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Leaked Memo Showing U.S. Forces Leaving Iraq; Trump Increasingly Isolated amid Iran Crisis; Rain Eases Conditions in New South Wales; John Bolton Willing to Testify in Trump Impeachment Trial; Chaos and Surprises Emerge as Twin Crises Threaten Trump; Trump Battles Impeachment, Iran Crisis; Iran Pulling Away from Nuclear Deal Commitments; Soleimani Funeral Procession Draws Huge Crowds. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 7, 2020 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live from Studio 7 at CNN World Headquarters.

Coming up this hour in the CNN NEWSROOM, thousands of Iranians fill the streets of Qasem Soleimani's hometown ahead of his burial, running around the flag as the U.S. president warns of further hostile military action.

U.S. forces in Iraq are not going anywhere after mistakenly releasing a letter suggesting troops actually would be leaving.

And as bush fires rage across, Australia the prime minister is facing a growing backlash over his government's lack of a climate change policy.


VAUSE: With the U.S. and Iran on the edge of an escalating military conflict, the Trump administration is sending confusing mixed messages. Thousands of Iranians are mourning General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Revolutionary Guard, who was assassinated by the U.S.

These are pictures from the funeral being held by his hometown in Iraq and as he is being buried, U.S. officials are having trouble staying on the same page. President Trump reiterated a threat to target Iranian cultural sites, that would be a war crime, if Tehran retaliates.

Trump's Defense Secretary says that it will not happen. A leaked letter suggested U.S. troops would be withdrawing from Iraq. That sent the Pentagon into a scramble but it's not happening. Barbara Starr reports on all of the confusion.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, coming back into the press room within minutes of leaving earlier, to tell us what he had learned about the letter after making some phone calls.

The letter he says, quote, "That letter is a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released, poorly worded, implies withdrawal, that is not what is happening."

So this letter talked about repositioning some forces. That has been going on. That is very well understood.

But the letter also goes on to say, to prepare for, quote, "onward movement," General Milley adamant, "That is a mistake."

The letter, as a draft, had been sent to some Iraqis and apparently leaked or sent to the media from somewhere in this chain of events. Milley very concerned about the international implications, so he wants to emphasize, it is not true that troops are leaving.


VAUSE: Jomana Karadsheh is joining us live from Baghdad.

The troops are staying in Iraq, at least for now. Even so, the White House continues with possible economic sanctions on Iraq, drawing up a list of targets because of the demand, that nonbinding resolution by the Iraqis for the troops to leave.

What has been the reaction now to this latest threat coming from the U.S. president?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, John, what is really stunning is that you have the U.S. president threatening sanctions. And now as we are hearing from "The Washington Post," according to three U.S. officials, that they are drawing up possible sanctions against Iraq.

This is an ally and, this is one of the United States' top allies in this region and the reason they are doing this is because this sovereign nation may be asking U.S. forces to leave.

You can imagine the kind of reaction here. While top government officials have not reacted to this statement from the U.S. president and these reports of possible sanctions being drawn up, we have heard from some lawmakers here, saying that they will take legal action against the United States.

They are rejecting these kinds of threats but we have heard also from the leaders of the Iranian backed Shia paramilitary group, saying if the United States will take any action that impacts Iraq's economy, they will retaliate, threatening they will work with, quote, "their friends" to disrupt the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, amongst other threats we have heard. And this insistence, if the United States does want to remain here,

you will get different opinions. Not everyone agrees with the Shia majority here, with their political leadership in the country, that has made it clear that they want U.S. and coalition forces out of the country.

What does this mean?

We've heard threats from these Iranian backed groups, saying parliament has spoken.


KARADSHEH: They want U.S. forces out. If they do not leave, we heard this from one of the top leaders of one of the most powerful groups, unless there is an immediate withdrawal, they will start treating these forces as occupation forces, hinting, basically, that they will be a target again.

We heard, John, from the prime minister of Iraq earlier, it was absolutely stunning. He made an argument for why they should vote to get these forces out of Iraq. He said this country is turning into a battlefield for Iran and the United States. And the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi government is not going to be able to guarantee their safety-- John.

VAUSE: Very quickly, that leads to the question. For the last three years, Iraq has been out of sight, out of mind for the United States, that does not mean it has been without problems.

But is this about to change?

Is Iraq the next major issue that the Trump administration will be facing without any policy to deal with it?

KARADSHEH: That's the problem. For the past few years, the United States has stopped being really engaged in Iraq, politically and diplomatically. And that has opened the way for Iran, that has had a great influence in this country, to become the major, the real influencer here.

So now, Iraq is becoming an issue for the Trump administration, whether they have a strategy to deal with it or not, it is very unclear at this point.

But whatever happens, John, if there is a decision for U.S. withdrawal from this country, this will really be a victory for Iran at the end of the day, getting what it wants, which is getting U.S. forces out of Iraq. We will have to wait and see how this plays out.

But I can tell you over recent days what has been interesting is seeing this real anti-American sentiment, especially, not only amongst the Shia majority following the developments after the strike that killed Soleimani and one of their top leaders, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

But also others who are opposed to Iran and the role that it plays in this country, they say the United States has utter disrespect for Iraq's sovereignty and they are really opposed to what it did in the United States.

VAUSE: We're out of time but it's incredible to think how many American and Iraqi lives were lost in trying to stabilize that country and it may be for nothing. Jomana, thank you.

From day one of his presidency, Donald Trump made it clear he saw a dangerous, menacing world and the path forward for the U.S. would be alone. Multinational agreements went out; the U.N. was something to be ridiculed, NATO just a bunch of moochers who don't pay their bills.

So it was America first. Now as he faces the most serious foreign policy crisis of his presidency, Donald Trump is truly alone and the U.S. has been left isolated with once loyal allies now keeping their distance.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: At the meeting today, allies called for restraint and deescalation. A new conflict would be in no one's interest. We agree Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.


VAUSE: And perhaps even more troubling, Trump does not seem bothered by his lack of friends.

So when Iran does retaliate, what happens?

In the days after 9/11 terror attacks, the world stood with the United States. NATO invoked Article 5, an attack on one ally is seen as an attack on all. Governments offered military and intelligence support.

In France, they declared, "We are all American."

And even in Iran within hours of the trade tower crashing down, there was condemnation from then president Mohammad Khatami and supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

As "The Christian Science Monitor" reported, "More important, 60,000 spectators observed a minute of silence during a soccer match in Iran's Azadi Stadium and hundreds of young Iranians held a candlelight vigil in Tehran."

David Sanger is a CNN political and national security analyst and national security correspondent for "The New York Times," joining us this hour from Westchester in New York.

It's good to see you.


VAUSE: Last week there was an interview on the FOX News network with U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo and he spoke briefly about the reaction and support from European allies. Here's part of it.


POMPEO: Frankly, the Europeans have not been as helpful as I wish they would be. The British, the French, the Germans all need to understand that what we did, what the Americans did, saved lives in Europe as well.


VAUSE: Is it really possible that in a worst case scenario type of way, that the U.S. could be heading into a war or some type of conflict for the first time in a century, it will be fighting the war alone?

SANGER: It is possible. I doubt, right, now -- or at least I think the chances are low that we would get into an outright traditional kind of war.


SANGER: But I could imagine us getting into one of those endless low to medium level conflicts that is a true hybrid conflict, just to say cyber terrorism. But the United States does not want to occupy Iran and Iran does not have the reach to directly attack the U.S.

So what does that mean that this could look like?

It means that a region that just one month ago was celebrating the fact that there were anti-Iran protests going on in Iraq and internal protests going on in Iran, we have suddenly moved in a month's time, in large part because of the Soleimani killing, to the Iranians rallying behind their own government.

We have not seen that for a while. The Iraqis began to discuss throwing the U.S. out and the Europeans saying that even if it was justified to kill Soleimani, it was incredibly unwise.

VAUSE: One of the issues that many traditional allies have is this question of credibility of the president of the United States.

Former ambassador Samantha Power tweeted out, "This is where having credibility -- and having a president who did not lie about everything -- would be really, really helpful."

There's a few issues when it comes to credibility but it's not exactly a surprise that a man who lies about all things big and small, important or not, is having a hard time convincing the world that he did the right thing or that Soleimani's assassination was justified.

SANGER: The justification is that general Soleimani was plotting attacks on Americans. I don't doubt that. I think that he has spent the last 20 years plotting attacks on America and some of them tragically have been quite successful.

The question is, was the intelligence suggesting something that was so big, that it was better to take him out?

Would taking him out actually stop the operation involved?

Or would it trigger an even larger backlash, which is the concern right now?

If the U.S. government was willing to be more specific about the intelligence, we might be persuaded. But instead they said, trust us.

So why wouldn't that happen?

First, since the justification for going into Iraq during the Bush administration turned bad, I think Americans are more skeptical but second, we have a president who himself said he does not believe the intelligence he's getting from the intelligence community.

But if he doesn't believe them, why should the U.S. public believe it this time they've given him something?

VAUSE: There's a question of the national security team, James Mattis is not there as Defense secretary; H.R. McMaster was forced out as national security adviser, so it's not exactly a team of rivals in the White House.

This leaves this president alone with his thoughts and Twitter feed and FOX News. In the past, it has been proven that it's a dangerous place.

SANGER: It's dangerous because of his impulsiveness and "The Times" published an interesting analysis about this yesterday about what happens when you merge this volatile situation with a president who prides himself in acting from the gut.

But it also tells you about the dangers of losing the process of developing national security policy -- and I realize that sounds bureaucratic and boring.

But what does process do?

It helps surface the possible ramifications, first order, second order, third order of any decision you are thinking of making. It is the way to say, OK, if we make this chess move, here in the next three or four, we can anticipate from the other side.

The president has fundamentally undercut that process. The National Security Council does not serve that role the way it has under Democrats and Republicans before. I think this is the first time where we've really seen the negative effects of that.

VAUSE: Very quickly -- and this also seems to be the first time that the chickens have come home to roost in terms of the lies or the falsehoods or misstatements that the president has made and was continuing to make over the weekend -- that eventually, when the commander in chief is about to go to war or could be going to war, the trust of the American people is the most crucial thing he needs and he doesn't have it. SANGER: That's true. And in this particular case, I think it also traces itself back to the decision by the president to abandon the 2015 nuclear agreement.


SANGER: You could argue whether that agreement was flawed or not, I think that it had some significant shortcomings. But before he got rid of it, the Iranians were largely in compliance. If there's anything that's going to escalate the situation now, it's the Iranians making good on the threat that they will now produce as much uranium as they want with as many machines as they want, free of that agreement.

That could certainly trigger the kind of crisis we saw prior to the 2015 agreement, when the United States and Israel were considering bombing the facilities inside of Iran.

VAUSE: David, thanks for the analysis and insight.

SANGER: Thank you.

VAUSE: Light rain and cooler weather is helping fire crews struggle to contain deadly fires burning in Australia. The conditions are forecast to last until Friday, the weekend will see a return to the severe fire threat with high temperatures and gusty winds.

Australia's unique wildlife has paid an especially high price, with estimates of hundreds of millions of animals dying in this unprecedented fire emergency. CNN's Anna Coren joins us live from Australia.

Just the view from 30,000 feet, what is the overall assessment, are they close to getting an upper hand or is it a matter of trying to contain the fires and save lives?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you, say they are making good use of these milder conditions, doing some backburning, putting in those containment lines.

But I want to explain to you where I am, I'm in Cobargo on the south coast of New South Wales and look at this devastation. This is a home, which -- only the fireplace is standing. Everything else has been reduced to rubble.

The fires roared through this tiny township on New Year's Eve, claiming the lives of two people, a father and his son. This house is right next door to the rural fire brigade.

Across the road, I'm going to take you here, across the, road there's another home that has been destroyed and, yet, the houses right next to it remain intact. It really is extraordinary. It just goes to show the indiscriminate nature of this fire.

We were speaking to the fire chief a little bit earlier and the emotion is so raw. There is so much pain in this community. The Australian prime minister visited here after the fire and got a very angry reception. People were hurling abuse at him.

The fire captain says that he appreciated the prime minister coming, that it meant something to him; obviously not too many Australians feel that way. But as far as the fire chief of Cobargo feels, he believes that this was an honorable act.

But as you can see for yourself, this is just one of many townships that has been destroyed by fire.

And the Insurance Council of Australia, they have received claims of losses up to $700 million and that really is just a guesstimate because we know that people will return to their properties and assess the damage. So it really is quite staggering.

VAUSE: Yes, any kind of damage assessment clearly is going to be a very high number at the end of the day.

But you mention Scott Morrison, the prime minister. He seems to be emerging as the villain in all of, this if you like, the prime minister with a liking for vacations in Hawaii. When he finally did actually return and left the beaches of Waikiki, he seemed to have the sympathy and the empathy of a pet rock, shaking people's hands who did not want to shake his hand, although he has announced there will be significant government help for bushfire victims, there will be billions of dollars set aside.

COREN: Yes, that's right, $2 billion, in, fact John, will be set out for this reconstruction and recovery fund. A special bushfire agency, a recovery agency, has been set up. This is just one township.

This township is a reflection of hundreds of them up and down the south coast, which has come from Eden on the Victoria-New South Wales border, where the wood chip mill there is up in flames. That is going to burn for months. That is one of the main employers of that town. Jobs have been lost and also, this area relies on tourism.


COREN: Well, the tourism industry has been absolutely decimated. This is how people make their money. Livelihoods, homes; yesterday we were with a couple who knew that the odds were not good on their house still standing. We traveled with them and it was utter devastation. John, this is what so many Australians are facing.

VAUSE: Yes, and it seems like there are so many weeks of heartbreaking devastation to go before this is done. Thank you, Anna Coren live for us there with the very latest.

For more information on how you can help the victims of Australia's devastating fires, please visit

Still to, congressional Democrats wanting answers from the president on the U.S. drone strike in Iraq. They are asking why the American people have been kept in the dark.

Also, a new twist in the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump as former national security adviser John Bolton goes rogue. Details ahead.




VAUSE: While the U.S. president deals with Iran, he is also dealing with impeachment back home in Washington. His former national security adviser John Bolton now says he will testify if subpoenaed in the Senate trial.

Democrats have wanted to hear from him for a long time and this now puts pressure on Republicans, who have been unwilling to allow any witnesses at the trial. CNN's Phil Mattingly has details.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a single statement, former national security adviser John Bolton jolted an impeachment process that has been stuck in a stalemate.

Bolton, who declined to testify in the House impeachment inquiry, now saying he has concluded, quote, "If the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to comply."

It's a shift with major ramifications in the Senate.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): House Democrats are trading impeachment like a political toy.

MATTINGLY: Where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have been battling for weeks over whether to subpoena witnesses.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): A trial without all the facts is a farce.

MATTINGLY: Bolton's possible testimony could be key, given his central role in the Democratic investigation highlighted in the House.

FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.

MATTINGLY: And by his lawyer, who in November said Bolton, quote, "was personally involved in many of the events, meetings and conversations about which you have already received testimony...


MATTINGLY: -- "as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed."

The new development underscores a Democratic strategy to withhold sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

SCHUMER: I hope, pray and believe there's a decent chance that four Republicans will join us. If they do, we will have a fair trial.

MATTINGLY: Four Republicans joining with all 47 of the chamber's Democrats is all Schumer would need to fashion a trial along the lines he's been pushing for, with Democrats eying a group of potential GOP converts to help their cause, even as none, at least to this point, have expressed a willingness to go that route.

Both Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seizing on every new development to underscore the need for documents and witnesses now.

Pelosi reacting this afternoon to the Bolton news, tweeting, quote, "The president and Senator McConnell have run out of excuses."

And while Democrats clearly think Ambassador John Bolton's willingness to testify is a game-changer, McConnell has made clear, he is not changing his strategy. He believes that if witnesses come up at all it will be dealt with later on in the trial.

But the reality remains this: whether you are Mitch McConnell or Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, 51 votes, 51 members of the Senate will dictate how this trial goes, whether they hear from witnesses, whether they subpoena documents.

If Democrats, who control 47 seats in the chamber, can get four Republicans onto their side, they will get the trial that they want.

But they have no indication that that will happen. That's why you see the pressure coming from both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer as they continue to push for those witnesses to be subpoenaed -- Phil Mattingly, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst, he's also senior editor at "The Atlantic" and he is with us from Los Angeles.

On Monday, the U.S. president spending a lot of time on Twitter, demanding a quick end to this impeachment, calling it a hoax and a con. Usual, stuff but it seemed as Trump hopes to wrap up the, impeachment, the dilemma for Democrats, is how do you deal with both Iran and the impeachment at the same time?

Can you remove a president from office or at least try, to with a possible looming military confrontation and in so many, ways this is a microcosm of the past three years of the Trump presidency.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Of, course we had a similar issue as you may recall with Bill Clinton's impeachment, when he took military action right on the edge of the impeachment proceedings.

I think the two things can proceed, you know, on separate tracks. The core issue, as Phil Mattingly said is, are there four Republicans who will agree to a more open process?

I, you, know I think, like most people, find it hard to imagine that there will be four Republicans willing to defy the White House over what the rules should be.

But John Bolton saying that he wants to testify, although it is entirely possible that he will not deliver the kind of decisive blow that many Democrats are kind of fantasizing about, does make, it I, think tougher on Republicans.

I, mean what is the justification at this point for failing to hear from someone whose own aide said that he described this as a drug deal and whose lawyer has said that he has firsthand knowledge of key events?

What would be the justification for saying, we don't need to, don't want to hear from him?

VAUSE: Good question. It will be interesting to hear what the answer is. But you know, you just --


BROWNSTEIN: By the way, there is a question for him, too, real quick which is, that he could still, he could still testify before the House.

VAUSE: He could call a press conference. I mean, this is ridiculous.


VAUSE: But with, Iran there is another -- there is no support for another military confrontation but there are exceptions to that and in particular, evangelical Christians. The secretary of state Mike Pompeo who is an Iran hawk and evangelical Christian, gives a window of support for military action during an interview with the Christian broadcasting network.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could it be that President Trump right now has been raised for such a time as this, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As a Christian, I certainly believe that's possible.


VAUSE: It is hard not to imagine that Trump has not done the political math here and realizing being tough with Iran and it is good for part of the base and will be helpful come November.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, if you go all the way back through his presidency, to the Muslim travel ban, the strongest supporters of that were white evangelical Christians.

If you ask if the values of Islam are incompatible with American values, the voters of America who are most likely to say that are white evangelical Christians, just enormous skepticism and even hostility in that portion of the Republican coalition towards immigration in general, particularly towards the Islamic world.

And so it is not surprising that you would get the kind of questions that you saw on the Christian -- what is more surprising the answer from the secretary of state of the United States, kind of framing this in those kind of -- accepting the framing of that in those kind of religious terms.

It's just one of many ways in which, you know, Donald Trump has been a president, really, for half of America. Or slightly less than half of America. He is the president of red America, with very little interest in kind of speaking to or reaching out to much beyond that.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, Pompeo's answer kind of went by the -- it went through to the keeper, as we say in Australia. It didn't get a lot of publicity.

But I want to finish up with what was essentially the good knee- slapper of the day. Senator Cornyn on the former national security adviser John Bolton, willing to testify on the Ukraine scandal, if he is subpoenaed. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX) (via phone): Well, I think it's entirely likely that his testimony would be helpful to the president.


VAUSE: Yes, because the White House had been holding out all the good evidence which would exonerate Donald Trump. And you know, if he does testify, if he is allowed, though, I mean seriously, how much damage could he do? And if he's not called by the Senate -- You touched on this -- what's the political price they will pay, the Republicans will pay if they do not call him to testify?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of, I mean, you know, the timing has to make Democrats a little nervous. The fact that President Trump has just taken the kind of aggressive action against Iran that Bolton has long, you know, urged, and this is the moment he says he wants to testify. That kind of sequence of events doesn't lead you to think that he is preparing to deliver the decisive blow.

But there is also the reality of what his aides have heard him say. He's described this as a drug deal. It's hard to imagine that he's going to come and say that he was entirely comfortable with everything that happened.

I think this is the challenge for Republicans. You know, in 2020, there are a number of Republicans in Maine, North Carolina, Arizona and Colorado, maybe Iowa, maybe Georgia who have competitive races. And while, you know, it's very unlikely they ultimately reach the point of voting to remove their president of their own party from office, no one did that in Bill Clinton's impeachment. No one did that in Andrew Johnson's impeachment from their own party. If they seem to be just simply sweeping this under the rug, not taking it seriously, that seems to me a political risk.

VAUSE: Ron, good to see you. Thank you very much for being with us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break. Back after this.


VAUSE: U.N. inspectors say they intend to stay put and to continue to monitor Iran's nuclear program, even though a day earlier, Tehran announced it was rolling back its commitments to the 2005 -- 2015, rather, nuclear deal by scrapping limits on uranium enrichment.

We get details now from CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On national television, a government statement. Compliance with the multinational JCPOA deal that kept Iran from building a nuclear bomb, effectively sidelined. The decision to ignore limits on uranium enrichment but still let inspectors into the country, reversible, according to Iran's foreign minister.


Now Germany's foreign minister questioning how much longer the deal can hold.

HEIKO MAAS, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): What was announced is not in line with the nuclear agreement. The situation has not got easier, and this could be the first step to the end of this agreement, which would be a big loss.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Have you made progress, sir?

JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We are making progress, but there are issues that need to be resolved.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Twenty tough months in the making, then relief, July 2015. The U.S., China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Iran finally in agreement. The deal signed. Iran would let inspectors in, cut its enriched uranium stockpiles, limit the levels of enrichment and mothball advanced centrifuges, which they did, according to international inspectors and U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Until this.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime's development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.

ROBERTSON: Trump not only pulled out of the deal but began piling sanctions on Iran. A year later, Iran began slowly turning up the heat themselves, incrementally breaking the terms of the deal in a series of carefully staggered announcements.

May 2019, dumping the 300-kilogram low enriched uranium stockpile limits.

July 2019, raising enrichment above allowed purity levels.

September 2019, beginning proscribed nuclear research.

November, spinning up banned sophisticated centrifuges, speeding enrichment, all shortening the pathway to making a bomb, but only rendering the deal dead if Iran blocks inspectors.

MALCOLM CHALMERS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL, RUSI: I think what will be key is, first of all, whether the transparency measures which allow the international community to see what the Iranian nuclear program is about.

ROBERTSON (on camera): The rub: in this region, if Iran does get a nuclear bomb, there'll be an arms race. Saudi Arabia has already said so. Much now depends on Iran keeping good on its word to allow inspectors an.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


VAUSE: Just a few weeks ago, Iranians were on the streets in widespread anti-government protests. They're on the streets again, but now they're morning Qasem Soleimani.

Next here, how an American drone strike united a country.



VAUSE: Nine-oh-nine, 9:10 in the morning there in Iran in the city of Kerman. This is Qasem Soleimani's hometown, and this is where he will be buried. And hundreds of thousands have lined the streets at this hour to mourn his death.

It was a stark contrast to the widespread anger over fuel prices which triggered nationwide protests against the government just a few weeks ago. Soleimani's death in the U.S. drone strike last week has united the country against the U.S. And president Donald Trump, it seems.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports now from Tehran.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Fury and threats as Iranians mourn their top general, Qasem Soleimani. Hundreds of thousands line the streets of Tehran, weeping, chanting, vowing retribution.

(on camera): There's a great deal of anger here on the streets of Tehran, as many, many people have come out here to pay their final respects to the body of Qasem Soleimani and the others who were killed in that American air strike.

(voice-over): Of course, there's a lot of grief but also a lot of anger at the United States and, specifically, at President Trump and the Trump administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All Iranians says down with Trump, down with U.S. government. We don't hate American people, European people, but we hate the policy that they follow.

PLEITGEN: Many of those in the crowd saying they want Iran to hit back at the U.S. as they yelled, "Death to America."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Soleimani was a hero. He was the only shield against ISIS here. And now, as our leaders clearly said, you will see a rough revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us want a hot revenge, and all of us said -- (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).


PLEITGEN: The Trump administration says Qasem Soleimani was planning attacks against American interests in the Middle East but haven't shown any evidence of that threat. Also, President Trump warning Iran not to retaliate after the targeted killing.

TRUMP: If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified. And I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.

PLEITGEN: Iran's leadership hailed Soleimani. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praying at his coffin.

And Soleimani's replacement vowing to kick America out of the Middle East.

ESMAIL QAANI, QUDS FORCE COMMANDER (through translator): We will continue Soleimani's path. We will remove the U.S. from the region in several steps. The supreme leader backs this.

PLEITGEN: Iran's leadership continues to say it does not want a full- on war with the U.S., but says revenge for Soleimani's death is not a question of if but of when.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next. You're watching CNN.


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