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Middle East On Edge After Iran Attacks Israel; Biden Seeks A Diplomatic Response To Limit Military Escalation; Speaker Johnson Says House Will Try To Pass Israel Aid This Week; Interview With Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) About Iran's Attack On Israel; Iran To Respond Directly If Israel Retaliates; Jury Selection In Trump's Historic Criminal Trial Begins Tomorrow. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washinton.

We are following breaking news in the Middle East. The Israeli military now says that Iran and its proxy forces in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon launched some 350 rockets, drones, missiles into its territory overnight. Tehran says the attack is a response to a deadly strike on its consulate in Damascus, which it's blamed on Israel. Tehran is warning any new aggression from Israel will be met with a, quote, "heavier and regrettable response."

The IDF says it, quote, "successfully thwarted about 99 percent of those missiles and drones," with the help of allies in the region, including the U.S. and the U.K. Tonight, the U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting amid fears of a broader regional conflict. The U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N. just moments ago sent this warning.


ROBERT WOOD, U.S. DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: If Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible.


SCIUTTO: The Israeli war cabinet says it has not reached a decision on its response, but is determined to act in some way.

With me now CNN's Nic Robertson in Jerusalem, Priscilla Alvarez at the White House.

Nic, first with you. We don't know what options the Israeli cabinet might choose, but do we have any sense of the timeline on its decision?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We don't either because despite the fact that the war cabinet met for almost five hours, the conclusion was they want more time to figure out the scale and scope and timing of their follow-on response. What we do know as well is that they've asked the IDF to come up with more options.

We know that the prime minister is under pressure from members of his right-wing cabinet. Of course, they don't sit around the table in the war cabinet, but Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, have both called on the prime minister to take a tougher line reinforced to Tehran be the aggressive landlord in the words of Itamar Ben-Gvir, smashed the crockery, if you will, and send a very strong signal to Iran that Israel won't take a strike from its territory like this without a response that signifies deterrence to Iran not to do it again, but from Iran's perspective Iran believes that it has now sort of turned the tables on the fact that it hasn't responded directly to Israel in the past for the killing of a number of its senior IRGC commander over the past few months and other attacks going back way before that.

So Iran feels it now has the deterrence in its hands, to deter Israel from striking its interests in the region. So this is a moment for the government here and the war cabinet in particular to figure out how they retake the initiative, and the impression we get is that Israel does want to respond somehow but very clearly hasn't decided quite yet how big that response should be or when. There's consideration going into it, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. If Iranian officials -- it strikes me, if Iranian officials are saying they have now reset the bar to the point at which where if Israel attacks any Iranian asset anywhere, it will now strike or at least retain the option of striking Israeli territory directly, I wonder how Israeli officials read that apparent new bar?


And do they then feel pressure? And this is the trouble of course with escalation, do they feel pressured to reset the bar from their own perspective?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think when you look at it from Israel's perspective, the bar has always been set that Israel is the one that keeps its footing in a region that it believes is hostile to it by showing -- by showing anyone that attack said it will deter them from doing that again. It has a maximalist response. It's the way it's dealing with Hamas inside of Gaza, it's the way it deals with multiple threats.

So this is, if you will, a conundrum for Israel to cross now. Is it going to forego deterrence? That seems hugely unlikely, but precisely how to respond and what targets to choose and what capacity to expand to do that, and how that could damage relations with key allies like the United States, because it could tip into a broader escalation.

But we're on the path of escalation, Jim. You called it I think last night a ladder of escalation, and we're on that ladder. We've been on it for a while. And this is another part of it. And I don't see Israel at the moment backing away from wanting to retake and reset the bar of deterrence, whatever Iran is saying at the moment.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And of course, the trouble outright is that then each side ends up climbing that escalation ladder. Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Priscilla, to the White House now, what is the White House level of concern that this could escalate? It seems there's a deliberate effort by White House officials to accentuate the positive to some degree, to say, listen, Israel, call this a win, 99 percent of these things were struck down. There was great regional cooperation in defending Israel.

I suppose the question is, does the White House believe that message is landing with Israeli officials?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and it is those public statements that goes to show how concerned the White House is about this escalating. For months now, the White House has tried to avoid this regional conflict widening any further. And so in this moment, they are still focused on trying to contain that risk by telling Israel that they should consider this largely a success and for them to take the win, and also reiterating that the U.S. will not participate in an offensive against Iran, again because of the concern in an already tense situation.

Now, the president did speak to the G7 leaders earlier today. And in that conversation they tried to find a diplomatic response. In other words, trying to move forward with non-military actions. And in a statement which I'll read to you, they said the following, quote, "With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided. We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalations."

You could see just through this joint statement from the G7 leaders how top of mind it is for this not to escalate in the region. And again, the president in his conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night told him to think carefully and strategically about next steps, that according to a senior administration official. Of course, the question is whether the Israeli prime minister takes the president's advice.

As we have seen with the war in Gaza there have been ribs between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So the question is, what are the next steps and can the White House successfully contain this risk of escalation?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Can any of the parties contain the risk of escalation?

Nic in Israel, Priscilla Alvarez there at the White House, thanks so much to both of you.

Let's turn now to a broader analysis, joining me now, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, Ian Bremmer.

Good to have you on, Ian. Thanks so much for making the time tonight.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: Yes, good to see you. Sure. SCIUTTO: So Iran is saying now its response to the Israeli attack,

presumed Israeli attack on the consulate in Damascus is over, we've set our missiles, we're done for now. And it's CNN's reporting that Iran actually communicated to Turkey prior to this attack what its retaliatory options were, and then Turkey passed that information onto the U.S.

I wonder if you see those two things as a deliberate effort by Iran to -- and whether it's successful or not is another question, but a deliberate effort at least by Iran to put some guardrails around this, or set some limits here so it doesn't escalate further?

BREMMER: Absolutely, Jim. They did that with the Iraqi government as well. So multiple avenues intended to get the United States to help the U.S. ensure that they could defend against this attack, defend Israel.


This reminds me so much of when the Americans were telegraphing to the Iranians through third parties that they were going to get hit after the three American service men and women were killed in Jordan on the Syria border. The U.S. waited for about a week. They didn't want to get involved in a direct war with Iran but they wanted to let everyone know they were very serious.

So major strikes against the Houthis as well as against proxies in -- Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq, but gave the Iranians time to get out, gave the Iranians time to make this not have to precipitate into further escalation. I think it's very clear that that was the Iranian intention. But Iran wanted to do two things, right, at the same time.

They wanted this to be a maximum show of force, to show the world that they took very seriously the fact that, you know, their leader on the ground in Syria had been killed by the Israelis. But they also wanted to minimize the likelihood that there was further escalation that could bring Iran into a direct war either with Israel and-or with the United States.

Now, they may have wanted to do both of those two things, but pulling that off is a pretty big trick especially because the U.S. and Israel do not see eye to eye right now on the kind of response that should be elicited from the Iranian attack.

SCIUTTO: No question. It seems like there might even be some disagreement within the Israeli war cabinet as well. Barak Ravid of Axios on this broadcast last hour said that in the midst of the attack there was an argument made in the Israeli war cabinet to strike back at Iran. Do the retaliation in effect while the Iranian attack was still underway, strike Iranian targets while those missiles and drones were still on their way to Israel. Didn't happen. You have the conversation between Biden and Netanyahu.

I wonder what you think the significance of that is and whether that might have escalated this thing quite quickly in the very midst of it. BREMMER: Well, of course it would have, but as you've heard and on

your own show, there's a very big difference between Netanyahu and his far-right coalition. People like Smotrich and Ben Gvir, who very much want to use this Iranian attack to give Israel an excuse to go after Iran's nuclear program, go after their military capabilities, show Israeli military strength, not just defensive capabilities and preventing an attack, but also go on offense against Iran.

But it's clearly not supported by Benny Gantz in the war cabinet. And the very fact of the bear hug from the United States, the U.K. and other allies, this ironclad support that the United States was providing against any strike from Iran on Israel, the fact that that was there, it was immediate, it was successful, constrains Netanyahu from acting against the rest of his war cabinet.

And if he persists, you know, Benny Gantz might decide that he's out. Eisenkot might decide that he's out and that would make it -- right now Netanyahu looks a lot stronger than he did 48 hours ago because he's leading a country that just was able to rebuff this unprecedented strike from Iran. There's more focus on that, less focus on Gaza. That's great for Netanyahu. If he then persists and saying, I want to strike Israel hard, but he doesn't have support for the war cabinet, he suddenly could be pressed and his government could collapse, right, and they could lose that support.

So I think that the United States does have leverage here, not just internationally, not just with the media, but also internally inside that war cabinet.

SCIUTTO: Understood. I wonder if you could broaden this out a bit because you said you believe the U.S. and China would stand to lose the most from an expansion of this war. Can you explain why?

BREMMER: Well, I mean, the United States loses a lot because they would be directly involved with Israel in a war against Iran. Biden would probably lose the election if that would happen. But just also more broadly, it's another war that the Americans are fighting with all of the, you know, consequent implications for oil prices going up and the rest.

Now, China, China is not Russia, China is not Iran. It's not North Korea. It's not part of this axis of resistance in the region. China benefits from stability and their economy is doing really badly right now. So even though the United States hasn't taken any of the Trump tariffs off, in fact, export controls against China are considerably higher today than they were a couple of years ago. China has been looking not to escalate the temperature because any further instability is just hurting their economy.


The U.S. is a big energy exporter. China is a massive energy importer and particularly from the Middle East they do not want the Straits of Hormuz to be impassable and I'm sure they were deeply concerned when they saw that Iran itself, and you remember China's pretty good relations with Iran, just like they do with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Iran itself actually went and boarded this Israeli linked ship just outside of the Straits of Hormuz. China wants no part of that whatsoever.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And it's one of those cases where China benefits from the stability, but Russia seems to see some personal benefit just from stoking the flames.

Ian Bremmer, always good to talk to you.

BREMMER: Jim, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, so what does Israel do next? The Israeli war cabinet met for some time today. Still no decision on a response. We're going to break down what the options are with our national security experts.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.



SCIUTTO: The Israeli war cabinet now appears divided on exactly how to respond after Iran fired hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel. Israel's defense minister says the confrontation with Iran is, quote, "not over yet." The White House is trying to turn down the temperature, saying it will not participate in any Israeli retaliation against Iranian territory directly.

I'm joined now by CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier.

So, General, the IDF says that nearly all the missiles and drones were intercepted. I wonder how remarkable you find that. I mean, this was a -- it took a village here, right, because it wasn't just Israel, it was the United States, the U.K. there were Arab partners involved in this. But was this a remarkable defense to watch come together?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Jim, it was most incredible in my view. This attack was, first of all, great because it relied on the training and the exercises of various forces. The combination and a multinational approach. Some great planning and coordination with liaison officers.

I got to tell you, you know, the defensive system within Israel is good. It's been there for 20 years, this integrated air defense system, but it was only notched up to another level last night when you're talking about the kinds of partners some of whom don't even want to be mentioned because they're part of the Arab world actually contributing to this. And it stopped an attack.

And Jim, let me just put it in perspective. The first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the so-called shock and awe campaign had 500 precision weapons on the first day. This one had 320 in about five hours. So that gives you a comparison of scope and scale for these two kinds of attack. SCIUTTO: Wow, that's a remarkable comparison, shock and awe, at least

attempted, right, but thwarted largely.

Kimberly, Israel and Iran, they've been engaged to some degree in the shadow war for a number of years now. But Iran has now targeted Israel directly and in forms here. By the way, you have Iranian official saying quite publicly right now that, listen, you strike any of our assets and we reserve the right to strike Israeli territory again. Is this a new normal, new and more dangerous normal?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Dangerous new normal in that, look, Iran lobbed more than 300 munitions at Israel. And what price is it paying on the world stage? A stiff G7 statement. Sure. But it's already been sanctioned to the hilt. I don't know what else the international community can do to signal that it shouldn't do this again. And Russia and China don't seem to be helping.

Meanwhile, Israel has been told try anything against any of our officials again and we'll do this again, surely more deadly a second time, because, you know, the drones, the slowest moving part of this barrage, they could have timed the other munitions to arrive when the drones arrived.


DOZIER: They chose to do waves.


DOZIER: If they timed it so that everything arrived together, I think we would have been looking at more destruction. So now Israel is in this situation where, yes, they can try to rally the West and say, look, we've been telling you they plan to do something like this to us and now they've done it. We need your support. But Iran is going to keep pushing it. Israel, through Hezbollah, through the Yemeni fighters.

The next time it does something, what's Israel going to do? Nothing? I can't see that happening.

SCIUTTO: But they do have multiple levers.

General Hertling, you heard CNN reporting earlier in the broadcast that Iran communicated to Turkey prior to this assault that it was going to retaliate, give them a sense of what the options were. Turkey, a NATO ally, then communicated that to the U.S. Was that deliberate? Was that a deliberate Iranian attempt to kind of say, hey, here's what we're going to do so you know in advance to put a lid on potential responses and chances of escalation?


HERTLING: Yes. I think it absolutely was, Jim. But first, if you don't mind I'll comment on what Kim just said because she is exactly right. If this had been a synchronized attack, which I was concerned about last as we saw different waves coming in. I thought they were all going to hit at the same time. Instead of sequential, which is somewhat ham-handed on the part of the Iranian forces, it would have made all the difference in the world. But going back to your question, yes, I would bet that they also -- Iran also told other allies and I'm talking specifically Russia that they were going to do this. So a combination of Turkey and Russia, that this was about to happen.

That's normal operation. You can never keep things secret. You have to tell your allies so they know how to react when it does happen and they're not surprised.

SCIUTTO: To that point, that attempt to overwhelm defenses is exactly what Russia does to Ukraine every day, right? Send them multiple speeds in great volumes to overwhelm those defenses.

Kimberly Dozier, now looking at options going forward, what are the most basic options for Israel short of striking Israeli territory -- sorry, Iranian territory directly which the U.S. president is saying we won't be involved in it if you were?

DOZIER: Yes, and the reason that's really important is that if Israel is going to launch some sort of attack like that over those distances, it would likely want to include jets, jets require refueling. That's usually something that the U.S. or other allies would do for it. Plus all of the intelligence that it would need to make that journey. But the other thing that they're facing, though, is with that Iranian threat, that if you do anything, you know, Israel's pushback against its adversaries, its deterrence policy has always been if you hit us we'll hit you three and four times as hard.


DOZIER: So that you'll never try it again. And Israeli officials have talked of their fear that the Hamas attacks on October 7th have punctured this idea that Israel has this amazing defense. And now that -- now anyone might try to do this again. So there's going to be pressure on Netanyahu and his war cabinet and his conservative government writ large to do something to let Iran know they can't do this again.

SCIUTTO: Although the U.S. argument seems to be, listen, in this case, your defenses worked, call it a win, we'll see if that message resonates.

DOZIER: Yes. I'm not seeing that they're doing it right now.

SCIUTTO: I hear you. Kimberly Dozier, thanks so much. Of course Lieutenant General Mark Hertling as well.

We do have news into CNN and that is that Israel we're just learning is now lifting in effect shelter in place orders that we saw in the midst of this attack yesterday, which will allow schools to open tomorrow, a sign of perhaps some increased calm in Israel about the level of the threat now, at least for now.

We'll continue to provide details on that news. Still ahead, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have been quick to condemn Iran's strikes on Israel. Now the pressure is on to pass additional aid for Israel. Thing is there's already a Senate passed supplemental that has that aid, as well as aid for Ukraine, which is still under attack, and Taiwan under threat from China. So what does that man do? Is he going to bring it to the floor for a vote? We'll be asking the question.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



SCIUTTO: Today, a promise at least to try again. House Speaker Mike Johnson says he wants to put an Israeli aid package on the floor this week, but he's already facing warnings from his right flank about doing that in any way in conjunction with the thing that's already passed the Senate, which is a supplemental with that aid for Israel, but also for Ukraine and for Taiwan.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is with me now.

So, Melanie, here we are. Speaker Johnson again, you and I have talked about this 850 million times in the last several weeks and months, and here we are again. Johnson went to Mar-a-Lago to speak to Trump on Friday in part about this package?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly right. So Speaker Mike Johnson had already been wrestling with this question of how to address both Israel and Ukraine. Obviously that question has taken on renewed significance and urgency now that Iran has attacked Israel. And he did go on FOX Business this morning and said he was going to put some type of Israel aid package on the floor this upcoming week. He said --

SCIUTTO: Israel.

ZANONA: Sorry, excuse me, on Israel, but he said those details have still not been finalized. Let's play a clip of that.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): The House Republicans and the Republican Party understand the necessity of standing with Israel. We are going to try again this week and the details of that package are being put together right now, we're looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.


ZANONA: And Jim, part of the reason for that indecision that you heard there is that Johnson is facing competing pressures. In one corner there's these bipartisan calls, including from GOP leader Mitch McConnell, including from some of his own House Republican committee chairmen to just put that Senate aid package on the floor.

SCIUTTO: Right. ZANONA: Because that would be the fastest way to get aid to Israel.

But in the other corner, you have hardline conservatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene saying that these issues should be separate and Marjorie Taylor Green has actually threatened Johnson over his speakership if he proceeds with Ukraine. So that is why Johnson went down to Mar-a- Lago on Friday.

SCIUTTO: To see what Trump's position.


SCIUTTO: Of course, we weren't in the room for that. Do we have any indication as to what his message was and what Trump's reception was?

ZANONA: Well, I am told by sources that going into the meeting which they met beforehand before they did this press conference, Johnson was determined to not only just try to feel Trump out, but to try to get his buy-in for whatever they're potentially going to do on Ukraine. And interestingly, Trump did say two questions to reporters during the press conference that he was open to this idea of structuring the aid to Ukraine as alone.


So perhaps there is a path on Ukraine, but the issue here is that whatever they do in the House then has to go back to the Senate. And there's no guarantee that would pass. So that is the complicated calculus for Johnson.

SCIUTTO: Unless he knows the choice of, well, putting what's already passed the Senate on the floor.

ZANONA: Right.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. OK. So you have work to do this week again.

ZANONA: Definitely.

SCIUTTO: Melanie Zanona, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss that and many of the other topics before, the August body that you serve in, in Congress, Democratic congressman from California, Ro Khanna. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

Thanks for taking time on a Sunday evening.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Thank you, Jim. I think that's the first time I've heard it described as an August body these days.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's Sunday, right? We've got to use terms of respect. You've been briefed, first, I want to just talk about the Israeli attack and then get to the broader issues back here. You've been briefed on this attack. Can you can you tell us what you've learned?

KHANNA: Well, it was a horrific attack that violated international law. I stand with President Biden and strongly, unequivocally condemning the attack. I'm grateful to our military that they were able to intercept many of the missiles. And I'm glad that Israel was able to intercept a lot of the missiles. And so far the only report is of a young girl who has been hurt, and I'm glad that there was not more loss of life.

SCIUTTO: As you know, President Biden has said the U.S. has an ironclad commitment to Israel's security, but he's also delivered a message quite publicly as well, given that a number of his aides have described it this way, to say that if Israel were to attack Iranian territory, the U.S. would not be involved. Is that a message you believe that Israel will heed?

KHANNA: I believe that the president is handling this exactly correctly. He positioned our military to be able to help intercept those missiles. And he did come to the aid of Israel. I have voted for and supported iron dome funding and the United States has provided a lot of defensive weapons to Israel that helped against these missiles. But the president is clear, we can't have an escalation of the conflict.

As you know, Jim, Iran is supporting Hezbollah and Hamas in the region. And while that conflict exists, if Israel now engages in retaliation then you can see the entire Middle East continue to flare up and the president is trying to save lives to get to peace and to deescalate the conflict.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Are you concerned that there are military responses by Israel to this attack? Military responses it can choose to carry out that would bring the us in whether it wants to or not.

KHANNA: No, because the United States is not getting into a war in the Middle East. I mean, I don't think the American people want that. I don't think there's any appetite in Congress to do that. I certainly would not vote for an authorization of force unless the American troops were directly attacked or America's homeland was attacked, and I just don't think that there's an appetite for us getting into another war in the Middle East.

I think what some of the most irresponsible rhetoric has been, some of my Republican colleagues who have been saying, let's retaliate and hit Iran. I think they've forgotten the disaster that the Iraq war was.

SCIUTTO: Yes. No question. OK, so here we are again with a not just to Israel, but to Ukraine and to Taiwan. As you know, supplemental, it's already passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The Republican House Speaker Johnson has not brought it to the floor for a vote. And now you have multiple directions this could take. He could choose this week just to put an Israeli aid package to the House floor, and not the supplemental which I know that you support.

What would you and other Democrats do if Republicans come to the floor and say, we're going to save Ukraine for another day or maybe never do it, but we want Israeli aid now? Would you vote for that? KHANNA: Again depends on what the package was. If it was defensive

aid, aid for iron dome, aid for some of the interceptors that Israel had to use, I would vote for that and support that. But if it includes $3.5 billion in offensive weapons I will not vote for that.

And Jim, there were 56 Democrats, including me and Speaker Pelosi and others, who wrote a letter to President Biden saying we should not be giving offensive weapons to Israel until the war ends. And so I think a lot depends on the details and whether there would be an amendment process.

SCIUTTO: The question also is, though, that if a package were to come, that whether you like it or not, whether that would then derail perhaps once and for all U.S. aid for Ukraine?


That there might an attempt, because as you know there are Republican members of the House, a minority, but Republican members who don't want any aid for Ukraine. Would you vote for an Israel package at risk of Ukraine aid effectively being dead?

KHANNA: Well, the details matter. I would of course insist that there'll be a Ukraine aid package or some clean bill, even if it's what Johnson, Speaker Johnson is saying on loans. That's better than nothing. I mean, the situation in Ukraine is dire and urgent. Israel, yes, they need to replenish some of the defensive weapons, but Ukraine, if they don't get the artillery, if they don't get the weapons, Putin is going to take it over. So I -- many Democrats are going to try to insist on getting a clean vote on the Ukraine bill.

SCIUTTO: And we should note that Ukraine is coming under missile and drone attacks every day largely on civilian targets and infrastructure.

Congressman Ro Khanna, always good to have you on.

KHANNA: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead this hour Iran unleashed a major attack against Israel and promised further action if Israel is to respond,. We're going to break down what is happening inside Iran as the world reacts to this attack.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.



SCIUTTO: Iranian officials are calling its attack on Israel last night retaliation for Israel's strike on Iran's consulate in Syria two weeks ago. Earlier today, the commander of Iran's armed forces said that for Iran the matter is now concluded but he said that could change if Israel were to retaliate.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins us now with the latest.

And Fred, we've heard somewhat conflicting words from Iranian officials here. They say it's concluded, but they also seem to be communicating that now they reserve the right to retaliate for any Israeli attack by striking back on Israeli territory.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Jim. And I think it's quite interesting to look at some of the messaging that we've been getting out of Tehran and from the Iranian officials. And also some of the nuances in that as well. One of the things that I picked on which I thought was really interesting was the fact they're obviously trying to sell this as a very successful operation as they put it.

The head of the IRGC, General Hossein Salami, he came out and he said that the Iranians originally had wanted a much broader attack, but then opted for something smaller and something targeting as they put it the military base or the airbase from which the Israelis, as the Iranians say, launched their attack on Iran's embassy compound in Damascus on April 1st. And they're saying that they feel that they were quite successful in that.

In fact, the Iranian just saying they believed that they were more successful than they ever would have thought. They did come out very quickly last night already as some of their drones and missiles were still in the air and said that as far as they were concerned, all of this could be deemed concluded, as they put it, except if the Israelis retaliate. And that does seem to be a more general position of the Iranians now.

That same IRGC commander, he came out and he said that Iran's new strategy is that if Israel attacks any sort of Iranian forces, Iranian personnel, whether in Iran or outside of Iran, that Iran will now retaliate from its own territory. Let's listen in.


HOSSEIN SALAMI, COMMANDER, ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS (through translator): We decided to create a new equation. And that is, if the Zionist regime attacks our interests, assets, personalities, and citizens at any point we will attack them from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The honest promise operation is a prominent and very clear example of this new equation.


PLEITGEN: It's quite a threat there coming from the Iranians, Jim, and of course, they're also threatening the United States as well, saying today the foreign minister that they don't want any escalation with the U.S. but that if the U.S. does come to the aid of Israel in an attack against Iran, that then U.S. military bases would become Iranian targets as well -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And that would be quite an escalation. No question.

Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Thanks so much. Still ahead, it's going to be an historic day in New York City

tomorrow. The first day of Donald Trump's first criminal trial begins ending with jury selection, details of what we should expect to see in that courtroom.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.



SCIUTTO: Donald Trump's first criminal trial is set to begin in less than 24 hours. A trial that had been nearly eight years in the making. Prosecutors alleged the former president falsified business records to cover up hush money payments made to influence the outcome of the 2016 election season.

CNN's Zachary Cohen joins us now.

So, Zach, jury selection begins tomorrow. What can we expect to see and how long do we expect it to last?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, Donald Trump will arrive in Lower Manhattan tomorrow as the first former president ever be put on trial for criminal charges. And look, there's been a flurry of last-minute attempt to derail the trial. We're poised to start jury selection tomorrow. They need to pick 12 jurors and several alternates who can render a fair verdict.

And obviously given all the circumstances, the unique circumstance around this case, that's a challenge for anybody involved in this case. We expect jurors, potential jurors be asked a series of questions about Donald Trump, about there are potential biases, either for or against him. One of them is if you do have any strong opinions about Donald Trump or the fact that he's a current candidate for president. So hundreds of people are going to be involved in the jury selection process.


They will face those questions and ultimately the goal is to get to 12 jurors and a handful of alternates then they will watch Donald Trump throughout the rest of the trial. The jury selection process could take at least a week, but the trial itself is supposed to take about two months, so, you know, we're just at the start of what could be an extended process, but one that could be the only trial of Donald Trump's four criminal cases to go to trial before the 2024 election.

SCIUTTO: It's possible. Zach Cohen, thanks so much.

We'll be following of course. CNN will have special coverage of this historic trial starting at 9:00 Eastern Time tomorrow morning.

Much more news straight ahead.