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NY Times: Trump Approves Iran Strike, Then Pulls Back; Downing of U.S. Drone Stokes Tensions With Iran; Hong Kong Protest Over Extradition Bill Continue; Hong Kong Protests over Extradition Bill Continue; Demonstrators Clash With Police Near Parliament; Hunt and Johnson Two Finalists in Race for 10 Downing. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired June 21, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The orders were given, planes were in the air, ships in position, but according to New York Times, the U.S. President abruptly called off a military strike on Iran.
They're back on the streets of Hong Kong. Thousands of protesters staging a massive sit-in blocking roads and demanding a high-level resignation.
And then there were two. The race to be the next leader of Britain's Conservative Party as well as Prime Minister as Boris Johnson as the overwhelming favorite but will this high-profile Brixiter will victor though his own creation?
Hello, everybody! Welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
VAUSE: We begin this hour again with breaking news in the U.S. Iran crisis. Tensions have escalated from a simmer to a boil. In the past few hours, New York Times reported President Trump approved military strikes on a number of Iranian targets, what's called a measured response after an American drone was shot down.
Planes were in the air, ships in position when suddenly according to The Times, the order came to stand down. It's unclear why President Trump changed his mind on the operation or if this was a logistical decision. It's also not clear if the strikes might still go forward.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has provided coordinates which it says proves the drone was over in national waters when it was shot down but Tehran says these surveillance plane violated Iranian airspace. And the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority has put restrictions on U.S. airlines flying over the Gulf region.
They say commercial flights are prohibited until further notice because of the tensions and the risks with Iran. Military leaders in Iran are disputing the U.S. story at every point along the timeline. Our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen reports now from Tehran.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Despite President Trump's claims that the Iranians may have shot down the U.S. drone by accident or because of a rogue commander, the Iranians are saying that this was done absolutely deliberately. The Iranians are saying that they believe that the drone violated their airspace and that's why they fired their surface-to-air missiles,
Now, the Iranians even released a video of those missiles being fired and if you listen to the voices on that video, it certainly doesn't seem as though those are people who believe that they've just shot down the wrong unmanned aerial vehicle.
Now, Iran's Foreign Minister were also getting involved in this as well. He tweeted out almost a play by play of the flight of that drone until it was shot down. He says it took off from an airbase in the United Arab Emirates shortly after midnight.
And he said that it was flying in stealth mode which seems to indicate that he believes that it may have turned its transponder off or made in some other way shape or form have been masking its identification. He says that it then entered into Iranian airspace and was shot down.
Javad Zarif even giving coordinates of where the drone was shot down. We looked those coordinates up, that would put it about nine miles off coast of Iran which indeed would be within Iranian territorial waters or Iranian airspace.
Of course, the U.S. released its own coordinates of where the drone was shot down and the Americans unequivocally saying that this was in international airspace and not within Iranian territorial airspace. Nevertheless, the Iranians are saying the shooting down of the drone was a clear message to the United States that Iran's airspace is a redline.
The unit of business is the Revolutionary Guard Corps which is the most elite unit of Iran's military. The head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps coming out and saying Iran does not want a war with the United States but also that Iran is very much prepared in case a war happens. Fred Pleitgen, CNN Tehran.
VAUSE: Samantha Vinograd is a CNN National Security Analyst and former adviser to the U.S. National Security Council. She is with us this hour from Los Angeles. Sam, good to see you.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Hi!
VAUSE: Hey, we don't know for certain but you know, it seems possible that the U.S. President blinked bigly. Here's part of that report from the York Times. The operation was underway in its early stages when it was caught off. A senior administration official said the planes were in the air, the ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down.
So from what we know about this, how will this be seen not just by you know, the leaders in Tehran, but the leaders in North Korea, the leaders in Russia, the readers in Venezuela, you know, the list goes on.
VINOGRAD: Well, to the extend, this will be seen as all bark and no bite. President Trump has escalated tensions to this point in response to myriad Iranian misbehaviors. But at this point, John, this is kind of a worst-case scenario. The President is showing that he's since we made a decision, had a National Security Council meeting, and wasn't willing to follow through which is really par for the course when we look at his posture on North Korea for example, we were fire and fury until we weren't.
And at this juncture, this is all already going to play right into the Iranian regime's hand. They will now be able to say that the United States is planning to attack them and that any further actions that they take are purely defensive in nature. They've been playing the victim part for several months, now several years even, and they now have even more fuel to say that the United States is coming after them and they have to respond.
Having been part of these kinds of conversations in the Situation Room before, I also really wonder what kind of message this is sending to our closest allies. Ostensibly, the U.S. military would have briefed some of its counterparts if not all before the planes took off and the ship were put into position only to then have to call them back and say the President changed his mind, he flip-flops.
So all in all, this shows gross disorganization and a president who can't seem to make up his mind even on something as important as a military strike on Iran.
[01:05:54] VAUSE: Here's a little more from the New York Times. The report -- it was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.
In your experience having -- you know, being in the National Security Council and just from what you know about past U.S. military strikes, has anything like this happened before that you know, like minutes away from you know, firing the missiles you know, and the president says no.
VINOGRAD: This sounds like a really bad action thriller, John. And in my experience, when the military develops ConOps or the plans for a strike like this, they are finely tuned, they're fully ready to go, and if the planes really had taken off, if we were really 90 minutes away from a strike, I don't see how logistics would have been really messed this up.
The military pre-positioned assets. It is unlikely to me that a logistical failure would have been what pulled this operation back. It sounds more likely that the President changed his mind or somebody convinced him that this was not the right strategy. And I don't disagree on that.
Launching military strikes against Iran would have been met at a minimum with a strong counter-response from Iranian proxies and potentially Iranian forces from within the country itself. Let's not forget, the Houthis in Yemen, Iranian proxy's all throughout the region and really Americans that are in the region as well that could have been vulnerable to counter-attack in places like Iraq and elsewhere.
And so it would have been a misguided strategy to proceed with the strike. Not to mention John I'm very unclear on what the legal bases for these strikes were. There would have been -- there's no congressional authorization to launch a military strike in Iran. And so for all those reasons, if the reporting is accurate, I'm very glad that the president changed his mind to pulled this back for whatever reason.
VAUSE: You know, from my understanding, Pompey went to Congress and basically said they want to use the you know, Authorization of Military Force in the days after 9/11 which is questionable from a legal --
VINOGRAD: Which would be a very tenuous -- a very tenuous argument at best. I mean, the AUMF, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force has really been grossly expanded to fit a range of military operations.
Using the existing AUMF, launched military strikes against targets in Iran would have been a very difficult argument to make.
VAUSE: Very. You know, to the point that maybe the president changing his mind or having a change of heart, whatever, you know, on Thursday there was a very different tone coming from the president when he was talking about the you know, the drone being shot down. It was less bellicose, it was more conciliatory.
And CNN also reporting that the President has been at odds with his advisor especially the very hawkish John Bolton. He was asked about that on Thursday. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like there are members of your administration whoa re trying to push you into conflict with Iran?
TRUMP: No, not at all. In fact, in many cases, it's the opposite. But I will say, look, I said, I want to get out of these endless wars. I campaigned on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, is it possible that Trump has worked out it's one thing to talk tough to send out mean tweets but making good on those hyperbolic warnings and all these threats, it's really hard.
VINOGRAD: It is hard. And I'm going to come back to the point that President Trump is thank goodness in this case more bark than bite. I mean I was part of a series of conversations under President Obama about going to war in Syria and putting more troops in harm's way. It's a difficult decision for any commander-in-chief and it's typical that various members of the cabinet have different views.
The military, the State Department, the National Security Adviser, the Intelligence Community informs those decisions and very often members of the cabinet with different equities have different recommendations for the President. So it's not unusual for there to be a difference of opinions.
The issue here is what and whom is coordinating the fulsome strategy on Iran, not just deterring them from further strikes on American assets, but looking at the whole scope of things that Iran is doing and figuring out what tools are going to be most impactful.
For whatever reason, if there was a focus on a military strike hours after President Trump said that this -- that this drone had been shot down by my mistake, how did that fit into the larger strategy. And it really appears that nobody is steering this ship.
It appears that the administration is shooting from the hip and playing a game of whack-a-mole when it comes to Iranian threats rather than again looking at this macro picture and figuring out what to do.
[01:10:14] VAUSE: You know, the other side of this story is that the FAA has ordered U.S. carriers to avoid the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
VINOGRAD: Thank goodness, yes.
VAUSE: They say the risk of the U.S. drone being shot down increased risk. But that order, the timing here is you know, seems interesting. It seems at least to one of our military analysts, that order was made in anticipation of a U.S. military action, this military action which was abruptly canceled by the president. Would you agree?
VINOGRAD: I don't know about that. I think that we've seen various insurance agencies, maritime agencies, businesses changing their posture in the Strait of Hormuz because there have been a series of tanker attacks over the past few weeks. And so I don't know that it was necessarily in response to an impending military strike.
I think that any government agency, any private company that's looking at the Strait right now is probably figuring out that it's not a very safe place to be. So I don't know that there is a direct link with any impending military strike. It seems more like common sense to me at this point and I think we have to wait and see whether private companies start to really pull back transiting the Strait, not just oil tankers but we know how much other commerce traverses those waterways every day.
VAUSE: OK, we need to -- so we'll probably stop here by taking a bigger picture about how this is all started and playing out because it all began when the United States pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran and imposed those very tough sanctions which now it appears have had a devastating economic impact.
Here's part of a report. Over the past year, the value of the Iranian currency has sunk by two-thirds. Inflation is approaching 40 percent, and per the IMF, the economy expected to shrink by six percent this year. Prices for basic goods including many foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, many medicines in short supply.
The possibilities have briefly seemed within reach during the halcyon afterglow of the nuclear negotiations have been supplanted by a grim, jittery state of siege. It would not be the first time, but what are the chances the Trump administration misjudged or didn't consider the impact these sanctions would have and failed to predict how Tehran would react?
VINOGRAD: Well, John, just one quick area where I disagree with you. I don't know that this all started because President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. I am fully against President Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal and to reimpose sanctions, but Iran had been a bad actor for a long time and has been.
The withdrawals from the JCPOA and reimposition of sanctions certainly exacerbated tensions and led Iran to start implementing their own maximum pressure campaigning. At this point, when we look at the financial pressure on Iran, it is certainly quite broad. And what Iran is trying to do right now is manipulate the Europeans into really choosing Iran over the United States and saying that they will continue to buy Iranian oil, petrochemicals, and metals.
Iran is trying to set up a choice for the international community between the United States and doing business with Iran, and they are using these threats as leverage. These -- their ability to wreak havoc is their trump card if you will and that's what they're trying to show here.
And I don't know if Emmanuel Macron has yet arrived in Tehran but I would imagine that a lot of European leaders, Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping, people that the regime still has a relationship with are going to be speaking to the regime and trying to figure out how to -- how to at a minimum get pause on this escalatory cycle because nobody, in my opinion, wants war right now with Iran because of the devastating consequences even perhaps John Bolton.
VAUSE: OK. We'll see. I mean, you know, everyone says they don't want war but everyone says they're preparing for it anyway, but we'll see what happens. Sam, thank you.
VINOGRAD: And everybody has been saying for a long time. So I sincerely hope that doesn't happen, but the risk of that happening increases every day when we're in this war of words, when there are these metastasizing breath throughout the Strait throughout the region.
And so at this point, John, I'm looking at what the off-ramp is and whether there is actually diplomatic conversation having privately -- happening privately that we may not know about that the regime is engaging in perhaps with the Europeans, perhaps with Macron, or even perhaps with Vladimir Putin.
VAUSE: Yes. But they've got to want to take the (INAUDIBLE). That's the key as well. Sam, thank you.
VINOGRAD: Thank you.
VAUSE: I appreciate it. Right now, thousands of protesters in Hong Kong have gathered outside the city's police headquarters. They're demanding the government completely scrap a bill that would make anyone in Hong Kong subject to extradition to mainland China.
That bill sparked protests by millions. Police have "strongly condemned the protesters for blocking the main highway near government headquarters." CNN's Anna Coren is with us now live again from Hong Kong. And Anna, you know, last hour, we spoke to you. We talked about how this protest was simply growing in numbers. Is that the case? Does it continue to grow or is it sort of it is what it is?
[01:14:58]ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. At the moment, John, it's sort of the same as what it was when we spoke last hour, certainly thousands have gathered here outside the police headquarters.
And there seemed to be a bit of a standoff with the police and, sort of, hear these cheers up, somebody comes out of the police headquarters, cheers, when somebody heads back in, we've heard from Joshua Wong, he is one of the protest organizers who was just released from jail earlier this week.
And that really rallied the crowd. There was talk of some of the protestors going down to the Revenue Tower, which is like the tax department, and wanting to, I guess, disrupt the day, cause inconvenience for government workers, LegCo, the legislative council that has been closed also today, because of the protests.
Now, these protestors several hours ago, they blocked Harcourt Road, which is a major artery here, in Hong Kong, it remains closed. There is no traffic on this six-lane highway. They have now come here. They brought steel barricades, plastic barricades, which have been left on the street, not sure why city officials and police allowed for that to happen.
But they have moved those barricades into place, blocking roads. Certainly, the protesters, they've come with their gas masks, with their hard hats and cling wrap in case that there is pepper spray, I mean, that is what protestors are thinking will happen later today, that things could certainly turn ugly.
At the moment, there are dozens of police outside the police headquarters, and at the moment, they are not wearing any riot gear. Now, I should just point out a sign that's just been erected on the Hong Kong police headquarters, and it says never back down, that is in Cantonese. Never back down. There are thousands of young people here, so many of these are students, and they are, of course, on summer break. It's the student union that called for today's protests. These protests now have been going for weeks, but obviously, what attracted international attention has been the massive crowds that have turned out the last two Sundays.
You know, 2 million people reportedly turned out on Sunday, according to organizers, and it was absolutely breathtaking. The organization here -- these pro-democracy organizations feel that they ease momentum. They feel that the future of Hong Kong is in their hands.
There are going to keep on pushing for the withdrawal of this bill, and also for the resignation of the city's chief executive, Carrie Lam.
John, they say they aren't going anywhere until their demands are met.
VAUSE: Yes, 2 million people turning out on the streets out of a population for just over 7 million (INAUDIBLE) Anna, thank you. We appreciate you being with us.
We turn now to Georgia, where the capital city of Tbilisi is on edge after a night of violent protest. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, a number of people were injured.
VAUSE: Thousands gathered outside Georgian parliament Thursday, protesting a controversial visit from a Russian lawmaker to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. The protest quickly turned chaotic. Georgians furious their parliament invited Sergey Gavrilov, a member of the Russian Communist Party to their country, some carrying signs saying, stop Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is the expression of the peaceful expression of the protester, to show to the (INAUDIBLE) that we will not tolerate Russian expense into Georgia, and we will not tolerate Russianization of the Georgia, which is happening, unfortunately, under this government for the last seven years.
VAUSE: Gavrilov told Russian state news he believes he was met with protests because of his alleged participation in the separatist conflict in Abkhazia in the early 1990s. Gavrilov denies ever being involved in any armed conflicts.
Tensions flared between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 over a Russian-backed separatist movement in the province of South Ossetia, when Georgian troops tried to regain control over this self-proclaimed autonomous region. Russia responded by moving tanks and soldiers through South Ossetia, further into Georgian territory.
Opposition representatives even protested Gavrilov's appearance, infuriated when he sat in the speaker's chair at the Georgian assembly's session.
Protestors were met with tear gas from police, some seen (INAUDIBLE) bloody faces while officers fired rubber bullets towards the crowd.
Georgian ministry and internal affairs issued a statement, calling all protestors to immediately stop the violations of law and violence, do not follow provocations, obey the police request and leave the territory of parliament. Otherwise, police will take this measures provided by law.
One protester says the government should be held responsible.
ELENE KHOSHTARIA, EUROPEAN GEORGIA PARTY MEMBER: It's a big shame and a big insult for Georgia's society that the Georgian government has made it possible to see Russian occupant, an enemy of this country, in the chair of the chairman of the parliament.
This is not acceptable for Georgian public. You see so many people protesting this, and this is unfortunately, the result of the responsibility of the government. The government has to pay the price for it.
VAUSE: A short break now, when we come back, and then there were 2, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, the last men standing in the race for number 10. And the one they called BoJo, the clown, is the favorite.
[01:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: In London, a climate change activist was grabbed and slammed against the wall by the foreign office minister, Mark Field. She is part of a group of Greenpeace protestors who interrupted the speech by the British Finance Minister, Philip Hammond.
(INAUDIBLE) lawmakers are now demanding Field's resignation, but Field claims because there was no security at the event, he had to act decisively. He was concerned she may have been armed, but does apologize for grabbing her arm.
The contest to replace Theresa May as leader of Britain's Conservative Party and prime minister has come down to two men. One has been dubbed BoJo the clown, the other, Theresa-in-trousers. BoJo, Boris Johnson is the former mayor of London and is considered the favorite, but his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, aka Theresa-in-trousers, is promising to not go down without a fight.
The Times newspaper offering this support, don't be fooled by the Theresa-in-trousers tag, boring Jeremy Hunt has cunning and steel.
A third candidate, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, may have been the victim of tactical voting. The Guardian reports Johnson's camp believes remain-voting Hunt, will make a less formidable adversary than Gove, who along with Johnson was one of the leading figures in the Vote Leave campaign.
Regardless of whether it's Johnson or Hunt, the grim reality of the Brexit paradox remains unchanged. The E.U. will not renegotiate the already agreed to exit deal, and a fractured British parliament won't approve any deal until it's been negotiated.
Nile Gardiner is with the Heretics Foundation and was an adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He joins us now from Washington, Nile, good to see you.
NILE GARDINER, DIRECTOR, MARGARET THATCHER CENTER FOR FREEDOM, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Great to be here, thank you.
VAUSE: Let's go with the (INAUDIBLE) Boris Johnson, so after reading that final ballot amongst the members, the lawmakers, the MPs, he tweeted this.
TEXT: I'm deeply honored to have secured more than 50 percent of the vote in the final ballot. Thank you to everyone for your support. I look forward to getting out across the U.K. to set out my plan to deliver Brexit, unite our country, and create a brighter future for us all.
What exactly is his plan to deliver Brexit, because he didn't have one the other night during that television debate?
GARDINER: On Brexit, I think that there is a distinction between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. I think that Johnson is very clear about delivering Brexit on October the 31st. It has been said that the European Union is not expressing any interest in renegotiating the E.U. withdrawal agreement.
[01:25:06] The fact, I think, that Johnson is already made that clear privately to MPs, that he believes the E.U. withdrawal deal is dead in the water, and that he would then seek a wholesale renegotiation. If he doesn't get a renegotiation or a new deal, basically, then Johnson will go for a no deal Brexit.
The big difference, I think, between Johnson and Theresa May, is that Boris Johnson is very serious about delivering a no deal Brexit. Theresa May had two opportunities to do so, and she didn't decide to do so. Johnson is a real risk taker, and I believe he's also far more in tune, I think, with the, you know, the beating heart of middle England.
VAUSE: Here's the Scottish National Party MP, Ian Blackford, in parliament, speaking out against Boris Johnson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN BLACKFORD, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY M.P.: The member has called Muslim women letter boxes, described African people as having watermelon smiles and another disgusting slur that I would never dignify by repeating. If that's not racist, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what is. Does the prime minister honestly believe that this man is fit for the office of prime minister?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK. So, you know, he's also criticized as a do-nothing mayor of London, you know, his time as foreign secretary was far from successful, according to many. And really, you know, there's this criticism that he isn't offering a whole lot new on Brexit, most likely because he can't, because his hands are tied. So, you know, is he suitable to be prime minister?
GARDINER: Well, I've met Boris Johnson on a number of occasions here in Washington, and I think he actually will be a very good British prime minister, a very big change from Theresa May, who was really a very disappointing leader, and a very weak leader.
I think that Johnson is going to be far tougher prime minister and he's also, I think, someone who's fully committed to delivering Brexit, after all, he was a leader, the Vote Leave campaign. He truly believes in British sovereignty and (INAUDIBLE) termination. Theresa May certainly did not.
VAUSE: You know, David Cameron, the former prime minister, he was brought down by Brexit, Brexit then brought Theresa May to power, and Brexit was the cause of her demise. And Brexit will bring either Johnson, most likely, or maybe Hunt, to number 10.
Is there any reason to believe that, you know, Johnson or Hunt's fate will not be the same as Cameron's and May's?
GARDINER: I think Johnson is made stern and stuff than Cameron and May. Let's not forget as well that both Cameron and May, you know, were (INAUDIBLE) in essence, actually, remain as really, Johnson is a Brexiteer.
And that's a very big difference. Also, Johnson, I think, is someone who has a much more positive vision to Britain's future. And I think he's someone who greatly admires Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher. He has a clear vision for Britain as a sovereign nation. And I don't think that was the case with David Cameron or Theresa May.
And I think that, you know, Johnson is somebody who presents a far more positive, optimistic vision of Britain's future outside of the European Union.
VAUSE: We shall see, I mean, this is one of those debates or these arguments that we will only know when it's happened, Nile, good to see you. Thank you.
GARDINER: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
VAUSE: Still to come, New York Times reporting President Trump approved a military strike against Iran and then abruptly called it off, we'll have the very latest when we come back.
[01:31:04] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update on our top news this hour.
The "New York Times" is reporting that the U.S. president approved a military strike on Iran but abruptly called it off Thursday night. One official is reported as saying planes were in the air shifted in position when word came to stand down. The strikes were meant as retaliation for Iran's downing of a U.S. drones over the Strait of Hormuz. It's not clear why it was called off or if it might still go forward.
Thousands of protestors have gathered outside Hong Kong's to police headquarters. They want the government to withdraw a controversial bill that would make anyone in Hong Kong subject to extradition to mainland China.
The bill has been suspended by the city's chief executive. That happened last week. Protestors say not enough. They want it scrapped.
The race to be conservative party leader in the U.K. and the next prime minister is now down to two. Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson remain in the running after two hopefuls were knocked out in secret ballots. Johnson secured more than 50 percent of the latest vote.
The "New York Times" is reporting that President Trump approved military strikes against Iran, but then decided to pull the pen (ph) even as a U.S. military planes were in the air and ships were out to sea.
The "Times" reports "It was not clear if Donald Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes, or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward."
I asked retired Air Force colonel and CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton why would Mr. Trump pull back.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The big reason I think that the President may have done this was basically he wanted to do this as a show of force so that's on the positive side of things, you know. He wanted to show the Iranians what we could do without actually doing it. So that's one possibility.
The other possibility is that he could have, in essence, gotten cold feet and decided that he didn't want to go that far because he became concerned after thinking about it, what Iran might do in response to this action.
So, you know, the risk of ever increasing escalation is extremely high in a situation like this and it's certainly a possibility that he may have decided that this was not worth doing at this particular point in time.
VAUSE: If you're a military leader sitting back in Tehran and you're just learning about this now, would you see it as a show of force or an act of cold feet?
LEIGHTON: Well, if I were in the Iranians' shoes, I would see it as a show of force because even if it's a set of cold feet, it could still be something that tells me that the Americans are coming in, they're doing these things, they have the capability of doing certain things.
Their targets may have been command and control nodes, radar sites, and things like that. And so I would certainly be very cautious at this point if I were sitting in Tehran.
VAUSE: Yes. As far as that goes, the military action, the "New York Times" also reporting that officials said the President had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets like radar and missile batteries. It's essentially what you call a proportional response to the downing of the drone but it may be proportional but it's not without risk.
LEIGHTON: That's right.
Yes, proportional depending on the number of missile batteries and radar sites that you actually strike.
You know, if you strike one or two, that would be probably somewhat proportional to what happened to the global hawk -- drone. But if you strike 20, 30, 40 or more, then you risk going way beyond the rules of proportionality and that could also create its own series of problems.
VAUSE: What we have -- here is a little more from the "New York Times" report in regards to the drone. "Iran's ability to target and destroy the high-altitude American drone which was developed to evade the very surface to air missiles used to bring it down, surprised many Defense Department officials, who interpret it as a show of how difficult Tehran can make things for the United States as it deploys more troops and steps up surveillance in the region."
[01:35:06] For those around the President who are arguing for a robust military response like the National Security Adviser John Bolton and others, at this point, are they underestimating just what the U.S. could be facing in terms of Iran's military capability?
LEIGHTON: I think there's a very big risk. I think it's certainly possible that they're underestimating what Iran can actually do.
Now, Iran definitely has its vulnerability, it has its weaknesses. But the Iranians are also very experienced fighters and they've been doing this for quite some time.
They fought Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. They plot all kinds of paramilitary actions through their proxies as well as through the revolutionary guards. So they're very experienced fighters and they've also had a lot of time to develop tactics and techniques that they would not have otherwise developed had they had more peaceful or amicable relations with the United States.
So the Iranians are not only a difficult foe but a very dangerous foe. And that is something that people in the White House and throughout the quarters of power here in Washington will really have to take a look at.
VAUSE: We're also hearing that this military response, which has been ordered and then called off by the President, it may not be called off for good. It could actually just be postponed or, you know, put on hold.
So where do you think things stand right now? Is this a pause or is this a reset?
LEIGHTON: Well, it maybe -- it's an opportunity for a reset. I think I'll put it this way. It's an opportunity for a reset if both Iran and the United States choose it to be that.
It could in effect be a pause but the element of surprise is gone for the United States at least at the moment. And that presents its own problems as well.
So when you look at exactly what the state of play is here, it's definitely fluid. It could go in many different directions but it's definitely a very dangerous situation right now in the Persian Gulf. And it's something that I think we're going to have to watch very carefully, probably towards not just a few days but for the next few weeks.
VAUSE: Cedric Leighton there, retired Air Force colonel and CNN military Analyst.
Well, after years of strained relations, China and North Korea are rekindling their once close relationship. Xi Jinping is on his second and last day of his state visit. Not a lot of details what was discussed between xi and Kim Jong-un but North Korean media quote Kim has describing the visit as an occasion to boast to the world about the invincibility of their friendship between their countries.
Paula Hancocks live again from Seoul in South Korea.
Paula -- first came this lavish welcome for Xi Jinping, and now this promise from him to play a role in denuclearization. It seems he's moving into a role that the U.S. President sees as his own.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John -- this is definitely a chance for both Xi Jinping and for Kim Jong-un to remind the U.S. president that their alliance is strong. It's a traditional old alliance.
The China is still the main financial benefactor for North Korea by a long shot. And kind of wants to remind the world, not just U.S. President Donald Trump, that they are pivotal to whatever happens in a North Korean -- with a North Korea issue. There is a lot of pomp and ceremony as you might expect. It is an official state visit but Pyongyang does this kind of thing very well. They've only done it twice so far for Xi Jinping, and then for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
But they are showing certainly that optics are important. They're showing that this relationship is very important to them. As you say details are very slim on the ground, but we weren't really expecting too many details. It was really just a chance for both China and North Korea to point out just how close they are. Xi Jinping accentuating the fact that he appreciates the economic policy of Kim Jong-un as opposed to the nuclear policy.
Kim Jong-un also mentioned that he had been trying to reduce tensions saying quote, "But we have not received positive responses." so it will dig at the United States there after the Hanoi summit ended without agreement. and one wee
And of course, just one week out from the G-20 summit in Japan when Xi Jinping is expected to meet the U.S. President, it doesn't harm for Xi Jinping to be seen on the international stage like this.
VAUSE: Yes. It's all about the optics, I think, as you said last hour. It's very true they're learning from Trump, about, you know, how visual side of everything is very important and very powerful as well.
Paula -- thank you. Paula Hancocks, live for us in Seoul.
Well, as ebola spreads throughout parts of Central Africa, a new treatment is bringing new hope for families. That's next.
Also, the U.S. adds Saudi Arabia to the human trafficking list, but stopped short of adding it the list of countries which use child soldiers. We will tell you why in a moment.
[01:49:58] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)\
VAUSE: The U.S. Senate has blocked the Trump administration's push to extradite $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The administration tried to bypass congress last month by declaring an emergency. Now, the President is expected to veto the new resolution which makes this all nothing more than a symbolic show opposition from within his own Republican party.
Meantime the U.K. Court of Appeals has ruled the British government sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia is unlawful. The ruling won't stop the sales to Saudis, which is deeply involved in the civil war in Yemen. But the government needs to reconsider if the weapons could be used to violate international humanitarian law.
And Saudi Arabia pushing back against an independent report on the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A U.N. human rights investigator placed the blame for the murder on the Saudi government, saying there is credible evidence linking the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to that brutal killing.
But a Saudi minister disagrees. He told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the killers are already being punished.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I want to ask you what you think when you hear the following words. This is from Turkish intelligence and from other intelligence. We also know that the head of the CIA Gina Haspel has heard this intel and these tapes. So people go into -- Saudis go into the consulate. "We will take you
back," they say to Khashoggi. "This is an order from Interpol." Saudi says -- Khashoggi says, "There isn't a case against me," and warns them that people are waiting outside.
They then instruct him to write a text message to his son, and they argue about what to say, and they say to him cut it short. There is a struggle.
What do you think when you hear that?
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Well, let me first respond to your first question about holding to account people who committed Abu Ghraib and who --
AMANPOUR: First I want to ask you this.
AL-JUBEIR: In our case, the reason the trials are ongoing and people will be punished.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you what your reaction was --
AL JUBEIR: The reaction to the tape -- we know this is a rogue operation that was not authorized. We know that a crime was committed. We have people in jail and they are on trial as we speak.
AMANPOUR: What do you say to the following? Khashoggi says, "There's a towel here, are going to give me drugs?" And they say, "We will anesthetize you." And then there's a struggle and then a man asked whether Khashoggi's passed out. And then another or the same one says "he raises his head". Another one says, "Keep pushing. Push here. Don't remove your hand. Push it.
[01:44:54] AL JUBEIR: It's a gruesome murder that happened outside authorities, and for which the people who committed it will be punished. That's why there is a trial, that's why there's an ongoing investigation. This should never have happened.
VAUSE: The ebola virus is once again spreading through parts of central Africa, it's the second largest and second deadliest ebola outbreak ever recorded. The epicenter is in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The World Health Organization has recorded more than 2,000 ebola cases there with more than 1,400 confirmed and probable deaths.
CNN's David McKenzie has been given rare access to a treatment center that shows the human impact behind the staggering numbers.
MCKENZIE: Dr. Camaro Moday (ph) enters this exhausting battleground where a transparent barrier isolates a highly contagious Ebola patient from the outside world. His team rushes to stabilize a young woman who lost her baby and her husband to the virus. The death rate in this outbreak nearly 70 percent.
Sometimes you forget even for myself, this is my third Ebola outbreak, the terror that this strikes into people. When people come here, they feel they might die. In fact, they believe there's a good chance they will. But if they're inside there, they'll be able to see the eyes, the emotions, the care of the doctors and also for the family members coming in, they'll be able to interact with them, they are no longer isolated in the same sense.
They call these new units the cube. The family can begin to trust us say Dr. Moday because they can see with their own eyes that we are caring for the loved ones. Its design a hard lesson learned from the 2014 West African epidemic, where Ebola killed more than 11,000.
This time around, teams are also armed with an effective experimental vaccine -- advances that meant this outbreak was supposed to be different. It wasn't supposed to last as long or kill so many. Ten months later, it is still spreading, for the vaccine to work the teams need to be able to reach all of this.
But this is eastern Congo. A region wrapped by decades of violence where armed groups continue to thrive in a dysfunctional state. So a mistrusting is understandable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's at stake here is whether we can break this transmission or not. If it continues to be interrupted, it's likely that the virus will continue to propagate.
MCKENZIE: And what would that mean for this region and further global health?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It remains a threat to surrounding provinces. It remains a threat to surrounding countries. So we cannot let it spread.
MCKENZIE: For the spread to stop, Samuel Motakwa (ph) needs to work. Keeping track of those most likely to become infected.
So that is 36.8. So that is safe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that is safe.
MCKENZIE: But like so many health workers Samuel is being threatened even (INAUDIBLE) by his terrified majors.
Sometimes all the world knows he terrified neighbors. Sometimes all the world knows is fear, but then I look at the individual people.
"We need to treat these patients with empathy" he says, we need to treat them like they're a member of the family.
In the nearby crest (ph), Ebola survivors are now immune to the disease, like Masima (ph) become family to young babies, to wait to see if they're infected mothers will live or die. You have a smile on your face. Why do you have a smile on your face?
My smile is the joy of being alive she says. I beat Ebola, I'm smiling to the god who gave me life.
Ebola is a disease that breeds unparalleled fear. Here at least hope remains.
David McKenzie, CNN, Democratic Republic of Congo.
VAUSE: The United States has added Saudi Arabia and Cuba to its list of worst offenders on human trafficking. In the annual trafficking in person report, the U.S. downgraded the two nations through tier 3, the lowest possible rate any country can get.
We now join Russia, China and Venezuela who could face cuts in foreign assistance. Notable the report did not include Saudi Arabia on the list of countries which recruit child soldiers.
As CNN reported on Wednesday, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo overruled experts in his own agency and study was kept from that list which include Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iran among others.
Secretary Pompeo released the report as a safety during a ceremony. During his remarks he called out Cuba Kira by name. No mention of Saudi Arabia.
A short break when, we come back, scorching temperatures in parts of India leading millions to the severe water shortage. details on CNN NEWSROOM when we come back.
[01:49:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Well rain finally came to one of India's largest cities on Thursday but as CNN's Isa Soares reports it's going to take a lot more than just a few showers to end a water crisis affecting millions of people.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the most significant rain Chennai as seen since December of last year. So far, it's not much. But it's a welcome change for India's six largest city which has been sweltering through a scorching heat wave and is fast from running out of water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Our day starts at four in the morning, when we reach this place to get water. We can only take water until 10 a.m., after which it gets very hot. It is a very difficult time for us.
SOARES: High temperatures combined with prolonged dry weather have left Chennai's water reservoirs virtually empty. The satellite photos showed the dramatic change in just the past few months. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is an acute water
crisis looming now, and for the last month, there has been no water supply, as bowl wells have gone dry and supply is erratic.
SOARES: Water trucks are now a daily reality for the city's residence who are forced to queue for hours to fill their buckets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. we come here with buckets and just wait and watch. The tanker goes frequently to nearby streets, but on our street, it doesn't come often enough. We cannot go to work, we are not able to cook food at home.
SOARES: Last summer's monsoon season failed to deliver its usual deluge and this year's monsoon is late. Wavery year, groundwater wells are running dry faster and faster.
Local authorities have been criticized for not doing enough to prepare for the inevitable water shortages.
D. JAYAKUMAR, TAMIL NADU FISHERIES MINISTER (through translator): As far as water management is concerned, the government doing the maximum. It has undertaken the cleaning up of water tanks, lakes, and reservoirs and their deepening.
SOARES: While today's rain is a promising sign that the monsoon season is on its way, it's only a temporary reprieve. Environmentalists warn the situation in Chennai is just an indication of things to come, as the realities of climate change and extreme weather events become common.
Isa Soares, CNN -- London.
VAUSE: Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has been following this story. But it's been the pattern over the last couple of years. I mean I think it's like one of the last (INAUDIBLE) as the rainfall above average.
IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLIGIST: Right -- which is the point. They're going to need a long-term plan here to really manage the water that's not's going to be coming as the professionals has in the monsoons past. But we do have some good. The rain is ongoing here and we're going to be talking about that more on the way over to the next few days so there is that.
We will talk about why we got to where we are here, as we check in on the Chennai rainfall here. This is indicative of what's been going on as far as the monsoon.
By the way monsoon peeks towards the end of the year. That's when we see numbers beginning to go up. Going forward to this forming here -- my universal remote control is not working today. Southwest monsoon -- there you go September and into November -- let's drill down on what's been happening the last few days. Each and every day -- look at this, from June 1 all the way to almost
end of the month now here. we're at 20 June at least that's when we have the data. So we're a good 43 percent below where we should be for rainfall. And Jun 8 is the typical onset here.
[01:55:02] The monsoon, that trough that we track, beginning to now get closer to that red line which is where it should be this time of year. And I think we're actually going to get into some rainfall the next couple of days, so that's going to be a good thing but the decline as John was mentioning here. The average rainfall, that has been ongoing and I think that will continue to be its brand as the climate warms. And you get these months where it's going to be very dry. And what that does with the heat waves that we've been seeing is it depletes the ground water and it has been dropping precipitously every year.
Now this is good. Half of what you normally get, in the month of June has fallen in the last 24 hours across Chennai. You can see that red coming in of the Bay of Bengal. And in fact that area of low pressure over the next few days will continue pushing towards the west.
And I think it will likely get clipped in Chennai. The heaviest of the rain I think will be to the north, but still we are not going to get in on to some rainfall. It's just lovely to see those red colors, that's indicative of high cloud tops, and that means terrific rainfall there heading into the next 24 to 48 hours.
So here is what we have as far as the forecast. We'll continue to see some of that rain beginning to move in and so a potential for another 30 or 40 millimeters of rainfall, certainly not out of the question here.
We will get into the monsoon. The rains will be coming in. But the problem is, that allows folks to just go back to where we started, which is the complacency. You really have to start planning out for these events to occur each and every year at this point.
VAUSE: Planning for a changing environment.
VAUSE: Thank you. Good to see you.
CABRERA: All right. You too.
VAUSE: Well, we'll end up here with a moving moment from the top pic at North America's pro basketball draft.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the first pick in the 2019 NBA draft. The New Orleans Pelicans select Zion Williamson from Duke University.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So you have Duke University star Zion Williamson was overcome with emotion when he was called on to the stage. Who else would he think but his mom who he says set aside her own dreams for him. William son was one of the biggest draws in college basketball this past season. He led Duke to the elite 8 at the NCAA tournament averaging 22 points and almost nine rebounds, which some people say is really good. I have no idea.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. I will see you next week.
But for now George Howell and Natalie Allen will be up after a short break.
You're watching CNN.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: An abrupt change of plans -- a new report says President Trump approved strikes on Iran before pulling back.