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EARLY START

Huge Anti-U.S. Protests In Iran; Trump Threatens Iraq If U.S. Troops Expelled; Coalition Fighting ISIS Stops Missions; Oil Prices Rise As U.S.-Iran Tensions Escalate; Three Americans Killed In Kenya Attack; Desperate Effort To Escape Australia Fires; Golden Globe Winners. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 6, 2020 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00]

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LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Huge protests in Tehran over the U.S. strike that took out an Iranian commander. The nuclear deal now in dire jeopardy and President Trump doubles down on his latest threat which could amount to a war crime.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Flying in fire. A desperate evacuation effort from wildfires in Australia. Smoke so bad the emergency management agency has shutdown. CNN live this morning in Tehran, Baghdad, Nairobi, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Australia.

Welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world, this Monday morning. This is Early Start, I'm Christine Romans, good morning.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarett. Good morning, Christine. It's Monday January 6th. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York. Breaking overnight, huge protests on the streets of Tehran; anger brewing over that U.S. strike that killed the head of Iranian Special Forces; giant crowds at the burial Sunday of General Qasem Soleimani in Iran; now weighing how to retaliate against the U.S.; and the Iranian cabinet voting to no longer obey restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal including the limits on uranium enrichment.

ROMANS: President Trump aboard Air Force One repeating his threat to target Iran's cultural sites, action that would likely be considered a war crime. He said they're allowed to kill our people, they're allowed to torture and maim our people, they're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, and we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way.

JARRETT: Two senior U.S. officials describe widespread opposition within the admiration to targeting cultural sites. But earlier Sunday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed the president's position.

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So cultural centers are theoretically fair targets in your view?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Jake, you do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with American lives. I've been part of the discussion, planning process. Everything I've seen about how we will respond with great force and great vigor if Iranian leadership makes a bad decision. We hope that they won't. But when they do, America will respond.

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ROMANS: Meantime, the president appearing to notify Congress of potential military retaliation for an Iranian attack via Twitter. The United States will quickly and fully strike back and perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Note a disproportionate strike would also violate international law.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi in letter to Democrats says, the House will vote on a war powers resolution aimed at limiting the president's military action against Iran. Senior international correspondent, Frederick Pleitgen is live for us is live for us this morning in Tehran. And this morning here 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time in the U.S., we're seeing these live pictures of still many, many people taking to the streets protesting the American action, the American killing of the general.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Christine. I'm actually right in the middle of the crowd. As you can see here, still a lot of people who right now are standing around me and actually chanting death to America. A lot of them have already also said that they want revenge for what took place for that killing of Iran's General Qasem Soleimani.

I have to tell you I've been on the streets of Tehran where protests have taken place many times in the past. I really haven't seen ones that were as big as this one. Earlier this morning Qasem Soleimani's body was eulogized by Iran's supreme leader himself. And now there's a procession going on in one of the mains squares in Tehran and that's what these crowds are taking part of.

But you are absolutely right, the Iranian's are saying that there is going to be retaliation. And yesterday I managed to speak with one of the main advisers to Iran supreme leader and he told me there will be retaliation, there will be military retaliation, but the Iranians don't want a full on war with the United States.

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HOSSEIN DEHGHAN, MILITARY ADVISER TO IAN'S SUPREME LEADER (through translator): The response for sure would be military and against military sites. Let me tell you one thing our leadership has officially announced that we've never been seeking war, and we will not be seeking war. It was America that has started the war. Therefore they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions. The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they've inflicted. Afterwards they should not seek a new cycle.

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PLEITGEN: So, essentially there the Iranians are saying they are going to strike back, but they want it to end there. They don't want this to escalate any further and for tensions to wrap up even more and possibly turn into a full on war between the U.S. and Iran. But I can tell you from having been in the crowd here the people here are saying they want revenge, they want it quickly, and they want revenge to be extremely hard, guys.

ROMANS: You know, Fred, I got to ask you. You know, the president making the suggestion twice now that there are cultural sites in Iran that he would target if the Iranians lash back at the United States. How's that going over there?

[04:05:10]

PLEITGEN: That's actually one of the things -- I'm glad that you bring that up, because that's one of the things that I hear the most about from the folks here in the crowd. And they're saying, look, these cultural sites should be completely off-limits, because Iran is obviously a country with a very rich cultural history thousands of year's old, cities that are thousands of year's old, shrines that are very important religiously and historically as well. And this adviser, to the supreme leader, he told me, look, if President Trump talks about targeting 52 cultural sites, Iran will target 300 sites. So he is essentially saying, if that happens then the gloves would really come off for the Iranians, but it's certainly something that's also caused a lot of anger here, Christine.

ROMANS: And just quickly watching for example lawmakers yesterday, has this whole incident sort of healed some divisions internally in Iran? I mean, is this something maybe lawmakers can seize on in terms of, you know, cohesion and power there?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know what, I think generally the killing of Qasem Soleimani is something that has in many ways united a country that was quite divided before. We've recalled that just a couple of months ago, a couple of weeks ago actually. They were big protests here in Iran, there were up risings in some cities. And now in some of those very same places where Qasem Soleimani came through there, you saw people united and you saw people taking to the streets together, mourning Qasem Soleimani and calling for revenge against the United States.

And so therefore in many ways it's united parts of society, unlike before they are very unhappy with the economic situation here, now all of that kind of back burner. Iranian politics, Christine is also something that is more divided than many people, no, and they do have some big (inaudible) in parliament, but you can see those factions now are divided. So in many ways the killing of Qasem Soleimani has done a lot to unite Iran's population at least for the time being behind their power center, Christine.

ROMANS: Fred Pleitgen for us on the streets of Tehran. Thank you, Fred. We'll talk to you again very soon. Thanks, Fred.

JARRETT: President Trump is lashing out at Iraq after its parliament voted to order all foreign troops out of the country. Sources tell the U.S. administration officials tried unsuccessfully to convince Iraqi leaders to prevent the nonbinding vote. It's too soon to know whether U.S. troops will actually be expelled.

President Trump telling reporters on Air Force One, if they do ask us to leave we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame. Let's go live to Baghdad and bring in CNN's Jomana Karadsheh. Jomana, you know, President Trump obviously campaigned on getting out of the Middle East and now he says troops are staying. How is that being received there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the message has been clear from Iraq, from the Iraqi government, from the Shia led majority in the government and parliament here. They made it clear with that vote Laura, yesterday saying they want all foreign forces out of the country. They saw that strike by the United States here as a real breach of Iraqi sovereignty, a real violation of this country's sovereignty.

And now of course there are legal questions, procedural questions about how the Iraqi government is going to implement this resolution by the parliament. But you know what is absolutely stunning is we heard from the Prime Minister, you know, it was the Iraqi government who invited U.S. forces, the coalition forces to this country to help them in the fight against ISIS.

But now the Prime Minister is saying because of the tensions between the United States and Iran, how this has developed over the past few months, this proxy war that is now turning into a confrontation, and they are really worried that Iraq is going to become a battleground for these two countries. They say they've been left with no option but to ask these foreign forces to leave because they're not going to be able to protect them and their bases here.

And of course the concern is the repercussions of such a decision if these troops were to withdraw. What is going to happen next? First of all, you know, they're handing a major victory here to the Iranians who for years have wanted to see nothing more than U.S. forces leaving this country. And then, of course, there's ISIS.

Yes, it has been defeated territorially but it is still around. It is still capable of carrying out attacks. And there's concerns that there will be a resurgence and of course, it exploits chaos. It exploits situations like this, a possible security vacuum. And we have heard from the U.S. led coalition saying that now they are halting all their anti-ISIS operation, their training of Iraqi forces to focus on the protection of troops here, Laura.

[04:10:06]

JARRETT: Ripple effects remain to be seen there. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much there in Baghdad for us.

ROMANS: And we are seeing ripples effects in the global oil market. Oil prices higher. These tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalating, and that is pushing crude prices higher, above $70 barrel for the first time in more than six months. Oil prices rose more than 3 percent Friday after Soleimani was killed in that U.S. strike.

Tehran has vowed revenge for the killing of the general. One fear it could disrupt key energy supply routes. The Strait of Hormuz is a choke point for global oil flows, the focus now about a quarter of global energy output flows through there on a given day. Analysts tell us they expect a limited response that would significantly disrupt crude supplies, that could keep a lid on oil prices but expect a floor under them as well because certainly the uncertainty of what the response will be from Iran is what really is the problem here, Laura.

JARRETT: U.S. personnel already face serious danger overseas, of course. More proof of that Sunday when three Americans including a U.S. service member and two civilian contractors were killed in a terror attack in Kenya. The attack was carried out by Al Shabaab on a base used by the U.S. and Kenyan militaries. CNN's Farai Sevenzo live for us in Nairobi, Kenya with more. What are you hearing there, Faria?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, as you can imagine what happened yesterday in (Inaudible) bay in (Inaudible) County has completely caught the nation by surprise. This morning of course many questions are being asked about how many more casualties there might have been besides the three Americans died in the attack as we were told by U.S. Africa command. We also know that two Department of Defense contractors were injured.

And last night U.S. Command told us -- African command told us that they were about to be evacuated but they were stable. Of course the questions we're now trying to unpick is if I can just show you quickly is the headlines in Nairobi's press this morning are trying to make this tenuous link between U.S.-Iran tensions and Al Shabaab attack. They don't see any evidence of that at the moment. And we also tried to understand just how many of Kenya's defense forces were casualties in this blast.

Remember this is a very heavily fortified camp, Laura. It is really where U.S. Special Forces train their African partners. So as the day begins now in this east African country we're trying to unpick many more answers. How did the attack happen, how were they able to go to this extent, and how could it be so audacious and brazen? It is after all the first attack by Al Shabaab on U.S. troops on Kenyan soil.

JARRETT: Faria, thank you so much for being there for us. We will see you very soon.

ROMANS: And this huge story. Growing fires in Australia have now burned an area the size of West Virginia. CNN live with more on the largest peacetime evacuation effort in Australia's history.

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ROMANS: A state of emergency in New South Wales. At least 135 fires are burning in the Australian state home to Sydney. More than 65 of these fires are uncontained. Try flying through this. That's an Australian defense helicopter over (inaudible) through blood red skies. The glow stretches all the way to New Zealand. This is the daytime, folks. Here's the before and after look from Auckland, more than 1,300 miles away. Wildfires have already killed 24 people, burning 23,000 square miles, an area the size of West Virginia. Thousands remain in the state of Victoria, a nationwide, the largest peacetime evacuation in the country's history is unfolding.

That's where we're going to find Andrew Stevens, live from Canberra, the national capital with the latest. I mean, from our perspective here in the United States, we have wildfires, you know, on the West Coast in California on a seasonal basis, but what you're seeing there really is something that is dramatic and rare.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN NEWSTREAM ANCHOR: Absolutely. It's something Australian haven't seen on this sort of scale, Christine. You've seen, say more than 100 fires burning. The top level is an emergency level. At one stage there were 25 emergency level fires in New South Wales and Victoria. They are the two most populous states in Australia. It gives you an idea of the extent of the fire.

At one stage, there was one fire which is about the size of Manhattan and it was all being generated at the weekend by extraordinarily hot temperatures. A suburb of Sydney, hit 120 degrees, Christine with a hot, hot dry wind which was driving the fires about a hundred miles south of Sydney which led to the evacuations. We saw a lot of people, 10's of thousands of people got out before the fires hit. But many thousands more were actually told to stay where they were and ride it out and basically pray and hope for the best, which they did.

It's a miracle in many ways there has been a loss of life of just 24 people given the size and the intensity of these fires. What we've seen in the past 24 hours is blessed relief. There's been rain and there's been quite a lot of rain. Not enough to put the fires out. There's now about 120 fires or so burning but none of them at that critical level.

The next big test though, Christine, just a briefest spot that makes big test comes Thursday, Friday. The temperatures pick up again, the hot dry winds come back. There's still plenty of bush land. Plenty of tinder dry places. One of the reasons Australia has been so vulnerable this year is because we've been facing years of drought. So, what was normally a fairly moist, you know, undergrowth, that's all gone so everything is tinder dry?

ROMANS: And it is, Andrew, the beginning of the summer there. So clearly this is going to be a long, hot dangerous summer. Andrew Stevens for us in Canberra. Thank you.

[04:20:03]

JARRETT: The pictures there are just incredible. That blood red sky as they're trying to fly through it.

Well, who took home the top prizes at the Golden Globes last night? We'll have it up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JARRETT: Well, films based on a true story took center stage at last night's Golden Globe Awards.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the Golden Globe goes to -- 1917.

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JARRETT: The World War I epic 1917 took the prize for best drama. Once upon a time in Hollywood won for best musical or comedy. It also picked up trophies for writer-director Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt in the screenplay and supporting actor categories.

[04:25:10]

ROMANS: On the TV side not too many upsets. Flee bag continues its award season dominance for best comedy. At HBO's succession won for best drama. On stage drama came from Tom Hanks, choking up as he accepted the (inaudible) lifetime achievement award.

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TOM HANKS, ACTOR: I'm a little jittery. A man is -- I'm sorry. A man is blessed with a family sitting down front like that. A wife who is fantastic in every way, who's taught me what love is, five kids who are braver and stronger and wiser than their old man is and a loving group of people who have put away with me being away months and months at a time. Of course otherwise I wouldn't be standing here if they didn't have to put up with that. So, I can't tell you how much your love means to me.

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ROMANS: That was really sweet. And true to Golden Globes form, plenty of politics. Russell Crowe won for his portrayal of the late Fox News Chief Roger Ailes in The Loudest Voice, but he was home in Australia amid those wildfires. Presenter Jenifer Aniston read a speech from Crowe demanding a science, space approach to respecting the planet.

JARRETT: Well, tensions between the U.S. and Iran show no signs of letting up, anger spilling over at big protests in Tehran. Iran is opting out of the nuclear deal as President Trump threatens Iran's cultural sites if Americans are targeted. Stay with us.

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