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Hezbollah Promises Revenge After Israel Strikes in Syria; Bed Bug Complaints At Trump Property Infests Internet With Jokes; Tropical Storm Dorian Heading for Puerto Rico; U.K. Opposition Parties Discuss Preventing No-Deal Brexit; Behind the Scenes at the G7. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired August 28, 2019 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): State of emergency in Puerto Rico: millions of Americans are bracing for a possible direct hit from Tropical Storm Dorian, expected to strengthen in the upcoming hours with strong winds and heavy rain to an island still recovering from a double hurricane blow less than two years ago.
As the Amazon burns the Brazilian president fumes after trading insults with his French counterpart. Jair Bolsonaro is unwilling to accept international help until there's an apology from Emmanuel Macron.
Israel reportedly striking targets in two days, widening the scope of its military offensive against Iran and its allies.
But will Iran hit back?
Welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world ,I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: Two years after Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated Puerto Rico, a tropical storm is churning through the Western Caribbean and on track for a direct hit on the U.S. territory. Here's Dorian's location at this hour.
Its impact is already being felt by the Eastern Caribbean islands and Dorian is expected to hit near hurricane-strength when it hits Puerto Rico in the upcoming hours. That would be a devastating blow to a U.S. territory that is still recovering from that brutal hit from Maria and Irma in 2017. The point not lost on President Trump, who tweeted, "Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?
"Congress approved $93 billion for Puerto Rico last year. An all-time record of any of its kind for anywhere." An important point: Congress approved $42 billion, not $92 billion.
That's a rough estimate of how much storm-related aid the U.S. territory could get over the next two decades.
Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico ahead of the storm. Officials say flooding is the main concern. They say they're ready.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN MAYOR: We have one month's worth of food and water not only for the municipality but also for the people of San Juan. Last time we had to take care of 65 elderly homes. So we're much better prepared for that.
However, inland toward the island of Puerto Rico, this is not the case. People, there are still 30,000 people with blue tarps or blue roofs on their homes and 11 out of 16 power generators in Puerto Rico are off the grid so they are not providing or producing any power whatsoever.
What is known as power (INAUDIBLE) which are blackouts in Puerto Rico, have been common since hurricanes Irma and Maria. The bridges, many bridges in Puerto Rico, are still not working appropriately.
So we say to the president of the United States, will this lie end?
Will that ever end?
Will his racism and vindictive behavior toward the people of Puerto Rico ever end?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VAUSE: Unlike Maria and Irma, Dorian is a complex storm that could dump up to 25 centimeters of rain in some parts. It passed over the island of (INAUDIBLE) a few hours ago, where the streets were flooded and trees were brought down.
VAUSE: Now to a possible breakthrough in a showdown over emergency aid for the Amazon, which has been burning at an alarming rate for weeks. Brazil says it would be receptive to the international assistance from the G7 as long as the Brazilian government decides how the money is spent.
Earlier the Brazilian president said he would only accept the $20 million on offer if the French president Emmanuel Macron apologized. Macron had accused Mr. Bolsonaro of lying to him about his climate commitments during trade negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): Look, first of all, Mr. Macron should withdraw the insults he made against me. First, he called me a liar and then, from the information that I have, he said our sovereignty over the Amazon was an open question.
So in order to talk, or accept anything from France, which might be the best possible intentions, he is going to have to withdraw these words and then we can talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Satellite data shows that fire actually has actually decreased in recent days across the Brazilian Amazon. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As with so much in the climate crisis, when the call comes, it may already be too late. These firefighters work around a city so it means roads can speed them to the flames.
The scene on arrival is familiar. For much of the remote forest in the Amazon burning nearly twice as much as last year. Nobody comes to help. A plot, a hearth built home and even what they think might be exhibit number one.
"All I can see here in the terrain," she says," from the things we found, I'll bet it was someone trying to clean up their backyard who set the fire and it got out of hand and they panicked and called us. It's always this way."
They wind the palm aglow like it does to the plains all around. Nothing survives this speed of an inferno. Even though this blaze was such a short drive from their base, still they get here and their real job is to try and control it. They can't put it out. The intensity of how this fire burns is extraordinary.
And without them, it would spread.
"It would burn a long time," he says, "because it's so windy, it's so dangerous."
Andrew (ph) is worried it's headed this way.
"Dude, I have no idea," he says. "I was at home cooking. I look out and there is a huge cloud of black smoke and I'm like, everything is on fire."
It happens nearby before, shoots of green a reminder locals do want to clear the land to farm. Investigators have found the land owner and while they can't prove he set the fire, they lodge a complaint.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The owner of the property has the responsibility.
WALSH: To stop the fire from --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WALSH (voice-over): But he seems unfazed for reasons that are probably personal, local. This is what's his and our collective responsibility toward keeping it green won't build him a house -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Porto Velho, Brazil.
VAUSE: The Bolivian president is suspending his reelection campaign to focus on the Amazon fire crisis in his country. Bolivian firefighters on Tuesday battled more than 13,000 fires in August, four times the fires in July.
President Morales says 400,000 state employees and volunteers have been deployed in the crisis. Paraguay, Chile and Spain also helping.
With two months ago British opposition parties have agreed on a new strategy to try to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn has agreed to delay next week's --
VAUSE: -- no confidence vote and Labour is working with five other minor opposition parties to pass a bill that would block leaving the European Union without an agreement.
Meantime Boris Johnson has been on calls with E.U. leaders trying to reach a new deal with Brussels. A spokesperson says that he has set out alternatives to the complicated Irish backstop which has been a sticking point with all these negotiations. But the leader of the Brexit Party says time is running out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIGEL FARAGE, BREXIT PARTY LEADER: Well, Boris, you talked about do or die, about leaving the European Union on the 31st of October. And I would say to you, deliver or politically die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Mr. Johnson sent his Brexit negotiator to Brussels to meet with E.U. leaders.
VAUSE: CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is with us now from Berlin.
OK, Dom, I guess you know, for the opposition when it comes to a strategy to try and stop a no-deal Brexit, they've tried pretty much everything else. Why not give cooperation a go? Here's Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: I've written to all 116 MPs that voted against no deal to ask them if they will recognize the importance next week of supporting a legislative approach, which would be an all-party approach, to ensure that we don't crash out with all the problems that will create for existing jobs and businesses for supply chains in food processing industry, medicine supplies and, of course, the future of our agriculture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: I mean, the very fact that there's anti-Brexit blocking parliament has actually agreed on any plan at all, at this point, it's a pretty good sign of progress.
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, John, yes. I think that you know, it's what the British electorate want is finally for the opposition to start thinking about some kind of common position. The problem is that all along, the Labour Party has been unwilling to take a position as being unambiguously Remain. In other words, supporting remaining in the European Union.
So this latest configuration of doing everything to fight against a No Deal still leaves the discussion of any kind of Brexit being there in the realm. And we know that since the 2017 snap election called by Theresa May that the configuration of Parliament, one could argue, no longer reflects the British electorate. The Liberal Democrats did extraordinarily well at the European elections by precisely backing a Remain position.
And I personally think that until the opposition is able to take a position as just simply being for Remain against the Conservative Party that they will remain a divided entity. And because of this change in configuration, it's going to be impossible for them to agree that Jeremy Corbyn is the best representative for that opposition. And I think that this works to the advantage therefore of the Conservative Party even though consultation is a step in the right direction.
VAUSE: You know, these are clearly happy days for Nigel Farage, you know, the Brexit Party. The deadline now just three days and two months away. Listen to Farage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FARAGE: What we've done already is we have completely reset the political agenda in this country so much so that a clean Brexit on the 31st of October is now by far the most popular option in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And that is a lie. Poll after polls show the vast majority in Britain do not want a no-deal Brexit and yet Farage continues to throw out that falsehood. He has done it over and over and over again. What's to be gained by doing that?
THOMAS: Well, John, it's sort of the typical you know, saying you know, where there's a will there's a way. I mean, he's just simply -- you know, his entire life basically has been devoted to leading the European Union through the you know, U.K. Independence Party days all the way up to the -- to the Brexit Party. He desperately wants this to happen.
And he's essentially applying you know, maximum pressure here on Boris Johnson to absolutely relentlessly pursue this agenda of a No Deal Brexit to extricate themselves completely from the European Union. And the message is clear. Unless it's -- and it's obvious that you're going to do this. You will not count on the support of the Brexit Party. But nothing that he says, economically, politically, socially, none of these arguments are going to stand up to scrutiny.
All along it has been an emotionally driven argument, you know, a vision of Britain that simply you know, does not match up with the broader realities out there. It's just simply another falsehood that he is defending here.
VAUSE: Yes, the most famous falsehood of all of the leave campaign was their great big red bus driving around saying how much you know, the U.K. would no longer had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the E.U. That could all go back to the National Health Service. That was bogus. And in fact, quite the opposite seems to be happening.
The economic Commissioner from the E.U. told our Radio 1, the British --
VAUSE: -- will have to settle their payments and their financial contributions in all circumstances regardless of whether there's a deal or a no- deal. He's referring to $47 billion Brexit divorce bill that the former prime minister agreed the U.K. would pay the E.U.
And that comes after Boris Johnson told ITV, if we come out without an agreement, it is certainly true that the 39 million pounds or $49 billion is no longer strictly speaking owed. I mean, what do you mean by that? It sounds like it doesn't get you ready to (INAUDIBLE) on the 30 billion pounds and that might help the U.K. weather the economic storm that a no-deal Brexit will bring.
THOMAS: Right. And of course, look, the European Union is the largest most important, most powerful single market in the world. It would be inconceivable for the United Kingdom to not try and gain access to that. And so of course, what we're talking about here is the divorce fail. And as we know, good luck out there if you don't -- if you refuse to make those payments.
So it's once again, it's another argument that's about the objects. It's about convincing the conservative electorate and the B.P. electorate that he is unambiguously committed to enacting a kind of Brexit that extricates them from the European Union and brings about you know, their own laws and control over money and borders and this is just one other example of it. Economically it makes absolutely no sense and there's no way that they're going to be able to leave the European Union without expecting all the rights and the opportunity of neglecting about paying or you know, getting a good deal out of this if they refuse to pay up these kinds of commitments. So it's all about the optics. It's all about sounding tough and committed to Brexit, yes.
VAUSE: You know, it's always amazing when a single event involving just two people can be described in strikingly contrasting terms. Here's the view from the E.U. Commissioner President Jean-Claude Juncker at a telephone conversation he had with Boris Johnson. President Juncker repeated his willingness to work constructively with
Prime Minister Johnson and to look at any concrete proposals he may have as long as they're compatible with the withdrawal agreement. I wonder what they agreed to. Juncker underlined that the EU27 support for Ireland is steadfast and that the E.U. continue to be very attentive to Ireland's interest. That's in regard to the backstop agreement.
This is part of the readout from Downing Street. The Prime Minister set out that the U.K. will be leaving the E.U. on October 31st whatever the circumstances and that we absolutely want to do so with a deal.
The Prime Minister was also clear however that unless the withdrawal agreement is reopened and the backstop abolished, there is no prospect of that deal. The Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, yadda, yadda, yadda. It does beg the question, is Johnson actually listening to what Juncker was saying which has consistently been the E.U. position from the very start and it seems that there is no way that Johnson is going to solve this backstop issue?
THOMAS: No there is -- and the backstop is just one of the issues. You know, let's face it that the Brexiters are at the helm. All along they are not like this withdrawal agreement. They don't like the role of the European Court of Justice. They don't like the backstop. They don't like the divorce bill and so on and so forth.
What they want is a complete you know, severance of their ties with the European Union. And so Boris Johnson is trying to read into it whatever he can to keep this sort of hope alive, that he can get to the point of achieving you know Brexit, of achieving some kind of no deal. But the reality of it is that for him, the threats of prorogue in Parliament, the threats of not paying the divorce deal, all of these are about convincing the electorate that he is unambiguously for leaving the European Union.
And as long as the opposition is unable to take a kind of contrary position, in other words, of position of Remain, he's going to be able to exploit those kinds of fractures. And the hope for him is that he goes into a general election, comes out of it with a substantial majority and is essentially then able to use the legislative, the parliamentary system to deliver the kind of Brexit that the Brexiters have been pushing for all along. And that may very well mean no longer relying on the DUP to keep his party with a majority. And we may then see that the whole concern that he has you know, in terms of his public appearance out of Ireland completely disappear. It's all about optics. It's all about convincing the electorate.
He's in a pre-campaign mode and every statement that comes out of his mouth is aimed at that particular objective.
VAUSE: Again, the contrast with Donald Trump in the United States as president and everything being seen through this prism of the upcoming election, it is striking. Dominic, good to see you. thanks for being with us.
THOMAS: Thank you, John.
VAUSE: The U.N. is warning of an increase in the number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, particularly for those crossing to Europe from Libya. The comments from the U.N. Refugee Agency follow another deadly shipwreck off the Libyan coast on Tuesday. They say at least 40 migrants were killed, including women and children.
A U.S. spokesperson is calling for greater action from the E.U., saying that segments of sympathy must now translate into meaningful action.
VAUSE (voice-over): Still to come. New reports of some tense moments behind the scenes at the G7 and the issue that has Donald Trump at odds with European leaders.
VAUSE (voice-over): Plus, Vladimir Putin turns on the charm for the president of Turkey. How and why Russia is (INAUDIBLE)
VAUSE: To hear the U.S. president tell it, the G7 summit was one of unity and cooperation. Donald Trump glossed over his head-spinning shifts on trade with China, agreeing in principle to a meeting with his Iranian counterpart but U.S. sanctions may be a deal breaker for that.
He also insisted some leaders agreed with him on allowing Russia back into the G7 but as is increasingly the case, the gulf between the president's words and reality is often vast and it seems Trump's push for Putin was met with fierce resistance. Boris Sanchez has details.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump returning to Washington from the G7, calling it a great success on Twitter but two diplomatic sources and one senior U.S. official tell CNN, behind the scenes, there was feuding between world leaders in France over his insistence that Russia be invited to rejoin the group.
TRUMP: A lot of people say having Russia, which is a power, having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room. By the way, there were numerous people during the G7 that felt that way and we didn't take a vote on anything but we did discuss it. My inclination is to say yes, they should be in.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): But CNN has learned that was not the case at all, only outgoing Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte agreed with Trump, while most of the allies, including Britain's Boris Johnson, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron's balked at the idea, leading to tense, heated exchanges during a Saturday dinner.
One diplomatic source saying Trump repeatedly blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for rejecting Russia from the group, even as he was outnumbered by counterparts who argued that Russia had become more undemocratic since it was ejected for invading Crimea in 2014.
On Twitter, Trump launched attacks on the press, trying to spin coverage of his dizzying performance at the G7, writing, quote, "Media coverage bore no relationship to what actually happened in France. Fake news, it was great."
Trump's trip also punctuated by confounding and misleading statements about the state of trade discussions with China, the first lady's relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and --
SANCHEZ (voice-over): -- his outlook on relations with Iran. The president saying he's open to meeting with the Iranian President Rouhani while also threatening violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If the circumstances were correct, were right, I would certainly agree to that. They can't do what they were saying they're going to do because if they do that they will be met with really very violent force.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Rouhani with an insulting response, saying he will only be with Trump if...
HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If you lift all these sanctions and if you bow your head with respect to the nation of Iran, well, then, the situation will be different.
SANCHEZ: The White House declined to comment to Rouhani's response. President Trump was asked on Monday about the strategy behind his bellicose, often contradictory rhetoric. The president saying it's just the way that he negotiates and that it's served him and the country well -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.
VAUSE: Turkey's president has been the focus of a full-on diplomatic challenge from Russia's Vladimir Putin. The two met in Moscow to talk about Syria but they also had a chance to marvel at the latest Russian military jets. The meeting comes as the ties between Turkey and the U.S. remain strained. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the details.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Vladimir Putin putting on a full court press, trying to poach a key U.S. ally and a member of NATO, showing off his newest jets to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): We talked about cooperation on the SU-35 and even on the new SU-57. We have many opportunities. We have demonstrated new weapons systems and I think a lot has interested our Turkish partners, not only in terms of purchase but also in terms of joint production.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Putin is trying to lure Erdogan with would-be sweet deals on Russian gear.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): Our visit has allowed us to see firsthand the level the Russian Federation has reached in aviation and aerospace.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But it comes as U.S.-Turkish relations are deteriorating after Erdogan bought Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, the second batch arriving in Turkey today. Turkey's move caused the U.S. to stop sales of the F-35 stealth fighter to the Turks, fearing Russia's missile system could infiltrate the F-35's top-secret technology.
The tension between the U.S. and Turkey seemed to be a laughing matter for Putin as he showed off his own new stealth fighter.
PUTIN (through translator): And it's for sale?
You can buy it.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Instead of taking a tough stance and possibly sanctioning Turkey for acquiring Russian military gear, President Trump falsely blaming the Obama administration for the entire impasse.
TRUMP: He wanted to buy the Patriot missile; President Obama's group said no. He kept wanting to buy it; they kept saying no, no, no. Couldn't buy it. Now, he needed it for defense. He needed it. So he then went to Russia and he bought the S-400.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Meantime, other U.S. allies, like India and Saudi Arabia, have also ordered Russian anti-aircraft weapons to Vladimir Putin's pleasure and the U.S.' dismay -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow. (END VIDEOTAPE)
VAUSE (voice-over): Still to come, two mystery blasts in Gaza leave three people dead and the Israelis say they had nothing to do with it. Also Israel does 'fess up to airstrikes in Syria but it's been quite (INAUDIBLE) about military activity in Iraq and Lebanon, how might the expanding operations against Hezbollah. That's after the break.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
[00:31:08] Puerto Rico is bracing for another possible natural disaster as Tropical Storm Dorian spins towards the already fragile island. Dorian expected to make landfall near the city of Ponce in the coming hours. Officials are warning of dangerous flooding and widespread power outages.
Brazil now seems willing to accept foreign help to fight the fires in the Amazon. A spokesman for the government says as long as the -- the authorities there actually decide how the money is spent. That's the condition.
Earlier, President Jair Bolsonaro seemed to shrug off the $20 million in aid from the G-7 countries because of an argument with the French president.
British opposition parties are coming together to try and prevent a no-deal Brexit. They, along with five other parties, say they've discussed the course of action, which includes a no-confidence vote. But that's been shelved.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been calling E.U. leaders, trying to strike a new deal in Brussels.
Police relations (ph) in Gaza. At least three police officers are dead. Hamas-linked officials say both blasts happened near a police checkpoint. At least three people were hurt. Authorities are now looking into the cause of the explosion.
Israel denies it was involved in those blasts in the Gaza Strip, but it is taking credit for air strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria over the weekend, which saw two Hezbollah members killed.
It's been accused of attacks in both Lebanon and Iraq, but Iran's prime minister as condemned what he says were Israeli airstrikes in the Bekka province. He's called for calm, but Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah has promised revenge. That's where it came after the Shia militants said two Israeli drones crashed in the suburbs of Beirut.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Nasrullah to be, quote, "careful with his words," to be even more careful, he said, with his actions. Israel's military in the border areas is on alert. For more now, Dalia Dassa Kaye, director at the Rand Corporation
Center for Middle East Public Policy, is with us from Los Angeles. Dalia, thanks for being with us.
DALIA DASSA KAYE, DIRECTOR, RAND CORPORATION CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST PUBLIC POLICY: Thank you.
VAUSE: Here's the headline from Tuesday's "Wall Street Journal," an opinion piece: "The Iran-Israel War is Here."
It seems like it's been here for a while in terms of proxy attacks and, you know, sort of below-the-radar stuff. But last month, the Israelis really began to sort of expand its air campaign, the air strikes on Iranian assets and allies in Syria, as well as Iraq. So why? Can you explain the timing?
KAYE: Well, I think you have to look at this in the broader context of the U.S.-Iran escalation that's been ongoing, especially over the past year with the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement, the maximum-pressure campaign and, of course, a really volatile summer in the Persian Gulf, with sabotage attacks on tankers.
So I think this general tension between the U.S. and Iran over the nuclear agreement and U.S.-Iran relations is affecting this -- this particular -- these particular incidents. And I think, you know, obviously, there's real security threats for Israel. This has been an ongoing issue. But there is also the context of Israeli elections coming up in a few weeks. And there is no one in Israel who really opposes sending a strong message to Iran and Iranian-aligned assets in the region that could threaten Israel.
VAUSE: CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been reporting that U.S. military and intelligence officials are continuing to watch for specific indications that Iran may retaliate against Israel for recent Israeli attacks against weapons facilities it runs in Iraq and Syria, according to multiple U.S. officials.
In the meantime, according to the Reuters news agency, the Iran-backed Hezbollah is preparing a calculated strike on Israel. One source said it "wouldn't lead to a war that neither Hezbollah nor Israel wants."
The assumption there seems to be that right now, Israel and Hezbollah are OK with these sort of back-and-forth limited strikes. But it's another thing altogether for Iran to step out of the shadows and become directly involved. Why is that? Explain the reasoning here. Why is one so much more serious than the other?
KAYE: Well, I think it's important, even though the Israelis look at all these theaters as all Iranian-linked theaters, they are distinct.
[00:35:06] I think in the case of Lebanon, the Israelis and Hezbollah have had rules of engagement that have held, pretty much, since the 2006 ceasefire. What is worrying is over the weekend, some of these actions may be changing some of those rules.
So I think those threats of retaliation are real. I think the Israelis are bracing for it. And we could see some escalation there.
I do -- it does sound like it will likely be calculated and controlled, but of course, the risk in the Middle East is these things can -- there can be accidents and miscalculations, and things could escalate, even if unintended.
Where I think the biggest distinction is in these recent incidents is the Iraqi theater. And this is where it's not just a risk calculus for the Israelis, but they're also a real issue and spillover for U.S. interests in the region.
The United States has 5,000 forces in Iraq. This is not a country where we -- we view the leader as an adversary. We view the Iraqi government as a partner. We'd like stability there. We're still fighting a campaign against the Islamic State.
So I think the concern of escalation in Iraq is -- is of high concern to the United States.
VAUSE: Yes, the last time I think Israel did any kind of strike on Iraq was 1981, the nuclear reactor?
KAYE: Yes. The -- that is according -- now again, the Israelis have not taken credit as they have in Syria. The air strikes against Syria, as you mentioned, are no secret. They've been ongoing for years. What's different is the Israelis are now taking credit for them.
But they are not claiming credit for the -- or responsibility for the strikes in Iraq. But even reports are suggesting U.S. officials are acknowledging Israeli involvement.
And this would be a new front for combating the Iranians, because they have not struck inside that territory until quite recently over, really, the last month, possibly a strike earlier.
So I think there's a lot of concern the Department of Defense issued a very strong, short statement really reiterating the United States is not responsible for this attack. They're really trying to maintain good relations with the Iraqi government.
There's a lot of pressure in Iraq after these attacks to push U.S. forces out of the country. They feel that these attacks were a threat on their sovereignty. It's a real balancing act for the Iraqi leadership right now, and they're facing a lot of pressure domestically still, again, from extremists like the Islamic State.
So I think this is a new situation really unlike what we have been seeing in the past few years, where Israeli air strikes on Syria became commonplace. I think the intensity, the scale, the expansion of the fronts is really new and quite worrisome.
VAUSE: I guess the situation with claiming credit for international military operations -- you know, the Israelis never did that in the past. But what -- the number of airstrikes being carried out in Syria was just too many. They could not, you know, ignore it. They had to acknowledge it at some point?
KAYE: Well, there's -- There's probably two arguments here. One is that they needed to establish better deterrence. There are worries, legitimate security concerns in Israel about the movement of weapons, sophisticated weaponry, especially missile -- potential missile production sites, with precision-guided missiles that could reach all of Israel.
So, you know, part of it our concerns about trying to message stronger deterrence to the Iranians to be careful of what they're moving into Syria and beyond.
The other one, again, we really started to see much more public messaging from the Israelis, really starting last January, just months or right after the first Israeli elections, or most recent Israeli elections were called. And those were held last spring.
We have a redo coming up in just a few weeks. So again, I don't want to put everything on the politics of Israel, but there's certainly a domestic context here.
VAUSE: It does play a big role in Israel, as in other countries, as well. Talia, thank you so much.
VAUSE: We appreciate it.
KAYE: Thank you. Thanks.
VAUSE: Well, good night. Sleep tight. A swell of bedbug jokes has infested the Internet after complaints about Donald Trump's Florida resort. You know, the one that he wants to have the G-7 in.
VAUSE: Well, a bedbug complaint about one of Donald Trump's resorts has come back to bite the U.S. president bigly. Now the Internet is infected with insect jokes. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It will be hard for President Trump to exterminate this story. He went from promoting Trump National Doral as the perfect site for the next G-7 summit --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's magnificent buildings. We call them bungalows.
MOOS: -- to defending it against allegations of having had bedbugs in those bungalows: "No bedbugs at Doral. The radical left Democrats spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!"
Actually, it was a lawsuit that spread the story. After sleeping in the Jack-Niklaus-themed villa, guest Eric Linder awoke to discover that he had multiple welts, lumps and marks over much of his face, neck, arms and torso. There was even a photo. The lawsuit was settled around the time President Trump took office.
(on camera): But by saying, "No bedbugs," President Trump sort of shot himself -- make it sprayed himself -- in the foot.
(voice-over): The Internet was instantly crawling with Trump-themed bedbugs. Bedbugs wearing his hair. Bedbugs with "I voted for Trump" stickers. Bedbugs with "G-7 host" on his back. "Luxurious rooms with pets. Join us at Doral."
STEVE CARELL, VOICE OF GRU FROM "DESPICABLE ME": So good night. Sleep tight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Don't let the bedbugs bite.
MOOS: The saying got a make-over: "Goodnight, sleep tight. Don't stay at Doral, because those bedbugs bite."
Meanwhile, someone else was bitten by a bedbug controversy.
BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": It's dehumanizing.
MOOS: "New York Times" columnist Bret Stephens deleted his Twitter account, saying, "Twitter is a sewer," after a professor named David Karpf thread that "The New York Times" building is having bedbug problems and tweeted, "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stevens."
Stevens emailed Professor Karpf's, copying the professor's boss, inviting Karpf to come visit him at his home.
STEPHENS: And see if he would call me a bedbug to my face.
MOOS: Between Stephens and Trump, bedbugs have infested the news.
As for Trump National Doral --
TRUMP: We have magnificent views.
MOOS: -- now bedbugs are getting all the views online: "Many people say that Trump bedbugs are the best in the world. They're yuge!"
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. WORLD SPORT comes up after the break. You're watching CNN.
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