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Soon: Blinken Meets with Saudi Crown Prince; Recent U.S. Attacks in Syria and Iraq Occurred One Day Before in Yemen; "Serious Concerns" with Border Bill, Says GOP Senator Cornyn; Senate Border Measure "Dead on Arrival" in the House, Johnson Says; At the US-Mexico Border, Republican Governors Join Texas Governor Abbott; Deliveries Gets Delayed as Boeing Discovers New Problem with 737 MAX. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 05, 2024 - 10:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Any minute, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will meet with the Saudi Crown Prince to discuss progress on a hostage deal and post-war plans for Gaza. It comes as Iran's foreign ministry is lashing out at the United States, condemning the U.S. strikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen that happened over the weekend. Defense officials say they hit 84 of 85 intended targets, and they are not done yet.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is at the Pentagon for us this morning. Is the White House, sort of, tipping their hand with 85 targets and they promised more to come? What do we know?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Sara. So, National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, he did say just yesterday when asked whether this was the last of the United States' response to that drone attack that killed three U.S service members in Jordan last month, and he indicated that there is more to come when it comes to this response. Here's what he said.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are still assessing the battle damage. Our CENTCOM, Central Command, is looking at the capabilities we reduced and the casualties that were incurred. The president was clear when he ordered them and when he conducted them that that was the beginning of our response and there will be more steps to come.


BERTRAND: Now, in terms of what the U.S. actually destroyed in these attacks in Syria -- in Syria and Iraq on Friday night, according to defense officials, they did manage to destroy 84 of the 85 targets that they targeted, including facilities used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Quds Force, one of the more extreme elements of Iran's military. As well as facilities used by Iran-backed militias, including those that the U.S. believes are responsible for launching that drone attack that killed those service members.

And so, the U.S. is pretty confident at this point that they did manage to significantly degrade the capabilities of these groups. But the big question now, of course, is just how long it is going to take for those groups to regroup, because many of them have committed to not stopping their attacks on U.S and coalition forces until the war in Gaza is over. Sara.

SIDNER: Yes, you got the Houthis, they're in Yemen. You've got the Al-Quds force, that is very, very active and we've seen what they are capable of. Thank you so much, Natasha Bertrand for all your reporting.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: All right. Sara, just so people can see the range of where this is all taking place, there were strikes in Syria that we know about, strikes in Iraq that we know about. Also, these strikes in Yemen over the weekend that we know about.

With us now, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kim Dozier and CNN Military Analyst retired U.S, Army Major General James Spider Marks. Spider, we hear that more strikes could be coming, that is what the White House said over the weekend. To what end? What would that accomplish? And what is your view on the idea of this is all about deterrence?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST, HEAD OF GEOPOLITICAL STRATEGY, ACADEMY SECURITIES: Well, first of all, I think we should stop talking about what we're going to do and just go about the business of doing it. This administration has made it perfectly clear that it's not going to stop these activities, these operations until the objective is achieved. So, there's no time horizon. There will be -- additional operations will take place.

The desire is to get these -- primarily Tehran, to understand that the proxies have now received some really crushing blows. They're going to have to reconstitute. There will probably be a period where they have to get their act back together, figure out what they are capable of doing if they intend to continue these operations.

In parallel, what we're hoping when we see Secretary Blinken in the Mideast again, is that there can be an advanced, effort at a ceasefire in Gaza. And if that's the case, then I would suspect you're going to see the proxies backing off, which means, at least in the interim, the objective will be met.

BERMAN: And Kim, I want to pick up on something that Spider just said there, because obviously these strikes were in Iraq and Syria up here and Yemen down here. But the strategic target, as it were, is Iran, here, to get them to stop backing in influencing these groups. What do you think the view of all of this is from inside Iran?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST AND SENIOR MANAGING EDITOR, THE MILITARY TIMES: Well, you've seen that Iran's response has been to say that they won't allow themselves to be bullied by the United States, but they haven't promised any sort of retaliation. And that means that at this point, Washington seems to be threading the needle, not spurring a wider war with an Iranian response, and instead very carefully going after the proxies in various parts of the region.


Taking their trained people off the battlefield and the weapons that they have managed to smuggle from Iran to the various locations to use. But the U.S. is aware that there's this larger ideological fight going on, this fight for influence where Iran and other Arab nations see the U.S. as supporting Israel in its crackdown inside Gaza.

So, they're sort of the David and Goliath fighting back. The U.S. doesn't want to play into that point of view, and that's why I think you have seen this more from their perspective, measured targeted response. But also, I got to point out, the White House isn't promising that this is going to make the attacks stop. The only way to do that, as Spider was saying, is to have some sort of diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Gaza.

BERMAN: You know, how do you thread a needle and influence action at the same time, Spider?

MARKS: Well, very difficult, as Kim described. There -- there's a lot of art and science. The key thing is, what we need to understand is what we're trying to achieve is a level of deterrence, that's what everybody's talking about and that's the objective. How do you achieve deterrence?

Deterrence by definition is behavior that's acceptable within bounds. And the way you achieve deterrence is through the application of a whole of government type of strategy, a campaign. And in many cases that you punish your enemy and as a result of that input, you get an output that you can describe as deterrence. In other words, certain behaviors will be punished, certain behaviors will be OK. That's how you achieve deterrence, but you don't achieve it through very precise strikes that don't have some overarching objective. You have to do this over the course of time to achieve those objectives.

BERMAN: And Kimberly Dozier, you noted that Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region right now, arriving in Saudi Arabia. What does he need to come home with this time?

DOZIER: Well, hopefully some sort of agreement that stops the fighting for weeks at a time and get some hostages out. both sides, Hamas and the Israeli military, do show signs of wear and tear and a need for regrouping. But the hope is that after this pause, there won't be a resumption in fighting.

What the Biden administration is painfully aware of is that it's losing support domestically from large parts of the Democratic Party, and also internationally, there is a growing anti-American, anti-West sentiment that's being shown in things like there was a Procter and Gamble factory where a handful of people were held hostage over the weekend in Turkey. Now, that was resolved peacefully, but it shows what the U.S. intelligence community is worried about. That the more the U.S. backs Israel, the more it will become a target for those who despise the death and destruction that they see going on the ground no matter what happened on October 7th.

BERMAN: Kim Dozier, Spider Marks, always great to see both of you. Thank you.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: The 300 plus pages that everyone on Capitol Hill have said that they have been waiting to see. But why then are so many Republicans already vowing to stand against it before they've even had a chance to read it. What's in? What's out? What this all means for border security. We'll be back.



BOLDUAN: So, what is finally here? After months of talk, rumors, a lot of rumors, and a lot of negotiations behind closed doors, the Senate has unveiled a major $118 billion border security and foreign aid package. And in the less than 24 hours that people in charge of making laws have had the opportunity to read the actual potential law, the reaction has been some -- I guess, you can sum it up as like some digging in, some pushing back. It's still very unclear where this is headed.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, for example, he says the bill is, "Worse than expected", and deemed it dead on arrival in the House of Representatives. Donald Trump also weighing in, as we know, his opinion has very clearly mattered on all Republicans, essentially, calling it, "Great gift to Democrats and a death wish for the Republican Party."

CNN's Manu Raju picks up from there. Manu, we just heard from another key voice in this in the Senate. One of the Republican -- one -- a member of Republican leadership, John Cornyn. What is he telling -- saying?

MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY AND CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: Yes, he's saying that he has, "Serious concerns about this proposal" and he still has many questions. That is an ominous sign and another indication that this is trending in the wrong direction for members who are trying to get this hard-fought border deal out of the Senate and seeming that there may not be able to get the votes out of the Senate. That is still an open question.

A key test vote is scheduled for Wednesday. They need 60 votes in the United States Senate to do that. It is uncertain whether they can get there because of opposition from a number of Republicans. Donald Trump calling on Republicans to kill it. As well as Democratic concerns as well. A handful of Democrats, at least, are indicating they will vote against it. So, getting this through the chamber remains to be seen.

This is a massive proposal. Not only dealing with new changes to asylum laws, new changes to giving the Department of Homeland Security more of new authority to essentially turn away migrants at the southern border in between ports of entry when crossing to reach a certain threshold.


But also attached to aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, aid to Taiwan. $118 billion is the price tag as they try to push this measure through at a critical moment here.

But the divisions within the GOP ranks are the most pronounced. The Speaker of the House has indicated for some time that he would not go along with this. Even before this deal was released, he put out a tweet calling this, essentially, dead on arrival. And said that, this is worse than it was expected.

And -- but not everyone in the GOP agrees with that. One of them is a member of his own conference, Congressman Dan Crenshaw said, unfortunately, there's a lot of emotion about this border deal and no analysis of the facts by people who should know better. Many people who are, apparently, very fast readers have already tweeted completely false statements about the legislation.

So, you're seeing how a lot of members are frustrated, that people within the high upper echelons of GOP leadership are essentially killing this bill without giving it a time to review, looking into it further in the view that a lot of Republicans, who I spoke to last week in particular, were concerned about, there was no bill text yet. And many of them said they would not go along with this. And in large part, both sides say, Donald Trump wants us dead so he can campaign on the issue of border chaos, even as those same Republicans say this bill does not go far enough in dealing with the problems of the border.


BOLDUAN: Yes. I think, if nothing else has been confirmed in the less than 24 hours since, it is the impact and influence of Donald Trump on so many Republicans on how they're approaching this bill. Manu's there, as always, he's going to bring us his updates as he gets them. It's really good to have him. But that's where it stands on Capitol Hill.

SIDNER: And it is very clear what's happening. And a lot of people will look at that and say, this seems to be politics over people. There's a real problem on the border. A lot of cities dealing with it. We'll wait and soon.

BOLDUAN: I so -- are you -- everyone -- it could be a win-win. And I -- you know when I say --

SIDNER: You're so optimistic.

BOLDUAN: I'm so Pollyanna, which you know is not true.

SIDNER: I like that.

BOLDUAN: But they could all win. It doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. But it remains that right.

SIDNER: We will wait and see what happens. We don't control it. We just say --

BOLDUAN: As much as we wish we could.

SIDNER: CNN's Rosa Flores is joining us. She has been at Eagle Pass for days. Eagle Pass, Texas, which is really the epicenter of where this migrant crisis is right now. Rosa, over the weekend, I know that we saw the Texas governor inviting Republican governors. We've got a picture of them standing around talking about the issues there at the Mexican-U.S. border. What are you seeing after that visit? What's happening now? Because there is a battle between the state and the federal government going on throughout all this.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, well, that standoff continues, the state of Texas still continues to take over a certain area of Eagle Pass and illegal immigration continues. I want to show you around because this is the takeover zone that was taken over by Texas, that's why you see the razor wire that's lining here, the Rio Grande.

And our photojournalist, Orlando Ruiz, just took video of an encounter between Texas officials and a migrant that was in the river. And if you take a look at this dramatic video, you'll be able to see that a mother and her child, they were inside the Rio Grande, and a boat then comes along and state troopers -- Texas state troopers pull the child out of the water and then they pull the mother out of the water and onto a boat and then they go on.

Now, I talked to Texas DPS about it. They say that in this case because it's a child and a mom, that they would be turned over to U.S. Border Patrol, which is the reason why we're even talking about this and why we're here in this takeover zone. Because even though the state of Texas has taken over this area, and just to give you an idea, if you're in New York, for example, and you have Central Park, any other area of the country, whatever green space that you have, there is -- you know, a space where the community usually goes in and hangs out.

Well, that is this space for Eagle Pass residents. They hang out in this park that was taken over by the state of Texas. One day, razor wire went up, Sara, and then soldiers with long guns appeared and they put up gates. And so, that's this takeover zone, but border patrol is not allowed in this area. So, any migrants that are turning themselves into immigration authorities here, actually turn themselves into state authorities. And in this case, a migrant woman and the child is turned over to border patrol right outside the gates.

SIDNER: This is --

FLORES: Sara, back to you.

SIDNER: -- this battle is a fascinating one, but you can see the real human toll here. We are looking at those pictures that your photographer took and they are dramatic. Thank God that that mother and child are OK. You also see a gentleman standing on this little area, kind of, looking out at what is happening. But the pictures have been incredible and the fight continues.

Rosa Flores, you have been there throughout all of it, and I'm sure you will stay. We will check back in with you when there is more news coming from that area. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: Thanks, Sara.

New safety concerns over the Boeing 737 MAX this morning. Stay with us.



BERMAN: All right. This morning, Boeing has found a new problem with its 737 MAX planes that has to be reworked and could delay delivery of about 50 planes. Boeing has been inspecting the 737 MAX 9 line after the incident aboard that Alaska Airlines flight when a door plug blew out, leaving a gaping hole mid-flight.


With us now, CNN's Transportation Correspondent Pete Muntean with this latest, new, additional problem. Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Here is the new development, John. The contractor that builds the 737 MAX fuselage for Boeing is owning this problem. Spirit AeroSystems confirms it is the major supplier that mis-drilled holes on planes that are still on the production line at Boeing's plant in Renton, Washington and that it notified Boeing of the problems.

Nonetheless, another black eye for Boeing quality control as it tries to clean up its reputation after last month's MAX 9 door plug blowout. Here's the new memo to Boeing employees from head of commercial airplane Stan Deal. He says, while this potential condition is not an immediate flight safety issue, and all 737s can continue operating safely, we currently believe we will have to perform a rework on about 50 undelivered airplanes.

Deal says, the company must get it right. So, Boeing is slowing down 737 production, that could mean delayed deliveries of new planes. Not a good look as airlines like United have already said they're not thrilled about being on Boeing's order books.


BERMAN: Yes, look, not a good look. But the important thing is to get it right and get it safe. Pete Muntean, thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: Exactly. Dangerous flooding and hurricane force winds, and it's not over yet. We're in the middle of the atmospheric river that is slamming California right now. We'll be back.