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Military, Diplomatic and Humanitarian Movement in Syria, Russia, and U.S.; Russia Not Happy With U.S. Missiles Strike in Syria; U.S. Special Operations Soldier Killed in Nangahar Province. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired April 8, 2017 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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Just past the top of the hour, you are in CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Our top story right now, Syria, the United States and Russia. Plenty of military, diplomati,c and humanitarian involvement movement overseas happening right now because of those three countries.

In western Syria new explosions today in a town that is already dealing with the horror of a deadly chemical attack. Somebody is bombing that town again. It's unclear exactly who or what the casualties are. An update from the Syrian border in just a moment.

Syrian air force planes are once again taking off from the base hit by more than 50 U.S. missiles yesterday. Pentagon official say the missile blew a fuel tank, plane and stored ammunitions and were sent there as a message to Syria. I will talk to a former U.S. ambassador to Syria coming up.

A Russian show of force after those American airstrikes. A Russian Navy ship, a missile (INAUDIBLE) now headed to the waters off western Syria. Now, Moscow is promising to bolster Syrian air defenses. The diplomat America secretary of state and Russia's foreign minister spoke by phone today about this fast-changing situation in Syria. Rex Tillerson and Sergey Lavrov will meet in person next week in Moscow. Now I mentioned how the town in western Syria where at least 89 people died in Tuesday's chemical attack has just been bombed again.

Let's get to Clarissa Ward on the border there between Syria and Turkey right now.

Clarissa, do you know who is behind these new airstrikes and what more are you hearing about the effect of those strikes?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there are only two possible candidates in terms of who could be responsible for these strikes because the only fighters jet that are in the air above Idlib, which is still held by the rebels are Russian jets and the jets belonging to the air force of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. And for the past years now, they have been continuously bombarding the province of Idlib. So it would appear that they are one of the two of them is the likely culprit.

Now, we are hearing from activists on the ground that so far one woman has been confirmed dead in the airstrikes. Three people have been confirmed as injured. It's not entirely surprising that the death toll is not that high because the town, (INAUDIBLE) and according to activists who we have spoken to on the ground, has been largely deserted since that chemical attack earlier in the week in which as you said, 89 people are now confirmed to be dead.

If it's indeed deserted largely, one can assume the message behind these airstrikes on (INAUDIBLE) was more about showing a posture of defiance, of showing that the regime of Bashar al-Assad will not be cowed by the U.S., by the international community.

You mentioned as well that we know now Syrian jets are also once again taking off from Shayrat air base. This is the air base that the U.S. struck in the early hours of Friday morning. And it is important to remember though that the U.S. is objective with those strikes was not to render the air base unusable but to destroy I believe it was 20 Syrian regime warplanes that were taken out in the end as well as a weapons dumb some storage facilities. So the idea was to try to prevent further chemical attacks from happening as oppose to rendering the base completely unusable.

So, seemingly what we are seeing today, Ana, is the regime of Bashar al-Assad trying to show a defiant face, trying to show that they haven't been affected by the U.S. strikes. And they will keep bombing with impunity.

[16:05:10] CABRERA: Sadly. Clarissa Ward, thank you for that report.

Now the president is talking a little bit more about his decision making. He is also spending the weekend in Florida. He was golfing there today. CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond is joining us nearby.

Jeremy, the president has been defending the strikes by the U.S. on a couple of fronts today. Did send a letter to Congress and he has been tweeting about it.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Ana. Just as we are seeing these images of Syrian jets taking off again from that air base that the U.S. struck just 48 hours ago, we are now having the president tweeting, explaining why the U.S. hit the targets that it did at the air base.

He says quote "the reason you don't generally hit runway because they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix -- fill in and top."

That's because the U.S. did not strike that runway at that base. Instead, the U.S. tomahawk cruise missiles struck the taxiway there, fuel depots, munition storages, as well as airplanes at that base. But we saw today those Syrian planes one again taking off. So it didn't neutralize the capacities of that base.

Today, we also have the president formally notifying Congress in providing his rational for those airstrikes - for those strikes, rather, the crude missile strikes that he launched just two days ago. He said in this letter quote "I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interest of the United States pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive. He goes on to say the United States will take additional action as necessary and appropriate to further its important national interests.

That is very similar to what heard the president and the secretary of state Re Tillerson layout as the rationale for the strike and reason. They have been out formally providing that rationale in a letter to the speaker of the House and the Senate president (INAUDIBLE).

CABRERA: Now Jeremy, I know you have been looking into sort of this evolution with President Trump. It wasn't all that long ago where he was saying that Syria should be left by the people to decide what they should do about their own government. And now he is taking action. So what more are you learning about his decision-making and how he has evolved?

DIAMOND: Well, you know, it's interesting. When these strikes were first launched it appeared as though the president had made this full turnaround from how he talked about Syria and the campaign over the matter - over a matter of just a few days.

But actually, a few months ago, the president in an off the record meeting with a group of reporters, I was at that meeting, I asked the president's spokeswoman (INAUDIBLE) if I could put those comments On the Record and she agreed to that. At that gathering the president actually spoke of the tragedies in Syria, the quote-unquote, "holocaust." And he also used that word that that we heard him say earlier in the week, just before launching these strikes which was responsibility, the president saying even in December, during his gathering with reporters that he felt that the U.S. had a responsibility over the situation in Syria.

And as he was speaking about this, you could see the weight of the presidency, you know, the office which he had just been elected a month earlier was clearing beginning to weigh on him and he was really starting to mull what his responsibility, the moral responsibility of his as the leader of the free world might be as he takes office over this increasingly devastating conflict in Syria.

CABRERA: All right, Jeremy Diamond reporting from Florida. Thank you.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad grew up wanting to be a doctor not a politician, it turns out. His father ruled Syria for decades and his brother, older brother (INAUDIBLE) was supposed to inherit the family's political dynasty. Now, everything changed when Bashar's older brother was killed in a 1994 car accident. Bashar was the next in line. He returned home from London to take his older brother's place. And at that time, he had no military experience, very little political experience. Six years later, Bashar al-Assad became Syria's president.

Let's bring in former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Ryan Crocker who served there from 1998 - 2001.

Thank you so much, ambassador for joining us. I know you met Bashar al-Assad and his father. How would you described the Assad family, both personally and then their long-term political goals for Syria.

RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, PAKISTAN: Well, thanks, Ana. It is pleasure to be on. I did indeed meet both father and son. I was halfway through my assignment in 2000 when (INAUDIBLE) have died. Something interesting happened before that. During the last nine months of his life, (INAUDIBLE) in retrospect, you see this now clearly taking steps to prepare Bashar for the responsibility.

One thing he did through his foreign minister was to ask me meet one- on-one with Bashar. I did this a couple of times. And from that experience, I drew a couple of conclusions. First, we had this notion that because he had studied in the UK and knew how to turn on a computer that he was somehow part of the western ethos. Well our conversations were conducted in Arabic, not that I am so technically good at it, but he had no -- obviously not any real confidence in his English. Which I think told us that his time in London he was completely focused on his studies. He wasn't part of the social scene there.

The second thing I deduced is that he really was the son of the Baath party. His father had grown up and been educated in a much more liberal environment. Bashar came across to me as far more doctonaire and far more rigid than his father was.

[16:10:57] CABRERA: Where was that coming from do you think?

CROCKER: Well again, (INAUDIBLE) pre-dated the Baath party. Bashar was born into it. So his influences were all ill liberal. Something, again, we didn't get because we thought that an ability to send an email somehow meant that you were a friend of the west. So, you know, he was groomed to run the party as well as the best I could do in running the country. And I conveyed that to Washington at the time. If you think it's going to get better and easier after (INAUDIBLE) goes, think again. The son of (INAUDIBLE) struck me at that time as a harder line with less flexibility than his father ever was. CABRERA: And now we see what has transpired in the past six years

with some 400,000 people in Syria being killed in the civil war there. Five million or so who have tried to flee. Millions more who are trying to hide and protect themselves and their families.

Now, this recent action by the U.S. to strike, to launch missiles on some Syrian air bases has been largely supported both in the U.S. and around the globe but not unanimous show of support globally. I want you to listen what the Bolivia's ambassador to the U.N. had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SACHA LIBRENT, BOLIVIA AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): The United States not only unilaterally attacked but while we were just discussing here and demanding the need for an independent investigation, an impartial investigation, complete investigation into these attacks the United States has become that investigator. Has become the prosecutor. Has become the judge. Has become the jury.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So there's anger out there that the U.S. acted unilaterally and some here in the U.S. have called it an act of war, do you agree with that?

CROCKER: Look, Ana, I'm not going to parse the legalities or the technicalities here. That's what lawyers do. I'm not one. Clearly, President Trump had every right, maybe even a moral obligation to do what he did. And as you note, the regional voices have come out and supported him.

My concern is something different with particularly with the Saudis and the Turks, why are they praising President Trump? Because they see this as a shift from Islamic state all of the time to taking on Assad directly. They -- I think they are perceiving this or at least hoping this is a change in strategy. I'm pretty sure it is not. So, the president is going to have to figure out a way to convey what he will and will not do going forward and not -- not lose these recently reacquired friendships. It's going to be a challenge.

Because again, what we are seeing possibly as the Syrian air force goes back into action is that the babies are beautiful and I will do something, as long as they were killed with chemical weapons. If the babies were killed with conventional weapons, not my issue. So there are political and moral challenges ahead.

CABRERA: Is there something diplomatically the U.S. could do to try to better the situation there? I know it's a complex dynamic in the Middle East, particularly in Syria when you have the government at war with its own people. You have terror groups also who are trying to take on more power in that area, if not militarily what would the U.S. do that would have an impact.

[16:15:00] CROCKER: Well, there is a critical area that President Trump, I think, has -- worked to cultivate. We are on better terms now throughout the region than we were under President Obama. President Trump has made a real effort to engage regional leaders before this attack. So I would hope that he can use that leverage to get our key allies around the need to develop a common strategy going forward in Syria. That wasn't going to happen under President Obama. You know, the Egyptians, the Saudis basically are all of our traditional allies were distanced from this process. So there's an opportunity here to kind of bring a collective approach to this. And I just please to see that President Trump called yesterday the king of Saudi Arabia on the phone. So he has got these contacts. He has cultivated this field. He now needs to see what he can grow in it by giving everyone around this.

CABRERA: All right. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we have to leave it there. But thank you for coming on and sharing your opinion and some of your insight into the region with us. We really appreciate it.

CROCKER: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: To hear Russia call it, the U.S. came close to a direct confrontation with the Russian military over that strike in Syria. But what are the real risk of an escalation in the region? We will take a closer look.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[16:20:43] CABRERA: Russia is making no secret that the fact that it's not happy with the U.S. missiles strike in Syria. The Kremlin calling it an aggression which violates international law and brought it nearly led to a clash between U.S. and Russian forces.

CNN's Brian Todd looks at the escalation between those two countries -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the Kremlin is out and out furious with the United States. Saying this strike put the U.S. and Russia on the brink of a military confrontation. Right now, there is huge concern over Vladimir Putin's next move and the potential for escalation.

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TODD (voice-over): Vladimir Putin angered over the U.S. strikes in Syria calling them an aggression in violation of international law. His foreign minister warning of the fallout to come.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I'm particularly disappointed by the way this damages U.S./Russia relationships.

TODD: What little trust there was between the two nations, now eroded. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev saying the U.S. attack quote "was on the brink of military clashes with Russia."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's saying this could escalate and that this could mean conflict between the United States and Russia which is something that terrifies all of us.

TODD: A senior U.S. official says the U.S. military gave their counterparts one-hour notice about the airstrike. Experts are also worried about a possible proxy war.

OLGA OLIKER, EXPERT ON RUSSIAN MILITARY, CSS: If the United States is going after the Syrian regime which Russia supports the risks go way up, right the United States is taking bases where Russians are, it's attacking facilities where Russians are, and it's at war with people the Russia are backing and fighting shoulder to shoulder with.

TODD: Another sign of immense tension between the Washington and Moscow. A senior U.S. defense official tell CNN the U.S. military is looking for any evidence that the Russian regime was complicit in the chemical weapons attacked in Idlib, Syria in recent days or if Russia had any knowledge of it.

A Kremlin spokesman said that is not true. Putin's next move is a huge concern. Expert say he may escalate the presence in Syria, send in weapons possibly launch more high profile airstrikes of his own. And he will likely reinforce his backing of Syria's dictator.

After this airstrikes, how far do you think Vladimir Putin will go to prop up Bashar al -Assad?

ANDREW TABLER, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: I think in terms of rhetoric, I think he will go as far as he can possibly go. Militarily, in terms of committing troops, I would, in significant numbers, I would doubt it. They have said they are going to put in additional anti-aircraft systems. That's a possibility.

TODD: Still it's believed Putin is exasperated with his ally in Damascus.

TABLER: I think that president Putin is very frustrated with President Assad. His statements are quite erratic. He also during times where Russia had launched peace initiatives has gone out and rebuffed those initiatives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Analysts said Putin's support of Assad could now put Putin at greater risk. They say if Bashar al-Assad pulls another reckless move, it could draw the United States further into the conflict with Syria and put U.S. forces closer to a potential direct confrontation with the Russian military -- Ana.

CABRERA: Brian Todd, thank you.

Straight ahead here tonight, the Syrian army is responding to U.S. military moves in their country calling America a quote "partner of ISIS."

Up net, how terror groups could try and benefit from these strikes.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:22] CABRERA: We are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera following new developments out of Syria today.

Syrian activists now say the area that was hit by a chemical attack earlier in the week has been hit by new airstrikes. It's still unclear exactly who is behind these new attacks. But we can tell you that Russian and Syrian regime aircrafts are the only ones that have been bombing this area.

We are also learning that flight operations have resumed as that Syrian military base that was hit by U.S. strikes on Thursday night. The Syrian government is now calling the United States a partner of ISIS.

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen is joining me you now from Washington.

Peter, Those U.S. missile strikes were intended to send a message to the Assad regime, right. But just today we see airstrikes targeting that same city that attacked by chemical weapons earlier this week. So were President Trump's actions effective? Was his message received?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the fair answer is we don't really know. I mean, typically, we have seen this before, Ana, where the United States has sent cruise missile strikes. You recall in 1998 after the embassy attacks in Africa in which al-Qaeda killed 200 including Americans, the United States launched cruise missiles attacks at al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. That did not have the intended effect on al-Qaeda. Obviously, you know, three years later, the al-Qaeda launched the 9/11 attack.

So, you know, one set of cruise missile strikes is clearly, you know, is not, you know, it's a message but it's not going to be the necessary message that's going to change behavior. And you know, as what has been said repeatedly said in the last 48 hours, you know, there are strategic questions. Are we going to create safe zones for Syrian civilians? That is pretty difficult. Are we going to demand that Assad must go? I think a demand which doesn't make a lot of sense because from the beginning, you know, if you say, look, our negotiating position is you have to go, that is not typically a particularly smart negotiating position. I think there are other ways of getting Assad to depart the scene with that public (INAUDIBLE) must go. I mean, clearly his regime is doing well. They are winning the war. If you are going to end the war you are going to have to make some accommodations with, you know, this regime or the regime itself. That's just a fact of life.

[16:30:39] CABRERA: Just to make sure I understand what you are saying because we have heard so many people say that peace really can't happen in Syria if Assad remains in power? You are not necessarily saying that he should remain in power. But you are saying we shouldn't take removing him at least the direct approach? BERGEN: We shouldn't - I mean, and we shouldn't be necessarily saying

it publicly that - I mean, at the end day in the negotiation, if you open bid in a negotiation, Ana, it was like, you know, basically I'm just going to make you have the worst deal possible. You know, typically that's not a particularly good opening bid in the negotiations.

So I mean, there's a reason I think for the Trump administration hasn't said publicly Assad must go because right now, he, because of Russian help in the last two years, is largely winning the civil war. And so whether, you know, he is obviously a terrible human being and he is conducting war crimes against his own population. The public is saying this guy must go is not I think that's part and I think the Trump administration understand that.

CABRERA: Where does the U.S. go? I guess that's the big question. And I want to play what U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said during yesterday's emergency U.N. Security Council meeting and then we will talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATION: 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's time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So, what is their best option in your opinion and she talked about working with international partners in making this a global response?

BERGEN: Well, you know, Assad has two main patrons, they are Russian and Iran. And unfortunately, United States relations with those countries an upgrade. But clearly, they are the two people, that the two countries that can, you know, kind of actually influence what's going on the ground because without Russian and Iranian support, Assad wouldn't be in power. So, I mean, that -- the simple answer is try to get Russia and Iran to help in some way.

But I mean, Russia has almost an allies in the world that (INAUDIBLE) Assad. The Iranians are, you know, are very close to Assad. So it's not easy. I mean, the way I think of this, Ana, is that it's like a Rubik's cube with no really good solution. Because if you move the cube that you parts this way, there are so many different players involved that the new setting of the Rubik's cube is not going to be their satisfaction whether it is the Turks, the Iranians, the Russians, the gulf states, the United States, you know, and then of course, you have the non-stay actors like ISIS and Al-Qaeda there.

CABRERA: Right. And to that point the U.S. has been actively fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria. Launching all of these airstrikes over the past few years, how do you go after what Assad is doing to the people in Syria without helping ISIS? BERGEN: I mean, ISIS I think it has its own problems. And we

conducted -- the United States has conducted something like 8,000 strikes on ISIS in Syria. Forget about Iraq, where we also have conducted something like 8,000 strikes as well. So, you know, I don't think this strike on Assad's airport has any real effect on the fight on ISIS. I mean, ISIS is losing territory in Syria quite badly. They are in the process of losing Mosul. That's second largest city in Iraq. You know, a year from now they probably will lose Raqqah, the main place in Syria.

But ISIS is really not the problem Ana. It's a symptom of much bigger problems. I mean, ISIS came into being because of the Syrian civil war, because of, you know, basically marginalization in Sunnis and in Iraq. And if you don't get the politics around this right, you are going to have a son of ISIS and the grandson of ISIS because the political visions that produced it in the first continue to exist. And I won't pretending any of that as easy. I mean, this is the hardest political problem, you know, in decades.

CABRERA: Do you see Assad a strong leader?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, he's a totalitarian leader. Its strength is involved in, you know, killing 400,000, 500,000 of your own civilians, you know, and torturing people in hospitals, as is plenty of evidence. I mean, is that strength or that, you know, I mean, Stalin was the same kind of leader, Saddam Hussein. I mean, you seen this often in history, you know. I wouldn't confuse that with strength necessary. I would say certainly he is capable of great, great brutality.

And you know, I thought it was fascinating your interview with Ambassador Crocker that, you know, Bashar al-Assad turns out to be worse than his father and we thought his father was pretty bad. And he is a true believer and you know. So I don't confuse that with strength. Brutality, I think is the appropriate word.

[16:35:29] CABRERA: I hear you. Well, Peter Bergen, thank you for spending some time on your weekend. We appreciate it.

BERGEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, almost immediately after word of that missile strike in Syria, some members of Congress were telling the president, wait a minute, not so fast. And just within the last hour, the president sent a letter to Congress asking for their support, explaining his actions. So, what kind of action is the president allowed to take without congressional approvals? Details next.

You are live in CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:04] CABRERA: Many Republicans in Congress are praising President Trump's decision to strike a Syrian air base. But that's not the stance some took when it was President Obama asking to take action. Let's show you Congresswoman Diane Black, for example, said she would

vote no on Syrian intervention back in 2013. That was when more than 1400 people were killed in a chemical attack, now however she's thanking Mr. Trump for taking quote "divisiveness action."

Congressman Pete Olson also flip flopping tweeting he doesn't support military action back in 2013. Now, with the death toll at 89, he is saying the strike means no more red line.

With me to discuss, former CIA counterterrorism analyst and the host of the "Buck Sexton show" on the Blaze, Buck Sexton and CNN political commentator and former mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter.

Buck, to you first. What's changed between 2013 besides who is in the White House?

BUCK SEXTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, when we look at what's happened here, the Obama legal team specifically said that they thought that this would have been OK if President Obama had gone ahead and done it. I mean, are you asking me to speak about specific members of Congress and how they have changed their minds -

CABRERA: Exactly.

SEXTON: I don't speak for congressmen.

CABRERA: But what could be a possible explanation besides just the politics of it all given that back in 2013 there were more than a thousand people who were killed in a similar chemical weapons attack. Those same people, Democrats as well, at the time were pushing back against taking military action. Now there seems to be growing support, how do you read that?

SEXTON: I think that obviously parties will look at what's going on with the president at any given time. And they will take positions that are not necessarily consistent is what they did in the past. President Obama was going to go through with this. He decided not to do this because he then have this deal to get rid of chemical weapons in Syria which we all recognized, didn't really matter all the much because chemical weapons were in fact used despite John Kerry's saying that the chemical weapons have been 100 percent removed, I believe was the quote.

So, I don't speak for members of Congress that are now changing their minds on this. Honestly that wasn't my purpose in sitting here. I thought we were going to talk about the strike in Syria specifically and what it means for foreign policy there. I don't really care much about what an individual member of Congress says about the strike. And I certainly I'm not going to play the - well, they are not hypocrite call. Some of them, of course, are hypocrite call. Just like the people we have seen in Congress recently or in the Senate on whether or not they should a nuclear option for a nominee for the Supreme Court whichever court we are talking about. So I just don't see it as a necessary part of the discussion right now. If you want me to speak about Donald Trump I can do that.

CABRERA: Let's talk about what you see as the next step in terms of the U.S. involvement in Syria, what would you do?

SEXTON: Well, I think the administration has to first see what the response is. I mean, Russia is cutting off some communication about these airstrikes. And Russia is obviously upset about what happened. Now, on the domestic political front this is useful for I think for a lot of reasons -- one of them is that it starts to quiet down people that have thought for a while that Donald Trump is in the pocket of Russia. But it also shows that there's now a willingness to use force. The credible threat of force is what a lot of diplomacy is based on. And so, that's a good step.

What should happen next? I would like to see further action to defeat and destroy the Islamic state first. I don't want to see a U.S. military action intervention against Syria - against Assad, I should say. We would need a deal with the Islamic state first. And I think that the administration has shown due caution up to this point. And the strike is pretty universally praised except by a few people who hate everything that Donald Trump does and some people on the right who are just very understandably concern about the prospects for a full scale intervention.

CABRERA: Mayor, do you agree?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's no question that from a military standpoint clearly this was a strategic action. It certainly sent a message. You send 60 tomahawk missiles in the air and 59 hit their targets. That's pretty serious message. My concern now is message delivered and received. What's the policy and where is the strategy? You know, most news account seems to indicate that the president saw these horrific photos of, you know, certainly adults and even more impactful children with this incredibly barbaric action. And suddenly, 180-degree turn away from everything that he has said in the past with regard to Syria and suddenly we are sending tomahawk missiles in the middle of the night.

So, OK, now what? You own this. And it is your responsibility. You sent a message to Syria. You sent a message to Russia. You also sent one against to North Korea and China. Our allies, the UK, France and Germany. What are you going to do next? And I think the American people are really owe an explanation beyond that this was barbaric and we needed to do something. What are we getting into? I think Jen Psaki talked about this earlier. What are our next step? And what is our goal? Get rid of Assad? Stop the civil war? Try to decouple Syria from Russia? We don't know answers to any of these questions. And I'm not even sure who is developing that kind of strategy and game plan.

[16:45:36] CABRERA: And Buck, what does it do long term when you send these missile strikes over and now we see the next day or a little over 24 hours Syria is back at it, bombing its own people in the exact same place where these chemical attacks happened?

SEXTON: Well, clearly, it's not enough to stop the Assad regime and it's not something that's going to have at will of impact from a military perspective. This was to send a message and this was to make a point about --. CABRERA: Can the U.S. be one and done?

SEXTON: No, I mean the U.S. can't be one and done when it comes to Syria. And obviously, we have had a long standing air campaign, I think, one that has been too slow and too cautious, but a long- standing air campaign leading up to the Trump administration against the Islamic state in Syria.

I do have concerns about where this goes next. I think the administration understands that the moment that you have a major power like Russia and its troops in harm's way as well it certainly complicates matters a great deal. So, the next steps here, the administration is going to be working out I think in the days ahead. And it should be noted that the enemy gets a vote not just Assad but also very important allies for Assad like Russia and Iran. The Iranians have a whole bunch of places where they can hit us. And they even have some plausible deniability with it. The Russians will see they cut off communications. If the Russians decide they are going to play hardball with their surface to air missiles systems, it could get a lot harder for us very quickly there.

So it is not as simple as just here is the game plan. Let's execute. I think the administration with General Mattis at the Pentagon and with McMaster, the national security advisor have some key players in place to help make the proper strategic decisions based upon what happens in the days ahead because we can't see the future just yet.

CABRERA: But Mayor, can the administration act unilaterally or is it time to bring in Congress and get them involve?

NUTTER: Well, if I were a member of Congress I would want to know, you know, as they say, what in the world is going on. You know, I will leave it to the constitutional scholar to debate whether the president has to or not. It just seems to make common sense that you want a unified United States of America. That certainly includes the Congress.

But, again, I think, you know, the public has a right to know what are we getting into here as well. And so, bringing Congress in and getting some kind of show of support a vote for something, whether they have to or not, this is a moment where, you know, America needs to be unified.

But also, I'm concerned about this -- this lone, you know, kind of cowboy kind of action. You know, we hear these statements, well if somebody doesn't do something about this then we will do it ourselves. The U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, well, you know, we did what we did and we are prepared to do more. Well, what does that mean?

So, we need a unified show of force and the message part is like I said is over. Message delivered, message received. What's the real game plan here? How are we moving forward with a coalition of folks and that America is united and also understands what are we trying to accomplish? What is the goal here? Are we trying to get rid of a leader? Are we trying to stop a civil war? Are we trying to defeat ISIS? Are we trying to do all that? Are we trying to send a message to Russia? You know, this will be the moment for Mr. Trump and his folks to actually stop talking to the Russian ambassador and a bunch of other people that got them in trouble.

So I think the president is starting to see the world maybe a little differently and for what it is and that this is actually a real serious job that he has been elected to and it's time for leadership and a little less tweeting.

CABRERA: All right, Michael Nutter and Buck Sexton, thank you. We will have you back to continue the discussion.

SEXTON: Sure.

CABRERA: We do have some breaking news out of Afghanistan we want to get to.

A U.S. special operations soldier has been killed in Nangahar province. That's east of Kabul. A U.S. military official says this happened during an operation against a branch of ISIS there. As you know there are still some U.S. troops in Afghanistan about 8400 or so. This is the first U.S. combat jet there so far this year.

And in other news just in to CNN, a deadly scene at a mall in Florida, a gunman opened fire. We will have details straight ahead.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[16:54:19] CABRERA: Shoppers at an upscale Florida mall ran for cover and several businesses had to be locked down after a gunman opened fire this afternoon. This shooting killed one person and wounded two others that were inside a gym in the mall. CNN affiliate WPLG says Coral Gables police tell them the shooting apparently happened during a dispute between a former employee and a manager of the Equinox fitness club. Now, the "Miami Herald" reports the dead man is believed to be shooter. We are back in just a minute.

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DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think one of the important things to remember about becoming a morning exerciser is that it can have added benefits both physically and mentally.

It is also one of those things that is just easy to check off the list. Because you know, it is likely to fall off your list later on in the day.

How do you convince yourself not to hit that snooze button? Well, I'm there. We have all been there. It goes without saying it is the first thing is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. We are talking seven to eight hours. And then give yourself a little bit of accountability. Sometimes it is a question of having a friend who is really going to hold you accountable, make sure that you are getting up, make sure that you are doing that exercise routine and hold yourself accountable as well. Make that deal with yourself. Get that exercise out of the way and reward yourself in small ways throughout the day because of it.

Human behavior is pretty simple when it comes to certain things. If we do things that we love we are much more likely to stick with doing them. Why? It makes much more likely to do it for the long --.

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