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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is Interviewed on Death of Iranian General; Oil Prices Spike After Iranian Leader's Death; Iran Vows Revenge. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired January 3, 2020 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, moments ago on NEW DAY, said that the operation to kill a top Iranian military and intelligence commander on Iraqi soil was done to, quote, save American lives. Listen to his claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: John, we'll do our best to release everything that we know that's appropriate that we can that doesn't put anyone at risk. We'll do our best. We want the world to understand that there was, in fact, an imminent attack taking place. You -- the American people should know that this was an intelligence-based assessment that drove this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: An imminent attack.
Joining me now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's an Iraq War vet who serves in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. Happy New Year. I haven't had a chance to see you.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): You too.
BERMAN: What information do you have about what Secretary Pompeo told me was an imminent threat on Americans overseas?
KINZINGER: Well, nothing different than you yet. This happened last night. So I'm sure we'll find out more. They say they want to let Congress know. I'm sure they will. We usually have briefings and things like this.
But, look, if anybody is doubting whether there was imminent intelligence of something that was going to happen, just look at the last week. Stuff had already happened, right? The breaching of the U.S. base. The attack on American contractors on an American base, we know directed by Iranian proxies and those militias. [08:35:01]
So obviously Soleimani had a say in it. So the idea that there would be something coming up soon is not really that farfetched.
I mean, think about it, and I ask this question rhetorically, tell me one time the U.S. has ever responded to Iran and its provocations. I can't think of one in any major way. But I can think back 30 years of constant Iranian provocations, including 600 dead Americans.
And so when we respond, not by targeting 100 people operating a surface to air battery, but by targeting the man that has been driving this agenda from Iran for 20 years in the region, I think it was the right move. Will there be escalation? Yes. The escalation is not on our part. We're finally responding to continued provocations by Iran.
BERMAN: Will there be escalation? Yes, you said. Will there be threat to American lives because of this?
KINZINGER: Yes, I -- look, on the short term, this is an inflammation because when you ignore an infection coming in and then you finally begin taking the medicine for it, it stings when you put it on, right? It's going to hurt. But in the long term, it's what makes you safer.
For 20 years, driving this agenda, this expansionist agenda of Iran, which is responsible for 500,000 dead Syrians, 50,000 children, a destabilized government in Lebanon, an overthrown government in Yemen, 600 dead Americans in Iraq, so much that the Iraqis are protesting against the Iranian involvement, there could be some inflammation in the short term.
But if you continue to ignore it, it's going to be long term far more dangerous than what we're going to see maybe in the next few hours.
BERMAN: What possible Iranian response concerns you most?
KINZINGER: Well, I mean it could be anything. There's Iranian sympathizers pretty much in many locations around the world, softer targets. You know, they know. We know what those possibilities are. I don't need to spell them out for them.
But also I want you to think of something interesting, too. The Israelis strike Iran all the time in Syria and elsewhere. They don't get responded to because Iran knows they're going to respond harder and they know that if it proves to a bigger -- that the U.S. will come into play. So could there be an attack? Sure.
BERMAN: But Israel has never -- Israel has never responded by killing essentially the most -- second most powerful man in Iraq. No one has. This is -- this is unchartered waters here. We all agree this is something we have not seen before.
KINZINGER: Sure. Yes.
BERMAN: And we simply don't know at this point how the Iranians will respond. France, you know, said this morning, a French spokesman said the world
is less safe today, not because the French liked General Soleimani, but because they're concerned about the destabilizing effect in the region. And this is something that will interest you in particular. You've been very critical or were very critical of the U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria, for instance, because you think it jeopardizes the fight against ISIS.
I have a hard time seeing, over the next six months, how the U.S. maintains its military presence in Iraq even. The Iraqi prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, came out today and said this is a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a violation of the U.S. agreement to station troops in Iraq.
So what happens if the U.S. loses its military presence there? How does that affect the fight against ISIS, for instance?
KINZINGER: Yes, look, I don't disagree with you. And I think that's where kind of these next steps are going to be very important. Keep in mind, Secretary Pompeo, on your show, said that there had been private conversations. Public and private statements are far different.
Keep in mind, the Iraqi people have actually been rising up against Iranian involvement. So you're going to see protests in Tehran. You're going to see protests in Baghdad. They're going to be driven by a government or Iranian purpose to do it.
Governments can actually organize protests really quickly. So when you see, when you guys report 10,000 people on the streets of Tehran, it's really easy when you're the government to gin that up. What you're not seeing, because the government won't let you, is the counter protests.
So, yes, it's going to be a difficult decision over the next six months, but ultimately if Iraq is going to consistently want to be a client state of Iran, maybe we have to do something different. And I think the Iraqi people are showing us that that's, in fact, not what they want.
BERMAN: What level of assurance do you have or confidence do you have that the Trump administration has planned for today, for the day two, day three, day four contingencies after such a major operation?
KINZINGER: Well, I don't -- I mean, again, this happened last night. I haven't talked to anybody in the administration. I certainly hope they have. It's going to depend on when did they get the intelligence that there was a reason to go after Soleimani because of impending attacks.
If it was an immediate thing, obviously that is something that pops up and you have to go through those next steps now. If it was something that's happened over time or has been a consideration over time, I expect they have planned for it. We'll find out.
BERMAN: OK. What do you feel is important in briefing Congress, the process there? We learned moments ago that Senator Lindsey Graham, who is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was told by the president several days ago about this operation, yet we understand that the Gang of Eight was not briefed beforehand.
Why is that important?
KINZINGER: Well, so, look, I think, you know, Lindsey Graham is a confidante of the president. The president can read anybody in he wants. It's his right. He can ask advice of anybody he wants. I do think he should brief the Gang of Eight now.
I'm not one of these people that think that every time the president does something he has to come to Congress and have a floor debate.
If we have a floor debate about whether to kill Soleimani, we're not going to be able to kill Soleimani. And so people that are, you know, clutching their pearls right now because we didn't have a floor debate in Congress about this, I think that's disingenuous.
But I think now where we're at, brief Congress on what you can. There are a lot of people that leak stuff out of those classified briefings even in Congress.
BERMAN: The reason that some people think that whether or not there was an imminent threat matters here is because it gets to the legal justification of this action, right? There's no question about what Soleimani has done in the past. But to take this kind of action, which is an action of war, without explicit congressional approval, there would need to be an imminent threat, in other words a specific attack.
Do you want to see the evidence of that specific attack that Iran was planning?
KINZINGER: Well, I'd always love to see the evidence of that, sure. You know, and, of course, the obvious question is, what is imminent. Is it an hour? Is it in a week? Whatever that is.
But let's think about the basics here. Soleimani was in Iraq. He was in Iraq, immediately after this breaching of the U.S. embassy, immediately after our response against those militias with the leaders of these militias. Soleimani was with the leaders of these militias in Iraq. He was not there to talk about next Thanksgiving plans or, you know, anything else. He was there to plan the next attack on the American people. We know that. That's pretty obvious by that fact.
BERMAN: Again, we haven't seen the specific intelligence. We'd love to see as much as we can. I know you would as well.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, always a pleasure to have you on. Again, Happy New Year.
KINZINGER: You bet. Take care.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so the U.S.' assassination of an incredibly high-ranking Iranian general is having an immediate impact on the price of oil. What will it do to business? Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is here next.
HARLOW: The U.S. assassination of Iran's top military and intelligence commander on Iraqi soil clearly rattling markets around the world. Oil prices surging on the news.
Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.
Of course -- of course it's going to have an impact on oil.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There's nothing more predictable than concerns about tensions with Tehran and an oil market impact.
Look, Tehran has vowed revenge for the American killing of General Soleimani. One fear is that Tehran could disrupt the global oil market. Oil prices jumping about 4 percent on the futures markets right now. Some analyst targeting $80 a barrel for crude.
Three little words, Strait of Hormuz. A chokepoint for global oil flow. Only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. It's the only pathway for oil moving from the Persian Gulf to the ocean shipping routes for the rest of the world. Right there off Iran's southern coast. About a quarter of global energy output flows through there on any given day. The channel for super tankers runs through Iranian waters. Tehran can harass oil tankers, it can block trade with military exercises, or as we saw in September, even strike oil fields and oil facilities. Oil prices then spiked 14 percent when the United States says Iran bombed Saudi Arabian oil facilities. That disrupted 5 percent of the daily global oil supply.
America, you guys, has made great strides with energy independence in recent years, but turmoil in the Middle East still can be felt at American gas stations and will be. Global oil markets will be volatile for weeks to come here and it adds a new dimension to the stock market rally, guys. Investors around the world right now are selling stocks and they're buying things like gold and bonds. So that shows you this, you know, flight to safety. They're concerned about this new dimension heading into 2020.
HARLOW: It tells us a lot.
Christine, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
HARLOW: U.S. intelligence bracing -- U.S. intelligence and the U.S. bracing for how Iran might respond to all of this after President Trump ordered the assassination of a critically important leader in Iran. We'll talk to a former CIA operative, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:51:19]
HARLOW: All right, breaking news this morning. The U.S. has carried out the assassination of a top Iranian military and intelligence commander. The president ordered this. It was carried out by drone last night in Iraq.
Iran's supreme leader is now vowing harsh revenge on the United States. What will that look like?
Joining me now, CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer. He's a former CIA operative.
And, Bob, just for context for people, I should note, in your decades working at the CIA, this is the guy, these are the guys that you covered. You know this inside and out.
So how significant is taking Soleimani out and the fact that the U.S. successfully has carried out this strike on such a high-ranking Iranian?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, number one, they never expected we would do it. He flew apparently from Damascus to Baghdad. He operated in the open assuming that the United States would never make a strike, or Israel, against him. And the Israelis didn't. The Israelis could have gotten him. We could have gotten him before. So this decision is huge.
I mean we have -- since 1979, we've never retaliated against Iran for acts of terrorism. We knew they took the hostages in Lebanon. We knew they were behind the Marine barracks bombing. We know Cobar (ph) and on and on and on and we knew it was the Quds force, the same group that Soleimani headed, and they just moved with impunity.
So there is total shock today in Tehran. The question is, what will they do? And I can tell you this, I have never seen the Iranians not take revenge, proportionate revenge, where they want and when they want.
BAER: It could occur in North Africa against one of our embassies. It could be taking hostages. It could be taking -- blowing up Saudi oil facilities, as they did (INAUDIBLE). They could attack Dubai, Abu Dhabi. Any number of things. We don't know where it's going to come from. But I can almost guarantee, having watched and crossed these guys before, they will take revenge.
HARLOW: And it's a regime not known to change its stripes, so we shouldn't expect something different this time around.
Given those potential responses from Iran, they have vowed -- the supreme leader vowing harsh revenge. Does the U.S. have an adequate presence in the region for what you think is to come?
BAER: Well, as a matter of fact, our 5,000 troops in Iraq are effectively hostages should the Iranians decide to move against them. I mean we could fly a lot of troops in, but we're talking about a big build-up out of Kuwait and the United States. We're hostages in Lebanon as well. They can act all over the world anywhere there's an American and they also, the FBI assures me, they have capabilities inside this country should things get really bad, should it be an out and out war. We should expect terrorism. Again, I say it's a war (ph) in this country.
HARLOW: How -- what is your assessment of the possibility, Bob, this morning, the real possibility of a regional war after this?
BAER: I think it's huge. If we strike the Iranians, let's say their oil facilities, for them it's going to be tit-for-tat, they'll take out the (INAUDIBLE) and Saudi oil, they'll take (INAUDIBLE), they'll take out the pumping stations and every other Arab country that supports the United States. That's in addition to Iraqi oil, which will probably go under (ph). So they could take 25 percent of the world's traded oil off markets within hours.
And there's not much we can do about it. They've taken all these solid fuel rockets, put them in caves and you just wheel them out.
They've been doing this for years in Lebanon, practicing, swarming radar. They can get away with this. An air strike against Iran will only escalate. The chances of this moving into a regional war, we'll have to wait and see what their response is, but it's pretty good.
HARLOW: Bob Baer, thank you very much for your perspective this morning given all your experience with Iran and in this region. We appreciate it.
Thank you, Bob.
BERMAN: You know, it's been so interesting all morning along hearing from people around the world. You really get a sense of CNN's vast resources here. Bob Baer, he was in the middle of all of this for decades.
HARLOW: For decades.
BERMAN: And to hear him say that Iran has never been retaliated on like this is interesting. It's also interesting when he says Iran has never not responded. So response is imminent, he thinks.
HARLOW: Right. And he laid out what they could be.
BERMAN: We have a lot of questions still remaining today. Number one, what kind of information and data will we see for proof that there was an imminent attack on U.S. interests overseas?
HARLOW: I think -- right. (INAUDIBLE).
BERMAN: Will that be coming? Number two, what will Iran do? Number three, when will we hear from President Trump explaining this action? HARLOW: That's the question.
Our continuing coverage picks up next with Jim Sciutto.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.
The breaking news this morning, path to war --