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Crowds Gather to Mourn Soleimani in His Hometown; Saudis Urging Restraint and Deescalation; Leaked Memo Showing U.S. Forces Leaving Iraq; Iran Vows Retaliation; Rain Eases Conditions in New South Wales; Iranians Demand Revenge For Soleimani's Death; Iran And Allies Want U.S. Military Out Of Middle East; Bolton: I'm Prepared To Testify In Senate If Subpoenaed. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired January 7, 2020 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.
A massive display of mourning in Iran. America's targeted killing of a top general fuels calls for retaliation.
A PR nightmare for the Pentagon, a draft letter causes confusion over the future of American troops in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In essence, it is all gone. It is all gone.
CHURCH (voice-over): Heartbreak and loss in Australia as fires burn through hundreds of homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And we begin in Iran, where huge crowds are out in the streets to pay their respects to slain military leader Qasem Soleimani. He is being laid to rest in his hometown four days after he was killed by a U.S. drone strike in neighboring Iraq. His death has prompted vows of retaliation from Iran and its allies.
The U.S. says he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and was planning more attacks. In the Iranian capital, Tehran, the streets were packed with mourners for as far as the eye could see. CNN could not verify the number but Iranian state TV reports it was in the millions.
Pallbearers carried Soleimani's casket for nearly 10 kilometers or six miles, many in the crowd holding up pictures of Soleimani. Others chanted, "Death to America," and called for revenge against U.S. president Donald Trump.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen was at that procession in Tehran and we will have his report coming up very soon. We will also hear from our correspondents covering all the angles from across the region and we will have expert analysis from our guests.
So let's begin with CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, joining us this hour from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Nic, as Iran mourns the death of Qasem Soleimani, the rest of the world is concerned about the possible consequences of an Iranian retaliation, then a counterattack from the U.S.
How might Iran retaliate?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think the perception at the moment is that Qasem Soleimani is turning into the ultimate martyr, really, for his cause and for the cause of Iran, and that is to remove U.S. interests as much as possible from the region. That is what has been heard from the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon and that is what has been coming from senior Iranian officials, that there will be military for military retaliation.
This does perhaps seem to be the best strategic use that the Iranians can put to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, beyond, of, course a very clear demonstration of support for him and, by implication, this support for the regime in Tehran and the leadership of the ayatollahs there.
So, the knock-on effect in the region, if you will, is sort of being judged in that light. You, know Saudi Arabia yesterday sent it's sort of third most powerful person, the brother to the crown prince, Khalid bin Salman, went and met with the secretary of state Mike Pompeo and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Esper.
And the conversation there, we have been told, was to talk about de- escalation and making sure there is not a rise in tensions in the region and try to put it to the United States that any increase increases the possibility of conflict in the region and that is bad for everyone.
But the perception at the moment here is that those countries like Saudi Arabia in the region, that want the situation to calm down, are best off being quiet and watching and judging what Iran does.
And at the moment their judgment certainly seems to be to understand that it is the Americans themselves rather than their allies in the region that are going to be put in the crosshairs.
And the effort of Iran will be to isolate the United States as best it can and, as much as it can, reduce its military presence in the region.
CHURCH: Yes, and I want to talk about that isolation. [02:05:00]
CHURCH: Because has that increased for the United States in the wake of this targeted killing of Soleimani?
Because we saw the joint statement from the United Kingdom, France and Germany and there was a sense that the United States is on its own if it takes this path.
ROBERTSON: It highlights the divisions that already existed. There is no doubt about that. If you look at the response that the Europeans have had, not just to where they see the situation right now but their response to the Iranians over Iran's announcement about another step to not comply with the multinational nuclear deal.
The sense is that as long as Iran continues to bring out weapons inspectors or rather, inspectors, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the country, then you, know, the deal is not dead.
So this put a bigger rift between the Europeans and the United States. And we look at NATO's position, which is to affirm that it will -- is committed to training Iraqi forces, i.e., presence in Iraq, if you listen to what the Canadians are saying about their commitment to leading that NATO presence in Iraq for training Iraqi forces, the gaps with the United States grow.
And as President Trump tweets about targeting cultural sites, about putting sanctions on Iraq, about demanding reparations for money invested in military bases in Iraq, none of this is comfortable listening for the United States' allies in this region because it makes it a harder sell to partner with United States.
It will not cause a break in those relationships but the hope here in the region would be that there would be a recalibration by the United States and President Trump over these comments.
But at the moment, in essence, Iran has a massive card to play here, the popularity of Soleimani, the numbers of people on the streets and the feeling that the United States has overstretched and overplayed its hand in killing Soleimani can be used against the United States.
And I don't think we're going to see permanent breaks and changes in relationships with the United States but it just makes some allies in the region here want to remain quiet rather than stand on the table, if you, will and show strong support for the United States.
because what President Trump is saying at the moment is not something that they can get behind.
CHURCH: Nic Robertson bringing us analysis from Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. Many thanks to you.
And in Washington, the Trump administration is defending the strike but officials are not speaking with one voice. The U.S. Defense Secretary contradicted president Donald Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates. Then, a letter from a top U.S. general leaked appearing to indicate
U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq. Barbara Starr has more on the Pentagon's struggle to clarify what that letter actually means.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: What it says is that U.S. troops are repositioning in Iraq and that is true. But it also goes on to talk about future onward movement of U.S. troops, very strongly suggesting that U.S. troops are leaving Iraq.
And what Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters today is, no, that is not policy right now and, in fact, the Iraqi government has not yet officially asked U.S. troops to leave.
So a lot of confusion, a letter that was poorly worded and absolute insistence at this time, at least, from the highest levels of the Pentagon that, at least for now, U.S. troops are not leaving.
CHURCH: Many thanks to Barbara Starr there. And Jomana Karadsheh joins us now with the latest from Baghdad.
Jomana, what has been said in Baghdad about that letter from a key U.S. military chief based in Iraq, who suggested U.S. forces were leaving, which the Pentagon very quickly said was a mistake?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There has been no reaction, yet Rosemary, from the government to what we have been hearing from U.S. military officials and to that letter but I can tell you as soon as that letter was leaked or started circulating, it was being reported by almost all Iraqi media as -- putting it as the U.S. military is planning on withdrawing or they have begun withdrawing.
And then, of course, you soon after that, had the Pentagon coming out and saying that yes, the letter is authentic but they are not planning on withdrawing. That is absolutely not happening right now, that this is a repositioning of troops.
KARADSHEH: But it really adds to the uncertainty, the confusion at this time, especially when you have the top U.S. general coming out and saying that, you know, the letter was poorly worded and that it was a mistake and that it was a draft that should not have been released.
But no one is answering the question right now of, why was that poorly worded letter written in the first place?
Now there is also the concern of the implications of U.S. military officials, the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, all coming out and saying that the U.S. military does not plan on withdrawing at this point, that they are not going anywhere, considering what has been going on here over the past couple of days. You know, parliament on Sunday did pass that resolution, telling the
government that they need to now work on getting U.S. and coalition forces out of the country and the prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, here made the point of, they are left with no option but to ask these forces to leave saying his government is now going to start on working with different coalition governments on how their forces will be asked to leave the country.
And he explained that the reason for doing this is because they are really concerned about the growing tensions between Iran and the United States. They are really concerned that Iraq is turning into a battlefield, where you would see that confrontation, a possible confrontation between Iran and the United States take place.
They don't want Iraq to be caught the middle of this. And he is saying that, once, considering the level of threats right, now the Iraqi government and security forces are not going to be able to guarantee the protection of these international forces, the U.S. forces on its territory.
We have heard the threats in the past couple of days coming from the Iranian backed proxies, here these Shia paramilitary groups, saying, unless these forces leave the country, unless the U.S. forces do end up leaving, they are going to be treated as occupation forces, pretty much threatening to unleash the kind of violence we've seen the passed by these militias on the U.S. military -- Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, bringing us the very latest there from Baghdad. Many thanks to you.
And for more perspective on all of this, Fawaz Gerges joins us now from Kuwait City. He is a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics and the author of "Making the Arab World."
Always good to get your perspective on these matters. So Iran has vowed to retaliate in the wake of this targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani Soleimani. But President Trump is threatening to strike back against 52 Iranian targets including cultural sites, if they do retaliate, although his Defense Secretary has said that will not happen.
But what if Hezbollah do it for them?
Would that give Iran plausible deniability?
Where do you see this all going?
FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I think the situation is highly volatile, highly dangerous. Even though we do not know what is going to happen, what might happen, there is a great deal of volatility, a great deal of uncertainty.
One thing is for sure, that Iran is obviously determined to attack American interests, Iraqi -- and I stress Iraqi. It seems to me a decision has been made in Tehran, which has installed its own proxy forces in Iraq or Lebanon or Yemen, will basically retaliate against American forces.
To answer your question, I think those powers, the United States and Iran now, are locked into a cycle of escalation and counter escalation, which really means, at the end of the day, you might have war even by miscalculation, even though neither side wants war.
CHURCH: And that is the fear, of course. The U.S. says that Soleimani was targeted because he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and was planning attacks. We have yet to see any intel on.
Does that give the U.S. sufficient justification for killing like this?
GERGES: No, I think the assassination of Soleimani was neither legal nor ethical and as importantly, it was very much misguided strategically.
You're absolutely correct. General Soleimani supported and provided a great deal of technical and military support to the Iraqis, who are basically attacking American forces in Iraq, between 2004-2007.
GERGES: My question, Rosemary, is the following.
What were the American forces doing in Iraq in the first place?
Do they have a legal justification to invade Iraq?
Did the Iraqi government invite the American forces to come to Iraq?
Were the American forces an invading force or a friendly force?
If the American presence in Iraq was illegal and if president George W. Bush invaded the country unilaterally, does this mean justification for the killing of president George Bush, assassinating President Bush, as he was responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?
It does not make sense. You don't have to look at it from what the Trump administration says. You have to look at it from multiple angles and I'm not defending Soleimani.
And the fact is, Rosemary, Soleimani was -- in the same trenches with the Americans, in the fight against ISIS, between 2014 and 2017-18.
So even though Soleimani was an enemy of the United States, strategically, it does not make sense because now we are seeing unintended consequences, consequences that may come to haunt American foreign policies for years to come.
CHURCH: Fawaz Gerges, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
GERGES: Thank you. CHURCH: And still to come this hour, Iranian state TV reports of millions of people have been turning out to mourn slain general Qasem Soleimani. CNN was on the streets of Tehran for the funeral procession.
Plus, many Australians are returning home after escaping deadly bush fires. When we come, back we will talk to one couple who lost everything.
CHURCH: Welcome, back everyone.
Well light rain and cooler weather is giving Australians a much-needed break from the devastating bushfire season but the break will be short-lived as high temperatures are set to return on Friday.
The official death toll still stands at 24 and thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, the Insurance Council of Australia estimates nearly $500 million worth of insurance claims have already been filed.
CHURCH: And that number is only expected to rise as more loss is reported. CNN's Anna Coren is joining us now from Cobargo on the New South Wales southern coast.
Anna, in the midst of this ferocious bush, fires homes have been destroyed, lives have been lost and livelihoods devastated.
What has been the impact so far?
How do fire crews plan to contain the bush fires?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, we are experiencing mild conditions, Rosemary, and firefighters are taking full advantage of those conditions. They have gone into those fire zones, they are putting in containment lines, fire breaks. They are preparing for when conditions heat up and those ferocious winds return.
They will no doubt whip up those fires again, we had some rain in the last 24-48 hours but is really just enough to settle the dust. Australia needs weeks of soaking rain to end these fires and also to end the drought this country has now been experiencing for years.
We're in Cobargo and this is a very old little township. It was built back in the late 1800s and there are dozens of homes, Rosemary, that have just been razed. It is a heartbreaking to see and the pain is so raw, because not only have they lost so many homes but they have lost three lives, three residents of this township perished in those New Year's Eve fires. In other areas along the coast, people are now returning to their
homes, hoping that they are still standing. For one couple, it was a heartbreaking experience. Take a look.
COREN (voice-over): Heading up the driveway towards his home through the burnt-out bush, Bruce Honeyman knew what was waiting for him.
BRUCE HONEYMAN, BUSHFIRE VICTIM: The house is all gone. It's all gone.
COREN: The mud-brick home he shared with his partner Julie-Ann Grimer reduced to smoldering rubble after the border fire that cross Victoria into New South Wales rolled through townships, including (INAUDIBLE), west of Eden just a few days ago.
HONEYMAN: The ferocity of this fire is unbelievable. And we made the right decision to evacuate. For that I'm thankful.
COREN: They were preparing for the worst. The reality, however, devastating. The speed of the fire evidence from its indiscriminate nature. It completely raise the house while leaving the newly built pergola intact just a few meters away. The battle-weary firefighters who've been in the thick of it for months, the magnitude of this crisis clearly taking its toll.
CLINT BRADLEY, RURAL FIRE SERVICE FIREFIGHTER: I get a lump in my throat sometimes. It's seeing people coming home to this. And it makes me think, what would I feel if it was me.
COREN: Julie-Ann and Bruce, one of thousands of families that have returned to their homes that are no longer there. And while the rain has arrived, it's only short-lived. Those dry, hot conditions are expected to return and there are still months remaining of Australia's fire season.
COREN (voice-over): Their bush sanctuary, the result of 10 years' hard work now a memory. But their results rebuild and restore their life in this natural habitat, unwavering.
JULIE-ANN GRIMER, BUSHFIRE VICTIM: This is the risk we have when you're in -- when you're in the bush and this is Australia. We will reassess what we do from here and this will still be home. We've got -- we've got more things than what some people have got. We got to be thankful for that.
COREN: Incredible resilience, Rosemary, it truly is inspiring. But the devastation is just so widespread. And I want to show you how indiscriminate this fire is. Obviously it has taken this home. It is taken so many homes on the main street.
But just across the road, these old weather board buildings are still standing, so it just gives you an idea of how quickly this ferocious fires can be.
CHURCH: Yes, it is just so random and so heartbreaking and I know, as a fellow Australian, it is just devastating to watch and see what has happened there in New South Wales and Victoria. Anna Coren joining us with her report, many thanks.
Well, the destruction, the impact of these bush fires has motivated people from all around the world to pitch in.
CHURCH: One fundraising effort by Australian comedian Celeste Barber has received donations from at least 1 million people since Friday, raising more than $29 million for firefighters in New South Wales.
And to find out about the scale of the destruction and what you can do to help, just go to cnn.com/impact to take a look.
We've been talking about the weather finally cooperating with firefighters.
CHURCH: Well, Iran and its allies are threatening revenge against the U.S. for killing general Qasem Soleimani Soleimani. What form that might, take just ahead, here on CNN NEWSROOM.
Plus, President Trump's former national security adviser makes an offer that might be a game-changer for the impeachment trial. We take a look at that as well. Stay with us.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. This is CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church. It is time to check the headlines for you this hour. Some people in Australia are returning home after cooler weather gave them a break from a deadly bushfire season. Residents in hard-hit New South Wales have suffered a devastating property loss as thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged.
Some U.S. lawmakers will get answers in the coming hours about the drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The Trump administration is expected to brief leaders of the House and Senate on the intelligence that prompted the strike. And crowds of mourners are turning out in Soleimani's hometown for his funeral and burial. Many Iranians regarded the slain Quds Force Commander as the second most powerful person in the country after spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Soleimani's funeral procession started in Baghdad where he was killed on Friday and wound its way through Iraq and into Iran. State T.V. reports millions of people paid their respects along the way. Many in the capital Tehran shouting death to America. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is there.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fury and threats as Iranians mourn in their top general Qassem Soleimani. Hundreds of thousands line the streets of Tehran, weeping, chanting, vowing retribution.
It'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 Qassem Soleimani and the others who are killed in that American airstrike. 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 Iranian says down with Trump. Down with the 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 the yelled death to America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Soleimani was a hero. He was the only shield against ISIS here. And now, as our leader said, you will see a rough revenge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us want a hard revenge. And all of us said (INAUDIBLE)
PLEITGEN: The Trump administration says Qassem 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.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 hails 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, COMMANDER, QUDS FORCE (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.
CHURCH: NATO says the U.S. has briefed its European allies on the strike that killed General Soleimani and the reasoning behind it, but the Secretary-General would not share any of those details at a news conference Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO: U.S. brought the rationale behind 1the action against General Soleimani. And we had several briefers from the United States from State and from Pentagon. And they briefed and explained to their allies why they took this action against the General Soleimani.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And this just in to CNN. Germany says it has temporarily pulled some of its troops out of Iraq. A few dozen of them will go to Kuwait and Jordan for now, at least, amid the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran in the region. We'll keep an eye on that story.
Well, there is growing concern that Iran will launch a military strike against American forces or targets, but so far, the country's leaders and allies have been long on rhetoric and short on action. CNN International Security Editor Nick Payton Walsh reports from Beirut.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The nature of Iran's retaliation seems to be focusing around one central idea. And it's the same one that you hear if you listen to Lebanese Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah in his speech here in Beirut on Sunday, or on Monday, the daughter of Qassem Soleimani, or even on Twitter, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. And that's beginning the end of the U.S. military presence in "the region."
Now, Hassan Nasrallah said that their focus, Hezbollah, would be to send U.S. troops home in coffins to precipitate their departure. And essentially, it may be that this Iranian longer-term strategy is trying to pass play on a tendency within the U.S. commander in chief, Donald Trump, who has long said he would like to withdraw more troops from the Middle East to refer to frankly Syria is a country with nothing but sand and death in it.
It was always felt that the U.S. puts too much of its efforts abroad assisting countries from which it gets little in return, who sees little merit in a strategic alliance around this particular region. Donald Trump initially reacted very harshly to the beginnings of this process being seen in Iraq by saying that if the U.S. was forced out, the Iraqis will be hit by heavy sanctions.
But still possibly, if indeed, Iran's allies and Iran itself slowly begin to exact the price they claim they want to take from the U.S. military in this region and kill U.S. troops that may, in the long run, begin to erode Donald Trump's initial desire to resist calls on them to leave.
We have to see how that necessarily plays out. And in fact, there has been something of a clamor in the late hours of Monday when a letter circulated in Baghdad that seems to suggest repositioning of U.S. troops around Iraq and was mistaken by some suggesting perhaps the withdrawal was underway. Perhaps more of that will be seen in the days ahead.
But there is one singular thing which Iran has actually done despite the powerful scenes of morning. One practical step is taken and that say will no longer abide by his remaining commitments not to enrich uranium under the so-called nuclear deal. That is key because it essentially puts Iran on a clearer path towards getting a nuclear bomb if it so desires to.
It hasn't said what quality it will enrich Uranium too, and it hasn't said the necessarily wants to look for a nuclear weapon. It's always denied to some degree that that was part of his plans. But it opens up the specter of that perhaps being something it's accused of, or actually goes for possibly in the months ahead.
And of course, the notion of a nuclear arms race or Iran trying to get the ball more strikes from Israel or the United States to prevent that from happening is a nightmare scenario I think from across the Middle East. It's what painstaking months of Obama diplomacy tried to prevent for creating the nuclear deal.
And it does seem as though we will slowly see Iran's retaliation after the death Qassem Soleimani in the months ahead rather than allowed fiery blast an immediate days afterwards. Nick Payton Walsh, CNN Beirut.
CHURCH: Well, Soleimani's killing has also led to heated debate on Capitol Hill. Coming up next, why Democratic lawmakers are chastising President Trump over his decision to order that airstrike.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the Trump administration plans to brief U.S. lawmakers Wednesday on the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. Sources tell CNN, it will happen behind closed doors but Democratic leaders say it's too little too late that the intelligence used to justify the strike was razor-thin, and that it's time to rein in President Trump's military authority. CNN's Alex Marquardt has the details.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN U.S. Calls are growing for details on the attacks that were being planned by Iran that the Trump administration says we're imminent.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: This was a bad guy. We took him from the battlefield. We saw that he was plotting further plans to take down Americans in some cases, many Americans.
MARQUARDT: Now, Senate Democrats demanding the president declassified, the notification he sent Congress about the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, writing, "It is critical that national security matters of such important be shared with the American people in a timely manner."
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): An entirely classified notification in the case of this particular military operation is simply not appropriate. And there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.
MARQUARDT: But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained vague about the threat.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: When you say the attacks were imminent, how imminent were they? Are we talking about days? Are we talking about weeks?
POMPEO: If you're an American in the region, days and weeks, this is not something that's relevant. We have to prepare. We have to be ready. And we took a bad guy off the battlefield. We made the right decision. There is less risk today to American forces in the region as a result of that attack.
MARQUARDT: Still flying back from his Christmas holiday, the President said we may discuss releasing the intelligence. He also addressed the shock and anger around his threat to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran responds against Americans. "They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, he said, and we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way."
Today, Defense Secretary Mark Esper contradicting the president saying the U.S. would not target cultural sites and would instead follow the laws of armed conflict. House and Senate members are expected to get briefed on Wednesday as Democrats in both chambers work on war power resolutions that would limit President Trump's ability to act militarily against Iran.
REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): It will be resolved, I am afraid, with the one precious lives of our sons and daughters. And that is what this President has to realize that there are implications here for American lives.
MARQUARDT: In the wake of Soleimani's killing in Iraq, more than 3,000 U.S. forces are now being sent to the Middle East, a show force that will also many fear make for a potential Iranian target.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's stressful for sure, especially with everything that has escalated recently. He was supposed to be only doing like training and now it has obviously transpired into something else.
MARQUARDT: The American killing and be all but certain Iranian response to come raising global fears they will set off a new round of deadly violence. The U.K., France, and Germany issuing a joint statement saying "There is now an urgent need for de-escalation. We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility."
POMPEO: Frankly, the Europeans haven't been as helpful as I wish that they could be. MARQUARDT: The Pentagon has also just announced that they will be
deploying six B-52. Those are huge, long-range bombers that the Defense Department says will be available if needed in operations against Iran. They will be based out in the middle of the Indian Ocean so that they're out of range of Iranian missiles. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: Foreign Policy Analysts Michael Moran joins me now from Denver. Good to have you with us.
MICHAEL MORAN, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Glad to be here, Rosemary.
CHURCH: So the Trump administration plans to brief the House and Senate Wednesday nearly a week after the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani. Their justification for his killing was to prevent imminent attacks that Soleimani was apparently planning on Americans. How much intelligence should be provided to Congress, and why is the administration being so vague on its justification?
MORAN: Well, the amount of intelligence that the President decides to release to the Congress, to some extent, it's really his discretion. Soleimani has been implicated for years now in a kind of state- sponsored terrorism. Iran was never removed from that list even though the nuclear deal did remove some economic sanctions.
So, therefore, I would imagine that the administration is going to lean on that pretty heavily. They're going to also continue to explain that the sources of the intelligence could be put at risk should they make it public. This is not a unique argument from presidents. This goes back decades. Many presidents have said the same thing after taking controversial moves.
But you know, this has a special flavor to it in that we've killed a ranking general of a military that we're not technically at war with. So there is some complication there.
CHURCH: Yes. And of course, no one is disputing the fact that Soleimani was a bad guy, but President Trump says Americans are a lot safer as a result of this drone strike that killed him. Is that the case?
MORAN: Well, it's a judgment call. There are Americans who are in the field in Iraq and in the region who very well could have been targeted by Soleimani's Quds group during his -- during his tenure. Now that he's gone, I would imagine his successor will redouble efforts to do exactly that.
The other part of this though, is that having crossed this particular Rubicon, I would imagine the family of every general and every admiral in the United States is a little concerned that this has set a precedent that they are targets, not just the general officers themselves but also their families, their staffs. This could be an -- Iran is not Iraq. It's not Afghanistan. This is a country that has global terrorist networks that it has supported and nurtured for years. Some of them Hezbollah, in particular, are very capable. And I think this is something that has to worry the U.S. military.
CHURCH: And what's your response to President Trump's threat to strike 52 Iranian targets including cultural sites if Iran retaliates, even as Mr. Trump's own Defense Secretary contradicts him saying the U.S. will follow the laws of armed conflict?
MORAN: It's impossible to tell what's bluster in this administration and what is reality. The thing that came to mind when I heard that was look, even the Nazis left the Eiffel Tower standing when they -- when they evacuated Paris. Now, they probably -- if Hitler had his way, it might have been -- it might well not be standing but --
CHURCH: Yes, they tried.
MORAN: It is -- it is a war crime. Essentially, it's a crime against humanity of sorts. That's not the technical term but there are -- there are codes that protect cultural sites is (INAUDIBLE) and other sites in Iran are treasures of the ancient world that have nothing to do with this dispute. And it would really be another kind of sad precedent should that happen.
CHURCH: Right. And the U.K., France, and Germany, they did issue a joint statement calling for de-escalation of tensions and the cooler heads to prevail. What does that signal to you and could the U.S. be isolated here, left to take any future action alone?
MORAN: It's pretty unilateral foreign policy that's being pursued over the last four years, three and a half years. The political capital that the United States had built up with our European allies was deeply damaged in the Iraq war to start with, and this has really been the coup de grace. The statement that was issued today was about milk toast is you could get. It wasn't critical, but it certainly wasn't supportive of any further actions on the part of the U.S.
Now having said that, the Iranian response is what -- is what everybody needs to know before judging the next step on the U.S. This is not something that came out of the blue. The Iranians have done a number of things over the past six months that were really unprecedented in and of themselves, in particular, the Houthi missile strikes on the Saudi oil fields, the shoot down of the drone.
And so, you know, the reaction from a president who was just as -- just as shoot from the hip when he abandoned the Kurds in the north of Iraq shouldn't have been surprising to anyone. I do believe, though, that it does not take into proper consideration the potential reactions from Iran. Iran can do an awful lot of things short of going to war with the United States. That will not ultimately be in the benefit of anybody. And that's the real concern here.
CHURCH: Michael Moran, we thank you for your analysis. I appreciate it.
MORAN: Thank you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: We go to Asia now. And Chinese officials are trying to identify a mysterious strain of pneumonia that's made dozens of people sick. They have ruled out a return of the deadly SARS virus. 59 cases have been reported in the city of Wuhan in central China. The World Health Organization says the symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, and possible lesions on both lungs.
21 people in Hong Kong returned from Wuhan with fever or respiratory symptoms. The government there is now working to keep the illness from spreading further. Travelers returning from Wuhan will have their temperatures taken at the airport.
Well, a new twist in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump as former National Security Advisor John Bolton goes rogue on his old boss. We'll have the details for you just ahead.
CHURCH: And we have this just in to CNN. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says U.S. forces days in the Middle East are numbered. In an interview with CNN's Fred Pleitgen, Zarif says, it's not because action will be taken against American troops, but because they are no longer welcome in the region.
Zarif also says U.S. President Donald Trump doesn't respect international law and is prepared to commit war crimes. We will have much more on this next hour. While President Trump deals with Iran on the international stage, he's still battling impeachment in Washington. His former National Security Advisor John Bolton says he's willing to testify if subpoenaed in the Senate trial.
Democrats have long wanted to hear from him. And this now puts pressure on Republicans who have been unwilling to allow any witnesses at the trial. CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With a single statement, former National Security Advisor 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 "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 treating impeachment like a political toy.
MATTINGLY: Where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have been battling for weeks over whether to subpoena witnesses.
SEN. CHUCM 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 TOP RUSSIA ADVISER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.
MATTINGLY: And by his lawyer, who in November said Bolton "was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, 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: For Republicans joining with all 47 of the chambers Democrats is all Schumer would need to fashion a trial along the lines he's been pushing for, with Democrats eyeing 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, "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 to some degree, keep this in mind. Sources tell me that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear he is not changing his strategy. He believes if witnesses are to come up at all, it will be something to be dealt with later on in the trial.
But the reality remains this, whether your Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, 51 votes, 51 members of the United States 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 on to their side, well, they'll get the trial they want. But they've got no indication at least to this point that that's going to happen. That's why you see the pressure coming for both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer as they continue to push for those witnesses to be subpoenaed. Phil Mattingly, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: And thanks so much for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. And I'll be back with more news in just a moment. You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.