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Allies Target Suspected Chemical Weapons Facilities; White House in Crisis; Gas Attack Survivor Praises Action; Inside Factory Where Tomahawk Missiles are Made. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 15, 2018 - 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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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We continue following the strike on Syria. What comes next after the U.S., France and Britain's military strike against Syria's use of chemical weapons. I'm George Howell.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world.

We begin with the U.S. claiming success after missile and airstrikes in Syria. The United States, U.K. and France launched the strikes after the suspected chemical attack in Douma last week.

U.S. President Trump tweeted, "A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. Could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished!"

HOWELL: The missiles were meant to send a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and dismantle his chemical weapons program. The U.S. says more than 100 militias were fired and all of them hit their targets.

At the U.N. on Saturday, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the U.N. was ready to do it again if necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I spoke to the president this morning and he said, if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: We know the strikes targeted at least three sites in Syria, including a research facility in Damascus, the capital, and storage facilities near Homs. Syria and its ally, Russia, say the damage was minimal but videos like this paint a different picture.

This is what's left of that research facility in Damascus. We also have satellite images from Homs. They show one of the targets before and after the strikes.

HOWELL: And CNN covering every angle of this story with our correspondent around the world.

ALLEN: Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Beirut, Lebanon, and CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson in Moscow for us.

First to Fred in Beirut, the U.S. president calls this strike "mission accomplished." What is Syria saying about that?

They have been acting or pretending or asserting that it wasn't a big deal.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. They are saying it wasn't a big deal. President Assad in Syria certainly seems to be unfazed by this, as certainly appears to be his military.

Now when we look at the satellite images and some of the video we have seen from the aftermath, especially from that research facility in Barzeh, which is sort of in the north of Damascus, the U.S. and its allies certainly seem to have annihilated pretty much all of the buildings.

The big question is how much of a dent does it really make in the capabilities of the Assad government, its military capabilities and also its chemical capabilities if it still has them?

Were those facilities in use?

If so, to what extent?

How much of the equipment was actually still there?

Those are all questions that are very difficult to answer. It may be a deterrent but at the same time we do see that the trajectory of the fighting, of the war in Syria pretty much hasn't changed.

The Syrian government only yesterday, a day after the U.S. and its allies launched those strikes, announced that it had now taken over the entire area of Eastern Ghouta, which is the area where the alleged chemical attack took place.

So it seems on the heels of that the Assad government and its Russian backers have had a pretty big military victory. It is hard to overstate how important that Ghouta and Douma area is to the capital, Damascus.

It was always a thorn in the side of the Assad government with the rebels there being very, very close to his seat of power. So certainly it seems as though Assad is not unfazed by any of all this.

We saw that also in the videos that were put out by the Syrian presidency shortly after the strikes took place that showed the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently casually walking to work on the morning after -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, he was. All right, as always, he's putting up a front that everything's just fine. He sure has been just fine, despite what he's been doing to his citizens. Fred Pleitgen for us there in Beirut, thank you.

HOWELL: Russia and Turkey are key players in the Syrian conflict. Their leaders on Saturday agreed to work together to find a political solution to the crisis there.

ALLEN: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says they were committed to deescalation zones and cooperation on regional issues. That's according to state media.

Meantime, Russia did not get the U.N. Security Council votes it needed for a resolution condemning the airstrikes on Syria. Russia's ambassador to the U.N. called those strikes a violation of the U.N. Charter.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): Russia has done everything possible to convince the United States and allies to refrain from their military plans which could lead to a new spiral of violence in Syria and destabilize the Middle East.

The United States and its allies continue to demonstrate blatant disregard for international law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The strike in Syria obviously set off diplomatic alarms around the world. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is live in Moscow, looking at the fallout here.

Nic, within the region, Russia is still in firm support of Syria. These strikes really doing nothing to change that dynamic.

But in the aftermath internationally, Russia is not getting the support it wanted in the U.N. Security Council.

Is Russia somehow strengthened regionally but its credibility somehow weakened globally?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there's certainly an informational effort to show that Russia's credibility is weak globally. And that was the response globally following the poisoning of the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury in the U.K., along with his daughter a little bit more than a month ago.

We can say that there was a united opposition to Russia on that because of the quick way that an international wall of displeasure was shown by about 150 different diplomats from 28 countries, Russian diplomats being expelled from those countries. So I think we can say that that exists and certainly the Russians were

under no illusion going into that Security Council meeting yesterday. But this was their position. But no, they have doubled down on their support for President Bashar al-Assad. They say they will consider giving it more sophisticated air defense systems, presumably because that would allow them to better handle airstrikes over the weekend.

So that was Russia's conclusion over this. Russia's position, I don't think, has significantly changed. Yes, President Erdogan has had a conversation with President Putin. But it doesn't really seem that the dial shifted, that the sort of bigger picture diplomacy has changed.

Yes, the United States, France, Britain and Germany are going to put forward a U.N. Security Council resolution that will look at a permanent disarmament of chemical weapons in Syria, how to enforce that. There will likely be language talking about getting a peace agreement going.

But the real leverages in all of this haven't significantly changed. I think this is a huge situation over the weekend, where there was concern it could have been much worse. And Russia and the United States both worried that this could have brought them into greater confrontation.

The world worried about that, too. But that's been avoided. So we seem to be getting back to the situation as it was before.

HOWELL: Nic Robertson with the reaction there and perspective in Moscow. Thank you.

ALLEN: Again, we know warships, aircraft, missiles were used in the strikes against Syria.

HOWELL: For a closer look at those weapons, here is CNN's military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

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REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: President Trump, aided by allies in Great Britain and France, launched strikes into Syria to punish Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Let's take a look at what they hit, why they hit it and what they hit them with and the complexity of the mission. We'll start with the targets, three targets were hit, two up in Homs. These were storage facilities. One down in Damascus, a research and development center.

All three chosen very carefully to bloody Assad's nose when it comes to his chemical weapons program, to degrade that program and to send a strong message about international resolve against the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people but also done in a way that it could be as precise as possible.

And we can show you exactly how precise these targets were hit. Let's take a look at the Barzeh research facility. Now looking at this area right up here, this was taken a couple of weeks ago. You can see three buildings there.

And this is before the strikes; this is what it looks like after the strikes. You can see that all three of those buildings are completely obliterated but all the surrounding buildings, even the sidewalks and roads, all left completely untouched.

That is what precision guided munitions can do for a mission.

Now how do you actually get those munitions on target?

Well, lots of assets at sea and in the air were used; several ships at sea in the Med, the Red Sea and also down here in the North Arabian Sea, launching Tomahawk missiles. In fact, 70 percent of the precision guided munitions that were used in the strike were Tomahawks, the work horse of the Navy.

They've had them in since 1970. They've been updated periodically ever since, very capable cruise missile, 20 feet in length. It flies at subsonic speeds but --

[04:10:00]

KIRBY: -- very low and close to the ground.

So it's very hard for air defense systems to detect. And that makes it a very, very challenging platform to try to shoot down. It doesn't appear like any of the Tomahawks were hit by any air defense systems despite what the Syrians are saying.

The Pentagon is very sure that all of them found their targets. But it wasn't just sea-launched cruise missiles that were involved. There were air-launched cruise missiles from the British, from the French and from the Americans.

And you can see how many, each of were flown, notably this B-1 bomber probably based out of Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar was launching these JASSMs, 19 JASSMs, joint air-to-surface standoff missile. It's basically a Tomahawk for the air. It has roughly the same range, 650 miles but it's a much more advanced missile, much more technologically capable.

It has infrared homing and it has something called automatic target recognition. So in the very end game of the missile strike, the very terminal phases, it can dynamically choose its targets, very, very capable.

When the president talked about new and smart missiles, he was talking about these JASSMs. The British and the French also have air-launched cruise missiles with standoff ranges of about 300 miles. It's essentially the same missile, even though they call it by a different name.

So a very complex mission, very precisely executed. The real question now is, is it going to be enough to deter Assad from using chemical weapons again?

And will the United States now embark on a more robust diplomatic strategy to end the civil war in Syria?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: All right. Now let's bring in Martin Navias, a military analyst with the Center for Defense Studies at Kings College in London.

Martin, It is good to have you with us live in London.

In the aftermath of these strikes, how much of this is seen as political symbolism and how much is seen as a long-term message from the West with regard to the issue of chemical weapons?

MARTIN NAVIAS, KINGS COLLEGE: I think the main objective of these strikes was to underline the convention against using chemical weapons.

Over the past few years we have seen an increasing amount of chemical weapons usage. It was used by the North Koreans against someone Kim Jong-un did not like. It has been used in Salisbury in England and has been increasingly used in Syria.

The convention against it their use being undermined. And the purpose was to make clear to President Assad that he should not use it again. Americans will reactivate their bombing strikes if it is used again. And President Trump has made it clear to Mr. Assad that he would be well advised not to resort to chemical weapons.

ALLEN: Martin, Syria continues to reject the notion that it uses chemical weapons. That seems preposterous at this point. But let's listen now to an official in the pharmaceuticals industry in Syria and then you can comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAEED SAEED, RESEARCH CENTER OFFICIAL (through translator): If there were chemical weapons in the building, we would not be here. My colleagues and I came here at 5:00 this morning. If there were chemical weapons, we would need to wear masks and take other protective measures to be staying here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: That's the rhetoric we hear over and over again. But the bottom line is whatever they say, they are using chemical weapons and hopefully the strikes hit the right targets.

NAVIAS: Well, the Syrians will deny and have continued to deny the employment of these weapons. But the preponderance of evidence over the past few years has been that they continue to use them. They promised the United States they would get rid of them. They obvious didn't. They've been emboldened by the fact that President Obama created a red line but didn't go over them. They were not intimidated by the first strikes by President Trump.

But I think that President Assad would be well advised not to use them again. What he does not want to do is humiliate President Trump. President Trump has made a red line. He will stick to that red line.

Assad does not need to use chemical weapons. Though in order to prosecute his war, the war is going pretty well for him. The view is that he is using them in order to speed up the depopulation of population centers where his enemies are still holding out.

But if he does this again, I'm afraid by humiliating President Trump, he will risk and escalation and it is unnecessary for him to do that.

HOWELL: Well, let's talk about this, though, because chemical weapons have been used many times before and did not provoke this type of response, the use of chlorine gas has been used before.

So with regard to this red line that has been established --

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HOWELL: -- what does that mean?

Does it mean chlorine gas is the red line?

Does it mean that sarin gas is the red line?

What's the red line?

VANIER: The red line here is that this is only tangentially about Syria. People always say, these attacks are meaningless. They're limited; they don't change the balance of power in the Syrian conflict and they don't.

But the point is that they have very little to do with the Syrian war as it is. What the West is concerned about is that if the convention increasingly becomes undermined, if it becomes more routine and normalized to use chemical weapons, then one day chemical weapons will be used against Western targets.

And that is why it is critically important to make clear, not so much to the Syrians, because the Syrians don't really control the country but to the Russians, who are the real masters in Syria at the moment, that these weapons have to be reined in.

Because if they are not reined in, then Russian interests in Syria will be challenged. And that's not what Mr. Putin wants.

ALLEN: Very good points, Martin Navias, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

NAVIAS: Thank you.

ALLEN: Next here, in a world exclusive, CNN is speaking with survivors of the suspected chemical attack which led to this U.S. strike. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She had just gotten out of surgery in the hospital when the wounded from the chemical strike, she says, began coming in.

DAMON (voice-over): The scene was so horrific, she says she forgot her own pain. What she doesn't know, what no one has the heart to tell her is that her husband is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: How much more horror?

Next, our Arwa Damon shows us how a mother, a wife and how children are reacting to the chemical attack that almost killed them.

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HOWELL: A look here at some of the damage after the airstrikes in Syria. This rubble, it used to be part of a scientific research lab near Damascus. Hours after the attack, you could still see smoke rising.

After the strikes, the Syrian regime is defiant, declaring victory in the last area in Damascus that was held by rebels. The Syrian military says it now has cleared all insurgents from Eastern Ghouta. That includes the city of Douma, which is where the suspected chemical attack took place last week.

ALLEN: The Syrian regime labels rebels as terrorists, as it always has. In a statement, a top Syrian military official says this, quote, "Units of our valiant armed forces, along with its allies, completed the cleansing of Eastern Ghouta in all its towns and villages after all the terrorists have left Douma city."

The Syrian military operation to retake Eastern Ghouta has been internationally condemned. The U.N. says more than 130,000 civilians have fled that area. And now many of them live in limbo, as so many others do, in makeshift camps.

HOWELL: In a world exclusive, CNN is the first network to speak with survivors of the suspected chemical attack in Douma. Our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon spoke with them just hours after that U.S.-led airstrike. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: And there's definitely something that stinks...

DAMON (voice-over): These backpacks belong to Malas (ph) and Betha (ph), 7-year-old twins from Douma.

They're a little shy and hesitant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

DAMON (voice-over): Their mother, Imoor (ph), tells us they remember everything vividly.

They were hiding in a basement when the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma took place. They could barely breathe. She felt her body go limp. She clawed her way up, dragging her daughters but then the other strikes began.

"We were between two deaths," she remembers, "either from chemical strikes or the others on the rooftop."

DAMON: The smell is still quite strong because I think that they weren't able to wash yet.

Look, that's the toy that her daughter hid away to try to keep her safe and she would tell the toy, you know, you might -- you might suffocate but at least you'll be safe from the bombing. That is how -- that's how the kids' minds work.

Yesterday, they were digging a tunnel for the ants so that the ants wouldn't suffocate, just in case something happened.

DAMON (voice-over): In another tent, we meet a boy with a jagged scar running across his abdomen from shrapnel. His uncle, who doesn't want to be identified, was among the worst affected in the family in the chemical strike.

He says a blood sample was taken the day before. This new camp is inhabited with those who survived the siege of Douma. Its relentless, months-long bombing that drove families underground so that something as simple as feeling the sun on their skin was a luxury.

Reeve (ph) and her family thought there was a lull in the bombing and went outside, when she says three airstrikes slammed right next to them. The next thing she remembers is being in the hospital.

DAMON: She had just gotten out of surgery in the hospital when the wounded from the chemical strike, she says, began coming in.

DAMON (voice-over): The scene was so horrific, she says she forgot her own pain. What she doesn't know, what no one has the heart to tell her is that her husband is dead. Her son, just 2 years old, is too young to remember his father.

The limited U.S.-French-U.K. strikes may have sent a message to the Syrian regime about chemical weapons but not about the rest of its arsenal. For those who have endured the unimaginable, it's little more than a move on a gruesome chess board.

Sixty-eight-year-old Fegzi (ph) arrived here four days ago from Douma. She has buried too many -- [04:25:00]

DAMON (voice-over): -- relatives to count, including her son and two grandchildren.

DAMON: There is nothing left for them, I mean, even if they could go home, there's nothing left.

DAMON (voice-over): She says her country has caused her too much pain. And remembering the long lost days when her family was around her, when they were all alive, when feeling safe wasn't a luxury, it's all just too much -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Elbeyli (ph) Refugee Camp, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: It's good to see that part of the story, absolutely as painful as it can be.

A new mission for U.S. allies justifying airstrikes in Syria as France proposes a new U.N. resolution. We'll go live to Paris and hear more about that and to London as well. Stay with us.

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ALLEN: Welcome back. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

Now back to our coverage of the coalition strikes against Syria. The U.S. is calling those strikes a success. They were launched early Saturday with the U.K. and France in response to the suspected chemical attack last week in Syria. The strikes targeted Syria's chemical weapons program.

On Twitter, the U.S. president declared, "Mission accomplished."

ALLEN: The strikes targeted at least three sites with more than 100 missiles. They include a research facility in the capital of Damascus and storage facilities near Homs. This video shows what's left of that research facility in Damascus.

The U.S. says all the missiles hit their targets; Syria and its ally, Russia, deny that.

HOWELL: The American, French and British leaders have spent --

[04:30:00]

HOWELL: -- quite a bit of time on the phones since those airstrikes, talking to other world leaders, explaining their actions. ALLEN: Shinzo Abe says he fully supports the strikes. The Japanese prime minister added the use of chemical weapons is inhumane and should absolutely not be allowed.

NATO also has voiced its support for the airstrikes.

HOWELL: At the United Nations on Saturday, the U.S. said it's, quote, "locked and loaded" if it needs to act again.

France is proposing another Security Council resolution. It calls for a new mechanism to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria and for a third-party review of humanitarian evacuations. The U.S. and Britain backed that plan.

Let's bring in our Phil Black in London, outside Number 10, and Atika Shubert, following the story in Paris.

ALLEN: First, do you feel President Trump calls this a "mission accomplished."

Is Theresa May echoing that?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nothing as triumphant as "mission accomplished." Nothing as aggressive as suggesting they're locked and loaded and ready to go again if necessary.

It's a much more subdued message so far from the British government, simply stressing they believe the operation was successful and they believe they have wide-ranging international support for having carried it out.

These sorts of interventions are very controversial here in this country, very divisive and you're going to see that play out very publicly in the coming days as Parliament returns. And that's because many politicians here believe Theresa May should have gone to Parliament first, to have a debate, to get a vote, to seek permission before launching this military action.

That has become the political convention here. Theresa May decided that wasn't the right thing to do. That is why we have heard her and other members of the government stressing that this is very limited, very focused, very specific, very much simply targeting Syria's chemical weapons capability, not about regime change, not about getting further, more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict itself.

More than all of that, they say it is right, justified and legal. The point of it all is to simply reinforce the longstanding international law that says the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable in any circumstances, but especially when it comes to civilians.

ALLEN: Of course, there's been use of a poison attack there in the U.K. as well. That perhaps extra cause for concern as Theresa May took this action.

HOWELL: Absolutely and could have played into it. Now let's bring in Atika Shubert in Paris. Atika, we heard from Theresa May and the U.S. president, that line of "mission accomplished" but not yet from the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

What is the expectation?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We haven't heard haven't from him yet. Everything that we were getting from President Macron yesterday was via Twitter. He put out a very dramatic tweet in the meantime, saying a red line has been crossed. It included a photo of him in a sort of war room giving that military order.

But we haven't heard from him directly. We do expect to hear from him later tonight. He is having a marathon live interview with two high- profile journalists. This was actually scheduled a while ago to mark his one year since his election.

But clearly it will become a platform for him to explain to the French people why he took this military action. And he does have explaining to do, even though there's been quite a significant PR campaign in the run-up to the strikes; a video release, saying France would shoulder its responsibility.

Of course, macron was front and center, saying that France had proof that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. But he could still face a skeptical public. In 2013, a poll showed that when France wanted to strike Syria at that point because of chemical weapons, the public did not support it.

So it will be interesting to see what he says tonight to assure the public that this was the right decision to do.

ALLEN: Atika Shubert for us in Paris, thank you. Phil Black in London, we appreciate you both.

Let's bring in now Leslie Vinjamuri, associate professor of international relations at SOAS University of London, a frequent guest here.

And, Leslie, we thank you for being with us.

We just heard from London and Paris, the West is sticking together on this so far.

What do you think, though, about the overtures to a political solution following the strike that we are hearing?

Any chance it can solidify into something that might be hopeful?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: I don't see the strikes, while -- I think a response to the use of chemical weapons was important, I don't think the strikes will dramatically alter the prospects for a political solution to the civil war in Syria. No, I don't see that happening. HOWELL: All right. The U.S. president also using a phrase, "mission accomplished," that was used in his tweet, if we have that to show our viewers. This is important because it harkens back to the former U.S. President, George W. Bush. It goes back to the Iraq war, a war that certainly went well beyond the day that banner --

[04:35:00]

HOWELL: -- was raised on a warship.

Does the use of that phrase, "mission accomplished" there, does it undermine the overall message?

Does it come off as tone deaf?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think, as with many things that we've seen during the course of this presidency, words are used, phrases are chosen that play very badly, that draw references I'm not even sure that the president is conscious that he is drawing.

And a lot of people have seized on it. But I think the more important thing here is what's the general reaction to the strikes and what impact will they have on the ground?

I think while it was very important to respond and they were very limited, very targeted strikes, the impact, both in terms of the use of chemical weapons, if Assad still has chemical weapons, but in terms of, you know, the killing of civilians and the effort to drive civilians and rebels out of certain areas, I just don't see that changing as a result of these strikes.

ALLEN: What do you see changing, if anything at this point vis-a-vis U.S. strategy or the West's approach to the situation?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think if we go back a couple of weeks, remember, at that point, Donald Trump was saying he was ready to pull America out of Syria altogether. so there is a question now as to whether there will be any new thinking.

So far what we've seen is not. I think for many people, the strikes the day before yesterday sort of left people feeling uncertain what would follow, because they were so limited, so targeted. Fortunately without any loss to civilian lives but without any sense that there was a broader thinking behind this.

I think the strategic thinking on Syria has not changed as a result of the strikes. The strikes were really intended to say we will have a punitive response to the use of chemical weapons.

Remember that Syria joined the chemical weapons convention in 2013 after Obama backed down and negotiated a deal, which involved getting rid of a lot of chemical weapons and also getting Syria to agree to that convention, which says you won't produce or use chemical weapons. So the response has been very important but very, very limited.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the response and where things go from here. The president saying there could be more strikes if chemical weapons are used but, at the same time, making it clear he wants U.S. troops out of Syria. That red line, he has laid that out. But it doesn't seem to be in line with America first, which is a message that resonates with his base.

Can he have it both ways, to enforce global order while retreating from that role by pulling troops out of the region?

VINJAMURI: There's a couple of responses to that. One is that I think in the United States there is fairly broad support for responding with military force in a limited way to the use of chemical weapons. I don't think that has played badly at home. We'll have to wait and see as the data comes out, the public opinion polls come out.

But I think there's broad support, despite the rhetoric of America first. It is surprising that this president's first use of force a year ago and, again, the use of force has been to support the violation -- to support international humanitarian norms. It's not what we would have expected.

And there is a question of whether more will be done. I think that the hypocrisy for many people that are looking at Syria more generally is that are that there are thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, who have been killed brutally, not with chemical weapons. Some have been killed with chemical weapons but most have been killed through other very brutal means.

And there's really nothing being done about that. So there's a tension and there's hypocrisy but really there wouldn't be support in the United States. And this president has no desire to get involved in that broader effort to respond to this civil war in Syria.

HOWELL: Yes, he has made that quite clear in his messages. Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you so much for you time today.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead we'll have more coverage on Syria. But also turning to U.S. politics, the U.S. president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is under investigation. After the break, we'll take a closer look at President Trump's fixer.

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[04:40:00]

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ALLEN: Fired FBI director James Comey's book is officially released Tuesday. Excerpts are already making a splash. So are clips from his TV interview that will be aired soon.

HOWELL: Some say Comey cost Hillary Clinton the presidency by revealing just before the election that the FBI was reviewing additional e-mails in its investigation of her use of a private e-mail server. In the ABC interview, Comey says he thinks his belief that Clinton would win the election was a factor in his speaking out then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't remember consciously about thinking about that but it must have been because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I am sure it was a factor.

Like I said, I don't remember spelling it out but it had to have been that she was going to be elected president. And if I hide this from the American people, she will be illegitimate the moment she is elected, the moment this comes out.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: If you knew that letter would elect Donald Trump, you'd still sent it?

COMEY: I would. I would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Whether the president is reading that book is unclear but certain important it's out there.

The president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has been ordered to appear in court. This comes as CNN learned that the FBI seized recordings of conversations between Cohen and a former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who both claim to have had an affair with Donald Trump.

ALLEN: There doesn't seem to be much that Michael Cohen isn't willing to do or hasn't been willing to do for the president. He is known as Mr. Trump's fixer. CNN's Brian Todd takes a look into all of the things Cohen has done for the president so far.

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MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: All right. (INAUDIBLE) before you knock each other over.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump's personal lawyer and confidant in serious trouble on several fronts. Michael Cohen is coming off a tumultuous week, which included FBI raids on his home, office and hotel room and the news that Cohen has been the subject of a criminal investigation for months.

As he prepares to follow a judge's order for him to go to court on Monday, Cohen could be on the verge of taking a major legal hit, ostensibly in the service of one man.

COHEN: The next President of the United States of America.

TODD (voice-over): Prosecutors say Cohen has told last one witness Donald Trump is his only client. For 12 years, Cohen has been Trump's personal attorney or, as many call him -- [04:45:00]

TODD (voice-over): -- Trump's fixer. One former Trump campaign official says Cohen is a less cool version of "Ray Donovan," Showtime's fictional Hollywood fixer.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. Oh, Jesus, Ray.

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TODD (voice-over): But if Cohen is less cool than Donovan, observers say he's every bit as tenacious.

MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP REVEALED": Michael Cohen is not averse to threatening people, he's a guy who carries a pistol in an ankle holster. He makes it clear to people that he's a tough guy.

TODD (voice-over): From sometimes ruthlessly maneuvering against people who have damaging information on Trump to trying to facilitate business deals for his boss, observers say Michael Cohen consistently doggedly displays the one characteristic Donald Trump values most.

FISHER: There's very little in the world that's more important to Donald Trump than loyalty and Michael Cohen has shown for more than a decade that he will hold confidences and that he will fight for Trump in the way that Trump likes and that is to hit hard, to always hit back harder than you've been hit.

TODD (voice-over): Cohen's legal handling of the Stormy Daniels case has come under scrutiny. He recently said he used his own personal funds to, quote, "facilitate" a payment to the porn star shortly before the 2016 elections.

Trump recently said he had no knowledge of the payment, something legal experts say is almost unheard of.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is extraordinary and I would tell you that probably 99.9 percent of the lawyers in America would never even contemplate doing this.

TODD (voice-over): Cohen tells CNN his legal handling of the Daniels case has been solid, airtight and that he believes it's Daniels who is now liable for millions in damages, based on her conduct. But Cohen is also being criticized from a pure public relations standpoint.

MICHAEL RUBIN, CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: I think the entire thing was either reckless, naive or completely incompetent.

TODD (voice-over): Crisis communication specialist Michael Rubin says it was a bad idea to believe paying Daniels off would make her go away.

What should Cohen have told Trump? RUBIN: Tell him this isn't going to work. That's what he really should have done. There was nothing they could have done to make this go away. So dealing with it honestly is pretty much the only choice they have.

TODD: Cohen defends himself on that score as well, telling us he hopes Daniels and her attorney are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, that he thinks that will diminish significantly when a judgment is entered against her.

As for the allegations of an affair, Mr. Cohen reiterated his strong denial of an affair on three separate occasions -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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ALLEN: We are back to the America strike on Syria in a moment. Tomahawk cruise missiles played a key role in that strike. When we come back, a rare look inside the factory that makes them.

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HOWELL: (INAUDIBLE) some of the images, some of the missiles that were launched from the strikes on Syria. The U.S. says 105 missiles were fired from naval and air platforms in the Red Sea, the Northern Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

ALLEN: And the U.S. says the strikes launched with France and the U.K. were a success. They targeted Syria's chemical weapons program after that suspected chemical attack last week.

HOWELL: Syria, on the other hand, says most of the missiles were intercepted. But the United States says all of them hit their targets. Iran and Russia are critical of the strikes but many NATO countries have been supportive of it.

The survivor of one of the first chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian regime is praising President Trump's decision to strike. The gas attack in 2013 targeted Ghouta, not far from the scene of the latest apparent chemical attack.

ALLEN: Then President Barack Obama was criticized at the time for not enforcing his so-called red line on the use of chemical weapons. Kassem Eid survived that attack in 2013 and he spoke with our colleague, Ana Cabrera, about it.

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KASSEM EID, SURVIVOR, SYRIAN 2017 SARIN GAS ATTACK: just want to tell Mr. Trump like directly, I'm a Syrian refugee who survived chemical weapons attacks. Who lived under two years of siege and bombardment by the government.

I would love to -- like, buy you a beer and just sit in front of you and tell you how bad it is in Syria. how you should listen to your heart, not listen to your generals. You proved once again yesterday that you have a big heart. At least a lot more bigger than Obama.

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HOWELL: Now of the missiles used, the Tomahawk cruise missile has been the military's go-to in the United States, the main weapons in airstrikes like the one against Syria.

ALLEN: It's been using cruise missiles, the Tomahawk, for many, many years. And Gary Tuchman got a rare look inside the factory where they are made.

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GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Tomahawk is considered the world's most advanced cruise missile. It's been used in combat more than 2,000 times by the U.S. Navy from Syria to Sudan to Serbia. And all the new Tomahawks come out of one factory, this one in a city and state we've been asked not to reveal for security reasons.

The 20-foot-long Tomahawks are manufactured by The Raytheon Company. Kim Ernzen is one of Raytheon's top missile executives.

KIM ERNZEN, V.P., RAYTHEON: This is the final configuration before it goes out the door to our customer. In this facility is where we do the integration of the rocket motors and the warheads, what we call the energetics elements of the missiles.

Other components and set assemblies come from our other factories, located here. And then we do the finally assembly here, test it, fuel it and get it ready to go out the door.

TUCHMAN: How soon will these be going out the door?

ERNZEN: In the next couple of days.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In this factory, 14 Tomahawks are about to be shipped out. Workers here are performing what they call a roll test to make sure there is nothing loose inside the missile and that everything is connected properly.

Historically, Raytheon's contract with the Navy is for at least 196 missiles each year.

ERNZEN: Tomahawks can fly 1,000-plus miles. So it can get launched from a ship or a submarine. It can go up and loiter, as we call it, where it can fly around in a figure 8.

TUCHMAN: So in other words, once it's sent off, if you want to change where it's going --

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TUCHMAN: -- just goes in a circle -

ERNZEN: It can be redirected and rerouted to a specific target.

[04:55:00]

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Tomahawk has been around since the 1980s. But this is the newest version of the missile, manufactured since 2004. It can be used for up to 30 years and Tomahawks that haven't been used come back after 15 years for recertification and upgrades.

ERNZEN: So this is the rocket motor that launches it out of the vertical live system. So it is what propels it out. So when you see the footage of a missile coming out of a ship, it is the plume that gets it out of that vertical launch.

As you move more up toward the front is the navigation, communications system and then ultimately up here at the very end is the warhead. And it is a 1,000-pound warhead.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): With their GPS guidance, the Tomahawks can strike within mere feet of a target. They're launched from ships or submarines.

ERNZEN: It comes from a submarine, it will then swim through the water. The rocket motor will take it up out of the water and then will eventually get it up into the airplane mode, which is where it will fly and perform its mission from there.

TUCHMAN: So it swims and it flies?

ERNZEN: It swims and it flies.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The price tag per missile, about $1.1 million. Each Tomahawk weighs about 3,500 pounds. So when 66 of them are fired toward Syria, that was about 231,000 pounds of firepower.

People who work here tell us this isn't just a job.

ERNZEN: It is an honor to be able to work for the men and women in uniform and to be able to supply them with a competitive advantage when they're put in harm's way. And that's what we do. We make sure that they have an unfair advantage out in theater.

TUCHMAN: So that's what you say, that this gives the U.S. military an unfair advantage?

ERNZEN: Absolutely. And we want to keep it that way.

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

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ALLEN: Thank you for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. "NEW DAY" picks up our coverage from here.