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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Donald Trump Cancels Iranian Strike; Recent Iranian Actions May Be Protest Against U.S. Sanctions; Envisioning War With Iran. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired June 21, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:18] ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: Hello, and a very warm welcome. I'm Isa Soares, in for Hala Gorani. It is 7:00 p.m. here in
And we begin this hour with a remarkable admission from the commander in chief of the United States. President Donald Trump, tweeting that he
called off what we know to be a limited strike on Iran that was already set to begin.
TEXT: "On Monday, they shot down an unmanned drone flying in international waters," he wrote. "We were cocked and loaded to retaliate last night on
three different sights, when I asked, 'How many will die?' 'One hundred fifty people, sir,' was the answer from a general. Ten minutes before the
strike, I stopped it. Not --
-- "proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry. Our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the
world. Sanctions are biting and more added last night. Iran can NEVER have nuclear weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!"
SOARES: Now, he repeated the claim on-camera. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They came and they said, "Sir, we're ready to go. We'd like a decision." I said, "I want to know
something before you go. How many people will be killed?" In this case, Iranians. I said, "How many people are going to be killed?" "Sir, I'd
like to get back to you on that." Great people, these generals.
They said -- get back, said, "Sir, approximately 150." And I thought about it for a second and I said, "You know what, they shot down an unmanned
drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are, sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place, probably within a half an hour
after I said, 'Go ahead.'" And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was -- I didn't think it was proportionate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, meanwhile, Iran's Revolutionary Guard released this video. It's said to be the first images of what it claims are pieces of that
American drone, shot down at the Strait of Hormuz, that President Trump was talking about there.
Now, Iran says the drone violated its airspace and that it was warning to the United States. The U.S. says its drone was in international airspace,
and it has released coordinates to prove their case. Both sides, trying to prove their say. It's a he said-he said at the moment.
Well, we have reporters in both countries. I want to get the view from Iran. Fred Pleitgen's coming to us live from Tehran. And from Washington,
Stephen Collinson joins as well.
Good evening to you both.
Stephen, I want to start with you, if I may. We heard the president say that the U.S. was cocked and loaded, but pulled back. We heard he was
pulled back in those tweets, only 10 minutes before the strike. Because as we heard in that clip there, the response wasn't proportional.
Do you -- would he -- my first question, would he have known about the potential casualties, do you think, before he had made the decision? How
do you interpret it, Stephen?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, you would hope so. It would seem very strange, that the president would only find out about the
potential casualties of this proposed action 10 minutes before they were due to pull the trigger. I mean, of course, that raises all sorts of
questions about the process that the White House is going through.
What normally happens is, a president will get a menu of options he would take, and the consequences of all those options would be spelled out for
him well before he makes his decision. So if it is true that the president didn't know about the potential casualty figure, that raises all sorts of
I think it does show that the president is loath to get into another conflagration in the Middle East. And he's probably right. If it was the
case that the U.S. was contemplating a death toll on Iranian soil, potentially, of 150 people in return for the shooting-down of an unmanned
drone, that does seem disproportionate.
The problem is, the White House doesn't have an awful lot of credibility after shading truth for so long over the last 2.5 years. So it's very
difficult to see what actually was the case, and it may take a little while to work that out.
SOARES: Stephen I'll come back to you. But I want to go to Fred in Tehran.
Because, Fred, I would suspect that any conceivable military response could provoke Iran further, unless they are seeing the president's decision to
pull out as a de-escalation. What has been the reaction in Tehran?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, I don't think the Iranians necessarily see it as a -- as a de-escalation, but
certainly I think a lot of them are glad that, obviously, he didn't go through with this strike.
Look, one of the things that the Iranians have said -- and I think that Stephen is absolutely correct in his analysis -- the Iranians have said
that there is going to be no such thing as a limited strike. There's always going to be a big response from the Iranians. It's something that
we've heard over the past couple of days, we've heard again today.
The Iranians are saying, "Look, the Americans," from their perspective, had no right to do a retaliatory strike anyway. And the Iranians are saying
that if the U.S. makes a military move, there would be "a crushing response" from the Iranians, as they put it.
One of the things that he said that they keep saying is that such a response would not only come between these two militaries, but would
possibly also involve Iran's proxy forces in the region, and that's certainly something that the Iranians say the president would have had to
think about as well in making his decision.
The other things that the Iranians have been saying over the past couple of days, is their ballistic missiles could get involved as well. And you're
absolutely right, Isa. The Iranians continue to say that they believe that this drone entered into Iranian airspace.
[14:05:08] And there was one quite chilling fact or one claim that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps made today, when they were, for the first
time, showcasing some of that alleged debris of that shot-down drone. They said that they themselves held back possibly killing American soldiers.
Because they said that as they were tracking this drone, which they said came very close to Iranian airspace, that they were also tracking a P-8
American spy plane -- it's really an anti-submarine plane -- and they said that they held back from firing on that plane.
So the Iranians, for their part, on the one hand, obviously also saying that they didn't want to escalate the situation. But they were also sort
of dispelling President Trump's notion that we heard yesterday, that in some way, shape or form it might have been a mistake, the Iranians'
shooting that drone down.
Today, they said, no, the shooting down of that drone was a clear message to the United States. The Iranians know exactly who's flying in and around
their airspace, and can target them if they want to -- Isa.
SOARES: Yes. And we look at -- we'll look at the regional proxies a bit later in the show.
But, Stephen, I want to get your insight, being in the U.S. Do you think the decision or how is the decision to pull back, do you think that has
strengthened the president or do you think that has weakened him in the eyes of his base? Or do you think even it worries him, that perhaps he's
lost his fire and fury?
COLLINSON: I think it's interesting -- it will be interesting to see how the conservative media interprets this in the hours ahead. I think the
president could do pretty much anything, and his political base will see it as an example of shrewdness and they won't doubt him.
There is considerable unhappiness among some of the more hawkish Republicans in Congress, many of whom have been itching for a confrontation
with Iran. They are comparing this to President Obama's decision to pull out of planned strikes on Syria to punish a chemical weapons attack in
2013, to enforce his red line.
I mean, it appears that the president, what he's done now, he's sent a message to Iran that as long as its activity in the Gulf doesn't include
attacks on Americans, they will be able to proceed and get away with impunity. So I don't think we can say that it strengthened the president
politically or internationally, of course.
Other U.S. enemies are going to be watching this. But it's a difficult and a lonely decision for a president, when he has to order attacks or
retaliation or American forces into battle. Once the military machine is under way, to stop it and pull it back.
And I think only history will tell us whether this was a bad decision, a mistake or whether it actually turns out to be something prudent that stops
a much worse escalation.
SOARES: And, Stephen, we have seen inconsistencies. We have seen mixed messages from the White House. We've seen a Pentagon in flux as well.
We've just heard, in the last few minutes, that President Trump is expected to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to become the next secretary of
defense, taking over, of course, from Patrick Shanahan. What do you make of his nomination?
COLLINSON: Well, it's pretty extraordinary, you know, that the United States was considering going to war without anybody on the rudder of the
Pentagon. The president has said he likes acting secretaries -- cabinet secretaries because it gives him more influence. But the fact, there was
not any civilian leadership of any permanent to the Pentagon over the last few weeks, maybe suggests how he got to this position.
There's all sorts of speculation, of course, about the forces inside Trump's administration that are working on him. People like National
Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who are real Iran hawks.
And you have to, perhaps, raise the question of whether the president's options that he was presented with were colored by those more hawkish
members of his administration, given the fact that all the more cautious influences have now been purged from his cabinet, people like the former
defense secretary, Jim Mattis.
So I think there are all sorts of questions that need to be asked about the process of moving towards these strikes. And the fact that there was no
defense secretary in place is part of that.
SOARES: Stephen Collinson there for us, as well as Fred Pleitgen, who's been with us every night this week from Tehran.
Fantastic work on the ground there, Fred.
Thanks to you both, gentlemen.
Now, I want to drill down on the implications of Donald Trump's comments, both diplomatically as well as military. It is important for us to cover
both bases. Let me bring in Jamie Rubin, former U.S. assistant secretary of state and now contributing editor, "Politico," as well as retired U.S.
Navy rear admiral and CNN military analyst, John Kirby.
Gentlemen, good evening to you both.
John, if I may start with you. I'm going to ask you, if I may, for you to put your Pentagon hat on. How close militarily do you think that the
president was, going ahead with this attack? And do you believe when the president said he didn't know about the potential casualties prior to his
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If the timeline that the White House and the president have detailed is accurate, I would say that our aircraft and
our ships, our sailors and our airmen were really within minutes of launching these strikes, either from the air or from the sea. Sounds like
it could be as much as 10 minutes.
Which means that they would have been prepped many hours before, certainly have gotten under way, gotten in the air an hour or so before. So, I mean,
they were at the very tip, here, of the pointy end of the spear, no question.
As for the president's assertion that it was only then, when he asked the question, that he was told what the casualties would be, I frankly find
that absolutely unbelievable. There's no way that he wasn't briefed on the potential casualties right at the very beginning.
Having sat in on many of these briefings before in the Pentagon, when it comes to tactical strengths, I can tell you that the casualty count or the
estimated casualty count is on the first slide of every PowerPoint brief that the commander gives to his superiors. It's one of the first things
that we consider when we consider kinetic military options.
Now, whether he didn't pay attention to it, if he didn't hear it --
KIRBY: -- maybe that's another matter. I think it's entirely also possible that he simply chose not to conduct this strike for domestic
political purposes, and he is using the casualty count as sort of a last- minute thing (ph), deterrent, you know, as an excuse to say that's why he turned around the aircraft and the ships.
We don't know for sure. But I can tell you, I can promise you that the collateral damage and casualty count was factored in early on.
SOARES: Let's talk about the political angle and (ph) the diplomatic angle with Jamie.
When you hear this and you hear -- and you read the president, and you hear the president revealing details from the Situation Room on Twitter, what
stands out to you? What worries you the most?
JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I must say the Republican supporters of the president are referring back to President
Obama. I worked for President Clinton.
And there was a moment that is more analogous to this, that occurred back in the late '90s when President Clinton had ordered a military strike
against Iraq, that the planes were in the air -- unlike the Obama case the Republicans are using, the planes actually were in the air -- and at the
last minute, Saddam Hussein provided a letter to this U.N. secretary- general and made concessions to justify the president deciding a new policy, "I'll pull the planes back."
And so that's the big difference for me. When you hear the president of the United States, so hesitant and making this decision at one moment and
that decision at another, the damage is -- of this hesitancy, is to the idea of deterrence.
Now, if there had been a last-minute concession by the Iranians, if something new had come into play -- arguably, I used to defend President
Clinton's decision back in the '90s, for pulling these planes back -- but at least in that case, there was a new concession from the adversary, from
There's nothing new out of Iran. If anything, the Iranians have been more blustery, more --
RUBIN: -- arguing that they are the tough guys. And so I think what's happened here, by admitting that he hesitated -- basically, this is
hesitation, flip-flopping, whatever you want to call it -- that's done damage to this crucial word that we use in a situation like this, is
The whole policy goal here is deter Iranian naval operations against shipping in the Gulf, to deter anti-aircraft from firing at our planes, to
deter Iran from going nuclear. That's the policy goal we have. And that deterrence has been weakened, I believe, by this hesitation.
SOARES: I was going to ask you that. If it has had that effect -- because Iran, Jamie, just doesn't seem intimidated. Quite the opposite, in fact.
You know, it isn't backing down. And the U.S. has its maximum pressure campaign on Iran. Is that having the desired effect?
RUBIN: Well, this is the really unfortunate part of this whole policy. The maximum pressure campaign, meaning economic sanctions of the most
intense kind, is having a certain effect. It is squeezing Iran's economy, that has been squeezed before.
And that's why the Iranians are looking for ways to lash out just short of what will cause a war. They would argue that , I suspect internally, that
shooting down an unmanned drone, having this attack in the Persian Gulf -- that isn't obviously from Iran but you have to look into it to discover
that -- is creating what you might call desperate measures from people who are under this desperate pressure.
[14:15:04] But they're sending out a strong message that we're not going to capitulate on the nuclear agreement the way you think we will. We're not
going to capitulate in the Persian Gulf. But you are hurting us, and we're going to lash out.
And now, the president has to recalculate. Is all this worth it? Is all of his maximum pressure getting him what he wants? And since there's no
evidence whatsoever that the Iranians are prepared to renegotiate the nuclear accord, all we're doing is getting closer and closer to that
ultimate fear of an Iran restarting its nuclear weapons program.
TEXT: Escalating Tensions in the Gulf: Key Events Since June 13: June 13, Two oil tankers attacked near the Strait of Hormuz; June 13, Missile
fired at U.S. drone during tanker attack; June 17, Iran-backed Houthi rebels claim attack on Saudi Arabia's Abha Airport; June 19, Rocket hits
Iraqi oil field close to U.S. interests; June 20, U.S. drone shot down by Iran; June 20, Saudi Arabia: Houthi rebels target Saudi desalination plant
SOARES: Yes. And Iran is just digging their heels, aren't they? John, I want to go finally to you. If -- President Trump pulled out. But if a
military operation were to go ahead, give our viewers right around the world a sense of what that could possibly look like.
KIRBY: Well, for instance, if these strikes had gone ahead, they were precision-targeted strikes against missile and radar sites that I have to
assume were somehow tied to the downing of the drone. So they were proportional in the sense, they were going after the Republican (ph) Guard
in a very discreet, targeted way. Relevant targets to what happened to our drone.
But there are unintended consequences. And tertiary consequences for a strike like that. The Iranians most likely would strike back. And they
might not strike back directly in the Strait of Hormuz, directly against U.S. aircraft or ships.
They've got proxies in militias, they've got units, Republican Guard units in Syria, in Iraq. They've got influence with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
They could strike back in American assets, facilities and troops elsewhere in the region in a very clandestine way, and make it very difficult for our
presence in the region, writ large.
And I think that was one of the fears that Pentagon leaders had, leading up to the decision to make this strike or not make it.
SOARES: Jamie, finally, who can de-escalate this? Can the Europeans, should the Europeans be doing more here?
RUBIN: Well, I think they probably -- it would be best for the world if the Europeans could do more. They've been trying to figure out a way --
and remember, this whole process began when the United States pulled out of an agreement that the whole world has approved. A nuclear agreement that
lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for their closing down their nuclear program for a time.
And the Europeans liked that agreement. They still like that agreement. And they've been desperately figuring out a way to keep Iran in that
agreement. But because the United States is so determined to pressure Iran, and that may be because some of the people in the Trump
administration really have a goal of regime change -- John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, as one of your correspondents indicated -- that it's not working.
The Europeans haven't figured out a way to keep the Iranians in the agreement because they haven't figured out a way to help their economy.
And the Iranians are signaling, through these attacks, I believe -- in the Persian Gulf, in the Straits of Hurmuz, and now on the drone -- that they,
their economy is hurting. But they're not going to capitulate to the West.
And what Donald Trump and the Bush -- sorry, the Trump administration should recognize, is there is just very little, if any, likelihood that an
Iranian leader is going to just capitulate to the United States, or they wouldn't stay in office very long.
And so a more subtle way has to be found to de-escalate. Maybe the Europeans, maybe through some third parties on the military side. But we
need to find a way.
SOARES: We'll see if the G20, in the days ahead, whether they can achieve -- it can achieve anything. Jamie Rubin, John Kirby, always great to have
you on the show. Good evening to you. Thank you very much.
Now, still to come tonight, as the situation intensifies, we delve into what might a potential war between the U.S. and Iran look like. And
critically, how it could affect the Middle East. We have that coming up, next.
[14:21:08] SOARES: Now, as the potential for an Iran-U.S. showdown intensifies, nations right around the world would (ph) be urging them back
from the brink of war. But if they were to go to war, what might that look like in the region? And how would it impact existing hotspots such as
Syria as well as Yemen. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has more for you.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): The last time the U.S. went to war in the Mideast, Iraq 2003, this is what it looked
like, shock and awe. The dictator felled in weeks, followed by years of terrorist insurgency.
A war with Iran won't be the same. It risks spreading to the whole region, and fast. Here's why. Iran will fight an asymmetric war, use its network
of regional proxies to target the U.S. and its allies far from Iran.
Shia militia in Iraq could target U.S. forces. Hezbollah in Lebanon could fire missiles on Israeli cities, as could Hamas from Gaza. Hezbollah and
Shia militias in Syria could target U.S. forces there. Houthi rebels in Yemen could target U.S. and Saudi forces in Saudi and the UAE. Even in
Afghanistan, Iran has loyal fighters who could attack U.S. troops there. The U.S. would suddenly be threatened on many fronts far from Iran.
Iran would also use its conventional forces, currently close to 1 million service personnel, to target U.S. allies and bases in the region. Its navy
would likely shut down vital oil shipping routes in the Strait of Hormuz, cutting the world from one-fifth of its energy supplies.
And Iran may very possibly fire missiles at Emirati 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, sub-zero 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.
SOARES: Well, let's get into this in more detail. I'm joined now by a familiar face, Fawaz Gerges, international relations professor at the
London School of Economics and author of "Making the Arab World."
Fawaz, always great to have you on the show. I've got several maps I want you to talk to our viewers about.
First of all, is this, the claim and the counter-claim. This is where it all began because of a drone, correct? We saw the drone. Iran says it was
in their airspace. The U.S. said it wasn't. So we're talking about nine nautical miles. This is how it all kicked off. How it's escalated, I
should say. Correct?
FAWAZ GERGES, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROFESSOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Absolutely. And I think both sides, the Americans and the
Iranians, are now engaged in a very dangerous game, Isa. And the dangerous game, becoming more dangerous by the hour. This is a recipe for
catastrophic, monstrous miscalculation on the part of all players in the region. Not just the Americans and the Iranians.
[14:25:07] SOARES: And miscalculation -- this is important because when we look at U.S. military bases, boots on the ground this week, we've seen an
additional thousand troops. It's not a significant number.
But when you look into contexts of already (ph) what's (ph) on the ground, one, it shows that the U.S. is ready and primed, should whatever happen
with Iran. But it also puts the U.S. in a very delicate and very dangerous position.
GERGES: Isa, if war comes, war will not be limited to Iran. Make no doubt about it. A war against Iran will become a region-wide war. American
bases throughout the Middle East will be attacked. American naval bases -- you have 5,000 American soldiers in Iraq. They -- already, you have some
attacks against some of the American bases in Iraq. So American bases in Iraq will be attacked.
And according to pro-Iranian leaders --
GERGES: -- including the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon -- Hezbollah is one of the major allies of Iran -- it says, "If war comes to Iran, American
interests will be targeted in every part of the Middle East." Do I believe them? I have no doubts that you're going to have a region-wide war
including targeting American forces in --
SOARES: And I do wonder, Fawaz, whether that has been part of President Trump's decision to pull back in the last 24 hours. You were talking about
proxies. This is important. Our correspondent Nic Robertson was outlining some of those proxy wars.
Important for our viewers to understand that when it comes to -- if there were to be a war with Iran -- with the U.S., Iran is not alone here. Let's
start, Fawaz, if we can start with Israel, Lebanon. I want you to talk us through, our viewers through the proxies. Look at the -- what's at stake
GERGES: So if you tell me, what is the most important theater outside of Iran, for Iran, I would say, Hezbollah.
GERGES: Lebanon, Hezbollah. Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is a very close partner of Iran, is one of the most significant paramilitary organizations
in the Middle East. It has around 5,000 skilled fighters in Syria.
And Lebanon and Israel, you're going to have some of the most fierce fighting that you're going to have. Really, open warfare and battles
between Lebanon and Israel. So Lebanon, Hezbollah is one of the most important allies, military allies, of Hezbollah -- of Iraq in the Middle
SOARES: And Israel will be in a very delicate situation, extremely worried --
GERGES: Not only you're going to have an open, basically, war between Israel and Lebanon because Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, but you also
might have major fightings in Gaza.
GERGES: Because, I mean, Hamas --
SOARES: Hamas, of course.
GERGES: -- the Palestinian resistance movement is also a major ally of Iran. Not to mention, you have many clashes between Hamas in Gaza and
Israel. So the Israeli -- the Israeli theater, the Israeli-Lebanon theater --
GERGES: -- will be an open theater.
Not to mention, long-range missiles --
SOARES: Of course. We're not just talking men (ph) --
GERGES: -- so you're going to have thousands --
SOARES: -- weaponry.
GERGES: -- of long-range missiles raining on Iran, on Israel, on Saudi Arabia, on multiple parts of the region.
SOARES: Right. Let's have a look, then, at Saudi. Because you were talking about -- Yemen. We've got Houthis. That's another -- more
pressure here on the United States, surrounded by proxies.
GERGES: So we already have a war between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in Yemen --
GERGES: -- and the Houthis receive considerable support from Iran. But you're going to see a deepening and major escalation in the fight between
the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. Not to mention, you're going to have long- range missiles between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
So this particular war, for your own viewers, will be a war where thousands of long-range missiles, fired by all sides -- and keep in mind, we're
talking about an area floating on oceans of gas and oil.
SOARES: Very important.
GERGES: So the environmental hazard is tremendous, catastrophic.
SOARES: And I'll get to Syria in just a minute, but -- actually we've got Syria here. But before we bring in Syria, I want to just -- something
(INAUDIBLE) was doing.
The number of fighters, according to what Seth Jones at Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank -- and Iran's proxy
network has increased from roughly 140,000 in 2019 -- 130,000 -- to 180,000. That's significant increase.
GERGES: Iran has made strategic investments in major allies -- call them proxies or allies or supporters -- in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Yemen
and other theaters. But Iraq is -- if you ask me what's -- who's the most powerful state in Iraq, I would say it's not the United States, it's Iran.
Iran has tens of thousands of militias who are basically dedicated followers --
SOARES: And talking of militia, just an example -- the Shia militia are both in Syria as well as Iraq.
GERGES: Absolutely. Not to mention, here, you have about 10,000, I would say, pro-Iranian elements in Syria, and they're already on high alert
because the Iranians, they expect some major American attacks in Syria.
[14:30:01] So to come back to the big picture --
GERGES: -- a war in the Gulf will be a region wide war. This will be much more catastrophic than the Iraq war in 2003, where you're talking about
thousands of long-range missiles, not to mention, the human casualties, and particular civilian casualties.
SOARES: Very briefly then, because I'm getting told to wrap up.
Do you believe President Trump's reasoning for pulling out, it was -- in terms of the drone, the attack on the drone and what the implications would
mean in terms of loss of life? Or do you think this is more realistic as a reason for leading to war?
GERGES: I have no doubts in my mind that President Trump does not really want war with Iran. Because President Trump's basically priorities are
America's first, doctrine of America. And his priority is reelection and he realizes, a war in Iran will have tremendous on his home base, I mean,
in the United States itself, and that's why he pulled back.
SOARES: Fawaz, always great to have you on the show. Thank you very much.
Now, still to come tonight, we'll have much more on our top story, the downing of a U.S. drone being felt in the skies over the Persian Gulf.
Just which airlines, you can imagine, are rerouting their flight. We'll have the details with Anna Stewart, ahead. Do stay right here with CNN.
Thank you, Fawaz. Thank you.
SOARES: Welcome back, I want to update you on our top story this hour. The U.S. is calling for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Iran. This is
after President Trump says he called off a limited strike on Iran just 10 minutes before it was set to begin.
Now, Mr. Trump says he reversed his decision after learning 150 people would die if the operation went ahead.
Meanwhile, Iran released the first images of what it claims are pieces of American drone shot down in the Strait of Hormuz, you're seeing it there.
Iran also says it showed restraint by not targeting another U.S. spy plane in the area, which had a crew on board. The U.S. insists the drone was in
Now, the downing of the drone is affecting travel in the region as you might imagine. Several international airlines are diverting flights before
in the skies above the Gulf of Oman, as you can see there.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. flights and the parts of the region. This concern future strikes could accidentally down
For more on this, let's begin -- let's go to Anna Stewart. Anna, you've been on the story for us for all day today. Give me a sense of the
airlines being impacted.
ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because they're certainly adding in their numbers. So, of course, yes, today it kicked off
with United Airlines saying they would suspend their service from Newark to Mumbai because it flew through that region.
Now, we also can add to that diversions from Emirates, KLM, Qantas, Lufthansa, and British Airways. And you can see why airlines are being
very concerned about this whole thing, ever since 2014 when Malaysian airline flight 17, of course, came terrible tragic. Collateral damage in
the war between Russia and Ukraine.
[14:35:11] So clearly, aviation regulators airlines want to stay well clear of this area until tensions lift.
SOARES: And I'm guessing some of the airlines will have to do huge loops that go round in circles in many ways to try and get to their station.
How costly is this? Because the rerouting, I'm guessing more oil is needed? Is that going to be affected? Is that going to impact consumers?
STEWART: You are so right, and this is actually already a big problem for many airlines in the Middle East, because there are so many no-go zones.
You don't fly over conflict area, you don't fly over Yemen, you don't over Libya, you don't fly over Syria. There are disputes between different
A Qatari airline cannot fly over Saudi Arabia. They do some incredibly a lot of risks, sometimes a thousand kilometers additional to a route to
avoid certain areas. That does cost every hour, of course, spent on a plane, spent on the air, is more on fuel, more on staffing cost,
operational cost go up.
SOARES: And speaking of fuel, if you can bring that those graphics back up. Brent Crude already, I think it was -- sorry. Oil is spiking. Is it
related to this?
STEWART: Yes. You'll see, look, crudes today up over a percent WTI up 80 basis points. That may not look that dramatic. But on the week, crude is
up well over five percent. And that's because the Strait near the -- or the Persian Gulf is crucial for the flow of oil. So as tensions rise, we
always see oil price is rise too.
But you know what? All those are best displaying this asset of piling into Gold. We're seeing Gold up 10 percent this month.
SOARES: How worried are investors? Because I was speaking to Fawaz, the importance of the Strait of Hormuz over that region in particular. This is
something that will no doubt rattle investors.
STEWART: Absolutely, it's the contagion as well, as Fawaz is pointing out. He was saying a war with Iran is not just with Iran, it spreads through the
whole Gulf. So it's very big issue for investors.
But, frankly Isa, on the table of moment, trade tensions between the U.S. and China, Brexit European, political upheaval is just adding to a lot of
jitters, a lot of volatility ahead of things.
SOARES: And I'm guessing that U.S. stocks are doing well today?
STEWART: U.S. stocks have been up today. Dow nearly hitting a record high earlier.
SOARES: OK. So that's good, because President Trump, we know he keeps an eye on that Dow, doesn't he?
Anna Stewart, thanks very much.
Now, the standoff, of course, leaves President Trump between a rock, as well as the hard place politically. Republicans are pushing for a tough
response. But Democrats want the situation could spin out of control.
To talk about that, we're joined by CNN contributor, Steve Cortes. He's a member of President Trump's reelection committee.
Good evening to you, sir. Thank you very much for joining us here on the show. Let me ask you first --
STEVE CORTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Isa.
SOARES: -- about what we've heard from a pleasure -- about what we've heard from the president. Do you think the president and his base and the
Republican Party will be pleased by his position to pull back -- and pull back in the last 10 minutes?
CORTES: Well, listen, actually, let me if I can split hairs there. I think his base, and I'm certainly part of that, is extremely pleased that
he's showing restraint, that he's being very judicious. I think very wise, very slow to intervene.
Our 2016 campaign, one of the driving themes of that campaign was to end the constant war that America has bene engaged in now for almost two
decades. And so none interventionism is a key tenet of America first or the America first policy.
But to split the hairs now, when you ask about Republicans, there are a number of Republicans in Washington who very much want far more aggressive
action, I think, than the president has taken thus far. There's people like Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, who people who I would
characterize really as war hawks, who wants the United States fighting all over the world, in Venezuela and the Persian Gulf, in Syria.
President Trump has a different philosophy. He does have a few people like that by the way and even in his White House staff. I think for now, at
least, he's over ruling those folks and saying that patience will rule the day. Eventually, we may have to strike Iran, but we really, really hope
not and we do not want war.
SOARES: You mentioned Senator Lindsey Graham disagreeing with you. Let's play -- let's just have a listen so you would have a sense on where he
stands on this and we'll talk after this up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I would encourage forceful action to stop this behavior before it leads to a water conflict. Doing nothing has its own
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Does doing nothing have its own consequence? Do you think that President Trump looks weaker by not doing anything?
CORTES: Well, Isa, you know, it's not either engaging in a full scale military operation or do nothing. It's not a binary choice like that.
There are certainly other ways that we can respond. But I think the response should be --
SOARES: How so so?
CORTES: -- proportional and that's why I would disagree -- that's why I would disagree with Senator Graham, who as I said, I think wants to fight
all over the world.
So, for example, there could be additional sanction penalties put on them. And I believe that also the proportionality issue here is important. They
shot down a drone that can't go without any response, but they did not directly attack American forces, for example. That would require a far
more harsh response from the United States military if that were to happen.
[14:40:12] I think the key thing here also for us to realize that the Iranians are very likely trying to goad the United States into a fight,
because it will serve Tehran's interest, because we often see this with the spathic regimes, as a diversionary tactic to take a tension away from their
failures at home domestically, a foreign adversary and, in fact, a foreign fight can very much serve their purposes.
So I think again, unless our hand is truly forced into conflict, into armed conflict, there are lot of other ways through diplomacy and through the
economy to try to squeeze the Iranians and to try to coast them into better behavior without the United States military having to be the tip of the
SOARES: On that last point, Steve, you're talking about the economy, so perhaps more sanctions, you're saying. What about on the diplomatic front?
What can be done here? Who do you think -- what kind of broker can de- escalate this?
CORTES: Right. Well, you know, I think on that front, and here's what I'm hoping for is that we can convince -- the United States has this for a long
time, been extremely harsh in terms of its posture toward Iran, but we haven't always found willing allies, except for perhaps Israel. If we can
convince European allies --
Look, the situation is getting more dangerous for United States. It is in no one's interest for the Persian Gulf to blow up. As your previous guest
just talked about it, it could have region wide ramifications that nobody wants.
So my hope is the United States could convince parties who haven't always seen eye to eye with us on Iran to take particularly the Europeans, to take
a harsher stance toward them financially, in particular.
And I would also say this, By the way, I think a lot of people -- I'm not speaking certainly for the president, but a lot of people in our movement
in the Trump MAGA movement. We believe that if military action is necessary, that it's probably Israel's role to strike Iran rather than the
Again, we don't want to be the world's policeman. The last two presidents, both Bush and Obama, fought all over the world, the human toll, the
financial toll had been staggering for the United States. This country is exhausted from war. We don't want to engage in a new fight in Iran if we
can all avoid it.
SOARES: Right, so Israel will have to step up.
Finally, the president, of course, I'm guessing would have his own image, as well as credibility as well, as 2020 consider. Do you think that's
failing to respond to Iran? Do you think that by not responding, he's losing his strong man image right around the world? I'm just talking about
the United States. I'm talking with Xi Jinping, I'm talking with President Putin of Russia.
CORTES: You know, I don't think so. I don't think anybody doubts the resolve or the capability of the United States. The lethality of our
military and the limitary is getting much stronger under this president.
So I don't take it as a sign of weakness to be wise and to be patience and to show restraint. And certainly here at home, in the United States, I
think quite the opposite of anything he is going to be rewarded politically and electorally going into 2020 for doing what he said. He promised this
in 2016, he said, no more wars, de-escalation.
And with the exception of Syria, that has been the case globally. You have not seen the United States escalate anywhere in the world. In fact, we
have deescalate it.
So to me, it's just another one of his campaign promises that where promises kept as president. I think he'll be rewarded for that in 2020.
SOARES: Promises kept, but of course, he is surrounded by war hawks, if I can call it that. We've got Mike Pompeo and Bolton too saying different
things to the president.
Do you believe that if President Trump does go to war with the United States, how do you think -- how do you think his base will respond?
CORTES: I think his base frankly will be very skeptical. Again, we don't want war. And I think this is a situation where, in many ways, this is an
outsider versus insider struggle within the United States. The swamp, the Washington foreign policy establishment is far more bellicose, far more
aggressive in his posture than the people of the United States, and certainly the people of the Trump movement.
So there really is an outsider, insider choral going on right here. And a lot of outside folks like me, people don't work for the administration, but
are close with the White House and close with the president, are advising him strongly to be careful. And then I think he's going to get an opposite
advice from most folks within Washington, whether they're on Capitol Hill or even some folks within his own administration.
But again, he was sent there not to continue into Washington, D.C. to the White House, not to continue the status quo. He is an agitator outsider
politician, and really not even a politician before he became the president.
And part of that is being willing to stand up to the foreign policy establishment of Washington, D.C., and say what you have been doing for two
decades has not worked, particularly in recent years, it has not increased the security of the United States and again, the cost in blood and treasure
has been enormous for this country. So I hope that the outside will prevail in his argument.
[14:45:16] SOARES: Steve Cortes, always great to have your insight. Thanks very much. Good to see you.
CORTES: Thank you.
SOARES: Now, still to come tonight, another mass demonstration in Hong Kong. Thousands of people surrounded police headquarters. What their
demands are, next.
SOARES: For the third time in less than a week, protestors have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to speak out against the controversial extradition
Earlier on Friday, thousands of mostly young people surrounded police headquarters. Demonstrations erupted over a new bill that would allow
extradition to China. Protesters are also calling for an investigations into police force during earlier investigation.
Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong with the latest on those protests.
IVAN WATSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A week and a half ago, Hong Kong riot police were clashing with protesters, firing more than 100
rounds of tear gas, and pepper spray, batons charges, and also firing rubber bullets.
Look at the scene tonight. You have thousands of people demonstrators mostly dressed in black who have encircled the headquarters of the police
here in Hong Kong. And the police instead of confronting demonstrators have adopted a very passive posture. In fact, at one point, we saw
demonstrators hurling dozens and dozens of eggs at some of the police officers who were hiding behind their shields before they completely
Now, some of the demonstrators here are calling for there to be an investigation into allegations of excess use of police force in those
clashes that took place on June 12th, that's an appeal that Amnesty International has echoed as well.
Meanwhile, we're hearing some voices here in Hong Kong society, warning that some of these tactics may be going a bit too far.
BISHOP JOSEPH HA CHI-SHING, CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF HONG KONG (through translator): You have all done a lot, you have all been very clear about
your goal and demands, but I'm very worried about your safety. I wish your actions would not affect the interest of the public. Because if so, you
will turn the people against you, and this is not good to the entire development of the event.
WATSON: Earlier this month, protesters came out in unprecedented numbers here in Hong Kong, peacefully marching with estimates of one to two million
residents out in the streets criticizing a government policy to ram through a controversial extradition bill.
We don't know how many people are out here or whether that remarkable coalition that included religious groups and business interests are still
behind these type of tactics here which are not focused on an extradition bill as much as they are on the police and the force that they use against
protesters earlier this month.
[14:50:16] Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
SOARES: Now, British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has suspended a foreign office minister after a video emerged showing him grabbing and mandating a
protestor. It happened as climate activist with Green Peace interrupted a black tie event in London on Thursday.
Now, take a look at the moment, one of them walks away. You can see them, the right of your screen. Conservator lawmaker Mark Field pushes her. You
can see there, against the wall, grabs the woman and forces her out of the room by the neck.
Fields says he felt threatened by the woman but has since apologized for his behavior. Opposition lawmakers are calling for him to resign.
More to come tonight including a 1969, half a billion of people across planet earth watch these grainy images from the surface of the moon. NASA
says it's time to do it again. We'll learn how they plan to do it after a very short break.
SOARES: Sir Elton John, the rocket man himself, has soared to the highest award in France. President Emmanuel Macron gave out the Legion of Honor
award to the legendary musician just a few minutes ago.
The award was presented to him private first. Mr. Macron used the occasion to address the global fight against AIDS. Sir Elton, as you know, has his
own AIDS foundation, which marked 25 years of service last year.
Now, to some extraordinary souvenirs that might need a credit card. Artifacts from the first moon landing in 1969 had been auctioned this week.
An American flag flown on the Apollo 11 mission sold for more, get this, $27,000.
Also for sale if you're interested. A roll of film with the images taken on the moon and a lot got from Air Force One signed by the three astronauts
after the heroic return to Earth. What treasures.
The moon landing is viewed by many as the most stunning of all human achievements. Half a century ago, U.S. astronauts touched down on earth's
mysterious satellite, 384,000 kilometers away.
As Rachel Crane reports, a planned return to the moon will have very different hardware with the same passion from a new generations of
RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE REPORTER (voice-over): Nearly 50 years after humans first set foot on the moon --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one small step for man.
CRANE: -- NASA is planning to go back, this time to stay.
JIM BRIDENSTINE, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We're going to prove how to live and work on another world and then take all of that knowledge to Mars. That's
CRANE: Dubbed Artemis for Apollo's, NASA hopes to send a woman this time. The space agency originally planned lunar landing for 2028. But in March,
the Trump administration moved the deadline up by four years.
CRANE (on-camera): Were you blindsided, at all, by the new timeline?
BRIDENSTINE: Not at all. No. We have the opportunity to do this. A lot of things have to go right. I'm not saying that there's no risk here, but
it can be done. It's good for our country, it's got NASA moving in a very serious way.
CRANE (voice-over): NASA has already spent years working on a new rocket boosters and a crew capsule for the mission. Once beyond Earth's orbit,
Astronauts will dock with a small space station. Lunar landers built by commercial partners like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, will carry astronauts
back and forth from the moon.
[14:55:11] There's still a lot to work out. But the biggest obstacle probably isn't technology.
LAURA FORCZYK, ASTRALYTICAL: And as the saying goes, it's not rocket science that's the hard part, it's political science, convincing the
politicians that they need to fund this adequately.
Whatever it is that you think it might cost, it's probably actually going to be more.
CRANE: NASA estimates total cost could hit $30 billion over five years. So far, the White House has only asked for an additional $1.6 billion. But
it wants that money to come from the federal Pell Grant program.
KENDRA HORN, U.S. HOUSE SPACE AND AERONAUTICS SUBCOMMITTEE: I think that proposed source of funding is a non-starter for many people. Quite
frankly, I was scratching my head, as were many other people. If we're going back to the moon, mars, and beyond, we're going to need more rocket
scientists, not fewer.
CRANE (on-camera): What do you think it's going to take to get that bipartisan support and also to get the American public jazzed about going
back to the moon?
BRIDENSTINE: I think when it comes to science, there's not partisanship in Congress. When it comes to exploration, there's not partisanship in
Congress. You walk around this agency, you talk to scientists and engineers, they can tell you exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong
and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, July 20th, 1969.
I'm the first NASA administrator that was not a live. I don't have that memory. I'll tell you what I do remember, I remember where I was in fifth
grade, Ms. Power's class when Challenger exploded. The whole world was watching. Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space was on the
mission. So all teachers were interested -- sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.
But the reality is that's my kind of moment where I know exactly where I was. I want to be clear. Shuttles, amazing program. International space
station, amazing program. But I don't remember where I was on each of those launches. I remember where I was on that day. We need to do these
stunning achievements to inspire the next generation.
CRANE (voice-over): Fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 mission changed the world.
Now, the Artemis Program could inspire a whole new generation.
Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.
SOARES: And, of course, that emotions just means he's extremely passionate. I, for one, would love to see a woman going to space.
Now, that does it for us. Thanks very much for watching. Thanks for having me all this week. Hala Gorani returns next week. Do stay right
here though with CNN, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next. Have a wonderful weekend. Bye-Bye.