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U.S.-Iran War Impact on the Middle East; South Carolina Voters on Biden-Booker Spat; Michael Collins talks about Apollo 11. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Cutting the world from one-fifth of its energy supplies. And Iran may very possibly fire missiles at Emeriti and Saudi cities, as well as Israel too. Not to mention attack U.S. military bases in Qatar, Saudi, the UAE, Iraq and even Afghanistan. Turning off this war would not be fast.

Iran is not small, nearly 2.5 times the size of Texas. Remember Jimmy Carter's ill-fated 1980 helicopter mission to rescue the 52 U.S. hostages in Tehran. It has mountains and desert, think a combo of Iraq and Afghanistan. Searingly hot in the summer, subzero in the winter.

By every conventional metric, the U.S. will outgun Iran. Along with its allies, it should have the upper hand. But its Achilles heel will be regional stability and the cost to the global economy. And that's what Iran is counting on.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our thanks to Nic for that.

Joining me now is retired Major General James "Spider" Marks, CNN military analyst. We want to give you a sense what makes this so complicated and so dangerous.

And we're standing on a map right now. We've got a map of this region, Spider, and let's start with the dispute over the airspace. Was it international airspace or Iranian airspace? And I think this will zoom in here and you can see just how close we're dealing with there. The Straits of Hormuz, 21 miles across. The shipping lane, only two miles across.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes, but I -- but I need to tell you, I don't know why we're still talking about a dispute. The United States has stated emphatically, I think the narrative is absolutely spot on, we knew where their -- where that drone was located. We knew its position at the time. We knew the track that it was on and we could adjust that track. You know, realize these drones not only have a preplanned track but you could adjust them en route. This was in international airspace.

BERMAN: I just want to make the point, though, that you're talking about a matter of miles here -- MARKS: True.

BERMAN: Not tens of miles, single digit miles here. And that is also in play when we're talking about these tankers that were targeted. I can zoom in and show you where that happened in the Gulf of Oman, also not far from here, and also, again, the shipping lanes are only two miles apart. This is a very congested, dangerous area.

MARKS: It has always been congested. It's even getting more congested as you can well imagine.

The thing about the Straits of Hormuz is that the Iranians do not have a capacity to shut them down. We use the verb "to shut down," which has a connotation of no traffic, no movement. They cannot do that. Now they can certainly interdict, they can disrupt, but they can't shut those things down.

BERMAN: We talk about these attacks, this U.S. strike that was underway before it was called off at the last minute. We don't know exactly what assets were at play. But the one thing that is clear, we have an enormous amount of U.S. military assets in the region.

MARKS: Yes, we do. These are prepositioned assets. They've been there for some time. This administration has pulsed them up over the course of the last few weeks, mostly for intelligence gathering, force protection and to preposition capabilities so that on a dime you can launch.

BERMAN: And all those dots you were seeing on the screen there are where the U.S. does have some true presence there.

But, in term of an Iranian response, one of the things that makes it so dangerous, the U.S. also has an almost diplomatic presence in the region. Embassies in all these locations you're looking at right now, those are the red dots on the screen there. And those could be soft targets.

MARKS: Yes, those are -- those are soft targets. And when you look at striking Iran, the response that you could anticipate from Iran is an asymmetric response. What we do is not necessarily going to get a proportional or a similar response from Iran. They would go through proxies, or with the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guards, against soft targets. This could be another Benghazi-like type of a scenario. We have to be very prepared for that. And I would suggest that the plus up of troops in the region are used for that very specific purpose.

BERMAN: And Nic Robertson talked about this a little bit also, Iran isn't just its own military presence. It has allies. It has surrogates. It has cutouts everywhere. And they also, by the way, you look at Israel, how close Israel is, they have other targets they can hit that aren't just necessarily American assets.

MARKS: Oh, completely. We have friends. We have allies. We have partners. You go after one of those, you're going after a weak link that then can affect the rest of the relationships and put everybody on a heightened state of concern about what the next steps are going to look like.

BERMAN: All right, if we can put the map up of the region, just in general, and stay on the map where while Spider explains this. What we do know is that the U.S., the president had ordered a strike, was called off at the last minute. Tell me exactly what this would have looked like, maybe, we don't know exactly where the aircraft would have been coming from, where they would have gone, what they would have been targeted.

MARKS: It is fair to assume -- and we won't' necessarily know that ever, we may not know that, is that the strike would have gone against the very specific assets that took the drone down. Very limed in scope. And the key is the essential thing that the United States and coalition partners had to assure is that there wasn't any other type of threatening posture that would give the Iranians some type of an indication that it was a broader, larger scale military engagement. But it would be very precise.

[08:35:16] BERMAN: And, again, those targets presumably somewhere on the coast of Iran itself there, next to the Straits of Hormuz.

MARKS: In Iranian -- absolutely, John. And on Iranian territory.

BERMAN: And the missiles that were used, the surface-to-air missiles that were used -- and I understand there was some surprise that this drone was so easily targeted by the Iranian assets here. What did they use to shoot down the U.S. military surveillance aircraft?

MARKS: Well, the drone, let's be frank, the drone is a very large aircraft, the size of a Boeing commercial --

BERMAN: 737, yes.

MARKS: Absolutely, commercial aircraft. So -- and it's not stealth and it goes slow. It can go high. It becomes a very likely target. They were able to get it. And there's no self-defense capability on that aircraft to avoid, other than if something is engaged and you can mechanically get out of the way. So if something is going to be targeted, it's going to come down.

BERMAN: All right, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks. Again, this is the area that we'll all be watching for the next few days. Very -- always dangerous. Today, particular tense.

MARKS: You got it. You're right, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Spider.

MARKS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John, we do have more reporting on the aborted military strike in Iran.

Also, Joe Biden facing scrutiny for his comments about working with segregationists. So, next, CNN goes to South Carolina where black voters can make or break presidential campaigns.


[08:40:27] BERMAN: All right, new overnight, we learn that 2020 Democratic front-runner Joe Biden called rival Cory Booker after Biden defended working with segregationist senators. Now, neither offered an apology, but the conversation is described as respectful.

CNN is getting reaction to all of this in South Carolina, where black voters play a huge role in that key primary state.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live for us in Columbia.

And, Martin, the question has always been, people are talking about this at the national level, but will it matter on the ground with the voters who matter?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, and that's exactly what we wanted to know. If you want to be the Democratic Party nominee, you have to do well in South Carolina, where 61 percent of the Democratic electorate are African-American. So the question, did Joe Biden's words hurt Joe Biden's chances?


SAVIDGE (voice over): South Carolina will hold the first primary in the south in 2020. Most of the Democratic electorate here are African- American, and many have a living memory of segregation.

Over lunch, I spoke to a father and son-in-law.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Did you take offense to what Joe Biden said?


SAVIDGE: How do you look at it?

TATE: I lived through what he's talking about. I knew some of the people that he's talking about, and I understand what -- I understood what he was saying. And I don't think he meant it in a derogatory way, but what he was saying was the way that southerners were then.

SAVIDGE (voice over): But Driscoll Payton represents a much younger generation of voters.

DRISCOLL PAYTON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: Just because it didn't offend me, I'm not going to say that it's right, because there's a lot of people that was offended by it.

SAVIDGE (on camera): You think that a younger generation looks at this differently than say your father-in-law?

PAYTON: Yes. Yes.

SAVIDGE (voice over): That could be a problem for Biden here with younger voters. He could seem to them out of touch. But at Carolina Hair Studios in Columbia, Biden's popularity remains

high, despite the controversy, mainly because of his close association to President Barack Obama.

Tia Brannon worries the political infighting will hurt Democratic chances for victory.

TIA BRANNON, CAROLINA HARI STUDIOS OWNER: I don't really see what he said that was so wrong. I think it's pitching one against the other, and that's not what we need to be concerned with.

SAVIDGE: Jacqueline Williams says race doesn't way into her decision.

JACQUELINE WILLIAMS, BIDEN SUPPORTER: It's not about race, it's about who's right for the job. And at this time, I think that Joe Biden is the right man for the job.


SAVIDGE: Everybody we talked to said that Joe Biden words, what he said, did not change their opinion on the man or the candidate. Another did say that they didn't think it was the best analogy and he should probably steer away from using it again in the future.

There were some who suggested that he apologize. And they say he do it right away in order to get this matter quickly behind him.


CAMEROTA: Well, we haven't seen that yet, the quick part, but it's very illuminating, Martin, to hear you say that everyone you talked to said it wouldn't change their opinion or the way they voted about Joe Biden.

BERMAN: Really interesting.

Thanks, Martin.

CAMEROTA: All right, here's what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:00 a.m. ET, Supreme Court issues new opinions.

11:00 a.m. ET, College admissions scam plea hearing.

7:30 p.m. ET, Rep. Jim Clyburn's fish fry in South Carolina.


CAMEROTA: All right, we are now getting new reaction to President Trump ordering then calling off a military strike on Iran. So we'll bring you that.

BERMAN: And next, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, they walked on the moon, but there was a third astronaut in the historic Apollo 11 flight whose impact will never be forgotten. We speak with Michael Collins next.


[08:48:43] BERMAN: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, the award winning new CNN film, "Apollo 11," brings us a breathtaking look at the historic mission that changed human space travel forever, changed the world forever, and made Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into American heroes. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far are my feet from the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you, you're right at the edge of the porch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Now, I want to back up and partially close the hatch, making sure not to lock it on my way out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Particularly (ph) good thought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's our home for the next couple hours. We want to take good care of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on. You've got three more steps and then a long one. Beautiful. Beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ain't that something? Magnificent sight out here.



BERMAN: Michael Collins was the command module pilot aboard Apollo 11. That's him right there in the middle. And he spoke with me about this historic mission.


BERMAN: Growing up, did you ever imagine that man would go to space, let alone the moon?

MICHAEL COLLINS, APOLLO 11 COMMAND MODULE PILOT: No, no. I -- I made that first step by looking up into the sky, and that was -- I found sometimes looking up into the sky and seeing things up there, the airplanes, those funny ones with two wings, one on top and one on the bottom, and things like that fascinated me.

[08:50:13] And then one thing led to another and blah, blah, blah, I ended up in the space program.

But, no, as a kid, I had no idea about leaving earth's atmosphere.

BERMAN: You were on the command module.


BERMAN: And I've heard you say, you know, you were as alone as anyone has ever been in the history of mankind. For 47 minutes, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on the moon, you know, you -- when it would orbit the moon, you would be out of contact with everybody on the far side of the moon. What was that like to be so cut off from humanity?

COLLINS: Oh, I was not lonely. I was happy. I was (INAUDIBLE) -- I was in my happy little house. Columbia had hot coffee. I could put the thermostat on 72 degrees. I could even have muse. I could have people talk to me from Houston, Texas, more than I really wanted.

BERMAN: Well, to that point, at one point the censors that were on your body came loose or they weren't getting the readings that they wanted and they wanted you to adjust them. And what you said -- do you remember what you said to them?

COLLINS: I promise to let you know if I stop breathing.

They were so much better informed about certain parts of the mission than we were, we loved them. But, on the other hand, they could be a nuisance too. They were always calling up with some question in the middle of the night or when you were trying to realign your inertial platform or something like that.

BERMAN: If anything frightened you, what was the most frightening part?

COLLINS: The part that we had overlooked and not prepared for, that's -- that's what we really sweated.

BERMAN: Did you ever regret that you weren't one of the ones that got to walk on the moon, that you stayed in the command module? And the quote that you gave before the mission even began was, I'd be a liar or fool to say that I had the best of three seats. Do you still feel that way?

COLLINS: Oh, sure. I -- yes, I'd be a liar if I said I had the best of the three. But please add to that, I thought that the seat that I had was magnificent. John F. Kennedy's mandate we were fulfilling, that I'd gotten a one-third size chunk suited me just fine. I was their meal ticket home.

BERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

Finally, you know, the legacy and the future.

COLLINS: Well, I think it's an interesting time now in that not only are the American taxpayers paying for our space program, but there's interest in -- from other countries as well. And there are two people named Musk and Bezos who are throwing billions of their cash into it. So I think there's a renewal of interest in the space program today, and I'm delighted to see that happen.

BERMAN: And as for your own legacy? COLLINS: I think Apollo, in general, made people aware that you don't

have to stay on the surface of this planet. I think people in general have always been explorers. People want to go, to see, to touch, to smell, to understand what's there. I think that's the marvel of it. I think -- to describe it in a crazy way, I don't want to live with a lid over my head.

BERMAN: Well, now the world does not have a lid over its head, largely thanks to you and the others who were a part of that mission.


BERMAN: An honor to meet you, sir. Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Oh, well, thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to have this chat.


BERMAN: I've got to say, a genuine honor to speak to Michael Collins.

Be sure to tune in. The new CNN film "Apollo 11" premieres Sunday at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: That was really great. It made me want to be an astronaut for the first time.

BERMAN: It's not too late. It's not too late, even at your advanced age. And I should note that today is a special day because it's Alisyn Camerota's birthday.

CAMEROTA: Is that today.

BERMAN: It's today.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, how exciting.

BERMAN: Happy birthday!

So, I have to be honest, it's your birthday. I didn't know what to get you. so I didn't bother getting you anything.


BERMAN: Instead --

CAMEROTA: I understand that logic.

BERMAN: I got your husband a growler (ph) beer because --

CAMEROTA: He will love this.

BERMAN: Because I feel like maybe he'd be overshadowed --

CAMEROTA: He needs --

BERMAN: When it's your birthday.

CAMEROTA: What makes you think that?

BERMAN: Just because it's your birthday and I know you and I think he'd be overshadowed because of that. So this is for your husband to drink on -- on your birthday.

CAMEROTA: He will be so grateful. He loves beer.

BERMAN: Craft beer.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he loves craft beer.

Thank you.

And, you know, it will help his mood, I think, on my birthday, I should point out.

BERMAN: I think so. I think so.


And I do celebrate all summer, by the way. So, you know, it's the first day of summer and if any of you haven't yet acknowledged it, I celebrate all summer, so not a problem.

BERMAN: All right, more to come.


BERMAN: We have heroes. Let's play that here.

CAMEROTA: Oh, let's do that.

BERMAN: Before we go, let's -- our latest CNN Hero has developed a loyal fan base among cat lovers on Instagram for feeding and trapping New York's stray cats. Meet Paul, the cat guy, Swanzanto (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With TNR (ph), this is the last generation that has to suffer outside.

Come on. Come on.

[08:55:00] Now I've probably fixed and returned at least a thousand feral cats in about four and a half years.

A lot of times people ask me, do you love cats? I like them, but that's not really why I got into it. You want to save lives. This is the greatest feeling in the world.


CAMEROTA: All right, to see how Paul does his work and to see more adorable kittens, go to, and while you're there nominate your own heroes.

But before --

BERMAN: That's it. No, that, in fact, is all for us.

CAMEROTA: That's it. That's all we have.

BERMAN: Again, the breaking news this morning, the United States had launched an attack on Iran, but the president called it off at the last minute. Jim Sciutto has new details for you right after this.


[09:00:09] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good.