Return to Transcripts main page

Isa Soares Tonight

Trump Stands as Heavy Favorite to Win Iowa; Houthis Strike U.S.- Owned Ship; Israeli Footballer Punished for Hostage Tribute in Turkey; 100 Days Of War Between Israel And Hamas; Houthis Claim Responsibility For Strike On U.S.-Owned Vessel; Israeli Footballer Suspended After Showing Support For Hostages. 2-3p ET

Aired January 15, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, it's caucus day in Iowa. Former

President Trump is the heavy-favorite to claim an early lead in the 2024 Republican presidential race as voters battle fiercely cold temperatures to

make it to the caucus sites.

Also ahead, belligerent actions by the Houthis in the Red Sea as U.S. own ship is struck by a Houthi missile in the last few hours, just days of

course, after U.S. led strikes against the group. And charged with inciting hatred, this Israeli footballer has now left Turkey after an October the

7th tribute during a match, we'll have more details from Istanbul for you this hour.

But first, the first votes in the 2024 U.S. presidential race are just hours away in Iowa. Rivals Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis are

making their final pitches to voters before the Republican caucuses begin. Record-breaking sub-zero cold could impact voter turnout.

Donald Trump holds a massive lead in the polls, but he's warning his supporters not to get complacent and urging them to brave the weather

conditions no matter what. CNN's Alayna Treene joins us now from Des Moines in Iowa.

And Alayna, just for our viewers watching from around the world, it's negative 18, right? This is bitterly cold, just set the day for us. How are

the candidates feeling besides bitterly cold?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right? And it's not just bitterly cold. It is dangerously cold. And I think that's one of the key issues that they see

heading into the caucus tonight. They are worried that turnout could be impacted by the weather.

Now I know from my conversations with Donald Trump's advisors, that this is a concern of theirs in part, because one of the biggest goals of theirs and

part of their ground game strategy here in Iowa is to turn out as many voters as possible, specifically, first time caucus goers and their

concerns are that maybe people will stay home because of the weather.

Of course, it's a concern that they share with the other candidates. But that was really Donald Trump's closing message to Iowans this weekend. He

told them, do not get complacent. I need you to come out and I need you to show up and caucus on Monday. Take a listen to what he said in Iowa



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even if you vote and then pass away, it's worth it, remember.


TRUMP: If you're sick, if you're just so sick, you can't -- darling, I don't think -- get up! Get up. You get up, you're voting, yes, darling,

it's ultimately we know who calls the shots, right?


TREENE: Now, clearly, a pretty remarkable comments from the former president. But he was clearly joking there as well. But look, this is one

of the key arguments that his team is making because they really don't want to just win Iowa, but they want to dominate Iowa. They want to win by a

big-enough lead that they will set the tone for the rest of primary season and try and blunt the momentum of many of his rivals, namely Nikki Haley.


SOARES: Yes, and Alayna, look, I think the top spot everyone expects Donald Trump to win it, right? But this is a fight for the second. How are the

other two candidates feeling?

TREENE: Right, well, I think, you know, they're very close. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, there's also Vivek Ramaswamy who's trailing them, but yes,

DeSantis and Haley are very much fighting to become the alternative to Donald Trump.

And I think tonight is going to be a huge moment for these candidates. We saw the most recent "Des Moines Register" and "NBC" poll come out over the

weekend that actually showed for the first time, Haley, leading DeSantis in the state. I mean, I think that was surprising to some people.

I mean, DeSantis has really staked his campaign on his strategy in Iowa. He's kind of been running all eggs in the Iowa basket campaign.


So we're going to see tonight whether that paid off for DeSantis, and of course, Haley is really hoping to do well enough in Iowa, so that she can

use that momentum to propel her into New Hampshire. That primary is next week, and her team is feeling very confident about their chances in New


And so, really a lot of these candidates using tonight as a jumping-off point for the rest of the primary season.

SOARES: Alayna, appreciate it, do stay warm. Thank you very much. Well, for more on the first contest of 2024, let's welcome in CNN senior political

commentator, a well-known face here on the show, Scott Jennings. Scott, great to see you.

I don't know if you could hear really Alayna Treene there reporting from Iowa. It does, you know, it's clear from what we've been hearing, the

numbers we've been seeing that Trump is expected to win here. So the attention really comes down to second place. How do you see it shaping up?

Are you betting on Haley here or are you betting on DeSantis?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I live in just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby, so I tend

to bet more on horses than politicians. They're a lot more reliable. I can tell you that --

SOARES: Wise --

JENNINGS: But let me --

SOARES: Wise --

JENNINGS: Let me give you a lay -- let me give you a lay of the land. Nikki Haley has had the late momentum in the race, but Ron DeSantis has been

steadily building the kind of organization that in the past has performed in Iowa among evangelical voters, among really conservative voters who care

about issues like school choice and education and so on and so forth.

So you've got sort of an old school organizational effort versus riding late momentum. One thing we learned in the "Des Moines Register" polling

over the weekend, also is that Haley is somewhat dependent on Democrats and independents to come into the Republican caucus, change their party

registration and vote for her.

And there are some people who are skeptical that those folks are going to be as enthusiastic as are the voters for Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. So I

don't know, but that margin between Trump and number two, and then between number two and number three, that will then give birth to some narratives


And then that, of course, will cause the campaigns to rethink what they're doing as they head towards New Hampshire, Nevada --

SOARES: Yes --

JENNINGS: South Carolina and on, yes.

SOARES: And we'll talk Trump in just a moment. But if DeSantis, let's say, if he comes third, I mean, is he politically here, Scott, a dead-man

walking? Does he pull out after this? Because as we heard Alayna Treene there say, he puts a lot behind Iowa, didn't he?

JENNINGS: He put all his chips in Iowa? He visited all 99 counties. They spent a ton of money. They moved their whole campaign to Iowa, and you

would think that Iowa is exactly the kind of state where Ron DeSantis would do well.

So, if you don't do well in Iowa, then you start to look at the calendar, you say, well, if I can't do well here, where would I go from here? For

Haley, that's not the case. I think expectations for her a little lower in Iowa, but much higher in New Hampshire.

So for DeSantis, Iowa is the alamo(ph), for Haley, it's New Hampshire. And if either one of them does well in those states, they probably have a way

to keep the ball bouncing, and if they both fall short to Trump in those states, well, at that point, Trump's got a pretty good argument that this

race is over.

SOARES: But what would success -- if you come second? What would success look like? What kind of percentage will either of those candidates be --

their teams will be pleased with here, Scott?

JENNINGS: I would think that getting Trump well underneath where he's polling. So Trump's been leading in the polls by something close to 30

points. So if they were able to get him under 20, that would be something of a victory, although still a large margin for Trump.

If they got him down closer to ten, that would be a huge victory. Now the record in the Iowa caucus for anyone to ever win this thing, the margin is

12.8 percent, so anything above, say 13, the Trump campaign is going to say is historic, but to win by 13 when you've been leading by 30 would be a

drastic underperformance.

SOARES: Yes, and he did, I mean, this is going to be really the first of Trump's -- first test I should say of Trump's appeal, right? For this year.

He did predict like you said, a historic landslide win in Iowa. And he's also -- we've also seen Florida Senator Marco Rubio just endorse Trump, but

correct me if I'm wrong.

In 2016, he was -- you know, was Nikki Haley, right? He was a strong --


SOARES: Rubio supporter. How -- explain this for us.

JENNINGS: Yes, back in 2016, it was interesting. So Jeb Bush, remember him? He comes to --

SOARES: Yes --

JENNINGS: South Carolina fully expecting to get the support of Nikki Haley. Nikki Haley, then the governor kind of stabs him in the back and goes with

Marco Rubio, Trump then goes on to get the nomination. This time around, Marco Rubio goes with Donald Trump when I think some people were possibly

thinking that maybe Nikki Haley was competing for his support.

So that's a lot of like inside palace intrigue inside the Republican Party. But certainly, a lot of -- a lot of Republican insiders have been texting

about sort of -- sort of that interplay between those two. One thing about Donald Trump that's now true, he is now the establishment of the Republican


And so, it's not really a surprise to those of us who work in the party that he's getting all the elected officials, senators, congressmen --

SOARES: Yes --


JENNINGS: You know, lots of people, county chairs and Republican Party officials. Trump has most of them. He is effectively the establishment

while DeSantis is really kind of the outsider in this race.

SOARES: And I just want to show viewers a graphic that we have, I'm not sure -- I'm sure -- I'm hoping you continue aside candidates versus winners

from Iowa, as you can see there, nominees versus the winners. You only -- year 2000, George Bush went on, was the winner and the nominee as well. And

the same thing with Bob Dole. So, I mean, how important is Iowa here, just for our international viewers, this caucus.

JENNINGS: It's pretty important because in this case, unlike the other races, Donald Trump nationally in the national polling is sitting somewhere

between 60 percent and 70 percent. So of national Republicans --

SOARES: Yes --

JENNINGS: He has a dominant lead, but that's polling. Now, it all comes in contact with actual voters, Iowa should be one of Donald Trump's strongest

states. So why does this matter? If Donald Trump's big lead holds up, then you're going to say, well, what's happening in Iowa is roughly what's going

to happen nationally.

This race is pretty much over, but when this comes in contact with actual voters, if they go a different direction or drastically give him a smaller

margin, then you're going to start to look and say, well, wait a minute, maybe this thing isn't done yet.

So I think everybody believes Trump is going to win. The question is, is he a strong within the party and among the party-faithful as the national

polling suggests.

SOARES: And we just saw there, we spoke of the temperatures are really frigid and dangerous temperatures that we've seen. And I know Iowa is used

to cold temperatures, I keep hearing, it's something else entirely. What -- do you think this will impact at all turnout?

You know, I know some support, some candidates have supporters that are more enthusiastic than others. Does it play more to some of the nominees

and others. Explain this for us? Does it benefit --

JENNINGS: I think --

SOARES: Anyone in particular?

JENNINGS: I think the weather is an equal opportunity depressants. So, you know, everybody is going to have supporters for whom it's too cold. And

everybody is going to have supporters for whom they walk across broken glass to get to. If you just look at the "Des Moines Register" poll from

this weekend, which is kind of the gold standard poll in Iowa, Donald Trump supporters are the most enthusiastic, followed closely by Ron DeSantis, and

then way down the list was Nikki Haley.

So I mentioned earlier, a lot of Democrats and independents are for Haley, and then she has the least enthusiastic supporters. So if you're looking

for some, you know, tea leaves to read before voters show up tonight and cast votes, Haley is the one I would be worried about on this score.

Because not only is she depending upon Democrats and independent, she's dependent upon them getting out in very cold weather, changing their party

registration and coming into the Republican Party.

SOARES: OK, Scott, I know you only bet on horses, but quick fire round, number one, who is going to be -- who is it going to be? Who is going to

come first --

JENNINGS: Trump is going to win --

SOARES: Number two --

JENNINGS: Trump is going to win tonight, and I think DeSantis is actually going to outkick his coverage tonight in a --

SOARES: How much is Trump going to win by, percentage-wise, would you say?

JENNINGS: I'm going to say, at least by 20 points? It wouldn't shock me if he won by 25.

SOARES: And DeSantis second, Haley third --

JENNINGS: Yes, Haley third. And both of those are going to be pretty far back and then, you know, Haley moves on to New Hampshire, and then Ron

DeSantis at some point has to decide. He says he's going to South Carolina next.

SOARES: Yes --

JENNINGS: But at some point by the way, these campaigns, they don't have unlimited money. And so, if I'm Ron DeSantis right now, I'm probably

looking at a small bank account, and at some point yet to decide how -- can I live off the land --

SOARES: Yes --

JENNINGS: If I finish way back?

SOARES: Scott, as always, great to have you on the show, really appreciate your analysis. Thank you, Scott.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

SOARES: And CNN will have special coverage of the 2024 Iowa caucuses that starts later today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, that's 9:00 p.m. if you're

watching in London right here on CNN. Well, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he wants to restore stability to the Red Sea and de-escalate

tensions, calling last week coalition strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

A last resort, but a new attack is only adding to growing fears of a possible regional war. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are claiming

responsibility from missile attack on a U.S.-owned cargo ship today. The U.S. military says a ship sustained minor damage, there were no injuries on

board, you'd be -- happy to hear.

Well, the U.S. and U.K. bombed dozens of Houthi targets in Yemen last week in response to repeated attacks on international shipping. Now, let's get

more on all of this. CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now. And Oren, what more do we know at this stage about this latest attack on this U.S.-owned


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So, this is apparently the first time we have seen the Houthis successfully strike a U.S.-owned and

operated vessel, the Gibraltar Eagle, according to the U.S. Central Command. The ship was hit by an anti-ship ballistic missiles -- missile,

which is one of the weapons we've seen the Houthis launch over and over again, and the strike itself was in the Gulf of Aden.

So south of Yemen, as you can see on the map there, the ship itself, as you pointed out, suffered minor damage and no injury to its crew. So was able

to continue on its way. Now, of course, we wait to see what happens from here.


The U.S. has made clear that if the Houthis kept attacking international shipping, there would be a further U.S. response. We saw the first wave of

U.S. and U.K. strikes on Thursday night here D.C time, we saw the U.S. carried a few more strikes the following day and now it's a question of,

does the U.S. feel it needs to respond to a direct attack on a U.S. vessel?

That answer may very well be yes. In which case, the sort of common security that the U.S. was looking to bring to the Red Sea, simply not in

sight yet.

SOARES: I know you'll stay across this for us. Thanks very much. Oren Liebermann for us at the Pentagon. Now to Israel where officials say one

woman was killed and at least 17 other people injured in coordinated car ramming attacks. Our Nic Robertson is near the scene in a town north of Tel



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (on camera): Well, it was very confusing for about the first hour after the attacks, even the

police couldn't understand properly what had happened, because this is unusual. Some people calling it even the first time of an incident like

this where there were two attackers attacking simultaneously in the same type of attack, 17 people were injured, one person, a lady in her 70s, was

killed in the attack.

And these two from about a 100 miles away in Hebron, the police say stole vehicles and then attacked different areas in this middle class town. But

roughly or almost precisely the same time, and that's where the confusion came in. And they actually struck three different locations.

This is one of the locations and you can see the force of the impact on this vehicle, the side of that vehicle, the far side that smashed up by the

force of the impact, but perhaps where most of the casualty has occurred appear to have been at a bus stop where people were waiting for a bus.

One vehicle we were looking at before had smashed into the side of the road near that bus stop, and it's not the first time that attackers attacking

Israelis in their cities have taken vehicles and tried to ram into them at bus stops. But here, the confusion because there were two attackers doing

it simultaneously, hitting three different locations.


SOARES: That's our Nic Robertson reporting there. Well, the U.N. Secretary- General warns a long shadow of starvation is stalking the people of Gaza, calling again for an urgency spine Israel's war on Hamas. Aid agencies are

also sounding the alarm about a possible famine unfolding before the world's very eyes.

The World Food Program and other groups issued a joint statement today saying without the ability to produce or import food, the entire, the

entire population of Gaza is relying on aid to survive. Have a listen.


SAMER ABDELJABER, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: WFP has been working with partners and communities to deliver food as quickly as

possible and as many people as possible, and also supporting local shops, bakeries to operate. So far, we've reached around 1.4 million people with

food, but everyone in Gaza is hungry.

We're exploring all possible solution, but none are sufficient in the face of obstacles. There are people starving in areas and we are not able to

give basic food for.


SOARES: The death toll meantime, continues to smoke -- to saw -- the Hamas- run Health Ministry now says more than 24,000 people have been killed in Gaza. It says a number of people remain under the rubble out of the reach

of rescuers.

Well, for more on this and the war spiraling out beyond Gaza's borders, I'll be joined by William Patey, a British -- former British ambassador to

Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. That interview coming up in about 15 minutes, so here -- right here on the show.

Still to come tonight, Ukraine says it made a significant strike against two Russian aircrafts, including a spy plane. Details in a live report from

Dnipro, next.



SOARES: Well, Ukraine is claiming it destroyed a Russian spy plane and damaged a second Russian aircraft, quote, "beyond repairs". Says the

operation happened over the Sea of Azov in southern Ukraine. And here's a look at the type of spy plane Ukraine says it took down, an, A-50 long-

range radar detection aircraft.

Ukraine says the other plane, an IL22 had to make an emergency landing. Russia has not confirmed the loss of the aircraft. Let's go to CNN's

Frederik Pleitgen who is in Dnipro for us this hour in Ukraine. And Fred, do we know how this expensive and rather sophisticated surveillance

aircraft was struck? What are the Ukrainians saying?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely unclear, that's really one of the things that a lot of people

are asking about, is how exactly the Ukrainians managed to take down at least one of these aircrafts. And certainly, apparently, badly damaged

another aircraft.

What we're hearing from the Ukrainians is, they say all this took place in the area of the Sea of Azov, which quite frankly is pretty far away from

any sort of Ukrainian-held territory. And certainly, also seems to be a fairly out-of-the-range of a lot of the air defense systems that the

Ukrainians have as well.

So it's unclear how this was done. What we're hearing from the main general of the Ukrainian, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, he posted something on X, the former

Twitter where he said that this happened in the Sea of Azov, and he congratulated the Ukrainian Air Force, indicating that it might have been

some sort of surface-to-air missile system or some other Ukrainian Air Force assets that was behind all of this.

However, Isa, we do have to mention that both of these planes pretty key for Russia's aerial campaign against Ukraine, especially the A-50 Beriev,

which is the larger of the two planes that was hit and the one that the Ukrainians are saying was downed by this Ukrainian operation.

It's an airborne early warning and control system that essentially allows the Russians to monitor the battle space, but also direct its own fighter

jets to more effectively fight against Ukrainian positions. Now, the second jet, the second plane the Ukrainians say did manage now an emergency

landing at a Russian airfield.

There was a photo that later emerged or the tail-fin of that plane, seemingly-badly damaged. What we've also obtained is audio apparently from

a jet that was escorting these planes, asking for emergency clearance for the -- for the Russian plane to land. Let's listen in.




PLEITGEN: That plane apparently making an emergency landing in Anapa, which is also on the Black Sea. The Russians so far, Isa, not commenting at all

on the matter. Isa.

SOARES: So, if true, Fred, I mean, how significant is this? How much is this a blow potentially to Moscow's airpower here?

PLEITGEN: Well, it certainly seems as though, it could be a pretty big blow to Moscow's airpower, at least, for the time being. There's two things I

think that we have to keep in mind. On the one hand, sophisticated electronic surveillance planes. And early in warning and control systems

like these, the Russians really don't have that many of those.

So losing one of these would certainly be a big blow to the Russians. They also quite frankly don't have a lot of crews that can operate these planes

as well. So that in itself would be a big deal. But of course, one of the things that we have seen over the past couple of weeks and months is Russia

increased its aerial bombardments of --

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: Ukraine? Now, we're not only talking about the missile strikes that the Russians are conducting, but also some of the battlefield

interdictions as they call it, dropping bombs on frontline positions where the Russians are now using guided bombs as well.


Of course, all of that needs to be directed by some sort of asset in the air, that's what these planes can do. And that's why the Ukrainians are

saying potentially, this could be a big blow to the Russian Air Force. Isa?

SOARES: Fred Pleitgen for us this hour in Dnipro. Thanks very much, Fred. Well, meantime, the Ukrainian president is in Switzerland. Volodymyr

Zelenskyy will be taking part in the World Economic Forum in Davos, which kicks off this evening. He plans to meet with EU as well as NATO

representatives and other leaders in an effort to strengthen Ukraine's defense as well as its economy.

Mrs. Zelenskyy also visits Bern where she plans to meet with Swiss leaders including President Viola Amherd. We'll much more coverage of course right

here on CNN of the World Economic Forum. In the next hour, our Richard Quest is in Davos, as he says, and will keep us up to speed on all the

day's events.

You can watch "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" in about 35 minutes time or so. Well, staying in Europe, farmers in Germany are capping off a week of major

protests with a show of solidarity. Columns of tractors rolled into Berlin. The crowd of about 10,000 farmers are protesting against the government's

plans, subsidy cuts of diesel.

Officials say they plan to meet with the farmers' representatives. However, the officials have not indicated they may -- they might scrap the cut.

We'll stay across that story for you. And still to come tonight, I'll be joined by a former British ambassador to Iraq, Saudi Arabia and

Afghanistan, as more missile strikes in the Red Sea add to fears of a wider regional war.

And why a tiny message written on this Israeli footballer's hand landed him in hot water in Turkey, and sparked a diplomatic round. Both those stories

after this short break. You are watching CNN.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. It's now been 100 days of deadly, as well as brutal war between Israel and Hamas, a conflict which has led to

immeasurable pain and suffering since Hamas attacked Israel on October the 7th. For the families of those held hostage by Hamas, it's been months of

desperate pain, as well as fading hope. In Gaza, it's a day by day struggle to stay alive, whether that's from constant Israeli airstrikes or simply

from a lack of food, water, as well as medicine.

More than 24,000 Palestinians now have been killed by Israeli attacks, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there. But it's also a conflict

which has had reverberations around the entire region. Exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah across the Israel-Lebanon border continue to

this day with no sign of stopping.

And just in the past few days, an escalation in the Red Sea. The U.S. and U.K. launch strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, an effort, if you remember,

to hold attacks on ships, something the Houthis say is in support of Gaza.

Earlier in the U.K., Prime Minister Rishisun Aq said he doesn't believe this is the case. Have a listen.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, we shouldn't fall for their malign narrative that this is about Israel and Gaza. They target

ships from around the world. We continue to work towards a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and to get more aid to civilians. We also continue to

support a negotiated settlement in Yemen's civil war. But I want to be very clear that this action is completely unrelated to those issues. It is a

direct response to the Houthis' attacks on international shipping.


SOARES: William Patey, joining me, is the former British ambassador to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as the former head of the

Middle East Department U.K.'s Foreign Office, a well-known face in the show. Sir William, welcome back to the show. Let me pick up with a little

clip that we heard there from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, trying to make the point, say that we shouldn't conflate what's happening, the attacks

against the Houthis with what's happening in Gaza. He even called it a malign narrative from the Houthis. Do you believe they are unrelated?

WILLIAM PATEY, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN, SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAQ: Well, they're unrelated in our minds, in the minds of the Brits. I

think in the Americans, the coalition, I mean, they're clear they're responding to attacks on international shipping. That's quite clear. But

you can't get away from the perception, because the Houthis have linked it to Gaza. And in the Arab world on the Arab street, they see the U.S. and

the U.K. as supporting Israel, the United States case with military equipment, but supporting them by not calling for an immediate ceasefire.

So, this has just reinforced the view that the U.K. and the U.S. are not on the side of the Palestinians.

So, the perception is there, even though I think the Prime Minister is right, this is entirely in our mind about protecting international shipping


SOARES: But it's not the way that many in the Middle East viewed this war.

PATEY: Absolutely.

SOARES: Let's talk about the attacks. Today, we've heard a U.S. vessel again being attacked by the Houthis as follows, of course, the U.S. and

U.K. coordinating an action against some of their positions. What is the strategy going forward? I mean, deterrence doesn't seem to have worked so

far. Is the U.K., is the U.S., going to continue having to attack them? And what is the risk of that at this stage?

PATEY: Well, I think they'll have to keep responding.

SOARES: Yes. Once you've started, right?

PATEY: Once you've started, if they continue to attack shipping, then there'll be a requirement to try and degrade their capability to do so.

That, of course, brings a risk of wider escalation. I mean, when the -- after the horrific attack on the 7th of October and in the Israeli

reprisals, we were already talking about the risk of an extended war. Well, we've got that. We've already got a conflict going on in northern Israel

and southern Lebanon between Hezbollah. And we've got the Israelis and Americans attacking targets, Iranian-backed targets, in Syria.

We've got Iranian-backed -- Iraqi militias backed by Iran attacking U.S. troops. And we've got the Houthis who are basically acting as a malign

actor on behalf of what the so-called axis of resistance. So, the Iranians are trying to put the pressure on, show themselves as the defenders of the

Palestinians, which is what they want, as a part of a long-term strategy to radicalize the region, expand Iranian influence, and basically drive the

West out. I mean, their meaning is to get the U.S. to withdraw from the Middle East so that their regional influence increases.


SOARES: I mean, there's so many points there you've made. First of all, degrading, trying to degrade the Houthis' capabilities. How do -- do we

know? Do we have a sense of how much hardware or how strong they are? Or how strongly --

PATEY: I mean, I don't even want to fight the Houthis per se.

SOARES: Per se, yes.

PATEY: Per se, I mean, indeed, it gets quite complicated because the Saudis were fighting the Houthis for long enough and are now desperate to maintain

the ceasefire. So, you would think the Saudis and the Egyptians would have quite a big interest in maintaining international shipping lanes, the

Egyptians, because of the revenue, the Suez Canal.

But the Saudis are very careful. They don't want to upset the ceasefire they have with the Houthis. But as far as we're concerned, degrading their

capacity to fire these missiles and these drones, so, the U.S. intelligence, allied intelligence, will be looking for launch sites, radar

sites, storage sites, where the Iranians -- the Iranians supply the missiles and the drones. So, they'll be monitoring, shipping going in.

It'll be impossible to stop them. I mean, we've learnt over many, many conflicts that you can't win battles from the air. But --

SOARES: So, I mean, does that make the question, should we be engaging more diplomatic means if this is going to continue?

PATEY: We should -- well, I think diplomacy is already in train. I mean, when -- even when we were undertaking the attacks, the Foreign Secretary,

Lord Cameron, was talking to the Iranians. The Americans have got back channels to the Iranians. So, there's diplomacy going on, at least to the

extent of saying, look, we don't -- you don't want to war, we don't want to war, let's not miscalculate.

They'll also be saying to the Iranians, this is not good for your longer- term interests. So, they'll be trying to get the Iranians to exercise pressure. But, in my view, the only way this will deescalate is when the

fighting on the ground comes to an end in Gaza. So, they're linked in that sense. As long as the Israelis are bombarding Gaza, the -- as long as the

Israelis are bombarding Gaza, the Iranians will be seeking to maintain the pressure without tipping over into a full-scale regional war.

SOARES: And that's huge. And we keep hearing, you know, that we know that the Iranians don't want a conflict, but they are funding. I mean, they are

the ones propping up and funding the Houthis.

PATEY: They don't want to conflict. They don't want to war.

SOARES: They don't want to be involved in the war.

PATEY: They don't want to be the direct war with the United States.

SOARES: Right. So, what's the long-term strategy just to rattle, take the United States? Call them out?

PATEY: Well, the long-term strategy for Iran, which has been obvious for quite a long time, is to build a sphere of influence all the way from Iran,

through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, so the Shia crescent, if you like. And they were given an opportunity when the civil war in Yemen started to use

the Houthis as an agent because the relationship between the Zaydi Shia in Yemen and the Iranians wasn't that great to begin with. But they've

developed that relationship.

SOARES: So, doesn't this place straight into the Houthis in Iran's hand, these attacks? These --

PATEY: There are no good solutions here.

SOARES: Sorry, I feel like I'm going round in circles, but it is --

PATEY: There is no good solutions. Often, you know, in diplomacy, in government, you have to make the least -- what's the least bad option?

Doing nothing means that the Houthis can continue to decide who is going through the Suez Canal. And that's their say. So, at the moment, I know

that Chinese ships, as they enter the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, signal that they're Chinese.

SOARES: Yes, I heard from one of our guests last week.

PATEY: Yes, yes. So, this is happening. And you can't allow that to happen. So, it's the least bad option. It's not a great option, but it's the least

bad one.

SOARES: Yes, the Chinese have been very silent on this for the last several weeks. You mentioned the war in Gaza, as you heard there in our little

setup, 100 days of war, more than 24,000 people were in the U.S. and people killed, more than 100 hostages still missing. We have seen a big diplomatic

push by Secretary Blinken. Has it been successful in any way?

PATEY: No, I mean, the Israelis are still doing -- I mean, the Israeli set out their plan quite early on, which, you know, they're not speaking about

it quite so much now. But ministers like Smotrich and Ben Gvir are talking about pushing the Palestinians out of Gaza. I mean, that's -- they want to

create a situation where it's impossible for Palestinians to live a decent life in Gaza and they're hoping that they'll move into Egypt. Their

military aim seems impossible, you know, to eliminate Hamas. As a military aim, it's impossible. So, the question is how much destruction, how many

more deaths are going to be allowed before this stops? Because the military aim -- ultimately, you can't kill an idea.


How many more women and children are going to be killed in the pursuit of the remaining Hamas fighters and infrastructure?

SOARES: Unfortunately, we're running out of time. I would have picked -- I would have asked you a couple more questions on that, because, of course,

your level of expertise in that region is so important, but you're also an expert on Sudan. You're an ambassador of course, in Sudan. Today, we heard

from the U.N., 600,000 people have been displaced in the past month alone. They want to say Sudan is now the country with the largest number of

displaced people and the largest child displacement crisis in the world, a crisis that the world has forgotten.

PATEY: It is. We've just -- the invasion of Ukraine and then the crisis in Gaza. I mean, it is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in the world,

and you've got two highly armed factions fighting over the capitol. I mean, Sudan's used to a civil war. It's used to catastrophe in Darfur, but the

capitol was relatively immune from fighting. There wasn't any fighting, so the government continued.

That's not the case. There is no governing infrastructure now. There's nowhere safe from the fighting. I do think that, you know, despite what

else is going on, there needs to be an international initiative to bring the parties -- to stop the fighting and to have some sort of political

solution, because neither of them can win militarily. The army can't win, the RSF can't win. How long are the people of Sudan going to continue to

suffer? And I think the international community needs to do something about this even against the backdrop of everything else that's happening in the


SOARES: Of all this crisis happening. Sir William Patey, always wonderful to see you. Thank you very much.

PATEY: Thank you.

SOARES: One Israeli footballer has flown home from Turkey after he was suspended from playing and briefly detained from displaying a message in

support of hostages held in Gaza. After scoring a goal for Turkish Top Tier Club, Antalyaspor yesterday, Sagiv Jehezkel showed a bandage on his hand

reading 100 days, 710, referring, of course, to the date the hostages were captured when Hamas attacked communities in southern Israel. He is facing

charges of publicly inciting hatred and hostility. Israel and Turkey are now trading criticism over the incident.

Let's go to our report in Istanbul, Scott McLean. And Scott, before we talk about the exchange words between the Israelis and the Turks, first give us

a sense of what the football player, what has he had to say about this?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, he's actually arrived back in Tel Aviv. So not only has his club, Antalyaspor, said very clearly that it is

working to terminate his contract, he also is a subject of that investigation that you mentioned for the crime of publicly inciting the

public to hatred and hostility. The Turkish Justice Minister called it an ugly action supporting the massacre committed by Israel in Gaza. So, he was

detained, he was questioned, and he was released, he was allowed to fly back to Israel, and he got a hero's welcome when he arrived. He was given

flowers, he was draped in the national flag, and he briefly spoke about what it was like to be home. Listen.


SAGIV JEHEZKEL, ISRAELI FOOTBALLER (through translator): I'm very happy to see everybody. I'm always happy to be in Israel. I wait to land in Israel

and I'm happy to be here.


MCLEAN: Now he said nothing about the ordeal, but he did speak to police when he was detained, Isa. And according to TRT, the Turkish State

broadcaster, he said that he had been misunderstood. He said this quote, "I did not make anything to incite or provoke anyone. I am not a pro-war

person, and after all, there are Israeli soldiers captured in Gaza. I am someone who believes that this 100-day period should end now. I want the

war to end. That's why I showed the sign."

Obviously, this whole thing is controversial for two reasons. First, football is intensely political in this country, much more so than many

others. And second, of course, the Turkish government has very clearly in this conflict taken the side of the Palestinians. And so his club,

Antalyaspor, has even said that, look, it needs to let him go. It's not going to tolerate this behavior, even if it costs them on the pitch. And it

probably will, because in just 13 games, he's managed to put six goals in the back of the net.

Obviously, this has prompted plenty of outrage in Israel as well, Isa. The foreign minister said, "Turkey has become a dark dictatorship working

against humane values and sports values. It is also worth noting that there was a second player, this one on Istanbul, one of Istanbul's top tier

clubs, Basaksehir, who was also very briefly detained, questioned by police, and then released over," according to TRT, another social media

post, drawing attention to the hostages still being held in Gaza.

I have reached out to Basaksehir to clarify that that was, in fact, the post in question, and they haven't clarified it, but they did say in their

statement, Isa, that his social media post, in their words, contradicts the sensitivities of our country.


SOARES: Scott McLean there with the very latest. Thanks very much, Scott. Good to see you.

And still to come tonight, China's strong warning for countries that support Taiwan after the island's recent election. We'll have the very

latest for you.


SOARES: Well, China's warning nations around the world against congratulating Taiwan on its presidential election. The people of Taiwan

voted for a historic third term for the Democratic Progressive Party, which openly opposes mainland China. Here's CNN Will Ripley with the very latest

for you.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the things that the self-governing democracy of Taiwan has long accused the Communist

leaders in Beijing of doing is trying to isolate them diplomatically on the global stage. And here we are just a matter of days after the Democratic

Progressive Party, that the Chinese Communist Party openly loathes, won a historic third consecutive presidential term, president-elect Lai Ching-te,

Vice President-elect Hsiao Bi-khim, both vilified by the Communist Party in Beijing, hated by them, certainly no immediate dialogue possible between

these two new Taiwanese leaders and the old guard over in the mainland that definitely didn't want to see them win.

Well, now you have an example, Taiwan says, of that diplomatic isolation playing out in real time, because the small Pacific island nation of Nauru

announced that it is switching diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing. Now, during the last eight years of President Tsai Ing-wen administration, a

total of 10 of these small countries have switched their diplomatic alliances. Now, Taiwan only has a dozen remaining formal diplomatic allies

left, mostly in the Pacific Ocean and Latin America.

The reason that these countries switch ties often has a lot to do with economics. Taipei says China can make a bigger offer financially, and these

countries decide it's in their best interest to switch formal recognition. But what that does is that it leaves Taiwan with fewer and fewer formal

diplomatic allies in places like the United Nations, even as they continue to invest in very warm and fruitful friendships with like-minded

democracies around the world, including the United States, which sent a delegation here in Taipei to congratulate the Democratic Progressive Party


That delegation included the former national security advisor and the former deputy secretary of state, here in an unofficial capacity.


But nonetheless sending a very strong signal to Taiwan, that even though it doesn't have a whole lot of formal diplomatic allies left at the behest of

China around the world, they certainly do have a lot of friends. Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

SOARES: And still to come tonight, dramatic video coming out of Iceland of houses burning from molten lava. Find out what a new report has to say

about the lava flow. That is next for you.


SOARES: Welcome back. Severe winter weather is impacting nearly 80 percent of the United States. Over 140 daily cold records could be broken across

the country. In Iowa, as we told you, the top of the hour, the Republican presidential caucuses are happening in just a few hours. But the turnout

might be low as the temperatures are expected to be below zero with a minus 30 degree wind chill.

Earlier, I was being told for my colleagues, you're minus 18. And in the state of New York, the Buffalo Bills playoff football game had to be

delayed from yesterday to today due to the dangerously cold weather. About 43 centimeters of snow fell in Buffalo yesterday. That game is expected to

start in just a few hours and the governor of New York says there will not be another delay.

Well, the flow of lava in southwest Iceland has decreased, that is according to the country's national broadcast. This update comes as people

have been rushing to get out of the fishing town of Grindavik, where molten lava has reached their community. Our Barbie Nadeau has the story.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The earth is on fire in Iceland again. For the second time in a month, Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull

volcano is threatening the small fishing village of Grindavik in the southwest of the country. A webcam set up by Iceland's public broadcaster,

RUV, showed a stream of lava flowing into Grindavik with the burning buildings just meters away from houses.


So far, several homes have been consumed by scorching lava flowing out of two new fissures from the latest eruption, forcing national police to order

evacuations. It's basically as bad as it can possibly get.

Jon Gauti is one of the town's 4,000 residents. Like most, he fears he won't be able to return home.

JON GAUTI, GRINDAVIK RESIDENT: I'm born in this town. I actually live in the house that I'm born in. And it's kind of -- it's a tough thought to

think that this town might be over.

NADAEU (voice-over): After the volcano last erupted on December 18, authorities built walls to divert the lava from the town. So far, the walls

are holding the lava back from all but the houses on the outskirts of town. Authorities have no idea how long Mother Nature's fury will last, or how

much more damage this tiny village will endure. Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN.


SOARES: And that does it for us for this hour. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up live, and he's live

for you from Davos in Switzerland. That's next.