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U.S. and U.K. Strike Iran-Backed Houthi Targets in Yemen; Iranian Navy Seizes Oil Tanker Involved in U.S. Sanctions Dispute; Powerful Winter Storm Set to Wallop Eastern Half of U.S. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 12, 2024 - 05:00   ET




Retaliation. The U.S. and the U.K. hit back at Houthi rebels who've been taking shots at commercial ships in the Red Sea.

Plus, wild weather, blizzard warnings to the north, severe thunderstorms in the south. It's going to make a tough day for Friday travel.

And the final countdown to Iowa. Just three days to go until the caucuses and one of the biggest headlines has nothing to do with any of the candidates


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Friday, January 12th. It's 05:00 a.m. here in Washington.

We have breaking news overnight. The U.S. and the United Kingdom with a forceful response to the recent surge in attacks by the Iran-backed militant group against commercial ships in the Red Sea.

Planes and missiles hitting Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The Pentagon says upwards of 60 targets and at least 16 locations in Yemen were struck to disrupt the rebel group's capabilities.


MAJ. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We reserve the right to protect and defend our forces, to defend the global trade that transits through the Red Sea, and to take necessary steps to again, make sure that the Houthis understand loud and clear that it's unacceptable to the international community to continue to conduct these -- these reckless, dangerous, and illegal attacks against commercial shipping


HUNT: Targets include radar systems, storage, and launch sites for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones. The Houthis say they're retaliating, but General Ryder said that so far, there have been no signs of that.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now from Abu Dhabi.

Paula, good morning to you.

For weeks, the U.S. has been trying to avoid direct strikes because of the risk of escalation in the region. Obviously, there's already so much tension. President Biden said last night, quote, that he won't hesitate to direct further measures. What's next here?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, certainly the concern is that this could escalate. We've heard from the Houthis themselves in Yemen saying that they will retaliate. We don't know in what kind of form that would be at this point because what we don't know at this point is whether or not the U.S. and U.K. militaries was successful in taking out all of the targets that they wanted to destroy. The U.S. military, saying that the intention of this was to degrade the Houthis' ability to be able to target commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

Now, the U.S. has opened the door, left the door open to make sure that they can carry on on more attacks. So, this may not just be an isolated target, targeted strike at from the U.S.

Now, the U.K. junior defense minister has said that at this point, there's no imminent plans for further strikes, but of course, they will want to see how successful those overnight strikes were. Now, of course, the concerns are, what will this do to the rest of the region? Will some of the other Iranian-backed, Iranian-funded and Iranian- equipped groups decide that they want to carry out so-called sympathetic strikes in support of the Houthis, or will this be an isolated event?

Now, we have seen that this is an international effort. It is not just the U.S. and U.K. militaries. They have support, they said from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, the Netherlands. They had also a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Houthis and asking them to stop.

And we have heard from countless U.S. officials, including the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who was just here in the region that if the Houthis didn't stop trying to target commercial vessels in the Red Sea, then there would be consequences.

Now, we know that these plans have been in place by the U.S. military for some time. And it was just waiting for the political go ahead to carry it out. The U.S. President Joe Biden deciding that the time had come that this was necessary after a significant attack by the Houthi rebels against what they said was a U.S. commercial vessel, according to one U.S. official, back on Tuesday. Twenty-one drones and missiles were shot down by the U.S. and U.K. navies -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Paula Hancocks for us in Abu Dhabi -- Paula, thank you. Let's bring in now, CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier.

Kim, good morning to you.

The intent of the National Security Council was to try to defer future attacks. How much risk do you see here in terms of the possible expansion of the conflict in the region?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, initially, what this is going to be is a gut punch for the Houthis in terms of losing equipment. A lot of this equipment was costly, expensive. Now, they've been waging war for a long time, a civil war, and they still have stockpiles that can go and move into position and drones, for instance, are fairly quick to replace. But still, it should delay them for a couple of weeks or so. I'm sure that's what military planners are hoping that this strike caused.

But in terms of a wider war, Iran probably is going to shrewdly stay silent right now. It will condemn this, but it's getting what it wants. It's getting the frustration of shipping. It is creating this low-grade intensity of instability in that area that is costly for the U.S. and the U.K. And anyone who's supporting the Palestinians -- who is supporting the Israeli effort against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

HUNT: So, the Houthis, you mentioned what Iran was going to do. The Houthis have promised to respond. Their leader put this statement out on social media a short time ago saying, quote, the American British strikes are barbaric terrorist and are a deliberate and unjustified aggression that reflects a brutal psychology.

Iran condemned the strikes this morning. You suggested this is what was going to happen. They called it, quote, a violation of international law.

Do you expect that that's going to be the extent of the response from Iran? And what do you think the possibilities are in terms of these Houthi threats to retaliate?

I think when the Houthis get the equipment that they need into position, that they will attempt to retaliate? And what you're going to likely see is a back-and-forth between the Houthi militants attacking the shipping, the warships, when they can.

But some of this equipment will be expensive to replace. Iran has supplied a lot of this through its own shipping in the region. Of course, this will probably lead to confrontations where U.S., U.K., other vessels try to stop Iranian resupply. So I think were seeing the opening salvo in the U.S. and U.K. and western response, but certainly not an end to this conflict.

HUNT: What do you think the ramifications are for President Joe Biden in this right now? He obviously is facing a reelection here at home and increasing number of voters, usually foreign policy is pretty far back on the scale. But as we've seen these conflicts escalate, more voters are telling us in polls that they care a lot about these issues.

What are the pressures on him right now?

DOZIER: Well, the shipping costs were getting to the point where you're going to start noticing it when you go to the store, when you tried to buy furniture, when you tried to buy anything that goes through that major transport route. And costs have been escalating because the ships have had to take other routes around Africa to save money. But that adds about ten days onto the trip and so its going to hit people's pocketbooks.

Also, I've been hearing rumbles in the military community and the diplomatic community that the Houthis keep getting away with this. Something's got to be done to stop them. You know, the GOP rallying cry is that Joe Biden is weak. This is a counterpunch to that to show that Joe Biden can take military action decisively to protect U.S. interests and business interests in that area.

HUNT: All right, Kim Dozier, for us. Kim, thank you very much for that.

All right. Still ahead here, the Midwest bracing for blizzard light conditions, part of the winter storm set to wallop the U.S.

Plus, Donald Trump's monologue outside the courtroom after his civil fraud trial in New York wraps up.



HUNT: Welcome back.

New attacks in the waters of the Middle East with the Iranian navy seizing a Greek-owned oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. Armed men reportedly wearing masks, boarded the vessel known as the St. Nicholas, an ordered it to sale to an Iranian port. Iran says its retaliation for when the same ship was seized by U.S. sanctions enforcement. It's an operation was taking Iranian oil to China.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster.

Max, good morning. Always good to see you.

So, this seizure comes on the heels of the secretary of state, the U.S. Secretary State Blinken's trip to the region.

He was trying to cool tensions. What do you think this means in the context of that?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's been interpreted, you know, a lot of people in the region quite confused by a whole week really shuttling through this region, trying to talk about not allowing the Gaza war to inflame the region and widen the war. Then as soon as we get to the end of the week, you have U.S. and U.K.

fighter jets working together to take out Houthi targets, which many people in the region would argue was a trap by the Houthis but also will certainly inflame tensions in the region.

So, that's how its being interpreted from that region. Obviously, from the Western perspective, this is about protecting a waterway that's key to the global economy. And if it's blocked, then global inflation goes up.

HUNT: Yeah, Max, I mean, let's talk about those strikes a little bit more too, because this was obviously a joint operation between the U.S. and the U.K. But there is a supportive coalition as well.

What does it tell you that honestly, these nations got together at this point and said enough is enough?

FOSTER: Well, you know, economics is big driver of it? And, you know, one argument is they want to prevent a wider war.


And by clamping down on the Houthis, that is one solution to that.

This is some imagery I got sent today from the British ministry of defense and it shows attacks in Yemen on those Houthi targets. You know, speaking to analysts earlier, who's a big expert on this region and he's saying right from the beginning of this crisis, the Houthis have always messaged to that region that America will get involved in this war and the Houthis obviously sympathetic with Hamas.

So, they're now arguing that the Americans have entered the war, and that is falling into their trap, perhaps countering intuitive because it actually allows the Houthis to attack back harder, and now were concerned that they might even start attacking Saudi Arabia harder as well, inflaming this whole, you know, access attention across that region.

Also, he was arguing that the Houthis wanted to be legitimized. And this is legitimizing them, increases their authority in the region as an Iranian proxy. So it plays more to the Houthis and it does to the West, although the West would argue probably, that -- we need to be able to protect that shipping lane.

But the Houthis could, in theory, block that parts of the Red Sea as well, which should have a huge impact. And that would be their ultimate sanction. I think economically and to have that global impact.

HUNT: Yeah, it sure would.

All right. Max Foster for us in London -- Max, I have wonderful weekend. Thanks very much.

FOSTER: And to you, Kasie. HUNT: All right. Still ahead here, what the first lady is saying

about House Republicans as her son pleads not guilty to tax charges in California. And blizzard like conditions expected in parts of the country. And it could have a huge impact come caucus day in Iowa. We'll have that next



HUNT: Quick hits across America now.

The Pentagon watchdog has reviewing transfer of power policies after Defense Secretary Austin's hospitalization. It's separate from the internal Pentagon review of the notification procedures.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to federal tax charges in California. First Lady Jill Biden slammed House Republicans yesterday for leading the probe.


JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: I think what they are doing to Hunter is cruel and I'm really proud of how hunter has rebuilt his life after addiction. You know, I'm -- I love my son and it's had -- it's hurt my grandchildren.


HUNT: The trial has been set for June 20th and the FAA investigating Boeing's quality control after that door plug flew off of an Alaska Airlines flight. Boeing also faces a class action suit on behalf of passengers in Washington state.

All right. For the third time this week, a powerful storm is set to unleash severe thunderstorms in the Southeast. And we have heavy snow and potential blizzard conditions in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. If else got rain and flooding expected here in the Northeast.

Our weatherman, Derek Van Dam, is tracking all of it.

Derek, you've got a lot going on.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. To say that we are busy is the understatement of the year. Every single U.S. state, including Alaska and Hawaii, is under some sort of weather alert, ranging from winter storms to severe weather.

Here it is. This is a very broad stroke view of what's happening, but I want but get down to the nitty-gritty. This is the details. This is what you need to know.

This is a latest tornado watch that's issued through 11:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, really heavy weather moving through Little Rock and Shreveport right now. No severe weather at the moment. There are no warnings that I have seen. However, you need to be weather aware. It's early. In fact, it's

overnight for those periods, for these regions of the country. So significant storm system moving through.

There is a low pressure system that is moving across Missouri and well bomb out or at least potentially bomb out, meaning that it drops in pressure by potentially close to 24 millibars in 24 hours.

So that would be a significant event. It will strengthen and create windy conditions around it. The backside, of course, being very cold. And that is why we have blizzard conditions across much of the state of Iowa right now. And we all know what's happening in Iowa next week. This is going to draw in significantly colder air.

Let's talk about the collision of the cold and warm air masses. What happens while we get severe weather and unfortunately today is another round of that. We focus our attention on the Southeast, particularly through Mississippi and into Alabama damaging wind gusts, a few tornadoes cannot be ruled out. Heads-up Atlanta, even some of my children's school districts actually been canceled in the course or in the preventative measure that severe weather moves through.

So lots of snowfall for the Midwest, blizzard conditions as that's picked up behind the storm. And then yes, some of the coldest air of the season settling in across the central and eastern parts of the us through the early parts of next week.

HUNT: Well, Derek, you say the early parts of next week. Monday is caucus day in Iowa. And honestly, the weather looks unprecedented.

VAN DAM: Yeah, it's incredible. We've dug up the history books about every single caucus day in the past up to about 1972, and this will be the coldest Iowa caucuses ever recorded the forecast high.

Look at this, I'm going to highlight that because its just incredible forecast high as negative three, and the coldest saw that we could find was 16 degrees.

So this could significantly impact the events that are ongoing across the state. I mean, look at these wind-chill values will be dangerous as this Arctic air settles in across Iowa. And by the way, way with this recent snowstorm that is heading across the state, we have the potential for the most amount of snow and a five-day period blanketing Iowa, setting up for this Arctic blast that will allow for temperature is really just to bottom out for these locations.


I mean, look at Des Moines, the wind chill this is on Monday morning, negative 33 degrees. That will impact events there across the state.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, and I will -- I will be there perhaps I will see you during the broadcast because, yeah -- and I mentioned earlier --


VAN DAM: Could I recommend something?

HUNT: -- like you didn't even have one for this year would have to like -- you know, you'd have to like create a new set section where it goes underneath zero.

Anyway, what a mess. All right.

VAN DAM: Exactly, one of those heated, heated vests and heated gloves, they work brilliantly.

HUNT: All right. Thank you, Derek Van Dam. I really appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

All right. Up next, the U.S. carries out retaliatory strikes in Yemen. What it could mean for the region.

And the countdown to the caucuses. What can the candidates do with just three days left to go?


HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt just before 5:30 here on the East Coast.

The U.S. carrying out new retaliatory strikes.