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Isa Soares Tonight
Iran Fires Missiles At Sunni Militants In Pakistan; Biden To Appeal To U.S. Lawmakers For More Ukraine Aid; Princess Of Wales Hospitalized, And King Charles To Undergo Prostate Treatment; Israel-Hamas War; Increasing Worries About The Middle East Crisis Expanding; After U.S. Labeled Them As "Terrorists," Houthis Vowed To Continue Red Sea Raids; Interview With RUSI International Security Studies Director Neil Melvin; Fight For More Ukraine Aid; Russia's War On Ukraine; 20 Wounded In Ukraine After Overnight Bombardment; Severe Shortage Of Weaponry In Ukraine; Judge Threatens To Eject Trump; Race For The White House. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 17, 2024 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, Iran launches another attack, this time
on Pakistan, who have called it, quote, "blatant reach of Pakistan's sovereignty." We'll explore the chaos spilling right across the region.
Then U.S. President Joe Biden plans to urgently press lawmakers for more Ukraine funding. We'll have a report from the battlefield on how ammunition
is running low. Plus, medical issues for the U.K. royal family as the Princess of Wales recovers in hospital from abdominal surgery and King
Charles heads to hospital next week. We'll have more on that.
But first tonight, Iraq, Syria and now Pakistan. Iran has launched yet another attack on targets abroad. The third in just two days, pushing the
region dangerously closer to a full-blown conflict. Iran says it hit Sunni militants in southwest Pakistan, saying no Pakistani nationals were
targeted in the drone as well as missile strikes.
Pakistan meanwhile, though, is furious. It says two children were killed, calling the attack a blatant breach of Pakistani sovereignty. It's already
recalled its ambassador from Iran and says, it reserves the right to respond. Well, the situation so worrying that even China is speaking out,
urging both Iran and Pakistan to exercise restraint.
Well, today in Davos, Iran's Foreign Minister linked the regional instability to Israel's war on Hamas. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHLAN, FOREIGN MINISTER, IRAN: If the genocide in Gaza, it stops, then it will lead to the end of other crisis and attacks in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: While all of this happening as United States officially designated Iranian-backed Houthi rebels as a terrorist group once again. The Biden
administration says the move is aimed at cutting off funding and weapons used in Houthi attacks in international shipping in the Red Sea.
But the Houthis say, they are undeterred. They released this video just before the terror designation, you can see they're showing their supporters
dancing on board a ship seized in November. They say they will continue attacks in the Red Sea as leverage to try to halt the war in Gaza.
Let's put all of this into perspective for you. Our Nic Robertson joins us now, he's covering all these developments tonight for us from northern
Israel. And Nic, as we've just laid out there, tensions in the region clearly escalating. We've now heard from Iran's Foreign Ministry speaking
in Davos soon. There is a way, he says, to stop all this, and that is if the Gaza conflict comes to an end.
Just talk us through what Iran's calculus here is. I mean -- and does it have the ability? Just to turn this on and off? How do you interpret it?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, that's what Iran's Foreign Minister is implying by default really, that, you know,
Hamas, if there's -- if there's a deal between Hamas, the Palestinians in Gaza, and the Israeli government to bring about a ceasefire, then Hezbollah
on the northern border here in Israel and the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen could end all their hostilities.
This is Iran apparently flexing diplomatic muscle while they were flexing military muscle just a couple of days ago with those strikes into Syria and
Iraq, into the Kurdish region there, and as you were discussing into Pakistan. So if Iran is correct in what it's saying, it will further
cement, I think a very well-embedded understanding that it does have leverage over its proxies in this region, that Iran does have leverage over
It does have leverage over the Houthis who it's supplying with weapons, similarly with supply the Hezbollah in the north with weapons, which
clearly indicates that Iran seems to be leaning on Israel, upping the ante, if you will, will potentially with these strikes, so the one was against
ISIS, they said, one was against, they said on Israeli spy base, which was denied in northern Iraq.
And the one, the strike they had in Pakistan was against what they described as a Baluch(ph) terrorist group. But nevertheless, Iran very much
understands that these military strikes create the impression that they could do more to destabilize. And the Foreign Ministry --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: Is saying, well, our proxies could dampen that destabilizing if only Israel made a deal, that's --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: An implicit threat, diplomatic, it appears.
SOARES: Indeed, and what we have heard from the U.S., and the U.S. has said this in the last -- just before attacks started attacking the Houthis, is
that these strikes against the Houthis, Nic, the U.S. and the U.K. had been done, self-defense, but also to degrade the Houthi.
Today, we've seen as we were -- as we just told our viewers, United States designated a group, has especially designated global terrorist, right? Just
explain what does this mean for the Houthis. Now, does this affect them in a material way?
ROBERTSON: Well, it's interesting because just before he left office back in 2020, Donald Trump designated the Houthis a terrorist -- an
international terrorist organization. So the designation that the Biden administration has just given is slightly one step down from that. It's
allowed -- it's designed to allow international aid to still get through to the Yemeni people, which has an important signal, a message of what the
Biden administration is saying along with allies, that they are striking the Houthis, not Yemen, Iran.
The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas would all say that the United States and the U.K. are striking the Yemeni people. So this new designation is designed to
limit funds that the Houthis can get, but probably, the most realistic interdiction, an effective interdiction that the United States and its
allies can do, are the strikes which limit the Houthis military capability.
And are the Navy SEALs, for example, that we know that picked up Iranian- made weapons on their way to the --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: Houthis in Yemen, as they cross from the continent of Africa towards Yemen.
SOARES: Nic Robertson there with that important insight there and perspective from the region, appreciate it, Nic. And as Nic just laid out
for you, it's a complicated situation now involving multiple countries and multiple actors, of course, in the region.
In about 20 minutes, I'll be joined by an expert from RUSI, a U.K. defense and security think-tank, to help really unpick all of this, as we see this
conflict expanding and escalating. Well, Qatar says vital medicines and other aid will leave Doha today as part of a breakthrough agreement it
brokered between Israel and Hamas.
The deal would see medication delivered to Israel hostages held in Gaza in exchange for the delivery of medicines as well as humanitarian aid to
Palestinian civilians. It's still unclear when or how the medication may reach those in need. Nada Bashir is following this part of the story for us
And Nada, let's start first then on this deal brokered by the Qataris to get aids to hostages. This has been in the works for some time now, it's
finalized. Do we have a sense, Nada, first, how soon this aid would arrive?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: It's unclear exactly where in the process of this exchange that deal currently is. We did hear from an Israeli official
earlier this morning, saying that the transfer was very much underway.
We did hear yesterday from the Qatari officials saying and outlining that on Wednesday, today, two military aircrafts would be leaving Doha heading
to the Al-Ahli Airbase in Egypt, just a short distance away from the Rafah Border Crossing where of course, that transfer is expected to take place to
authorities, officials from the Palestinian Health Ministry.
And following that, it is expected that they will then transfer that medication to members of Hamas to get to those in need, of course, to get
to the hostages in need of this vital medication that has been agreed upon in this deal. Now, of course, as we understand it, there are some 40
hostages in need of medication who will be expected to receive that medication?
Many of them, that is understood we're facing chronic health conditions prior to being held captive by Hamas. It's unclear the extent to which they
have had access to this medication, to medical support while under Hamas captivities, of course, that has been a huge point of concern for their
family members and loved ones.
Many are putting pressure on Israeli authorities to see proof that they have indeed received this medication. That is a huge concern for family
members sort of, pause, in exchange part of that agreement as you mentioned, Isa, we are expecting to see as agreed upon by Israeli
authorities, an uptick in the amount of humanitarian aid and medicines getting into the most affected areas in Gaza. And again, unclear exactly
how much humanitarian --
SOARES: Yes --
BASHIR: Assistance we are talking about here as we've seen over the last few weeks at the amount of aid getting in is just a fraction of the amount
needed. And of course, there are also questions around what will happen next, whether this is just a one-off deal or potentially, could lay the
groundwork for further agreements between --
SOARES: Yes --
BASHIR: Israel and Hamas.
SOARES: And let's stay in the Gaza Strip because we heard and just super important to point out to our viewers, we've heard from the United States
at the beginning of the month that, that -- they were seeing in Gaza, Nada, was the low intensity stage of the war, yet the death toll continues to
climb more than 163 people in fact, killed by Israeli attacks just in the past 24 hours alone. Just give us a sense of what you're hearing from your
contacts inside Gaza, Nada.
BASHIR: Well, we certainly have seen somewhat of a shift, Israeli military officials saying they're moving to an intense phase of maneuvering in Gaza.
We have seen them shifting their focus from northern and central Gaza to the south.
But that has been a huge point of concern, as we know, the vast majority of Gaza civilian population are now displaced. Again, the vast majority
concentrated in this southern region, which is forming the focus of Israel's military campaign at this current point in time. Now, we've been -
- it has been difficult to get information from inside Gaza over the last few days, because of course, Gaza is facing the longest communications
blackout that we have seen since the beginning of the war.
But we have been able to speak to health officials as well as journalists on the ground who have described scenes of fear and panic, particularly in
the largest city in the south of Khan Yunis and around the hospital complex of the Al-Nasr Hospital.
We saw a video emerging of civilians fleeing as that bombardment edged closer towards the hospital complex. We have heard from individuals on the
ground, saying that they witnessed military vehicles leaving the hospital complex area. But of course, there is a real sense, a real feeling that
there is nowhere safe for civilians to turn.
And as you're seeing this report, of course, those fears persist a warning to our viewers, some of the video in this report may be distressing. Take a
BASHIR (voice-over): Relentless strikes piercing the night sky of a Khan Yunis. Gaza, once again plunged into eerie darkness, endless tragedies on
the ground, obscured by the longest communications blackout imposed on the Strip thus far.
What little video is still able to reach the world paints a troubling picture. At the Al-Nasr Hospital in Gaza south, not only one of the last
still functioning here, but also where the World Health Organization says some 7,000 people were sheltering.
Families, yet again, have been forced to flee. Civilians and patients seen here carrying their children and belongings. As Israeli forces who said
they were targeting a Hamas rocket launched against the IDF from the hospital complex close in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There's heavy fire at the Al-Nasr Hospital and in the vicinity, we're seeing huge fire and bombings here.
We've been trying to share video of what is happening from the highest point at the hospital. But as you can see, the bombardment is severe.
BASHIR: Israel maintains it is targeting Hamas infrastructure and tunnels where hostages are said to have been held, which Hamas denies. As the sun
rises in Gaza, the death toll also climbs. Families carrying the bodies of those who did not survive the night. "My life, my life." This mother cries
over her child.
Tiny bodies wrapped in shrouds carried in the arms of Rafah parents. Now, amongst the more than 10,000 children said to have been killed in a war
they had no part in. Those figures provided by the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza grew more shocking with each passing day. More than 24,000
people killed in just over three months.
Israel says that some 9,000 Hamas fighters were among the dead, though CNN is unable to independently verify this claim.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): These were peaceful people, they were sleeping in their homes, the Israelis told us to go to the south, so
we came. But there's no safe place in Gaza, not in the south, not in the north, not in the middle. Every area is being struck, everywhere is
BASHIR: The vast majority of Gaza's 2.3 million population are now internally displaced, concentrated in the south where Israel's bombardment
is only intensifying. The unfolding catastrophe in Gaza now characterized by the U.N.'s humanitarian office as a stain on the world's collective
A war they say conducted with almost no regard for the impact on civilian life. And now with little aid getting into the Strip, a war that is pushing
Gaza pass the brink of famine.
BASHIR: And Isa, we've been hearing those warnings for some time now of a public health catastrophe in southern Gaza on the cards, and of course,
we've been hearing from medical officials on the ground saying, they are carrying out medical procedures, amputations without the necessary
anesthetic and medical supplies, a situation that only seems to be growing more dire.
The hope of course is that this deal, which will see medicine getting to hostages in Gaza will also allow for humanitarian aid to get to
SOARES: Yes --
BASHIR: In need, but still unclear how much humanitarian aid is actually getting in.
SOARES: Well, our next guest has seen some of the carnage in Gaza firsthand, Nada, and I'm sure he can provide some more content here. Thank
you, our thanks to Nada Bashir. Sean Casey is an emergency medical team's coordinator for the World Health Organization. Have a look at what he
recently witnessed inside Gaza's largest hospital, and we must warn you that some of it is indeed disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN CASEY, EMERGENCY MEDICAL COORDINATOR, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: I'm actually at Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza for the third time this
week, where it's still at least absolute misery. The people still on the floors, it's almost impossible to walk.
Critical cases, doctors and nurses absolutely scrambling, people crying out that they need blood for their sons and daughters who are dying. There's
almost nothing that this team can do. It's nonstop, 24 hours a day, serious and critical injuries coming in, and a very small staff to help them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Sean is now in New York and join us -- joins us now live. And Sean, I mean, absolute misery is well put, given everything that we have been
seeing, in that, you've captured there in that short 30-second clip. You're now back in New York as viewers could see. Just give us a sense, Sean, of
what the situation, what it's like on the ground, what you saw with your own eyes.
CASEY: Thanks, Isa. Yes, we're seeing a humanitarian catastrophe unfold, as you've heard, people are starving, we're seeing huge levels of
displacement, something like 85 percent of the population of Gaza displaced many of those people multiple times.
A health system that's collapsing with hospitals closing and patients and staff fleeing for their lives, and limited ability to provide assistance,
because there's not enough aid coming into Gaza, and also, it's very challenging to get aid to the people who need it the most across the Gaza
SOARES: When you were there, Sean, how much aid was coming in? How many trucks did you see coming in?
CASEY: I was not counting trucks, and I think it's important, but it's not the full story. So --
SOARES: Yes --
CASEY: We were getting trucks and in the medical supplies. There were trucks of food that were coming in. It was absolutely not enough coming
across the Rafah Crossing, but it's also a matter of getting it to the people who need it the most. And we had challenges, logistical challenges
and access challenges to get supplies, particularly north of Rafah to Khan Yunis, to Gaza city.
So it's not enough, but also from a medical perspective, you can have medicines and supplies, but you also need health workers in a safe
hospital, so if that full --
SOARES: Yes --
CASEY: Package is not there, it's difficult to provide services to the people who need them.
SOARES: And that is something, Sean, that I've heard time and time again from doctors here on the show, how overwhelmed they are, how under supply
these hospitals are. I mean, hospitals practically on their knees, many very short-staffed. Just inside the hospitals, give us a sense of what 24
hours was like. What do they need most right now? What kind of medicine are they looking -- that they urgently need.
CASEY: I don't even know how to describe what the health workers are going through when I visited Al-Shifa Hospital, which you just showed there. It's
a hospital that before this war, was over 700 beds. It was the referral hospital for Gaza.
And when I visited most recently, there were about five doctors, five nurses, and some volunteers caring for hundreds of patients, so many that
you couldn't walk around without almost stepping on somebody's hand or foot. It's absolutely packed with new cases arriving constantly.
The health workers are often living on site because there's so few of them and so much demand. But also because --
SOARES: Yes --
CASEY: It's so unsafe to move --
SOARES: Yes --
CASEY: So unbelievably challenging conditions for them.
SOARES: And you mentioned also the logistical challenges. Can you expand on that? What do you mean in terms of trying to get medicine and aid through.
What are the logistical challenges just to try to move things around?
CASEY: So the challenges are several. One is that every movement, as we said before, nowhere in Gaza is safe. So we're having to go through areas
of active hostilities, those movements need to be coordinated so that they can be as safe as possible to avoid danger to the convoys.
We have a population that is absolutely desperate for food. So every time we drive a truck even with medicines or medical supplies, we have to say
over the loudspeaker, these are medicines for a hospital, otherwise, people think it may be food and actually out of desperation --
SOARES: Yes --
CASEY: Try to take the food. And then we have widespread destruction in Gaza City. The vast majority of buildings have been destroyed and the
streets are completely full of rubble. So it's actually, physically hard to move down the streets because of the level of destruction.
SOARES: And of course, our viewers know this. We are 100-plus days now, Sean, into this war. And this week, I heard something from Sidney McCain
from the World Food Program, who said, I even posted on my social media, "people in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from food trucks filled
Talk to the famine and the hunger, the desperation that you're seeing on the ground. Have you seen anything like this?
CASEY: No, I have never seen anything like it, and I mean, the best example I can give you is that, I was in hospitals speaking to patients with very
serious injuries, septic shock, orthopedic injuries, patients who need surgery, and they would ask me for food and water. And everywhere we would
go, people would ask us for food and water.
You could see the desperation everywhere. It was east, slightly in the southern part of the Gaza Strip and Rafah with food coming across, but
people are absolutely starving. They're reducing their food in-take. Parents are skipping meals to give their children food. And we're seeing
the consequences of that now across the Gaza Strip.
SOARES: Sean Casey really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thanks very much.
CASEY: Thank you.
SOARES: And still to come on the show tonight, U.S. President Biden set to appeal to lawmakers today for more Ukraine funding. These talks, of course,
coming at a crucial time with Ukraine seeing a shortage in ammunition. Our Fred Pleitgen will have more for us from Ukraine. And while the Princess of
Wales recovers from surgery, King Charles gets ready for his own hospital stay, an update on the British royals with our royal correspondent, Max
Foster. That's next.
SOARES: Well, Catherine, Britain's Princess of Wales is recovering in hospital after abdominal surgery. Kensington Palace called the planned
operation successful, and Kate, as she's known by many, could be returning home within two weeks. Meanwhile, her father-in-law, King Charles will have
his own hospital-stay next week.
Buckingham Palace says he will undergo treatment for an enlarged prostate. Our royal correspondent, Max Foster is here with more. And so this, both
these developments coming on the same day, two senior royals that are going to be out of action. What more do we know?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as far as the princess is concerned, she was already in hospital when the announcement was made, and
had had successful surgery. And she will now stay in hospital for up to two weeks, at least ten days. So it is quite a substantial recovery there. But
then on top of that, they'll be two to three months at home recuperating. So clearly, quite a procedure --
SOARES: Yes --
FOSTER: That she went through, but we're told it wasn't cancerous.
SOARES: That's good.
FOSTER: So that's a relief, and -- but she will have all of her international travel canceled for the foreseeable future, and that
obviously won't be any engagements. So she's --
SOARES: OK, basically, schedule, right?
FOSTER: Yes, particularly, you know, she's very hands on with the kids. They went back --
SOARES: Yes --
FOSTER: To school last week, but you know, Windsor is near the school --
SOARES: Yes --
FOSTER: So, that's why she's there, I think. And we're told that William is very much taking over with all the logistics, so he's canceled as well a
lot of this stuff.
SOARES: And what we've known, what we do know is that she's fit, she looks very fit, she looks very healthy, she's very sporty, she'll -- in fact, she
always beats William --
FOSTER: Yes --
SOARES: In activities, right?
FOSTER: Yes, exactly. It's a big part of their lives. So she -- I mean, in terms of, you know, being that age and you know, level of recovery, she's
going to be in a good position, I think. And obviously, she's got the best care possible as well.
SOARES: Indeed, what do we know about King Charles?
FOSTER: Well, this -- I mean, it did come shortly afterwards an inflamed prostate not in hospital yet, but will go into hospital next week to have
some sort of procedure there. Again, it was benign, so, you know, that calms some fears as well. But two of the senior royals out of action as
The reason he announced when he didn't necessarily need to, because it wasn't a major medical issue, where you know, the public would have a right
to know is that he had a big engagement in Scotland --
SOARES: Right --
FOSTER: And didn't want everyone to travel there unnecessarily, included cabinet ministers who are obviously very busy as well. He also saw -- said
that he doesn't -- you know, he wanted to put it out there to emphasize the idea that people of his age and men should --
SOARES: Get the message.
SOARES: It's a very good message. But that means surely, the other royals will need to be picking up more of these --
FOSTER: Yes --
SOARES: Engagements I'm guessing here --
FOSTER: Slightly slimed down, obviously --
SOARES: Yes --
FOSTER: Harry is not around. So I mean, Princess Anne has been doing a lot of the work and Edward will be doing a lot of the work as well. But William
has been taken out of action as well. So --
SOARES: Yes --
FOSTER: There's a lot of pressure on the family, and also Kate is very much the -- she's the one that gets on the front pages mostly --
SOARES: We saw how busy she was at Christmas time --
FOSTER: Yes --
SOARES: Wasn't she?
FOSTER: So, I mean, you know, it's not great for the royal family in terms of profile, but obviously their priorities. We all -- I did also pose the
question about, you know, if the king went to hospital and was incapacitated, will that require, you know, other people stepping in,
they're called the counselors of state. It's the queen and also Edward and Anne as well. And they said that won't be necessary --
SOARES: OK --
FOSTER: So they're not -- emphasizes this idea that, you know, it's not -- there's not zero concern --
SOARES: Yes --
FOSTER: But they have it in control. I don't think they feel out of control. So they're just watching. I don't think we'll get many updates,
frankly, unless something gets worse.
SOARES: Yes, of course --
FOSTER: Or when Kate is released from hospital --
SOARES: We wish them both well, speedy recovery. Max, it's wonderful to see you on this side of the day. This is fantastic. What a treat. Thank you.
FOSTER: Thanks for having me.
SOARES: And still to come tonight, tensions are high and show no signs of simmering down. The growing fears of conflict in the Middle East spreading
beyond the Israel-Hamas war. We'll break it all down for you next.
SOARES: And returning to our top story, tensions are escalating in the Middle East. Raising fears of increased conflict spreading beyond the
Israel-Hamas war. Iran is stepping up attacks, as we told you at the top of the hour, launching missiles and drones to strike Sunni militants inside
Pakistan. Pakistan's foreign ministry now warning of serious consequences. It's only a day, if you remember, after Iran launched missiles into
Northern Iraq and Northern Syria.
Adding to the regional instability, all this is happening amid ongoing U.S. strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen. And we've just heard a fire is out
aboard a vessel in the Red Sea, hours after it was struck by a drone. And earlier, the Biden administration redesigned the Houthis especially
designated global terrorists. You heard a conversation on top of the hour with Nic Robertson.
Well, Neil Melvin, Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a well-known face here on the show, joins me
now. Neil, great to have you on the show. Let's start off with, really, the conflict that we have seen escalating throughout the region.
And I want to start with a wider map. Obviously, all kicked off with Hamas attacking Israel on October the 7th, what has developed over the days is,
of course, attacks between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel. Then we saw the Houthi rebels that control this lower part here of Yemen attacking vessels
in the Red Sea, which is context for our viewers. The U.S. then attacking - - U.S. and the U.K., I should say, then attacking the Houthis. And then we have seen our attacks, of course, by Iran very explicitly here, attacking
Northern Iraq, Pakistan as well today, as well as Syria.
We are what? 100 plus days into this war, 17 days into the year. How do you see today with this conflagration that we've just outlined here?
NEIL MELVIN, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, RUSI: You know, Isa, I think you're entirely right is this is always the worry from the
beginning that the conflict that was started by the Hamas attack on October the 7th would expand into a regional conflict. And the U.S. was -- has been
active to try to stop that, both in terms of using its military force but also its diplomacy. But now this huge geographical landscape that you've
just shown, this is the landscape in which at least 10 or more conflicts are now in operation simultaneously, and they're starting to converge.
It's just today, as you said, we've seen Pakistan and West Balochistan being attacked. Iran sending missiles, but different targets. It's not just
one country or non-state actor it's hitting. It hit Syria where it was attacking Islamic State. It hit Northern Iraq where it said there was a --
an Israeli intelligence post. And it's hit Balochi militants in Pakistan. We've had Turkey striking its own targets in Syria and Iraq Kurdish
movement now. We've had the U.S. hitting militants in Syria and Iraq where it's come under attack.
So, there's a gradual spiral of violence now in which it's increasingly looking like a, sort of, convergence of chaos. Lots of different actors
pursuing their own violent ends all across the region.
SOARES: And what we have seen, of course, if I just show our viewers this is the Houthis -- the -- and I want to focus on the shipping route. Well,
let me show the Red Sea focus because we've seen the attacks mainly by the Houthis here on the Red Sea. And what we have seen is the shipping route
that had to -- much longer, right? A lot of the vessels that have come from parts of the world, all over the world, even from Asia. I've had to take a
longer route to find the Cape of Good Hope. And this is very, very costly. And while we might not be feeling it yet, we may be feeling it six months
down the line.
So, the focus really is that in terms of the Houthis, do we know how they really -- how they're going to degrade them?
Because we've heard from the U.S., we've heard from the U.K. that the aim is to degrade them, right? Militarily, what do we know about them? How
much, how often are being -- are they being resupplied? Because I just want to show viewers here the missiles that the U.S. has seized -- U.S. Navy has
MELVIN: Well, the Houthis have been building up their forces for over a decade. So, one of the biggest challenges is going to be they've already
got a lot of armaments. They've been shipping them in from Iran. They've been buying drones from China. They move them across the Arabian Gulf,
often on dhows, it's very difficult to intercept them to know what's on them. These were taken from -- by the U.S. forces. Not just --
SOARES: And these are Iranian made?
MELVIN: These are Iranian made.
SOARES: Clearly, it's start (ph) in minds, right?
MELVIN: I mean, the components look like they are for an anti-ship cruise missile, which we've seen already being used against some of these
commercial shipping. But the problem is the Houthis have got lots of them already.
I mean, they've stockpiled them. They've dispersed them. They have been fighting for over a decade. They have been resisting airstrikes from Saudi.
So, it's very difficult --
SOARES: So, can the U.S. and the U.K. -- apologies to interrupt, can it degrade them?
MELVIN: I think --
SOARES: Does it have -- I mean, do these attacks that we have seen across the whole region against the Houthis, does -- do they have the capacity to
MELVIN: They can degrade them and slow them down and make it more difficult, but it can be almost impossible without putting into ground
forces, which no one wants to do into Yemen and anyway, it hasn't been successful. Others have tried. Without that, it's not going to work. So,
ultimately, it's going to probably have to require a diplomatic solution on the regional level, and that's the problem.
MELVIN: All of these actors are going to have to come together and find a solution.
SOARES: Let's talk about the region. We heard from Secretary Blinken last week, I'm not sure where you heard him. He said -- I'm going to quote him
here that, "The Houthis are pulling the trigger, but it's Iran providing the gun." And we have seen this axis of resistance, where Iran causes axis
of resistance that played. Do these strikes that we have seen by the U.S. and the U.K. on the Houthis, does that strengthen them at all? Does it
strengthen this axis of resistance? Does it play right into Iran's hands?
MELVIN: Well, this looks like a game plan, in many ways, Iran has been preparing. There's been lots of focus on the Iranian nuclear program. But
aside from that, they've had this regional strategy of building up all these links. There's the Houthis in Yemen, links to Hamas, links to
Hezbollah in Lebanon, groups in Syria and Iraq. So, there's a whole network spanning the region that Iran is able to pull on at different moments.
This -- and the strike that's happened in Gaza with the ongoing war there, of course, plays into the Iranian agenda, that all of these groups can come
together and they're fighting on behalf of this wider regional struggle.
SOARES: And one former ambassador told me this week that, you know, the word on the Arab street is they see that cause, that cause is Gaza. That
that messaging from the Houthis or from Iran, whoever -- however you read it, that that is strengthening their cause. That is a huge concern in the
MELVIN: Absolutely. I mean, I think this is the biggest immediate challenge is that until the fighting in Gaza comes to a stop --
MELVIN: -- these kinds of strikes are likely to continue and spread across the region. But even once the fighting stops, the problem remains. I mean,
the Houthis are now in Yemen. They're well-armed. And effectively, Iran controls not just the Straits here --
MELVIN: -- but now also access to the Red Sea. So, the key energy routes in the region are under the influence of Iran directly or Iranian-backed
groups. So, they've got a very strong geopolitical position now across the Middle East.
SOARES: Yes. And a lot of these routes here. You've got LNG, liquefied natural gas, a lot of them passing through this region, right? Some
important energy for much of the world. If you're Saudi Arabia or the UAE, you must be concerned about the volatility right now. Fear of reprisals
here. How do you view this? How do you deescalate this? Who are the players that have, perhaps, the power to or at least the influence to speak to
Iran, to speak to the Houthi. Who's that? Is there anyone here? I'm going to put the whole region here. Is there anyone here who can do that?
MELVIN: Well, I mean, Iran does have some friends internationally, this would be Russia, possibly China. China brokered a sort of agreement just
over a year ago between the Saudis and the UAE.
SOARES: And they are warning today. And they are warning today of de- escalation.
MELVIN: And they do share an interest because of the volatility of all of these routes. I mean, these are all vital for countries to get their energy
supplies in Europe --
SOARES: Yes, but you say that -- but you say that, but I heard this week several times, and last week, I'm going to show here, that in fact China
has been able to get a green light that ships the Houthi rebels can see that they are Chinese vessels and they let them through. So, economically,
they may not be impacted as much as other ships.
MELVIN: Yes. But I mean -- I think it's -- you know, the difficulty is going to be to operate in the war zone. Whoever you are --
MELVIN: -- is going to be difficult. And the reason why we're seeing this big diversion actually is not just the direct threat, but actually the cost
of insurance. That's what's driving the ship. So, even Chinese vessels, Russian vessels, if they want to transit the Red Sea, they're going to have
to pay a very high premium now. And this is starting to change energy markets because of that.
SOARES: And that's going to -- that's when it starts trickling down to consumers, even if we're not feeling it now with the stock markets are not
showing that. Very quickly, what should we be keeping an eye on? Because clearly Iran has escalated in the last several days. What's the next move,
MELVIN: Well, I mean, the danger now is that we're starting to see not, sort of, a game of chess, is what we thought at the beginning.
MELVIN: But actually the -- lots of actors acting on their own interest. As I say, Turkey has been in coming involved. If this starts to spiral out of
the control, even the U.S. is going to struggle to keep a grip on the region. It's tried to deter people. And then you start to get a bigger
cycle of violence in which actually it's going to be very difficult for anyone to stop it. So, that, I think, over the next week to 10 days, we
have to see, are there going to be tit for tat reprisals that's going to turn this into a much wider regional conflagration?
SOARES: Neil, always great to get your insight. Thank you very much.
MELVIN: Thanks very much.
SOARES: And Happy New Year.
MELVIN: You too.
SOARES: Well, not very happy, but great to see you.
And still to come right here tonight, more attacks from Russia in Ukraine. It comes at a time when Ukraine is seeing military supplies dwindle. New
details on the war ahead as the fight for aid continues, that is next.
SOARES: Well, in the coming hours, U.S. President Joe Biden said to appeal to a group of lawmakers for more funding to Ukraine. This comes as Russia
launched more attacks in Odessa and Kharkiv. At least 20 civilians were wounded, and that is according to Ukrainian officials. Dozens of homes were
hit in Odessa, but as Ukraine's military supplies dwindle the question of continued American aid, well, that looms pretty large still.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, says his country's priority is to regain control over its skies in 2024. This is what it said in Davos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: This is the way forward. This is the way forward to send a clear message to everyone in the world that if
you dare to break rules, you're going to pay. If we don't send that message, if we don't make it very clear, the number of conflicts,
interstate conflicts and tensions across the globe will be growing. And I think this is -- and the price of fixing them will be much higher than the
price of helping Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: The message, of course, we've been hearing from Mr. Kuleba and Mr. Zelenskyy.
Fred Pleitgen joins me now from Kyiv in Ukraine with the very latest. And Fred, let's pick up then with that meeting that we're expecting between
President Biden and lawmakers. What we have heard from White House sources so far is that President Biden is going to lay out, in very simple terms,
the setbacks that Ukraine could suffer without additional aid.
You know what that means. You've been speaking to those on the front lines. What would that aid -- what would no aid, I should say, mean?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think for the Ukrainians, they believe that it would certainly mean a lot more
casualties than they've already been facing here on the battlefronts in the many areas of Ukraine, where, of course, they're fighting. But one of the
things we have to keep in mind, he says, that the U.S. aid to Ukraine pretty much transcends all levels of the battlefield.
You're not only talking about tanks, armored vehicles, infantry, top fighting vehicles and other things that they need on the front line. You're
also talking about cars, trucks. You're talking about ammunition. And ammunition is definitely one of the areas where the Ukrainians say they are
already seeing some shortages that are having an effect on the battlefield.
And what we did, Isa, we went to two of the most kinetic battlefronts here in this country and we took a look at those effects that are already
unfolding. Here's what we saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The battle is already in full swing when the artillery unit gets their orders. Their battle cat Syoma (ph) follows the
commander to the U.S. provided M777 gun, and they get to work.
PLEITGEN: So, the soldiers have now been given a target, and they're working as fast as possible to try and fire as many rounds as accurately
towards the Russian positions.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Three rounds, that's it. The commander tells me ammo shortages are a real problem here.
There is more of a deficit, he says. When we were in Zaporizhzhia direction, we used 50 to 60 shells a day. Now, it's 20 to 30, maximum.
The resupply truck only brings a few more rounds. And with U.S. military aid ground to a halt, things could get even tougher for the Ukrainians
soon. We're near Marinka on the Eastern front, the Russians recently managed to take Marinka after essentially annihilating the entire town with
their artillery. Moscow's forces face no ammo shortages, the Ukrainians say, after getting around a million artillery rounds from North Korea in
the past year.
Even as we prepare to leave, the position is under Russian fire. We drive away, constantly watching for Russian drones and possible artillery impact.
Different day, different front line, similar problems for Ukraine's forces, major shortages.
We're in the battle zone near Avdiivka with a special forces unit called Omega. It's 22 degrees below freezing. They want to fire artillery rockets
at the Russians, but lacking western arms they've mounted a Soviet era launcher on a U.S. made pickup truck. They set up fast, but then this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).
PLEITGEN: So, one of the issues that the Ukrainians have using this very old technology is that sometimes it simply doesn't work. It's very cold
right now. They think something's frozen and it's just not working.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): All they can do is de-rig and leave before the Russians see them.
We wanted to strike at the enemy's positions, but unfortunately, sometimes it happens. The equipment does not work, he says. Technology does not stand
still. And as we can see in this war, the technologies from the West are giving very good results.
The unit later did manage to fire three rockets after troubleshooting for several hours. Delays that can be costly in a war where Ukraine is already
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: So, as you can see there, Isa, already some pretty severe shortages of capable gear and also of ammo as well, already having an
effect on the battlefield. The Ukrainians, of course, are saying even if the U.S. doesn't provide further aid, they are going to keep fighting. They
are not going to give up. But they also understand that that fight would then lead to a lot more casualties on the Ukrainian side. Isa.
SOARES: Fantastic piece there from our Fred Pleitgen and team in Kyiv. Thanks very much, Fred. Appreciate it.
And still to come tonight, a dramatic scene playing out in court. A federal judge threatens to throw U.S. President Donald Trump out of the courtroom
during the defamation trial against him. That is next.
SOARES: Well, fireworks in the New York courtroom, the judge in the defamation trial against Donald Trump threatened to kick the former U.S.
president out of court for commenting during testimony, and he fired right back. The tense exchange occurred as Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll took the
stand, testifying that he shattered her reputation and made her fear for her safety. The former columnist sued Trump and won for defamatory
statements he made denying allegation. The trial will determine damages in the case.
Keeping an eye on all of this is our correspondent Kara Scannell. So, Kara, just talk us through the exchange of what exactly happened inside the
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, E. Jean Carroll has been testifying all day and it was during her direct testimony where her lawyer
was asking her questions about what happened. Carroll described the impact of the statements that Trump made, the statements that the previous jury
already found to be defamatory when he said that she wasn't his type. That he didn't rape her and that she made up the story to make a profit.
So, as Carroll was describing how that impacted her, Trump was speaking frequently with his attorney, his lead attorney, Alina Habba, often leading
over and talking to her. Now, at one of the breaks with the jury out of the room, Carroll's lawyer brought this up to the judge and said that they
could hear -- they're sitting in front of Trump. They said they could hear him saying things such as witch hunt and it really is a con job.
It was at that moment that the judge, who is facing Trump -- all the reporters, remember are sitting behind him, but who is facing Trump had
said to him that Trump has a right to be here, but that right can be forfeited if he is disruptive. And the judge saying, I hope I don't have to
consider excluding you for that.
At that moment, Trump threw up his hands and the judge said, I understand you're eager for me to do that. Trump was audibly heard saying, I would
love it. And the judge said, I know you would. But at that point, they took a break and Trump has to return to the trial. He is sitting there listening
to the testimony now. There has not been another outburst or sidebar about this.
But it's one of these moments in this case where it's clearly tension in the room between E. Jean Carroll testifying. Saying what she's saying. And
Trump, sitting there listening to it, unable to react, and he likes to react and respond. I mean, by contrast, when he was at the civil fraud
trial a few weeks ago, he would, at breaks, come out and speak to the cameras and say what he wants to say. Here, he can't do that. It's --
there's no cameras in federal court. He's very restrained from reacting and saying anything, and that frustration clearly boiling over in the courtroom
SOARES: Kara Scannell there for us in New York. Thanks very much, Kara.
Well, the New Hampshire primary is six days away with Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis trying to rebound from Donald Trump's decisive win in Iowa. Haley
is once again in the spotlight, but it's probably not the type of attention she actually welcomes. She was asked about racism during the -- this
exchange on "Fox News". Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS": Are you a racist party? Are you involved in a racist party?
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. We're not a racist country, Brian. We've never been a racist country. Our goal is to make sure
that today is better than yesterday. Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try and be more perfect every day that we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, during a CNN Town Hall, Ron DeSantis echoed Haley's comments. He says, the Republican Party stands for what he calls colorblindness.
DeSantis warned that Republicans will lose the general election if Donald Trump is the nominee. Putting the focus of the race on his legal issues.
And that does it for us for this hour. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. "Quest Means Business" is up next with Richard Quest.
He's live from Davos. I shall see you tomorrow. Have a wonderful day. Bye- bye.