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U.S. Official: Iran's Attacks on Israel Appear to Have Subsided; Biden Tells Israel U.S. Won't Participate in Any Offensive Operation Against Iran; IDF: Most Missiles and Drones Intercepted Outside Israel; U.S. Forces Intercepted 70 Plus Drones, At Least 3 Ballistic Missiles. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 00:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. A massive wave of Iranian attacks on Israel appear to have subsided, say U.S. officials. This is what it all looked like, though, just a few hours ago.

The IDF says Iran fired more than 200 missiles and drones on Israel overnight. With the vast majority of them shot down before reaching Israeli airspace, including by U.S. forces stationed in the region, Tehran called a response to an Israeli strike on Iran's embassy in Damascus earlier this month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden on the phone. He told Mr. Netanyahu, Biden did, the attacks were largely unsuccessful, which he described as a win for Israel.

Our MJ Lee has learned the President told the Israeli Prime Minister the U.S. will not take part in any Israeli offensive action against Iran. President Biden will meet G7 leaders on Sunday to coordinate a united response to Iran's action among its allies in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu addressed his nation earlier today.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Citizens of Israel, in recent years and especially in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for a direct attack by Iran. Our defensive systems are deployed. We are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively. The State of Israel is strong. The IDF is strong. The public is strong.


SCIUTTO: In Iran, however, celebrations broke out on the streets after the strikes. Our Nic Robertson is in Jerusalem. Our Paula Hancocks in Abu Dhabi. First to you, Nic Robertson. You have the Israeli Prime Minister addressing the nation there, describing Israel strong in the wake of these strikes. I imagine now we can expect a strong response from Israel to these strikes. What is -- what are you hearing on the ground there in Israel about the possibilities?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It certainly seems that the Prime Minister will -- is leaning that way and President Biden is clearly advising against it or certainly putting a limitation on how far Prime Minister Netanyahu can go. I mean, that seems to be clear at this stage. I think there are still details we're waiting to get on the ground here, Jim, and we understand the IDF spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, is going to be speaking pretty much right around now.

So I think a better assessment of him and a more detailed assessment of the damage that some of these missiles caused, if he chooses to give it, Nevatim Airbase, for example, does seem to be, that area did seem to get a significant number of strikes. And in his last briefing, Hagari, Hagari, did say that a number of missiles had gotten through. He did indicate that the damage was light.

But I think it's in those sorts of assessments, how many missiles actually found their targets, how accurate were they? That's certainly going to inform for the Prime Minister and his war cabinet when they meet how strong and firm their response to Iran should be, if they're going to have one. President Biden is telling him, take it as a win.

But I think until we see the details, and perhaps with daylight, that's going to help as well, until we see the details of how much damage was done and how much of a threat, let's say another round of Iranian missiles would cost Israel if Israel was to strike again at Iranian interests. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps figures, let's say, in Syria again. And if Iran was to choose to respond, Israel is going to put all of that in the calculation about what it needs to do next.


SCIUTTO: No question, Nic Robertson. Paula Hancocks in Abu Dhabi. Prior to this attack, a lot of countries in the region there, including countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran -- with Israel, have been unhappy with the progress of Israel's war in Gaza. There have been deep public and private splits. That said, many of those countries are not particularly happy with Iranian activities in the region. I wonder what response are you hearing in the region to this massive Iranian attack on Israel?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it's interesting because there is this delicate balancing act that many of these countries in this region have to play. You're right. They have been consistently saying for months now that there needs to be a ceasefire in Gaza, calling for more humanitarian aid to go in.

And they have made their feelings very clear when it comes to their anger at what has been happening in Gaza at this point. And then when you hear from the Iranians themselves, they are justifying this by saying that it was an act of self-defense because of what happened on April 1st, talking about the strike on the Israeli -- excuse me, the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed two Revolutionary Guard commanders and five others, something that Tehran has blamed on Israel. Israel has not claimed responsibility at this point.

But it does go to show that there is this delicate balancing act. For example, in Amman in Jordan, we have images showing that there were missiles or drones, some projectile being shot down in that area as well. It was filmed from the ground, of course, just to the east of Israel itself.

So it shows how difficult it is for some of these countries. These are countries, for example, with Jordan that have U.S. assets there, that have relations with Israel, also with the United States, but also have been calling for a ceasefire and do not want to be seen as collaborating in any shape or form with Israel or with the United States. So it is a very difficult situation.

But when it comes to what we're hearing from Tehran, the message is quite clear that they believe that they have done enough to show deterrence when it comes to what happened on April 1st, that they have shown retaliation. And one of the quotes from the Iranians was, quote, "the matter can be deemed concluded." So as far as they're concerned, they have done what they needed to do.

But, of course, it's not up to them whether or not it's concluded at this point. The question is, what do the Israelis do next? And they have also had an answer for that, saying that if there is more Israeli aggression, Iran's response will be, quote, "stronger and more resolute."


SCIUTTO: Listen, people talk about an escalation ladder. We're in the midst of one right now. And the question is, what are the next steps?

Nic Robertson, Paula Hancocks, thanks so much to both of you.

Wes Bryant is a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, author of, "Hunting the Caliphate: America's War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell." He joins us now from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Good to have you on, sir. It strikes me that one headline from these attacks, some 200 missiles and drones, including ballistic missiles that went into space, and at least one of them apparently struck down in space by Israel's aero system, but also the U.S. taking part in this, striking down as many as 70 of these missiles and drones, with very little damage in Israel and no casualties, it appears, in Israel. That's remarkable.

Strikes me a headline of this is that they're getting very good at shooting down missiles like this, that the layers of defense, Israeli, U.S., and other partners in the region worked here.

MASTER SGT. WES BRYANT, U.S. AIR FORCE (ret.): Yes, I'm -- I'm -- I think we're all relieved that there have been no Israeli casualties. And you're absolutely right. This shows the -- the, you know, level of technical ability and tactical ability of the IDF and of the U.S. That's a positive thing. And I think, you know, Iran definitely took note.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Even though none of these missiles and drones appear to have gotten through to any targets, can we still assume that Iran's intent here was to kill? They fired a lot directly at Israeli territory, which they have not done in the past, an enormous swarm of missiles and drones. The fact that they didn't get through should not, I imagine, lead us to assume that they didn't want them to get through?


BRYANT: Yes. You know, if you look at the response to the U.S. strike on General Soleimani back in 2020, you know, the Iranian response, which was missile barrage. It was against our troops in Iraq, fell short. We did have a lot of injuries, of course, but luckily no deaths. And I think it's the same here. I just think technologically and tactically, really, Iranians just are not nearly as capable.

So, to me, this was a bit of, you know, throwing a bunch of darts at a dartboard and seeing what stuck. So, for them, it's a little bit of a test as well to see if this escalates, you know, where are we at in comparison with the IDF right now.

SCIUTTO: One target that Iran did not shoot at are U.S. forces in the region. And there are a whole host of U.S. forces in the region, on the ground, in Syria, in Iraq. There are a number of U.S. assets in the Red Sea, in the Persian Gulf, in the eastern Mediterranean. It has, and Iranian proxies have in the past, fired at U.S. forces. They did not tonight. That's significant because there had been some concern that they might do so. Was that deliberate, in your view, to avoid a direct confrontation for now between Iran and the U.S.?

BRYANT: It was absolutely deliberate. I think Iran treads that line very well. You know, after the proxy attacks on Tower 22 a few months ago, the Iranian proxy force attacks, you know, Iran was quick to come out publicly and state that they had nothing to do with those attacks. So, they don't really want to escalate to the point where the U.S. is taking military action. And I think there, they're actually strategically being a little bit smarter because they're able to play that game, if you will, to do as much as they can until the U.S. gets involved. That's what it appears, anyway.

SCIUTTO: And now you have the U.S. President communicating to the Israeli Prime Minister the U.S. will not be involved if Israel chooses to strike Iran directly. Wes Bryant, good to have you on. Thanks so much for joining us.

BRYANT: Yes. Thank you. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: We are learning more about exactly how the U.S. helped Iran fend off these attacks. We're going to go to the Pentagon as our breaking news coverage continues. Plus, what the direct Iranian attack on Israel could mean for the rest

of the region and for Iran's global partners. That and much more as our breaking news coverage continues.



SCIUTTO: The sun is up in the Middle East now, and U.S. officials say a wave of Iranian strikes on Israel appears to have now subsided after about five hours of attacks. The U.S. President Joe Biden told the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a phone call earlier that he should consider tonight a win. Officials say Iran's strikes were largely unsuccessful, demonstrated Israel's superior military capability, along with that of the U.S., but on the streets of Tehran, some are celebrating, waving both Palestinian and Hezbollah flags.

Iran's attack was in retaliation for a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel. Israel has not claimed responsibility.

CNN's MJ Lee joins me now from the White House. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. And, MJ Lee, you described earlier that phone call between Biden and Netanyahu with some very clear and direct messages, some of support, but also, it seems, the limitations of that support for Israel and its potential responses.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jim, and if I could start with the official White House readout from the President's call with the Israeli Prime Minister, because I think the language there is notable. It said, "I've just spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu to reaffirm America's ironclad commitment to the security of Israel. I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks, sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel."

So, quite clear there that the President is indicating here that, in his view, Iran was not successful in what it was attempting to do. And what I'm told by a senior administration official, Jim, tonight, is that the President, in his phone call with the Israeli Prime Minister, said you should consider the events of tonight basically a win because Iran's attacks were largely unsuccessful.

Now, the data points that U.S. officials are pointing to here is the fact that the majority of the drones and the missiles that Iran had launched against Israel were all intercepted, including more than 100 ballistic missiles. They were all knocked out of the sky, and what U.S. officials are saying is that basically nothing of value was hit.

Now, the other important headline, according to this official I spoke with about that phone call, is that the President also indicated to the Prime Minister clearly that the U.S. is not going to be involved in any offensive operations that Israel might launch against Iran. So, that is a really important note for us to emphasize here because we're talking so much about, you know, the U.S.'s involvement, what the U.S. might or might not condone, and obviously they're coming from a place of wanting to make sure that the situation doesn't escalate.

But right now, our indication is that the President himself directly conveyed to the Israeli Prime Minister this is sort of where it ends. You know, we will do everything we can, as demonstrated tonight, that we will come to your country's defense, but if you decide to retaliate, launch a counter-operation against Iran, excuse me, we are not going to be playing a role in that.


Now, the President's statement also did say that U.S. assets and personnel were not attacked tonight. That, obviously, is also going to be of huge relief to this White House, given how important it was that, that not materialized and the warnings that the U.S. had sent directly to Iran, basically saying, don't even think about coming after us and coming after our assets in the region.

Now, I think the sort of the space of what U.S. officials in the coming hours and coming days might potentially sort of say to their Israeli counterparts to, again, possibly urge them to practice restraint, you can easily imagine that being the advice that U.S. officials may give Israelis at this point. That's sort of the space, I think, that we need to be in and we need to continue reporting out in the hours and days to come, given that that is very much what the White House hopes to see. They do not want this to escalate even more than it has.

SCIUTTO: And, of course, it'll be up to the Israeli Prime Minister and others to make their own decisions how they respond, and do they listen to that U.S. limitation. And, MJ Lee, thank you.

Oren Lieberman at the Pentagon. So this was quite a remarkable defense against what was a quite remarkable Iranian assault on Israeli territory here. Can you describe the numbers in this and exactly how U.S. and Israeli forces manage this defense?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Of course, and I'll pick up on a few points from MJ here. The U.S. had promised it was committed to Israel's defense, and it very much showed that. According to two U.S. officials, U.S. forces intercepted more than 70 drones that were targeted towards Israel. That interception included fighter jets, although it's unclear what types of fighter jets. The U.S. has a number in the region, including F-15s and F-16s. It's also unclear if there were also ground-based aerial defense systems that were part of that interception. But the number itself is what's significant here. More than 70 Iranian drones targeting Israel were intercepted by U.S. forces.

In addition, at least three ballistic missiles were intercepted by U.S. warships operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. There are two U.S. destroyers there that picked off at least three, potentially four of those ballistic missiles. This is possibly the first-time warships based or operating in the eastern Med have intercepted launches like this since the beginning of the war. We have seen intercepts by warships in the Red Sea, but if I'm not mistaken, not yet in the eastern Med. So the U.S. clearly is showing that it will work with Israel on its own defense. And after that, what wasn't picked up was largely intercepted by Israel's own aerial defense arrays, which are very capable and very significant.

In terms of the conversations between the U.S. and Israel, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, several hours ago. According to a U.S. official familiar with the contents of that call, the U.S. asked to be updated and notified when Israel carried out a potential response to this Iranian attack. So the U.S. and Israel trying to stay on the same page, we clearly saw they were on the defense. Will they stay together on the same page moving forward here? That's what we're all looking at, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Remind me, Oren, the U.S. was not happy that it was not given a heads-up prior to what Israel has not acknowledged, but it is believed an Israeli strike on those Iranian military leaders in Damascus, correct?

LIEBERMANN: Correct, and that's the source of this request for a notification or an update. The U.S. was not given a heads-up before that presumptive Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. In fact, the notification was given with warplanes already in the air, so impossible on that short notice, especially given how close Damascus is to Israel, to notify not only the Pentagon but also the other parts of the U.S. national security apparatus that would certainly want to know information like that.

SCIUTTO: No question. Oren Liebermann, thanks so much.

Iran's permanent mission to the United Nations issued a statement late Saturday night warning Israel against, quote, "any military aggression," again, and condemning the U.N. Security Council for, quote, "failing to uphold international peace."

Joining me now to discuss where this goes from here is Nicole Grajewski. She's a Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thanks so much for joining tonight.


SCIUTTO: So after this strike on Israel, Iran is declaring it concluded. That's at least from Iran's perspective, but there is enormous expectation that Israel responds to this. Tell us what are the potential scenarios here for an Israeli military response.


GRAJEWSKI: Well, there's various scenarios that we could see occurring. Israel could target Iran directly, Iranian territory, including Iranian nuclear facilities. This, of course, is unprecedented. In the past, Israel has conducted covert operations against Iranian military territory including Iranian nuclear facilities, but this would obviously be escalatory. It is directly on Iranian territory.

Israel could also target Iranian assets in Syria, and this has been something that has occurred in the past as well, beyond the April 1st attack in Damascus. Israel has frequently targeted Iranian assets there.

So, there's a wide range of responses in terms of Israel, but there is also kind of the extent of this and how far will this go. I mean, obviously, Iran's message from the U.N. mission was essentially an effort at de-escalation. However, it's unlikely that the Israelis are really going to take it as that and acquiesce essentially to Iranian strikes on its territory.

SCIUTTO: Now, while Israel has targeted, for instance, Iranian nuclear scientists, targeted killings on Iranian territory, to have a military missile or airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be new. And I wonder, is that something that Israel could do without U.S. involvement? And, I suppose, if it were to do it, would that draw the U.S. into a conflict? Would Iran hold the U.S. responsible for such an attack?

GRAJEWSKI: Well, Israel certainly has the capabilities to do so. From what we're seeing from the Iranians, it doesn't seem like they'd like the United States to be involved in this. And so, at least from the Iranian perspective, it seems like they'd like to keep it between Iran and Israel.

There's been statements warning regional states against Israel using Iranian airspace. So there's been this effort to keep it contained between Iran and Israel. It's unlikely that Iran would encourage any kind of attacks on the United States just because Iran does understand the capabilities the United States has, which is obviously far more superior than Israel's.

That being said, Israel does have the capability to do so and to launch strikes on Iranian territory. So Iran didn't go into this with the assumption that Israel wouldn't retaliate. I think that's quite clear. And this is probably something that was a tradeoff when Iran was contemplating whether or not to strike Israeli territory directly.

So there is an anticipation. There's been movements, at least from open-source information, movements of missile defense systems within Iran. So there is an anticipation that potentially this would result in a direct military strike on Iran.

SCIUTTO: You focus on nuclear policy at Carnegie. Are there potentials for a nuclear escalation in this conflict, depending on how Israel responds and how Iran might respond to any Israeli response?

GRAJEWSKI: Well, I guess the nuclear dimension of this would actually have to do with Iran's civilian nuclear program. It's very unlikely Israel is going to use a nuclear weapon to respond to Iran. But Iran does have a nuclear program that is really intensifying and growing in terms of its work with fissile materials. So that's essentially what you need to make a nuclear weapon and also some of its research and development. So Iran's nuclear program has been growing exponentially since the

Trump administration's withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal. But Iran hasn't made the political decision to weaponize or to convert its civilian program into one of military nature.

And you can potentially see Iran holding this over the whole conflict. It has loomed large about Iran's potential to break out. And so that's, I think, the nuclear dimension of the conflict. It's not so much a nuclear strike either by Israel or Iran potentially weaponizing and responding in that sense.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, by some estimates, Iran already has the fissile material to make perhaps more than one nuclear weapon, if it were to decide to make that leap. Nicole Grajewski, thanks so much for joining us this evening.

GRAJEWSKI: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Well, daylight is now revealing what damage Iran was able to inflict with its direct attack on Israeli territory.

Coming up, we're going to take a look at what this day could bring.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. The United States believes the immediate threat of Iranian missile and drone attacks on Israel has subsided for now. That's after Tehran fired a barrage of more than 200 missiles and drones over the span of five hours overnight.

Iran's Ambassador to the U.N. says the strikes targeted Israeli military sites this in retaliation for an alleged Israeli strike on Syria which killed seven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officials. Israel's military says, its forces and U.S. forces intercepted most of the Iranian missiles and drones over the night with the vast majority of them destroyed outside Israeli territory.

In the hours before daybreak, Iran's proxy Hezbollah launched dozens of projectiles from Lebanon into northern Israel. Now Israel's three- man war cabinet is weighing its response to the attack just moments ago. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu posted on X formerly Twitter, "We have intercepted, we have contained, together we shall win."

I want to speak down to Fabian Hinz. He's a Research Fellow for Defense and Military Analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Thanks so much for joining tonight.


SCIUTTO: Was this attack a failure by Iran? HINZ: Well, I will have to say we will probably have to wait a little longer to get independent confirmation for the amount of damage that attack occurred -- incurred within Israel. But so far the statements made by both the U.S. and by Israeli officials indicate that Iran hasn't really been able to penetrate Israeli defenses to the degree that it wanted to.


And I would say if that turns out to be true it's a huge problem for Iran. Because their deterrence relies on missiles, their deterrence relies on drones and if it becomes obvious that they are not capable of inflicting a lot of damage, then that deterrence potential will be degraded.

SCIUTTO: It's a good point here because the combination of Israeli defenses which are layered. It's good, they go far beyond Iron Dome, which is for lower altitude threats right up to -- to Arrow, which extends into ballistic missiles fired through space, but also U.S. forces in the region, both fighter jets, surface ships that shot down, well, 70 some odd drones and missiles that were part of this attack here. What does that show you beyond Iran of the combined U.S. and Israeli capability to manage attacks such as this? Because this was a -- this was a big attack.

HINZ: You know, technology is advancing, and the West has been quite concerned about ballistic missiles and drones, because with these systems, you can really attack the depth of the adversary, even if you don't have air superiority. And for the West, it was always a big issue that they had air superiority and their hinterland, their rear areas were safe. So these systems have been a large concern. But now that we can see that missile defenses have gotten better and better, that concern might become a little less urgent than it has been previously.

SCIUTTO: I spoke earlier with a Republican congressman, Mike Lawler, and I asked him if this strike might push through this supplemental, this additional military aid package with aid intended for Israel, not just for Israel, but also for Ukraine and Taiwan. It's been sitting there. Republicans in the House have been blocking it. Might this push it to the floor finally, this attack on Israel? I want to play the question and how the Congressman responded and get your thoughts. Have a listen.


SCIUTTO: Congressman, as you know, Republican Speaker Johnson has delayed putting the supplemental to a vote on the floor, which includes aid both to Israel and to Ukraine. Do you call on him now to do so this week?

MIKE LAWLER, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Look, I believe very strongly we need to get aid to Israel, to Ukraine, and to Taiwan. It's why I've introduced defending borders, defending democracies, which would provide 66 billion in lethal aid, as well as border security here in the United States. We have to recognize the threat at our own southern border.

But let me be very clear about this. House Republicans passed aid to Israel back in November of last year. Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats sat on that for months, refusing to take up that supplemental aid package for Israel. We obviously have to work together to get this done. So yes, I'm calling on Speaker Johnson to bring a bill to the floor this week. I'm calling on Chuck Schumer and the White House to work with House Republicans. We are in a divided government. We have to work together. There has to be compromise. We need to help Israel. We need to help Ukraine. We need to help Taiwan. And we need to secure our own borders. The world is under attack. And we all have a responsibility and an obligation to get this done.


SCIUTTO: Is it possible, Fabian Hinz, that Iran has just done Ukraine a favor tonight? That this might be the event that gets that aid package across the finish line?

HINZ: Well, I would say that depends on American internal politics in the end. I would say that Ukraine has actually made similar experiences to Israel in the way that American-made, Western-made air and missile defenses have turned out to be quite formidable without Russian threat. What Ukraine has also shown is that you need the numbers and that the stockpiles that are available in the West are not endless and that wrapping up production takes a lot of time.

So I guess now the big question is, whereas America lie your global commitments? What do you prioritize? And how do you assign the arsenal that you have?

SCIUTTO: No question. Fabian Hinz, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

HINZ: Thanks so much.

SCIUTTO: Our breaking news coverage continues after a short break.



SCIUTTO: Let's review again what we know now of Iran's strikes on Israel. These are scenes from the streets of Tehran after word came out that Iran had launched its attack several hours ago. Celebrations on the streets there.

The IDF says the Iranian strikes involved more than 200 drones and ballistic missiles, it says, however, most were shot down before reaching Israel's airspace. U.S. President Joe Biden set to meet with G7 leaders on Sunday to coordinate a united response among Israel's allies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he will consult allies in the hours ahead.

Mr. Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Israel's security, but saying the U.S. will not participate in any Israeli offensive operation directly against Iran. The Prime Minister posted on X, formerly Twitter, "We have intercepted. We have contained, together we shall win."

The latest international reaction is coming from China, which expressed deep concern, called the escalation a spillover from the war in Gaza. Hours before Iran strikes on Israel, an Israeli-linked container ship was seized by the Revolutionary Guard Corps near the Strait of Hormuz. This, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

CNN's Paula Newton joins us now with more. This is -- is this considered an element of the broader attack, that this seizure was tied somehow to these drone and missile strikes on Israel?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, given the fact that it was carried out by the Revolutionary Guard, its Navy Corps, likely that is. And, in fact, it's not such a subtle message, right, Jim? You and I both know from the Iranian regime saying, look, we have other things that we can do, and ones that strike at the very heart of the global economy and specifically the U.S. economy. And this is why we're looking at that very dramatic video. This was a container ship that, again, was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.


Now, it's run by a company that's called Zodiac Maritime. What's key here, though, is that it is apparently linked to an Israeli businessman.

Now, what's important here is where they did this. This was very close to the Strait of Hormuz, basically responsible for the shipment of about one in five barrels of oil per day. It is a choke point. But, Jim, as you know well, this is also a strategic asset, a weapon even, for Iran when they choose to use it. It's basically a message saying that we can stall supplies of energy and other goods through that strait there if we feel we need to.

And it comes at a particularly vulnerable time for the Biden administration. It's trying to deal with inflation, trying to make sure that those gas prices, oil prices, you know, stay where they are and do not elevate anymore. I mean, Jim, look, oil prices already at nearly six-month highs. They had already priced in something like this. Jim, I would say that it's not out of the question that oil might even go down when the markets open at the beginning of the week.

But that's not the point. The point is this will continue to be a very vulnerable point and leverage point that Iran will use. And it is a reminder, again, directly to the U.S. administration not to get involved because it can cause headaches on the global stage.

SCIUTTO: No question. A lot of ways to inflict pain beyond military power, including economic means. Paula Newton, thanks so much.

And our breaking news coverage of the Iranian strikes on Israel continues after a short break.



SCIUTTO: We just have an update in, as you look at live pictures there of Jerusalem as day breaks in Israel. Update from the IDF, the Israeli military says that 99% of Iranian missiles and drones fired at Israel were intercepted. And that there were more than 300 projectiles fired. This is higher than we knew until recently. The estimate had been around 200. So, a significant increase in the number of Iranian drones and missiles fired at Israel. And yet, 99% of them intercepted.

The Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson, Admiral Daniel Hagari, went on to say, only a small number of ballistic missiles reached Israel. The remaining ballistic missiles, all cruise missiles, and all drones intercepted before reaching Israeli territory. Quite a large number of Iranian missiles and drones fired.

In addition to that update, the U.N. Secretary General released a statement a short time ago saying, I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation. I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East. I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford war. Those are the words of the U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

The U.N. Security Council will convene later today, Sunday, following a request from Israel's U.N. ambassador. Iran's mission to the U.N. is warning that if Israel commits what it called any further military aggression, Tehran's response will be, quote, "stronger and more resolute." CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more on what we're hearing from Iran.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Iranians have said that the massive strikes that they unleashed on Israeli territory were a direct retaliation for the strikes on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus that, of course, the Iranians say killed several top-level members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Now, the Israelis, of course, have not claimed responsibilities for those strikes in Damascus, but the Iranians have said that they do hold Israel accountable for it, and so they say that right now the retaliation was for exactly that. The Iranians put out a statement earlier where they said that with this retaliation, as they put it, the matter can be deemed to be concluded. In other words, it could stop there, but the Iranians are also saying that all of that, of course, depends on the United States and depends very much on Israel as well.

In fact, the Iranians are saying that if Israel does decide to take this further, to retaliate once again, that then the Iranians would, for their part, also launch what they call a proportional response to all that. The Iranians were saying that the strikes that they conducted, which, of course, involved a lot of drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, that they consider that to be an act of self-defense, as they put it. At the same time, they warned both the United States and Israel not to take things even further.

One nuance that was very important in all of this is that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps actually put out a statement as well where they also said that they hold the U.S. accountable for any actions that Israel would take and told the U.S., as they said, to stay out of the matter.

Of course, the Iranians threaten the United States quite frequently in the Middle East. One of the things that we've heard repeatedly from Iranian officials, but also from former members of the IRGC, is that they say the United States needs to understand that next to every military base, or almost every military base that the U.S. has in the Middle East, that there is an Iranian-backed militia out there that could attack U.S. assets in the Middle East. So certainly, the Iranians are saying that for the U.S., this could get very real. But at the same time, they also say that they don't want this matter to be taken any further.

However, they do say that if the Israelis do launch attacks against Iranian territory, that Iran would be ready. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


SCIUTTO: The latest wave of Iranian strikes against Israel appears now to have subsided. Israel's war cabinet weighing its response to this attack. The Israeli military said, Sunday, as we noted a short time ago, that about 99% of more than 300 projectiles, that is drones and missiles, fired at Israel by Iran were intercepted. Only a small number of ballistic missiles reached Israel. With the remaining ballistic missiles, all cruise missiles and all drones intercepted before reaching Israeli territory. This from the IDF spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.


An official says U.S. President Joe Biden told the Israeli Prime Minister, he should actually see the response to the attack as a win since Iran was largely unsuccessful and Israel's superior military capability was put on display along with U.S. help in shooting down many of those missiles and drones.

I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us this evening. Our breaking news coverage continues after a short break with Becky Anderson, live from Abu Dhabi.