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U.S. Probes if Russia Complicit in Syria Chemical Attack; U.S. Lawmakers Split over Syria Strategy; Kremlin Vows to Respond to U.S. Missile Attack; Stockholm Truck Attack Leaves Four Dead, 12 Injured; A History of Punitive Strikes by the U.S. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 8, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello. I'm Isa Soares in London where it is 9 o'clock in the morning.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello. I'm Hala Gorani. We're live in Beirut. It is 11:00 am in Lebanon. We are covering the reaction to the U.S. strike against a Syrian airbase in the aftermath of a chemical attack that the United States blames on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Now Russia is denying allegations that it has been complicit in a deadly poison gas attack against the civilians earlier this week. The attack spurred the U.S. to attack the airbase in Central Syria. It was a missile launch, 59 Tomahawk missiles hitting that airbase. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on how it all unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the message President Trump wanted to send to Bashar al-Assad: attack with chemical weapons, the U.S. will attack you back.

Fifty-nine cruise missiles striking the Syrian airbase, the U.S. says was used to launch aircraft, killing men, women and children Tuesday with a nerve agent-filled bomb.

The Pentagon said the strikes severely degraded or destroyed their intended targets, which included aircraft and aircraft shelters, fuel and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers and air defense systems.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The United States took a very measured step last night. We are prepared to do more.

STARR (voice-over): But this was also a message to Moscow which denies the Syrian chemical attack even happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To justify its armed action, Washington has entirely twisted what happened in Idlib. The American side can't not understand that the Syrian government troops did not use chemical weapons there. Damascus simply does not possess it.

STARR (voice-over): Many of these people died of asphyxiation from what's believed to be sarin gas. The U.S. says it will investigate any possibility of Russian complicity, including Russian troops who were at the airbase where this Russian drone captured the aftermath of the U.S. attack.

Did the Russians know anything about the chemical bombing?

Was it a Russian warplane that later bombed a hospital treating victims, perhaps trying to destroy evidence?

And after years of regime chemical attacks, U.S. military officials now say they will now more aggressively monitor Syria's chemical weapons program and potential Russian involvement.

The Pentagon showed what it says was proof to justify the limited U.S. strike, the track of the Syrian plane and imagery of where the nerve agent bomb hit. The Syrian military denied using chemical weapons, blaming terrorist groups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This condemnable U.S. aggression confirms the continuation of the flawed U.S. strategy and it undermines the process of combating terrorism.

STARR: The U.S. military had no intention of destroying the airfield. It wasn't their goal.

So the question now is how soon will all of that be back up and running and will the Russians return?

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: Well, Syria is calling the U.S. missile strike an erroneous American strategy. Ben Wedeman is in Antakya, Turkey, with the regional response.

First, from Turkey where you are, obviously the Turkish government, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan making no secret over many, many years that they would like to see Bashar al-Assad step down, they want no- fly zones, safe areas, all sorts of things.

Is there a belief that this strike will change any of that, will get them more of what they want?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, initially, the reaction of the Turkish leaders was quite positive to this strike. But they -- or they said that they're hoping that this isn't a one-off thing, that it is the beginning of a broader attempt to change the regime in Damascus. But I think the more they see exactly what happened and they hear the

statements coming out of Washington, the realization may be dawning that this was simply a warning strike on the Syrians and that there is no intention to actually change anything fundamentally on the ground.

We heard from senior U.S. officials that this was -- that this is not -- that the missile strike on the Shayrat airbase near Homs was not part of a broad --

[04:05:00]

WEDEMAN: -- effort to undermine or weaken the regime of Bashar al- Assad.

And many others were hoping that this was the beginning of something bigger. The Free Syrian Army, the so-called moderate armed opposition to Bashar al-Assad, put out a statement telling President Trump, don't stop here.

But all indications are at this point, Hala, that they are stopping here.

GORANI: What kind of damage did this strike, 59 Tomahawk missiles, a very expensive strike, many missiles involved. But there are unconfirmed reports that for instance, because the runway wasn't hit, that the aircraft can still take off from that airbase.

What kind of damage did this do to the Syrian government's airpower capability?

WEDEMAN: I think there was some damage to the Syrian government's ego but in terms of the airstrip itself, we understand that the runway is still functional.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which does provide some information on goings-on in opposition-held Syria and other parts of the country, not always reliable, has said that the runway was actually used for airstrikes on ISIS positions near Palmyra.

So if the runway is still running, the damage may have been limited. As I said, it's perhaps partially for political domestic consumption in the United States, partially perhaps to send a message to Bashar al-Assad, don't use chemical weapons again.

But as I mentioned an hour ago, Hala, of the more than 400,000 people killed in the war in Syria, less than 1 percent were actually killed by chemical weapons. And the world certainly didn't move when all of those people were being killed.

Chemical weapons, obviously, has a scare factor many times more than a barrel bomb. But I think, for many of the Syrians who have lived under the danger of barrel bombs and other forms of regime violence, doesn't really make any difference.

The United States, the world is outraged at the use of chemical weapons but largely indifferent to the hundreds of thousands slaughtered by conventional weapons -- Hala.

GORANI: That's a sentiment we hear quite a bit here in this region. Thanks so much, Ben Wedeman in Southern Turkey.

What about Russia in all of this?

This is the first time after all that America militarily strikes Syria since the beginning of the uprising.

Is this telling Russia, you're not the only player in the game?

Is this putting the regime of Bashar al-Assad on notice in a way that would perhaps make Russia act differently toward this government that it has supported for so many years?

Paula Newton is in Moscow with more on that.

So, likely, now that the U.S., President Donald Trump is saying, look, if I have to, if chemical weapons are used, even if it's symbolic, I will intervene militarily.

Does this change how Russia itself is intervening inside Syria?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russians are hoping that it doesn't have to change how they're intervening militarily. That's the point, Hala. They're hoping that this is short and sharp, as I've been saying, that it is done now and that the United States will not interfere any longer.

Russia maintaining, you know, that, look, what we heard from Barbara Starr's reporting , they say that it is simply not true, that the government had nothing to do with that attack, that Russia was nor complicit or incompetent. And they say what the demand is an independent investigation.

Hala, you and I both know, there is no referee or independent arbiter that is going to convince the United States and Russia of what truly happened there on the ground. They're going to dispute that for some time to come.

With Rex Tillerson coming here next week, Hala, what they are trying to do is both of them to understand, what do you want in Syria?

What is the end game?

That was one thing for the Trump administration last week and it's now something else it appears. That's what the Russians want to know.

GORANI: So are you saying that, in Moscow, there's a bit of confusion there as far as what the motivation of the Trump administration might be with regard to Syria, that they don't exactly know what to expect or where they're positioned on this?

NEWTON: Yes, absolutely, because they're hearing lots of things in their own reporting, Hala, now turns out that Donald Trump in an on- the-record briefing which has now been made on the record had said even around the holidays before he was inaugurated that Syria really bothered him, that it was on his mind.

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NEWTON: Then we heard from Nikki Haley and from Rex Tillerson that, look, as far as they were concerned, the government that was in place in Syria right now would stay for the foreseeable future. Russia is taking all of this in, as well, and thinking, is Rex Tillerson going to come to the table next week and say we want to see humanitarian corridors?

We want to see what we can do about a no-fly zone?

Russia doesn't want any of this. Russia was one of the only players along with Iran at the table in Syria in the last few months, they really took up the political vacuum that was left by the United States and they can keep harping on ISIS.

And they're saying that any kind of division between the United States and Russia in terms of what happens in Syria, that ISIS will be able to exploit that division. And you know, Hala, you know as well as anyone, that is, in fact, true, that ISIS, they still have a formidable battle ahead with ISIS in Syria.

What's happening next week has a lot to do with how that battle against ISIS goes forward in the months to come.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Paula Newton, live in Moscow. We'll have a lot more coverage from right here in Beirut a little bit later.

Isa, back to you in London for now.

SOARES: Thanks very much, Hala.

On Capitol Hill, the U.S. Congress had bipartisan agreement on Friday demanding that President Trump consult them on any further action in Syria. But they are split over whether the U.S. should launch any further full-scale war in the Middle East. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: We've got choices. If you think the last eight years were a good idea, then let's keep doing it. If you don't, then we ought to back the president but also recognize this is the beginning. This is only the first step. If we want to succeed, we're going to have to, step by step, do a lot more.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: Our founding fathers gave the power to declare war to Congress because they want to make it difficult to go to war. And this is war by any other name. Dropping bombs on another country is war. And we have to think about, what are the ramifications?

What may happen from this?

You know, will Assad reform? Will Assad get worse?

If Assad is toppled, will the people that replace him be better than Assad or worse than Assad?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOARES: Joining us now is Fawaz Gerges. He's chair of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics.

Fawaz, thank you very much for joining us here on the show, I suppose going back to Senator McCain's point, is it really depends on what the policy is. He's saying, if you want to have any real effect, more needs to be done but we do not know what President Trump's strategy is in Syria, do we?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: We don't. There is no political strategy. There is no clarity. Donald Trump has not really put on the table any set of ideas.

There is no strategic vision, no political landscape. The big question is really as the following.

Does the American military strike limited and targeted one airfield, does it really represent a turning point in Donald Trump's approach towards Syria?

So far, even European diplomats, even de Mistura, the U.N. special representative, keep complaining about the lack of ideas, the lack of clarity. And my take on is that, I don't think we're going to see any diplomatic engagement on the part of the Donald Trump administration.

If that's so, this particular attack would not have made any difference on the battlefield.

SOARES: Diplomatically it might be quite hard too, now, because we know the relations between the United States and Russia are not at their best at the moment, with the U.S. saying investigating whether Russia was complicit in that attack.

How easily do you think this could escalate?

GERGES: What we need to tell our viewers is Syria is one of the most complex war theaters in the world today, multiple conflicts in one. You have a civil war raging; you have war by proxies and you have now war by proxies between Russia and its allies and the United States and its allies.

What the celebration in the United States about this president, Donald Trump, you know, muscular approach, in contrast to Barack Obama, portrayed as a weak president, now Donald Trump has taken on a very formidable coalition, Russia-Iran-Hezbollah.

In fact, my take on it, if there is no strategy on the part of Donald Trump, if there is no road map, if there is no political engagement to resolve the bloodshed that has been taking place in Syria for the past six years, I expect more military escalation, I expect more proxy war in the next six or seven months.

So this particular attack, justified as it is, because obviously Assad has used, I mean chemical weapons more than once, it will not change the complex dynamics on the ground inside Syria.

SOARES: I suppose it also depends on what happens with President Trump. It's one move obviously against chemical weapons.

Is he prepared to mover further if there's another one?

Do you think this move by the U.S. president has done enough to at least stop Bashar al-Assad?

GERGES: My take on it, my reading --

[04:15:00]

GERGES: -- is that Assad now will think twice before using --

(CROSSTALK)

SOARES: So it has had some sort of effect.

GERGES: -- but for your viewers, absolutely -- and this is good. Chemical weapons, poison gas attacks are evil. But for your own viewers, in the past six years, we estimate between 400,000 and 500,000 Syrians have been killed -- 500,000. All chemical weapons, the 4-5 chemical weapons and gas weapons basically have contributed to only 1,000 killed -- 1,000 killed out of 500,000.

So the question on the table is not just to prevent the use of chemical weapons, which is wonderful; chemical weapons are evil weapons. You have to end the bloodshed, the bloodbath that basically has destroyed Syria.

Without a political strategy for the morning after, without a road map, the killing continues. Assad has a massive arsenal and he has reiterated the sense he's going to continue until he wins this war.

So what is the political strategy of Donald Trump to help resolve the political crisis inside Syria?

So far, no plan.

SOARES: That's what we want to hear, we want to see if there is indeed a policy or strategy or vision indeed for the crisis in Syria. Many, of course, would argue that he only plays a short game whereas Russia indeed playing the long game.

Fawaz, thank you very much. Always a pleasure to have you on the show.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. We'll have more on the latest deadly truck attack in Stockholm (INAUDIBLE) vehicles used as weapons, what terror looks like now in Europe. We'll have that for you after a break. (MUSIC PLAYING)

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SOARES: You are watching a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM.

I want to turn to our other top story and that's the deadly truck attack in Stockholm.

Authorities say a suspect in custody is likely the driver of the vehicle and is being held on suspicion of terrorist crimes through murder. At least four people were killed and 12 were injured after a stolen truck barreled into pedestrians on the busiest street in the Swedish capital.

The prime minister Stefan Lofven says everything indicates it was a terrorist attack.

CNN's Max Foster joins us now from Stockholm with the latest.

And, Max, what more do we know at this stage about the man that has been arrested?

MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Two new pieces of information, that the man they have arrested they do believe was the driver of the truck. And that's only just now coming through.

They were separating the man, they were seeking the man they arrested but it does look as though that sort of story is coming together.

We also understand from the national broadcast to the state broadcast, SBT (ph), to that explosives, according to police sources, speaking to SBT were found in the truck as well.

And if you look behind me, you can really see what unfolded and how extraordinary it was, Isa, that there were so few casualties and deaths. That's the main street. The truck came thundering towards us. It's very narrow, would have been full of people.

And it careened into that shop, that department store on the left and you can see all the damage on the ground there. That's where the vehicle eventually came to a halt.

Today, it's an ongoing investigation but, really, the country trying to make sense of what happened, what it means to the country, a very open, very liberal society.

Do they need to increase security here?

There was an accident in 2010 where there was a failed bomb attack. And a lot of questions were asked after that.

Was enough done then? Now you can see this makeshift memorial gradually taking shape, people coming down, the public laying flowers. There was a lady, as well, who was caught in the soaring (ph) lockdown who laid flowers just now.

And also the Swedish deputy prime minister was here in the last half hour and I grabbed a quick word with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SWEDISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Of course, this is at the heart of the capital of Sweden and this is our hometown. Lots of people from Stockholm yesterday reacted very openly, with their arms open to welcome strangers and those that had problems in getting home last night because of all the subways and the public transportation was closed off.

So lots of people had problems. And I think we can never protect ourselves from this type of violence with no -- let's say, no limits to what the perpetrator is willing to do with no human or normal, let's say, calculations.

But if you are willing to sacrifice your own life and you're willing to sacrifice others' completely, innocent people's lives, that's very difficult to protect yourself from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: It does, of course, fit into this pattern that we've been reporting on over the months and years. Nice, Berlin, London, vehicles used as weapons. Low tech, they call it but it's just so easy to do and so difficult to prevent.

SOARES: Absolutely. Max Foster there for us at the scene in Stockholm. Thanks very much, Max, for checking in with you in the next hour.

As you heard there, Max mentioning vehicle ramming attacks look like they are becoming the norm in Europe. Nic Robertson looks at the latest use of a vehicle now as a weapon of terror.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Eyewitnesses say the attacker put his foot on the gas and rammed through the crowd, his killing spree began mid-afternoon on one of Stockholm's busiest shopping streets, the murder weapon, a truck he had stolen in the hours before the attack. Terror has a new face now.

In the past year Nice, Berlin, London, Jerusalem and now Stockholm have all fallen victim to this new virulent style of attack; in each city, without warning, attackers using stolen or rented vehicles set out to cause as much carnage as they can.

Nice, first of these and the worst. Bastille Day last week. People celebrating on the seafront when Mohamed Lahouaiej, a Tunisian living in France, stole a 19-ton truck, driving -- [04:25:00]

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- at speed into the pedestrians crowding the promenade. By the time police shot him dead, 86 people slaughtered, more than 300 injured.

Five months later at Berlin's fabled Winter Market, Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with ties to ISIS, stole a huge truck, killing its driver, then plowing into holiday shoppers, killing 12 people, injuring more than 40 others.

He went on the run, was shot and killed in Italy a few days later.

Early January this year, in Jerusalem, a Palestinian man drove a flatbed truck into Israeli troops, killing four, injuring at least 10. The attacker shot and killed, ending his murderous rampage.

In the heart of London, two weeks ago, an older man, Khalid Masood, with ties to extremists, drove his rented off-road vehicle at over 70 miles per hour into tourists and residents strolling over Westminster Bridge, killing four.

He then jumped out and killed a policeman before being shot to death by diplomatic protection officers. ISIS tries to claim connection to all, whether true or not, their slick PR machine grinds out their killing narrative, "Don't come to Syria and Iraq. Stay at home and kill. Use a vehicle."

And now Sweden, thrust in the path of ISIS' killing propaganda drive-- Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: We'll be back in Beirut after a quick break and we'll try to explain why President Trump abruptly changed his position on Syria and ordered a cruise missile strike against an airbase in the central part of the country. We'll be right back. Stay with us.

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[04:30:00]

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

SOARES (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares.

GORANI (voice-over): I'm Hala Gorani. We are live in Beirut following the aftermath of a U.S. airstrike in the central part of the country. There has been a heated war of words following this action by the Trump administration and the Kremlin is denying allegations that it had anything to the with the chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians that happened in Idlib a few days ago. But the U.S. says it is not convinced. It is questioning if Russia

helped Syria carry out this chemical attack from the Shayrat airfield or knew about it and did nothing to stop it. Early Friday, the U.S. bombed the airfield in retaliation, as we've been covering.

For years, Donald Trump even before he was president opposed U.S. Intervention in Syria against the regime. And President Trump's decision to authorize a cruise missile attack against the Shayrat airbase marked an abrupt face.

So what was behind it?

Here is Brianna Keilar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has long said the U.S. should keep to itself.

TRUMP: I'm not and I don't want to be the president of the world. I'm the President of the United States.

KEILAR (voice-over): That was before his decision to attack Syria in response to horrific pictures of a chemical weapons attack on civilians there.

TRUMP: Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.

These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated.

My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.

KEILAR (voice-over): In fact, it has completely reversed. In 2013, when it was first confirmed the Syrian government was using chemical weapons on its own people, as pictures came to light of an attack much like the ones we've seen this week, President Obama weighed whether to make good on an earlier threat.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.

KEILAR (voice-over): At the time Trump tweeted repeatedly opposing action.

"To our very foolish leader," he said, "do not attack Syria. If you do, many very bad things will happen and from that fight the U.S. gets nothing. There is no upside and tremendous downside."

And he told CNN...

TRUMP: Why don't -- we can't let ISIS and Syria fight. And let Russia, they are in Syria already, let them fight ISIS.

KEILAR (voice-over): Then Thursday an about-face. TRUMP: It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

KEILAR (voice-over): And Trump's decision to strike Syria was a unilateral one after once chastening President Obama for considering a go-it-alone approach.

"The president must get congressional approval before attacking Syria. Big mistake if he does not," Trump tweeted in 2013.

President Obama was ultimately unable to and scrapped plans to strike Syria until 2014, when Arab countries also participated in military action. But perhaps this is also classic Trump, championing the element of surprise in foreign policy.

TRUMP: I'm not saying I'm doing anything one way or the other.

KEILAR (voice-over): And obsessed with appearing strong.

TRUMP: If President Obama's goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.

KEILAR: It also changed the narrative long plaguing the Trump administration, the drip, drip, drip of the stories about his campaign officials, ties to Russia and their meetings, oftentimes undisclosed, with Russian officials during and after when Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election -- Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: Well, there was a heated exchange at the U.N. Security Council yesterday in New York between the Russian representative and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

As far as the Russian representative, he was essentially conveying the position of the Russian government that striking a Syrian airfield will only embolden the terrorists. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Clearly it's not difficult to imagine --

[04:35:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): -- how much the spirits of these terrorists have been raised after the support from Washington. Immediately after the attack, there were massive attacks by ISIL and Al-Nusra against Syrian military sites.

You've destroyed Iraqi military, Libyan military bases and see what's happened. In fact, these actions contradict international decisions, including the Geneva communique, which we designed together with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GORANI: Joining me now is Inderjeet Parmar, he's a professor of international politics at City University in London.

All right. So we're hearing from Russia, they're obviously unhappy about this strike hitting the Shayrat airbase in Central Syria. They're saying this is only going to help ISIS and other extremist groups. But let's talk about the potential impact on the Syrian regime itself. It was a pinprick strike but it was a message.

Do you think it will act as a deterrent?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think it is going to send a major message that there has been an about turn, as you said in your report, by the Trump administration.

And I think that this suggests that Donald Trump is now kind of, if you like, a normal American foreign policy establishment president in foreign policy terms. And I think it does suggest that there's going to be an escalation of America's military role in that country. And it could well be that it's going to change the situation quite seriously.

GORANI: Yes. And even coming from, really, the most passionate opponents of the Syrian regime, the political opposition outside the country, even though they express some satisfaction that a military installation was targeted, nearly all say that there needs to be a parallel political and diplomatic track.

Is this something that -- I mean, have we matured to the point where Russia and the United States can get on that same page, do you think?

PARMAR: That's vary difficult question. As you said in your report, President Trump's policies are -- and his attitudes can be changeable. But one hopes that in the end we look at history and we look at the solution to conflicts which have been longstanding ones.

The only solution in the end is diplomatic and political. It is to recognize the forces that are at work and for the powers which are involved to be sincere in their efforts to try to bring peace.

Unfortunately, the United States' role overall in that region and in that particular conflict does not necessarily give us full confidence because they have known for quite some time that ISIS, for example, has been supported by some of their key Gulf allies.

And after the Libyan conflict, quite a lot of arms were siphoned into that country to oppose the Assad regime.

GORANI: What about the role of regional powers?

You mentioned regional powers. Obviously, the important ones are Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, so you have those three. They have been essentially fighting a proxy war pretty much on Syrian territory at the expense of Syrian civilians. There, too, there needs to be a change. PARMAR: Absolutely. I think in the end the only way this is going to get resolved is if one key target is kept in mind and that is that ISIS is the biggest destabilizer in the region. There are crimes being committed by many, many different powers inside Syria, including the Syrian government.

But in the end, the defeat of ISIS is fundamental. If they can agree on that, then I think there's a possible way forward.

But unfortunately, ISIS and other powers, other forces which are involved in Syria are, if you like, proxies for many other powers.

So the meddling from outside is complicating the situation, making it far more dangerous and far less likely that there's going to be a diplomatic solution very soon.

GORANI: But how do you solve the ISIS issue, which is a pressing one, obviously, without solving the political issue in Damascus?

Those two things go hand in hand, don't they?

You have to do on both at the same time or neither will work.

PARMAR: Well, regardless of what we believe to be the character of the Assad regime, the Assad regime is still a secular one. It is still the one with the largest stake in the fight against ISIS. It has actually also obviously suffered the greatest number of casualties.

So I think we have to take into account at least in the short to medium term.

We have to decide, what is the bigger issue here?

And I think for many people, it is ISIS which remains the biggest problem. Therefore, supporting the forces which are opposed to ISIS, if they can --

[04:40:00]

PARMAR: -- ally around that question, I think that is probably the greatest way forward, which is likely to end in some kind of resolution here.

GORANI: All right. Well, we'll see what happens especially when Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, visits Moscow next week. I'm sure we'll hear more from both countries' representatives at that time as well.

Inderjeet Parmar, professor of politics at City University.

A lot more ahead.

Thank you very much for your time. A lot more ahead on this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. The latest

on that deadly truck attack in Stockholm. We'll talk to one of Sweden's top newspaper editors, the day after.

How is the country reacting?

Coming up.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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SOARES: Welcome back. We're going to return now to the investigation of this Stockholm attack on this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. Now Swedish media say a bag of explosives was found in the truck used in Friday's attack.

And authorities say a suspect in custody is likely the driver of the vehicle. He's being held on suspicion of terrorist crimes through murder. At least four people were killed and 12 wounded after a stolen truck barreled into pedestrians on the busiest street in the Swedish capital.

I want to go now to Peter Wolodarski, who is the editor-in-chief of "Dagens Nyheter," one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden. He joins me now from Stockholm.

Peter, thank you very much for talking to us on the show.

What more are you learning or hearing regarding this man who has been arrested as well as do we know his motive at this point?

PETER WOLODARSKI, "DAGENS NYHETER": We don't know his motive at this point but there are several media reports that the man is from Uzbekistan. That has not been confirmed by the police. But police are saying it's likely -- that the man they arrested is like to the man who actually drove the lorry. So this is what has been confirmed from the police side up until now.

Do we know whether this was a lone wolf attack?

Did he --

[04:45:00]

SOARES: -- act alone?

What are you hearing?

WOLODARSKI: Well, police were working throughout the night in several different areas in Stockholm. They hadn't confirmed that they made more arrests but there are reports about that as well. So it's difficult to tell at this point if he was alone or if there were more people involved in this attack. SOARES: Of course, police said, Peter, they were treating this as an act of terrorism.

How much is this rattling the people of Sweden this morning?

Give us a sense of the mood there.

WOLODARSKI: Well, the Crown Princess Victoria was just at the scene some 15 minutes ago. She was dressed in black and she talked about her sorrow and she showed respect to the victims. She came with flowers that she left there, red roses.

When one reporter asked, "how are we going to move on from now?"

She said, "Together."

That's what she said, the crown princess of Sweden. And I think that captures the mood at these moments.

SOARES: How much has this rattled, though, the people there?

Because I believe this was the first. If it is a terrorist attack, this was the first attack in Sweden.

WOLODARSKI: Well, we actually had a terror attack in the same area in Central Stockholm in 2010, when a suicide bomber made a failed attempt to kill other people he just killed himself. It is also not far away where our prime minister, Olive Palmer (ph), was killed in 1986. Our foreign minister, Ana Lin (ph), was killed in the same area and we had a terror attack not far away (INAUDIBLE) in the '70s. It's a place connected with very dramatic incidents in modern Swedish history.

SOARES: And tell me this, Peter. I'm not sure whether the newspaper today will tackle this because, like Belgium, Sweden has had several hundred people travel from Sweden to join terrorist groups.

What is being done in Sweden to contain this?

Is this something that worries the people there?

WOLODARSKI: It is definitely an important political issue. A lot of worry about it.

But the problem is still there and there is no clear solution to the problem because we have had people going to Syria, coming back and they are, in some instances, very dangerous people. But we don't know at this stage if any one of them are involved in this attack.

SOARES: And, Peter, can I ask you very briefly what the front page of your newspaper says this morning.

WOLODARSKI: "Terrorist strikes in the middle of Stockholm."

And our lead editorial says, "We will not give in to this, Stockholmers."

Peter Wolodarski, thank you very much for joining us there from Stockholm in Sweden.

Coming up, punitive strikes by the U.S. are nothing new. We'll take a look at past warnings as well as retaliations launched by the United States. Stay with us here on CNN. We are, of course, the world's news leader.

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GORANI: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Hala Gorani. We're live in Beirut. We're covering that U.S. strike on a Syrian airbase yesterday.

There was a very intense war of words between the United States and Russia at the Security Council. And there have been accusations flying back and forth. Russia now is denying that it had any role in that chemical attack that killed so many civilians a few days ago in Idlib, a massacre, as we all know, prompted President Trump to launch strikes against the Assad regime.

The Pentagon is now looking for the evidence that the Kremlin asked to see, that it knew about or was complicit in the chemical assault. Early Friday local time, U.S. warships launched missiles at that Syrian airfield, believed to be the base for warplanes that carried out the gas attack.

And this is, of course, the aftermath of that significant event. The U.S., as we mentioned there, launching those strikes. They are meant to be punitive. They have meant to be a deterrent, as well. Of course, it's not the first time that the United States intervenes militarily in this way. Gary Tuchman looks back at some of those attacks.

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GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five years before the 2003 war against a U.S.-led coalition, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was punished by bombing and Tomahawk missile strikes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoa.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A punitive four-day campaign ordered by President Bill Clinton following Iraq's refusal to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Much of Iraq's military infrastructure destroyed. Iraq said hundreds of its troops and civilians were killed. It wasn't the first strike designed to punish the Iraqi regime.

In 1993, two years after the first Gulf War, 23 cruise missiles were launched into downtown Baghdad. A warning after an assassination plot was uncovered in Kuwait and former President George H.W. Bush, who was visiting the country he helped liberate during the 1991 Gulf War.

Colin Powell was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Should Mr. Hussein even dream of retaliating, we have more than enough force in the region to deal with it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The missiles hit a building believed to have housed Iraq's intelligence service. Punitive attacks have also been used in retaliation for murders of Americans.

In 1986, Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi was said to be behind the bombing of a disco in West Berlin; two U.S. servicemen were killed. The U.S. military reply: 60 tons of munitions rained down on Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, at 7 o'clock this evening Eastern Time, air and naval forces of the United States launched a series of strikes against the headquarters, terrorist facilities and military assets that support Moammar Gadhafi's subversive activities.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And the result...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back there is the building where his wife and children resting when the bombing came on Monday night. Two of them were injured, the smallest child, an adopted daughter was killed.

REAGAN: Today we have done --

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REAGAN: -- what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gadhafi survived; he wasn't at the site. Dozens of Libyans died, as did two U.S. Air Force pilots.

Another punishment for the murder of civilians came in 1998. Operation Infinite Reach led the strikes against Al Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan, after the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. More than 200 people were killed, over 4,000 wounded.

These punitive strikes have been used by a long line of U.S. presidents to punish or to warn others when their actions are deemed a threat to American interests.

REAGAN: I said that we would act with others if possible and alone if necessary to ensure that terrorists have no sanctuary anywhere. Tonight, we have.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.

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GORANI: We're going to have a lot more coming up in the next hour on the U.S. airstrike against that Syrian airbase in Shayrat in Central Syria. The United States says that Syrian government warplanes took off from that airbase to conduct a chemical attack.

This has led to tension between the United States and Russia. We have our team of reporters found across the region and in Washington, as well, covering this important story. I'll be back in a few minutes.

For now, Isa, back to you in London.

SOARES: And we'll be back to talk more, as well, from Stockholm after that a attack yesterday. We'll be live in Stockholm in the next hour. I'm Isa Soares in London. Our special coverage continues after a very short break. Do stay right here with CNN.

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