agree of course into any action by the United States and the international community
to eliminate completely the chemical weapons from the Syrian soil, and this is something that can be utilized.
Now, after the strike happened, by the United States, they need to analyze this strike into sending inspectors into the ground. We all remember that
there was a deal between the United States and Russia to get rid of the chemical weapons.
But at that time, they depended on the goodwill or the good intentions of Assad himself who told them, OK, here it is, take it, but now, we see that
they still -- Assad still has a chemical weapon. So some kind of different scenario.
Maybe the Iraqi scenario where the inspectors should have freedom to go and inspect everywhere in Syria to get rid completely of the weapon from all
Syrian territories. This is something that I think that this is something necessary to happen now.
GORANI: It is just very difficult, you know, logistically, I mean, so much of the country is still at war, but I guess my question to you as a
member of the political opposition is would you support more military intervention?
[15:25:03]More bombings of airfields and runways and the military capabilities of the Assad government, would you support that?
AKBIK: I would support a stick and carrot policy. Of course, we want to see, because Assad did not cooperate at all with the political path in
Geneva. He did not cooperate with the ceasefire. Of course, I would support for the United States to put its weight into, into saving more
humanitarian crisis and the killings of the Syrian people and get the negotiations to succeed.
Those negotiations they obviously need the leverage, international leverage and particularly they need the involvement of strong involvement of United
States in order for them to succeed.
Right now, we don't see Assad at all willing to give any political concessions. So yes, I would say that threatening into -- threatening
Assad and pushing him into the negotiation table and pushing him into cooperating with the political solution according to the Geneva and the
Security Council resolution would be welcomed.
At the same time, we will welcome also an agreement between the United States and Russia to get this political solution take place. You know,
Russia, they are there and they have military on the ground. We don't want to see a conflict of course international, wider international conflict
between Russia and the United States -- conflict between the two countries --
GORANI: Sir, you would support more of the same strategy then of limited strikes against the military capabilities of the Assad government? You
would support that?
AKBIK: I would support that they should be some -- Assad should fear something in order for him to cooperate. He did not hand over his chemical
weapons, and most of it now we know, and in 2014 until he was threatened by President Obama at that time.
Today, of course, he will have different calculations after the strike happened. If there is no credible threat to Assad of some kind of the
military defeat or the credible pressure on Assad to cooperate, we will see more and more and years and years of war.
This is the seventh year now of the civil war, and they should be some kind of the leverage to the process, the political process in order for Assad to
cooperate, and agree to the political transition according to the Geneva communique.
GORANI: So, you believe really it should be a deterrent, a threat coming from the United States that war could come if the Assad government does not
agree to a political solution, if I understand you correctly?
AKBIK: Yes. I would say that there should be some kind of credible threat to Assad, and at the same time but not with the conflict with Russia. They
should be all at the same time an agreement with Russia on the solution.
Now the United States and Russia should eventually push and pressure all parties, warring parties, whether the Syrian warring parties or the
regional players into a certain solution that they agree on. These two countries, they are the only two countries in the world that can now effect
and force a solution in Syria.
GORANI: All right. Monzer Akbik, the spokesperson for the "Tomorrow Movement," a political opposition group. Thank you so much for joining us
live from Abu Dhabi with your thoughts.
AKBIK: You're welcome.
GORANI: We continue our breaking news coverage of what happened in Syria a little bit later, but after a break, we return to Sweden where a truck
attack has killed four people and an arrest has been made. We will be right back.
[15:31:29] GORANI: Welcome back, everybody. We'll get you more on our breaking news coverage of the strike on Syria in a moment, but first, an
update on our other breaking news story. And that this attack, what the Prime Minister is saying, looks like a terror attack in the Swedish
capital, Stockholm. Here's the very latest.
Swedish police say they've just arrested a suspect in the Stockholm area in connection to the attack. This afternoon, a truck drove into a crowd of
pedestrians on a busy street in the city center. You're seeing some of the pictures there of the aftermath. At least two people were killed, though
we're hearing reports that possibly four have been killed, many more were injured. The Swedish Prime Minister says everything indicates that it was
a terrorist attack.
Linda Flood works near the scene of the attack, and she spoke to CNN a little bit earlier about what she saw. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA FLOOD, EYEWITNESS (via phone): I was leaving my workplace, which is like a few hundred meters, a quarter of a mile, from where the attack took
place. And when I came out in the street, it was like chaos. And then I saw injured people, a woman, especially a woman without feet and caps, and
she was, like, carried away towards an ambulance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Linda Flood there, an eyewitness to the incident. And it has just become so devastatingly familiar, this type of attack using vehicles,
trucks. We saw it just a few weeks ago in Westminster. We were covering that. But, of course, the Berlin Christmas market attack, which we covered
as well. What happened in Nice last year as well.
I'm joined now from Stockholm by Peter Wolodarski. He's the editor-in- chief of one of the leading newspapers in the country.
Peter, thanks for joining us. We heard one arrest was made. Do you have more information about that?
PETER WOLODARSKI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAGENS NYHETER: Well, police just held a press conference, and they confirmed that one person has been arrested.
And it's actually the person that is on the image that the police sent out earlier today. They have said that that man has a connection to what has
happened in the afternoon. They haven't said that it's the actual man who drove the lorry, so they are not giving out more details at this moment
about the man.
GORANI: So are they saying that there could be more suspects on the run, on the loose?
WOLODARSKI: Well, they are not saying if there are more suspects. They are just saying that this man, and they haven't confirmed that he was
driving the lorry, but there is some connection with what happened in the afternoon. That is the only think that they are actually saying at this
They have also confirmed now that four people have been killed. At least 15 people have been wounded. That also came out from the press conference
that police just held here in Stockholm.
GORANI: Is the police operation ongoing? In other words, are they still looking for other people? I know you said they haven't confirmed if
there's another suspect, but are they still operating on the assumption they may be looking for someone else?
WOLODARSKI: It is an ongoing situation. At the press conference, the police asked people to stay out of central Stockholm because they are
working in the area and they want to have space. They are not saying that it is dangerous to be in central Stockholm, but they specifically asked
people to the stay out of the streets, so the operation is clearly ongoing there.
[15:35:02] GORANI: And are they saying anything about the profile of the suspect, you know, who the individual is, what the motivation might have
WOLODARSKI: Well, the man that was apprehended was apprehended north of Stockholm in a shop. What has been given out as information is that he
behaved in a strange way in the shop, and that's why he was apprehended. And he's the same man as on the image that the police sent out, but they
haven't given out any detail about who he is, his name, where he comes from, or anything like that. We just have the image of that man.
GORANI: Because what we do know based on the owner of the truck company is that they're saying that this truck was hijacked, was stolen, while the
deliveryman was offloading the lorry, correct? Where did that CCTV screen grab come from of the man they arrested? Do we know in relation to where
the truck was?
WOLODARSKI: Well, the delivery was to a restaurant on the same street where the lorry was standing, and someone hijacked the lorry and took it
away and drove in that street and massacred four people. But we don't have more details about the shop or the man in the lorry at this moment.
GORANI: And, obviously, I mean, I've got to ask you. People in Stockholm, when something like this happens, what is being said among just ordinary
Swedes and people who live in Stockholm about what happened today?
WOLODARSKI: Well, it was a very dramatic situation in the afternoon. The public transportation was closed down, so people had basically to walk out
of the city. The police were asking everyone to leave the central parts of the capital, a very dramatic move by police.
But at the same time, we saw an outpour of support from ordinary Stockholmers to help each other in this very difficult situation. People
were opening up their homes, offering transportation, giving up a hand and help support each other. That was very, very moving to see.
GORANI: Peter Wolodarski, thank you so much for joining us from Stockholm. We really appreciate it.
Yet what appears to be another attack using a vehicle, a truck. In the case of Westminster, it was a car. Still no claim of responsibility, no
more details on the suspect who was arrested.
We know that police circulated that screen grab taken from surveillance footage. We don't know if that person was the driver, but Peter Wolodarski
there saying, according to police forces, four people were killed and some of the injuries described by eyewitnesses just absolutely devastating, as
is so often the case in these terrible attacks.
We'll keep our eye, of course, on what is happening in Sweden throughout the program. But let's turn our attention back to what is going on in this
part of the world where we are broadcasting from. I'm live in Beirut for a special edition of the program.
"On the verge of a military clash," quote/unquote, is how the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is describing Moscow's precarious position with
the United States. The Kremlin says it was outraged by the U.S. missile strikes on an Assad regime base in Syria. President Putin called it a
significant blow to U.S./Russian relations. Now, a U.S. official is saying, Washington is looking at potential Russian involvement in last
week's chemical attack on Syrian civilians.
Jamie Rubin is a senior media advisor for National Security Affairs, a former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State. He joins me now live from
Let's talk, first, Jamie, potentially about how this could impact the U.S./Russia relationship because we heard from the Kremlin calling this an
act of aggression, but then Sergey Lavrov, you know, was a little bit more conciliatory. Is this really going to damage the relationship between the
two countries, in your view?
JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER UNITED STATES ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: I don't think it will get a lot worse than it is right now.
I do think that this, in conjunction with the weeks and weeks of discussion in Washington about the Trump team and its potential activities with
Russia, has made it impossible or, certainly, very difficult for the new president and President Putin to have the kind of the rapprochement that
people were speculating in which the Ukraine situation would be, you know, dealt with in some fashion, in which the United States and Russia would
join forces in a war against terrorism.
I don't think that is what's going to be happening even before the strike, but certainly, this airstrike makes that almost impossible to imagine. But
I don't think we're going to see a deterioration into some kind of conflict between Russia and the United States because I don't think President Trump
intends to continue airstrikes, and I think the Russians have made their point. And after a few days, the people will calm down.
[15:40:22] GORANI: And what do you think Donald Trump's goal is here?
RUBIN: Well, again, it's very difficult to fully speculate on Mr. Trump's thinking on foreign affairs, but let me say this. I don't believe that he
intended to have the United States or intends to have the United States intervene in the war in Syria over an extensive period of time.
I think this was, instead, a case of dealing with chemical weapons. I think he was horrified, and I think this airstrike will deter Assad from
using chemical weapons again in the future. I don't think we'll see that.
And it has the additional benefit of sending a message to North Korea, where a similar problem is on President Trump's desk, of how to deter North
Korea from extending the range of its missiles so that they have missiles armed with nuclear weapons that can strike throughout the United States.
Mr. Trump is seized with that issue, and I figure that this airstrike probably sent a message he thought was useful.
GORANI: And also, Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State, is headed to Moscow next week. That visit is still on. It's going to be a crucial
visit for Donald Trump's representative, isn't it?
RUBIN: Well, I think so. Remember, one of the things that people said about Rex Tillerson, which is ironic now, is that he had a close
relationship with Vladimir Putin from his days as chief executive of Exxon. And I think that relationship was probably always exaggerated, but I'm sure
there is something there, and I suspect that he will have a serious conversation with President Putin.
But remember, when dealing with President Putin and the Russians on these issues, there is kind of a sense of unreality and parallel universe, you're
discussing, where the Russians say that there were no chemical weapons used by Syria, that it was a chemical weapons factory of the rebels that was
hit, and that is how the rebel civilians got damaged.
So I think when the door is closed, it is possible that Mr. Tillerson and President Putin will be able to talk in a more serious and realistic way
without the kind of, you know, false narratives that Russia thinks it's useful to put out publicly.
GORANI: Because, ultimately, this conflict in Syria -- and by the way, so many more killed by conventional weapons without necessarily sort of
generating the outrage that this attack did. Ultimately, Russia and the United States, according to so many that we speak, will have to be the main
drivers behind a political solution. I mean, is that in the cards at all in the foreseeable future?
RUBIN: Well, my suspicion is that if President Trump does not follow up on this airstrike by pursuing some kind of a safe area for refugees, which is
something he mentioned during the campaign and the White House mentioned earlier in the week, that this is really a one-off, and that the Trump
administration is going to divert its attention from Syria, move on to other issues, particularly ISIS, and all that goes with that.
And contrary to the expectations of so many in the region, it won't be the United States working with Russia to resolve Syria because the truth is,
that other than this airstrike now, most of the rebel groups, to the extent that they are still together, have lost faith in the United States. The
United States has very little leverage over them.
With the Trump administration not planning to continue arm shipments to rebel fighters, that leverage will decrease, and it will be more an effort
by Turkey and Russia to try to carve out, perhaps, more of a partition-like solution to Syria than a global solution that involves a peace treaty and
GORANI: Jamie Rubin, as always, thanks so much for joining us.
RUBIN: You're welcome.
GORANI: We appreciate your time this evening on our special program.
We will be live in Beirut after a quick break. We have a lot more on Donald Trump's big foreign policy speech. Of course, the strike happened
when he was hosting the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Also, a victory for Donald Trump. His Supreme Court nominee was confirmed today.
[15:45:00] We'll have more on that after a break. Stay with us.
GORANI: Welcome back, everybody. We'll get back to Syria in a moment, but, first, the Swedish Prime Minister is speaking out about today's truck
attack. Let's listen in.
STEFAN LOFVEN, PRIME MINISTER OF SWEDEN (through translator): -- and can't be about the latest news and updates, so I am up 24/7 for the latest news
and update. As well as the first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): What you want to say to all the people this morning that are feeling that are worried and thought that this
LOFVEN (through translator): Yup, I feel the same worry that something like this possibly can happen on more innocent and peaceful people. But we
have also a strong police, security team. They're doing everything they can do to make people feel secure and safe.
And like I said before, there is no guarantee that anything can prohibit or prevent something like this from happening. But we will, we can, do
everything in our power to stop it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What is your conclusion about political decisions that needs to be done after this?
LOFVEN (through translator): That's very early to say right now. We're still in the beginning of the investigation to understand what happened,
and there is one person that is detained. But we don't know yet if it's that person or not, so, please, let us know everything behind this and then
we will see the consequences.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Is there anything that could be done to prevent this?
LOFVEN (through translator): It is really hard. You can't really promise that this can't happen because it looks similar to the attacks that we're
seeing in Europe. And it's impossible to say what can happen. But the police and the security team really needs to always keep the information
and intelligence updated and do everything in their power to make sure the people are feeling safe.
GORANI: Stefan Lofven, the Swedish Prime Minister, saying he wants Swedes to feel safe, that, of course, there can never a guarantee that an attack
like this will never happen. Indeed, it did happen.
The Prime Minister also said that the one person who was arrested, that they don't know for sure if that person was the driver of the truck, if
that person was the perpetrator loosely connected ,or otherwise. We just know one person is now under arrest in connection with the attack.
[15:50:05] We'll have more on Sweden in a moment. David Rohde joins me now with more on a very, very busy news day and a very busy week, as well, for
President Donald Trump. He is our global affairs analyst.
So, of course, there was this strike, but there was a very important, overshadowed by this development in the Middle East but a very important
visit by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. What did that achieve?
DAVID ROHDE, NATIONAL SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, THOMSON REUTERS: Well, it's not very clear. I mean, you know, President Trump said that
there was tremendous progress in the meetings, but, you know, this decision to carry out this strike, you know, while the President of China was, you
know, at Mar-a-Lago was sort of extraordinary. And it is a gamble.
It could, you know, make the Chinese take the threat of American military action in North Korea more seriously. They also could see it as an
affront, that he is reckless, that he did this, you know, during a meeting that China sees as critical. Again, these are the two most powerful
leaders in the world.
So I don't think we'll know for sure, but it's definitely, you know, something to watch in the next few weeks. Was there actually progress
behind the scenes, or has Syria sort of, you know, indirectly complicated the U.S./Chinese relations as well?
GORANI: Was it surprising that President Trump chose to strike during this important high-level visit?
ROHDE: Yes, it's come out that, you know, he was given an option. He could have waited another night once Xi was gone, and that might have been
more cautious. So there was a decision to carry it out last night.
You know, repeatedly during the campaign and in his public comments, President Trump has said that the world sees the United States as weak.
That was one of his main criticisms of Barack Obama. So, again, he is following through on that belief that if he is unpredictable, if he shows
willingness to use force, it will lead, you know, other countries to take him more seriously, or take the United States more seriously. On the other
hand, do they see it as reckless? Again, it's too early to tell, but this was a major risk that Trump has taken.
GORANI: All right. David Rohde, thanks very much for joining us. We will take a quick break. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
GORANI: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of the strike against Syria, the first direct intervention by the United States since the
beginning of the crisis, and then the war in neighboring Syria. We're coming to you live from Beirut, Lebanon.
Karim Makdisi is a professor at the American University of Beirut, and he joins me now to finish off our hour with final thoughts on what this means
for the region. First, potentially the impact on the Assad government.
KARIM MAKDISI, CHAIRMAN OF THE PROGRAM IN PUBLIC POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF BEIRUT: Well, I think, definitely, we have
to wait to see how it's going to play out in the next few days. I think, most likely, not much is going to change. I mean, if this is going to be -
GORANI: That he'll continue to bomb civilian areas, rebel areas with conventional weapons?
MAKDISI: I think, why not? I don't think much has changed materially, unless anything escalates in the next few days. I mean --
GORANI: Not enough of a deterrent?
MAKDISI: I don't think so.
GORANI: No, why not? Why not? It's sending a message.
MAKDISI: It's sending a message. But I think, if it's true that the Assad regime is the one that used these chemical weapons, at this moment, when
they were on top of everything, then why would stop in the coming days?
GORANI: What will the Russians do, do you think?
MAKDISI: The Russians, now, if this was not already stage managed with the United States, I think there is going to be a kind of a response that they
have to do to try to show that they're still in control of the region.
[15:55:07] GORANI: Militarily?
MAKDISI: No -- well, militarily, there might be attacks in different areas that might be, maybe, more attention as to why what's going on in Mosul and
Iraq, the kind of distractions that they are claiming this is going to be getting to as well.
GORANI: The regional reaction, it depends which side of this conflict the countries or the groups, non-state actors, support.
GORANI: So it's varied.
MAKDISI: It's extremely varied, and, you know, there is a regional proxy war going on. And so for all of the saber rattling about babies and
humanitarian situation, which is an unbelievable situation, there is a proxy war. And you know, you have the Iranians and the Russians on one
side, you have the Americans, the Europeans, and the Gulf countries, Turkey, on the other. And, unfortunately, Syria remains in the middle of
this. And I don't think many people are particularly concerned about the actual civilians, which is what we should all be.
GORANI: Well, because Arab governments have not necessarily acted in the way of peace?
MAKDISI: No. No. Arab governments are not known for their peaceful stances, and nobody particularly takes them very seriously here except in
GORANI: Is this the belief of those who observed this over the last almost 24 hours now that the U.S. has now opened up door to more military
intervention, that this is the beginning of something bigger?
MAKDISI: I hope not. I'm one of these people who doesn't think that military intervention will get very far. And I think the question about
whether there should be more military intervention is the wrong one. The question is, how do we go towards a political settlement, and does this
kind of thing help the political settlement or not? I think this is the key question which is being ignored.
GORANI: And the key question -- I actually wrote a little something on Facebook, and that was one of my key questions as well. A political
solution, but with who? The Assad government is in a fight for its own existence.
GORANI: The rebel groups that are increasingly radicalized, they're still waging a hot war, control large parts of the countryside. How do you get
to a political resolution?
MAKDISI: Yes. Well, that is great question. And hopefully, through the U.N. Security Council, which is meeting hopefully, they'll come up with
something. But it's curious that, at a time when the situation seemed to be getting a little bit better on the sense of it a bit more stable, that
there was some kind of resolution in sight. Now, there's these attacks and things have unraveled again.
GORANI: Well, any way you look at it, it's not a rosy picture going forward. And, unfortunately, I think many people are still pessimistic
with regards to Syria's future.
Karim Makdisi, thanks very much for rounding out the hour with us. We really appreciate your analysis and your time this evening.
And that's going to do it for us here. We are live in Beirut. We'll see you over the weekend with more coverage from Lebanon on the Syria strike
and also on the developing breaking news story out of Sweden.
Stay with CNN. The news continues after a break.